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Thursday, 22 December 2011

Freshly filtered / brewed hot drinks in reception

Staying in Hall this holiday season?
Try our new speciality Flavia hot drinks machine in reception: fresh brewed tea, coffee, Galaxy hot chocolate, and herbal infusions.
Introductory price 30p for standard teas, coffees, chocolate (50p for cappuccino / latte / caramel swirl hot chocolate, which use 2 sachets). Introductory prices available until 6 January.

The machine is owned & operated by the Residents’ Club.

We have set our prices to just cover the actual cost of the machine and drinks; any small profit that might be made will be put directly back into social, sports, and entertainment events, or improving the common rooms in Hall.

Any losses due to theft or damage will also be borne by the Club and will reduce the money available for events, recreational facilities, and parties. We have installed this machine as a service and benefit for you. Please take care of it.

Please only take milk and cups to use for drinks purchased from the machine.
The drinks sachets are designed only to work with the high-pressure system inside the machine: they cannot be cut open and used to make drinks without the machine.
16 different drinks are available now, with more coming soon!
The selection so far:
"Light & smooth" smooth roast coffee
"Light & smooth" medium roast coffee
"Medium & balanced" Colombia coffee
"Medium & bright" Papua New Guinea coffee
"Dark & intense" Sumatra coffee
Smooth roast decaffeinated coffee
Galaxy hot chocolate
Any of the above can be combined with either a cappuccino/latte swirl or a Mars caramel swirl.
English breakfast tea
Strong English breakfast tea
Earl Grey tea
Lemon herbal infusion
Peppermint herbal infusion
Select green tea
Coming soon: Espresso roast coffee, hazelnut flavoured coffee, "medium & bright" Ethiopia coffee, raspberry herbal infusion, decaffeinated English breakfast tea, and gree tea with jasmine.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Christmas dinner speech

Good evening everybody! Are you enjoying yourselves?
Of course we couldn’t do this without a huge amount of work from the kitchen staff and all the
residents who gave up their time today. Let’s say a big thank you to them.
Well done: we’ve all survived our first term together!
I hope you have found Connaught Hall to be welcoming and friendly, and that you have now
fully settled in and are calling this place “home”. I hope you have found this Hall has a real sense of community. I know many of you have made friendships here already that will endure long beyond your time at University.
We have enjoyed lots of freshers’ events together, a great Hallowe’en party, a really fun and festive night of decorating the Christmas tree last week, and a sophisticated night out at Senate House on Foundation Day. We’ve hosted a Thanksgiving dinner and a German night, and the Residents’ Club have organised lots of sports activities, a pub quiz, pool and table football tournaments, and trips out for fireworks and a carol service.
I hope events like all these help you to meet people you otherwise would never get to know and reinforce your sense that this place is your home and our community is your family here in London.
Of course, it hasn’t all been plain sailing. So I would urge everyone once again to remember that this Hall community can only be what we collectively make it.
Nice sofas, quiet nights, clean toilets, and fridges where you can safely leave your food can only be products of us all working together towards those things. It’s up to all of us to think what kind of environment – both physical and social – we want to live in and make our own positive contributions towards making that happen.
This is a good time of year to reflect, repair, and renew.

We’re at the end of term 1 already. That’s the hardest bit of university out of the way. For let’s not underestimate the massive upheaval of moving home, making new friends, settling into a new way of studying, and finding your way around a new city. But you’ve done it.

It perhaps doesn’t seem impressive until you stop and look back – then you realise how much you’ve been through in the last 2.5 months. It’s definitely an achievement to be proud of.
Almost every civilisation in history has recognised the need to stop at this time of year and celebrate the fact that we are halfway out of the dark. As we approach midwinter and the shortest day of the year, we can be cheered by the knowledge that soon the days will start getting longer
again.
For centuries before Christianity came to the British Isles, we put evergreen plants and trees inside our homes as symbols of life and continual rebirth in the bleakness of midwinter. And of course, Christmas is about the birth of Jesus Christ – who Christians call the light of the world.
Whatever your beliefs, this season is all about hope, light, and life amid the cold and the dark.

None of us is immune from sadness, disappointment, stress, or loneliness. Yet all of these things are temporary – they really are. Just as we know winter will turn into spring, just as we know the days will get longer after the solstice and the darkness must give way to light: so should we be assured that hard times will always give way to new good times.
And here in this Hall community, I believe we can all draw strength, support, and encouragement from those around us – our London family. That’s something else that maybe doesn’t seem impressive until you look back and realise none of us knew each other 3 months ago. Yet now we are all bound up together in so many ways. After 14 years of living in this Hall, I still find that incredibly exciting.
Now, let’s get on with pudding. I’m sorry that our singers who were scheduled to perform in-between courses tonight have been unwell and are not able to perform for us. Let’s hope
they are feeling better soon.

After dinner, please help us to clear things away. Remember to come up to the tree to have your photograph taken and then stick around for carol singing. Afterwards, we can all put on our masks and go to the Christmas ball from 8 o clock. I hope you enjoy all of that.
Some of you are leaving the Hall tomorrow, others are here for another week; some, I know, are staying in London throughout Christmas. If you are travelling during the holidays, I wish you a safe journey and look forward to seeing you back relaxed and refreshed next year.

And I wish all of you a wonderful, joyful Christmas, and a happy, successful new year.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Vandalism of sofas in the basement

Last night four sofas in the bar and common rooms were vandalised: the seats have been ripped up in a way that can only have been deliberate. They are irretrievably damaged and will have to be thrown away. We cannot afford to replace them.

I am extremely disappointed by what has happened.

We will review CCTV footage from the basement to look for leads in finding out who did this. If you have any information that might help us identify the culprit(s), please speak with me any time, Harriet in the Bursar’s Office during normal office hours, or the Duty Senior Member in the evenings – or email wardens.team@connaught-hall.org.uk.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Make sure we have the right email address for you, check your spam settings, and add us to your contacts!

Several residents have not received recent important emails from the Hall.
If you have changed your email address since you applied for accommodation (or if you gave your parents' email address on your application form because you were away during the summer), please write to info@connaught-hall.org.uk with your current email.

Please also check your junk / spam folder for mail from info.halls@london.ac.uk & warden@connaught-hall.org.uk and make sure we are on your safe senders list.

GMAIL, HOTMAIL & YAHOO USERS are almost certainly not receiving some important emails from the Hall. Please add warden@connaught-hall.org.uk & info.halls@london.ac.uk to your contacts today.

If you don't receive email from us, you won't be able to claim rebates on your Hall fees over Christmas, will miss payment deadlines and risk debt collection action, and miss out on social events and other opportunities available to residents.

Away from Hall duties until 8th December

I have been unwell for the past week and am on sick leave (rest prescribed by my doctor) from both my hospital job and my Warden duties until 8th December.

For welfare or disciplinary matters (including noise complaints), please contact the Senior Member for your floor, who is able to contact me or the warden of another hall for help & advice if necessary:
Ground & lower ground – ilk.ghavami@connaught-hall.org.uk;
First floor – zack.ferguson@connaught-hall.org.uk;
Second floor – tom.smith@connaught-hall.org.uk;
Third floor – alyson.mercer@connaught-hall.org.uk;
Fourth floor – john.hodgetts@connaught-hall.org.uk.

For matters relating to the Residents’ Club Committee / entertainment / sports / events (including Christmas dinner), please email committee@connaught-hall.org.uk and the relevant officer of the Committee will help you.

For matters relating to the Facilities Committee, please email facilities.committee@connaught-hall.org.uk and Alyson Mercer will be able to help you.

For building, maintenance, safety, financial, or accommodation problems, please contact the Bursar’s Office at info@connaught-hall.org.uk.

If you have any suggestions or complaints about any Hall services, including catering,
write to suggestions@connaught-hall.org.uk.

If you want to know about Foundation Day, please check your post pigeonhole for a ticket – if you have not yet received a ticket, it is unlikely that the University will be able to allocate you one at this late stage. In October, I emailed all 30 residents who applied for tickets; if you didn’t receive my email, please check your junk/spam folder for this email and others from warden@connaught-hall.org.uk.

