'Now it’s exam term, the seat-bagsying controversy is at its peak'Emily Lawson-Todd for Varsity

Earlier this year, I met a careers adviser for a coffee in Jesus College cafe. I arrived a few minutes early, ordered a drink, then proceeded to stand around awkwardly after realising every single table had been taken up. Now, when I say taken up, I do not mean exclusively by people – an array of unattended coats, bags and laptops were lounging around and it was not until Simon, the careers adviser, showed up that I questioned the acceptability of this. Simon suggested we sit down at a table that had already been claimed by a laptop. “If they come back, they can tell us to move,” he said. Half an hour later, they did come back but, after sheepishly rejecting Simon’s offer to join us, they grabbed their laptop and stormed off muttering something about how they were going to sit there. The moral of this story? People need to chill out! Yes, it’s fine to leave your unattended belongings at a table, just don’t act shocked if someone decides to sit there anyway.

“The moral of this story? People need to chill out!”

Now it’s exam term, the seat-bagsying controversy is at its peak. While some students flock to the library to chuck their bags at any available desk before disappearing for hours, others turn to their college Facebook confessions-page to complain about this. “Why do some of you treat the library like day care for your bags?” asks one student on Selfessions, “Just take them home and stop leaving them there for hours on end”. On top of talking in the library, seat-hogging is the Easter-term equivalent of leaving your finished laundry in the washing machine for too long. While I do sympathise with both causes, I wonder if the Cambridge keyboard warriors have ever considered if their anger is proportionate to what they are complaining about.

“I wonder if the Cambridge keyboard warriors have ever considered if their anger is proportionate to what they are complaining about”

But, while I’m on the topic, I may as well ask: how long is actually acceptable to leave your belongings in a library or college cafe? The answer should be decided on a case by case basis. The first and most obvious thing to consider is how full the space is – is it so busy that finding even an undesirable seat proves a challenge? Is it a Sunday, when faculty libraries are closed and there are too many tourists to study in Caffè Nero? If so, half an hour is probably the maximum time you should be reserving your spot for. In other cases, up to an hour is acceptable. While the concept of taking a break is unheard of by some Cambridge students, for a lot of us, it’s what powers us through exam season. It’s perfectly normal to take an hour off to eat lunch with friends and still want to continue studying at the same desk you were sitting at before.


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Sometimes, people will leave their things in the library for more than an hour, and it won’t be part of a calculated move to gatekeep their seat. Have you ever said you’d take a “short break” and the next thing you know you’re waking up from a four hour nap? Me too, and on a few of these occasions, my laptop has been left in the library. You should have some empathy for the supposed library villains. Maybe they were just too optimistic about how quickly they’d come back? Perhaps they thought leaving their stuff in the library would motivate them to return, but the desire to hit snooze was too overpowering? You can’t say that’s not relatable.

Speaking as someone who has been both the seat-bagsier and a victim of this practice, all I ask is for people to get less worked up about it. Someone once pointed out to me that, in order to notice someone has left their bags in the library for multiple hours, you must already have a seat in the library yourself. In which case, it really isn’t that serious. Some libraries have introduced systems where you can leave a slip to notify people when you’re coming back, and they have permission to move your things if it goes past that time. Yes, it still feels passive aggressive to move someone’s stuff but at least it’s a practical solution. If you decide to ignore all my advice because you’re genuinely passionate about airing your grievances to Camfess, that’s okay too, at least reading your rants is a great way for the rest of us to procrastinate revision.