This year, Felix has covered a plethora of stories from all corners of the campus, covering stories relevant to staff and students alike. We recap the stories we’ve brought to you this year, and what to watch out for next year.
BUAV hit our front pages twice this year; firstly, the animal rights organisation made headlines back in October when the Home Office investigation, triggered by their undercover investigation into animal testing at the college, was completed. The investigation found at the time that many of the BUAV allegations were unsubstantiated, and only five cases of non-compliance were found.
Despite this, BUAV claimed in May that the government had misrepresented the group by reporting 180 instead of 18 complaints made. BUAV were successful in their application for a judicial review against the Home Office, and their plight is ongoing. Judicial reviews can take several months, and BUAV will be hoping it will result in tougher sanctions against Imperial. We’ll probably hear the result at some point next year.
We also investigated the cuts to the amenities funds in halls this year, something that caused contention for hall seniors and wardens after they tried to provide a freshers week experience on a shoestring. The funding, that comes from the total rent that students pay at the beginning of each term, was cut from as high as £3.50 down to £1.50 per person per week, meaning many activities had to be cut as a result of the slashed budget.
Although Felix was told that the cuts were to ensure the savings would “Go back into the pockets of students,” and despite asking repeatedly for figures to show this is the case, we were unable to verify that these cuts meant students were paying less for rent.
Many speculated that the money was going back into the pockets of campus services.
We covered the antics of the rugby teams too in Autumn term. The first XV of ICURFC were suspended back in October after stripping on a tube back from West London, causing the tube to come to a halt and commuters asked to disembark from the tube as a result. The team was temporarily suspended as the British Transport Police investigated the matter, and a week later were joined in club purgatory by the Medic rugby team after a window was broken on a coach they were using during a tour trip to Bristol.
The ICURFC was suspended for a total of two weeks, the same period the Medicals were also suspended for. Students directly involved were also made to perform some sort of “Union service.”
The Captain of the ICURFC was also threatened with a vote of no-confidence, with Imperial College Union stating that he had lied to them during their investigation. However, after a petition collected over 500 signatures in support of the player, he lived to play another day as Union Council voted against the motion.
Some of the many sportsmen and women who attended Council for the debate expressed a feeling that the Union was working against clubs rather than with them.
The Medicals rugby team was not as fortunate; with their suspension meaning they would have to forfeit several key games, they would lose money from BUCS fines and also, with a ban on socialising, they could no longer host the popular Christmas Bop, based at the Reynolds bar. They appealed against the sanctions, but the Trustee Board, the highest board within the Union, rejected the appeal.
“Publish and Perish” was Felix’s front page in December, as a scandal erupted over the suicide of the late professor Stefan Grimm.
An email was sent posthumously under Grimm’s name alleging that the College was being run as a “business”, with the deceased academic apparently being told to obtain an increased amount of grant funding or resign.
Science blogger David Colquhoun condemned the College’s attitude, arguing for a public inquiry into Grimm’s death.
The College strongly denied that Professor Grimm was under formal review and launched a formal review in the circumstances surrounding Grimm’s death. The coroner’s report found that Grimm’s suicide was likely attributable to the pressure arising from grant applications, while College themselves said they don’t know if changes to College policies suggested in the internal review would have prevented his death.
Also in February, a paper was brought to Union Council, the effect being College allowing Council members to determine hall rents for the following year. In this paper, students learnt the intention to close both Weeks and Pembridge halls.
College’s argument for the closure of the halls was due to their alleged high cost of refurbishment. Debra Humphries, the Vice-Provost (Education) also argued that the College could make better use of the space in both “academic” and “non-academic” uses.
Whilst Council resolved to campaign against closure of Pembridge, they initially voted to not campaign against the closure of Weeks. When College later announced their intention to close the hall for the following year, residents of Weeks launched a campaign protesting against the College’s decision.
