Issue 57 – Spring 2017 cheesegratermagazine.org
VIOLATED HARASSED IGNORED The tragic story of how UCL fails victims of sexual assault
Oumou Longley and Jason Murugesu
‘“They push you around the system until you give up. There is no system to help”. These are the words of a UCL medical student who was raped in her first year at university. Her story, alongside many others, exposes a pervading culture of sexual assault and violence that has been left unchecked by staff who simply aren’t equipped to take responsibility for the crisis.
The medic, who wishes to remain anonymous, told The Cheese Grater how she failed her first year exams and battled with suicide and depression as a result of her experience. She first sought help from Student Psychological Services (SPS), who provided her with shortterm counselling. However, SPS can only provide interim support and are not trained or qualified to provide help to victims of sexual assault. The medic approached the Depart-
ment of Medicine’s Student Support, a separate entity to SPS, but found a system that was unhelpful and unfriendly. The staff member she saw described her as “rude and unpleasant” in an official report. Another student who was referred to the same staff member said that she was worried about seeing her attacker at Sports Night. She was told to “just stop going”. Continued on Page 3
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UCLU attempt to clean house Peter Daniels Conflict erupted at the March Union Council meeting, as plans were revealed to cut the hours of UCLU’s contracted cleaners by 30% in a bid to cut the Union’s £300,000 deficit by a third.
Divisions at Council At March’s Union Council meeting Sustainment, Engagement and Operations Sabb Zakariya Mohran argued that UCLU should prioritise spending on the students, claiming that the Union is currently paying for more cleaning services than it needs. However, Postgrad Sabb Mark Crawford and Women’s Officer Sam Nicholson retorted that the Union shouldn’t seek to make savings from arguably their most vulnerable constituents. The motion at the meeting passed narrowly and will be recommended to the Trustee Board at the next meeting on March 23rd, where they will make the final decision.
Vote Ignored Despite the Union Council vote, it seems likely that the cuts will be ratified regardless. Activities and Events Officer Nick Edmonds, chair of the Trustee Board, and Mohran are both keen to ignore the vote. Instead, there seems to be a desire to placate UCL’s senior management’s desire for a more streamlined university. They frequently argue of the need to prove to Rex Knight and co. that the Union is fiscally responsible, in return for preferential treatment. A tactical move taken out of the Japanese Kamikaze training manual.
Pressure from above UCLU’s CEO, Ian Dancy, is an active part of discussions surrounding the vote. Dancy has insisted on the need to cut back on expenditure, putting pres-
sure on Mohran to act. Aware of this charge, Dancy has submitted a confidential paper to the Trustee Board for discussion, in which he justifies overruling Council on the basis that this is an operational not a political decision. The Council’s vote will be noted, but will not be considered in the same manner as a motion passed. Almost like a parody of a true union, the student’s union prefers to listen to university management than their own elected officers. A veil of secrecy surrounds the plans, with some sabbatical officers only learning of the proposals indirectly.
Budget concerns According to Mohran and Edmonds, these cuts are necessary to prevent a doomsday scenario. They claim that the current annual deficit of £300,000 will only allow UCLU to keep the lights on for another 3 years. However, Mark Crawford claims that the reserves will last for another 6 years at least. A source from within the Union has alleged that these cuts are driven by the Trustee Board’s “unnecessary and extreme” decision last year to pledge to cut the entire £300k deficit in the space of one year. Whilst the arguments over cuts rage on, the Trustee Board has approved a total Union rebrand costing £70,000 carried out by an external company.
Security seized Adding to UCLU’s planned cleaning cuts, the Union plans to make savings by bringing the security at its bars and pubs in-house. Currently run by AP Security, guards would be employed directly by CIS, with the prospect of bringing on more guards from elsewhere in London. Security staff have expressed their desires to stay with AP Security, citing a good working relationship with
Society Bitch Society Bitch must begin with a rare apology this week. Contrary to the last column, we have been told - repeatedly, neurotically - that Pi Media actually produced three magazines this year, not one. I only mention this so as to not distract from a juicier story: the President of Pi has gone completely AWOL. Soc Bitch has learnt - never you mind how - that the President hasn’t been to committee meetings in months and dodges texts and calls. What a state of affairs that magazine must be when even its President can’t stand to be around it. Tragedy struck Drama Society this term when the publicity for their show ‘Rhinoceros’ was disrupted by pesky UCL Maintenance. The production team had created a huge advertising banner and hung it in the quad in the manner of an election poster. The maintenance team, assuming it was just another bogstandard UCLU elections banner, took it down and binned it. It seems UCL Maintenance are unfamiliar with the work of Eugene Ionesco. Having seen the play, we can only assume the same of Drama Soc.
the firm, and uncertainty about pay if they moved to CIS. Current guards are also concerned that extra staff, would not have enough experience with students to effectively manage escalations, and may even be too violent. However, current guards don’t have much of a say. One security member who has worked at the union for 10 years was told to sign a new contract, or leave. With another member of RUMS security staff already quitting over the proposed changes, there might be no guards left to turn off the Union lights when its cash reserves finally run out.
