Issue 51 – Winter 2015
Proud to be affiliated to UCLU
They want how much? Bah, humbug!
The Ghost of Rent Strikes Past • • •
Management Finally Coughs Up the Cash UCL Facing Accommodation Crisis in Coming Years Private Halls Providers Look to Profit
Ifor Ramsay It’s been a rough term for the oncemighty UCL Residences. The accommodation racketeers not only face the prospect of repaying a total of £400,000 to residents of Hawkridge House and Campbell House West after lengthy and ultimately successful rent strikes, but also the potentially ruinous proposition of residents from all of its halls going on strike – something campaign group UCL Cut the Rent is currently agitating for. Despite a string of humiliating and very
public defeats inflicted by the vocal protestors, however, insider reports suggest management are still doing their best to make students’ lives – and their own – as difficult as possible. Having already threatened rent strikers by claiming they would not be able to graduate whilst still in arrears (see last CG), UCL bosses sent in their biggest hitter, Vice Provost for Operations Rex Knight, to lead the delegation at arbitration panels in October and November. Knight, known to most students as Prov-
ost Michael Arthur’s pet pantomime villain, is by all accounts taking the defeat about as well and maturely as he would be expected to. Insiders in attendance at the second of the two hearings – which ruled that Hawkridge residents were entitled to a rebate of £1,200 each – report a nonplussed Knight, probably well aware of the inevitability of another defeat, refusing to allow student representatives to speak at length. Continued on Page 3
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Down Your Union Norma de Plume Which side of the great campus free speech debate is UCLU on? On the basis of its cack-handed management of speaker bookings over the past month, it’s rather difficult to tell. The crushing defeat suffered by the UCL left in last year’s spring elections appeared to signal the end of the Union as an overtly political body. But few could have predicted that Activities and Events Officer Asad Khan, who ran on a platform of ensuring no society felt “marginalised by the Union”, ending up doing just that – and in spectacular fashion.
Seen But Not Kurd No sooner had the Union belatedly reneged on its initial refusal to authorise a Kurdish Society event featuring College alumnus and one-time Kurdish resistance fighter Macer Gifford – citing concerns that his tales of fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) might radicalise impressionable students – that it gave the green light to a since-cancelled debate on the same subject featuring three rabble-rousing loons (or “highly distinguished speakers” if you’re on the Debating Society committee): former Respect MP George Galloway, self-styled social commentator Mo Ansar, and crackpot anti-Zionist academic Rodney Shakespeare.
once stood for election to an Oxfordshire district council as a Conservative, too dangerous to allow onto campus, choosing to “stay on the side of caution” having consulted College and the Metropolitan Police. In the event, the Union allowed Gifford to speak after incurring the wrath of the national press (and Godless botherer Richard Dawkins) – underlining the farcical nature of the initial ban, and the utter pointlessness of waiting for police approval that was neither necessary nor actually given – the Met never responded to College’s request for advice.
Better Safe Than Sorry? The fact that Galloway, whose last visit to one of Debating Society’s Monday night free-for-alls saw a feminist protest end with his wife allegedly assaulting then-Women’s Officer Beth Sutton (see CG 42), was approved by the Union raises questions as to what exactly their definition of “staying on the side of caution” is. Nor did UCLU choose to consult College and the Met over arguably anti-Semitic statements made by Ansar – widely derided in the press as a charlatan
Up For Debate Alongside them at the UCLU Debating Society panel on whether western military intervention gave rise to ISIS would have been a senior member of the Stop The War Coalition, the much-maligned group beloved of Jeremy Corbyn, whose website hosted an article saying France was “reaping the whirlwind of western support for extremist violence” in the aftermath of the recent terror attacks. Early last month Khan judged Gifford, an urbane ex-City worker who
Gifford – One man’s Tory candidate is another man’s freedom fighter.
