UNIVERSITY is a romanticised time, rushing towards the grand, loud graduation ceremony. 2021 is not going to have that. No squealing mothers, no-one gliding across the stage, beaming at the audience for the perfect picture. Thankfully, no-one will have their names butchered during this important moment, a common occurrence for BAME and international students.

The graduating class of 2021, like the class of 2020, will not have a ceremony to mark their time at university. Like most people, I initially believed reports which claimed that Covid-19 would be over quickly. Once August rolled around, we all had to read the writing on the wall and begrudgingly accept the reality that this was our “new normal”.

The world is a mess so I’ve been approaching myself and others with a lot of empathy. Who knew that we would experience a global pandemic in our lifetimes? The ease of transmission of coronavirus compounds our paranoia. If there was ever a time to be considerate and kind, now is that time.

I have, however, run out of empathy for the University of Edinburgh. Don’t misunderstand me. I feel for the lecturers. They had to re-orient how they teach and assess in real time. I cannot imagine how many hours they spend creating teaching content. I feel for support staff who handle the less obvious tasks that sustain my learning, and those providing additional pastoral support to students who are battling mental health crises, isolation and uncertainty. Wellbeing support is often described as wanting and I hope this provides all the evidence we’ll ever need to sustain and grow these services, especially for BAME students as black and Asian communities struggle during this time.

My patience has run out for the administration, the people who promised students a near-normal academic experience for those who returned to Edinburgh. The people who encouraged first-year students to enrol while setting unrealistic expectations for the kind of university experience they would have in the middle of a pandemic.

I travelled to this city knowing no-one. But I had in-person opportunities to meet people and bridge my feelings of isolation with connections. First-year students came to Edinburgh and were asked to stay in their homes with people they didn’t know and may not have liked. Zoom calls were marketed as a fair replacement for loud, human, in-person events. All of us expected to understand how to successfully work and study from home.

Don’t get me wrong. The university has done many things which I appreciate. They have revamped the special circumstances procedure which makes it easier for students to get extensions for their work. They distributed groceries to students who were self-isolating and offered rent pauses for absent students in their accommodations. Thank you.

The economics are interesting to consider. Students pay exorbitant fees, especially international students. What are we paying for? A certificate that will arrive by mail?

On May 19, 2020, Cambridge University did the most honest thing; they admitted that the next academic year would be online. They were realistic. I wish the University of Edinburgh had been this blunt. Instead, we kept hoping for the best. Obviously, we are all beholden to national restrictions and our plans see-saw in line with them. I just expected more foresight of world-class educators.

A lot is uncomfortable and unfair about the world right now. We need to do more for parents, especially women and single-parent households, juggling work with childcare and for frontline workers putting themselves in harm’s way while we stay home. I’m angry. The university should have known better. They should have done better. As a customer, who represents thousands of pounds of revenue, they have a responsibility to serve my best interests. I have been exhausted by the sheer volume of Teams calls, the isolation required to be a good citizen, the anger of being deprived of my Edinburgh experience, the added difficulty of solo-learning. All an individual burden.

Students have been patronised when we should be allies. We deserve the best possible university experience, especially those paying small fortunes to access it – better, clearer communication. Honesty. A real seat at the table to understand how decisions are made and contribute to them.

If they had done this, my empathy would have lasted longer.

Lauryn Mwale is a final-year undergraduate at the University of Edinburgh majoring in Mathematics. She is interested in youth leadership and representation issues and is currently working on a book about black women in STEM to be published in autumn. This column is the last in a series from the Pass The Mic project, a directory of women of colour experts who aim to diversify voices and expertise in the media