Skip to main content

A group of students banging posts and pans

After months of preparation and anticipation, it was – despite the pandemic – a complete joy to welcome South College’s first freshers to their new home and community. The Pioneer Scholars worked with formidable energy, dedication and commitment to welcome the new arrivals and their parents.

If welcoming students and unloading cars were an Olympic sport, South College would win the gold medal. Our meticulous planning for arrival times, parking slots and registration worked more smoothly than I had dared to hope. I am intensely grateful to all concerned. Allow me to make special mention of Lee, Lynn, Steven, Richard, Haf and Polly for their dedication and hard work.

It gave me additional pleasure to be able to preside over South’s first ever College Formals. Pre-dinner drinks on the Principal’s Balcony may not be the warmest social experience any of us has enjoyed, but the space and fresh air allowed my High Table guests to enjoy a modest glass of Prosecco without breaching the rules on social distancing. I was very pleased that Jeremy Cook, PVC Colleges, and my wife, Dorothy, were able to join us on Monday night. I shall not forget the spectacle of South’s Students and High Table rising in unison to toast Oswald and our values of freedom, equality and global citizenship. To repeat the experience three times in one week was an additional – if tiring – privilege.

Our distinctive College Matriculation ceremonies in the Hub on Wednesday made me extremely proud. By swearing our oath of loyalty in the presence of the College Owl, Southies did not simply confirm the invention of a tradition that will endure. You demonstrated that you understand the values we proclaim and their central importance to life in this scholarly community at a historic university located in a proud parliamentary democracy. By committing yourselves to freedom, equality and global citizenship you are not choosing sides in the perpetual democratic debate between left, right and centre. You are simply acknowledging the importance of that debate and, crucially, your awareness that no participant in it has a monopoly of wisdom. Through robust discussion and honest disagreement, we preserve the freedom to devise solutions suitable for our times and to adapt them when circumstances change. You acknowledge also that to protect liberty, we must be constantly vigilant. 

Having waxed lyrical about College Formals and our Matriculation ceremonies, I must also offer my warm thanks to Ben Bassett JCR Chairman and Callum Turasz, Vice President who worked so hard to make these events successful. Rewarding such efforts with modest glasses of malt whisky on the Balcony after College formals is another great South College tradition and one that I shall be pleased to continue even in the depths of winter.

History does not always feel significant to those who make it, but none of us should ignore the plain truth that, last week, we all made history together. We have more to do, but it is already clear that as a community we have all the skill, energy and commitment to do it very well.