Search This Blog

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Christmas dinner speech by the Warden, Friday 11 December 2015

Ladies and gentlemen, good evening! I hope you have enjoyed our Christmas dinner so far.

It couldn't happen without a lot of hard work from our catering team, so let's say thank you to them... And let's show our appreciation for Dorothy, our pianist; Laura, our photographer; and everyone who helped set up the dining hall and the bar today...And a final big thank you to the Residents' Club Committee: Isaiah, Kiyomi, Janós, Rory, Sonny, and Benjy who have put in weeks of organising for tonight.

But the real stars of this term have been you, ladies and gentlemen. Every one of you. In just a few months, your lives have completely changed from how they were at the beginning of 2015. So you can justifiably be proud that you're here tonight, in the company of your new friends, in a warm, supportive community that you have built together. 

So far, I've enjoyed this year more than any I can remember. So please accept my personal thanks for the part you have played in shaping this year in hall. 

Now, it's time for me close. Coming up, we have some after-dinner entertainment headed up by Rory. Then I hope you will join in singing some Christmas songs with us. The words are on your table. 

If you're travelling for the holidays, I wish you safe journeys.

And wherever you will be, I wish you a very happy and peaceful Christmas and a healthy, prosperous new year. 

So now please raise your glass for a toast... To a merry Christmas!

Friday, 4 December 2015

Noise complaints on the increase

We've been dealing with an increased number of noise complaints recently. So this would be a good time for everyone to review our rules & expectations about noise, and our top tips for preventing noise from souring the relationship between you and your neighbours:


Expectations & rules about noise
• We should all be able to study or rest without unreasonable disturbance from others at any time.
Residents — or their guests — who are unable to adhere to these guidelines will face disciplinary
action and possible removal from the Hall.
• You must make no noise audible from outside your room between 11.00 pm and 7.00 am.
• 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.
• If your neighbour asks you to be quieter, you must respond politely and cooperatively. 


Five top tips for reducing accidental noise
1. Talk to one another
• Respect others’ needs for quiet time: they may want to sleep or study at different times from you. Being unable to sleep or work when you need to can make you annoyed and stressed, and can seriously impact on your quality of life.
• So agree on quiet times with your neighbours, and other times when it might be ok to make a bit more noise. You can only do this by asking them: “Am I too noisy sometimes? How can I make it better for you?”
• Be polite and try to help if your neighbour knocks on your door and asks you to quieten down; next time it might be you asking for quiet!
2. Think carefully about how sound travels
• Most of us have at least eight immediate neighbours: one either side, three above, and three below. But when you’re thinking about noise, you should consider everyone on your section of corridor to be a neighbour, too.
• Our walls, floors, and ceilings are quite thin and transmit sound readily. You don’t have to be having a huge party to be making too much noise.
• It’s easy to cause noise for your neighbours without realising it, especially for anyone who lives underneath you: something dropping on the floor can make a really loud bang downstairs!
• Please, whenever you are up after 11pm, think very carefully if what you are doing might be keeping your neighbour awake, especially if you have visitors in your room.
3. Take your friends to a common room at night
• If you have more than one visitor after 11pm, it’s best to go to one of the common rooms, so as to avoid disturbing anyone.
4. Be extra quiet when you’re in the corridors after 11pm
• Noise travels further than you think, so talk quietly in corridors; and don’t run or shout in hallways or stairwells. One loud shriek or giggle could wake up everyone on the corridor.
• Pull doors closed quietly and push the handle down so the lock doesn’t click, especially at night. Slamming doors (especially when you have several friends in your room, maybe going to and from the bathroom) are one of the commonest noise complaints.
5. Be quiet when you’re outside the building, too
• In the garden, keep noise down at all times: even a little noise here echoes around the courtyard and can disturb people in rear-facing bedrooms.
• Outside the front of the building, don’t shout late at night: you can wake up almost half the Hall whose bedrooms face onto the square.


If you're suffering because of noise, we have a whole page of guidance that will help us to help you deal with the problem efficiently and effectively: noise.connaught-hall.org.uk

We can make the most effective types of intervention only if you call reception while the noise is still happening.

Stay happy and healthy this winter

This winter, we're running a social media campaign about #WinterWellbeing. The campaign includes stuff about physical and mental health, as well as practical tips for surviving the cold and dark winter months.


