Humans of Our Communities - Jonathan Smith

"Please Scrap the Proposed Changes to Halls of Residence at Bristol University! 

Cost cutting seems to be the name of the game in all walks of life these days. Sophisticated arguments – often difficult to disprove - will usually be constructed to justify any cuts, which frequently have a negative impact on quality and service. Getting rid of wardens, creating "hubs" and improving "diversity" is all rather predictable and throwing in the old nostrum about public schools for good measure is also pretty disappointing. I wonder what these changes are going to do to the sense of belonging that we had (and some of us still have) in Badock. I have no doubt it was the same for students in the other halls of residence, all of them much more than just student accommodation. I made friends for life in Badock and they have mattered every bit as much to me during the last 44 years as my academic qualification. What’s more, I am still in regular touch with some fifteen Badock alumni and alumnae from my time in hall. 

I made friends for life in Badock and they have mattered every bit as much to me during the last 44 years as my academic qualification.

I had a tutor in Badock, Dr Andy Wilson, who was a scientist - I seem to remember - and a very nice, friendly chap. I always remember with great amusement the occasion when I told him enthusiastically that I had just bought my first LP of a Mahler symphony – the fifth - after seeing Visconti’s Death in Venice at the cinema and he gently chided me for not yet having bought any Beethoven symphonies. I think he wondered about my sense of priorities! I also had an academic tutor in the French Department, Dr Stanley Taylor, a charming, kindly man with a lovely wife and family who lived on the edge of The Downs in one of those beautiful, spacious Victorian semis in their unique Bristol design. Stan always invited his students to tea once a year and he too took an interest in our welfare and not just in our results. I liked both of my tutors and knew that I could seek their advice and help if ever I needed it, so I felt very secure and well supported. I also remember our warden in my first year, Arthur Pennington, who was a very fine man and much liked and respected by students who saw him as a father figure. 

...he too took an interest in our welfare and not just in our results.

Without the wardens who is going to carry on leading the hall traditions and their associations, some of them only just getting off the ground like the Badock Hall Association (BHA) and with virtually no funding from the University? Several of my Badock friends and I have been to the first two joint annual dinners with Wills Hall and will doubtless be coming to them in future, if only to hobnob with the great and the good! As part of the Alumni Weekend these dinners have drawn us back to Bristol to meet old friends and renew our interest and involvement in the University. I have had the pleasure of meeting Professor Mark Lowenberg, Badock’s current warden, on several occasions. Mark has been instrumental in setting up and launching the BHA. I cannot imagine anyone more amiable or better suited to welcoming alumni and alumnae back to Badock and hosting our annual reunion. I have no doubt he is also very popular with students for the same reasons. Why would the University seriously wish to sweep away all this wonderful fellowship and sense of community which must be worth vastly more than any of the proposed savings? Bristol is not Oxbridge, nor do we want it to be, but it is very special and part of its uniqueness lies in the halls of residence and their collegiate qualities. Why do we have to dumb everything down? Some of us are actually proud that Bristol University stands out from the crowd which is a different kind of diversity."

Jonathan Smith BA French 1971-74
Badock Hall JCR Committee: Chairman of Facilities 1971-73
Convocation Representative on Court 2017-Present