– and Shakespeare, whose extensive back catalogue of Israel bashing was only noted by Debating Soc following complaints from members on its Facebook page. After Shakespeare’s invitation was eventually withdrawn, the other speakers took the unusual step of no-platforming
Society Bitch Unsettling news has reached your columnist: corporate culture is corrupting the house that selfimportant freshers built, UCL’s premier arts and culture rag SAVAGE. Soc Bitch hears that recent society elections to choose subeditors for the mag’s myriad sections were little more than an elaborate sham – the well-connected subs had allegedly already been chosen on the basis of their tenuous connections to big names in the arts industry, and their only rivals were committee stooges. So why bother? “Listen, I beg of you,” cried the Savage. “UCLU give societies who encourage participation through internal elections extra money, and we need it to print our wanky magazine!” Alas, SAVAGE are by no means the only CSC keenos said to be worshipping the money god. A friend of Soc Bitch was recently chatted up by Model UN Society President Thomas Barclay – who inadvertently revealed his approach to accountancy might be more Central Bank of Zimbabwe than IMF. Should she be interested, said Barclay, she could join his inner circle: boozing on awaydays at society members’ expense. Oh Thomas. I bet you say that to all the non-permanent members of the Security Council. themselves – which many argued that, given the past comments of the invited speakers, should have been UCLU’s responsibility in the first place. Recently government’s PREVENT strategy, intended to discourage radicalisation in institutions, has been causing headaches for universities. Whether it was the increased pressure of PREVENT or just general incompetence that led to the speaker approval confusion, the handful of people who turned up to a UCLU meeting to campaign against PREVENT suggests the union won’t be in the vanguard of opposition.
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Not Very Accommodating (Cont’d from page one) Dissent from peeved freshers and postgrads in rat-infested, cockroachridden residences ought to be the least of management’s worries, however. Ramsay Hall – the £200-a-week Eastern Bloc hospital on Whitfield Street where Coldplay once lived – is set to close for two years from 2017. This, added to ever-growing student numbers, will lead to a shortfall of thousands of beds. So what’s UCL’s solution? Well, they don’t really have one. Though a botched plan to privatise halls was kicked into the long grass in 2011, College’s incompetence and mismanagement of their crumbling property portfolio has allowed private operators such as Unite – who have al-
ready snapped up 1000 rooms at UCL East, the new Olympic Park campus set to open in 2019 – to extend their lucrative sphere of influence. Luckily for its corporate competition, UCL seems to have given up on doing any of the hard stuff itself anyway. As part of a belated attempt to prove their humanity to campaigners, residences director William Wilson and property manager Colin Plank dragged a member of UCL Cut the Rent to a privately-run hall in Wood Green – known to most as the distant northern terminus of the 29 bus route – in an attempt to extol the virtues of a potential partnership with accommodation firm Veridian. An awkward Tube journey back from Zone 3 followed, the trio having failed
to see eye to eye ober the proposed new site. Of Ramsay’s reputed replacement, one insider tells the Cheese Grater: “There’s no way they are going to go for it. There’s no way they could... because it’d be £140 a week, and then an extra £30 for transport, so that’d be fairly similar to prices of other halls. What’s more, they don’t have the buying power to get new halls, particularly as companies such as Unite are expanding so much.” With the Cut the Rent campaign buoyed by their high profile and proven successes, things are likely to get much worse for Residences before they get better.
Asbestos Yet to Come
All the world’s a highly toxic stage. John Bilton Can you hear that, kids? It’s the sound of Drama Society ripping up their turtlenecks and in collective disgust. Christmas time usually brings glad tidings – and plenty of cash – for the Bloomsbury Theatre. However, this year’s unexpected closure will disappoint anyone hoping to see David Walliams’ ‘Gangsta Granny’ on stage. The extended renovation is causing headaches for theatre staff, and hurting the Bloomsbury’s reputation, but the mess may have been easier to avoid than UCL are letting on. The works – which were brought forward when it was realised they would expose decades-old asbestos – meant shows booked for this winter were forced to find alternative venues. A UCL spokesperson told The Cheese Grater that “additional structural works impacted upon known areas of asbestos and so the original anticipated timescales for completing the project have had to be extended.” Nobody’s
explained exactly who knew about the asbestos though. According to one source, theatre staff were in the dark about the problems until UCL Estates fessed up in August, just a few days before the delays were announced. UCL has long struggled to rid its ageing estate of asbestos, but management have known about the Bloosmbury’s carcinogenic treasure trove since 2005, and The Cheese Grater even reported on it in 2008 (see CG16). Exactly why it’s taken a full decade to carry out the “full clean” that UCL has now ordered is unclear. A meeting last year proposed the radical idea of merging asbestos surveys across campus, helping to “streamline efficiencies” throughout Estates. Hopefully UCL’s recent award of a multi-million pound contract to asbestos removers Maylarch will finally get to the bottom of the problem. One thing that is clear is the amount of upset luvvies who have taken badly to be-
The Bloomsbury looking resplendent.
ing denied their moment in the spotlight. Several months ago, the theatre’s operations manager Frank Penter was overheard moaning about his woes into an overpriced pint in the Jeremy Bentham. After being forced to cancel months’ worth of shows, the Bloomsbury’s reputation has now been dragged through the mud. It’s yet to be seen if the Bloomsbury will still be able attract the big names when it reopens, but now that theatre companies have been burned once, they’d have to have asbestos hands to make another booking.