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UCL’s obsolete and unsuitable system lets down victims of sexual assault. (cont’d from page one) After being passed back and forth between various NHS and UCL doctors, the student was advised to take a year off medicine and repeat her first year. On her year out she was not afforded any support by UCL. When she returned, she was offered “close supervision” by Student Support, which consisted of two meetings with two separate people. Dr. Deborah Gill, the Dean of Medicine, told us that this was an “unfortunate case” and had “slipped through the gaps” but that “loads of people have an amazing experience with Student Support.” Another member of the Department of Medicine, Dr. William Coppola, explained that he had recently reviewed “how we can further prevent unwanted behaviours and attitudes developing in our students.” These assurances aside, the inescapable picture is of a system riddled with problems in communication, coherence, and competency.
No Communication After years of lobbying from various UCLU Women’s Officers, UCL recently hired an Independent Sexual Violence Advocate from Rape Crisis, who provides independent and confidential advice and information to victims. However, the counsellor only comes to UCL once a month and is seen by appointment only. Last year’s Women’s Officer, Natalie James, recounted to The Cheese Grater how she only found out about the new appointment second-hand at an external meeting. “Being kept out of the loop like that,” James said, “is just demeaning really.” For her, this is a sign of “a reluctance, particularly among more senior staff, to communicate with UCLU on important issues.” This lack of communication hamstrings a system that is already struggling to cope. No-one is sure to whom they should refer students, and no-one wants
to take ultimate responsibility. The matrix that details the referral system, seen by The Cheese Grater, would test the decoding capabilities of Bletchley Park’s finest.
Overly Bureaucratic Students are bounced around in a kafkaesque bureaucratic nightmare. When we asked Dr. Gill about who would deal with incidents, we were pointed in the direction of Denise Long at Student Wellbeing, who then referred us to UCL Student Mediator, Dr. Ruth Siddall. Dr. Gill agreed that ‘students get confused what is the right route’. This is symptomatic of a system where roles frequently overlap and a clear structure is lacking. Sam Nicholson, UCLU’s current Women’s Officer, noted that despite there being an online form to report sexual harassment and violence, it is not fit for purpose and barely any people even know about it. One first year student who recently had to use this form told The Cheese Grater how she found the process off-putting and arduous. This is compounded by the decentralisation of the UCL departments, who are also sometimes tasked with dealing with complaints of sexual assault. The departments aren’t sufficiently trained and don’t know where to send students, hindering victims from accessing the support that they need. Sarah Guise, UCL Equalities Officer admitted that UCLU had raised the issue with UCL before and said that, “it is one we take very seriously, which is why we’re looking to implement local training to tackle this.”
Harassment at UCLU societies The pervasive culture of sexual harassment and assault is no less present in UCLU’s clubs and societies. However, little seems to be done about it. When asked how many cases of sexual assault
she has seen, Nicholson simply replied, “too many”. Indeed, a report was made to Nicholson about a month ago alleging that a male rugby player had grabbed the heads of two female players at Phineas, forcing them to “smell his fingers” and asking them whether they felt “uncomfortable playing with a bunch of dykes”. Those who complained also allege that Nick Edmonds, UCLU Activities and Events Officer, who is the officer responsible for UCLU’s Pride in Sport and Zero Tolerance campaigns, who was present on the night, dismissed the complaints as the perpetrator was drunk. Edmonds initially denied ever having been there, but has since formally apologised to those involved. Men’s Rugby were also reported for sexual harassment by several members of the Netball team after an incident on their coach to the sports ground. In a separate incident, the Director of Rowing for UCL Boat Club’s contract was terminated after allegations of sexual harassment. Club members were reticent to talk about the subject, but sources within the club have told The Cheese Grater that this behaviour was ongoing and had been repeatedly ignored by senior members. An email sent to members from the President of the Boat Club make no mention of the nature of his dismissal, instead thanking him for “his tireless commitment to the club.” These stories are but a snapshot of the wider problem at UCL, as at other universities, of the normalised culture of sexual harassment. When cases are reported, the system put in place by UCL and other departments are overly bureaucratic and confusing, discouraging complaints and leaving students isolated and without support. It is a system bloated with incompetence, but devoid of any sort of hierarchy. Ultimately, it seems that no-one wants to be left responsible, resulting in those who are most vulnerable suffering alone.