For all other matters, I will try to reply as soon as I can when I return to work.
Please accept my apologies if this causes any delays in dealing with issues.

Possible case of mumps in Hall

There has been a possible (unconfirmed) case of mumps in the Hall within the last few days.
Mumps is an infectious disease that most of us are vaccinated against in childhood. Symptoms begin with a headache & fever before swelling of the parotid glands in the cheeks.
Mumps is usually unpleasant but not serious, although rarely there can be complications including swelling of the ovaries or testicles, meningitis, or inflammation of the pancreas, nerves, joints, or heart. It is because of these possible complications that public health measures are taken when a case in confirmed.
Please read the suggestions below to help reduce your chances of catching mumps.
Mumps is spread through saliva and droplets from the nose. It is spread about as easily as the ‘flu. People with mumps remain infectious for about five days after the parotid gland swelling appears.
There is no specific treatment for mumps. Management of cases is mainly directed at preventing spread of the disease by asking patients to isolate themselves for five days and encourage strict hygiene measures. The local public health authorities must, by law, be notified of any cases.
Handwashing with liquid soap, and warm water is very important. We all should pay extra attention to washing our hands after using the toilet, before eating or handling food, and after visiting anyone who is unwell.

Coughing & sneezing easily spread infections so it is important to cover mouth and nose with a tissue, then wash your hands after disposing of the tissue.
Vaccination is important. Please check with your doctor that you have had two doses of mumps or mmr vaccine in your lifetime. If you have, your chances of catching mumps are cut by about 95%.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Thanksgiving speech

I am very sorry that, due to illness, I may not be able to deliver my speech for Thanksgiving tonight. The text of my speech is below.
This is the first time we have held a Thanksgiving event at Connaught Hall. It's one of a series of celebrations from all over the world that we want to mark here at Connaught this year. We have a German culture night next Saturday, lots of Christmas activities, and a Chinese New Year celebration in January, with more to follow later.
We chose Thanksgiving for November for two reasons: First, it's celebrated by Americans and Canadians - and although the dates are different, the concept is similar. So this event will be welcomed by a sizeable number of Hall residents. Thanksgiving is a time for family and friends and togetherness. Most of our North American residents don't have the option of being with their families this Thanksgiving, and that can feel lonely. So I hope our togetherness tonight can help alleviate the homesickness that they might feel at this time of year.
The other reason we wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving is this: if you take away the historical context of native Americans helping settlers in a bleak winter on a new continent, the concept of stopping for a moment to give thanks for the things that really matter to us is universal. We all depend on the support of others. Yet it's so easy for us to take our family, friends, homes, and safety for granted; and so I feel it's important that sometimes we stop and say thank you to the people who support and sustain us in life.
At times like this we should also think about our neighbours who might need more help or support from us. Whether they are fellow residents here in hall, students at college, others in our local community, or even farther afield, can we do more to make others happier and safer?
So, in closing, I hope you will join me in taking up this challenge: to think now about those who have helped us and cared for us, the things that sustain us, and to say thank you for them - where we can, say thank you TO them. And tonight, let’s consider what more we can do to make the lives of others in our community happier so that next Thanksgiving, maybe someone will be saying “thank you” to you.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Consultation on banning subwoofers

Subwoofers are special speakers that specifically output sound in the 20-200 Hz range. These are very low bass sounds.
Sounds in the 20-200 Hz range transmit through walls, floors, and ceilings much more than higher frequencies. The overall volume of music might be reasonably low, but the bass will still cause a vibration in rooms next door, above, and below.
For this reason, subwoofers will be banned at Connaught Hall by a change in the Supplementary Regulations from 1st September 2012. Subwoofers will then be at risk of confiscation if they are found in a room subject to a noise complaint.
I should like to consult current residents on whether this ban should be introduced earlier - from 3rd January 2012.
It may be that raising awareness (through this consultation) that subwoofers can cause problems for your neighbours will be enough for this year.
What do you think? Should we ban subwoofers from January?
Please respond either by a comment on this post or by email to warden@connaught-hall.org.uk.

Noise complaints, November 2011

I have received several complaints in the past few weeks about noise. Most of these complaints relate to loud conversations in the corridor, and sometimes inside bedrooms, rather than music.

For your own benefit and that of your neighbours, please take a few moments to read section on noise (pp 38-9) in the Residents’ Handbook. Being unable to sleep or work when you need to can make you annoyed and stressed, and can seriously impact on a person’s quality of life. I know you do not want to inflict those feelings on your neighbours.

Remember:

Noise travels further than you think, so talk quietly in corridors; don’t run or shout. It only takes one loud shriek down the corridor in the early hours of the morning to wake up all your neighbours. They don’t thank you for it. So please give extra consideration to how loud your
conversations might be between 11pm and 7am.

The walls between rooms are thin; and the floors and ceilings transmit sound very easily. Please make a conscious effort to think about your neighbours if you have visitors in your room at night.

The best place to meet friends at night is the common room, since there are no bedrooms nearby.

Our doors make a bang when they close. Please try to pull your door closed quietly at night so you don’t wake up your neighbours.

If you are being disturbed by noise, follow the advice given in the attachment for reporting the problem: tell someone straight away – so we can deal with the noise immediately – then send an email to make sure I get to hear about it.

I know that none of you is intentionally noisy, so I hope this gentle reminder will be enough to make you think again about your neighbours and make sure they are not disturbed.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Response to complaint about noise & diversity issues

I have received several replies by email and on Facebook to this post about a complaint made in a response to my "two quick questions" survey for November:
http://connaughthall.blogspot.com/2011/11/cultural-diversity-noise-complaint-in.html


The anonymous complainant said:
"I would recommend more strict enforement of after hour silence and
have a corridor monitor on most nights. The balance is too much towards
having mindless fun and this needs to be changed by the weak leadership. Also
residents of black and ethnic minority background needs to be more enfranchised
and protected, maybe you could have a diversity officer on the student
council."


I have considered this complaint in light of my own observations and the replies to my previous post. My response follows.
  • There is no evidence that the overall balance in Hall is too far towards recreation at the expense of rest and/or study.
  • There can be times when noise causes disturbance and disruption, but we have a well established, effective policy for dealing with this, set out at page 38 of the Residents' Handbook (http://handbook.connaught-hall.org.uk).
  • Senior Members have responsibility for monitoring noise levels in their designated areas of the building. Moreover, sll residents are encouraged to discuss noise problems at an early stage with their neighbours, facilitied by the Warden or a Senior Member if they fell unconfortable doing this alone.
  • I believe that the introduction of student "noise monitors" on every corridor would be divisive and insidious, bringing more harm than benefit to the Hall community.
  • In the last three years, no complaints have been made about failures to protect the rights and interests of residents from black or ethnic minority backgrounds. Of course any such complaint would be dealt with as a most serious and urgent matter, and this responsibility would rest with me as the Warden. I am proud of our record on equality and diversity. We are the only intercollegiate hall to display an equality statement on public noticeboards: http://www.connaught-hall.org.uk/documents/Connaught-Hall-discrimination%20poster.pdf.
  • The Constitution of the Residents' Club already requires the Clerk to the Club & Senior Treasurer "to ensure that the Club is operated in such a way that promotes equal opportunities and without discrimination on the basis of age, race, sex, creed, disability, political belief, social class, or sexual orientation". See http://constitution.connaught-hall.org.uk.
  • I am not persuaded by the argument for a whole new post to monitor diversity issues but it may not be unreasonable to require the President or Secretary to take on a proactive diversity promotion role. I will consult with the Residents' Club Committee on this.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Cultural diversity & noise complaint in November "two quick questions" response

An early response to November's "two quick questions" says:
I would recommend more strict enforement of after hour silence and have a corridor monitor on most nights. The balance is too much towards having mindless fun and this needs to be changed by the weak leadership. Also residents of black and ethnic minority background needs to be more enfranchised and protected, maybe you could have a diversity officer on the student council.
There are some very concerning issues here. Unfortunately, the respondent has not left his/her email address, but if there are problems in the Hall with respecting cultural diversity and/or persistent, troublesome noise violations, it is very important these are properly reported so they can be acted upon.
Please email warden@connaught-hall.org.uk in confidence if you can add more details about these complaints.
If you haven't yet answered my two quick questions for November, you can do so here: http://www.connaught-hall.org.uk/pages/surveys.html.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

German night: 3rd December 2011

On 3rd December at Connaught Hall we are hosting a celebration of Germany and German culture. This will be the second in a series of international cultural evenings, which start with American Thanksgiving on 24th November.

