March 2006 TheCheeseGrater 1
Th Supple e Official ment to The C (‘too ho heese Grat er t for this Out
cheese online 22.03 e’, etc.) graterm agazine .05 .uclu.org
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Down Your Union
Lucy Gould’s brilliant ideas! Ben W shows his true Colours p.2
I’ve heard of a staff-student protocol, but this is ridiculous
NUS started Vietnam War Union does something shock p.3
PI MAGAZINE RIGHT BEHIND PROVOST see p.6
UCL plc What is the DCCO, and why? p.4
for the most important article we’ve ever published
Springsteen: The Truth
the name of the man on the right is in big letters below
If you’re a fan, look away now p.5
Society AND Election Bitch!
No. 9 March 2006
apologies to Private Eye 88 (30.04.65)
The Billets Douces of Simon ‘Knob Jockey’ Dedman
Pi editor cheated in recent elections SIMON Dedman, Student Editor of Pi, appears a mild-mannered man prima facie, but his ire is roused when he feels threatened. And he clearly felt threatened when, in last month’s elections, two non-Pi people stood for Media and Communications
Simon Dedman Officer: David Hing and Paul McGarrity, as well as the usual Pi candidate in the shapely form of Nick Barnard. Societies aren’t allowed to endorse election candidates using their mailing lists during elections. But that didn’t stop our Si!
Here’s what an e-mail leaked to us says: “This is the kind of crap David Hing and that other knob jockey running for MC officer would come out with... With one day of voting left get out there and vote for Nick Barnard and get your mates to as well. If we want a decent Pi again next year we need a good MC officer and there’s only 1 candidate who will live up to that ethos.” This e-mail did actually get Barnard banned from campaigning on the last day of elections; Dedman sent it the day before. But Knob Jockey ALSO sent one just before voting week. It says: “You should vote for whom your conscience dictates, but I for one will be supporting Nick Bar-
nard who out of the three, in my opinion is by far the best candidate (one of the others couldn’t tell his arse from his elbow and the other: less said about the better!).” Like the first, it was copied to returning officer Alan Gardner; but he didn’t read it, and the crime went unpunished. Gardner has distanced hinself from Knob Jockey’s conduct: “I regard it as extremely unfortunate that... good [election] conduct was not perfectly reflected in other quarters”. Dedman himself says he knew the rules but committed a ‘human error’. Does that mean he cheated or he’s a blithering idiot?
2 TheCheeseGrater March 2006
Down Your Union Dex Torricke-Barton
Negative motion At a meeting of UCL Union Council on 27th February, student officials voted to approve the grandly titled ‘Motion on New Governance’. Proposed by Finance and Administration Officer Lucy Gould, the motion mandates her to “carry out an investigation into an alternative Governance system.” She is to subsequently report back to Council with her findings and “recommendations for approval by the final Council of the academic year.” Ostensibly, reforms of the union’s constitutional structure are designed to streamline the decision-making process and thus improve the effectiveness of policy implementation by union apparatchiks. Sounds fairly reasonable, doesn’t it? Actually, no. First of all, the precise problems with the union’s democratic structures are never adequately defined. Whilst there’s perfunctory reference to the collapse of student participation in UCLU and a recognition that this is somehow connected to the “cumbersome” nature of the organisational structure, there’s not really any logic behind the kind of reforms that will supposedly rectify this dire situation. Instead, the motion is obsessed with promoting the most basic and superficial reforms of the union – some committee slash and burn. Because committees are apparently unable to effectively deal with policies at the “issue-based level” (seriously), they must be evil. The fact is, Gould and co. haven’t the faintest idea themselves what the actual point of the union is. Referring to “issuebased” politics and the challenges of responding to “market competition” indicate how confused they are. The union’s prime directive – and indeed, only legitimate directive – is to provide representative functions. To stick it to the Provost. To campaign. And those committees were intended to provide an inclusive and collective forum for the discussion of the strategic-based is-
sues of running those campaigns, and providing those representative functions. And it’s precisely because union leaders think they’re all really good economists and want to play at running their own mini-Wetherspoons that they come up with crap motions like this, and only further alienate students from the organisation that claims to represent them – but has no interest at all. Gould has already professed her admiration for the shit KCLSU reforms, which saw the transformation of the students’ union into a company. Oh boy. UCL Union has 100% market share of the representative duties on this campus. There’s a case for reform of the union’s institutions. But talking about market share is just going to make me laugh. And it’s going to make students cry.
