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Monday, 31 December 2012

A New Year's wish

I hope and pray that 2013 will be filled with happiness, love, and kindness for each of us; that we will find in ourselves a humble spirit of inner strength and the joy of serving or giving to others; and that we will each dedicate ourselves to making the world around us a better place: that we may find individual contentment in the happiness of those in our families, friendship groups, and communities.

Monday, 17 December 2012

Vomiting illness

We are aware of at least five cases of a vomiting illness in Hall in the past 36 hours. If you are or have been unwell this weekend with a fever, diarrhoea, and/or vomiting, please let us know at and so we can gauge how many people are affected and whether outbreak control measures are required.

Meanwhile, please remember to wash your hands thoroughly with soap & water after using the bathroom. If you develop vomiting or diarrhoea, try not to mingle with others until 48 hours after your last bout of illness.

Further information will be posted at as soon as possible.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Christmas speech - delivered 14 December 2012

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 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 Diwali celebration. The Residents’ Club have organised a bingo night 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 that our community is your family here in London.

This Hall can only be what we collectively make it. 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. You should allow yourself a little bit of pride for this alone.

Here at Connaught Hall, 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.

Christmastime is about selflessness - about giving without expecting anything in return. Unconditional love, friendship, and respect are the most wonderful and valuable things we can give. Lets all try to embody those qualities this season and throughout the year ahead.

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.


Photographs from Christmas dinner are online:

Saturday, 24 November 2012

Consultation on maximum sound levels

The regulations on noise in Hall state:

Excessively loud music and other noise are not allowed at any time of day. The Warden or his nominated Deputy (normally the Duty Senior Member) shall be the arbiter of whether noise is excessive, and his/her decision shall be final.

You must make no noise audible from outside your room between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am.
The Warden would like to make the definition of "excessively loud" clearer. We have a sound level meter (decibel meter) in Hall so it may be useful for us to employ this in deciding whether noise is excessinve or not, by comparing the noise to established normal sound levels in everyday environments.

The point of measurement would need to be standardised. Two points are proposed: 15cm away from the door of the room where the noise is being generated, and/or in the centre of a neighbour's room (both horizontal and vertical neighbours). So for example, if you complained about noise, the Duty Senior Member could come to your room and take a sound level reading from inside your room; or if the Senior Member thinks noise is excessive whilst walking around the building on their rounds, they could check the sound level at the door of the room in question.

The chart below is a FIRST DRAFT of proposed maximum permissible sound levels, charted against time of day.

A better quality version, and a pdf download, are available here:

Your views on this proposal will be welcomed. No final decision has been made either to adopt this proposal at all, or on exactly what the maximum sound levels should be. One additional option might be to reduce the maximum permissible sound levels during the daytime, but then have a "power hour" where louder music is allowed even up to 80dB around, say, 18.00:

Please write to the Warden with your comments and ideas:

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Thanksgiving speech - delivered Thursday 22nd November 2012

Welcome to the annual thanksgiving celebration at Connaught. The first thanksgiving celebration was in north America in 1621. It was only officially recognised in 1863, when Abraham Lincoln issued a proclamation making it a national festival. This almost certainly makes Thanksgiving the most modern cultural festival that we celebrate at Connaught Hall.

And it is a festival that has a timeless relevance: for when times are good, it is all too easy to take for granted the very many people, things, and opportunities that have made us happy and safe; but when times are hard, we can find ourselves all too ready to complain about the things we feel we should have but do not. Thanksgiving reminds us that we should simply stop, recognise all the great things we do have, and the wonderful friends and relationships we all have in our lives, and say a heartfelt “thanks” for them. That way, we can be more content both in times of plenty and in times of hardship.

Thanksgiving is a time for family, friends and togetherness. North Americans living in Hall this Thanksgiving might be physically far from their homes and families. But I hope being with your Connaught family this year can go towards making you feel just at home here.

Whilst being thankful for the people and opportunities that have brought us to where we are in our lives today, 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, or strangers, we can do more to make others happier and safer and in so doing, cause other people to be thankful for our kindness.
So let me leave you tonight with an exhortation to spend a few moments reflecting on what we are truly thankful for, and what we can do this week to give others cause for thanks, too.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Fire Practice: MONDAY 19 NOVEMBER

Weather permitting, a fire drill will be held on Monday evening (19th November).

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 outside Passfield Hall on Endsleigh Place.

Follow the green exit signs to find your nearest escape route. 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.

If the total evacuation time is too long, more fire drills will be held over the next few weeks – so don’t let everyone else down!


Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Diwali speech - delivered 13 November 2012

Happy Diwali!

Diwali is the Hindu "festival of lights". The name of the festival comes from the Sanskrit word dipavali, meaning row of lights. Hence our candlelit dinner here tonight.

Different parts of India associate different myths and legends with Diwali, but common to all is a celebration of the victory of good over evil, light over darkness, and knowledge over ignorance. It is seen as a reaffirmation of hope, a renewed commitment to friendship and goodwill, and a celebration of the many joys of life. A festival that celebrates these universal values and ideals is relevant to us all.

The light of the candles represents hope, faith, wisdom, and goodness. We find these qualities in our families, friendships, relationships, and in our community here in Hall. That is the wonderful message Diwali gives us.

So, please, enjoy the food, the music, the dancing, and videos that are all coming up. And let's raise a toast to light, hope, and friendship.