We need help! What should we organise?

I have asked the caterers to draw up a German-themed menu. Your suggestions for this will be very welcome. We have some German flags: I envisage having British, German, and EU flags
together on the stage. What other decorations could we have? Is there any particular music we should choose? Any traditional clothes, activities, or games? The bar will stock up on German beers but are there any other drinks we should have?

Post your ideas as a comment on my blog post email me, or tweet your suggestions including #connaughtgermannight in your tweet.

We will also need volunteers to help set up on the day, so if you have some free time on 3rd December, your help with decorating, etc., will be really appreciated.

Thanksgiving: 24 November 2011


This year, for the first time at Connaught Hall, we will celebrate Thanksgiving. Whilst the dates and traditions are slightly different for American and Canadian Thanksgiving, the underlying values are similar so it seems sensible to include both celebrations in ours.

We need help! What should we organise?

I have asked the caterers to have an American-themed (ideally traditional Thanksgiving) menu on Thursday 24th November. We have some patriotic North American decorations and flags – perhaps better suited to Independence Day, but we can use them nonetheless as a sign to other residents that this is an American celebration. I envisage having British, American, and Canadian flags together on the stage.

Is there any particular music we should choose? Any traditional activities, games, or readings? Should there be a speech? The bar will stock up on American beers and whisky but are there any other drinks we should have?
Please post a reply to this blog post with your ideas, tweet them using #connaughtthanksgiving, post your ideas on the Hall Facebook page, or email warden@connaught-hall.org.uk.

Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Newspaper subscriptions

Starting on Monday 17th October, we shall receive the following newspapers to be put out in reception for residents to read in reception (please don't take them away):

  • The Times (Mon-Sat)
  • The Guardian (Mon-Sat)
  • The Independent (Mon-Sat)
  • The Sun (Mon-Sat)
  • City A.M. (Mon-Fri)
  • The Daily Telegraph (Sat only)
  • The Sunday Times (Sun)
  • The Sunday Telegraph (Sun)
  • The Observer (Sun)
  • Independent on Sunday (Sun)

The newspapers are provided by the Residents' Club using the £30/year subscription that all residents pay. Please send any queries or suggestions to committee@connaught-hall.org.uk.


I have also asked if we can receive free deliveries of The Evening Standard, Metro, and Camden New Journal but these are not yet confirmed.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Thank you to the Committee of 2010-1

On Thursday we will elect a new Committee to manage the Connaught Hall Residents' Club.

But before we get stuck into plans for a Hallowe'en party, Christmas events, restoring the newspaper subscriptions, and everything else our new Committee will want to do, I want to stop and say a great big thank you to James "Willy" Wilson, Michelle Ansah, Tom Stewart, Zac Zurybida, and Amin Yazdi who served on the Committee last year.

Zac and Michelle, though they no longer live in Hall, came back this month to help organise the fabulous welcome party on Saturday night. Being no longer resident, they had no obligation to do so but their dedication brought them back - and we must thank them especially for this.

As sports officer last year, Amin invested in equipment that residents can borrow from reception to play tennis, football, badminton, and other sports. Thank you, Amin.

Tom was the Club Treasurer last year and was appointed Bar Manager in June. He inherited a Club with a difficult financial position so his job as Treasurer has not been an easy one; but he successfully reined-in the Club's spending and although the Club still faces financial challenges this year, it should be much easier for the new Treasurer to build up the Club's depleted reserves. Tom took an interest in all aspects of the Residents' Club last year - not just the strict Treasurer's remit of accounts and balances. He has made an excellent start as Bar Manager, as is evident from the highly successful "grand opening" night and welcome party.
James has not been a good President: he has been an outstanding President. Again, he inherited a tough job with unique pressures - both internal and external - on the Club and, indeed, on the entire social fabric of the Hall. He has led by consensus; faced every challenge with vigour and good humour; and truly been a champion of this Hall's values, spirit, and community. Despite being short of money, his Committee organised events and parties throughout the year: every one was a success.
So finally, to James and Tom: thank you!

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Freshers 2011

So, freshers' month is pretty much finished for another year. I hope everyone has enjoyed the events we have organised and already met lots of friends here in Hall - but although it's the end of freshers', it's also just the beginning of the rest of the year.
I certainly have enjoyed meeting everyone. This has been a very good-natured and friendly start, so I am looking forward to a good year. I have had the chance to meet many residents in the relative quiet of our Sunday afternoon teas and Senior Member floor receptions; seen and shared the fun of the bar grand opening and last night's excellent welcome party (thank you, Tom, James, Zac!); and served hundreds of glasses of wine at our two welcome dinners. And I always consider it a great privilege to have the attention of the whole Hall for my speech at the welcome buffet.
Thank you for making this one of the best "welcome" months I can remember. It's going to be a great year in Hall.

You can see all the photos from our 2011 freshers' events here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/connaughthall/tags/welcome2011/

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Welcome speech - delivered 4th October 2011

Good evening.

If we haven’t already met, I’m Adrian Clark, the Warden.

Let’s thank the kitchen staff for all their hard work preparing tonight's special dinner.

And first of all, congratulations on getting into a University of London college and on picking the best hall of residence in the University!


We are going to spend something like the next 5904 hours of our lives living together here. If for some reason, we don’t get on, that is going to seem like one heck of a long time. But if we get it right, it will seem like no time at all before we’re packing up our things ready for the summer vacation. So we have to make the most of the 35 weeks we have together – and make this one of the best years of our lives.

My job in the next few minutes is (1) to welcome you to the Hall and introduce the staff, (2) remind us all about the compromises we have to make living so close to one another, and (3) explain how we can all together ensure that not my Hall, but our Hall, retains its reputation as the best hall of residence in London.

So firstly, on behalf of the University of London and all the staff, allow me formally to welcome you to the Hall. I hope you are already calling Connaught Hall “home”. And I sincerely wish you a very happy and successful year and look forward to the pleasure of meeting every one of you.

The people you really need to know in Hall are Harriet Harold and Hafsi Bakari, our Deputy and Assistant Bursars.... they look after the day-to-day management of everything from food to telephones, cleaning to fixing things, and finance to accommodation problems. They are in the office 8 till 6 every day, Monday to Friday, and you can just knock and walk in any time you need them. Over the last few years, some functions like payment and room allocations have been centralised to the much larger offices at International Hall and Hughes Parry Hall; but Harriet and Hafsi will make sure you know who to contact if they can’t help you directly.

I have introduced myself already. As the Warden, I am responsible for your welfare and well-being in the broadest sense: physical, mental, social, and academic. I also look after the Hall’s community and social life, discipline, and conflict-resolution. Most of my work as Warden takes place in the evenings and at weekends; when I’m not Wardening, I am a specialist doctor in accident & emergency medicine. I live here in the Hall alongside you, and I’m always happy for anyone to approach me – whether it’s about a problem or just for a general chat – whenever I’m in my office or in a common area like here in the dining hall.

Five student Senior Members assist me in looking after things here. They are Tom, Alyson, John, Ilk, and Zack. They are all either postgraduate students or mature students within the university and please, please feel free to approach them about any problems or for a chat any time you see them. One of the Senior Members in on call at nights and weekends, to help with any emergencies while the office is closed.


I’m going to move on now to talk about those compromises I mentioned if we’re all going to get on nicely.

Everyone in this room is, by any definition, an adult. We are a community of adults – and fairly bright adults at that. That means we can all expect a right to self-determination – but that right is limited by an absolute duty to respect one another: our beliefs, our needs, our possessions, and our idiosyncrasies.

