The Cheese Grater The award-winning student magazine of UCL Union
Issue 30 - September 2011
THIS MONTH Lucky in Love
Every Fresher knows a flowchart is the best wingman
INEX-SKUSE-ABLE No. 25 March 2010
Advice for your big city problems p.5
Labour: Lesser of Two Evils? Simple maths says ‘Yes’ p.6
West Bank Unsettlement
Activists demand independence p.6
Be the baddest cat on campus p.7
The Social Life’s Better Anyway...
Handle your oxbridge rejection like a pro p.8
Ain’t No Sunshine
Missing your girlfreind? The Provost is here to cheer you up! p.8
Callow, cowardly and incompetent: Welcome to UCL Union ‘Preventing censorship of the media’ was James Skuse’s key pledge when he ran for Democracy and Communications Officer in February. Given the mind-numbing unimportance of student politics, hacks like Skuse are rarely given the opportunity to stand by their lofty ideals. Unfortunately, sometimes they are. Despite his election being
a rubber stamp sham - he was ultimately elected unopposed - you would expect the man in charge of student media to at least try to honour his promise. In the first two months of his job, Skuse has been instrumental in UCL Union’s attempt to censor The Cheese Grater, requesting the removal of pre-approved content from the society website. Spinelessness or
sheer incompetence? We’re still trying to work it out. The request followed a harassment complaint made against The Cheese Grater on 17 August 2011 by a student who featured prominently in three issues of the magazine between December 2009 and March 2010. (Cont’d p.3)
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Freeloading and Fisticuffs A cautionary tale of booze, brawls and degenerate lefties: The Union Handover Party Hannah Sketchley Six new sabbatical officers walk into a bar, and don’t pay for their first round... or the next... or the next. Welcome on board the gravy train of UCL Union, wonderfully illustrated by its annual Handover Party which was held this year on 29 July.
Wastefulness Handover is the pinnacle of the perks culture that permeates UCLU: a £1,500 tab in the Union bar for a beer-fuelled leaving party for the outgoing Sabbs and an introduction into UCLU wastefulness for their replacements. Since our six sabbatical officers are each being paid £25,000 a year – with additional
benefits including a Blackberry contract, council tax remuneration and endless rounds of catered lunches – spending a thick wad of Union grant money on their own piss-up seems a tad indulgent to say the least.
Clique Unsurprisingly however, it seems the sabbs wanted to keep as much free booze for themselves as possible: despite being open to every member of UCLU, the event was advertised only on Facebook and didn’t even make the events section of the Union website. As it was, the £1,500 tab was seen away by a clique of around 60 individuals. At least for those who realised the Handover Party was happening, a free bar was waiting. Or rather it was until outgo-
ing Democracy and Engagement Officer Mandy Smith decided that ordinary Union members were drinking too much of a tab they’d technically paid for. Smith then dutifully dished out wristbands to ensure that only the sabbs themselves could still access the open bar. Given the drunken brawl with which the night ended, it seems Mandy would have been better off giving her fellow sabbs a little less to drink, as political tensions exploded into a spat so childish you’d have thought the cast of Bugsy Malone were at the party.
“Get Out Of My Union!” It all started when Finance and Services Officer Matt Burgess decided to wander over to
a group of left-wingers, spray them with Smirnoff Ice and scream: “get out of my Union!” While many thought Matt even drinking Smirnoff Ice was childish enough, it seems we underestimated his ability to throw his toys out of the pram! Not happy with this attack on the Union’s Eastern Bloc, esteemed leftie Matt Hall responded by throwing beer in Burgess’ face before Jo Casserly (recent also-ran in the election race for UCLU Welfare Officer) walked past and poured a glass of wine right over Burgess’ head. The whole motley crew was then ushered out of the bar by security, having spunked £1,500 of Union grant money on a party at which they couldn’t even behave themselves. Classy stuff guys!
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Continued from Page 1 Given that the articles were checked by the relevant UCLU sabbatical officer prior to publication, and noting the extraordinary gap in time between the articles being written and the complaint being made, The Cheese Grater can be forgiven a little incredulity. In fact, it has now emerged that Skuse is attempting to manipulate the Union’s power to rally against the magazine. In a draft email leaked to The Cheese Grater intended for the Union trustees (who consider the legal and financial liability of the Union) Skuse wrote, “a UCL student has formally complained under UCL’s policy on bullying & harassment that a number of articles… between December 2009 and December 2010 [sic], amount to bullying and harassment”.