At that same delightful council meeting, another motion was proposed by Ben Williamson. Two motions! At the same meeting! Council must have been on fire that night. Even more so once they realised that the motion was about Social Colours reform. Last year, my good friend and former colleague Oli Usher represented UCL with three other chaps in the 2004-5 series of University Challenge. The UCL team went all the way to the finals, and displayed knowledge and dedication in the competition. But despite placing a team of awesome UCL students on millions of TV screens and being praised by College, UCL Union maintained a stoic silence
because the contestants allegedly hadn’t fulfilled the criteria of providing an “outstanding contribution to UCL Union or RUMS”. Soc Colours Committee decided they couldn’t be recognised in the annual Social Colours awards. Anyway, pre-empting any similar future outrage, current Services and Events Officer Ben Williamson proposed that it was time that people got awards for services rendered unto the “student community of UCL” and not just UCL Union. Spiffing! I was genuinely impressed by such a rare display of awesomeness, and a proper understanding of the inclusive nature of UCL Union’s role in the community. I would have liked that awards were given to awesome people for their own individual achievements too, and academic achievement be recognised in an integrated awards ceremony with College, but hey – you can’t have everything. And so I was thinking what a jolly good fellow Ben was. Then my rather unjolly editor showed up. Despite the reform of Social Colours, Ben admitted in a conversation his belief that sabbatical officers should be automatically entitled to Honorary Life Membership (HLM) awards – simply because it goes with the job. This is of course entirely at odds with the point of Social Colours reform; to shatter the cronyism that is inherent in the union’s honours system, and to recognise genuine achievement throughout the UCL community which exceeds any stated job description (as noted in the Social Colours criteria already). I could rant some more about this, but I thought I’d wheel in the always eloquent RUMS Clinical President Simon Lammy: “I do not think that sabbaticals and
Ben Williamson: succeeded in contradicting his own policy honorary life membership should share any similarity to an arranged marriage. I have absolutely no sympathy when some sabbaticals moan and groan about their workloads because there are some of us students who work our socks off still studying and not being paid! Sabbaticals are not stupid and complaining about long days sounds bizarre when they know beforehand that the job is an educational career enhancing apprenticeship.” And that’s that. When the Sabb HLM nominations inevitably arrive at Union Council in the near future, it will be interesting to see what happens – at least one executive officer has already promised to quorum at least one Sabb’s HLM. Could be entertaining to watch.
The Policy That Time Forgot
Did you get that e-mail from the Education and Welfare Officer about the AUT and NATFHE strike action? On 7 March, members of the academic unions went on strike at UCL and across the country. Maz Young clearly
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March 2006 TheCheeseGrater 3 stated: “UCLU does not support the strikes.” Several members of the part-time executive have spoken off the record about their surprise – and disgust – with the e-mail. “Whilst we have spoken briefly in committee about our concerns with the implications of an assessment boycott upon students’ work, we never actually came up with a collective position on the strike,” said one executive with departmental responsibilities. “This email does not represent my views, nor that of UCL Union as a whole.” Oh dear. Also, former E&W Officer Alex Coles giggled when he got the email. “It looks
like she cut and pasted my email from two years ago!” he said. The most shameful thing about that? He copied and pasted it from his predecessor.
This being my final issue of the CG, I was going to write some profound last words here. But I’m out of room. So I thought I’d tell you about something funny that I heard last week. Apparently, one of the Sabb-Elects for next year doesn’t like me. Because I only ever report the bad news apparently. “And bad news makes me feel bad.” Idiot. [We wish Zoe Davies well in her new job - Ed.]
Correction ‘Down Your Union,’ February 2006 issue Our February issue contained an article on p.2 in which it was stated that the Union’s sabbatical officers meet with the Provost every week. This is not true; they meet en bloc with him only every term (though it appears that last year they used to meet him every week). It was further suggested that Natasha Davis said that the sabbs meet him every week for an hour. In fact, she only said that they meet him for an hour, without specifying how often. These inaccuracies were
brought to my attention, but owing to a mistake on my part I failed to correct them before going to press. I apologise to Natasha for any inconvenience caused - Ed. The Cheese Grater seeks to correct all inaccuracies, and resolve all complaints, as quickly as possible. We have bound ourselves by the Press Complaints Comission’s Editors’ Code of Pratice (viewable on www.pcc.org.uk). You should contact the editor at our e-mail address (on back page) in the first instance if you have a complaint.