We'd love to hear your best tips for staying happy and healthy in the winter. Share them with us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or Tumblr using #WinterWellbeing and tagging us @connaughthall. We'll repost / retweet our favourite tip from the Hall's official social media accounts.


Here' our collection so far on Tumblr: http://connaughthall.tumblr.com/tagged/WinterWellbeing

Thursday, 3 December 2015

November survey - Quick fixes

These are some quick answers to points raised in our November 2015 mini feedback survey. Other, more complex, matters, will get their own posts as we work through your feedback in the next few weeks.


HOW TO REPORT FACILITIES PROBLEMS



"One thing which is difficult is communicating an immediate issue with the facilities. For example the women's bathrooms on the 3rd floor: [...] . These are small issues but the problem is I don't know if anyone has already reported it and they are soon to be fixed. Also I am not positive who to go to about these small issues."


Thank you for letting us know about these problems. There are two simple ways you can report this kind of thing: (1) write it in the blue maintenance folder which is always left open on the desk at main reception; or (2) send an email to suggestions@connaught-hall.org.uk. Our housekeeping and maintenance teams can often fix this kind of thing within one or two working days.


NEWSLETTERS ARE HARD TO READ


"The necessary information is supplied although the email newsletters are usually quite overwhelming and not that easy to read - it would be possible to miss information this way. [...] Emails could be clearer if they were shorter (less to scroll down) or had a highlights section at the top."

Sorry about this! To send mass emails, we use custom-built software called Kinetics (it also contains all your payment details, contract, emergency numbers, and so on). But it's rubbish for emails: only plain text, no html, and it mixes some characters up.

We will send future newsletters either as a pdf attachment, or as a link to an html post on this blog.


LONDON LIVING WAGE


"With a job for my university, I am paid the London Living Wage and wonder if the staff at Connaught Hall are paid the same."

Yes, all University of London staff and contract staff (e.g. security, catering, housekeeping) are paid at least the London Living Wage.


CULTURAL EVENTS, NOT JUST DRINKING PARTIES


"I feel lucky to have the opportunity on carving a pumpkin on Halloween. There should be more meaningful events like this besides just drinking parties."

It's great that you enjoyed pumpkin carving! Since that event, we've hosted a Diwali celebration, a German night, and American Thanksgiving (with the chance to make hand turkeys!). Coming up, we've got Christmas decorating, Christmas dinner, Lunar New Year, Burns' night, and Valentine's day - all cultural celebrations where the focus doesn't have to be on drinking. We hope you enjoy them!


PEST CONTROL


"apparently many of my friends report having seen a few mouses on the lower basement, in the cafeteria or in the bar... "

Our pest control team are currently dealing with this situation. They have excluded the possibility that rodents are living inside the Hall - it seems they are coming in when doors are propped open on the lower ground floor.

Please, please report any rodent sightings to suggestions@connaught-hall.org.uk so we can pass this information to our pest control team.


OVERNIGHT GUEST RESTRICTIONS


"increase the number of guests a month"

Although the basic allowance is 10 overnight guest stays per calendar month, I will almost always grant exceptions to this rule. You only have to ask me. See the green text at the bottom of this poster: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8aHo3-r-MQLdG9qWXE5aGg0dDQ/view


OPEN THE DINING HALL DURING THE DAY


"It would be great if dining halls are opened in the mid-day. So that when we order lunch together, we can eat there together. Or, sometimes we want to study together in the environment that is opened for discussion and Lang Room is often not the best place to do that. If dining hall is opened to us for studying, it would be wonderful."

We do allow you to use the dining hall for study during the daytime (between about 10am and 5pm, depending on how much cleaning the staff need to do after breakfast and before dinner).

You are welcome to use the toaster in the dining hall at lunch time. But we can't provide the bread or stuff to put on it.

If you go to use the dining hall in the middle of the day and find it closed, just ask in the Hall office (behind reception) so they can prompt the catering staff to unlock it for you.


BAR & GARDEN CLOSING AT 11PM


"Common rooms are nice but it is a shame that the bar closes at 11pm, even the garden. I understand that things could become 'rowdy' but it might be an improvement to give the bar staff some control over whether they kick you out - kicking out a small group of three or four chatting quietly at 11pm on a weeknight, for example, hardly seems necessary."

