Tag Archives: education

Dear Abigail Fisher

25 Jun

Abigail Fisher

Dear Abigail,

I read about your rejected application to the University of Texas and your subsequent lawsuit challenging the university’s decision, which you, a 23-year-old white woman, believed was due to the university’s policy of affirmative action.

Let me start by saying I’m sorry you didn’t get into your dream university; rejection sucks, and it can feel unfair. As a 27-year-old white woman, I’m not going to patronise you by saying that you have your whole life ahead of you and that this rejection will soon feel like nothing more than a tiny bump in the road that is your life journey. I’m too close to your age to tell you this, and I haven’t clocked in anywhere near enough time to be that dismissive of your life experience so far.

But I can tell you this; sometimes, in life, we don’t always get our way.

Sure, you might have it all planned out, you might have written a list of goals that you want to achieve by the time you’re 30, but if something is not going to happen, it’s not going to happen. You can’t force your dream university to take you on as a student, because there is a lot of evidence to prove that your application wasn’t rejected because of the colour of your skin.

When we fail, we have to get back up, dust ourselves off and keep moving. I know it hurts to realise that a long-time dream you had won’t come to fruition, but just because you want something, doesn’t mean that you’re entitled to it. Sometimes you put your heart and soul into something and it doesn’t work. Sometimes you don’t quite work hard enough, and expect the glory to appear overnight, which it doesn’t.

The fear of failure is something that has swept our society; as modern people we are terrified of doing something wrong, of taking a risk, of not getting what we want, or of changing our minds and creating new goals. The important thing to remember is that everyone around you, including the most successful people in the public eye, will have failed at something, be it a work endeavour, a relationship, an investment, an exam, an essay or another seemingly important task.

Walt Disney was fired by an editor, he formed and liquidated several companies before he found success with his animation. Bill Gates ‘ first business failed miserably. Michael Jordan was cut from his high school basketball team. Stephen King had his seminal horror masterpiece, Carrie, rejected 30 times by various publishers, before it was eventually accepted. The late Iain (M) Banks’ The Wasp Factory was rejected 6 times before it was published in 1984, and he has since been named as one of the 50 Greatest British writers since 1945.

My point is, Abigail, that failure is inevitable at certain times in our lives, we can’t avoid it, but it represents a massive opportunity for personal growth and change. I’m not denying that it’s a difficult process, but anything worth doing usually is. Let me tell you a few secrets; I’m a theatre critic and I failed Higher Drama when I was 16; I had missed a lot of school that year because of illness, and I got pneumonia 2 weeks before my exams. When I resat the course the following year I got a B.

When I first applied for university, I didn’t get an interview for the course I really wanted to do, I just logged into my UCAS account one day to find that my application had been rejected, no reason was given, all I got was a computer screen with the words ‘application unsuccessful’ staring back at me. I was crushed. However, 5 months later, I managed to get onto that very same course through clearing.

I stayed up all night drinking vodka when I got the mark for my university dissertation, which was a painful 52%. This mark dragged my overall grade down from a First Class degree, to a 2.1. I was very unhappy about it at the time, but that 2.1 hasn’t held me back at all, in fact, I haven’t seen my degree certificate since I graduated four years ago, I think it’s somewhere in my parents’ house.

I know that you went on to successfully apply to and graduate from Louisiana State University, and for that I congratulate you. However, I must ask you, what you thought you might gain from your lawsuit? Ask yourself, have you really experienced discrimination because of your race?

Obviously, as we live in different parts of the world, and are unlikely to ever meet, I must admit, I don’t know you, so I can’t get a good idea of your reasoning, or the reasoning of those around you, but I do hope that in time, you will realise that this lawsuit was unwise, and you will be able to fully move on with your life.

Yours sincerely,


(No kisses yet, we barely know each other)

21 Things I Wish University Had Taught Me

29 Apr

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Graduation Cake by CarbonNYC - image used under a Creative Commons Licence.

Graduation Cake by CarbonNYC – image used under a Creative Commons Licence.

I learned a lot during my time in higher education; some of which I realised fairly quickly, however, other lessons took a little longer to work out.

Here are just some of them.

1. The nervous first year student at matriculation and the new graduate receiving their degree four years later will not be the same person.

2. You will have doubts about your course/life/direction/goals.

3. If you get through university and are able to look after yourself through cooking, general hygiene and handling money responsibly, then you will know more than a great number of people in the UK, and indeed, the world.

4. Your Student Loan will take a while to pay off, but you WILL pay it off.

5. You will make post-university plans that you won’t stick to, and this is ok.

6. You will not walk into your perfect job after graduating, this will take time.

7. It’s never too late to change your mind.

8. Don’t listen to other people when they tell you that you can’t do something, such as travelling or moving away. This is your life, live it your way.

