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Saturday, 29 November 2014

Food theft from pantry fridges

Send us your ideas for tackling this problem to

We are aware that theft of food from pantry fridges is a problem. It is selfish, ignorant, and childish to say the least. And enormously frustrating for those whose food is stolen. A very small minority of residents are responsible for this, I know, but I still find it quite extraordinary and very disappointing that adults at some of the best higher education institutions in the world engage in such petty theft.

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 stolen by someone else. So please only take food or drink from the fridge if you bought it.

This has been a problem every year, at least since I lived at Connaught Hall in the 90s as an undergraduate. I know from speaking with wardens in the other intercollegiate halls, as well as LSE, UCL, Imperial, and Kings halls, that it is just as much a problem elsewhere.

Some halls have combated this problem by having fridges with lockable compartments. But this only works when a kitchen is shared by 5-10 people, not 30-40 people. We cannot have lockable fridges here, as there isn't enough space on each floor for fridges to contain 40 compartments.

CCTV is not the answer. We have tried it before, and it was completely ineffective at both deterring and detecting thieves: the thefts continued, and we didn't catch anyone.

But you might have an amazing idea that will help us stop this very frustrating problem. If you do, write to us at

Noise survey

I have received so many noise complaints recently that it's becoming difficult to track what exactly is a problem, where, and when. Please help by answering a few questions about noise in this survey:

Even if noise is not a problem for you in Hall, please answer that one question to tell us that noise isn't a problem for you. It will take less than a minute if noise isn't a problem for you. Otherwise we'll have very skewed results only from people who find noise a problem.

Remember we have published guidance on how to deal with noise problems, as well as some tips on how to make sure you are not the subject of a noise complaint. Visit this page for more:

Thursday, 13 November 2014

WiFi in Hall - survey feedback

Some comments in last week's survey responses demonstrated that we perhaps have not been very clear about the WiFi provided in Hall. Some residents complained that their friends in Hall have WiFi but they do not.

There is no WiFi in study-bedrooms at Connaught Hall. The only supported internet connection in your room, paid for out of your accommodation fees, is the wired connection.

We do provide WiFi, through which you can access EduRoam if your college subscribes to this service, in most common areas, including:

  • reception lobby;
  • dining hall;
  • Bell room;
  • Bamforth room ;
  • Convocation Trust study room; and
  • Lang room.

Study bedrooms that are located near these areas may be covered with a weak signal, but this is not a supported service. In some other rooms, it is possible to pick up WiFi from the UCL and SOAS buildings that are our neighbours. But any WiFi signal in your study bedroom is, at present, there by luck rather than by design.

The University of London Computer Centre (ULCC) runs our internet and WiFi services. They are currently working on a project to deliver in-room WiFi across the intercollegiate halls of residence. So Connaught Hall will get in-room WiFi for every room, but it may be next year before this can be installed.

Discipline in Hall - survey feedback

82 per cent of respondents to our survey last week were either satisfied (29 per cent) or very satisfied (53 per cent) with the rules and enforcement of discipline at Connaught Hall. Of those who wrote comments, eight people said we have got things about right; seven people said we are too strict; and three people said we should be more strict (mentioning noise and smoking problems).

I have some perspective to add to this. In the first eight weeks of this first term of 2014-15, I have chaired more disciplinary meetings than I did in the whole of the last academic year. I do not yet understand why we are facing so many disciplinary issues this year.

So far this year, I have dealt with 21 disciplinary cases in eight weeks. That is extraordinary. I have never started a year like this before.

Discipline isn't why I do this job. No one enjoys the experience of a disciplinary interview - on either side of the table. And it's time-consuming. I should much rather spend my limited "Warden" time providing welfare support, promoting wellness initiatives, organising events, working with your elected Residents' Club Committee, and improving the social and community aspects of our Hall. 

But sadly, this year, I am spending nearly all my time on disciplinary investigations, letters, meetings, and administration of fines, etc. That detracts from the service I can provide to everyone else.

In general, I dislike financial penalties. In contrast to what happens in many other halls of residence, my practice has always been to arrange a face-to-face meeting with anyone who is alleged to have done anything more than the most minor infringement of the rules. That way, I can help people understand what the rules are and why we have them, give them a chance to explain themselves, and usually avoid imposing a fine. But I cannot keep this practice up this year, with so many relatively serious cases of misconduct. 

So it is with regret that I am implementing a policy of summary penalties for the following offences, with effect from midnight tonight (13 November 2014). If a senior member or staff member personally witnesses one of these offences, the penalty will automatically be applied in writing, without a disciplinary meeting being convened.