This is really about striking a balance between people who want to stay up and people who want to sleep. Because of the way the bar sticks out into the courtyard, noise inside the bar can sometimes be heard in ground- and lower ground- floor rooms facing the garden. We have been receiving noise complaints about the bar this term, and part of my response to the complainants is that I can guarantee that it always closes at 11pm. If we don't lock up at 11, the bar would have to stay open all night (I can't ask senior members and bar staff to stay up even later to lock up.)

The Bell room and the Bamforth room, which are further removed from living accommodation, stay open all night. Noise in those areas is much less of a problem.


VACUUM CLEANER


"If my room is not cleaned / forgotten about (possibly), can I request for someone to vacuum it - or even request to use the hoover myself?"

Yes! There is a vacuum cleaner behind reception, which you can borrow by leaving your Hall ID card. Also, if your room has been missed on the day it should have been cleaned, email info.connaught@london.ac.uk to see if they can re-schedule for you.


PACKED BREAKFAST & PACKED DINNER


Quite a few responses asked for packed meals to be available at the weekend.

I can confirm that packed meals are available seven days a week.

You can order a packed breakfast for any day of the week (Mon to Sun) by leaving your ID card at reception before 5pm the day before the packed breakfast is required (e.g. before 5pm on Friday for a packed breakfast on Saturday).

You can order a packed dinner for any day of the week (Mon to Sun) by leaving your ID card at reception before 11am on the day.



DIRTY WASHING MACHINES IN LAUNDRETTE


"I have washed my clothes down the laundrette, and because the washing machine was dirty, all my clothes were polluted."

We reported this to WashStation, who manage our laundrette facilities. They sent an engineer who was able to resolve the problem.

If you find any problems with our washing or drying machines, you can report it directly to WashStation yourself, for a faster response: call 0800 141 2331 or email service@washstation.co.uk.




QUIET STUDY ROOM


"It would be nice to have another common room for studying. The one that is available is very close to the bar, so it's hard to focus there."

We hope to be able to re-open the Convocation Trust Study Room (on the lower ground floor, further down the corridor where the laundrette is) next term. It's had to be used as a storage room and workshop this term for the lower ground bathroom refurbishment.



CATERING STAFF FEEDBACK



A number of responses to our survey mentioned rude or unfriendly catering staff.

We wonder if these responses were demonstrating a lag effect. In late October, we identified some lapses in customer service in the dining hall. Some catering staff were redeployed as a result; and we were joined by some new servery assistants. 

We hope these changes have improved customer service in the dining hall - and the changes would have been happening just at the time that this survey was conducted, so might not have been reflected in your feedback. But as always, we depend on your comments (good and bad) to tell us how you're finding things. 

So keep in touch about this and let us know about your customer experience in the dining hall at suggestions@connaught-hall.org.uk.



COOKING FACILITIES FOR RESIDENTS

The single most common suggestion in your survey responses was for there to be cooking facilities / access to a toaster in the daytime / larger pantries / more refrigerator space / fridges with lockable compartments.

As mentioned above, we do already allow you to use the toaster in the dining hall at lunch time. You must provide your own bread and toppings, of course.

Space is at a premium in Connaught Hall, as in all central London halls of residence. We unfortunately do not have any spare room available to put more fridges on each floor. And in the refrigerators we do have, we could only fit in maybe 6 or 8 lockable compartments, which is clearly insufficient for the 40+ residents on most floors.

On cooking facilities - we try to strike a balance between being a fully catered hall, offering SOME cooking facilities (microwaves, fridges, dining hall toaster), and preventing false fire alarms - and real fires - that can be caused by cooking. The policy on this - set by the central University of London, rather than by us at Connaught Hall - is that we are not allowed to offer ovens or hobs in our pantries. The same policy applies in all the intercollegiate halls.

Whilst we understand there can be some frustrations in not being able to cook for yourself, and we strive to take action on all feedback we possibly can, regrettably this is one area where we cannot adopt the suggestions put forward in our survey.

November survey - Packed breakfast & packed dinner

Quite a few responses to our feedback survey asked for packed meals to be available at the weekend.

I can confirm that packed meals are available seven days a week.

You can order a packed breakfast for any day of the week (Mon to Sun) by leaving your ID card at reception before 5pm the day before the packed breakfast is required (e.g. before 5pm on Friday for a packed breakfast on Saturday).

You can order a packed dinner for any day of the week (Mon to Sun) by leaving your ID card at reception before 11am on the day.