Whitewash Skuse however failed to mention that the student also expressed in writing on three occasions that (s)he was “flattered” by the articles, as well as stating in an email that “I do not think this is a pastoral matter”.
Tim Rees Jones
UCLU Finance and Services Officer, Tim Rees Jones (pictured above), who is also a Union trustee, responded hotly to this email, writing: “this draft doesn’t do full justice to the ambiguity of the situation as it stands at the moment”. “It needs to be made clear that these are allegations, and no conclusion has been reached of their validity yet… In short, if the trustees are ultimately expected to take a view on this case, they need to be fully appraised of the complexities of the situation from the outset. “The view represented in the current draft seems to predetermine the outcome of the case. It implicitly suggests that the only issue here is purely one of the bullying of a student
James Skuse’s Manifesto: Empty Promises by a Union society. But that is only one take on the matter. Another is that the Harassment and Bullying procedure is being misused to whitewash the reporting of homophobia and racism on campus.” Rees Jones also strongly advocated a motion at an emergency session of Union Council on 23 September 2011 that would have limited the ability of the sabbatical office to make censorship attempts of this nature (see Down Your Union p.4). Unfortunately, the motion was shot down by Skuse, among others, and was referred back to the proposer for further amendments. The decision to request the removal of articles was made collectively by the sabbs, but due to conflicts of roles, half of them have not been privy to any case details at all. This has left those who have (Skuse, Amy Evans and Rees Jones) to present the case to the others. The sabbs are acting under legal advice, but the lawyers were apparently provided with none of the background information on which to base their opinions. Unsurprisingly, given the lack of such information, the credibility of the harassment complaint was not “the main concern” of the advice, according to UCLU Student Activities Officer Amy Evans. Instead, the legal advice focussed on the oddly technical issue of whether UCLU is in control of a website operating “under [its] name”. This seems bizarre, considering that The Cheese Grater website content is regulated by the society publicity statement, which states that the President and Treasurer of the society take all responsibility for communications not directly approved by a sabb. In fact, UCLU does not need further control: unauthorised communications are of no legal or financial concern. The problem arises when the
Union wishes retroactively to censor content that it has already approved. While The Cheese Grater does not dispute the consistent fallibility of sabbs, the specific case at hand sets an alarming precedent for student media societies.
Farcical No harassment on the part of The Cheese Grater has been proven. Decisions have been taken by officers without knowing any of the details of the case. Legal advice affecting Union policy has been offered without considering the relevant history of the complaint. The decision to request the removal of articles followed a highly dubious harassment complaint, before an investigation had even been concluded. These facts paint an utterly farcical picture of the new Union brooms, and should set alarm bells ringing in the heads of student writers and journalists everywhere. While all of the sabbs are complicit in the cowardice shown on this matter (except Tim Rees Jones, as above) there is yet more to say about the yellowest banana in the bunch: James Skuse.
James Skuse having a sip of drink
As Democracy and Communications Officer, the issue is certainly within Skuse’s remit, but given his election platform the betrayal takes on an even more bitter flavour. After campaigning to prevent censorship of the media, Skuse was unable even to define censorship, after a long pause offering only the glib: “where’s the OED?” Accused of breaking a manifesto pledge, Skuse responded “that’s a fair comment”. Skuse is the only sabb who has attended all meetings with The Cheese Grater but even someone with his level of immersion has admitted: “I haven’t been able to read all of [the emails] in detail”, five days after being provided with a cache of emails that should have been recorded by the Union.
Spineless It beggars belief that anyone would compromise an election promise so cheaply, and the gusto with which Skuse defends the censorious request in public and in private begs the question of whether he ever really cared about freedom of expression at all. In the words of one Union insider, Skuse has been “totally spineless - and has obviously forgotten the students who put him where he is today”. It is not the position of The Cheese Grater that welfare issues are unimportant, but we do expect that damaging allegations of this nature be at least properly scrutinised before decisions are made. That the actions of James Skuse load even more dishonour onto the already laden shoulders of student democracy only serves to foster resentment towards already self-righteous student leaders. Freedom of expression is a right. But it exists by requiring inaction from those in authority – i.e. that they refrain from censorship. While there have always been limits placed on such freedoms, the opportunity to present honest opinion and provide public scrutiny is universally seen as valuable in its own right. Freedoms like these should not be compromised cheaply, and certainly not at the whim of those who were specifically elected to uphold them. The Cheese Grater will continue to resist all attempts at censorship without proof of guilt, or valid Union procedure based on democratic policy.