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Exam timetable delayed, approximately no-one surprised Peter FitzSimons For those who still have questions about whether water is wet and whether or not the Pope is Catholic, it may come as a shock to learn that the publication of this year’s UCL exam timetable has been delayed. The arrangements are complex. There are around 83,000 exam sittings to be organised .The ‘technical issues’ alluded to in an email sent to all students were in regards to issues with the software that the university uses to schedule exams with minimum clashes. The software is standard across higher education, but, explained one professor, it is also not very good. This year, problems with the system meant that data had to be re-inputted manually. The system crashed three times this year which meant that the date kept being pushed back. Departments were
told it would be week 7, then week 9, and now the last day of term. The professor acknowledged that, “this more or less happens every year”. One year, the timetable was not even published before the end of term. Another professor angrily stated ‘I’m pretty fed up with their excuses.’ Generally, a provisional version of the timetable is circulated to departments a little before it is published, to allow them to double-check for clashes or raise any concerns. But this year, the professor told us, they were only given a small window in which to review for “things timetabled in ways that won’t work for some reason that only departments can spot.” The Cheese Grater also understands that one of the exam venues fell through after the supplier pulled out, providing a further problem for the timetablers.
But, as much as anything else, the sheer number of students taking exams this year is the cause of much of the difficulty. UCL’s student population currently stands at around 40,000, with a little over 18,000 undergraduates. And next year’s student population will be even larger. (CG 56) Kings College London, whose student population is only a little smaller than UCL, distributed exam timetables weeks ago. UCLU officers have lobbied the University to purchase a new system. In a statement, Education Officer Halima Begum committed to ensuring “student representation during the procurement process for buying the new system” to prevent a further repeat of the situation.” But then how else can we be more stressed about exams?
The indomitable ISoc election machine Peter FitzSimons Those running for student office at UCL know that there is one person who guarantees electoral success: the President of the Islamic Society (ISoc). In this year’s spring elections, five of the seven elected Sabbs had his endorsement. It wasn’t always this way. ISoc began to mobilise in the late 2000s in response to what they viewed as a lack of support from UCLU towards Muslim students. On 25 December 2009 Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, a former President of UCL ISoc, attempted to detonate a bomb hidden in his underwear on Northwest Airlines Flight 253. UCLU
were put under pressure by the Counter-Terrorism Unit at New Scotland Yard to provide the details of members of the Islamic Society. Despite there being no legal obligation for them to do so, the Union handed over the names of all those who had joined the society between 2005 and 2009. In addition, this year, a senior figure in the university tried to expand the framework for PREVENT, the government’s controversial anti-terrorism programme. Last year, a Muslim student was stopped on campus, and searched. The closeness of the community in ISoc contributes to their electoral success. Members have spoken of the strong
fraternal and supportive bonds between members. The society has a WhatsApp group with over a hundred members. Whilst some Union figures believe that the formidable election machine is now being used as a jobs-for-mates programme Bilal Aziz, current president of ISoc disputes this. He argues, “the reason why I would purport that Muslim students have taken a more politically active stance in recent years would be due to the increased political discussion of their religion, as well as the rise of the attacking discourse such as that of Donald Trump, and hence wanting to be part of that conversation.”