NUS started Vietnam War
Shock mass consternation as national union revealed to have bankrolled globalisation, promoted genocide and actually been ‘doing things’ for last 40 years STUDENT ACTIVISTS worldwide met a gigantic wall of confusion head on at 50 mph yesterday writes Carlos Hussein. The discovery of secret documents kept by the National Union of Students came as an incredible shock to the global student community as realisation dawned that the NUS was indeed capable of something. The dossier reveals that in order to prevent student apathy and actually create a reason for the Union to exist, the NUS orchestrated nearly every major cause of student protest since the civil disobedience riots against H-bombs in the 1960s. Confidential memos to the NUS president highlight the extent to which the group went in order to incite Bertrand Russell, thenuclear disarmament campaigner. One female NUS officer, pretending to be Jackie Kennedy, cold called Russell and told him that she thought logical atomism was ‘gay’. Transcripts, photos and recordings all document the shady influence which NUS presidents, past and present, have had on global events. It now emerges that the Vietnam war was stemming off when the NUS stepped in, offering to fund the US Army directly, even demanding that chemistry students at Oxford develop a more effective form of
Things the NUS can now be blamed for: Zyklon B, Converse All Stars and Kat Fletcher napalm. The ruse clearly worked: huge protests erupted across London in 1966 and 1968, opposing the United States’ role in the war. Throughout the 1970s, the NUS began stockpiling arms and then selling them during prominent conflicts. It is uncertain as to whether a 10% discount was given to anyone on production of an NUS card. The illicit arms trade allowed the Union to gain unrivalled financial clout, some of which was then used to ensure the election of Margaret Thatcher in 1979. This same financial muscle enabled the creation of a formidable share portfolio: majority shares in Shell,
Nestle, Lockheed Martin, Coca Cola, McDonald’s and Nike meant the NUS was able to back all kinds of unethical businesses. Indeed a memo of 1985 from then NUS president Phil Woolas to Phil Knight, CEO of Nike, reminded him to “Ensure the brown kids get paid as little as possible.” Little expense was spared by the NUS in order to incite anger amongst students. In the early 1990s, a secret council was held to help form a crack team of the best physics undergraduates available. Their mission was to build a time travelling device so that NUS officers could twist the past to their own ends. Op-
eration Chronos, as it was then known, had a list of formidable objectives, including making the Earth flat, buying shares in a German dye trust known as I.G. Farben and even editing major religious texts. Thousands of copies of altered Bibles were discovered after a raid on NUS offices in Mandela Street, London. One of the numerous revisions of the original included a specific passage in the Book of John [on the woman caught in adultery:] “They say unto him, Master, this woman was taken in adultery, in the very act. Now Moses in the law commanded us, that such should be stoned: but what sayest thou? And He said unto them, No, let us take her in turn and do with her as we please, for her metaphorical traffic light is green for ‘go’.” With the revelations contained within the NUS documents spreading faster than AIDS in Los Angeles, the future for the union looks increasingly uncertain. Arrest warrants have been issued for NUS Officers old and new whilst current NUS President Kat Fletcher is due for a hearing at the European Court of Justice in The Hague today. She is expected to cite staff-student protocol in a bid to avoid responsibility for absolutely anything ever [Sounds familiar Ed.]
4 TheCheeseGrater March 2006
Give Them Half A Chance, I Bet They’ll Rob You If They Can...
What is the Development and Corporate Communications Office? The nerve centre of UCL’s shoddy money-grabbing efforts, as Mr Chatterbox explains... IF THE PROVOST and President, Professor Malcolm Grant, is the black widow of UCL plc, luring victims to an unwitting and poisonous death, then his web must be the odiously named Development and Corporate Communications Office (DCCO): it was under the auspices of that office that the Campaign for UCL was launched in November 2004 and that our fantastic new logo was launched in August 2005. So “bland, unoriginal and incompetent” are the administrators of that august body (according to one student who has worked there) that it has been suggested that they should hang above the entrance to their offices on 90 Tottenham Court Road Dante’s memorable phrase Lasciate ogne speranza, voi ch’intrate, ‘abandon hope, all who enter here’ (Inferno, Canto iii). What is wrong with these people, I hear you ask? So they have made some mistakes but do they really deserve total condemnation? Maybe not. But it is worth investigating the role they play and how they play it especially as in a few year’s time, it will be that office who rings who up to extract a donation from you with all the delight of a necrophile slobbering over a fresh carcass.
Bigging It Up
UCL boasts the largest development office of any university in the United Kingdom. Yes, the largest: not the most productive, not the highest-grossing, not the most successful. Just the largest. And that large team has in fact got larger still over the last twelve months with many teams
The DCCO’s anonymous base at 90 Tottenham Court Road in DCCO increasing their staffs by upwards of 25%. Strange that at the same time UCL is reducing its academic staff costs by 15%. While academic staff must now meet new targets on research to justify their existence, DCCO are allowed to expand their empire across the university unhindered by the need to justify their existence. One of the main features (indeed some would argue the only feature) of the Campaign for UCL is its ambition to raise more than £300 million in the next decade. Never mind that, give or two a few pounds, that is roughly what was raised in the previous decade. Not all of this money will be raised by ordinary alumni; some will be raised by wealthy donors and trusts, but how a university interacts with its graduates is indicative of what kind of institution it is or wants to be. As a friend of Mr Chatterbox’s who work in fundraising at another academic institution comments “UCL is going for a glossy, superficial, Americanised model that I am not sure is going to work in this environment. I am very sceptical.”
