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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:

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%

"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.

Catering - residents' survey 2011

In the residents' survey 2001, there was more disatisfaction with catering than with any other service or facility in Hall.

The University of London has now commissioned an external consultant to research residents' views about our catering and look at ways of increasing satisfaction with this service. Any major changes are likely to be implemented in the 2012-13 academic year, since they may require changes to the fees structure and catering contracts.

In the shorter term, we will be looking at specific areas where dissatisfaction was highest, and at your individual suggestions on catering, to make small improvements where we can. The Facilities Committee will have an opportunity to discuss this in detail at its next meeting so talk to a member of the committee if there are any particular changes you would like to see implemented.

Further posts on catering will be published here as and when changes are agreed with the catering company.

See a summary of the survey results and a selection of the comments made at

Library - residents' survey 2011

Early responses to the residents' survey showed a great deal of dissatisfaction with the library. In response, we were able to have decorators in to plaster the walls and repair the damaged windows, and re-paint the library.

Over the next few weeks (so in good time for the summer term, when the library tends to be most used), I want to have some shelves and books put into the library, hang some pictures on the walls, and place some bright uplighters to make it a nicer working environment.

See a summary of the survey results and a selection of the comments made at

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Residents' Survey results 2011

The results of the residents’ survey are now available to download at, including:
  • A colour-coded report on the agree/disagree parts of the survey
  • A selection of the free-text comments made
  • A comparison of the responses for Connaught Hall vs all eight intercollegiate halls

There is also a link to a filtered version of my blog, where I will be publishing details of the action we are taking based on the survey responses.

Results of all Hall surveys from the last four years are also available from the same page, so you can compare with previous years’ results.