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Down Your Union
Constitutional chaos, a keen as mustard Council and a sudden attack of blindness
JG Blaggard for example, an unfair advantage to constitutes the breaking of election or other democratic means. That
It seems the year doesn’t start with a bang but a whimper for the newly-elected UCL Union Council as an emergency meeting, scheduled to fall during their mandatory training, barely reached quoracy (the number of people in the room needed to pass policy). The meeting had been called to discuss reducing the quorum level of Members’ Meetings (Annual General Meetings) in time for the first meeting of the new term - until Democracy and Communications Officer James Skuse set the precedent for introducing new items to the agenda with some additions he assumed would be rubber-stamped, such as the approval of his new election regulations. It was here that the master plan came unstuck, faltering over the reasonably significant problem that the new regulations just aren’t very well designed. As well as declaring that candidates can now create joint campaigning materials, then neglecting to say what such materials might be, they offer such stringent instruction as: “As a general principle, your campaigning activities should not create an unfair advantage over other candidates.” Forgive any political naivety on show here, but is that not really the point of campaigning? An officer’s campaign should surely be founded on the principle of giving unfair advantage to him or herself otherwise how on earth does he expect to garner votes? Furthermore, what constitutes a particularly “unfair” advantage – is it,
have your votes cast almost entirely by drunken Sports-niters in the Roxy? Is it an unfair advantage to not have anyone to actually run against, the situation in which almost all of the currently elected councillors find themselves in? The defence of both of these points was – somewhat ironically given the current debacle the DCO is
guidelines, no election will ever be governed in exactly the same way, making individual elections broadly incomparable. Furthermore, it places a dangerous amount of power in the hands of the Returning Officer, giving an almost open invitation for partisan governance depending on the officer’s political leanings. Given such shortcomings, it was a relief to
in (see front page) – that he couldn’t “tell people what to do”, leaving the classifications of both what constitutes joint campaigning or an unfair advantage down to the Union Chair, who also acts as the Returning Officer during elections. This creates several problems with the way elections at UCLU are governed, namely that if every election is overseen by the Chair, and it is down to his or her discretion what
have the guidelines referred back to their proposer and put out of their misery... until the next time. A last minute addition to the agenda was a motion to defend the freedom of the press, almost the only source of interested debate within the meeting. This was designed to reduce the powers which individual sabbatical officers have to remove content from UCLU media outlets, instead referring the decisions to council
Like what you see? Know any good jokes? Think this is shit?
The Cheese Grater is looking for writers and cartoonists! Meet outside the Print Room Cafe at 6pm on Tuesday 4th October for our welcome meeting.
UCLU states the active promotion of freedom of speech as an aim of its Memoranda and Articles (the new, shiny, less exciting constitution) yet has no current policy to ensure that the few who hold power do not abuse it, shows a gaping hole in their policy file. This hole has been shamelessly exploited of late in order to attempt to censor this publication. The motion was turned back to the proposer at the request of Neil Chowdhury, Medical and Postgraduate Students Officer, due to concerns over welfare issues. This displayed the startling blindness of Chowdhury and chums to the bigger picture: instead of considering the ways in which the motion would benefit the media of UCL, they chose to read it as about the complaints to The Cheese Grater and UCLU is left for even longer without a freedom of speech policy. There are greater issues arising from this first meeting, however: the procedure of referring matters back, which was applied to half the agenda items, shows the beginning of a worrying trend in the workings of Council. The Governance Review removed the ability to amend motions during Council, meaning that instead of being amended and improved immediately, motions will inevitably be sent back and forth. Given the most recent performance, there is a danger that this has endowed a stunted Council with the inability to make concrete decisions. It is hoped that this will not become standard procedure.
Freshers Get Fucked!
September 2011 The Cheese Grater 5
The Cheese Grater’s no-nonsense guide to Freshers’ coitus
Capital Tips for a Capital City UCL’s very own Dick Whittington helps your journey from obscurity David Sidepurse I grew up in the tiny village of Chudd, Gloucestershire and when I arrived in London last year as a fresher I was overwhelmed. If you too are from outside London, let me share with you what I’ve learnt.
Making friends When attempting to make friends in university accommodation, think to yourself: “everybody should be my friend”. If you see someone in the corridor smile widely, give them your friendliest double-thumbs-up and announce loudly, “I’m okay if you’re okay”. Next, find out what their favourite food is and offer to cook it for them. If they refuse, prepare it anyway, wrap it in newspaper and force it under their door. The alternative
but equally successful approach is to think to yourself: “nobody should be my friend and everyone is trying to steal my phone”. If you see someone in the corridor, crouch to reduce visibility, look away and ask quietly, “Why do you have to be so cruel?”. Keep your phone in a big metal safe, set it to vibrate and enjoy the buzz when it rings.
