Issue 66 â€“ Spring 2019
2 Spring 2019 The Cheese Grater
News & Investigations
Down your Union
It’s the obligatory election article Norma de Plume
candidates, for the full-time Welfare and International Officer position, and the part-time Societies Officer role.
Adverts on social media, a ball pit in South Cloisters, and a promise of £500 to the society with the highest An absence of factional slates hardly percentage of voting members were made races more competitive. The not enough to boost flagging turnout Activities and BME Officer positions at this year’s Union elections. each had only two candidates, and in both cases only one turned up to The first for several years with no answer students’ questions at hustings. clear ‘slates’ of candidates, this year’s Only one person stood for Union election turnout fell: only 5,909 of the Chair, and there were no candidates for Union’s 38,250 members voted, down Women’s Officer. A second election from 6,763 last year. for the position is now underway, with ten candidates. Five students ran UCL Student Left, who last year for Postgraduate Officer (a record for ran candidates for four sabbatical recent years). However, turnout among positions, this year chose to prioritise postgraduates remained lower than campaigns, like the Climate Strike on 15 low: just 6.6 percent for PGR and 8.3 March, over Union elections. Activist percent for PGT students. candidates ran only for down-ballot positions, such as Halls Representative Union sources are quietly confident and International Students Officer. about student elections but this year’s seem only to confirm what we already In recent years, it has also been knew: UCL’s exponential growth customary for the president of Islamic has left students isolated from the Society to endorse candidates for institution. That’s something even ball major positions. This year’s president pits can’t fix. Mohseen Hamad only backed two
It’s AGM season which means it’s time to make fun of jumped-up students who act like they’re hiring an international executive, not electing someone to run pub crawls. Soc Bitch understands that the Union has pulled up several societies this year for undemocratic practices. Chinese Society must re-run its AGM after it made candidates submit CVs and go through a gruelling eight-days of election runoffs. Impressive stuff for a society with just 68 members. Meanwhile, the pretend-bankers of the Economics and Finance Society and UCL Guild were also reprimanded for demanding CVs from applicants. I mean, honestly. Who cares that much?
Academics boycott events at Senate House Campaigners hope to end outsourcing but UoL obstinate and far less access to holiday, maternity IWGB wants a seat at the table to and sick pay than in-house staff. negotiate with the university on the beCampaigners from the Independent half of outsourced workers but UoL Workers of Great Britain (IWGB) are On 26 February, a national day of seems determined to stop them. stepping up efforts to end outsourcing coordinated strike action was called by at the University of London (UoL). outsourced workers. This was timed to Danny Millum, Secretary of the They are calling for a boycott of events coincide with a landmark court case at UoL branch of IWGB, was told that at Senate House, a huge money-maker the Royal Courts of Justice. attending a meeting with Conveners of for the institution. Last year, UoL made a seminar in the Institute of Histori£43 million from residences, catering IWGB is seeking a ruling on the col- cal Research during his working hours, and conferences. lective bargaining rights of outsourced and encouraging them to support the workers. As it stands, outsourced work- boycott of Senate House was ‘a breach Outsourced cleaners, security and ers represented by IWGB have no re- of your terms of employment’. A letother auxiliary staff at UoL say that course to bargain with UoL itself — ter from the director of the School of they are getting a raw deal, with worse only the contractor, Cordant. Advanced Study noted that ‘IWGB is pay and conditions, insecure contracts, cont. on page 3 Joanne Land
News & Investigations
The Cheese Grater Spring 2019 3
UCLove plagued by suicide threats Ignoring the risks, page administrators continue to publish suicide notes
The National Suicide Prevention Alliance’s guidelines for responding to suicidal content urge moderators Content warning: mentions of suicide, depres- to remove what it terms ‘unsafe’ sion, anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders, discussions of suicide that could but no detailed or graphic descriptions. dangerously impact others. Admins have previously allowed suicide notes Although UCLove was created as a to be disseminated to the page’s 13,000 space for calling out library crushes, it followers. has attracted an increasing number of worrying posts that highlight growing There is currently no legal student mental health problems at UCL. prohibition against this ‘unsafe’ The anonymous Facebook confessions content, but the government may soon page has become the largest university introduce legislation against it. Since confessions page in the UK. the death of 14-year-old Molly Russell, whose parents found she had been Since September 2018, over 30 posts viewing a lot of dangerous