It’s traditional in welcome speeches like this for wardens to go through a long list of rules and the terrible consequences that might ensue if anyone breaks them. But we have the Residents’ Handbook for that, and it’s hardly a welcoming “welcome” speech if it’s full of threats and “don’t-you-ever”s. So I will mention only two disciplinary issues.

First: the walls, floors, and ceilings in this building are thin and far from sound proof. Noise is the most common reason for conflict and unhappiness in Hall. Please, please let’s think about our neighbours: keep music and television volume turned down low, especially at night; don’t run screaming down the corridor at 3 o clock in the morning; and if our neighbour asks us to be quieter, let’s respond politely and try our best to help them.

Second, we all have to remember the importance of fire safety. We have an average of 1.3 REAL fires at Connaught Hall every single year. So let’s make sure we know how to get out if there is an emergency; and be prepared to use an escape route different from the main staircase. If the alarm sounds, get out straight away. And don’t let any of us mess around with smoke detectors or fire extinguishers. Covering up smoke detectors or moving and discharging fire extinguishers could endanger every single person living here.


The third and final task I set myself at the beginning of this speech was to explain how we can make this year one to remember.

We all have a contribution to make to our community here in Hall.

Some of us are very sociable and love meeting people; those sorts will be at every party and visible in the Hall throughout the year. We need people like that. Their liveliness keeps the social life of the Hall afloat. But that is not the only way of contributing.

We need observant people who notice when things are broken and report them so they can be repaired.

We need sensitive people who can listen when their neighbour has had a bad day.

We need organised people who read the handbook and posters, to explain the rules and spread news to their less organised friends.

We need enthusiastic people who will share their hobbies and interests with us.

Whoever you are, you are one of these people. We need you.

We are very lucky to have our bar here at Connaught. Out of eight intercollegiate halls, all of which used to have bars of their own, ours in the only one left – the others have all been shut down. I fully support our bar and value the crucial role it plays in the social life of the Hall. You don’t have to be a drinker to enjoy the bar: they sell soft drinks, too! Please make the most of it, use the bar sensibly, and don’t give anyone any excuse for shutting it down.

The bar is run by the Residents’ Club Committee, who also organise most of the big social events in Hall. You will be asked to elect a new committee next Thursday. And I would really encourage you all to consider standing for election to one of the committee posts: it’s an excellent point to have on your CV, adds a lot of weight to your application to come back to Connaught Hall next year, and is a guaranteed way of getting to meet lots of people in Hall. Come and ask me about it.

But even if you don’t want to join the Committee, you can still set up your own social events and clubs. We’ve had wine clubs, jazz bands, film clubs, table tennis tournaments… all sorts of things. It’s up to you. The Residents’ Club can sometimes help you with funding for these sorts of clubs. Talk to me if you need help setting anything like this up.

Also think about joining the Facilities Committee, where you can meet the Hall’s management and contract staff and make suggestions about catering, cleaning, maintenance, and that sort of thing. The Resident’s Handbook tells you how to get involved in the Facilities Committee.

The chief message is this – we must all get involved in whatever way we can. Not everyone can do or wants to do everything, but there is something for everyone here. Please make the most of it. 

To conclude: this is a great place to live and we’re going to have a really good time together. We are a diverse community but we share much in common. We must all strive to make our neighbour’s time here as happy as our own. We are never alone: there is always someone who can help.

I hope you will quickly come to call Connaught Hall your home, make some great friends here, and that you will look back on this year as one of the best of your life.

Please remember to check the Residents’ Handbook; please come up and have a chat with the staff and Senior Members tonight; and please do visit the bar after dinner.

Now, I’d like to propose a toast to every one of us and a very happy, successful year ahead.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

Weekend round-up

1. Televisions / common rooms / sofas

The TV in the Bamforth Room has good reception of BBC ONE via the FreeSat receiver. Put the TV on AV input 2 and use the EPG on the FreeSat box to find one of the BBC ONE channels with a good picture.

The TV in the Bell Room has good reception of ITV1 through the terrestrial aerial. Select P3.

I have asked for a TV engineer to be called out to get all channels working on both TVs again.

During this term the Hall will buy some new sofas for reception and the sofas currently in reception will be moved to the common rooms. We also have some more comfortable chairs coming this week for the Bell Room.


2. Drinking water

The water fountains were removed from reception and the dining hall on Friday. I have asked the kitchen to put out jugs of water at meal times, and will find out about replacing the water fountains this week.


3. The garden / smoking / drinking alcohol

Please remember that smoking is only allowed in the designated smoking area, not in the rest of the garden. Smoking too close to the building or under the shelter outside the bar causes smoke to go into rooms facing the garden, which isn't very nice for non-smokers!

The Supplementary Regulations also say that only alcohol bought from the Hall bar may be consumed in the garden and Bell Room from 19.00 to 23.00. This is a licensing issue; breaking this rule could lead to the licence being revoked for our bar.


4. Newspapers

Traditionally, the Club subscribes to a number of daily newspapers which are placed the reception lobby for residents to read. At present, the Club has insufficient cash funds available to pay these subscriptions for September and early October.

Newspapers will be re-started when the Club receives this term's instalment of £10/resident/term subscriptions from the Bursar's Office.


5. Fire drill

There will be a fire drill on Monday evening.

When you hear the fire alarm:
  • Evacuate the building immediately.
  • Close all doors and windows behind you.
  • Leave by the shortest route.
  • Do not use the lift.
  • Assemble on the pavement opposite the Hall.

Follow the green exit signs to find your nearest escape route (not necessarily via the main stairs/reception). Hall staff will help you.

Remember it is possible that there may be a real fire alarm on the day, so for your own safety never ignore the alarm because you assume it is a drill.

It is a condition of residence that you participate in fire drills. If the total evacuation time is too long, more drills will be held over the next few weeks – so don’t let everyone else down!

Please contact me or the Bursar’s Office if you may need assistance to evacuate the building.


6. Events next week

Tue 04/10 - Welcome buffet 6-7pm in the dining hall

Wed 05/10 - Floor party for fourth floor, hosted by John

Thu 06/10 - Floor party for third floor, hosted by Alyson

Fri 07/10 - Floor party for first floor, hosted by Zack

Sat 08/10 - Welcome party 8pm-2am in the bar

Sun 09/10 - Postgraduate reception (second floor), hosted by Tom

Mon 10/10 - Floor party for ground & lower-ground floors and second-floor undergraduates, hosted by Ilk

Saturday, 1 October 2011

FAQ: Residents' Handbook

Please remember to check our Hall Handbook (http://handbook.connaught-hall.org.uk) if you have any queries about Connaught Hall that are not answered in the FAQs section of my blog (http://connaughthall.blogspot.com/search/label/faq).


Foundation Day

As a Hall Warden, I enjoy leading a contingent of residents to Senate House on Foundation Day. Before we leave Connaught Hall, those of us attending the ceremony get together for a special meal and a drink then walk across to Senate House as a group. The residents who request tickets are always a diverse bunch and the evening is therefore a time when they socialise with a completely different group from usual.

At the presentation ceremony, we learn about the extraordinary and often inspiring lives of the graduands. But it is the reception afterwards that is really special for the students: the excitement is palpable when the Chancellor is approaching our group, yet everyone says afterwards how much Her Royal Highness put them at ease and was so interested in what they had to say. For most student residents, both home and international, this is a once-in-a-lifetime event; many can hardly wait until the official photographs are available to buy online!

Everyone who attends loves the excuse to dress up and look their best; we meet people we might otherwise never talk to; and the presence of the Chancellor makes it an evening the students remember forever.

Residents' Club finances & newspapers

In the last few years, the Residents’ Club has been hit with a number of costly repair bills for the Bar cellar as well as losses on some overseas trips and an increase in the rate of VAT. Last year (2010-1), the elected Committee worked hard to increase the Club's reserves but mid-year had to repair the cellar again, using up all the funds they had managed to save.

Consequently, the Club has very little in the bank at the start of this year (less than £1000).
It is vital that by the end of this year, the Club's reserves are at least £3000. This means most of the subscription income not already accounted for by fixed costs must be saved, and the Bar must return a profit. These will be challenges for this year's elected Residents' Club Committee.