1st incident
2nd incident
3rd incident
Covering a smoke detector
£100 fine and final warning
Expulsion from the Hall
Smoking inside the building
£50 fine and written warning
£100 fine and final warning
Expulsion from the Hall
Smoking in other prohibited area
£25 fine and written warning
£50 fine and second written warning
£100 fine and final warning
Access to first-floor balcony
£75 fine and written warning
£150 fine and final written warning
Expulsion from the Hall
Access to other roof or ledge on the Hall exterior
£100 fine and final warning
Expulsion from the Hall
Having an open container of alcohol not bought from the bar inside the bar, Bell room, or garden when the bar is open
£25 fine and written warning
£50 fine and second written warning
£100 fine and final warning

You will note these are all offences that are very clear-cut: either you were seen doing it or you were not. Other complaints, like noise, bullying, and harassment are more subjective and I will continue to meet with people who are alleged to have broken those rules. We have to be fair, so if you receive a fine under this policy and you dispute the material facts of what happened, you will be able to request a meeting with me. If you are still unhappy with the penalty, then you have a right of appeal as set out in the Student Disciplinary Procedure:

My primary hope is that this policy will act as a deterrent so that I do not issue even one fine under this scheme. But at worst, it will reduce the amount of time I spend on disciplinary matters, so I can concentrate on improving other aspects of your experience in Hall.

In addition to this policy of automatic fines, we are upgrading the signage around the building that tell you where smoking is allowed / prohibited, reminds you not to go onto the balconies, and other pointers to help ensure no one breaks the rules out of ignorance of what the rules actually are. 

The best outcome would be that we get to the end of the academic year without any of these fines being issued. You can help me: make sure you know what the rules are, observe them yourself, and if you see your friends doing something they shouldn't, tell them to stop it. I should much prefer that the Hall community police itself and that I never have to invoke the Student Disciplinary Procedure for anyone.

Study spaces in Hall - survey feedback

Several residents expressed dissatisfaction with the quality and amount of study space at Connaught Hall in our survey last week.

All the following areas are available for you to study in. They all have WiFi with EduRoam access. As you will see below, we are investing money in improving these areas for you.

Convocation Trust Study Room 

This is our main study area, located on the lower ground floor, north side (turn left out of the lift), past the laundrette and housekeeping, opposite room LG15.
The study room was completely refurbished only a few years ago, but we have asked the Residents' Club Committee to for their input on how we can make it a more pleasant, inviting space. We are going to hang pictures on the walls and install a few more desks, aiming to complete all this before the start of term 2.
This room is intended for quiet personal study only.

Dining hall

You can use the dining hall as study space every day after breakfast / brunch has finished, until dinner time. This space is suitable space for group study and teamwork projects. During the daytime, it's the brightest room in the building, so it's a nice, refreshing, airy place to study.
If you bring your own bread and butter, jam, etc., you are also welcome to use the toaster in the dining hall; and if you bring your own mug, drinks from the dining hall coffee machine are just 10p.
Please ensure that all your work is removed from the dining hall in time for dinner.

Lang room

The Lang Room (next to the dining hall) is currently being used to store catering equipment. This is because one of the store rooms in the kitchen was refurbished in the summer but unforeseen structural problems meant this refurbishment has taken much longer than expected. 
When the work on the kitchen store room is finished later this month, we are going to redecorate the Lang room to make it lovely and fill it with bean bags and low tables so it will become a relaxed study area, due to re-open, fully refurbished for you, in time for the start of term 2.

Reception lobby

This is a popular area for relaxed study, and you can use our coffee machine for high-quality teas, coffees, cappuccinos, and hot chocolate - starting at 70p. 
We may be able to put a few more tables in the reception area to make it easier to study there and use your laptop - we will look into this.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Residents' Club Committee - survey feedback

In last week's survey, you told us that you want Hall events to be publicised better.

At last night's meeting of the Residents' Club Committee, your elected members discussed this and resolved to:

  • give more notice of events;
  • make announcements at dinner in the days leading up to events; and 
  • invest in a printer so they can put up posters more easily instead of relying on Facebook alone for publicity.

Televisions - survey feedback

TVs that didn't work was a frequent complaint in last week's survey.

So William Stewart, Jemima Lovatt, and I spent yesterday evening figuring out what equipment works with what. We now have three working televisions in communal areas.

1. the bar

Our largest and newest TV is in the bar. You can use the buttons on the right-hand side of the TV to turn it on and switch between all FreeView digital terrestrial (DVB) channels.

The bar also has an AppleTV device, but this can only be used by bar staff when the bar is open - sadly, the one we had for public use earlier this term was stolen.

There is a vacant HDMI port so you can connect your own DVD player or laptop to this TV (only with permission if the bar is open and serving drinks).

The bar area (for the TV, pool, and table football) is open from 10am to 11pm, regardless of the bar serving hours. Please don't drink your own alcohol in the bar when it is open and serving drinks.

2. the Bell room

Turn the TV on by pressing the centre button on the front. You can change the AV input and volume using the buttons on the right-hand side. The remote control is missing. Don't use the TV or DTV modes, because these don't work (DTV would work, but needs the remote control...).