content referencing suicide and self-harm have on social media, the government has been shared on the page. UCLove moved towards mandating social media publishes significantly more posts platforms moderate content related to discussing suicide, depression and suicide and self-harm. self-harm than other UK universities’ confession pages. Admins commented below a post raising concerns over the publication A UCLove administrator told The of potentially triggering content, saying Cheese Grater that they are struggling ‘I would personally feel accountable to process the high volume of if someone suffered more because submissions, which can mean looser they didn’t get advice or support’, and oversight of potentially harmful posts. called those who said the page should ‘We try to post self-harm/suicide not be sharing suicide notes ‘selfish’. content as quickly as possible,’ the However, publishing this content admin explained, ‘so that people can places the responsibility for preventing get a response ASAP’. Sophia Robinson and Iona Jenkins
not a recognised trade union and the University is under no obligation to grant you Facility time.’
suicide in the hands of students, rather than trained professionals. Page admins want to provide an outlet for people struggling with suicidal thoughts or self-harming tendencies, but in doing so they fail to account for the impact this has on readers struggling themselves. Moreover, comments on these posts are not uniformly supportive. Even those who mean well might give unhelpful or dangerous advice. ‘We are very concerned to read some of the anonymous comments made on the UCLove Facebook page,’ said Denise Long, Director of Student Support and Wellbeing at UCL. ‘We want to ensure all of our community know that we have dedicated teams on hand to support students and encourage anyone going through difficulties to contact us.’ UCL offers inperson as well as online and telephone counselling and therapy services. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues or suicidal thoughts, please call UK Samaritans Hotline on 116123, get in touch with your GP, and/or contact mental health services available at UCL.
Various cleaners on strike also told are optimistic. CG that they believe that UoL’s outsourcing practices are racist. ‘Ultimately,’ said IWGB campaigner Emiliano Mellino, ‘it’s quite an easy IWGB argue that the current situaUoL has already brought various sell.’ But management have shown tion results in differential treatment for staff in-house in recent years. and has ‘zero willingness to end this’. Even he BME and immigrant staff: Millum told promised to bring remaining workers admits, ‘I do find it shocking how they The Cheese Grater that 80% of in-house in-house by 2020. can be so obstinate.’ UoL staff are white and that 80-90% of outsourced staff are BME and/or But IWGB contend that an in-house The disruption during the strike and migrant workers. option will just be one among several occupation last year, and the associated options when contracts are put up for cost it brought, have surely put paid to Margarita, a cleaner at UoL, de- tender. any argument from the university about scribed this as an opportunity to work outsourcing being a financial necessity. towards better opportunities and equalAlmost 400 academics and 60 ity — the cleaners feel that they are ‘not groups have pledged to boycott events Perhaps it will take a court case for treated as important’ by UoL. at Senate House until low-paid workers UoL to stop discriminating against its are brought in house. Union organisers outsourced workers.
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News & Investigations
‘Brushing colonialism under the carpet’ Will the Eugenics Inquiry learn from past mistakes? Jasmine Chinasamy and Zoe West-Taylor
At a town hall meeting on 1st March, students and staff came together to debate and testify to UCL’s complex relationship with eugenics and scientific racism. Last year’s revelations about the eugenicist London Conference on Intelligence taking place on campus sent shockwaves through the University. In its aftermath, UCL announced a two-pronged approach to address its past: convening an Inquiry into the History of Eugenics and establishing a Centre for the Study of Race and Racism. A eugenicist by any other name The Inquiry is independently chaired by Professor Iyiola Solanke of the University of Leeds, one of just 25 black female professors in the UK. The Inquiry, composed of academics, administrative staff working with race and diversity, and the Union’s BME Officer, will report on the role eugenics at UCL has played in shaping contemporary racism. It will also weigh in on the renaming of spaces, such as UCL’s Petrie Museum and Pearson Building, named after eugenicists. Students at the Inquiry’s town hall meeting urged the panel to ‘think of the emotional impact of walking into a room named after people who would not have wanted you to exist.’ However, others doubt the University’s sincerity. Dr Nathaniel Adam Tobias Coleman worked at UCL until 2015 when the Critical Race Studies MA they had been hired to develop was dropped. Dr Coleman believes that ‘name-changing at UCL has, in the past, worked
simply to aid the coloniser in brushing colonialism under the carpet.’
