NEWS BLOG

Tuesday
Jul162013

Violent Arrest in ULU

 

The arestee outside ULU surrounded by police

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Hannah Sketchley

A young woman was dragged by police from the ULU Cafe this lunchtime as shocked students looked on and tried to remonstrate with policemen. The woman is thought to be an activist for the ULU-based 3Cosas campaign, which works with cleaners in Bloomsbury to fight for pension rights and holiday and sick pay.  University staff called police after people were allegedly seen chalking on the pavement outside the union building and on a small patch of Senate House Library, complaining of criminal damage to a Grade II Listed Building. The plaque on Senate House, which commemorates the founding of the building, had been chalked but later displayed no signs of damage after washing.

In a statement issued shortly after the event, ULU President Michael Chessum said: “The actions of both the police and the University today were a disgrace. The University must issue an apology, and intervene with the authorities to prevent charges being brought.  If calling the police is an attempt to intimidate the 3 Cosas Campaign, it will not work.”
The woman was seen to be talking to two uniformed policemen in the foyer of ULU with a group of other activists. Shortly after that, she was seen to be pinned down on the floor by two policemen and arrested, screaming from the pressure exerted on her. She was dragged out of the building by two policemen while her friend was forcibly restrained.  In the struggle, several tables were up-ended as police fought to keep a grip on the man, threatening to charge him with breach of the peace as he told them repeatedly to “Fuck off."
A riot van and extra police car pulled up to offer back-up, leaving the woman surrounded by an estimated seventeen officers.  She was held outside on the road for around fifteen minutes before being shut in a van by a smirking policeman.

Chalking in front of the ULU building in support of the 3Cosas campaign

 

Photographs by Hubert Libiszewski
Friday
May032013

ULU to close but Chessum Resolute: "This is not the end"

Bo Franklin

The University of London’s Council, made up of the Vice Chancellors of 18 London universities, this morning voted in favour of shutting down ULU. The proposals, which include stripping ULU of any democratic functions and establishing a revenue-driven ‘Student Services Centre’, will come into force in just over a year. Despite the fact that the review, which recommended the closure, was only published four days ago, and no students sat on the review panel, the decision appears final. 

As the Collegiate Council met, students gathered outside Senate House to support their union, before ULU President Michael Chessum and ULU Vice President Dan Cooper made a last ditch attempt to convince the Council to vote against the proposals. Unfortunately it appears the result was a forgone conclusion, and with the votes remaining secret, students have little opportunity to hold their Vice Chancellors to account. 

Protests against the destruction of ULU grow louder every day, with ULU President Michael Chessum publishing an article in the Guardian arguing against the proposals, and members of the London assembly including Ken Livingstone and Diane Abbott MP pressing the University of London to reconsider. 

Jen Izaakson, editor of London Student, seems to take a different view of the closure, however. Izaakson told the Independent on the potential closure of ULU: "many students have been let down by the way ULU has been run in recent years. There has been a lack of campaigns and no real reaching out to students on their campuses...The process of winding ULU down has occurred over a 10-year period. I think this is a wider part of the University of London itself being disbanded.”

It is unlikely that this is the end of the debate, but unless students are willing to fight the University of London, it may be the beginning of the end for ULU. A petition has already been set up to save ULU, and Michael Chessum has urged students not to let ULU go down without a fight. Chessum writes on facebook: "this is not the end."

A meme taken from the NCAFC facebook page has Chessum urging students to the barricades

Thursday
Mar212013

UCL Council Treasurer Sits on Costa Coffee Board

James Burley

Last month's CG revealed that up to ten new cafés will open on campus, and that, going on previous choices, these are likely to be Costas or Starbucks. Since then, it's emerged that the UCL Council's Treasurer sits on the board of Whitbread PLC, who own Costa Coffee. Simon Melliss, who also chairs UCL's Finance and Investments committees, joined the Council at the beginning of 2012. Since then, a Costa Express self-service machine has been installed on campus – in addition to the Costa cafés already housed in Bentham House and the Engineering Building.

UCL say no new Costa or Starbucks outlets have been planned yet, but they are currently in the “early stages of competitive procurement of catering providers”. Which companies emerge successful is likely to be announced by the end of this year or the beginning of next. Having been a Whitbread PLC board member for almost six years and currently chairing their Audit Committee, Melliss' involvement in the decision making process would clearly constitute a conflict of interest. And yet, UCL have not ruled this possibility out – saying it could not confirm whether or not he will be involved.

Thursday
Feb282013

Misogynist Runs for UCLU Women's Officer

Oscar Webb

[note: this post contains descriptions of violence against women] 

Sneade we say more?UCLU’s newly created full-time Women’s Officer position has a man running for it. Kirk Sneade is, judging from his actions over the past few days, clearly not a self-identifying woman but a deeply offensive and misogynist man. He writes in his manifesto: “Kirk wants to make clear his desire to attend all Women's forums to talk about Important Woman Issues such as hair dressing, shopping and walking sassily away from confrontations with your exes.”