Music When I first went to a London ‘night-club’ I was confused. Why, when London was so noisy, would people pay money to listen to more noise in a sweaty room? The answer, of course, is that they were listening to ‘music’, which is when you tell noise what to do. Music is currently divided into forty genres, including the sultry smooth sounds of Cool Jazz, the pulsating sleazi-
ness of Sexy Jazz and the terrifying shrillness of Choral Singing. The important thing is not to enjoy or even listen to music but instead to pretend that you enjoy and listen to music that your new friends pretend to enjoy and listen to. Remember, dub-step goes ‘wobble, wobble, wobble’, R’n’B goes ‘wibble, wibble, wibble’ and soft rock just goes ‘wooooo’ and everyone takes a nap.
Drugs I myself have never felt the need to take drugs, but my friend Steve tells me he does them all the time. Steve says ecstasy comes in tablet form, roughly the size of the Collins English Dictionary. Two or three of those will have you feeling ‘well minty’ but go easy: ecstasy is even less dangerous than horse riding. Steve says cocaine is
available almost everywhere for a negligible price and that the safest way to take it is in a foodstuff. Try mixing your cocaine with a coarse paté or perhaps bake it in a flan. Steve says he buys all his marijuana at reggae concerts that I’m “too square” to go to. He says he smokes it like a cigarette. Sometimes Steve tells me he’s going out to take drugs and then I look through his window later and see him drinking limeade and playing pogs against himself. I hope my advice helps you on your journey. As the old nursery rhyme goes: “The smoke, the smog, the smut, the sluts/ my God it’s rough/ London you’re filthy/ but I love you like a mum”.
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West Bank for the West of Us Activists occupying Palestinian territories declare own state Gus La Saume Left-wing activists and gap year students have declared independence from the Palestinian state, having outnumbered the Palestinians in August. They claim that, after being persecuted for their propensity to whinge and complain in their homelands, they came to Palestine to form a nation and ensure their atrocious treatment in Europe would never be repeated.
Activists have already started building communes and adjusting their guitars to “kumbaya tuning”. Hugo Cunningham, having earned a deferred place to study History of Art at Durham with his impressive A* AA result at A-level this year, told The Cheese Grater: “After an enormous struggle and exodus from oppression in Europe by the political centrists, we must establish a homeland in order to defend our kind and gain legiti-
macy on a world platform. We are the primary users of this land and so have the legal right of occupation. If the Palestinians try to get in our way, we... may not be responsible for our actions”. Some “old-school anarchists” are already preparing bottles of wolf urine and jars of fetid potato water to defend their Middle Eastern squat in case of eviction. Existing alongside Israel and Palestine, the new “autonomous zone” has been named The
Third Estate. Although there remains some resistance from the Palestinians, an armistice is hoped to be established soon. “We are simply calling, as we always have, for a Three State solution” said an unnamed bearded layabout. “We plan to bring our resolution to the UN in December of this year.” He later added “No, no... this is the, erm, good type of occupation...”
A Greek Tragedy
Miliband’s brave boys two-thirds as evil as ConDem coalition Titanius Anglesmith Ed Miliband’s newly revealed plans to reduce university tuition fees from £9000 to £6000 a year add weight to the popular theory that the Labour party is roughly 67% as evil as the current Coalition government. Inside sources at the Green
Party HQ tell us that the party, not to be outdone on public benevolence, will be announcing their plans to offer the “Rolling in Green” tuition fee package at a pound-stretching £5999.95. This comes as a response to the indications from some polls that since 2010 Labour’s evilness may have risen as high as 73% of the Coalition, equating to 94%
Pure evil: mathematical proof
of the evilness of the Conservative Party, or 94 Beelzebubs (Bb). “The Labour party insists” said Andy Burnham, Shadow Minister for Education, “that it maintains and has always maintained a net turpitude of under 75 Bb.” Ed the Honorable told Sarkozy: “Say when, George!” fellow Labour MPs during this week’s conferin 2015 because we have reduced ence: “Our years of political the tuition fee cap and so we will experience have prepared us get the student votes that would for this decision. The strategy is previously have gone to the Lib complex, but I’ll try to explain it Dems. Do you get it now?” slowly. We are sure to be elected
Contributors: John Bell, Hugh Foley, Samuel Gaus, Ryan Hakimian, Emily McGovern, Henry Naylor-Stead, George Potts, Will Rowland, Hannah Sketchley, Max Titmuss and Madeline Wee.