The right time?
The creation of the Centre and Racism, power, and institutions Eugenics Inquiry are significant steps, but those who have previThe Centre is poised to open in ously sought to shed light on racism the next academic year and will be at UCL remain jaded. Delving into housed in the Institute of Advanced UCL’s previous efforts to contend Studies (IAS), with the intention to with racism reveals a landscape of create a diverse, interdisciplinary re- buried reports and willful blindness. search programme, and a Masters degree, provisionally titled Race, In 2014, UCL’s now-disbanded Racism and Society. Ethics Committee examined the University’s history of eugenics, but Without more concrete infor- its findings remain unpublished. A mation, hopes and fears about the 2014 qualitative report on experiencCentre abound. Dyi Huijg, who es of BME staff, for use in applying contributed to an indefinitely-buried for the Race Equality Charter Mark, report addressing racism and white also never saw the light of day. favouritism at UCL, is hopeful that the Centre will be intersectional and Hajera Begum, BME Officer ‘strongly commit to social justice, to at the time, told CG that the UCL an anti-racist and decolonial orienta- community suffered from the burytion in their research, curriculum and ing of the ‘honest, raw experiences’ pedagogy.’ of BME staff. Begum believes a more open conversation on racial isHowever, some doubt UCL’s abil- sues has been ‘forced,’ with UCL reity to be self-critical. Dr Coleman acting to outrage at the events of the said, ‘by avoiding specific reference last year, not taking proactive steps to British National Eugenics, and examine its legacy. by naming the Centre only in broad general terms such as “Racism”, While Professor Solanke exUCL permits itself to sidestep its pressed respect for ‘those members own role in Racism: a role that has of the UCL community past and been about White Power.’ They ad- present who have played a part in vocate borrowing from the method- its evolution’ when the Inquiry was ology of Critical Whiteness Studies, announced, she later confessed to and questioning whiteness across having been unaware of previous disciplines. reports into UCL’s eugenicist past. This can only feed the doubts of Dr Keren Weitzberg, a histori- people such as Dr Coleman, whose an of Africa based within the IAS, attempts to address racism were eiviews a critical approach as crucial ther rejected or co-opted by UCL. for pushing back against normalisations of whiteness as a ‘background At the Union General Meeting in against which other racial and eth- January, Provost Professor Michael nic identities could be studied.’ She Arthur emphasised the openness of hopes the new Centre will not mere- the Eugenics Inquiry, which will ‘get ly be ‘about a very tokenised idea of the whole picture and then make derepresentation and just really about cisions.’ Previous reports, however, studying the “other.”’ will likely remain in the dark.
The Cheese Grater Spring 2019 5
Giving Head: Jeremy Bentham speaks
Our new column from UCL’s oldest, most permanent resident. butcher’s every once in a bloody while. Maybe even take me to a lecture, or a dramatic meeting where they talk about buildings or food or whatever. Or perhaps someone would be so kind as to let me see a show, which brings me on to the subject of this month’s column: films.
reetings and salutations, guys, girls and everything in between. For those who don’t know me, I’m the shrivelled up, bollocky-looking thing you pass in the cloisters. You may not think I see you, but I do, and boy do I have some opinions.
