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Entries in UCL (4)

Thursday
Jan242013

Hey, Big Spender!

Oscar Webb

The incoming UCL Provost has expensive tastes. In the last six years, Professor Michael Arthur, who will replace Professor Malcolm Grant in September, has charged the University of Leeds, where he is currently Vice Chancellor, over £70,000 in accommodation, entertainment and other expenses.

Professor Arthur has been staying in some of the world’s most expensive hotels on the university’s budget, including the Ritz-Carlton in New York and the Chesterfield in Mayfair, London. The average price of his hotel room has amounted to £228 per night over the past six years. Professor Arthur claimed £618 for a one-night stay in the Russell Hotel London in 2007. His hotel bills have cost Leeds on average £7,000 annually since 2006, more than double what the current UCL Provost claimed for his accommodation in the last financial year.

The University of Leeds has also picked up a large tab for Professor Arthur’s ‘institutional entertaining’. On one occasion, the Vice Chancellor and one guest enjoyed themselves at the Cinnamon Club London, the university picking up the £350 bill. At other times, Professor Arthur and corporate guests have dined at Le Cirque, New York, on the University’s account.

The Vice-Chancellor has apparently also charged the university for his private meals during business trips, claiming hundreds of pounds for restaurant bills in New York. These expenses were referred to as ‘restaurants’ in the University of Leeds’ document obtained by this magazine; there was no indication that these expenses were for corporate entertainment. At various other times the Vice-Chancellor has claimed money for 'subsistence’, on one occasion claiming £52 for a restaurant meal in Sydney.

Professor Arthur’s salary has increased by more than 60 per cent in the last eight years, from £170,000 in 2004 to over £280,000 in 2012 – these figures are before pension contributions and expenses. Like the UCL Provost, the Leeds Vice Chancellor's university residence is paid for by the university free of charge. 

 

A full overview of the incoming Provost will be available in the next issue of The Cheese Grater, which will be out in early February.

Wednesday
Oct312012

UCL Confessions' Dark Side

Eleanor Penny

[trigger warning - the following post contains description of sexual violence]

 

‘UCL confessions’ – a Facebook page featuring anonymous ‘confessions’ from UCL students with nearly 3,000 followers – appears to have been taken down in recent days.

In all likelihood ‘confessions’ probably followed the same fate as the UCL Buzz - since renamed Gower Buzz; since renamed the London Tab - UCL management demanding them to remove the ‘UCL’ part from their name. However the page admin appears to have taken the nuclear option: deletion rather than renaming. Before it disappeared ‘confessions’ received complaints of misogyny from UCL Women’s Network – the posts they complained about apparently being just the tip of the iceberg. Below is one of the first ‘confessions’ that appeared on the page, which was quickly deleted after being posted.

 

 

Like with any outlandish story posted anonymously on the internet - especially on a site whose popularity rests on its ability to shock - my first instinct is to cry bullshit. Anonymous internet forums are where proportionality goes to die.

Nonetheless, the above post demands a little more attention. If it’s true, someone thought that raping someone was simply another anecdote that fits cosily within the page’s description of “disgusting, hilarious, embarrassing confessions”. If it isn’t true, someone thought… exactly the same thing. In either case, sexual violence is seemingly considered all in the “spirit” of a crazy night at the Roxy or Moonies.

Some were quick to lambast the anonymous poster for their crime. Nonetheless, there were several other misogynistic, racist and homophobic posts on ‘UCL Confessions’ that remained largely unchallenged by the online community – many of them garnering ‘likes’ galore. The issue here is one of context: the genuinely hilarious sits alongside the skull-shakingly horrendous, causualising the sexism, racism, homophobia and transphobia of some posts. When bigotry-soaked anecdotes pour out in response to the call of “Don't be shy, lets just have a laugh!” we have to question not only the sense of humour of the individuals posting, but the culture that tells whoever runs the page, whoever likes the posts, whoever leaves them challenged, that this kind of behaviour is okay.

Let’s be clear, UCL Confessions was not a place of penitence, where students came to purge themselves of their crushing guilt - It would, indeed, be much less problematic if it genuinely peered at the rotten underside of UCL life. In truth, it was a place for people to glory in a ‘student experience’ defined by a culture whose lifeblood is the denigration of anyone not deemed a ‘lad’: aka anyone not straight, white and male.

The problem is not that the confessions were shocking or unusual. The problem is exactly the opposite: in a culture that routinely excuses this kind of behaviour – especially when it parades itself as humour - the prejudice that underpins it remains most normal thing in the world. If the person who ran 'UCL Confessions' has any sense of responsibility we can only hope they'll come forward with the name of the person who 'confessed'.

Thursday
Oct252012

"Fuck off, or you are going to have a war on your hands"

Oscar Webb


UCL's proposal to build a £1bn "university quarter" in Stratford was passed by a Newham council meeting tonight, much to the anger of residents who currently live on the site. The prospect of home demolitions and mass evictions of Carpenters estate residents is now a little bit closer.

Not being able to gain access to the public gallery to observe the meeting themselves, residents of the Carpenters estate held a protest outside the town hall. Their main greivence with the scheme is that they feel they have not been properly consulted or listened to by either UCL or Newham.

Feelings ran high amongst those outside the town hall. "They're grabbing our land!" one resident shouted. The Carpenters residents' independent advisor, Tony Bird, in an unusual flurry of indignation, speaking to us advised UCL: "you have to fuck off, or you are going to have a war on your hands."

Carpenters residents hold up banner outside Newham town hall. Photo: Oscar Webb

 

Resident, Mary Finch, speaking to group outside town hall. Photo: Oscar Webb

Although Newham has agreed to UCL's initial plans, the proposals still have a lengthy planning process to go through if they are to be realised. UCL and Newham aim to have a contract ready by the end of 2013, only after that will work begin. Both parties, we are told, will continue consulting residents on the university's scheme up to that point. But considering UCL and Newham have repeatedly ignored residents previous cries of alarm (see here), it is unclear how much sway their voices will have in the final outcome. 

There will be full coverage of UCL Newham in the next issue of CG released early next week.

 

Monday
Oct082012

Why Were Newham Complaints Not Heard for Eleven Days?

Oscar Webb

 

For background on this story see here and here. 

Warren Lubin, chair of the Carpenters' Residents Steering Committee, and Tony Bird, their independent advisor, unexpectedly turned up UCL today. When they were spotted walking around UCL they told this magazine that they'd tried to meet the Provost, Malcolm Grant, but had been turned away by his secretary. They complained that they'd been attempting to contact Grant since late September, with no response.  

Bird produced a letter (see below) that he and Lubin had written to all the members of UCL Council on behalf of Carpenters residents, which was, according to them, handed to Tim Perry's office in the UCL Registry on the 28th September under the assurance, from that office, that it would be expedited to Council members the same day. 

When this magazine showed the letter to the two UCLU sabbatical officers on UCL Council, Edwin Clifford Coupe and Natasha Gorodnitski, they commented that they had recieved it only this morning - eleven days later! - through UCL's internal post. A UCL council meeting was held last Monday (1st October), which had UCL's proposed Newham campus on the agenda. Presumably other Council members had not recieved this document by that date either. Why Perry's office and UCL's internal post took so long to deliver the document to Council is a question which is yet to be answered.