So Heavily Goes The Chariot
So are some at UCL. Dr Alisdaire Lockhart, jovial, rubicund head of the office, could perhaps be considered one of them. At the beginning of the academic year 2005/06 he “retired”. “There is a feeling that Alisdaire was pushed out because he went against the new grain of DCCO’s corporate style,” said one former member of DCCO staff, who recently left to move onto pastures new, frustrated at the lack of real progress and incompetence within DCCO. UCL has yet to find a full-time replacement for Dr Lockhart. UCL Futures is the alumni giving programme. It supports the aims of the Campaign for UCL. In the Autumn Term of 2004 it aimed to launch an eight week alumni-giving campaign. That was postponed to January then again to July due to database glitches. The campaign eventually ran from May – July in 2005 and was a success, according to students who worked on the campaign, receiving more than £300,000 in pledges from alumni. DCCO aimed to repeat that success last autumn but failed to by a considerable margin to repeat its success. If current estimates are correct, it looks like a campaign based on the same numbers will raise half the amount. “And I have noticed that the more ‘professional’ they become,” commented one student caller, “the more we are pissing off graduates… They definitely do not like UCL and few alums have anything decent to say about the Provost.” Another former caller said that a few graduates had been put off giving to UCL because of Professor Grant’s
stance on tuition fees and that SSEES and Middlesex Hospital graduates (to name just a few) were annoyed at how they were taken for granted by a homogenous UCL Plc and that felt their old schools had been “swallowed up and forgotten” until it came to fundraising. What is more, for its autumn campaign DCCO offered several “returning callers” their jobs back automatically for that campaign then retracted the offer when they realised they had to comply with HR regulations. One student who reapplied but was then rejected said: “It was totally unfair and totally subjective – I had to re-apply for a job I had done twice before on the same basis as those who were applying for the first time. I wasn’t the best fundraiser. But they re-employed people far worse than me.”
Pay As You Go
In 1998, an officiator at a UCL graduation ceremony joked that other university graduations resembled a sheepdip, where parents were herded in, dipped in Latin and then “fleeced of the appropriate fees”. Well, there’s still no Latin. But if that man is still at UCL, he must be eating his mortar board over the fleecing comment. UCL plc is determined to indoctrinate current students in the benefits of UCL’s Alumni Network with UCL Union coordinating with DCCO in a number of student events. The insidious purpose being that graduates feel compelled to give to UCL once they leave. And that moment starts as students graduate, as displayed by the Prov-
Contributors: Nikolai Morofski, Dex Torricke-Barton, Mark Ravinet, Hannah Hudson, Mr Chatterbox, David Hing, Eva Von Datta and Claude McNabovitch. This issue is dedicated to the memory of Robert Twigg (1985-2002). Carpe diem, quam minimum credula postero (Horace, Ode 1.11)
March 2006 TheCheeseGrater 5
Springsteen: The Truth
Alisdaire Lockhart, who left as DCCO head in Autumn 2005 ost’s cap-in hand speech at last year’s graduation ceremony. “It was totally disgusting,” one parent ranted. “We had just paid for our son’s education and all he could talk about was getting more money.” What does UCL actually offer its graduates with its Alumni Network? Free access to the UCL library for reference purposes, access to the Union, a free webmail address for life (N. B.: the spam filter costs extra!), an MBNA credit card (last time Mr Chatterbox checked the interest rate was circa a student-friendly 15%) and discounts at the UCL Bloomsbury Theatre, Bloomsbury fitness and the UCL shop. “It’s rather like a Tesco Clubcard,” said one graduate wag. If one accepts the current consensus that university expansion has increased beyond the capacity for government to fund higher education in totality, then fundraising from the graduate population (and other sources) is inevitable and necessary. The thing is that UCL plc is just not that good at it. They pay homage to the ideas of creating a community but they are not interested in the ideas of anyone but themselves. With all the inevitability of a pederast’s erection in Mothercare, all that latter-day Fagin, Professor Grant, is really interested in is picking a pocket or two. He is not interested in creating a proper, functioning community of give and take, still less of respecting alumni views of UCL’s future. So when UCL plc come to you tempting you with their latest offerings, it is perhaps best to remember Vergil’s maxim: timeo Danaos et dona ferentes (Aeneid, Book II).