What a hoot eh? Such innovation! This week I watched Spotlight and The Shape of Water. I know, I’m a little behind, but give me some credit. Do you know how long it takes to roll all the way to the Odeon on Tottenham Court Road? Anyway, I digress, back to the films… And GOOD GOD, society is CRUMBLING. The first one made me want to roll under a rubbish truck and the second one… that was too whacky even for my enormous brain.
#420 Camden Lock Market Are you the sort of person who loves to prudently prick their nose into the air, loudly sniff, and then mutter to a friend under your breath, ‘do you think that’s B.O., or marijuana’? If so, Camden Lock Market is the place for you, and will leave you guessing for hours whilst you nervously try to be nonchalant about checking your wallet is still in your pocket where you lefSHIT! IT’S GONE! MY WALLET! WHERE IS IT? HEL- Oh, hold on. Wrong pocket.
I don’t understand why they can’t just make a nice, cheerful moving I know my piercing blue eyes and picture that doesn’t involve chilBotticellian blonde locks may give dren being abused, or deaf people the illusion of someone carefree, but shagging fish. What ever happened let me tell you, I am far from sugar- to good old-fashioned family valcoated. Think of me as a grenade ues? I want, just for once, to go to covered in semen and angel dust. I the pictures and see a flick about an will explode. And I will fuck you up. unlucky-in-love desiccated head who Mark my fucking words. meets her match in an attractive, womanising desiccated head who, in Anyway, I take my position as turn, learns the value of monogamy, UCL’s most recent raconteur-in- and rolls all the way to the airport to chief seriously — so should you. stop her from leaving to go on holiYou see, it pays to be so crusty and day with Lance. Alas, a boy/corpse shrivelled-looking that nobody wants can dream. to look at you. Lodged between the Bhangra rehearsals, I get the juiciest Thanks for reading my first colgoss. Speaking of which, don’t these umn folks. Join me next time when kids ever rest? I’ll be talking about Sriracha sauce and asking whether JFK was actually Seriously UCL, I wish someone shot, or if his head just did that by would pick me up and give me a itself. Contributors to this issue: Sasha Baker, Darcy Bounsall, Jasmine Chinasamy, Sam Dodgshon, Ollie Dunn, Peter FitzSimons, Maria Ilkonomova, Iona Jenkins, Michael Johnson, Riddhi Kanetkar, Suzy Kingston, Joanne Land, Sophia Robinson, Seb Stacey, Zoe West-Taylor.
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The search for the next Provost begins Michael Arthur will be stepping down as Provost at the end of September 2020, and the search is on for his successor. The Cheese Grater reviews the candidates.
Arthur Michael (1853–1942)
Strengths: plundering experience (valuable fundraising skills)
Strengths: 250,000 followers on Soundcloud
Strengths: American organic chemist best known for the Michael reaction.
Weaknesses: has scurvy
Weaknesses: literally everything else
Jeremy Bentham’s head Strengths: crowd favourite Weaknesses: poor track record of resolving industrial disputes
That egg off Instagram Strengths: didn’t lose a no-confidence vote while Vice-Chancellor of Leeds University Weaknesses: too famous
Strengths: four arms
Weaknesses: likes outsourcing
The rat from the refectory Strengths: sneaky Weaknesses: vector for disease
Arthur (the aardvark) Strengths: wants to learn to work and play and get along with each other (hey) Weaknesses: fictional boy aardvark
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8 Spring 2019 The Cheese Grater
Bullying, harassment and sexual misconduct in the working and learning environment are never acceptable. Unpaid staff, eugenicists and a hostile environment for tier 4 students on the other hand: totally ﬁne by me. provost-thoughts.ucl.ac.uk
UCL CHEESE GRATER MAGAZINE SOCIETY President—Peter Daniels Co-Editors—Ollie Dunn and Peter FitzSimons Investigations Editor—Sasha Baker Humour Editor—Suzy Kingston Online Editor—Jasmine Chinasamy Graphics Editor—Darcy Bounsall
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© Students’ Union UCL, 25 Gordon Street, London WC1H 0AY. Views expressed herein are not necessarily those of SU UCL or the editors.