Contributors: John Bilton, Maddy Comber, Bo Franklin, Ross Humphreys, Iida Käyhkö, P.K. Maguire, Jess Murray, Anna Saunders, Emily Waldron
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COP-ing a Fuel The road to Paris is paved with good intentions. Bo Franklin As tired politicians agreed on yet another climate deal at COP21 in Paris last week, UCL was there in force – its academics were in the media so much you’d think Bloomsbury was at risk of disappearing under rising sea levels. While it’s not surprising that London’s global university was so well represented at a conference attended by nearly 200 nations, UCL is just as much a part of the problem as it is the solution to climate change. UCL still has tens of millions of pounds invested in energy giants which contribute to global warming (see CG50), and companies are keen to buy into UCL’s credibility. BHP Billiton, the mining company accused of unethical practices in countries such as Indonesia and Columbia, has ploughed money into UCL in recent years, helping to found UCL Australia and funding the dubiously named UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources. The perceived conflict of interest between BHP Billiton’s business interests and the university’s independence led to Professor Jane Rendell, a Vice Dean of Research, resigning from her post in 2013 after the college failed to show it had un-
dertaken processes to protect the independence of research. Rendell later said in an interview that “if UCL’s brand is one of academic independence then it could be somehow threatened by this relationship.” The mining company should have some sympathetic ears at the Paris conference however, as Michael Grubb, Professor of International Energy and Climate Change Policy at the ISR, is serving as an advisor to the British delegation at COP21. Last month the ISR’s director Paul Ekin called for a climate deal in which countries “contribute a fair share, with developed countries leading the way”, but happily neglected to single out industry’s damaging role in climate change. Ekin has previously assured The Cheese Grater that “UCL pursue research and organise activities unrelated to the company’s business” (see CG45), but the Institute’s future is still reliant on the benevolence of big business. Last week student campaign group Fossil Free UCL occupied a pop-up marquee in the quad, calling yet again for the university to withdraw all its investments in fossil fuels. Professor Michael Arthur, College’s Provost, has already said that he
A sad polar bear.
won’t consider divesting from energy companies in the near future, not only because it’s so lucrative but also because cutting links with the industry could piss off students and academics in departments such as Engineering. It’s unlikely Fossil Free’s brief occupation – which involved the decorating of a ‘divestmas tree’ and a free film screening – will do much to change his mind. After a couple of days the activists packed up their sleping bags and jumped on the Eurostar to harangue politicians at the conference instead. In a statement, Fossil Free said “Ditching investments in companies dedicated to exploring for, extracting and burning fossil fuels would be a vital first step. In the face of this responsibility, UCL’s willful silence on this issue speaks volumes.” As UCL is so keen to be known as London’s global university, it’s unsurprising that managers are just as preoccupied with climate change as the rest of the world.
You Better Werk
SLAAYY MAMA! YAAAS KWEEN! FUCK ME DADDY!
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Uncle Benn’s Advice Time Sir Anthony has passed away, but his column makes a festive return. For over 50 years cuddly socialist and neutered Labour firebrand Tony Benn redistributed pearls of wisdom and avuncular advice to our needy readers. This year, his advice column returns by way of a one-off festive treat – with son Hilary answering your questions. “Aaaaaargh! I had a great friendship group in my halls, and didn’t think twice when they suggested we live together in second year – but it turns out we have little in common, and they’re really starting to irritate me. They always wake me up coming home from Loop bar, and I’ve taken to playing white noise to drown out my housemates’ noisy sexual activities. I thought I got on so well with the whole
group, but it turns out we’re like chalk and cheese. I don’t think I’ve changed and my friends from home all say I’m the same person, so I don’t understand why we can’t see eye to eye anymore. I feel like I’m taking my work much more seriously now I’m in second year, but my housemates all behave as if freshers week had never ended. I don’t want to tear the group apart, but I’m afraid of failing my modules if I can’t get any sleep. I’m tied into a 12 month contract and I can’t stand much more of it. What’s a girl to do?
Dear Helena, Bomb the fuck out of them. Yours, The Rt. Hon. Hilary Benn MP
Helena Norton (2nd year Arts & Sciences) Hilary Benn - The face of a kinder politics.
