Let me start off by saying that I wouldn’t normally do an online editorial. My editorials are normally a frivolous 500 words at the start of the paper which I imagine you all skip over to get to the more interesting content inside – and who could blame you?
But, since I wrote my last editorial on Thursday evening, a lot has changed. And as the Chair of a working committee which has as large a reach on campus as Forge Press does, I believe it would be remiss of me to pretend that nothing had changed, and to distribute this week’s paper as normal.
I wrote my last one, which you can read in issue 143 of our newspaper, on Thursday evening, as I sat across from the candidates in this year’s Students’ Union Officer Elections, having a laugh and celebrating what I know from experience can be a gruelling campaign.
Less than 24 hours on, all face-to-face University of Sheffield teaching was suspended and the first case of the coronavirus was confirmed on campus. It is a huge change, and it’s clear to see that university and government policy is rapidly changing, and that it will continue to change.
I’m not an expert on any of this, and I would never claim to be. These are frightening times we live in, and in the last few weeks I’ve been as guilty as anyone else of underestimating how far this could spread.
The last few days have really hit home for me, as I’m sure it has for many others, how many people this could end up affecting and hurting. As I said, I’m not an expert, I’m not going to comment on how accurate or inaccurate people’s statements are.
What I do know is that we all have to do our little bit to try and prevent further spread of this, and at Forge Press we have taken great efforts today to ensure we can do that. All of our team worked incredibly hard last week to send our SU Officer Elections issue to print, and I personally believe it is one of our best yet. So it would be a real shame if we weren’t able to distribute it to the wider student population.
But that’s a hit we may have to take, and we’ve suspended all hand-to-hand distribution of the paper until further notice. Fine, we’ve spent money on producing that paper, but the welfare of our committee members, of our students and staff is far more important, and no amount of cash is worth putting them in danger.
None of us can know how long this is all going to go on for, and I don’t see how we could ever know. Events and concerts are going to be cancelled, conferences are going to be cancelled, sporting events are going to be cancelled.
And that’s a shame. But there’s nothing we can do about that – the measures being taken are necessary to keep us safe. And as individuals and organisations we need to make sure we’re doing the same – washing our hands, looking out for ourselves and each other, keeping safe, doing everything we can.
Let’s not pretend the next few months won’t be difficult, and let’s not pretend we know what’s going to happen, but in Sheffield I know one thing: I know we’re made up of some of the best, strongest people, full of Stones’ Bitter and Henderson’s Relish, Owls or Blades, and whatever happens we’ll look after each other and get through this together. They don’t call this the Steel City for nothing, and let’s show that over the next few months.
Ben Warner, Editor-in-Chief, Forge Press