To watch broadcast television, you have to use the separate Goodmans FreeView device. Select AV1 input and use the Goodmans remote control to change between FreeView digital terrestrial (DVB) channels.

There is also a working DVD player inputting to AV2.

The HDMI input is vacant, so you can easily plug games consoles, etc., into there.

Please don't swap equipment or remote controls between the Bamforth and Bell Rooms, so it doesn't all get confused again. Look after the remote control for the Goodmans unit, as without it, you can't change channels. Use the HDMI port to plug in your own devices - not the SCART inputs, as this will mean other people cannot later watch DVDs or TV without changing all the cables again. 

The Bell room is open 24/7, except if an external group has booked it for a conference during office hours. Please don't drink your own alcohol in the Bell room when the bar is open.

3. the Bamforth room 

Control the TV using the buttons down the right-hand side (the remote control is missing). 
Don't use the TV or DTV modes, because these don't work

Put it into AV1 to receive input from the Goodmans FreeSat unit. You can switch between all the FreeSat channels using the Goodmans remote control. The range of channels on this device is different from the Bell room, because the Bamforth room has free-to-view satellite channels.

There is also a working DVD player inputting to AV2. Again, the remote control is missing, so you have to use the buttons on the unit itself.

The HDMI input is vacant, so you can easily plug games consoles, etc., into there.
Please don't swap equipment or remote controls between the Bamforth and Bell Rooms, so it doesn't all get confused again. Look after the remote control for the Goodmans unit, as without it, you can't change channels. Use the HDMI port to plug in your own devices - not the SCART inputs, as this will mean other people cannot later watch DVDs or TV without changing all the cables again. 

The Bamforth room is open 24/7, except if an external group has booked it for a conference during office hours. You can drink your own alcohol in the Bamforth room 24/7.

Bell room DVD player - on SCART input AV2
For all our TVs, you must use the buttons down the right-hand side as all our remote controls have been lost.

Watch FreeView digital terrestrial channels in the Bell room using this box.
It's connected to SCART input AV1.
Look after the remote; it's useless without it!

Bell room setup.
Bamforth room DVD player - on SCART input AV2.
The team that brought TV back to Connaught...
FreeSat unit with remote control in the Bamforth room: free-to-air satellite channels. It's connected to SCART input AV1. Look after that remote!
Bamforth room setup.

Catering staff - survey feedback

A number of survey responses last week complained about the customer service provided by our catering staff. We have heard your comments. The Hall Manager and I will meet with the Regional Business Manager for the catering company next week to find a way forward on this.

Please keep on feeding back to us any incidents of unsatisfactory customer service: Emails to this address go directly to the Warden (me), the Hall Manager, and the catering comments inbox. We aim to reply to suggestions emails within three working days.

If you do not feel able to send an email with your name, you can send an anonymous text to my mobile - 07907753894. Please note, this phone is not attended 24/7 so do not use that number for emergencies. The response time is similar to emails (three working days). In an emergency, always contact the member of staff on duty via reception.

Radiators & heating - survey feedback

Many responses to our survey last week mentioned that the Hall has been too hot since we turned the heating on in October.

We are mindful that before we turned the heating on, many residents were complaining that it was much too cold in the building. So we have to try and find a happy medium.

In response to your feedback in the survey, we have modified the times when the heating is turned on as follows:

Changed FROM
Changed TO:
06:00 to 10:00
06:30 to 09:00
15:30 to 23:00
16:30 to 23:00

If it's still too hot for you, remember you should be able to turn the radiator in your room off (turn the knob clockwise) and on (anticlockwise) to control the heat in your room. If your heat control does not work, log a request in the maintenance book at reception so we can take a look at it for you.

We had new boilers installed at Connaught Hall over the summer, so we think the greater efficiency of our boilers and higher pressure in the heating system is what is making the Hall so hot, despite the heating being on for less time than ever before.

We do rely on your feedback to get this right, so please email if there is a problem with the heating generally in the Hall.

Monday, 10 November 2014

Smoking - survey feedback

The single most frequent complaint mentioned in your survey responses last week was about noise and cigarette smoke from people smoking on the steps outside the main entrance, and close to the windows in the courtyard garden.

So please take note of new signage in these areas:

Security and Senior Members will move you on if you are smoking in these areas.

Quick survey results

Thank you to everyone who answered our quick survey last week. 76 residents responded - so that's a response rate of 33%.

The results of the satisfaction scales are below.

We will carefully be going through all your written comments over the next week or so. Those of you who requested that we write back to you about your comments should expect to hear from us within 14 days - and probably much sooner.

We will update everyone with the action that we take based on your feedback in this survey.

Remember, you can always write to us with your ideas, suggestions, compliments, and complaints at

Or if you want to write to us anonymously, you can text the Warden at 07 907 753 894. Please note this phone is not monitored 24/7, so do not use this number for emergencies. The response time is similar to our target email response time (72 hours). If you need to contact someone in an emergency, call reception and ask for the person on duty.