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OTD in 1917... The Cheese Grater’s predictions Claire Voyant takes a look at Roy O’Sullivan’s playful predictions of yesteryear Claire Voyant
One hundred years ago this month, The Cheese Grater published a column by journalist Roy O’Sullivan entitled ‘The World of Tomorrow: Twenty Predictions for the Year 2017’. In this very special issue, we take a look at some of those predictions in light of what we know today. 1. ‘Food will be produced entirely synthetically, but at the expense of taste. While hunger will soon be eradicated, culinary joy will be greatly diminished…’ Roy wasn’t far off here – around 70% of our food has been chemically tampered with. However, it still tastes as great as ever, as anyone who’s been to a McDonalds after a night at Loop can testify!! 2. ‘…and men and women both, in travel, will eschew the simple horse for a swifter means of transport. Some sort of motorised scoot-
er, equipped with a retractable sunroof, resistant to rain and even light snowfall…’ Roy should have known better here: mass produced automobiles has already been popular for fifteen years at the time he was writing, so it’s unclear as to why he thought everyone would downgrade to scooters. 3. ‘…horses, freed from their bondage, will hold public office and they’ll do a damn better job at regulating public services than we have!’ This one was a little weird. And wrong. 4. ‘The aliens will invent a new flavour for our burgers; flondaflobo’carckrakar - but they will withhold the recipe for another 40 years, until after the great Treaty of Gernshill’op…’ Where did he get aliens from? He’d made no mention of aliens before this point. And where did he find the au-
Busman Begins (2005)
dacity to start making up specific treaties? 5. ‘…buildings will be made of TREES and STONES and METAL from the GROUND. And CARROTS.’ I was going to give Roy this one, just based on his accurate – if unremarkable – reasoning. But then he threw in ‘carrots’. Why, Roy? 6. ‘Yo momma will be so fat that she’ll weigh down the future and make it crash into the past, distorting the space time continuum. That’s how I know what will happen.’ Roy’s right. Mum has been at the ham lately.
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What your course looks like, according to everyone else Baddy Paker You’d think that categorising students by their subject would be an obvious attempt to rely on tired old tropes in a desperate plea to get people to click on this article. You’d be wrong. It’s actually as easy to categorise students by their subjects as it is to determine their sexuality from their hair colour.
Want a foolproof way of spotting an English student? They’re going to be swanning around campus being human. Turns out animals can’t read. English students are always 100% of the time
Think we’re lying? Take a look below to see which box we’ve forced you inside.
“Never seen a language student. Nope. Never.” - Dylan, UAL “They just look mysterious” - Adrianna, Birmingham If you’re a linguist take a long hard look at yourself. Can’t see anything? Definitely a linguist. We don’t know why, but they’re all invisible. It’s just a language thing.
“I’m actually a biologist and we’ve all got skin. There was this diagram of someone without skin in first year and I thought that maybe some of us didn’t have skin. Since then I’ve never seen a biologist without skin though” - Anna, Imperial
Yep, biologists = skin. “Human, English students are humans. I’ve never seen anyone studying English who wasn’t human” - Jack, Coventry “I once thought I saw an English student who wasn’t human. Was just a cat on campus.” - Lucy, Nottingham
human. “I’ve literally only ever seen drama students dressed up as Patrick Stewart from his 2008 performance of MacBeth at the Lyceum Theatre in London” - Barbara, Aberystwyth “It’s unnerving” - Paddy, UCL We all know that Drama students can’t get enough of Patrick Stewart and they all want to be him, want to be him, or know someone who wants to want to know how to be him. The only way to do this? Become him.
“They have hair, sometimes its short but sometimes its long, but yeah, they definitely all have either some or no hair” - Pricilla, UCL “Follicles, that’s something I’d say history students normally have. You know, like, hey, it’s David, he does history, look at his follicles. Classic” - Darren, Leeds Speaks for itself really, history students are all cracking out hair is some way or another. You might ask, what about historians with alopecia? But have you ever seen one? Didn’t think so. Can’t see your subject on this list? That’s because you have absolutely no defining characteristics. Yep, you’re bland and boring, just like our articles. “Hang on” you’re thinking, is this a self aware comment to keep up our appearance of self parody to not so subtly disguise a complete lack of anything resembling semi-decent content? Well, take this quiz to find out. Or, you know. go outside into the warm summer air and forget The Tab ever existed.
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David Cameron delivers speech to plucky youngsters Former man visits Eton College on the last day of term Ned Potism It’s the last day of term at Eton College. and David Cameron is giving a speech. “Thank you, thank you. It seems like only yesterday I myself was leaving this fine school, ready to be thrust out into that wide, wide world. I am glad to say Eton College gave me the best education a boy could ask for. I got into Oxford, I did my degree in PPE, I went into Parliament. I’m sure plenty of you are thinking of doing the same! (Laughter.) And of course, I became Prime Minister. You know, I’m certain that there’s at least one young man here today who’ll occupy that position sometime
in the future. It’s a good job! You get a house in London, state dinners, you get to meet the most amazing people. Obama, Bill Gates, Silvio Berlusconi! Now there was a man who knew how to party! Booze, drugs, women. Countless mornings I’d wake up, covered in mozzarella, and Berlusconi would leer down at me: ‘You wanna some more, you biga fuck-a de porco? Huh?’ Most importantly, you got respect. Every morning, I would wake up and I’d be briefed by the chiefs of our armed forces and intelligence agencies. I could tell you what time Vladimir Putin picked his nose. I had the launch codes. Now I go round conference rooms advertising Blockchain. Blockchain! I don’t even know what that is! Now it’s a struggle to get up before midday.