Traditionally, the Club subscribes to a number of daily newspapers which are placed the reception lobby for residents to read. At present, the Club has insufficient cash funds available to pay these subscriptions for September and early October.

Newspapers will be re-started when the Club receives this term's instalment of £10/resident/term subscriptions from the Bursar's Office.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Grand opening of the bar, 25 September

I hope everyone had a great time at last night's grand bar opening here at Connaught Hall. There was a very friendly, warm atmosphere and a extremely good turn-out of residents, which I think augers well for the coming year.
Tom Stewart, our Bar Manager, has worked exceptionally hard over the last few days preparing and cleaning the bar for its opening night. He has had no shortage of willing residents to help him every day. I think everyone will agree they have done an excellent job. Thank you, Tom and all!
If you were there last night, you will have noticed one or two small problems arising with second-year students who don't actually live in the Hall this year, including the breaking of the glass panel in the bar door. I will work with the Residents' Club Committee to deal with those issues before our main welcome party on Saturday 8th October. But for now, I hope everyone has wholly good memories of the night and maybe some lasting friendships already - let's all start as we mean to go on.
The bar is open every night in term 1 and this year will be running drinks promotions to match the best prices you will find in this area. Our bar is an important social hub for the Hall and I urge every resident - drinker or no - to make the most of it.

Afternoon tea 2011

It has been a busy week at Connaught Hall, with over 200 residents arriving since last Saturday.

On the two Sundays, 18th and 25th September, the Senior Members and I hosted afternoon tea - http://www.flickr.com/photos/connaughthall/6184826736/ - with a whole load of delicious cakes and biscuits. I hope these events serve to ease anxieties about moving in, not meeting anyone, and the inevitable "parent separation" at the end of the day (I'm sure this is more for your parents' benefit, though!).
It's also a very enjoyable opportunity for me to get to meet everyone as they move in and help out with any small problems they might have come up against. This year, our afternoon teas were especially busy - we really struggled to keep up the tea & coffee supplies yesterday. I am really pelased that so many people came to take advantage of this. I have met so many very pleasant students this week which makes me look forward to a great year again!
I am sorry about the dinner queue last night. This was much longer than usual, maybe because there was a large influx at the beginning going straight down from afternoon tea. Rest assured it will not be a recurrent problem beyond the early freshers period - but of course this isn't something you want to experience on your first day here. I hope the wine I was able to serve to those who had queued the longest went some way to help.
The final afternoon tea event this year will be on Sunday 2nd October. All current residents are welcome - especially if I haven't met you yet, please come and say hello!

Friday, 26 August 2011

FAQ: Internet restrictions

What are the restrictions on the Internet provided in student rooms?


For the beginning of the 2011-2 academic year, there will be a data cap of 35GB per week (this includes both uploads and downloads). The 35GB limit is for a trial period, having recently increased from 14GB. The limit will have to be reduced if the network is unable to cope with the increased traffic.

Edit August 2014: The data cap is now set at 70GB per week, per room. We hope to remove the limit altogether soon, so you can have unlimited data usage.

Edit August 2015: The data cap has been removed, so you have unlimited data usage.


Network Services also apply a content filter to the Internet provision in Hall. This is so that use of the Internet falls within the JANet terms of use that the University is bound by. In broad terms, pornography and filesharing sites are blocked. Again I must stress this restriction is imposed by Network Services in order to meet their obligations to JANet. As the Warden, I do not decide what content residents should or should not be allowed to access.

Edit July 2012: The pornography filter has been removed. Illegal sites and filesharing sites remain blocked.



Facebook page for students at all the intercollegiate halls of residence

I have set up a Facebook page for residents and staff of all eight intercollegiate halls of residence:

https://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/University-of-London-Intercollegiate-Halls-of-Residence/248015725232212
My hope is that this page will make it much easier for residents in different halls to contact one another and organise inter-hall events, sports competitions, etc. It should be especially useful for elected JCR / Club committee members.

Now available to chat on Skype

My Skype name is connaught.hall.

Residents and future residents are welcome to add me as a contact and if I'm shown as online, I am free to chat or voice call about Hall business.
I am also happy to approve Facebook friend requests from residents and chat via FB chat.
These online chat facilities are like an extension of my open office hours. Feel free to message or call me.

FAQ: Mattress sizes

I want to bring my own bedding to the Hall. What size are the beds?


The beds in most of our single rooms are standard UK single size - 91 × 191 cm (36 × 75 in).
Do remember, though, that we provide you with a bedding pack on arrival. This is yours to keep and includes a pillow, pillow case, duvet, duvet cover, and sheet.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Food theft from pantry fridges

It is a sad fact that every year I receive many complaints about food being stolen from the pantry refrigerators.

There is of course no realistic chance of us finding out who takes others’ belongings from the fridges as they are unsupervised and accessible to anyone 24 hours a day.

But the complaints I receive about this relate so much frustration, disappointment, and distress from those who have had their things stolen that I implore all of you to:
a) label anything you put in the fridge, so you know which items are yours
and there are no accidental mix-ups; and

b) only remove things from the fridge that belong to you: for however
you might try to justify it to yourself, taking someone else’s things is theft
and is extraordinarily selfish.

I know this request only need apply to a handful of residents, as the
very great majority of you already respect each other and each other’s
property.
Sometimes, your fellow residents keep food in the fridge because they are unwell and can only muster an appetite for certain foods, or because they have special dietary requirements. They might have to go hungry if someone else takes their food. And whatever the reason for having food in the refrigerators, it is really upsetting to find it taken by someone else.

I sincerely hope that I shall receive no complaints about food theft this year.

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

FAQ: Worried about fee dates / deadlines / can't pay on time

When do I have to pay? What if I can't pay my fees on time?

Hall fees are due in termly instalments in the first two weeks of October, January, and April.

The online fee payment site (https://epay.london.ac.uk) will allow you to pay in one lump sum or in termly or monthly instalments.

If you anticipate any problems paying on time, please contact the accommodation finance office: either visit them at Student Central on Malet Street, or email ahd.finance@london.ac.uk.

If you tell us about your difficulties before the deadline and agree a payment plan with us, we can nearly always reach an agreement that you will be happy with. It is much more difficult if you leave it until after the deadline or if you ignore reminder notices from us!

If you prefer to pay in person rather than online, you must go to the office at Student Central. The office at Connaught Hall cannot receive payments.

Room rates for 2015-2016 are published here: http://www.halls.london.ac.uk/Fees2015

FAQ: Gym / fitness room

Does Connaught Hall have a gym / fitness room?

No. Unfortunately, our fitness room had to be closed in 2009 because we were unable to insure users of the fitness equipment against injury.

What used to be the fitness room is now our library.

All University of London students can join the "EnergyBase" gym at ULU on Malet Street and the "Bloomsbury Fitness" UCL union gym on Gordon Street, both of which are very nearby. There are also Fitness First, Nuffield Health, and Bannatyne’s gyms within easy walking distance of the Hall and most offer discounted membership rates for students.

FAQ: Car parking

Where can I / my parents park when moving into / out of the Hall?
Most of Tavistock Square and adjoining Gordon Square have a single yellow line (parking prohibited at specified times) and residents' parking bays. During the week, it is therefore very difficult to park near the Hall, and the best option is usually to park in the NCP car park underneath the Royal National Hotel, one block south of Connaught Hall, at a cost of about £20 for 6 hours.
Anyone can park on the single yellow lines or in the residents' parking spaces in Tavistock Square and Gordon Square:
  • after 6.30pm Mon-Fri;
  • after 1.30pm Saturday; and
  • all day Sunday.
So if you are arriving on a Sunday, as most people do, you can park on the street just outside the Hall.
For ease of reference, here is a local area map on Google Maps: http://map.connaught-hall.org.uk.

FAQ: Overnight guests

How long can I have someone stay with me at Connaught Hall? How many guests am I allowed?

You may sign in a maximum of three day guests at any one time.

You may have one overnight guest at any one time. 