An exciting excerpt from “No Really, Everyone Actually IS Jewish” by Prof. Claude McNabovitch and Eva von Datz Bruce Springsteen is modern day America’s only great Catholic icon. From his early days in New Jersey, Springsteen’s lyrics have been infused with Catholic language and symbolism. But all is not as it seems. Our research into Springsteenology at the University of Connectthedots has led us to a surprising conclusion: Bruce Springsteen is Jewish. Bruce ‘Springsteen’ (born Springstein), pursued a modest career as a singer of urban folk tales about blue-collar AmericanJewish life. Signed to Columbia Records and on the cusp of a glittering career, it is here that the all-pervasive hand of the Vatican intervened. Bribing Columbia and the singer with extortionate amounts of Matzos and salt beef, Pope John Paul II persuaded Bruce to change his surname and most of his lyrics. The Pope’s motivation lay behind the apparent crapness of any other suita-
ble Catholics in the media. He even went on record upon his deathbed screaming “Lennon & McCartney? Simon & Garfunkel? Olivia Newton-fucking-John? I had to say one hundred Hail Marys per day, flagellate myself, and then bathe in bleach to eradicate the stain those pussies left upon the RC Church. Stupid bints.” Our research team found several boxes in the attic of the singer’s Asbury Park home relating to his childhood in New Jersey. The collection included several photographs of the young man attending shule, countless half-eaten bagels and even a grainy but unmistakeable portrait of the young man at his bar mitzvah. Perhaps the most shocking revelation for most latter-day, diehard “Springsteen” fans, however, is the fact that before enjoying a highly successful soft rock career, Springstein dabbled in the murky waters of the soft porn industry. From the surviving magazines and low-grade Super-8 footage recov-
ered, it wasn’t the notable lack of foreskin that ultimately gave Springstein away - with circumcision quite common for American males - it was the giant Star of David tattooed across his arse. Early songs such as “Hasidic Heart” became “Hungry Heart”, “Derekh-erets in the Dark” became “Dancing in the Dark”, similarly, “Born in the Yeshiva” turned into “Born in the USA and of course, “You can lemoshl but you better not tshuve” is more famously known as “You can Look but you better not Touch”. Sometimes Springstein retained his original song titles but completely changed the content. For example, “The River” was originally written as a Zionistic call for Israeli expansion across the Jordan River, as were “Meeting Across the River” and “The Promised Land”. Interestingly however, “Badlands”- originally released as a double A-side to compliment MC5’s “Kick out the Palestinian Jams”- seems to have slipped beneath the Vatican’s radar.
The Creation of the Essay So was it written by Hannah Hudson, so let it be done... 1 In the beginning was the page. And the page was blank. And Man was apathetic. And darkness ruled over the void that was Man’s mind and spiral bound Pentium processing A5 notebook processor. And Man was the void, within the void, and struggling to escape from the insecure and nagging desperation of the void. 2 On the first day, Man shook his hair free of existential philosophy and took a wee in the sink. He then delicately drew back the curtains, and in accordance with the Da Vinci Doctrinal Road Safety Manual, he drunk from the toilet bowl of revelation and ached for inspiration to force itself upon his drank and prostate mind. 3 And so it came to pass that on the second day, Man called forth the rhetorical Cat of Judgment and bound a figurative
slice of toast to its metaphorical back. Upon kicking it into the void, its pointed refusal to land without the support of its trade union gave birth to a whirling vortex – a gaping hole of titillation, into which man studiously gazed for four days and forty episodes of American Dad. On regaining feeling in his left arsecheek, and committing his name to the lined paper of his destiny, his mind was filled with apocalyptic visions, combining the syntactic subtleties of haiku with Bill Gates burning in the fat of newborn monkeys. 4 Thus inspired, on the third day, ejaculations of consonants, metaphors and cloudy lemonade issued forth abundantly as Man divided sentence from paragraph and Lego from the nostrils of small children. On the fourth day, He called the hyperbole to rule over the discomfort
of yeast infections. On the fifth day, Man crept across the page and tried to make it up to the void, who, after initially rebuking him with a wet fish, forgave his initial standoffishness. 5 With this done, on the sixth day, Man removed his dressing gown and began to dictate The Word to the void, who had stayed on the sofa the night before. The Word formed on the page like a fat woman mounting a sun bed. It began like an apologetic trickle down the enamelled basin of the page, and transformed itself into a frenzied attack on the faceless bureaucratic agents of literary theory. And so it was that it poured forth, staining messily the shag pile carpets of literature. On the last day, Man shuddered and considered his work completed. 6 The essay was born. And He saw that it was good.
6 TheCheeseGrater March 2006
Special report Did you notice the strike last Tuesday? This is why there was a strike. This is why students know nothing about it. This is why you should care. E. V. Datta and René Lavanchy with help from Mark Ravinet
SURELY only the most pigheaded management wonk would argue that This College Would Work A Lot Better If There Weren’t Any Students. Unfortunately, if the AUT/NATFHE strike of Tuesday 7 March is anything to go by, lecturers may have reason to agree. With friends like UCL students, they don’t need the Provost. Their ignorance, apathy and antipathy, demonstrated by Pi Magazine and the Union Executive, is unremarkable but saddening. Just how saddening for some is explained below. Here, then, are a few facts that have escaped the attention of the average UCL student, for one reason or another.