Sunday, 11 November 2012


It was moving to share today's two-minute silence with around 30 Connaught Hall residents in reception, gathered around a screen showing the BBC coverage of the Serive of Remembrance at the Cenotaph. This is the first time I have organised a formal, collective silence for remembrance in Hall so I was pleased to see so many residents join in this national moment of reflection and thanks.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Remembrance Sunday: 11th November

The second Sunday in November is traditionally put aside to remember all those who have given their lives for the peace and freedom we enjoy today. This year, Remembrance Sunday coincides with Armistice Day – 11th November – when we traditionally commemorate the end of the First World War.
On Sunday, Her Majesty The Queen will lead a national service of remembrance at the Cenotaph in Whitehall, starting at 10.30am.
At 11.00am, there will be a national two-minute silence. Of this, the Royal British Legion says:
“Remembrance transcends all boundaries … a rare moment when the nation can stand together and reflect on the price of freedom.”
Here in Hall, the ceremony at the Cenotaph will be streamed live to a screen in the reception lobby from 10.30am. I should like to invite you to join me in reception to stand and mark the two-minute silence at 11.00am on Sunday.

Sunday, 4 November 2012

Sickness absence

EDIT - THURSDAY 8th NOVEMBER - I have now resumed full and normal duties in my role as Warden at Connaught Hall.

I will be away from my normal Warden duties due to sickness for the next few days.

If you need help urgently, please contact the Hall Office (Mon-Fri, 8-6) or the Duty Senior Member (all other times). They are authorised to contact the Warden of another intercollegiate hall for advice if necessary in an emergency.

For routine matters, please email The Senior Members will deal with straightforward issues; I will take up the more complex, but non-urgent, matters when I return to work.

I expect to continue as planned with my scheduled open office sessions:, but will publish an update if there are any changes to this.

Remember, you can find answers to many questions about Hall life on the Hall website -, in the Residents' Handbook - and in the FAQs section of this blog -

This poster details the right people to contact for specific types of problems in Hall:

This poster contains details of reputable external sources of help & advice:

I am sorry for any inconvenience caused by my temporary absence from normal duties.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Congratulations to the new Committee

Many congratualtions to Kat Pierce, elected as President last night, and the other new Officers of the Committee: Chris Madden, Daisy Bartlett, Christopher Wongsosaputro, and Jaiminee Patel. They will decide who will take the roles of Secretary, Treasurer, Entertainment Officer, and Sports Officer at their first meeting.

The Residents' Club pages on the Hall website have now been updated:

Well done also to everyone who stood as a candidate in the election. Each and every one of you spent the time to sign up and write a manifesto, and stood up to speak in front of more than 150 of your peers at last night's hustings. I enormously appreciate your interest and enthusiasm for your Hall and our community, and I truly hope that you will get fully involved in helping us to organise activities and events this year. Not being on the Committee is no bar - is not even a disadvantage - to being a big player in the Hall community. We need people like you!

Some the matters the new Committee will need to consider early this term include:

1. The common room TVs
2. A Hallowe'en party in Hall to complement the boat party?
3. Repairing or replacing the table football
4. New table tennis equipment

They will also be keen to start implementing some of their manifesto commitments, which you can still view here:

I greatly look forward to working with the new Committee and making this year at Connaught Hall even better than any before!

Photographs of last night's election are on our Flickr stream:

A video of highlights from the night will be released on ConnaughtTV soon.

Finally, I should like to express and put on record my sincere thanks to the outgoing members of the Residents' Club Committee for their work over the last 12 months: Neaty Soopaul and Matthew Bovingdon-Downe (President), Chris Madden (Secretary, re-elected this year), Adam Lupták (Treasurer), Tim Phedon (Entertainment Officer), Hafez Salameh (Sports Officer). I am sure those of you who have returned to the Hall this year will continue to contribute generously to Hall life.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Why stand for election to the Residents' Club Committee?

Connaught Hall has a reputation as one of the most sociable halls of residence in London and that reputation is owed in large part to residents who are willing to give their some of their time and enthusiasm to contribute to our Hall community. One of the main ways you can contribute is by being a member of the Residents' Club Committee.

There are benefits to being a member of the Committee:
  • You will meet almost everyone in the Hall and have the opportunity to earn the respect of your peers.
  • A learning experience that will stand you in good stead for committee work in other organisations.
  • A very good point to add to your CV and a talking point at interviews.
  • A boost to your internship and job applications.
  • I can write character references for Committee members. This can mean a lot more than a reference from your college tutor, since they will only see you for an hour a week or so and can only write about your academic side: I can comment on much broader aspects of your personality and suitability for a job.
  • If you do a good job, I will guarantee you a room in Hall next year.
  • If you do a very good job, I will try to get you your choice of room next year.
If you feel you have the necessary time and commitment to devote to a role on the Committee, please make sure you submit your written manifesto no later than midday on Sunday 14 October, using the online nominations system accessible from

Sunday, 7 October 2012

Thank you for an enjoyable freshers'

It's been almost a month since the first arrivals of 2012-3. We've enjoyed three Sunday teas, two welcome dinners, five floor parties, a grand bar opening, speed meeting, and finally last night's freshers' party together.

I have truly enjoyed meeting everyone I have met in the last few weeks. Every event has been exceptionally good humoured and everyone seems to be getting on really well together.

It is my sincere hope that everyone in hall has enjoyed this freshers' month as much as I have and that already the seeds of some lifelong friendships are being sown.

I am looking forward to a great year!

Monday, 1 October 2012

Welcome speech — delivered 1st October 2012

So, this is it: here we are, assembled, thrust together and about to embark on a journey just 35 weeks in duration, but one which I hope we will all hold in our memories as one of the best times of our lives.

For all of us, this 35-week voyage together will be one of discovery: discovery of self and discovery of others. Like many journeys, this is just one leg of a much longer journey. Our final destination is many years from now, but in only 5904 hours' time, we shall be packing up our things ready to disembark from Connaught Hall — so let's make the most of the time we have together.

My job in the next few minutes is to welcome you aboard the vessel in which we are undertaking this journey, introduce you to the crew, and explain how we can all together ensure that this voyage is safe, happy, productive, and fun for everyone on board.