You may have someone stay with you overnight for up to 10 nights in total per calendar month. This could be a single stay of 10 nights, or ten separate one-night stays, or anything in-between, up to a maximum of ten nights in the month. 

When your overnight guest arrives, tell the security officer that you want the guest to stay overnight. Provided you have not already had 10 overnight stays that month, security will issue your guest with an overnight guest pass. If you are staying in a twin room, please seek permission from your roommate before inviting an overnight guest.

If you want to host more than three day guests at the same time, more than one overnight guest on the same night, or have more than 10 nights in one calendar month when a guest stays with you, you must make a request to the Warden. You must send your request to the Warden by email at least 48 hours in advance, and ideally 7 days before your guest is due to arrive. Your request should include a reason why the Warden ought to make a special exception for your case.

The Warden will not necessarily agree to all requests for extra guests. Never promise others they can visit you outside the rules above before securing written agreement from the Warden.


FAQ: Shared bathrooms

How many people share a bathroom at Connaught Hall?
We have 230 rooms on 6 floors; each floor has two toliet/shower blocks (one male, one female) with three toilet stalls and three shower cubicles in each block. 19 rooms have ensuite facilities.
On average, then, about 21 people share each block of three toilets & showers.
That's one toilet stall or one shower cubicle per 7 residents.
Everyone gets up at different times due to different lecture schedules, so in practice it is very unusual to see any queues for the showers.
The bathrooms are fully cleaned every day, Monday-Friday, and have a "light clean" on Saturdays, Sundays, and bank holidays.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Defining the Warden's role

The recent University of London consultation on removing all Wardens and Vice-Wardens from the intercollegiate halls of residence (see this thread of posts about the consultation and what happened) prompted me to review the way we describe the Warden's role at Connaught Hall.

It is important that residents understand precisely what the Warden and Senior Members are for and what they do. Correspondence from the Warden's team will now make clear that the Warden's role lies in -

enhancing opportunities for personal, social, academic and cultural development through: welfare and pastoral care; discipline and conflict resolution; community and social life; Residents’ Club and Hall bar; out-of-hours emergencies; and re-admissions.

I would value your feedback on this description: is it too long? does it make sense? does it help clarify the Warden's role? Feel free to comment directly on this blog post or email me.


The Warden's Team: supporting you all the way.

Connaught Hall welcome letter

The welcome letter for residents coming to Connaught Hall in September/October 2011 has now been published online: welcome.connaught-hall.org.uk.

Saturday, 30 July 2011

Themed receptions

I am excited about a new idea for helping residents meet one another at Connaught Hall this year.

Throughout the year, I will organise a number of themed receptions for residents with particular interests. The invitation to each reception will be open to all residents; the receptions will not be exclusive in any way: any resident will be welcome to attend, but the intention is that residents interested in the theme of the reception will come and meet other like-minded residents with similar interests.

For example, there might be receptions for residents interested in sport, charitable work, acting, political activities, LGBT, photography, medical students, national or cultural groups, etc... Where possible, I should like to be able to invite relevant external guests.
I am open to suggestions for themes. Please get in touch if you would like to see a themed reception for a particular interest, activity, or group.

Two quick questions

In 2007, I developed the annual residents' survey at Connaught Hall and it was rolled out for use across all eight intercollegiate halls in 2009.
This year, I want to start a new programme for obtaining residents' feedback not just in February each year but right through their time in Hall. But filling in questionnaires can be time-consuming and response rates are often low when there is no direct reward offered for completion of the survey.
So to make it easier for residents to tell us what they think, I am going to introduce the "two quick questions" programme. All residents will be invited to respond to a simple two-question survey every month or so: one question asking for a numerical agree/disagree rating, and the second question inviting the resident to explain why they gave that particular rating.
Look out for the first "two quick questions" survey in October 2011!

Friday, 22 July 2011

Results of the Consultation on Pastoral Support in the Halls of Residence

The University has recently completed a consultation exercise on proposals to create more than 50 new student bedrooms by changing the arrangements for pastoral support in the Halls.

The Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group has now considered the results of the consultation and we are grateful to those people who took the time to submit their views. The consultation has shown the range of groups interested in the outcome of this decision. The VCEG wishes to examine fully the range of options available and the implications of any changes and has therefore decided:

1. To suspend the consultation and implementation process immediately and confirm the status quo for the coming year 2011/12;

2. To review and re-examine the range of options available to ensure the availability of appropriate pastoral support for students and to increase the availability of student rooms in the intercollegiate halls, taking in to account the suggestions that emerged during the consultation;

3. To receive by the end of December 2011 proposals on the case for restructuring and the range of options, along with a full consultation and communications plan; this will take account of our legal obligations to Wardens and to students, and the UK Code of Practice for University-Managed Student Accommodation.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Wardens in Higher Education Residences

In response to the University of London's proposed cuts in student support in the intercollegiate halls of residence, I have founded Wardens in Higher Education Residences (WHER).

WHER is a new charitable company limited by guarantee, incorporated and registered at Companies House on 16 June 2011. As an incorporated legal entity, WHER has power to own property, manage its own finances, engage in public campaigning and political lobbying, and pursue legal action.

WHER's values may be stated as follows:

We believe in promoting ethical standards of conduct and compliance with the law by providers of student accommodation.

We believe student accommodation must provide robust systems for pastoral support, discipline, and community building.

We believe that university accommodation should provide opportunities for the academic, social, recreational, and cultural development of students.

We believe that student accommodation providers must put in place clear and effective structures to deal with noise, nuisance, vandalism, bullying, and racial, homophobic, and other kinds of abuse.


Please join us and support this important cause today!

Download an application form: http://www.hallwardens.org/WHER-application.pdf

Get in touch at info@hallwardens.org, "like" our Facebook page, or follow us on Twitter @HigherEdWardens.

As well as recruiting a membership base, WHER is currently looking to appoint two new Directors to manage the charity. I'd be happy to discuss this with anyone who might be interested.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Wardens' formal consultation response

The response of the ten University of London wardens and vice-wardens to a proposal to cut student support in the halls of residence has been published online: http://www.hallwardens.org/wardens-response.pdf

Letter to Editor of London Student

Sir

I read with interest your interview with Martin Burchett about the University of London’s proposal to remove wardens and vice-wardens from the intercollegiate halls of residence.

Wardens are life-in staff who work part-time in the halls, being also employed as academic or senior academically-related staff elsewhere within the University. We help to provide students, especially first year undergraduates, with a safe, friendly and supportive home-from-home in halls by maintaining discipline, resolving conflicts, supporting students with difficulties, and organising community and social events.

The University of London Strategic Plan for 2009-14 states that “the University has a proud tradition of providing services to Colleges which add to their students’ experience of University life, both educationally and socially.” Wardens are one of the main ways in which the University maintains this tradition.

Students in halls are often living away from home for the first time. In my experience, they can encounter problems with loneliness, social isolation, bullying, conflicts related to religion or sexuality, depression, eating disorders, drug and alcohol abuse, self-harm and suicidal thoughts, as well as antisocial behaviour, noisy neighbours, theft, and damage to property. Wardens have a wealth of experience in offering front-line advice and support for students wrestling with these problems.
The University’s stated reason for cutting wardens and vice-wardens is to create up to 52 extra student rooms from the conversion of wardens’ flats. The University asserts that the cuts will not cause a reduction in the level of pastoral support or community building because the wardens’ functions will be taken on by volunteer senior students and the halls’ administration staff. They further argue that private halls of residence and some other universities’ halls do not have wardens.

We certainly recognise the need for more student accommodation in London, but degrading the quality of existing accommodation is not the way to do it. The University’s plan is akin to making more seats on an aeroplane by taking out the pilot: it won’t get off the ground. We can identify numerous means by which more accommodation can be created in the halls, without shedding staff or cutting services.

Of course removing all of the currently employed, dedicated, and experienced welfare and community-building staff out of the halls will lead to a reduction in the level of support and social events. There is nothing in the cuts proposal to guarantee otherwise.

It is true that private halls of residence often do not have wardens. But we are, after all, a University: surely it is our responsibility to provide academic and pastoral support for students? Students who are more independent or who require less of a social scene in their residence may well choose to live in private halls; but the University should make provision for those who wish or need to choose a more supported or more social living environment.

