Highlights of 2021/22, from Ruby Bansal, outgoing Student Union President
The 2021/22 academic year has been a dichotomous whirlwind – both facilitating change and returning to continuity. The world that saw me begin as President of The Courtauld’s Students’ Union, two days after submitting my final year exams online from my childhood bedroom, is incredibly different to the one in which I write this final goodbye. What has remained the same throughout is the resilience of our student body, who have defied constant adaptations and alterations to make the most of their time at The Courtauld. Bearing witness to this defiance is undoubtedly my overarching highlight, but there have been a couple of other moments worthy of recognition…
July 2021: Informal Graduation Drinks
The first events I organised as SU President were the Graduation Drinks parties, held informally as the traditional in-person graduation ceremony wasn’t possible in July 2021, due to the pandemic. Over the course of four days, graduating students came together (all with negative LFTs) in the courtyard and common room of Vernon Square. For many, this was the first time they had seen their peers in-person all year, and served as a sweet hint of what was to come in future months.
September 2021: Freshers Week!
We began the new academic year with a return to in-person Freshers Week. 7 days, 10 events… I began the week in nervous anticipation of the mammoth task that lay ahead, ending it completely exhausted and full of joy. Introducing our new BA1 and MA students to The Courtauld community, and having returning students join the legendary Tamesis Dock Boat Party, St Pauls Pub Crawl and University Women’s Club Drinks was a brilliant way to kick off the 2021–22 academic year.
October 2021: the first SU Parliament
The Courtauld Student Union is made up of two bodies, the Executive and SU Parliament. SU Parliament is a particularly momentous affair, occurring once a month and including all our Vice Presidents, Course Representatives and Community Officers. Chairing the first of these meetings was daunting, but again, proved to be invigorating. All our SU members volunteer their time and efforts to represent their peers. Their patience and dedication this year has served as a constant reminder of the SU’s essential role to advocate for the views, values and concerns of our student body. A HUGE ‘thank you’ to all of our members: you have been so brilliant during this challenging year.
November 2021: Courtauld Gallery Re-opening/Van Gogh. Self-Portraits.
Aside from my first term as an undergraduate, The Courtauld Gallery was closed for my entire time as a Courtauld student. To be included in the opening days of the gallery was a huge honour. My favourite moment of the gallery re-opening was the wonderful curator talk Dr Karen Serras delivered to students, the afternoon before Van Gogh. Self-Portraits officially opened to the public. The excitement was palpable. For them, and myself, this was The Courtauld experience: an unprecedented opportunity to listen to and learn from leading art specialists, with up-close contact with iconic art works.
December 2021: the SU Winter Party at the University Women’s Club
Another moment of return: the SU Winter Party! With tickets selling out in under 12 hours, it was no surprise that the Winter Party served up an evening of glorious outfits (and a fair bit of wine drinking). The Party saw a brilliant mixing of our courses and cohorts, and the amalgamation of The Courtauld Community in this wonderful setting was delightful. Ending the night to a chorus of ABBA’s Dancing Queen from the dance floor proved another well-deserved celebration after the pandemic
January 2022: Achieving Extra Time Entitlements during At-Home Exams
One of my proudest achievements for student advocacy was gaining extra time entitlements during At-Home Exams. Thanks to the perseverance of our Disabled Students Officer Liv Hazell, and the students who contributed their own experiences to support our case, we successfully petitioned the Institute to reinstate this provision after it was side-lined when exams were moved online as a result of the pandemic.
February-March 2022: Art Law Society hosting Constantine Cannon
Art Law Society was revived by MAHA students Eloise Calder, Lara Levene and Pearlin Guillon. Alongside their own programme of brilliant speakers, the three collaborated with the renowned art law firm Constantine Cannon to deliver a series of five free lectures for students and alumni. Their hard work and unwavering efforts ensured the success of this venture, and I am so pleased Constantine Cannon will be returning to the Courtauld in the next academic year – the continuation of this series is testament to the dedication of Eloise, Lara and Pearlin.
March 2022: Alumni Drinks Reception in the Gallery
In March and with support from the SU, the Institute welcomed students from the graduating classes of 2020 and 2021—these two cohorts missed out of their in-person graduation ceremonies—into the gallery for an evening of celebration. As a 2021 graduate myself, this evening was a lovely intersection of my time as a Courtauld student and as the SU President. An evening of drinking and catching up proceeded, and it is safe to say our recent Courtauld Alumni baptised the new Gallery space appropriately!
June 2022: SU Summer Ball at the Savile Club
The SU Summer Ball at the Savile Club has become part of the Courtauld legend. Enabling its return was a big milestone for me, and it was the perfect way to bring to a close the social calendar of 2021–22. The Jazz Band and Vintage Photobooth were hits!
July 2022: Graduation
Having attended my own graduation online last year, this year’s in-person ceremonies were momentous. I will never forget Processing alongside faculty and our Honorary Doctors and Fellows, nor the gasps of laughter in response to my SU President’s speech. I bore witness to the many friendships forged over the year, culminating at the ceremony: students – no, graduates – cheering each other on and having parents and relatives take cheesy photos afterwards. This type of chaotic, unfettered joy was something we had so desperately missed during the previous year and having the chance to experience it anew was the perfect way to end the academic year of 2021/22.