So firstly, on behalf of the University of London and all the Connaught Hall crew, allow me formally to welcome you to the Hall. I hope you are already calling Connaught Hall “home” and I sincerely look forward to the pleasure of meeting every one of you.

Now, some introductions. The physical fixtures and fittings of our ship, as well as the provision of services like catering and maintenance, are managed and looked after by the staff in the hall office. Unfortunately, no one from the office could join us tonight, but there is a member of staff available in the office on the ground floor between 8 AM and 6 PM every week day. They are your main point of contact for any problems with accommodation, food, housekeeping, security, or maintenance issues.

As your Warden, I am responsible for the welfare and well-being of everyone on board: I am interested in who you are and how you are — physically, mentally, socially, academically . I also look after the Hall’s community and social life, discipline, and conflict-resolution. I have been here at Connaught Hall since 1997, and in my day job, I'm a specialist doctor in accident & emergency medicine at University College Hospital. 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. I genuinely enjoy meeting you, so never hesitate to say hello and stop for a chat even if you haven't any particular issues to discuss.

Five student Senior Members help me in looking after the people and the community on board. They are: KJ, on the ground and lower-ground floors; Zack, on the first floor; Marianne, on the second floor; Benny, on the third floor; and Bill, on the fourth floor. Please feel free to approach them about any problems or for a chat any time you see them. One of the Senior Members is on call at nights and weekends, to help with any emergencies while the office is closed.

Enough about us! Lets talk about you!

You are intelligent, thoughtful, talented young adults. You have been accepted to study at one of the premier universities in the UK, if not the world. You have made some difficult but very wise choices that lead you to be here with us all today. I hardly need to tell you that you can expect a right to independence and self-determination as we set out on this voyage – but if we are all to enjoy our journey together equally, we must all recognise that those rights are limited by an absolute duty to respect one another: our beliefs, our lifestyles, our needs, our possessions, and our idiosyncrasies.

Respect for others's needs for quiet time... the walls, floors, and ceilings of our cabins 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.

Respect for the safety of others... 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's 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.

Respect for the differences between us all... More than that, lets celebrate and cherish our diversity and the fact that together we represent almost every colour, language, continent, religion, culture, political belief and sexual orientation. So many differences, and yet we are one hall, one community, starting out on one journey together. It's exciting. Let's all use this voyage to broaden our personal horizons.

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 can help with putting on events. 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 own bar here at Connaught. 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, but use it sensibly.

The bar is run by the Residents’ Club Committee, who also organise many of the big social events in Hall. Nominations for election to this year's committee will open tomorrow and you will have the chance to vote for your representatives on 18 October. I 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.

Finally, consider making an input to our new Multicultural Students' Forum. I established this new forum this year with the dual, complementary, goals of enhancing the experience of international, overseas, and ethnic minority residents, And introducing the whole community to a broader range of cultural events, led by students who would normally celebrate those festivities at home. Speak with me or Bill for more information.

The chief message is this – we must all get involved in whatever way we can. This ship needs your participation to stay afloat. Not everyone can do or wants to do everything, but there is something for everyone here. This is your hall, your community, your journey. Please make the most of it. This section of our voyage will be finished before we know it.

But our community serves another, perhaps more important purpose. Moving to university in a new city is hard. There are days when even the most independent of us will feel all at sea, far from family, perhaps even a little lost. On days like that, I hope you will be able to call on your hall neighbours to be your family here in London, and always remember that the Senior Members and I have navigated these waters before: we can help.

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.

Keep in touch. Read your Residents' Handbook. Like us on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter. Visit the Hall website and check your email regularly. There's always lots going on and I don't want you to miss out on any of it.

I hope you will quickly come to call Connaught Hall your home. And I hope that this journey we share together will be rich with friendship, good times, academic success, new opportunities, and broadened horizons.

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

Friday, 28 September 2012

Stay safe and fit when you drink

This information is coped from the DrinkAware website:

University can be the best years of your life, made up of a whirlwind of parties, fun and some studying thrown in.

Alcohol often ends up being a big part of the experience too. The freedom of being away from home combined with lots of socialising means many students drink heavily.

It can be difficult to balance out a social life with essays, coursework and exams, and students often feel like they're burning the candle at both ends. As with everything at university, there's a balance to be struck. While moderate amounts of alcohol can play a part in the good times, when consumed in excessive amounts it can have a negative effect on work and could lead to unexpected and unwanted consequences.


Student life is frequently portrayed in the media and popular culture as one big party. From the mayhem of freshers' week through to the celebratory graduation ball, alcohol seems to have become synonymous with university; sadly it is now as ingrained in university culture as going to lectures and joining societies. Research shows that over half (52%) of male students and nearly half (43%) of female students drink more than the government's daily unit guidelines (3-4 units a day for men and 2-3 for women).

With cheap deals on alcohol in student unions and deals aimed at students in other bars, cost isn’t much of a barrier to drinking at university. And with those deals extending to weeknights, students can often go out anytime and drink cheaply. However, spending does add up - The National Union of Students estimates that the average student spends £675 a year on socialising.

Of course drinking at university can be fun, especially when handled sensibly, but it's not essential to enjoy the experience of student life. It might help ease those initial nerves of meeting new people, but drinking your body weight in cider is not necessarily an essential initiation into university life.

Caught up in the excitement of a night out, how you might feel the next day is often the furthest thing from your mind, but writing an essay or revising for an exam is difficult enough without the extra pressure of a hangover dulling your concentration and motivation.

Drinking too much could also lead to taking unnecessary risks with your personal safety, like taking an unlicensed taxi or walking home alone. Being drunk can increase your chances of getting into trouble when you're out. The British Crime Survey 2008 revealed that students have the highest risk of being a victim of violent crime compared with other occupations. The soundest piece of advice to help you avoid potentially risky situations is to keep an eye on your mates and try to stick within the government's daily unit guidelines.