Lies, Damn Lies and Rayhan Haque Student reactions to the strike mostly fall neatly into three categories: misinformed, unaware or uninterested. Sometimes all three. Where do you start? The discussions that unfolded during Debating Society’s meet on February 27th (“This House would support the Lecturers’ Strike”) almost perfectly illustrated the lack of knowledge students had at UCL with regard as to why the strike was occurring – and the sheer stupidity of some in thinking about it. Homophobic Pi columnist Rayhan Haque (p.8) and Yair Zivan suggested that it was convenient for the strike to occur now, as lecturers wanted to avoid the more mundane aspects of the job, i.e. the marking and setting of exams. Equally interesting was the postulate that lecturers were just being opportunistic, and if higher pay was awarded this time round, the AUT would support raising the cap on top-up fees in the future (despite the AUT’s opposition to top-up fees when they were brought in). Oh, and Rayhan said lecturers had an easy life: “They can take a toliet break
talking utter rot.”
Media and Communication
whenever they fancy”. Bang goes our average IQ then. On the slightest examination, these pathetic arguments fall apart. First of all, why is the strike happening? The strike is over pay. University bosses have not made unions an offer. They asked them to call off the strike and said they’d make them an offer later this month. Why not make the offer now? So they can push back the threat of action until after exam time, when it’ll be worthless. As for being lazy, we asked some lecturers. History of Art department staff are all AUT affiliated. In response to the comments arising from the debate, HoA exams chair Frederick Schwartz feels the situation is “terrible. Our primary loyalty is to the students. That’s why we’re here.” He explains that by withholding labour now, they are increasing the workload upon themselves. “Certain procedures have to be followed, exams have to be marked and deadlines have to be set”. Schwartz emphasises that the strike is convenient for neither teacher nor student. This is backed up by HoA’s deputy head of department, Prof. Andrew Hemingway, who describes Rayhan and Yair’s arguments as “nonsense” – “Now let’s say that the action is settled and the exams go ahead as they’re billed to do. Then the staff will have to
mark the backlog of essays which they’ve not done in a much shorter period of time; it’ll be much harder for them. So the idea that we’re somehow being lazy by not doing it is nonsense, right?” The only vaguely informed point raised, it seems, was by Natasha Davies, who pointed out that the strike could potentially affect the mental health of students. Perhaps the most ill-thought out comment came from the floor that evening, implying that lecturers did not deserve better pay as they knew what the wages were like in the academic sector before embarking on teaching careers. The point was they could have become stockbrokers or bankers like all good UCL students, but instead willingly accepted poorer conditions so they should just make the best of a bad situation. Even though these buttock-clenchingly ill-informed views were contested by London Student’s Patrick Ward and Chaminda Jayanetti, the outcome of the debate was 25 against the AUT strike and 15 in favour. “We weren’t invited,” AUT branch secretary Sean Wallis told The Cheese Grater: “nobody contacted us for a speaker, nobody asked us about the facts, nobody did a modicum of research... However because we are a union that believes in academic freedom, we don’t mind students
But hold on! Why are students so ill-informed in the first place? A series of quick interviews we conducted during last Tuesday’s strike proved revealing. Many students that talked to us, particularly those in science disciplines, assumed the strike action would not affect them as their teachers were unaffiliated, ignorant of the general disarray the exam marking situation is in if the dispute is not settled. Views such as “if we get to miss lectures, I’ll happily strike” and “exams are in a month’s time so I don’t think it will affect us... we don’t need to worry about it” perhaps indicate an underlying problem which pertains more to dis-information than misinformation. Few students were notified sufficiently in advance through official channels, such as departmental emails. Most students became aware of the strike through word of mouth, national press or even whispers on the Tube. Where was the information from the Union? Education and Welfare Officer Maz Young only sent an email to all students the day before the strike, which arrived shortly before midnight the night before. The Union website only carried a notice from the day before (6 March) also. This despite the AUT and NATFHE having told College there would be a strike in February. In response, Young said that an illness prevented the website from being updated, and that she sought to meet with union reps before putting out a statement. When this couldn’t happen, she finally put one out. That much the AUT accepts. Sean Wallis says he had been trying to contact Young: “She replied yesterday,” he said on the day of the strike, “saying ‘I’ve got some dates for meetings’.” Meetings after the
Sean Wallis, AUT branch secretary for UCL
