YES! – Alexander Rankine

Dear tutor,

Although we once met in the pub after a scheduling fiasco, I think it is fair to say that we are not really friends. We might occasionally share a dash of mirth
during the grim and earnest tutorial grind, but we’re careful to laugh about something safe; preferably the weather, a minor mishap, your rival’s most cherished theory. I now see that starting our relationship out by questioning the intellectual basis and credibility of your subject in my first ever tutorial was probably not very wise.

There are certainly a great number of bridges to cross as we try to rebuild our amity. We are separated by years and intellect. But then, by the end of 6th form we were often quite pally with our teachers, sharing gossip and meeting them out of lessons, and promising to stay in touch. Of course, the Oxford tutor poses their own particular difficulties. Some of you are just a bit strange, with touchingly circumscribed extra-subject conversation, profoundly alternative senses of humour, or a pronounced and intolerant dogmatism. But real human hearts beat under most of those priggish suits and ill-chosen denim jackets, just as they do under the elbow patches which are now worn – confusingly – mostly by the student body. And you yourself seem like quite a nice sort, with a good variety of interests and cultural references hinted at in our tutorial conversations.

But how can we get to know you better? Well, if fresher’s week teaches us one thing, it is that alcohol is the ticket to instant friendship (or a three-year long avoidance of certain other members of the college community).College is certainly willing to provide here, what with its entertainment allowance.

After we had dinner together in the SCR you even suggested that there might be enough left over in the kitty for a whisky tasting night. Indeed, I saw you drunk (at fresher’s formal) before I ever saw you teach. Bring on the booze. I believe that Tolkien used to hold tutorials in the pub, this too might be a way to go.

But no booze-broken-ice can stay melted for long without mutual respect. I now recognise that brazenly attacking an academic’s position during your tutorial whilst repeatedly failing to correctly pronounce his name was a daft position to take with your thesis supervisor. To the contrary, I now regard his theory as a shining paradigm of reason and sense.

Equally, the next time my tutorial partner sticks his head out the window, it would be nice if you did not threaten to slam it shut. A little guillotining between friends can do a great deal of harm. Your acts of kindness also seem like a nice way of building up trust between us, giving us pringles to explain maximisation problems was inspired, even if I did eat the relevant study tool before you could explain the theory.

Ultimately, friendship must be based upon shared interests. I already see hints of these, like the time we carried on our tutorial in the quad after the ‘official’ end. Offering us one of the roll-ups you smoked during our chat would be the next step, but it was nice to see that not every conversation with a tutor need conclude with awkward silence.

Here’s to a new friendship,

Alex

 

NO! – Anna Cooban

True friendships do not spring suddenly into existence, they take time to develop and certainly cannot be nurtured during the course of a one-hour tutorial discussing Darwinian theory and the numerous pitfalls of my essay.

Friends are your literal crutches on the long journey from bop to bed, friends upload horrendous photos onto Facebook and kindly remember the tag, lend you money at dinner when your bod card balance runs low and provide the simplest of comforts.

Would my tutor turn up at my room at 3am armed with a tub of Ben & Jerry’s because my boyfriend dumped me? No. Any friend who treats you as an
academic punch-bag at the beginning of every term is simply not worth keeping. Collections are perhaps the bane of every Oxford student’s life, turning every vac into a six-week-long procrastination where relaxing is something of a luxury and not an expectation.

Socialising with your tutor in the weeks that follow when your collections papers are still unmarked, underscores any dinner or drinks event with a palpable tension and fear of the dreaded email asking for a ‘chat’.

Friends also have a habit of mincing their words to protect your feelings and often the best advice has the harshest delivery. Half-baked criticism for a truly shoddy essay is helping no one and sometimes being told that you’re crap is the most helpful and truly motivating thing you could ever hear. Friendships, like relationships, are supposedly based on honesty, but in practice the white-lies told by friends are designed to spare you heartache where it is needed.

Instead, the brutal, bare-faced honesty of a tutorial report gives you heartache where it is most certainly needed. This is why OxCORT exists – to shatter any illusion that your tutor was ever, or could possibly become, your friend.

Perhaps it is Facebook and the entire social networking phenomenon which has made ‘friendship’ seem so easy. The simple click of a button enables people with even the most tenuous connection to instigate a virtual ‘friendship’ without the rigorous tests set by physical proximity. These sorts of Facebook friends cannot pull your hair back after a heavy night at Camera, nor can they file away embarrassing anecdotes from fresher’s week to be dragged up when you’re about to sit your finals. Tutors are like these nominal virtual friendships; they show cordiality and respect – the equivalent to a ‘like’ on a profile picture – but in reality they are just as distant, just as indifferent and just as anonymous as the 500+ friends on your timeline. 

And if you think this view of the impossibility of tutor-student friendships is dismissive to those who genuinely do feel as if their tutor would distract them from their work to play pool in the JCR or would scrutinise all potential love interests as unworthy of their time, then, for your sake, I urge you to end this destructive relationship now. Once finals come around and you graduate, the tutorstudent dynamic will be broken and you will wonder why you invested so much energy in the friendship of a middle-aged don with whom, aside from a shared love of 19th century lesbian literature, you actually share very little in common.

Do not feel disheartened at the loss of your tutor’s seeming friendship – you could always add them on Facebook.