Health risks

No-one expects students to be "tea" total.

Indeed, student life wouldn't be student life without a few trips to the Union. But to make the most out of your student experience, isn't it worth at least balancing the benefits and risks?

For example, Drinking above the Government's daily unit guidelines can damage your health in the short and long-term, not to mention the potential impact on your academic performance.

In the short term, drinking too much in one evening can cause all sorts of problems and if you drink really heavily it can lead to alcohol poisoning and even a spell in hospital. In the long term, heavy drinkers are at risk of liver disease, cancer and stroke and mental health problems like depression. University is tough enough without alcohol making you feel down too.

Drink too much at uni, and you might also experience the phenomenon of the "Freshers' 14". Students reckon they put on 14 pounds in weight when they start uni thanks to all the calories in alcohol and fast food.

Did you know there were there are 130 calories in a medium (175ml) glass of wine, and around 200 in a standard pint of beer?

Tips for smarter drinking

Remember, you don't have to drink to have a great night out. Find an activity or join a society that doesn't revolve around drinking. For example, joining a drama society could mean spending your evenings down the local theatre instead of the pub: a great alternative.
If you know you are going to be drinking alcohol make sure you eat something first to line your stomach.

Drink plenty of water and soft drinks throughout the night to keep hydrated and slow down your drinking. Perhaps you could have a soft drink after every alcoholic one?

Don't drink every day. If you've had a heavy session, give your liver a break and take a couple of days off the booze.

Decide on a budget before you go out to avoid being tempted to overspend on cheap drinks. Or only take cash and leave your bank card at home.

Always plan how you'll get home from a night out and never walk home by yourself. Stick with your mates and split the cost of a taxi from a reputable firm.

Watch out for drink spiking. Keep an eye on your drink and never leave it unattended. Be careful if accepting drinks from strangers.

Help protect yourself from drink spiking

This is a re-post from February 2012:

There have been several reports recently of students’ drinks being “spiked” by the addition of hypnotic drugs to the drink that can cause severe drowsiness and amnesia. Incidents have been alleged in local clubs and bars popular with students, venues in west London, and in one case inside one of the intercollegiate halls.

Fortunately, in those cases reported by residents in the intercollegiate halls, no one has been harmed and nothing bad has happened to them whilst they were under the influence of the hypnotic drug; but drink spiking is sometimes a technique used by criminals who may abduct, rob, or assault their victim whilst they are drowsy and leave the victim with no memory of what happened.

Drink spiking is still a rare occurrence. But you can protect yourself and your friends from becoming victims by being aware of the risks and following the advice below.

· Keep your drink in your hand instead of on a surface.
· Consider sticking to bottled drinks and holding your thumb over the opening between sips.
· Keep an eye on your friends' drinks.
· Never leave your drink unattended.
· Never accept a drink from anyone you don't know or trust.
· Never take a drink from a jug or bottle that is left out on the bar.
· Don't share or exchange drinks, or drink leftover drinks.
· When possible, drink from a bottle rather than a glass because it is more difficult to spike a drink in a bottle.
· Stay away from situations that you do not feel comfortable with.
· If you go on a date with someone you don't know, tell a friend or relative where you will be and what time you will be back.
· Don't give away too much information to anyone you have just met, such as your address.
· If you suspect your drink may have been spiked:
o Tell someone you trust – in Hall this should be the Duty Senior Member; outside, it might be the pub landlord, bar manager, or a close friend.
o If you feel unwell, someone you trust should take you to A&E at the nearest hospital and tell the medical staff that you think your drink has been spiked.
o Report it to the police as soon as you can. They will need to take blood and urine samples. Most drugs leave the body within 72 hours of being taken (the date-rape drug GHB leaves the body within 12 hours), so it's important to be tested as soon as possible.

Once again, please be reassured that in the cases reported by intercollegiate halls residents, no one has been harmed. But we do advise you to take the steps above to protect yourself from possible drink spinking.

Please share any information you have about drink spiking in local venues so we can build up an idea of where this is taking place and help protect other students: report any incidents to the police immediately and to me at the next opportunity.

The Senior Members and I are available in Hall as always to discuss any concerns you might have about this or any other issues.

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Proposed amendments to Residents' Club Constitution September / October 2012

It is proposed to reform the voting system for officers of the Residents' Club Committee.

At present, there are five elected Officers: President, Treasurer, Secretary, Sports Officer, and Entertainment Officer. If a resident wants to be on the Committee, s/he must decide which post s/he would like and stand specifically for that role. His/her application must be proposed and seconded by two other residents. On election day, every resident has one vote in each of five separate ballots: one for each Officer. We believe this system may have contributed to declined numbers of nominations and the increasing number of uncontested posts (meaning that somebody wins by default).
The proposed reforms would mean that everyone who wanted to be on the Committee this year would simply stand as an "Officer". There would be no distinction in the election between President, Secretary, etc. Every resident will be allowed to vote for up to three candidates for the position of "Officer".
The top five candidates in this single poll will all be elected as Officers of the Club. The candidate with the greatest number of votes will automatically be President. The remaining four Officers must then decide between themselves who will take on the duties required on the Secretary, Treasurer, Entertainment, Officer, and Sports Officer.
Next year, a more thorough review of the Constitution may lead to the abolition of many of these separate titles all together.
We need your feedback. If you disagree with these proposed amendments, please email no later than 12 midday on Tuesday 2nd October. If objections are received from fewer than 5% of the resident community by that time, the amendments will be adopted.
You can visit the Residents' Club web page here:

Tuesday, 25 September 2012

Please do not cover smoke detectors

It is the first week of the University term and I have already received a report from the Hall Management team that the smoke detector was found covered in a resident's room.
I would normally mention this particular issue in my welcome speech next Monday, to emphasise how important it is, and how seriously we deal with allegations of interfering with fire safety equipment. Given this very early incident, however, I should like to make sure that everyone is aware of the following as of today.
Any interference with fire safety equipment in Connaught Hall - including covering smoke detectors - is in contravention of:
The Residents’ Handbook states:
Tampering with fire safety equipment (including covering smoke detectors) is illegal in the United Kingdom and a very serious disciplinary offence within the University of London. This is clearly set out in the Licence Agreement and the Supplementary Regulations.
Anyone who deliberately causes a false alarm, irresponsibly discharges fire extinguishers, covers smoke detectors, interferes with fire exit signs, or who tampers with fire safety equipment in any way whatsoever, will be dealt with under the student disciplinary procedure and can expect to be removed from Hall without delay. The matter will also be referred to their college.
We have one small fire at Connaught Hall almost every year, and a more damaging fire occurs about every eight-to-ten years. By delaying the detection of a fire and activation of the evacuation signal, covering smoke detectors jeopardises the lives of everyone in the Hall: fire and the smoke it produces can kill very quickly. Our strict rules about this are grounded in genuine concern for everyone's safety and wellbeing.
Please do not cover your smoke detector, nor interfere in any other way with the Hall's fire safety precautions.
No further warnings will be issued on this matter.

Friday, 14 September 2012

How to cope with the stress of student life

This is an excellent booklet from Mind, the mental health charity, about coping with some of the stresses that we all face when becoming a student at university:

Thursday, 13 September 2012

FAQ: Room swaps and hall moves

Can I change to a different room?

If you want to move to a different room, you must contact Housing Services (based on the fourth floor of Student Central on Malet Street). Email and carbon copy your email to

Can I change to a different Hall?

If you are not happy with the Hall you have been allocated, you must contact both the intercollegiate halls accommodation reservations team (email and the accommodation / residences office at your college (e.g. King's, UCL, QMUL, LSE, SOAS, etc).

The staff based at Connaught Hall cannot approve any room change requests or Hall swaps. All requests must go through Housing Services.

No requests for room swaps will be considered until after mid-October. This is because it would be unfair to allow residents who arrive early in the year the opportunity to move rooms while the Hall is relatively empty, whilst denying the chance to residents who move in later, when most rooms are occupied. Normally, whether you wish to move within the same hall or to a different hall, you would need to identify another person who is prepared to swap with you.

If the reason you are unhappy with your current room is a maintenance or cleaning issue, talk to the Hall Manager about it: we can often solve the problem so you don't need to swap. If the problem is an issue with your neighbours, talk to the Warden.

Top tips for freshers

The Senior Members and I have put together our combined experience of some 35 years in higher education to bring you these top tips for freshers. Take a look! They're all tweet-sized or smaller, so really easy to digest. Thanks to Benny for comiling these into one list!

  • Always ask if there is a student discount (Marianne)

  • Get a Student Oyster card for discounted travel (Marianne)

  • Register your Young Person's railcard with your oyster to get discounted day rates (Marianne)

  • London charity shops are great - check out the rich areas (Marianne)

  • Keep a bank/building society at home AND a separate one at uni.  Then you can prove you live at both addresses and order stuff to both. (Benny)

  • Carry cash around with you instead of paying for everything by credit/debit card.  You'll get a better sense of how much you're spending (Benny)

  • If you like reading for pleasure, why not save money buying books by borrowing from uni libraries? (Benny)

  • London's an expensive place. Don't beat yourself up if your wallet/purse takes a dent. It's collateral of living in a great city. (Benny)

  • If you withdraw cash every Monday to last the whole week and only spend that amount all week, you may find it easier to control your spending (Adrian)

Living in Halls

  • Everyone feels homesick, no matter what they say (Marianne)

  • Don't let friends back home rule your life at college. Catch up with them sometimes, but meet new people and get involved in new things in London. (Adrian)

  • Talk to your neighbours in Hall. If you're friends - or at least acquiantaces - then it's much easier to ask them to shut up when their TV is too loud at 3am (Adrian)

  • However strict we might try to be, there will always be some occasional noise at night. Ear plugs are cheap and useful. (Adrian)

  •  The walls and floors are thin; we are all living close together. Try not to disturb others: we often don’t realise how much noise we can make just chatting (Adrian)

  • Investing in a nice pair of headphones will improve the sound on your laptop for music/films, but your neighbours will also thank you for it when you're deep into a late night session. (Benny)

  • Get some indoors "flip-flops" to wear in the shower if you are worried about hygiene (Adrian)

  • Freshers is fun, but you don't actually have to go out and get totally drunk every night to enjoy it. The same applies for social events the rest of the year. (Adrian)

  • Sharing food is a good way to make new friends or to start a conversation with someone you don't know too well (Benny)

  • Make the most of having the advantage of living in such a fantastic central location. (Benny)

  • Bored at Connaught looking for something to do?  Do your linen/laundry/washing up/food shopping.  Kills time + it's productive. (Benny)

  • Talk to second and third year students about getting your work/life balance right. They won't think you're a nerd: they will be flattered that you asked them (Adrian)

  • Register with more libraries that just your univsersity's own one – there are loads you can sign up to (Bill)

  • If there's a piece of uni work you're dreading, try doing it for just 5 minutes.  It doesn't seem so bad once you get down to it. (Benny)

  • Work in the library then return to Hall to relax, eat and have a drink.  Working too much in your room can make it a negative, instead of relaxing, space (Benny)

  • At Connaught, at least 8 people in your immediate hall/college life are actually paid to help you with any problems you may come across at uni. Use them! (Adrian)

  • Wear a condom (Zack) (blunt but, frankly, good advice.  RUBBER UP! Don't be silly, wrap your willy, etc)

  • Check your university email addresses daily in order to avoid such calamities as not realising a lecture has been cancelled at short notice (Benny)

  • Universities have really good counselling services that they put a lot of money into, but not a lot of people know about them (Benny)

  • Caffeine seems like a good idea to stay awake in lectures but when you crash, it's worse than when you started.  Try an apple!