You know what my favourite time of day is? It’s the five seconds after waking up when you can’t remember who you are or what you’re doing. Sometimes I don’t get off the sofa. I sit there in my underwear and watch Big Bang Theory, shovelling brownie mix into my mouth. I shit where I sit. Samantha won’t even look at me anymore. It’s seven months since we last had sex. She just lay there. I can’t remember the last time we actually made love. That’s politics for you, I suppose. It sucks you dry and spits out your shrivelled husk. Have a nice day kids. (Applause.)
Meat-Free Mondays/Mexican Mondays Mix-Up Vegetarian eats Mexican man in “tragic misunderstanding” Linda McCartney The Cheese Grater can reveal shocking developments surrounding the death of UCL student, Carlos Gonzalez. Mr Gonzalez, a first-year student History student was found bloodied and half-eaten in the Print Room dropbox containing copies of The Cheese Grater magazine. “It’s lucky we ever found his body at all,” said lead investigator Mick Salsbury. “No-one’s been near that dropbox for weeks.” Last night, Miss Hannah Cardinal was arrested for the murder and attempted eating of Mr Gonzalez. A source within the internal UCL investigation, who asked to remain anonymous, spoke to The Cheese Grater and suggested that the whole event had been an unfortunate
misunderstanding. Miss Cardinal, a wellmeaning vegetarian and patron of UCLU Bars and Cafes, was simply “confused” by recent changes in UCLU policy. “Miss Cardinal had been diligently following UCLU’s ‘Meat-Free Mondays’ policy for years. When this policy came to an end earlier this year, Miss Cardinal presumed that ‘Mexican Mondays’ – the bar deal that replaced £1 Mondays – was actually taking the place of the vegetarian policy. Consequently she killed and ate a Mexican man.” “A tragic misunderstanding, but that’s why pencils have erasers.” Police are currently attempting to the find Gonzalez’ left ear.
following budget strains at the union. David Dahlborn, resident moustache, told The Cheese Grater that had £1 Mondays continued, UCLU would have been facing severe financial difficulties and would not have been able to complete its mission of covering every square inch of London in “Boycott the NSS” posters. Regrettably, The Tab’s latest investigative piece ‘What your UCL panini says about you’ has taken an unexpectedly dark turn. A friend of Cardinal told The Cheese Grater that the accused had always been a ‘Roasted Butternut and Squash & Feta Tortilla’ girl. The Tab’s description of such a person? ‘Some people don’t know when a joke’s gone too far’.
£1 Mondays came to a close in January
Contributors: Olivia Angier, John Bilton, Peter Daniels, Ollie Dunn, Katarina Edgar, Peter FitzSimons, Oumou Longley, Liv Marshall, Ben Munster, Jason Murugesu, Will Orton, Ollie Phelan, Jack Redfern, Weronika Strzyżyńska.
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Nostalgia, Actually! Money T. Grabber This year, prepare yourselves for the film so English it’s probably racist: Love Actually 2. Richard Curtis’ beloved romcom returns with a sobering reminder of the inevitable impacts of ageing, as Hugh Grant emerges from his bachelor cave looking like an expensive vase that’s been dropped and PVA glued back together. Finally, you can have answers to the questions you’ve been asking yourself every night since 2003. Will Keira Knightly cheat on her loving husband, bewitched by the power of subliminal sign-based harassments? Has Colin Firth bothered to learn Portuguese yet? Is Bill Nighy still alive? And who is the father of Bridget Jones’ baby? Watch as Sarah’s institutionalised brother is declared fit for work and Colin Firth’s wife is deported by Prime Minister Hugh Grant as he ignores the desperate pleas of Martine McCutcheon, the people’s princess. In a post-Rickman-world can these figures of British Britishness overcome the bleak bleakness of our time? As Girls Aloud’s ‘Jump’ blurts out from the nation’s television sets, are we all looking into the abyss? Yes, actually.
UCL Union Cheese Grater Magazine Society President—Will Orton Editor—Ollie Phelan Investigations Editor—Jason Murugesu Humour Editor—Jack Redfern
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