21/09/2012 by noonobservation
As I rolled over in bed last night, pulling the pillow more tightly about my ears to keep out the inhuman screams and sounds of breaking glass, I came to wondering whether students had always been quite this annoying. Surely if they had, someone would have taken action by now? Do they not spread TB to cattle or something?
Perhaps student behaviour through history needs closer examination. Since I live in Oxford, I will start there.
St Scholastica Day riot of 1355
This is the classic example of students being annoying. It started with a gown-on-town incident in the Swindlestock Tavern on a Tuesday, when two students (probably wearing onesies or dressed as golfers) complained about the quality of the drinks. Being students, they complained rudely. An altercation ensued in which the offending drinks were thrown and the tavern owner was beaten up.
At this time, students had benefit of clergy, the benefit being that they couldn’t be arrested for being morons. The Mayor of Oxford had to ask the Chancellor of the University to arrest them. Which he didn’t. Instead, the scholars rallied two hundred fellow students to their cause and assaulted the Mayor. They then went on a massive bender, robbing and burning town houses and killing some of the uneducated townsfolk. Later, when the students went out after dinner to lie about on the grass doing nothing, they were (quite rightly) shot at by 80 townsfolk with longbows.
Meanwhile, Mayor Bereford rallied two thousand good people of Oxfordshire, who entered the town the next day carrying a black banner and crying “slay, slay, havok, havok, smite fast, give good knocks.” They beat or killed the students they found, scalping some of them (they do often have stupid hair) and sacked fifteen university halls, carrying off all the stolen traffic cones and cardboard cut-outs of celebrities they could find, along with a good quantity of overdue library books and falsified parking permits.
The students were eventually routed, with the loss of 63 of their number. They have been getting their own back ever since however by wandering around in their pyjamas in the middle of the day and talking loudly and pretentiously about Nietzsche on public transport.
Students of Padua, 1740ish
Giacomo Casanova studied in Padua between 1737 and 1742. He studied law, for which he felt “an unconquerable aversion”. Casanova fell in with some of the most “renowned” students, who he describes as, “the most worthless, dissolute fellows, gamblers, frequenters of disorderly houses, hard drinkers, debauchees, tormentors and suborners of honest girls, liars, and wholly incapable of any good or virtuous feeling.”
Student influence explains a lot of Casanova’s later behaviour. As well as engaging in a good deal of debauching, fraud, murder, etc, Casanova also went on to perform more serious forms of public nuisance, such as unmooring gondolas and allowing them to float off, calling out doctors and midwives to fictitious patients, and running into strangers’ bedrooms in the middle of the night to shout at them that they had left their gate open. A prick in so many ways.
In order not to diminish the number of wealthy students coming to Padua to study, the authorities gave them many privileges which essentially put them outside of the law.
One day, as Casanova recalls, a policeman entering a coffee house, was ordered to leave by two students (dressed as smurfs). When the policeman ignored them, one of the smurfs shot at him, but missed. The policeman returned fire, wounding the smurf superficially. In retaliation, for the next eight days, gangs of students roamed the streets killing any policemen they could find, until the authorities eventually made peace with them by hanging the original policeman who had caused the offence. Casanova himself was “disappointed” that the gang of smurfs he was with could find not a single policeman to shoot.
The Germans had the right idea
Heidelburg University is to be commended in its provision for student miscreants. Until 1914, prankster (or sociopathic deviants, as I like to call them) could be locked up in the Studentenkarzer (student jail) on a diet of bread and water for up to four weeks, only being allowed out to attend lectures. This, in my view, is how all students should be made to live.
According to the Milwaukee Journal from 1973, Bismark’s son, Herbert ended up here on five separate occasions, one of them being for placing a chamber pot (there being no traffic cones to hand) on the head of a statue near the administration building. According to the records, the most popular student crime was stealing stones from buildings and throwing them through the windows of police stations with a note attached saying “We found this in the street.”
Spending time in jail unfortunately became a badge of honour for students; as important to their social standing as getting themselves horridly disfigured in a mensur duel (a ritualistic fencing match in which armour is worn everywhere except the face). Since duelling was illegal, happily students could kill two birds with one stone by getting imprisoned for duelling. Germans are so efficient.
In their defence…
Not all students are entirely bad. Those from Cambridge University, for example spend their free time visiting sick children, raising money for blind dogs and hoisting cars onto the roofs of University buildings in the middle of the night. None of this is annoying at all (except maybe those riots in 1262 and 1322… and all that crockery we stole…).
The main problem with students is that they basically have too much free time on their hands. Free time should only be given to the mature and sensible who will use it for clever and productive things like writing vacuous blogs.
The other problem with students is they have no natural predators.
Now I know more about the traditional ways of combating this evil, I’m off to buy a large, heavy cudgel and a longbow.