Uni Life
  • Don't bother joining random groups at your SU that you will give up after a weekget involved with ones that interest you enough to maintain your commitment (Adrian/Bill)

  • Start learning a new language or take up a new hobby – 3 years at uni (minimum), a lot of spare time – make the most of it! (Bill)

  • Be yourself. There's never been a better time to stop worrying about what other people think of you. (Zack)

  • Strive to be excellent at what you do. You've chosen the course you're on, you're paying through the nose for it - now go be amazing. (Zack/KJ)

  • Bring lots of passport-sized photos with you.  You'd be surprised how many application forms require them (Benny)

  • Familiarise yourself with another culture.  London is a diverse place.  Broaden your horizons! (Bill)

  • Travel: London has some of the cheapest budget airlines in the world.  Plan ahead with friends for the best deals. (Bill)

  • If you're walking around, and you see someone giving out free samples, tell your friends where to find them too (Benny)


Visit our web page for more support and wellbeing information:

Freshers 2012

August and September are always really busy for me and my team at Connaught Hall. I have four new Senior Members (out of five) on my team for this year, so there's been lots of training and recruitment activity to get everyone ready to start receiving students this week.

This week, we've been learning about conflict resolution skills, diability and mental health awareness, and diversity issues. Next week, the new Senior Members will be trained in first aid and fire marshalling.

I've published a brand new guidance document for the Senior Members this year. I hope this will help the team to perfom better than before and really make an impact on residents' satisfaction with every aspect of life in Hall. The Residents' Handbook, Hall website, Supplementary Regulations, posters, and other documents all have to be updated in time for the new academic year - even more so this year, since there has been a major restructure of the management staff in the halls of residence, making many of last year's posters and leaflets obsolete.

I've been planning the Hall welcome dinner on 1st October: it's a special meal (we pay the catering company extra per person for this night) with wine and beer served alongside a delicious menu specially prepared by our Chef-Manager, Lydia. I have yet to write my welcome speech for the evening. Because some students (mainly from King's and QMUL) arrive almost three weeks before that dinner, we also put on an "early arrivals" welcome dinner on Monday 17th September - we're having a special curry menu for dinner and more wine and beer.

This week, I bought almost £100 of cake for our Sunday afternoon tea parties. We're all looking forward to meeting the first wave of student arrivals this Sunday.

There will be a party hosted by the Senior Member for each floor to help residents on their floor get to know one another. These will be in early October, and each will have it's own special theme. Look out for details posted by the Senior Member for your floor.

The bar needs lots of preparation, too. I'm working with last year's Bar Manager, Tom, and the new Bar Manager, Emily, to make sure we're ready to open this Sunday. The bar will open every night next week except Saturday 22nd September. Then on Sunday 23rd, we'll be open late for the Grand Opening party.

Meanwhile, the Residents' Club Committee are working on plans for a massive freshers' party on Saturday 6th October, open till 1.30am, as well as two whole weeks of social and cultural events to give our new residents a taste of everything that London can offer.

Another issue for the Residents' Club is a proposed change in its Constitution around how the President, Secretary, Treasurer, Entertainment Officer, and Sports Officer are elected in October. More about this later.

To top it all, this week has seen the University of London undergraduate open day events taking place at Senate House, so I've been showing year 13 students around Connaught, College, and International Halls so they can see the range of accommodation options open to them if they choose London to study.

So it's been a busy few weeks... we are all just excited to put all this preparatory work into use now for our new intake of students. We all look forward to meeting you.

Senior Member roles 2012-3

The Senior Members have been allocated the following roles for this academic year:

Team secretary & Senior Member recruitment: Zack Ferguson

Facilities Secretary: Marianne Neary

Multicultural Students' Forum Secretary: Bill Batziakas

Social Secretary: Benny Diamond

Bar Supervisor: KJ Cleasby

Sunday, 19 August 2012

Multicultural Students' Forum

The Warden established a new Multicultural Students' Forum (McSF) at Connaught Hall in September. The reason for establishing the McSF is to increase and expand participation in the Hall community by students from different backgrounds.

The need for a body like the proposed forum was highlighted in the residents' survey this year, to build on good work that had alrady started with our themed cultural nights:
I love the international nights where the food is themed, there are speeches, decorations, and activities. I would love to see an Eid celebration and a Diwali celebration.
Consider cultural events from India, Brazil, Turkey, Russia.
More events from a wide variety of different cultures. Make sure you have all the nations flags in your welcoming party and not ones that fit with British foreign policy only.
St David's Day ought to be recognised - the Hall was incapable of acknowledging this national celebration, though did choose to host a special meal, speeches and bar event to commemorate the Super Bowl. Following from this, it should be said that it is in the interests of the Hall that they should view a day of a patron saint, and therein a nation, to be at least on the same standing as a football match. It is clear that there is no ethnic equality in the representation of events - we have hosted Chinese New Year and a German evening, and it ought to be the case that people of every heritage are viewed equally should such a precedent be put in place.
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.

The McSF will operate as follows:

Membership will be one Senior Member; the Warden; the Secretary and the Entertainment Officer from the Residents’ Club Committee; and any resident students who are interested in the objectives of the forum. Student representatives of any and every colour, reliogion, natioanlity, and culture are welcome.

A Senior Member will provide administration for the forum.