It is also true that some other universities do not have wardens in their halls. But if you look at the top ten UK universities, nine of them have wardenial systems similar to ours; and nearly all of the elite Russell Group universities have wardens. These are the institutions that the University of London is competing with. Moreover, residents in the intercollegiate halls can be relatively disadvantaged by the geographical and organisational remoteness of their college welfare services, unions, and health centres – especially those from smaller colleges or colleges outside of central London. I believe a robust pastoral and social support system within the halls, led by wardens, compensates for this.

We have been greatly encouraged by support from doctors, counsellors, chaplains, and other bodies involved in student support, as well as many students, hall residents, neighbourhood groups, and local councillors. Almost 1,000 people have signed an online petition (petition.hallwardens.org) supporting the wardens, and many students and their parents have written to the University (mail@hallwardens.org) to express their opposition to the cuts. A Facebook group (group.hallwardens.org) and Twitter profile (@SaveTheWardens) have been set up by hall residents.

The University’s consultation on this proposal ends on Friday 17 June and the Vice-Chancellor’s Executive Group will make a decision on 29 June. I hope your readers will agree with me that they should reject the proposed cuts and look instead for positive ways of creating more student accommodation in London.

Yours faithfully

Adrian Clark
Warden, Connaught Hall

Sunday, 12 June 2011

END OF YEAR FAREWELL MESSSAGE

Most residents will be moving out of Connaught Hall for the end of the academic year over the next two weeks; some (mostly from King’s) have already gone.

Wherever and whenever you are travelling, I wish you a safe journey. I hope you have the chance to enjoy a well-deserved, relaxing break from your work or studies this summer, and that your accommodation plans for summer and next year are starting to come together.

It genuinely has been a pleasure to have you at Connaught Hall this year. I hope you have enjoyed your time here as much as I have, and that we have succeeded in our wish to be your home-from-home in London. Thank you all for making it such a pleasant year in Hall!

I especially want to thank this year’s Residents’ Club Committee for all their hard work in organising a social programme for the Hall and keeping our bar running as a valuable focus for Hall social life. Thank you also to everyone who made a voluntary contribution to the bar restocking fund to help the bar recover from events at Easter; I was personally very impressed by the mature, responsible reaction of the Hall community to that particular challenge.

Remember you can obtain copies of this year’s residents’ photo at photos.connaught-hall.org.uk (downloads) and prints.connaught-hall.org.uk (prints from Photobox). Keep in touch with us @connaughthall on Twitter and on Facebook; and, of course, at www.connaught-hall.org.uk.

If you haven't already done so, please remember to sign the petition against cuts in student support in the intercollegiate halls (petition.hallwardens.org). Join the campaign on Facebook (group.hallwardens.org), and write directly to the University expressing your opposition to the cuts at mail@hallwardens.org. You can follow the campaign on Twitter @SaveTheWardens.

If you are returning to the Hall next year, all the staff and Senior Members look forward to welcoming you back. Wherever you will be living, I wish you success in your work or studies and every happiness for the future.

Saturday, 14 May 2011

The future of student support in halls of residence

On 9 May 2011, the University of London informed Wardens that it intends to make significant cuts to the student support service in the halls of residence: it proposes to make all Wardens and Vice-Wardens redundant, and for the management of Senior Members to be transferred to the residences administration staff, who have no background, experience, or interest in dealing with social, welfare, community, or disciplinary matters.

I believe the University's proposal is wrong and dangerous. I think it threatens the very healthy and enjoyable community and social life from which intercollegiate halls residents currently benefit, and may be harmful to the welfare of more vulnerable students.

This is at a time when Hall fees are set to rise by well above inflation next year, and English students will soon start paying up to £9,000 for their tuition. If next year's residents can expect not to be supported by a Warden, and not have a thriving Residents' Club and vibrant Hall community, why should they pay even more than they pay this year? And why should next year's freshers not be given the opportunity to apply for a Hall like Connaught Hall - different in so many ways from the accommodation provided by UCL, Kings, LSE, etc.?

Students should expect more choice, more support, and better value for money. Removing the Wardens diminishes all three.

For the sake of future generations of students, I believe we must fight against the University's proposals.


At www.connaught-hall.org.uk/support.pdf you can find a full-colour booklet explaining the University’s proposals and exactly what it will mean for future residents of Connaught Hall.

If you agree with me that Wardens add something distinctive, useful, and desirable to the student experience in the intercollegiate halls, please act now: send an email expressing your support to mail@hallwardens.org. Also, please sign the online petition at http://www.facebook.com/l.php?u=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.gopetition.com%2Fpetitions%2Fpetition-to-oppose-the-re-structuring-of-the-pastoral-s.html&h=d6700.
Parents - especially those of international students - often are relieved to find there is someone in Hall to look after their sons & daughters as they leave home for the first time, so please ask your parents to write in, and to sign the petition, too.
There isn't much time: the University proposes to wipe away formal student support in the halls of residence by the end of this academic year, and the final decision will be made before the end of May. Please help us to persuade them that they are wrong.

I will continue to fight tirelessly for what I believe is the right level of student support in the halls of residence. I will be very grateful if I can count on your support.

Remember to visit www.connaught-hall.org.uk/support.pdf for more detail and a guide to how you can help. Also review my letter to Dame Jenny Abramsky, the Chair of the Board of Trustees of the University of London, at www.connaught-hall.org.uk/abramsky-letter.pdf.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Bar thefts 26/03 to 03/04 - update

I have made some progress in identifying who was involved in taking around £600 worth of drink from the bar two weeks ago. However, there are still many residents who have been named as being involved but who have not yet approached me. I think part of the reason for this may be that they do not realise that the drink they took were effectively stolen. Those who have approached me so far have explained that most people who took drinks may not have known exactly what was going on, and that there was certainly no malice in their actions. For this reason I will delay making a decision on the police and disciplinary proceedings until Tuesday 19 April, allowing you time to read this and think whether you were perhaps unwittingly involved. If you were given, sold, or took any drink at all from the bar in the week between Saturday 26 March and Sunday 3 April, please contact me urgently and tell me what you had and who gave it to you (or how you got it). The bar was not officially open during that week at all, so anyone who was “working” behind the bar should not have been there and any “free drinks” they gave away were stolen from the bar. Sometimes, bottles of spirits were brought out from behind the bar so again, you may not have realised that you were receiving something that had been stolen. Please, please come forward and tell me about what happened. I do need to recover the cost of the drink that was stolen and it will be fairest to everyone if that cost is shared between everyone who took a drink. If absolutely everyone owns up, the cost could be as little as £12 each. The number of people who have come forward so far cannot repay the entire cost with the repayments capped at a maximum £30 each (as per my letter at http://notice.connaught-hall.org.uk/); and if we cannot recover this money, the bar and the Residents’ Club itself will really struggle to stay in business this year.

Bar thefts 26/03 to 03/04

In the period between Saturday 26 March and Sunday 3 April, around £600 worth of spirits, wine, beer, and soft drinks were taken from the bar without being paid for. I understand that a large number of people (perhaps 30 or more) were involved.

The bottom line is that this matter has been reported to the police but I have asked them not to pursue a full investigation until I have had an opportunity to resolve the issue internally; if we can satisfactorily deal with this within the Hall, I will ask the police to drop it completely.

So I am writing to you with an amnesty of sorts, and a proposal that I hope will resolve this matter simply and fairly.

My concerns and expectations are:

1. The bar and Residents’ Club already have a very difficult financial position this year and absolutely cannot afford to shoulder the cost of the missing stock. We must recover these costs in order for the bar to remain financially viable, to continue paying for daily newspaper deliveries, to complete the library refurbishment, and to allow some social activities to be organised in term 3.

2. This incident highlights the potential problems of leaving the bar area open 24 hours for access to the sofas, pool table, and table football; I need to be reassured that I can continue allowing the bar area to be left open when the bar itself is not staffed.

