At universities up and down the country, Freshers’ Week will be giving way to the first lectures and seminars of term time. Although, for the group of Church young people I met recently, the heady delights of undergraduate self-discovery weren’t much on the radar. Apparently, two words account for the high-mindedness of your average modern student: ‘tuition’ and ‘fees’ but today of all days, to reduce the cost of a place at college, to money to be borrowed and loans to be repaid, sounds a little crass. For, on the first of October, fifty years ago, the admission of one particular Fresher to one particular university made headlines around the world.
The student’s name was James Meredith and he carried the honour of being the first black American to be admitted to the University of Mississippi. The rioting which followed claimed two lives and at least seventy-five injuries. It was 1962 and it was a turning-point in the dispute over racial segregation,
which still sets the bar for the price one person was willing to pay for a university education. James Meredith sought a transforming life experience for himself and having found it he transformed the life experience of countless numbers of others; which sounds to me - as a Christian - like a pretty good illustration of how faith works.
Lord, whose son they called the Teacher:we hold before you the universities of our land and those who study there. May they value the privilege of their calling; may they rise to the responsibility of their learning and may they seize all the opportunities which come their way,
to make the world a fairer place for everyone. Amen.