strike??? After insisting he wasn’t trying to attack her, he commented: “It clearly is silly if students and the Union are not very well organised or not very proactive about issues like this and it is their responsibility to get more proactive and get more organised.” Why didn’t Young put out a statement before trying to meet them, at lest saying there was going to be a strike? Some students we spoke to didn’t even know on Tuesday! In short, the Union Executive, and Maz Young in particular, has failed miserably in its raison d’être: representing students, and informing them as part of that. But many departments must share the blame for not passing on news of the strike to their students, as the Union asked heads of department to do. When Union Exec did condescend to inform the students, they said they could not support the strike as it was “so disruptive and harmful to students”, despite recognising and therefore accepting that “lecturers nationwide are underpaid compared to other professions”. Some members of Exec disagreed (see ‘Down Your Union’, p.3). Now, the Union’s position was discussed at Union Council a few days earlier, and even some of those against supporting the strikes thought the Union’s statement unsatisfactory. Read it: it’s just pusillanimous, a ‘sit-on-thefence’ statement as one council member said. HoA exams chair Dr Frederick Schwartz was amazed and visibly saddened to hear that UCLU could not support the strike action, especially when the AUT supports them on not raising the cap on top-up fees with regard to Coalition 2010 (see
March 2006 TheCheeseGrater 7 www.coalition2010.org). London Student was one source of information students had access to in the weeks before strike took place, publishing news about the proposed AUT action a fortnight previously on February 20th. Had the paper been properly distributed at UCLU, perhaps UCL students would have had a better opportunity to form educated views on a matter that not only affects them deeply, but the future prospects of HE and work in the academic sector at large. We won’t mention the Pi article much, except to note that (a) it was apparently written in someone’s lunch hour and (b) it borrows its title – ‘Lecturer’s Strike Unfairly Affects Students Across The Board’, curiously followed by a full stop – from a quotation of the Provost’s that is essentially meaningless, namely that the strike affects universities of diverse kinds. Well, duh. The strike is a national strike because pay bargaining is done between unions and the Universities and Colleges Employers’ Association (UCEA). If national pay bargaining was broken up, and university bosses could negotiate pay with their own staff, the power of lecturers’ unions would be destroyed. “The UCEA,” commented Andrew Hemingway, “would like to have a situation where the unions were seriously weakened and for a long time they’ve been trying to break down national pay bargaining agreements, and that would be a way of dividing university teachers across the country and make it very hard to achieve the kinds of standards we have now”. percutiam pastorem et dispergentur oves: I will strike the shepherd, they say, and the sheep will be scattered*.
Forward Into the Abyss The Provost’s line is as follows: we can’t afford to raise salaries across the board; wages have gone up this year, an added spend of £9 million. Contrary to what Pi thinks, this is not enough. Lecturers’ pay has increased at 3%, behind comparable jobs and barely above inflation, for a decade, while the cost of living and workloads have gone
up – classes increasing from an average of 9 30 years ago to an average of 21. UCEA insist that there is not money to give lecturers the pay they want. Where did it go? Then higher education minister Alan Johnson said in 2004 that university bosses had decided a third of the money from top-up fees would go on lectures’ pay. Johnson’s emollient ways got the bill passed. “Now,” says Andrew Hemingway, “they seem to be telling us they don’t have the money for that.” The other problem with the Provost is his plan to sack one teacher in 7. Suppose the union-affiliated staff are removed: who will protect lecturers’ pay then? Perhaps the most worrying thing is that students are unaware
of the brave new university world being silently built around them. A world where vice-chancellors (and Provosts) get paid like CEOs; staff do as they’re told for whatever they can get, and research triumphs at the expense of teaching. The Cheese Grater asks students, if they won’t do something to oppose this, at least to turn off the lights when the last person leaves UCL as we know it. *Mark 14:27
Everything to be subject to veto: official Claude McNab ANTISOCIAL, disrespectful behaviour has become a serious problem lately. Gangs of youths armed with video phones and a few Stanley knives are going around performing “Happy Hysterectomies” and last Thursday a woman was taking her baby for a walk when a strange man pulled it out of the pram, pulled down his trousers and took a massive dump on the baby. Politicians believe that honest citizens should be free to go about their daily lives without being operated on or having their progeny shat on. Cost benefit analysis has shown that such behaviour is wrong, and suggests that groups of people should be able to exercise their human right “not to be offended by anything” (Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Article 30b). Therefore a group veto system has been agreed. In order to excercise their veto, a member of a group must use the following formula, inserting the relevant words in the spaces and shouting the whole paragraph together with other members of the group outside some symbolic building such as
an embassy. “Dear Sir/Madam/Deity/ Provost/Thing/World, I do not like what you are [doing/saying/eating/drawing/ shitting on], because it [offends/ angers/disillusions/scares] my group [name group here] and conflicts [lightly/in some way/ heavily/male/female] with our belief that [insert belief.] If such actions persist I will have no option other than to [[hit/ shout at/eat/bomb/burn/defile/ gas/campaign against/run away with your embassy/laboratory/ children/facebook]/tell the teacher.]” Veto applications will be processed faster if a group manages to arrange the words of the veto into some sort of chant-able rhythm, e.g. “Tessa Jowell, hear us say, some bastard shat on my kid today”. Notes for applicants: If you chose to bomb the scientific laboratory and you are a member of the ALF please consult page 940 of the official handbook for a more specific veto form. If you chose to slay the dragon with the golden sword, turn to page 58 to find out what happens next.
