2019-2020 Executive final editorials

On what would have been our final day of the University of Kent’s academic year 2019/20, we, the outgoing executive team – George Knight, Caitlin Casey and Bill Bowkett – give our final thoughts for InQuire.

With these being our final editorials, I think it is long overdue to show gratification to all of the outgoing members of the publication. Whether it be graduating, or simply moving on to pastures new, every single person that has been part of this amazing team has done a fantastic job – not only in maintaining the high standards the society sets, but also propelling it. Without the work of our writers, editors, photographers, marketers or designers behind the scenes, we would not be anywhere near as successful.

As a trio that met through InQuire back at the start of 2018 (when things were much different than what they are today), we wish the new executive team for 2020/21 – Tímea Koppándi, Emily Webb-Mortimer and Rory Bathgate – the greatest of luck. We look forward to seeing the bar raised even higher next year. And to all of our readers that have picked up a copy of our newspaper on campus or shared our stories on social media, thank you. Have a wonderful summer.

Kent graduates face uncertainty as UK job market falters, George Knight

The University of Kent’s class of 2020 is graduating into economic uncertainty. The limitations put in place by the Covid-19 pandemic have created a financial and occupational downturn. The damage to the job market will be severe, with the unemployment rate potentially reaching 10% of the population by the end of the year; up 2% from the 2008 recession.

These constraints place considerable pressure on companies to terminate and furlough their permanent staff and minimise incoming graduates. The unpaid opportunities have also been affected, with the Institute of Student Employers suggesting that 68% of firms nationwide have cancelled work experience possibilities. As such, many newly graduated students are faced with either undesirable and lower-paid employment or finding alternatives such as further postgraduate study.

The long-term impact of the recession on a graduate’s career and earnings could be severe. Researchers Philip Oreopoulos, Till von Wachter and Andrew Heisz in their 2012 paper, based upon Canadian college students graduating between 1976-95, have shown that ‘luck’ is just as important as skill.

Unlike graduates who enter a thriving job market, where opportunities for higher-paid positions are abundant and relevant career experience and stability is established, students who graduate into a recession are more likely to find unstable employment, frequently move jobs and irrelevant experience. Therefore, suffering a potential 9% annual loss of earnings. Their evidence does suggest that this gap will slowly recover, but only over a 5-10-year gap, meaning that those who enter an economic downturn could suffer a near decade long wage disparity.

Within such circumstances, there is a serious opportunity for new graduates to suffer long-term unemployment within their desired industry sectors. However, Nick Hillman from the Higher Education Policy Institutions has suggested that students must change their mindset and find opportunities in businesses elsewhere. He points out that despite a downturn for some sectors, others like technology, food and logistical have shown drastic increases. Firms that specialise in delivering products, home leisure items and online service have seen exponential growth.

For example, Netflix has witnessed 16 million new users since January and UK publisher Penguin recorded a 150% increase in February alone. Also, start-ups and new small businesses, which offer unique experiences for graduates, have shown an interest increase of up to 870% online.

Although previously desired opportunities may have been affected, graduates may be faced with an entirely new job market by the end of Covid-19. The economic impact on individual careers could be severe, but Kent graduates may have a unique opportunity to find new life in areas yet unexplored. For Kent students, this unprecedented opportunity has the potential to change our ambition and lifestyles; it should be approached with interest and caution.

Students for social media movements, Caitlin Casey

In the past decade, online media has had its heights and pitfalls. Social media memes and viral trends act against fake news allegations and floods of information. In a world where more than 4.5 billion people use the internet, and 3.8 billion of which are social media users, digital media is an overbearing source for staying in-the-know.

Right now, we must turn to ourselves as a publication in this time of social media impact. Just as one example, in the past three years, there has been the development of @InQuireMedia Instagram in 2017 which acts as a bridge between the student audience and our student writers. Students here at Kent can have the right to react to articles (which, many of you do) with online comments on platforms such as Facebook. Online media is an opportunity to communicate with others, via different channels, to express oneself.