Snead continues: "[I] would also like to formally change the name of the Print-Room Cafe to the Pretty-Girl Cafe". He later "suggests" "perhaps herding up the pretty girls you see around campus and keeping them ready for emergency transport to the Roxy later on when things start to get a little dry." Sneade belittles UCLU Womens Forum's discussion of banning Chris Brown's music in UCLU, sarcastically writing on his campaign page on Facebook: "I'm glad this issue is being addressed because every time I hear Chris Brown I feel the need to punch the nearest woman in the face". His campaign video is a clip from Star Trek of captain Kirk kissing a woman and then hitting her in the face. He has described his campaign as "cutting irony".

UCLU have refused to publish Sneade's manifesto, video and photo. Sam Gaus, Democracy and Communications Officer, told us he made a decision not to publish any of Sneade's materials pending the Returning Officer, Layth Hanbali's decision. "I felt it to be offensive" Gaus told us. Sneade's Facebook page reads: "They took away our manifesto, but they can never take our freedom". The manifesto he submitted is available here.

Sneade this morning attended the Candidates' Breakfast, an election event where those running for positions get to meet one another. At the breakfast, he compared UCLU's refusal to publish his campaign materials to the persecution of communists in Nazi Germany. Ben Towse, a candidate for Postgraduate officer, asked Sneade "are you comparing this to the Holocaust?", to which Sneade answered in the affirmative.

Defending himself on Facebook Sneade wrote, "I have actually had no input into what has been written/said... The manifesto, video and campaign are the result of shadow members." He later added "The original manifesto was submitted as subversive catalyst to spark interest in the position and increase the voting turnout this year."

Laura Terry, LGBT+ Officer and candidate for Welfare and International officer, described Sneade as a "vile misogynist" and his actions as "completely inexcusable"; "it's an attack on liberation campaigns" she added. Beth Sutton, the current Women's Officer and candidate for the full-time position, told us "Kirk Sneade represents everything liberation campaigns seek to fight against." She went on to urge people to "Oppose hate speech. Support liberation. Smash Kirk and smash the patriarchy." UCLU have already recieved several complaints.

 

Helen Chandler-Wilde and Beth Sutton, the other two candidates for Women's Officer, are in the process of writing a statement which will be released later today at ucluwomensnetwork.wordpress.com

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.

Saturday
Nov172012

RIP Pi Newspaper (2007-2012)

 

In an email sent this morning to all members Pi's president outlined proposals to scrap Pi Newspaper, merging some of its content with the magazine. According to the president, the newspaper has "lost its relevence". CG are pleased to see an investigative section worked into the planned new publication. The proposal will be voted on at Pi's next EGM.

 

Email sent 9:15AM, 17th Nov 2012:

1. Magazine/Newspaper merger

 It was suggested last year that the newspaper and magazine merge into one strong publication and that we vastly upgrade our website. After a lot of discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of these proposals, the committee unanimously voted in favour of the merger and we are hoping that members will agree that this is a positive step for the society. 

There are many reasons we’ve come to this decision. For a long time now, the newspaper has been struggling. With no sabbatical editors, it is impossible to print a weekly newspaper. Instead, printed only every three weeks, Pi Newspaper has lost its relevance. Editors have found it difficult securing enough material to fill their pages. This has been particularly true of the news section - arguably the most important reason for publishing a newspaper at all. And when it does come out, students seem less willing to pick up a copy; much too frequently undistributed stacks of newspapers have been thrown away. 

With the magazine, meanwhile, though most of its sections are strong, the Features section has been struggling to find material. While trying to keep focused on UCL issues, it has been difficult not to stray into territory normally associated with the newspaper.
The merging of the two publications into one magazine, together with an enhanced website, would combat all of these problems. All section editors currently in both newspaper and magazine will have the opportunity to see their material printed in a hard copy publication, for which they would be credited as its editors, and would also oversee the maintenance of a strong and up-to-date website. 

On the one hand, the website would excel, allowing particularly for its News, Politics, Sports, and Comment pieces to remain relevant to the student body. The success of UCL’s website-based Tab is evidence that this can work. On the other hand, the magazine, by taking a selection of Pi’s finest pieces from across the board, would be able to maintain an extremely high quality. With a strong UCL-based Features section and an added Science section, it could become a publication of which all the editors are proud.

This is not a step backwards. It was only a few years ago Pi split into two publications, a newspaper and magazine. It was an important move at the time. But that was before Pi Media had a functioning website. As has been proven by the success of the Tab, it is this website we must now focus on. Through these proposals, we will continue to channel material through two outlets, (one of which will be aided by the new Pi TV), but they will be vastly more relevant and accessible. The committee sees these plans as the best possible way forward, allowing for a more successful and worthwhile society, and we hope you’ll all agree. 