The objectives will be -

1. To encourage participation in Hall community life by international, overseas, and ethnic minority students (IOEMS).

2. To promote and facilitate the experience of British life and customs by IOEMS – based on the idea that if you come to London to study, we should help you make the most of your time here and experience London/UK/British life to the full.

3. To broaden the range of social and cultural events in Hall so that IOEMS can share their home cultures with other residents.

4. To review and improve the way the Hall communicates with international, overseas, and ethnic minority students.

The McSF will work closely with the Residents' Club Committee. Any funding required for the organisation of events will be drawn from the Residents' Club, with agreement from the Residents' Club Committee.

I welcome any comments on this proposal, and ideas for how the McSF can best meet its objectives. Email: or

Senior Member guidance

In response to the residents' survey this year, new guidance will be issued to Senior Members for 2012-3. A selection of comments are reproduced below:

I know the Senior Member on my hall but I have never seen him interact with people on the hall outside of greetings in passing. I'm not really sure what my floor senior member does.
  Some Senior Members need to be reminded of the boundaries that ought to be maintained between students and themselves.
Most of the senior members are approachable and polite, but sadly this is not true for all of them.

Most of the Senior Members are not around much but the ones that are around are really lovely and helpful.

The new guidance for Senior Members is contained in thirteen volumes so cannot all be reproduced here, but the expectations the Warden places on Senior Members include:

The Senior Member role is a voluntary position, but it is a very substantial commitment. After your studies, we expect you to make this Senior Member role your priority: it should be more important to you than any other employment, hobbies, or social activities. We expect you to devote time, thought, and energy to this position.

Above all, Senior Members must be visible, recognisable, and approachable.

You must make face-to-face contact during term 1 with every resident on the floor to which you are assigned.

You must eat in the dining hall at least three nights per week, and always when you are the Duty Senior Member.

You must take action to deal with noise or safety problems in your area of the Hall even when you are not on call.

If you do not have leave of absence, you are required to attend all major Hall social events, meetings, and fire drills as designated by the Warden.
You must deal with all issues and complaints fairly, politely, professionally, sensitively, and in a timely manner.

It is never acceptable to behave in a rude, threatening, intimidating, coercive, abusive, flirtatious, or intimate way with residents.

Confidentiality is a cornerstone of professional behaviour, demonstrating respect for residents and their personal information, and must be observed at all times.

Never spread gossip, nor discuss in public any information to which you are privy because of your Senior Member role: if you are unsure whether you were given information as a Senior Member or as a friend, always assume it is because you are a Senior Member. This very specifically includes – but is not limited to – private information about residents and sensitive operational information, particularly where disclosure may lead to embarrassment, distress, or panic.

Allegations of favouritism are damaging to the reputation of the whole team: it is very important that as a Senior Member you are not seen to deal with your friends more favourably or leniently than other residents.

Never engage in any kind of intimate relationship with a resident, nor behave in any way that might imply physical or sexual attraction to a resident.

Never be alone with a distressed, intoxicated, or unwell resident in any room with the door closed: if you are called to see a resident in their room, take someone with you of the same sex as the resident concerned. If this is impossible, prop the door open while you meet them.
The Senior Members are required to assist the Warden with welfare & pastoral care, discipline & conflict resolution (including noise complaints), re-admissions, out-of-hours emergency cover, and community & social life including the Residents’ Club Committee and Hall bar. The Warden and Senior Members are here to offer support and guidance with problems such as academic difficulties, health or emotional issues, social concerns, and disputes between residents. The Warden and his team endeavour to deal with any problems sensitively and confidentially and will never discriminate against anyone because of their age, race, religion, national origin, gender, disability, or sexual orientation.

Please do talk to a member of the team if you want a bit of extra help and support with anything that is bothering you. No problem is too great or too small. 

Monday, 28 May 2012

British National Anthem

Might come in useful this Diamond Jubilee weekend!
God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen!
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us;
God save the Queen!

O Lord our God arise,Scatter her enemies
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all!

Thy choicest gifts in store
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign;
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice,
God save the Queen!

Not in this land alone,
But be God's mercies known,
From shore to shore!
Lord make the nations see,
That men should brothers be,
And form one family,
The wide world over.

From every latent foe,
From the assassins blow,
God save the Queen!
O'er her thine arm extend,
For Britain's sake defend,
Our mother, prince, and friend,
God save the Queen!

Monday, 14 May 2012

No new cases of D&V this weekend

There have been no new cases of D&V reported in Hall since Thursday evening (more than 48 hours ago). Well done everyone and thank you for helping to contain the virus.

Friday, 11 May 2012

Toilet restrictions lifted

We now have microbiological confirmation that our outbreak of diarrhoea & vomiting was caused by Norovirus. This is extremely unlikely to have originated from the kitchen, but the catering investigation will continue, so if you were affected by this outbreak, please return a "food poisoning allegation" form to the Bursar's Office as soon as you can.

There have been no new cases today.

We have removed the signs designating toilets for affected and unaffected people. All the communal toilets are now back to normal. The hand sanitisers will remain in place until further notice. Please continue to practice rigourous hand hygiene, until we get the all clear from the health agency.

If you or anyone has diarrhoea or vomiting symptoms then please contact the Senior Member on duty over the weekend or email:

If the toilets or bathroom areas become soiled / blocked with sick or diarrhoea then please report this immediately to reception and they will contact maintenance to clean any soiled areas.

Laundry: wash your bed sheets and clothes on the hottest temperature the fabric can take. Use the "whites" or "hot" feature on the washing machine; this should be up to 60 degrees - but make sure your clothes can be safely washed at this temperature first. Contact the Bursar's Office if you have any visibly soiled bed linen.

We all hope everyone who was affected is now feeling much better.

