Noise, fines, and doublethink

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On the 8th of June, 1949, George Orwell’s classic dystopian novel 1984 was first published. The novel was a huge success, and since its publication many of its terms and concepts have entered into common use. One such concept was the idea of “doublethink”: simply put, the ability to hold two contradictory ideas in one’s mind at the same time.

It was just a few weeks back, whilst debating the merits of a book in a seminar room in Bowland North, that this concept came to mind. On so many occasions, I remembered receiving emails and seeing posters warning students from producing excessive noise; yet here I was hearing not my classmates, but the angry shudder of an electric drill.

“Student fines which are imposed for infringement of noise regulations will be automatically doubled during the Quiet Period.” This is an extract of the email that was sent around during the exam period last year. Coincidentally, this was a period in which major building work was being conducted in the library and in new accommodation around Bowland Annexe.

This building work was quite noisy. So noisy in fact it rendered these places useless for study to all but the hardy-eared. I recall asking a friend of mine living in Bowland Annexe if he was studying in his room much, and him looking at me as if I had lost my mind. This is all a little, you might say, like a dog owner telling his pet in no uncertain terms that they cannot crap in the house, before proceeding to defecate on the carpet.

You may see my point, but argue that noise can be necessary. If we want our campus to grow we must accept a certain amount of noise, you might shout. Yet surely, you would think, the University would cease such work during a supposed quiet period… surely, the University would engage in a massive drive to get the library at least close to finished in the summer period, when students no longer need the space for study? We are well and truly blessed that the renovation is at last complete.

Perhaps, I thought as I tried to make myself heard over the mechanical onslaught, it is one rule for them and one rule for us. Perhaps they consider the electric drill to be of a higher art form than Avicii. Perhaps they have convinced themselves that noise can simultaneously connote goodness and progress, and the work of the reckless.

“What?” my tutor shouts over the clanging outside. “I didn’t catch you?”

I repeat myself for the third time. It is at this point that I seriously consider the possibility of walking out, going to see the Vice-Chancellor, and issuing him a noise complaint myself.

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