In this communication in the wider digital landscape, there is no doubt that public shaming is on the rise. Online trolls and call-out culture can break down careers and reputations when used negatively. Hearing the name Logan Paul brings up memories of a YouTuber with a bad moral compass. Justine Sacco’s career was ruined after writing on Twitter what she thought was a stupid joke. Just this year, Kylie Jenner was ripped from her billionaire status by Forbes. This shaming may coolly come into the public sphere, but those who have been virally dishonoured may be rebuilding their reputation for a lifetime.

What we must look at, is the positivity of this digital world. Once getting past the influencers and unsettlingly accurate ads from brands, an online presence can be a tool for enlightenment. We can see the online world making a cultural impact today. #BlackLivesMatter. #MeToo. #MarchForOurLives. #TakeAKnee. #ALS. #NoBanNoWall. #BringBackOurGirls. #Kony2012. The list goes on. If you have not heard of them all, you have probably heard of at least one. Whether political, anti-discrimination, women’s rights or social awareness, these are all forms of ‘hashtag activism’ which act as fuel for the online movement.

A simple hashtag can bring viral attention to a necessary debate.

With the opportunity to talk about these causes, there also comes responsibility. Where social media can ease anxiety and stress with humour and relatability, it can be just as detrimental to mental health. Influxes of worrying information or internal comparison to others can be exhausting. We must be an advocate for these positive movements, but we must also be respectful to ourselves on how we react to this information.

Many of us will continue to watch YouTube and TikTok videos, we will scroll through Twitter and Instagram, we will connect with friends on Facebook and we will be active in important movements online. Social media can, however, be overwhelming.

My final word is that we, students, take accountability for our online activity. We must be attentive, constructive and thoughtful. We all have a chance as a young generation to have discourse for now and in the future on this online world, so we must use our online voices with care. Social media can only be useful if it becomes a tool for insight, not destruction.

The making of a storyteller, Bill Bowkett

As we, the outgoing executive team, address the publication in our final editorials (in a way we did not expect), we are experiencing a supernova in our history. The all-encompassing, environing set of events and responses of the coronavirus pandemic, the George Floyd protests, the Australian bushfires, Britain’s departure from the European Union (and that is just the first half), and more have touched every aspect of the human condition.

2020 will be the defining year for our generation, our children’s generation, and, quite possibly, our grandchildren’s generation. Its far-reaching impacts are unknown, the fate of our lives post-graduation dawn in uncertainty, and the state of our planet – economically, politically, environmentally – is seeded with doubt.

For many of us, the beginning of a new decade carried an air of optimism, of new possibilities. But to no avail. With that in mind, one might ask: “Are there reason to be cheerful?” Of course. InQuire has been touched by the gracious and moving acts of civil society – and the spirit of humanism – and how has proven to be our pillar of strength in times of crisis. It has brought people together, evoked the injustices of society, and guided our needs for the interests of those we care and have empathy for. Whether that be participating in a rally, founding a community action group, raising money to those in need, or volunteering for our public services. But acts of charity and good grace are simply not enough to enact the change we would like.

That is why, more than ever, we need to tell the stories that deserve telling – you, I, the media, activists, policymakers, influencers, academics, and so on. Because we are all storytellers at heart, and those that focus on vital interests have the chance to tell the stories of groups of people who might not otherwise have had a voice, as well as holding others to account. Love and sacrifice, heroism or grace – in the face of adversity, these messages can have a positive impact in the world, changing perceptions, serving as calls to action and opening doors to positive discourse.

It was Hamlet who proclaimed in William Shakespeare’s tragedy that humanity passes on its values, in the form of storytelling, to “hold a mirror up to nature”. Whence we came, and to where we are heading, we must be able to make meaning out of the chaos and suffering of our current experiences. If just one of us – journalist or not – can tell just one iota of our, or someone else’s, life story, then a narrative is created for everybody to hear. That is why we create stories, and this is why we need storytellers. To entertain or to educate, stories are what make us human – linking our past, our present, and providing a glimpse into a future built on what we viscerally expect and desire…

That of hope.