September 2011 The Cheese Grater 7
BECOME THE MOST POWERFUL MAN ON EARTH With our fun and practical face mask of UCL Provost Malcolm Grant! These believable
quotes will help sell your funny facepiece! “You’re fired.” “Yes, Mr Cameron” “I would have gotten away with it, if it weren’t for you meddling kids” “Shut up Worton.” “You’re all fired.”
Instructions: If you want to look as dandy as our fine Führer, simply gouge out the eyes and cut out as instructed (tie not optional). Try wearing it to the union for free drinks, or simply strut up and down the cloisters looking busy.
8 The Cheese Grater September 2011
Consolations for an Oxbridge Reject At least you’re not at King’s - how to get by at London’s global university 1. Recreate that Oxford college atmosphere by donning a mortar board and wandering around the Tower of London or Lincoln’s Inn Fields. Muttering Latin at the same time will add a touch of authenticity to the whole experience. 2. Japanese tourists can be found as easily in London as they can in Cam-
Fitzwilliam Smedley Hey there, big guy! How’s it going? Loving that London lifestyle, I bet! Still down about that Oxbridge rejection? I know, it sucks, man; you were probably pooled, I’m sure – anyway, you could tell that your interviewer just hated your shirt-tie combo and controversial opinions on the Ossian dispute! Chin up though, sport! I was pretty upset myself when those scally-Tabs turned me down for Land Economy (“shake that blue pear tree!” and whatnot). The good news is that you’re in London – that’s right: London! Who needs those dreaming spires when you’ve got the Shard slamming the fuck into your city sky line, eh? Bonzer! Here are my tips for making the most of life post-rejection:
bridge, it’s just a question of knowing where to look for them! A quick trip to Buckingham Palace should set you up with a whole host of tourist photo opportunities to ruin. Screaming “I’d rather be at Oxford than at John’s!” or “boat race!” at the same time should really get you in the mood. 3. Contrary to popu-
lar belief, punting can be done wherever there is water. Note: since you will be punting in the Thames, you will need a longer pole. 4. Refuse to walk on the grass at all times. Whenever you see someone walking on the grass, shout at them: “get off my quad you Hildabeast!” or “I’ll be seeing you at Varsity next year!”
Welcome To University A letter from Provost Malcolm Grant
Dear Student, As you read this, your girlfriend from home is fucking someone else. Your girlfriend (with whom you spent teary evenings discussing not just the need to make “long distance” work, but also the tedious logistics of regular Londonprovinces commutes) whose face, still slathered in neon paint, is writhing on top of another man making noises that, in their difference from the noises she makes for you, would drive you mad with insecurity. Although you were going out for three months before she finally slept with you, she is fucking someone else whom she met no more
than twenty four hours ago but who, in the carefree way he distinguished himself at “pre-lash”, seemed like the antithesis of the staid and boring life that you represent. University, you will have often been told, is a time for personal growth and change and your girlfriend has decided to prove this by fucking someone other than you. Though she is still responding to your texts about the difficulty you’re having adjusting to student life, you may have noticed that she has not spent much time describing the people she’s met. This is because she is fucking one of them. Your friend exhorted you to “think of the gash” you’d be passing up in order to
have awkward phone sex while your creepy new flatmate listens through the paper thin walls of your room. Last month, you drunkenly told the same friend that you couldn’t imagine life without her, but you also failed to imagine that she would be fucking the first male student she met who asked her what her A levels were. In her sweaty, low-qualityMDMA-enhanced bouts of fucking someone else, your girlfriend is finally shaking off the shackles of your relationship and feeling more like the person that she wanted to be but felt you stopped her from being. That’s what the word “fine” means when you ask how she is.
The picture of your girlfriend that you have on your corkboard has nothing on the picture that someone else now has on his phone. When you travel to meet her next week she will probably pay half your megabus fare out of guilt but as you lean against the same writing desk which someone else lifted her on to and fucked her, while suggesting that you see what’s on iPlayer, the chasm of excitement between you and someone else will grow immeasurably vaster in her mind; your relationship’s fate will be sealed. Yours faithfully, Malcolm Grant
UCLU Cheese Grater Magazine Society Student Publication of the Year - UCLU Union Arts Awards 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011
President and Editor: John Bell Email: email@example.com
Postal Address: UCL Union, 25 Gordon Street London WC1H 0AY
Assistant Editor (Investigations): Hannah Sketchley
Assistant Editor (Humour): Samuel Gaus Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
The views expressed herein are not necessarily those of UCL Union or the editor.