Below are some key details of the proposals:

There is to be the magazine and the website, both of which will have two editors-in-chief (the website will have two 'content' editors-in-chief and two technical web editors). The magazine will carry on in roughly the same format as the current one. It will be 40 pages in length, and comprise Features, Science, Arts, Film, Music, Travel and Life & Style sections. All of these sections will also have a section on the website, which its section editors, under supervision of the website editors-in-chief, will have to update. 

There will also be News, Sports, Politics and Comment sections on the website. The former Encore section will merge with the Arts section, and the former Focus section will merge with the Features section (in such a way, of course, that no continuing editor will lose their position). Sports, Politics and Comment will be able to contribute feature-length pieces to the Features section in the Magazine. The most important news stories, meanwhile, will be worked into features in the Magazine through a newly created investigative editor. This will provide in-depth investigative pieces.

If you have any questions or comments, please let me know by emailing president@pimedia.org.uk
. These proposals motion will be voted on at the start of our upcoming EGM

 

See here for CG's first reactions to, the then called, "Pi Squared" back in 2007. 

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.

 

Sunday
Oct212012

Marauding on Oxford Street

Oscar Webb

 

Leaving the samba bands and banners of the main TUC "march for a future that works" at Trafalgar Square at about 2 o clock, we joined a group of students wearing black - presumably the "black bloc"? - heading up the Charing Cross road. 

On reaching Oxford Circus, the group we were following merged with others, similary wearing black, in the centre of the junction and stood around for about twenty minutes, apparently no one quite knowing what to do. The police began arriving in large numbers, which seemed to spur people on to get moving. 

 

Suddenly, everyone starts running down Oxford street. What's their first target? The black bloc in this action, as far as we could make out, were anti-workfare but they targeted quite a random assortment of shops. There were a number of Annoymous flags as well as other anarchist groups' flags. Starbucks was the reccuring target, with the chant being predominatly: pay your taxes. So UKuncut clearly had a presence too.

The first target is a seemingly random hotel on Great Malborough Street. The dynamic is one that recurs: people rushed in, most of whom were press and police; a brief discourse occurs between a manager and protestors and then the protestors leave, without the police physically forcing them out. Unlike the UKuncut occupation in Fortnum and Mason during last year's TUC march, there was never a real attempt to remain in the premises for longer than a few minutes. 

Next: running back onto Oxford street. McDonalds, Starbucks, Top Shop, Primark and Boots are all "occupied" one after the other. The police are not making arrests - protestors are readily leaving shops when told to do so. The shopping crowds are looking quite puzzled. Some passers by are knocked over as the protestors surge into shops. Shop shutters are coming down quickly now as the bloc passes by and police are quick to get to shops before protestors. 

Running all the way up to Marble Arch and back again, protestors, police and press are all noticibly tired by the time the bloc reaches the bottom of Tottenham Court Road and proceeds down Charing Cross road. It continues down to Trafalgar Square and the Strand - targetting a few more Starbucks and Boots on the way - where it peters out at about 5 o clock. 

We didn't see any arrests, though there were a few scuffles between police and protestors. And despite other student newspapers reporting it (LSE's The Beaver), we didn't see any protestors attempting to smash shop fronts.

Shit! I left the oven on!

Running around central London certainly turned out to be a great cardiovascular workout, but whether it had any real value as a form of protest is questionable.

 

Thursday
Oct112012

Careers Fair Disrupted by Anti-Arms Trade Activists 

Oscar Webb

 

About five or six activists turned up at the engineering careers fair in the Jeremy Bentham room this evening attempting to block attendees from reaching the BAE Systems stall. The UCL students involved held a banner in front of the BAE stall reading "BAE careers in killing" and distributed leaflets detailing BAE's involvement with the Pinochet and Mugabe regimes. 

Eleanor Penny, a UCL student involved, told us: "We believe that the enormous potential of these students can and should be harnessed for the good of humanity as a whole and not prop up a company whose corruption is matched only by lack of scruples."

Despite activists holding a banner in front of it, the BAE stall still attracted many interested students.

However, BAE's mint humbugs, free pens and lucrative internships continued to attract interest. One girl, attempting to reach the stand, said to activists trying to deter her "but BAE are about defence", her male companion said: "you're not engineering students; you don't understand." Another attendee said to activists "lower you banner, you are being unpeaceful", one activist repsonded: "while the arms trade is peaceful?"

A man from the space company Astrium, sat opposite the BAE stand, told us that he'd seen more impressive protests directed against the arms trade. During the careers fair at Bristol University, he told us, BAE had attracted activists donning fake blood and impressive lying-down-pretending-to-be-dead tactics that had seen them ejected by security.

UCL's activist tactics, however, were more subtle in approach, which meant security allowed them to stay for the whole event. Masquerading as BAE officials, activists distributed leaflets mimicking BAE literature and answered questions by interested individuals. Some were genuinly shocked on hearing BAE's record on human rights. However the satire was lost on others. On being asked by activists "are you interested in a career in genocide?" one attendee answered: "do you do internships?"

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.