This later, through an emergency meeting of Council, lead to the original decision to not oppose the closure being overturned. A campaign was also initiated to lobby College to be more transparent in decision making known as #ICAProblem, although how this campaign has progressed is unknown.
Nonetheless, College have continued with their plan to close Weeks, and it will not be available for students starting next year. A party will be held today to commemorate the hall.
March’s Varsity brought accusations of misogyny upon Sport Imperial, when members of the female rugby team reported abuse from a member of staff, who was heard over a radio saying, “I don’t care how those fat girls get home”.
As well as this, there was insufficient transport to for all members of the female rugby team, who hadn’t played at The Stoop before. In May, an investigation conducted by the college with assistance from the union concluded that the team had been “made a mockery of”. A letter of apology to the team from president Alice Gast referred to the situation as “unacceptable” the report concluded that changes were needed in relation to the conduct of staff and organisation of future sports events.
Recommendations included commissioning research into the issue of sexism in sport, informed by workshops involving Imperial students and changing the format of Varsity to give fixtures equal prominence. There was a question mark over the nature of Varsity itself, with one point questioning whether it should matches should continue as “purely internal competitions”.
Although the report was announced in response to complaints of staff sexism from the female rugby team, several points concentrated on the culture of alcohol consumption at the event. It was firmly stated that the sale of spirits onsite will be prohibited in the future with prevention of bringing alcohol in being strictly enforced.
“Alcohol abuse” in general was mentioned as an issue for focus for other departments. Are we looking at an alcohol free future for Varsity? It’s unlikely; our sources say spirits weren’t available at the stoop this year anyway, and the search process at the door is pretty comprehensive. We’ll likely see a change in the timetable of Varsity matches, and organisation of transport, but the unequal treatment of teams due to sex, as the rugby players claimed, may be a harder issue to detect.
A week before the Imperial Festival took over campus, a student was sentenced to 18 months in prison for the possession of 30,000 child porn images. Nur Nordin, a third year Mathematician, was found with a life-size mannequin of a young boy when police, who’d been notified about suspicious activity coming from his account, raided his address in Queensborough Terrace.
Many of the images were Category A, with the Metropolitan Police saying they were some of the most extreme their specialist officers had ever seen. Pleading guilty to all 17 counts, including making indecent images of children within intent to distribute.
The Malay student, who was on a scholarship paid for by the Malaysian government, has had his studentship at Imperial revoked, but a member of the council that provided the scholarship has commented that Nordin’s funding may be restored, and he could be allowed to attend a university in his home country. It’s likely that he will face deportation upon release, and if he doesn’t serve the full term, we may hear of his education continuing abroad within the next year.
This year we saw several Felix headlines concerning the mental wellbeing of students, and their welfare in general. In January, we also ran the results of a survey of final year medical school students, which found that 50% of respondents said that their financial concerns affect their mental health. The survey results sparked debate over the cuts to funding medical students in their final year face once their Imperial bursary is removed for their fifth and sixth year of study.
In May, we also published the findings of the student-led campaign Mentality, which found that 3 out of 4 students suffer from extreme levels of stress or have had a mental health condition. Students were twice as likely to be stressed who attend Imperial compared to other universities in the UK.
Exam organisation and copy editing exam scripts within certain departments has also not fared well this year. The business school saw a blackboard crash resulting in an online test having to be suspended shortly before Christmas, and then later had to investigate the make-up test after rumours of plagiarism. There was also case of a handful of undergraduate students sitting exam papers meant for MSc students in Aeronautics.
In February, we ran a piece about a series of assessment mistakes in Physics Assessed Problem sheets and in a revision test, and students being told to take “It on the chin…it is a drop in the ocean,” by a senior lecturer within the department.
Following that, second year students were set an impossible exam question only a couple of weeks ago, and as far as Felix is aware, nothing will be rectified for certain until exam scripts are assessed.
All in all, the year has been far from dull, with plenty of stories to keep us in business for another year. With some of these still developing, we will be following them through the Summer and into the next academic year, so make sure to pick up a copy.