Image: Thomas Charters / Unsplash
Image: Thomas Charters / Unsplash

The Boar Comment: a retrospective

Throughout its 50-year history, an important throughline of The Boar has been the ability for Warwick students to voice their opinions on a topic of their choice. Whether this be providing a student’s view on current affairs or complaining about campus drama, The Boar has housed debate on a smorgasbord of topics during its lifespan. How has the Comment section changed throughout the years? After interrogating our resident Boar elder, I searched archives to look back at the history of the section, how it has changed over the years, and how we ended up with the section we know today.

Beginning in the 1980s, the Letters section – a distant ancestor of today’s Comment – hosted candid responses from students to the paper’s regular articles as well as other students’ letters. In an age before WarwickFessions and similar online outlets, the Letters page provided a hub for lively discourse and debate and with new editions of the paper releasing weekly (Yes, weekly!), the section had a distinctly conversational feel to it.

Life is stressful enough as it is without being able to smoke anywhere in the Library

For example, commenting on a Features piece on abortion, one anonymous first-year with a different experience wrote in to criticise the article: “I realize that different people react differently to an unwanted pregnancy, but the article made everything seem so awful, it might unnecessarily frighten women who find themselves in such a situation.” The next week, the original author wrote a letter of their own, saying: “I was surprised to find myself under attack… I think it’s ridiculous that I now have to defend myself and justify the emotions I felt.” Such back-and-forth conversations were commonplace in the pre-Internet Boar and diving into the archives sometimes felt like a strangely personal time capsule of a time long gone.

These letters covered a range of topics: from arguing against the lack of disabled lift access to decrying the presence of the BNP on Warwick campus. Perhaps most hilarious to a modern reader, one exasperated student wrote in 1995: “Life is stressful enough as it is without being unable to smoke anywhere in the Library building” – a change that I’m sure most students would be very pleased about.

Students want to hear mad antics, love triangles, and sexual diseases

Over time, the Letters page evolved into a more dynamic Opinion section, variously including regular series, depending on the editor’s wishes. On top of the usual letters, the section also included a weekly journal entry from Boris the boar himself. Unlike the Letters page, this section was focused on the more scandalous side of the student experience, soliciting “any gossip, filth, and other interesting stories please to Boris, c/o the Boar Office”, also adding: “There’s a lot of room for bollocks in The Boar”. Deviating from the more serious letters on the opposite page, this section was predominantly concerned with the “I shagged a pop star when he/she came to Warwick” club and not endless bickering over SU politics.

Boris’s spiritual successor, ‘Myseterons’, leant into the salacious tabloid gossip column, sitting between the News and Features sections. One writer stated: “Students aren’t interested in… small time stories about constitutional change in the Union. They want to hear mad antics, love triangles, and sexual diseases.” The letter concluded: “Give it up! Let those pretensions about ‘real’ journalism go! You’ll have so much fun, and so will we!” Mercifully, the editors did not follow this writer’s advice.

Editorials provided a way for the editors of The Boar to set the tone for the paper at large. One evidently frustrated and self-aware editor protested: “Enough about elections. There are more important real-world issues to deal with than the cliquey, incestuous slap-on-the-back-of-the-fellow hack political orgy currently holding the Union in its sway.”

Of course, it would be regrettable not to mention the problematic history of The Boar. The opinion section was peppered with cartoons that would almost certainly get us banned from campus today and even the occasional slur. However, arguably this was where the opinion section thrived as well. One “first-year female friend” called out a student who had previously made misogynistic comments about women and short skirts in a private meeting. This radically open nature of student letters was a blessing and a curse for the early years of The Boar.

More depressingly, the eternal recurrence of Warwick’s rape culture problem was strikingly common

It was in 2002 that the first ‘Comment-style’ pieces began to appear in the Opinion section. Over this time, Warwick students have argued for radical policies, from the abolition of the monarchy to advocating for equal marriage before it would be adopted into law, as well as simply praising the nonsensical aesthetic charm of the Koan.

Beyond this, The Boar has hosted cutting-edge debate between differing viewpoints in ‘The Opinion Matrix’ from debating the decriminalisation of drugs to lowering the age of consent to whether the UK should leave the EU four years before the Brexit Referendum divided the country in half.

However, it seems that with each new cohort of writers, the same ground is tread and re-tread over and over again – sometimes for the worse. 10 years after one writer criticised a ‘chav’-themed event, Comment published an article on a similar ‘Dress Like a Leftie’ social. More depressingly, the eternal recurrence of opinion pieces on Warwick’s rape culture problem was strikingly common. Perennial slatings of Skool Dayz’s sexualisation of school children perhaps show that not much ever really changes at Warwick.

It hasn’t just been pretentious debate and campus gossip: Comment has also done good for the Warwick community. The Boar took a steadfast stance following the terrorist attack on the journalists of the satirical Charlie Hebdo newspaper, stating: The Boar is Charlie.” The following year, The Boar published the harrowing testimonials of two anonymous Warwick students who had been raped on campus.

Over the 50 years of The Boar, the Comment section (or ‘Opinion’ or ‘Letters’ or ‘Perspectives Focus’ for a couple of years) has evolved from simply sharing students’ thoughts on articles to a fully developed vehicle for student debate on campus. As a historical record, past articles of The Boar can provide interesting insight into what students believed in times before. For example, an article titled: ‘There’s just something about Boris’ (the Prime Minister not the boar) from 2012 reveals new meaning when reading from 2023. Who knows what my successor might think about what you write for The Boar Comment 10, 25, or 50 years down the line.

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