3. I cannot understand what has happened to make so many people think it was okay to effectively break into the bar and take drinks without paying for them, and I am concerned about what this means for the community dynamic in Hall.

4. I need to know this is not going to happen again, and that those involved are prepared to own up to it and take some responsibility for their potentially very damaging actions. I have a good deal of respect for people who can admit to a mistake; but I take a dim view of those who try to cover up or lie about things.

5. If at all possible, I should prefer to avoid any formal disciplinary action and/or criminal proceedings.

If you were involved in any way in the theft of drinks from the bar last week, come forward and tell me about it before 17.00 on Tuesday 19 April.

Send me an email: tell me (a) what happened, (b) when, (c) who was there, (d) what – if anything – made you think this was okay to do, and (e) what we can do to prevent it from happening again. I will arrange a time to meet with you.

If you come forward voluntarily before 19 April, I will give you these guarantees:

1. Your financial liability to the Club will be capped to a maximum of £30. The more people that come forward to share the cost, the less your liability will be, so please also encourage others who were involved to approach me.

2. If disciplinary action is necessary, the maximum penalty I will apply is a written warning (apart from charging for the missing stock as per point 1).

3. If you hold an offer of accommodation at Connaught Hall next year, I will not withdraw your offer on the basis of this incident alone.

On 15 April, I will make a decision about what to tell the police about continuing their investigation, and whether to commence disciplinary proceedings against those I know were involved but have not come forward voluntarily.

A letter similar to this was distributed, by friends of those who were involved, directly to the suspects last week – I had hoped to avoid sending such a negative letter to the whole Hall – but that was met with a very disappointing response. I hope that is because the letter did not reach all the suspects, and that by sending it to everyone, we will see a better response.

If too few people come forward, I will regrettably have to pursue the criminal and/or disciplinary routes to resolve this situation. I will seek to apply the most severe penalties available to me for anyone who was involved but fails to tell me about it before 19 April.

I must also make a decision about the future of the bar in Hall, re-opening the bar area for pool and table football, and any future social events. I hope you can reassure me that the Connaught Hall community can learn from what happened between 26 March and 3 April, and ensure a positive future for our bar.

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Pantry fridges

I am disappointed to report that I have received several complaints recently about food being stolen from the pantry refrigerators.

There is of course no realistic chance of us finding out who takes others’ belongings from the fridges as they are unsupervised and accessible to anyone 24 hours a day. So this cannot, in practice, be a disciplinary issue.

But the complaints I receive about this relate so much frustration, disappointment, and distress from those who have had their things stolen that I want to make a plea, on behalf of everyone who uses those refrigerators, that you should:

a) label anything you put in the fridge, so you know which items are yours and there are no accidental mix-ups; and
b) only remove things from the fridge that belong to you.

Sometimes, your fellow residents keep food in the fridge because they are unwell and can only muster an appetite for certain foods, or because they have special dietary requirements. They might have to go hungry if someone else takes their food and they cannot get out to replace it straight away. And whatever the reason for having food in the refrigerators, it is really upsetting to find it taken by someone else.

So please – and I know this request only need apply to a tiny minority, as most of you respect each other and each other’s property – be considerate of your fellow residents and do not take anything from the pantry fridges if it doesn’t belong to you. For however you might try to justify it to yourself, this is theft and cannot in good conscience be called anything else.

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Senior Members - residents' survey 2011

Most people who responded to the survey knew what the Senior Members and I do, who we are, and thought we are approachable and polite.

See a summary of the results and a selection of comments here: survey.connaught-hall.org.uk.

Two people, however, commented that the Senior Members often sit in an isolated part of the dining hall and this can make students feel less able to approach them.

First, let me assure you that the Senior Members and I are all happy to be approached by residents about anything at all, any time when we are in public areas of the Hall (and we are contactable from reception at other times).

But I can see that the team sitting in a huddle in one corner of the dining hall might be seen as intimidating, so with immediate effect, the Senior Members and I will sit in a more central part of the dining hall.

Please feel free to join us at our table either to talk to us in our capacity as staff or just for a chat. We will always be glad of the company. Except in the first few weeks of term, when most residents have not formed their own friendship groups in Hall, I don't expect the Senior Members to mingle around the dining hall at meal times - I am always conscious that residents might not want us sitting with them if they are dining with their friends. But I stress again that we are always happy for anyone to join us for a meal any time.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

Noise rules - residents' survey 2011

In the survey, a few residents complained that noise rules are inconsistently applied: “we’ve been reprimanded for minor noise at 11pm, whereas more serious noise at 2am has gone without any complaint”.

Senior Members can obviously only deal with noise either if they hear it for themselves or if the noise is reported to them by another resident. The rules are consistent; but enforcement
depends on the noise being reported, which may be much less consistent.

The Duty Senior Member makes a tour of the building between 11pm and midnight, so this might be why noise is noticed and dealt with more often at this time.

There is some heterogeneity of opinion on the noise rules and how well they are applied.

We asked you to say how much you agree with two statements:

"Most of the time, I can study and sleep without being disturbed"
Stongly disagree - 0.9%
Disagree - 13.8%
Neither agree nor disagree - 14.7%
Agree - 44.0%
Strongly agree- 26.6%
And

"Rules about noise, smoking, harassment, etc. are adequately enforced"
Strongly disagree - 1.8%
Disagree - 11.9%
Neither agree nor disagree - 11.0%
Agree - 45.9%
Strongly agree - 29.4%

Here is a selection of comments:



It is too easy for people to get away with consistent noise violations. Punishments are maybe too light.

As our warden has noticed, noise is a problem I find disturbing. I used to go to bed before 11, however I often wake up twice or more during sleep because of the noise, whether its from student gathering at the front door or at the corridor.

At times it is difficult to study due to a few running up and down corridors, and congregating outside rooms. I feel that this would be greatly reduced if, as said before, the common room facilities are improved upon. As it is, it feels as though people should socialise in smaller groups in their rooms, and this brings noise.

People are very loud in the halls after eleven--often as late as three. It happens when drunk people return home. Asking them to be quiet has no effect. Outside is worse. One technically can't tell them to be quiet.

We have very thin walls, but after the Warden's e-mail about noise complaints I think things will get better.

Sometimes I find that my neighbours don't get the fact that after a certain time they should be quiet when they are sitting out in the corridoor. I haven't made any noise complaints because I do get on with them, and it would make it extremely awkward if I did so because they would know it was me. They are always sitting in the corridoor until way past midnight, and are so loud; talking and laughing and banging doors.

A recurrent issue is the noise complaints, but I think everything could be clearer with regard to the handbook. You see, the handbook states that ''You are expected to make no noise audible from outside your room between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am''. But what about the rest of the day? The only thing mentioned is that ''Excessively loud music and other noise are not allowed at any time of day''. But then again how excessive is 'excessive' and what exactly 'other' refer to? Not that I have spent much time thinking about how this could be best verbalised, but I feel that it would be better if it said something like ''You are expected to make no noise audible from outside your room between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am, and during the other times of the day you can make audible from outside your room only the noises that you can't avoid such as the noise from the hairdryer or the electric shaver''.

The rules on my floor seem inconsistent. I have personally been asked to keep the noise down at 11pm when I was laughing with friends in my room (which I responded to) but times when people run up and down the hallway at 2am do not seem to be contacted.

It's be great if people were actually quiet after 11.

I think what the Warden team said in the recent letter about noise is the right thing.

In my halls, the Warden send a very adequate e-mail about the noise complaints, which I think will have a good effect on the residents.

The administration of discipline in the Hall is exactly summed up in the phrase 'adequate, fair, proportionate and reasonable'. The Warden shows a refreshing brilliance with regards to such matters.

I think the administration of discipline is adequate and fair. The recent rules about noise are necessary, and I am satisfied with how discipline is dealt with in Connaught.

Yes, fair, proportionate + reasonable.

Although I understand that noise complaints are serious, I think that the current system is too harsh, particularly as the walls and ceilings are thin and some people get noise complaints just from walking around their rooms. This needs to be taken into consideration.

Noise complaint procedures are quite long winded and excessive, though this has probably cut down the amount of complaints received, which is good.