The Provost’s Prophecy Thug life is what happens when you’re making other plans. my ace senior leadership legends in Council Room G12 about, you know, the #FUTURE of our nang college with my dank ass OG Afghan kush and I got totally amped for UCL 2034! Let me lay down our long term goals:
Provost Michael Arthur UCL is currently implementing its ambitious 2034 plan. The distinctive approach to research, education and innovation will further inspire College’s community to transform how the world is understood, how knowledge is created and shared and the way that global problems are solved. The Cheese Grater asked Professor Michael Arthur, UCL’s Provost, to explain the changes taking place. Hey gang! It’s your gnarly, rad #provost here (though I prefer Professor Michael Arthur, ye?) Yo, I’ve been thinkin’ while kickin’ back with
1. S ome choice academic leadership grounded as fuck in intellectual excellence. CCCC R R R RU U U U U U UU N N N N N N N N N K K K KKKKKKK! 2. A #globalleader in the integration of tubular research and education (ikr, NERDZ!), plus an inspirational student experience (for my freshest freshers and my peng postgrads!) 3. Addressing global challenges through our disciplinary (yeah step-off dickweed) excelllleeeeeeence and original UC brand cross-disciplinary approach.
4. An schweeeeeet accessible, publicly-engaged no-wastoidsallowed organisation that fosters (not like Tracey Beakz fam) a lifelong community of bonus bitchin students, you feel me? 5. London’s Primo Raw University: in London, of London and for London. I KID YOU NOT, THREE TIMES BRUH, SHREDDIN’ IT. 6. Delivering global impact through a network of innovative international activities, collaborations and partnerships. I hope this clears up any doubts regarding the future direction of the university, and leaves you with a clear vision of how we aim to maintain our position as one of the world’s best institutions for both research and student experience. Provost out!
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I’m Cumin Up Mel B is off the dole and back on top. Simeon Twattenstone After three frosty rejections from Iceland to flog frozen sausage rolls and Vienettas as the face of their Christmas ad campaign, Melanie Brown AKA Mel B AKA Scary Spice of the Spice Girls has been forced to think outside the box, and inside the bag, to pave her way. Since the Spice Girls’ split her bandmates have moved on to bigger things – Posh Spice has graced the catwalks of New York and Milan while Mel C is turning on Nuneaton’s Christmas light this year. When I met Mel B for our interview, she was rolling a tightly packed joint on the hotel lobby’s glass table, carefully shuffling around what looked like weed. A thin sheen of perspiration clung to her brow, and she was shaking violently. Mel’s publicist explained to me that Mel was delighted to be the new face of spice, the synthetic cannabis, as Mel slurred “It’s not just shit grass y’know!” “Sorry love, can we start the interview after I’ve had my spice? I’m rattling, and I haven’t had a fix since 11 this morning.” I checked my watch; it was 10:52. “I’m the new face of Spice… Spice Spice!” she giggled, as she urged me to take a drag. I refused the offer and she started to pull on the joint, her eyes crossing as she did so. “So what do you do as brand ambassador for spice?” I asked her, pen hovering over my notebook.
“Well, I just smoke it, and tell other A-listers how great it is at all the parties. I’ve already got Louis Walsh on the stuff. That’s why he had to quit X Factor, but shhhhhh’ she giggled, her finger pressed against her lips. ‘I’m hungry, are you hungry? I’m so hungry. Yeah, let’s get some food.’ She snapped her fingers at the closest member of staff and proceeded to order one of everything off the lunch menu. Mel complained very vocally about the size of the burgers, until I pointed out they were sliders. “Slide on this, you prick!” she shrieked across the hotel lobby. “You still haven’t properly explained your new role as the face of spice…?” I pressed, knowing this wouldn’t be the next Frost/Nixon. At this point Mel was slumped across a chaise longue, clutching her bulging belly. “Paint me like one of your Spice girls”, she slurred, laconically exposing a nipple. “What more is there to tell you?” Her eyes were tight red slits. “I get to have a great time, and get paid to do it daily. Spice is my life now, I am the ultimate spice girl. Not like Halliwell, she’s not even ginger! The cuffs and minge don’t match, if you catch my drift.” She winked and her false eyelashes stuck together. “And she’s got a wooden leg. Or was that Captain Birdseye?” Her voice softened and trailed off but her botoxed forehead stayed fixed in a
A third meaning of the word spice, yesterday.
scowl. She refreshed Eddy Murphy’s Instagram for a fourteenth time. I had to cut the interview short after Mel thought it was fitting to throw a vase of peonies across the table, narrowly missing the bellboy’s head. As I helped her into a cab Mel hung out of the window and slapped a small shiny bag into my hand. “Spice up ya life” she said, a poorly rolled bifta hanging out of her mouth. Hours later I see on my twitter feed that Mel was spotted in Camberley trying to hotbox a bus stop. In this world of sponsored content and fake celebrity endorsements, Mel B’s commitment to the brand is admirable. Brand ambassador, with these endless whiteys and hallucinations you are really spoiling us.
