We broke a story recently which was picked up by national media outlets: violence breaking out at Varsity.
The men’s rugby had to be cancelled, things were thrown – including bottles – several people hositalised and someone even threatened another person with a knife. Amongst all this, there were misogynist and homophobic slurs being chanted. It seems to have been a huge brawl between Sussex and Brighton students, blown out of all proportion.
Amongst such extreme events, it has in fact been the rumour of a chant which has stuck with me. “Your dad works for my dad”, people say they heard Sussex sudents sing against the other university. This isn’t the first time I’ve heard about such a chant: I clearly recall being told about it by Brighton University friends during my first weeks at university, and periodically since.
In the time since Varsity, people have been quick to allocate blame, and the very last thing I want to do is uncritically signal one group and point my own finger in blame. That, you see, is part of the problem.
The idea of one group of young people chanting “your dad works for my dad” is condescending, classist and fundamentally horrible, whoever those two groups may be. And in many ways for the purpose of this editorial today it doesn’t matter who they were, or if they said those exact words on one exact day. What matters is that we as a community feel so separate from Brighton students.
The real reason I bring this chant up is the level of competition which exists between Brighton and Sussex.
This competition transcends sport: on nights out, in cozy Brighton cafes, in lecture theatres we hear over and over again casual jokes about the differences between people at Brighton and those of us “here”, at Sussex. In their essence they are not just jokes: they are a strange way of separating ourselves off from people who really are no different from us.
While it is true we go to different universities, and those universities were indeed competing for a sporting trophy – where has this idea come from that we are competing all the time, merely by the act of “belonging” to one student community or another?
We all struggle with ludicrously high Brighton rent prices. We all struggle with rising fees. We all chose to come and live in the same city because we felt it could be home. We have so much in common… We even share the struggle of waking up to noisy seagulls!
So without portioning blame, let’s cut some slack for the image some of us have in our heads of Brighton as competitor, and appreciate what we share in common with Brighton University students.