"...we secured an exclusive interview with your favourite purveyor of fine emails, Stephen Toope"

In light of the news of redundancies at many colleges, including Downing, Trinity and Queens’, as well as a continuing frustration with the University’s handling of Covid-19, Varsity thought it was important to remind everyone that Cambridge under Covid-19 is not all doom and gloom. To do this, we secured an exclusive interview with your favourite purveyor of fine emails, Stephen Toope, and discovered more about our Vice Chancellor as well as the coming academic year.

Most importantly, we found out whether Toope did indeed know about the inspiration which he gives to many of our students to create, among many things, memes and bingo games for our amusement. To our surprise, Toope did, and he, in fact, had a favourite made by a student last term which was a bingo game to be used in tandem with the Vice Chancellor’s regular Covid-19 emails. On that note, he encourages people to reenage with this bingo game, as he told Varsity that “happily” his regular emails would continue this term, with the first being sent out right after our interview.


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On a more serious topic, we asked Toope about whether he thought about applying for Oxford for his PHD, but Toope was quick to say, “I didn’t think of Oxford…It was actually a really easy choice”. He was drawn to Cambridge’s “incredible tradition in international law”, especially its members of faculty such as Sir Derrick Bowett who was renowned for his work. Toope actually wrote to Sir Bowett to ask him whether he would supervise him, if he was successful in his application. When the former President of Queens’ responded that he would, it was reinforced for Toope that Cambridge “was a great choice”.

As we moved the conversation to Freshers’ Week, Toope emphasized that the best thing to do “is to take advantage of all the opportunities which are on offer”. In particular, he stressed that making new friends is so important. As a fresher at Harvard, Toope recalled the best part of his Freshers’ Week, a party on the third night, where he met three people with whom he is still close today. Whilst the first week for freshers will sadly not include going to parties, the sentiment remains that going out “there to try and meet new people” is crucial.

Turning conversation to a more practical note, we discussed the University’s attempts to make staff and students feel both excited and confident to return for the coming year. To this, Toope mentioned that “the community has pulled together” and addressed “all the incredible challenges which Covid has bought”. He particularly wanted to thank all his “colleagues across the University who have worked incredibly hard” to create change quickly. As we know, “Cambridge is not always known for doing things quickly” but, in this case, the response was swift. This has allowed for a lot of time and preparation to get many things right, so students “should also feel confident…as people have worked so hard to create systems which are designed to keep people safe.” Whilst Toope did concede that “we can’t eliminate all risk and that they’re going to be outbreaks”, he did say that he has hope to “contain outbreaks and that we shall keep people as safe as possible”.

“Although the responses by the University and colleges are far from perfect, as Varsity has detailed over the summer...”

Although the responses by the University and colleges are far from perfect, as Varsity has detailed over the summer, Varsity agrees with Toope’s closing remarks that “it is going to be a hard time for everyone,” making it even more essential for everyone to “be a little kinder…and not expect the impossible.” Over the coming weeks and terms, it will be important to follow the latest advice about keeping safe in Cambridge both from the University and colleges, as guidelines continue to change. In order to keep up to date, continue to follow the latest advice on the University’s website.