8 TheCheeseGrater March 2006
New UCL magazine launched
SocietyBitch meets ElectionBitch
Revolutionary publication promises to ‘be alternative’ and a ‘bit edgy’ Nikolai Morofski THE Cheese Grater has been given exclusive access to a new UCL magazine in the works. The underground alternative would-never-sell-out-to-Deloitte core of the student body has decided to strike back against the lazy illiterate over-branded shits of an excuse for student media. The result is an approximately 5-photocopied-pages long combination of hard-edged investigative journalism garnished with topical satire, irreverently titled The Potatopeeler. [The Potato Peeler. Get it right – Ed.] Here is a sneak peek on some of the insightful reportage to be published in full next week:
ThePotatoPeelercutting the tough outer skin of the news with a sharp but safe blade. Union! Conflict of interest! Scandal! Blood! By Our roving reporter Rick Trobon-Draxter The Chair of the committee for acquisition and control of paperclips and ink based, semi permanent stationary (known affectionately in political circles as CCACPISS) is one of the oldest and prestigious positions in the whole of UCL Union. It became even more powerful last year when the then incumbent managed to wrestle control of the crucial deciding swing vote on decisions to change the official Union stamp size. Without the CCACPISS behind any move in the Union, it is very difficult to get it passed to the Elevator Committee (that presses all the necessary buttons that takes the pro-
A group of people believed to be involved
posal up to Union Council); even then the motion cannot be passed without the proposer being forced to humiliatingly mark all documents with an exceedingly oversized ink stamp, including their own head. Now guess whose mother’s brother’s friend of a friend’s cousin’s son’s daughter’s business partner’s civil partner’s uncle’s nephew’s ex-tutor’s godfather’s grandson has recently been hinted to be ahead in the running to take over the position next term? That’s right, they are exactly the same person! And no one cared to even check this but us, dear readers, your only true friends in this dirty game of politics in which people with relations to other people put themselves forward to take over important positions. For fucks sake! When we read pieces like that, we realised that finally some intelligence had got behind the steering wheel of student opinion. We were fortunate enough to sit in on one of their meetings, where we saw how these brains put together satire for the issue. A brief transcript follows: –Yeah. It’s good but how can be we make it better. You
know… more topical… more… what’s the word… controversial. –Well, I suppose we could draw a comparison between it and Nazism, I mean that is pretty hard hitting… [general laughter] …and I honestly haven’t seen anyone do anything like that before. I mean they won’t be expecting that. Maybe it will even make people THINK for once. –Yeah, we could add in a small moustache on this guy here, insert a picture of Heinrich Himmler in the background. –Hold on! Do you think people will get that reference? I mean, I don’t want to underestimate our audience but… is it even possible to underestimate our audience? –Look! I don’t care! We are writing a quality cutting edge satirical magazine here. And if one-person gets it and the rest get offended enough to beat us to a pulp, we will have achieved something. [murmur of agreement] –Yeah, I can’t believe how stupid some people are. How did these people get into university when they can’t grasp fucking obvious irony written right in fucking front of them practically signposted for them! I can’t tell whether their Mummy and Daddy smacked them too hard, or not enough. [pause] –I cut myself sometimes. I mean just for fun. That’s ok, isn’t it? [murmur of agreement] –Yeah… and I think rape is actually good. Sometimes. I do mean only sometimes. [silence]
SINCE there was still some debris left after the elections, the ladies have joined forces. ‘Andy Fernando’... yeah, big deal. After the time he spent getting up Lucy Gould’s nose, we’re only surprised he didn’t get disqualified. Luca Manfredi could be seen during election week supporting Services & Events candidate Zoe Davies, sporting a bright yellow headband with ‘Vote Zoe’ in green letters. Perhaps this masked some recent brain surgery? ‘Vote Zoe!’ everyone’s favourite Italian sacked general secretary bawled at the crowds. Then, in the Cloisters, the energetic campaignerwas heard to yell, “Jo for S & E!” Yes, he was also backing Jo Jenner... also running for Services and Events. (Zoe won.) On the society front, has Pi student ed Simon ‘Knob Jockey’ Dedman (front page) no control over who writes his opinion columns? At a Debating Society debate last week, Rayhan ‘Toilet Break’ Haque (p.6) repeatedly said that Knob Jockey was Mark Oaten’s missing rent boy. He said it would scar Mr Oaten’s children to find him sitting astride Dedman’s chest in the kitchen one morning when they came down for breakfast. Dedman took it in good humour to start with but looked (understandably) cross. But since it seems impossible to fire anyone from Pi, except perhaps for spelling correctly, Knob Jockey will have to put up with this friendly banter.
UCL Union Cheese Grater Magazine Society www.cheesegratermagazine.uclu.org Pr esident and Editor: René Lavanchy Treasur er: Hugh Colyer President easurer: Assistant Editor: Richard Bridger Union Affairs Editor: Dex Torricke-Barton E-mail : firstname.lastname@example.org Humour Desk: email@example.com UCL Union Cheese Grater Magazine Society, UCL Union, 25 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AY The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of UCL Union or the editor.
In this issue: Pi editor Simon Dedman cheats in UCLU elections; full coverage of the UCL lecturers' strike; the truth on Bruce Springsteen;...