You’d have to have a pretty hard heart to not empathize with the plight of refugees. No one chooses to become one; through economic hardship, military conflict, civil war, and even climate change, people risk their lives on a daily basis to try to reach a safer, accepting country. Many are dying at sea or, as was infamously depicted on the US-Mexico border, seeing their children taken away from them.
That’s why the actions of the official Twitter account of a British university, in the face of all this horror, is so welcome.
Back in mid-June, the University of Reading announced that it was going to give scholarships to refugees based in the city. Developed in partnership with the Reading Refugee Support Group and the Reading University Students’ Union, the aim is to hand out 14 scholarships, which include several covering tuition fees, and some that boost or entirely cover the tuition and maintenance costs for foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate taught study.
Prof. Robert Van de Noort, the pro-vice-chancellor of the university, said in a press release that “universities are places for people from all over the world and from all walks of life. We welcome to Reading those fleeing violence and persecution in their own countries and we value the contribution those seeking sanctuary can make to the University and the town in general.”
It’s hard to imagine that anyone would disagree with this scheme and the motivation and sentiment behind it, but somehow, people did. Although it’s not really visible on Twitter, the university is said to have received some "negative feedback", the contents of which we can only dread to imagine.
To which, the University of Reading tweeted the following:
Obviously, that’s precisely the response we need. Some people have bizarrely taken offense at the use of the phrase “jog on,” noting that they wouldn’t use that type of language. It’s a Britishism, so if you’re reading about this across the pond or elsewhere, let me translate that for you: “jog on” essentially means “get lost”, “go away” or, if you’re feeling particularly aggrieved, “fuck off.”
The response to the university, quite rightly, has been overwhelmingly positive. Other institutions, including the University of York, have offered their support, as have alumni of the university.
Several universities, including York and Bristol University, pointed out to those asking that they’ve got similar schemes already up and running.
Equal access to education – regardless of sex, gender, socio-economic background, ethnicity, country of birth, and so on – is a human right with incalculable benefits. Refugees are no different. If you’ve got a moment at some point today, send the University of Reading some digital love.