9. You will have to take a job for the money, and not for the thrill of the job.

10. You will lose touch with friends from university; this is natural.

11. Find a good hobby; it will keep you occupied.

12. Change is normal, don’t fear it.

13. Find your comfort zone and destroy it. Comforts can only hold you back.

14. You might have to start all over again.

15. People change and outgrow each other, it’s painful, but it happens.

16. Never lose sight of your goals.

17. Do not be afraid to ask for help if you need it.

18. Take a risk, because failing at something is not the end of the world.

19. Jealousy does awful things to people; rise above it.

20. Know your worth; never undermine yourself or undervalue what you mean to others.

21. Don’t drink too much. Save your money and spend it on something more useful than a hangover.

Why Does the Government Hate Women?

6 Oct

In the same week that the Minister for Women, Maria Miller announced that she would back a reduction in the abortion limit from 24 to 20 weeks, the health secretary, Jeremy Hunt has announced that he backs the reduction of the limit further, to just 12 weeks.

Miller’s support of lowering the abortion limit from the current 24 weeks to 20 weeks, is not a decision backed by medical science, or the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, which announced in 2009 that it had found no medical evidence to justify such a cut. Similarly, Hunt’s support for a 12 week limit on abortions, though a decision he says he came to “after studying the evidence”, although he hasn’t yet cited the evidence for this decision. He has also denied that his faith has been one of the driving forces for his decision.

But just as Miller’s support for a 20 week limit has been met with derision, so has Hunt’s desire to cut the limit to 12 weeks, a decision slammed by the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists, who have criticised Hunt’s stance on abortion. Speaking to The Times their spokesperson Kate Guthrie said:

“The politicisation of women’s health is absolutely shocking. Politicians talk about putting patients at the centre, which is quite right.

How is the woman at the centre of her healthcare with something like this?

If everybody had to have abortions by 12 weeks, my worry would be that women would be rushed into making decisions: ‘I have to have an abortion now or I can’t have one.’

That’s an absolute shocker. You will absolutely create mental health problems if you start dragooning women into making decisions before they have to.”

Abortion is a sensitive issue; it is a difficult issue for some people, but above all else, it is an issue that should concern the women who are experiencing a surprise pregnancy. Women deserve the right to have autonomy over their own bodies, we are entitled to make the decision to end or continue a pregnancy if that is what we want to do. The decision to have an abortion is a difficult one, and is influenced by many factors, not least by the existing time limits.

Let me be frank, Miller and Hunt’s desire to lower the abortion limit will not mean fewer abortions will be carried out. It will mean that women that rely on the NHS will be forced to make a decision with very little time to spare, while women with money will be able to afford to access an abortion in other countries with a higher time limit. Those women without the means to pay for their own abortion, or ability to travel to another country to have one will be left with fewer options and a lot of desperation and worry. Desperation will cause women who want to end their pregnancy to turn to unlicensed backstreet abortion which led to hundreds, if not thousands of women contracting serious illnesses, becoming infertile or dying from their injuries. The amount of women who became ill or died following an illegal abortion before 1967 cannot be verified, but it is estimated that 47,000 women have died because of unsafe abortion. Is this what we want for women in the UK?

Unwanted pregnancy rates need to be targeted by the government, but not by reducing the abortion time limit. Improving access to contraception would help deal with the issue. This has been proven time and time again by studies, with the most recent one, carried out by Washington University in St Louis, concluding that better access to contraception means fewer abortions. In addition, improving pre-natal testing for genetic abnormalities, would help make parents more aware of any issues with a pregnancy well in advance of the 24 week mark. As would working to stop end any delays that some women considering abortion may face.

So, Miller, you’re Minister for Women, start acting like you’re on our side; stop describing yourself as “a very modern feminist” and trust women to make the right decisions about our own bodies and futures. As for Hunt, the Health Secretary should recognise that lowering the abortion limit will not mean fewer abortions, it will mean fewer documented abortions and more women putting their lives at risk in order to end a pregnancy that they either cannot or will not continue with due to choice, or the health of the foetus. Late abortion is accounts for a very small percentage of abortions in the UK, less than 2% of the 200,000 abortions carried out in England and Wales in 2011, were late-term abortions.

If Hunt and Miller were really interested in stopping unwanted pregnancies, they would start by looking at access to contraceptives and improving sex education, not by punishing women who have an unexpected or non-viable pregnancy. This is the latest step in the Conservative’s war on women, and we must fight to make sure that all women have access to safe and legal abortion – should they need or want one.



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