It’s 1 March and I’m flying back from Greece. In the 6 days I’ve been there, Italy has gone from “noteworthy” to “spiking” yet it’s still all a world away.
It’s 6 March and I’ve just created an inbox folder called COVID-19. An email has come in from the Associate Director of Information Services asking my area’s critical IT requirements in the event of University closure. I run a service with 90 members of staff. I’ll need a spreadsheet.
It’s 13 March and less than 4 weeks to the 30th SROC conference and I’m staring at my laptop screen in disbelief as I type the words “it’s very unlikely (and potentially irresponsible) to go ahead at this stage”.
It’s 18 March and I’m turning off the lights of the Richmond building mezzanine where half of Registry & Student Administration at the University of Bradford spend their working days. I’m carrying two plants, a bottle of prosecco, an iPad and two bags of documents across to York on the train. I’m often the last one out, but tonight is different.
Amid daily coronavirus briefings from the VC and Health & Safety, government and WHO guidance and a mountain of news reports, keeping up with information becomes critical over the next many weeks. Everything is changing by the hour and plans need to be re-evaluated accordingly.
In the months that follow, we’ll move all our assessments online, write and implement emergency assessment and progression regulations (complete with safety nets and new board reports), re-write the reminder of the 2019/20 academic calendar (and the entirety of 2020/21), see our nurses off early, cancel Graduation, move to electronic vivas and thesis submissions, move from faculty to university level boards and committees, plan a socially distanced timetable in two months, deliver full online enrolment, somehow submit HESA on time and still manage to migrate curriculum management systems.
Somewhere in all that I became chair of SROC. It was not the handover I would have wanted. Judith Davison had been chair for the majority of my committee tenure and SROC20, our 30th anniversary conference, was being hosted by Huddersfield, her own institution. It would have been the biggest of retirement parties. Judith, alongside Phillip Russell-Lacy and Maggie New, the longest standing committee members, were taking steps back and we were all preparing for exceptionally big celebratory send-offs. It wasn’t meant to be.
Thus, unceremoniously, the baton of chairmanship was passed to me and that of deputy chair was passed to Chris Carpenter. Nobody really felt like marking the occasion. Nobody had the mental capacity to even begin to wonder how. And besides, there would be a real handover eventually, all this was only a postponement, right? The party was still happening in autumn, yes?
Reader, the party did not happen in autumn.
Which brings me back to the conference. This year has not been kind to those who forward plan. And we did plan. First to deliver SROC20 in a different format, then to deliver some of it in November and then, having gone through the four other stages and through to acceptance, to the realisation that we were letting it go. But, what about SROC21 you ask. Isn’t this now still your 30th conference!?
Reader, we’re going to organise the hell out of it, that’s what.
We’re not just having a conference. Oh, no. We’re having a FEST. #SROCfest21 is coming this spring to an online space near you. It’s going to be F-A-B-U-L-O-U-S. A celebration of the things the SROC community has conquered this year and all that we’ve achieved. Because it has been a lot. And in there somewhere, perhaps, a reflection on some of the things we’ve lost.
I really look forward to welcoming you.
Marian Hilditch, December 2020