Cut Out and Keep Christmas Card
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Campus Style The Cheese Grater examines the trends making a comeback at UCL.
1st year Communications and Marketing student Stock Photo dons this throwback piece from Shutterstock on Camden High St.
3rd year somesort-of-arts undergrad Hyndham PacketWain really rocks this throwback piece from Peacocks near Camden Lock.
3rd year Computer Science student Squire Yorrick sports this throwback piece from The Treaty of Constantinople in Camden Market.
2nd year medic Eddy Hare nails the retro look with this throwback piece from Beyond Retro on Camden Road.
Trend: Booty backpack
Trend: Cock sporran
Trend: Crotch pocket
Trend: Pelvic suitcase
How to... be Caitlin Moran Or, How to lose friends and alienate trans women. Hi, I’m Caitlin Moran. After the success of my ‘How to …’ books I thought I’d give you some tips on how to emulate me, your hero. “It’s pronounced Caitlin you cunt.”
• • • • •
Stand on a chair and shout “I’m a feminist! But also a really cool self-made music journalist, author and columnist!” Fuck the patriarchy by wearing a dress, but with combat boots. Flowery combat boots. Break the glass ceiling, but make sure to let the shards of glass penetrate deep into the eyes of women who don’t look and think exactly like you. Remember that there’s not much in life that a cup of tea and a bath can’t cure, if the only problem you ever have is cystitis. When people accuse you of being exclusionary remember that you are Queen of the Feminists and that you literally don’t give a shit.
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On This Day in... 1938 Freeze Peach.
The Bloomsbury Student Dieu et mon pinte Est. 1869
Wednesday, December 13th, 1938
Celebrated Author Denied a Place at the Lectern by Union Busybodies No stranger
experience can have happened to Mr George Orwell than his reception at UC last Friday, when he was prevented from speaking at an event held by the Society for the Understanding of Hispanic and Similarly Swarthy Nations. Mr Orwell, whose recent work Homage to Catalonia has been well received, was due to deliver an informative talk on his experiences fighting General Franco’s forces in the Iberian peninsula, but the University College’s students’ union refused to offer him a platform to speak on. Instead, the College’s union ruled unanimously that Mr Orwell should not be allowed to deliver his lecture due to a perceived risk that others may be encouraged to join the struggle. One Union representative told students that “on the whole Franco is probably a very sound chap, just slightly misunderstood. It’s the mediterranean temperament
I suspect.” The Union wrote to Scotland Yard seeking their opinion on the matter, but after receiving no response by evening post it was forced to err on the side of caution and stop the event. Some students believe that increased parliamentary pressure to discourage Communist radicals in universities may have also contributed to the union’s Mr Orwell pictured at a local reasoning. When asked by this knocking shop, yesterday. paper for a comment on the matter, Home Secretary the Rt. but struggled to make herself Hon. Sir Samuel Fyfe shouted heard over a man of her society “up the Blackshirts!” and loudly describing the latest clenched his visibly twitching venereal disease afflicting his member. right arm to his side. Benjamin Towse, a fresh-faced Mr Orwell himself was not first year student of biology available to comment on the with known pinko tendencies, debacle, but was later seen described the situation as walking into Senate House on “absolute codswallop, and a Malet St. muttering about being ruddy fine example of the most watched by his older sibling. In egregious bureaucratic shilly- the place of Mr Orwell’s lecture, shallying to boot.” Miss H.C. a one hour presentation on the Wilde of the UC Conservatives work of UC’s leading eugenicist attempted to speak on the matter Sir Francis Galton was given instead.
UCL Union Cheese Grater Magazine Society President—Jess Murray Editor—Bo Franklin Investigations Editor—P.K. Maguire Humour Editor—Maddy Comber
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© 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: UCL Residences get shirty, Mel B gets high, and UCLU Amethysts get festive.