Update on outbreak of diarrhoeal illness

In the last 24 hours, we have received 8 new notifications from residents who are unwell. At least two of those are probably unrelated to the outbreak. This compares with 31 new notifications in the first 48 hours of the outbreak. So it looks as though things are starting to settle down.

Regular handwashing with soap & water, especially after using the toilet, before eating, and after spending time with anyone who has been unwell, is still very important. The alcohol gel is a useful additional measure but does not replace hand washing with soap & water.

It's also really important that if you have been unwell, you must continue to use the "pink" bathrooms for 48 hours after your symptoms resolved, and be absolutely scrupulous about hand hygiene. Where possible, try to avoid social contact for 48 hours.

We are still waiting for microbiological data about the cause of this illness.

I think we are all very grateful to Dr Mark Hunter, the GP from 20 Gower Street, who spent around 3 hours in the Hall on Tuesday seeing unwell residents, and has been back another 3 times since. I will write to Dr Hunter to express our thanks and invite him to the University's big Diamond Jubilee party on 2nd June.

A common question arising now is about mitigating circumstances claims for missed exams, or exams where residents feel their performance will be impaired by having been unwell. The advice I give is as follows:

Ask your tutors what the procedure is at your particular institution for making an extenuating/mitigating circumstances claim. In most cases (and certainly if you actually miss your exam) they will expect a formal medical certificate from a doctor who has examined you. In this case, you should seek an appointment with your London GP (general practitioner / primary care physician / family doctor) as soon as possible.

I can provide a letter along the following lines, but it will be supplementary evidence only - not enough on its own to support a claim:

This person is a resident student at Connaught Hall. There has been an outbreak of diarrhoea and vomiting in the Hall, affecting a very significant proportion of our residents.

The likely causative organism of this outbreak is Norovirus, a very highly infectious virus sometimes called the “winter vomiting bug”. The Health Protection Agency (HPA) and local GPs are involved. Affected residents are being encouraged to isolate themselves for 48 hours after the last episode of diarrhoea, but the HPA recognises that this may not be possible during the exam season.

Please take these considerations into account with regard to any attendance logs, course work, or examinations expected of residents at Connaught Hall this week and next. Due to the timing, inability of those affected to leave the building – both due to isolation and the need to be close to a toilet - and the large numbers affected, they may not all be able to obtain a medical certificate from their doctor as quickly as we should like.
If you are going to see your GP, this text might be useful to show them.
I hope everyone affected is back to full health very soon. Remember there is lots of advice available in this blog and elswhere online for treating D&V and getting better afterwards:

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Getting back to full health after diarrhoea & vomiting

Helping yourself get better after being ill with diarrhoea and vomiting:

Make sure you drink plenty of water in the first two days after your illness – aim for 3 litres / 24 hours. Dehydration can make you feel really weak and tired. Dioralyte is useful – it contains the right balance of salts for your body and can really pick you up quickly from dehydration. You can buy Dioralyte at any pharmacy.

Get some energy inside you: (flat) fizzy drinks like lemonade (not the diet kind) are good for this.
If you’re a regular caffeine drinker, you may be withdrawing from caffeine a bit after a day or more of vomiting and reduced intake. “Pro plus” or flat Coke will help you get over this withdrawal feeling.

Use paracetamol (1g up to four times a day) to help relieve any muscular aches and pains or headache. If you have stomach cramps, Buscopan – available at any pharmacy – is really good.

Infection control precautions

Handwashing is one of the most important ways of controlling the spread of infections, especially those that cause diarrhoea and vomiting, and respiratory disease. Use liquid soap, warm water and paper towels / hand dryer. Cover all cuts and abrasions with waterproof dressings.

Always wash your hands after using the toilet, before eating or handling food, and after contact with anyone who is unwell.
Use the dedicated toilets (pink signs) if you are unwell, and for 48 hours after your symptoms have gone. If you are not unwell, do not use the pink sign toilets: only use the toilets with a green sign.

If you are unwell, and for 48 hours afterwards, try to stay in your room and limit visitors as much as you can. It's not practical to achieve complete isolation, but the more you can stay away from residents who are well, the sooner this outbreak will die out.

Try not to invite guests from outside the Hall to come in while this outbreak is ongoing. If you do have outside guests, warn them about washing their hands.

If you are unwell, and for 48 hours afterwards, do not touch or prepare food for anybody else.

Laundry: wash your bed sheets and clothes on the hottest temperature the fabric can take. Use the "whites" or "hot" feature on the washing machine; this should be up to 60 degrees - but make sure your clothes can be safely washed at this temperature first. Contact the Bursar's Office if you have any visibly soiled bed linen.

Coughing and sneezing easily spread infections.Cover your mouth and nose with a tissue. Wash hands after using or disposing of tissues. Spitting should be discouraged.

Avoid touching your eyes and mouth. The most common route of infection is from your hands and into your body through the eyes or mouth when you touch your face.

Cleaning of the environment should be frequent, thorough and follow national guidance. We have increased our cleaning schedules and are using the recommended strength of bleach solution.

Separate toilets for residents who are unwell

In accordance with Health Protection Agency guidance we are designating a communal toilet per floor for those with vomiting and diarrhoea symptoms. Each toilet will have a pink sign and will be for both male and female residents.

Please could all other residents use the other toilet further along the corridor, and again for both male and female residents. This will have a green sign on the door.

These arrangements will be in place until further notice.

Once again may I stress the crucial importance of strict hand hygiene for EVERYONE. Use the alcohol gel. But remember the best hand hygiene is from thorough washing with soap and water.

Individuals affected can remain infectious for up to 48 hours after their symptoms have gone, so if you have been unwell, keep up your hand washing and try to avoid contact with unaffected people for 2 days after your last episode of diarrhoea.