Results of Connaught Hall quick feedback survey, November 2015

Published below are the results of our quick feedback survey last month. Over the next few weeks, I'll be giving updates on what we're doing in response to your comments here: 










Update the medical & GP details held on your Hall files

I hope you have had a chance now to register with a GP (doctor) in the local area. If you have, please update the records we hold on your medical details form: call into the office behind reception during working hours, or email details of your new GP to info.connaught@london.ac.uk.

Now that you've moved in and got to know us a little, you might also feel more comfortable disclosing medical conditions to us. Again, you can do this in person or via email.

If it's easier for you, you can also just re-send us a completed, updated medical details form.

Medical details form: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8aHo3-r-MQLR2Z5QkhXWTlPaUE


If we hold accurate, up-to-date medical details about you, we'll be better able to help you in an emergency.

If you are unwell

As the 'flu season approaches, and coughs & colds become more common, here are some reminders about how to get help if you're unwell.


FIRST AID

If you need a first aider in Hall (or help of any kind), always ask at reception; don't rely on text messages, emails, or knocking on a first aider's door. There is always someone on duty in the Hall, 24 hours every day, and reception will be able to contact the right person for you.

First aiders in Hall: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8aHo3-r-MQLa1o4YWxiVUQ5d2s

URGENT HEALTHCARE

We have a poster outlining how to get urgent medical care in London using the National Health Service. The best first point of contact for health advice is NHS 111 (just call 111 from any telephone) or the NHS website: https://www.nhs.uk/symptom-checker/.

Urgent healthcare in London: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8aHo3-r-MQLXzZjb3pYd0ZrU2M

MENINGITIS

First-year university students are a high risk group for contracting meningitis ? a serious infectious disease. Be aware of the symptoms and signs of meningitis, and seek urgent medical help if you?re worried.

Meningitis symptoms & signs: https://drive.google.com/open?id=0B8aHo3-r-MQLT3ktcGE2RnAteWc

YES, I'M A DOCTOR

But I cannot offer medical consultations in hall to residents. This post explains why - http://connaughthall.blogspot.co.uk/2013/12/medical-problems-in-hall.html.

Contacting us at Connaught Hall

Hall residents - You should have received this email on Thursday 3rd December 2015.
If you didn't, it might be because it's gone to your junk / spam folder ... so the message is especially relevant to you!

Or it might be that you've changed your email address and haven't told us - in which case, please let us know your new email at info.connaught@london.ac.uk.


CONTACTING US AT CONNAUGHT HALL

We can help you most efficiently and effectively at Connaught Hall if you contact us using our published email addresses. There have been some cases recently where residents have used Facebook or other messaging tools to report problems, and this has caused delays in our response.

Our "How can we help you" poster is displayed prominently around the Hall and tells you the best way to contact us for pretty much any kind of query or problem. You can view the poster online here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B8aHo3-r-MQLN1EzMHZzSTQ2RXc/view

We aim to reply to most correspondence within three working days (in practice, we can often reply within one day, but at busy times can't guarantee this).

Another difficulty we have identified is that sometimes our emails can be diverted to your junk or spam folder. To ensure this doesn't happen, please take a few moments now to add the following addresses to your email address book, contacts, safe list, or white list:

  • info.halls@london.ac.uk
  • info.connaught@london.ac.uk
  • warden@connaught-hall.org.uk
  • noise@connaught-hall.org.uk
  • suggestions@connaught-hall.org.uk

Adding them to your address book could also make contacting us a little easier.
There's more information about how to contact me - and specifically how to arrange an appointment to meet - here: http://warden-contact.connaught-hall.org.uk/

Finally, please may I reiterate that it's best not to contact us about official queries or problems via Facebook, as this can lead to a delay in us responding to you.

As always, get in contact if you need any help or guidance. We depend on your feedback to help us get things right for you.

Welcome speech delivered by the Warden 27 September 2015

The Warden gave this speech at his welcome reception after dinner on Sunday 27 September 2015.



Hello everyone! I hope you're enjoying this evening.

If we haven’t already met, I’m Adrian Clark, your Warden. And I have just a few brief things to say tonight.

First, to everyone, let me extend a very big, warm welcome to the Hall. I hope we've made your first days or weeks here comfortable, friendly, and relaxed.

Let me introduce some other members of the team…

We are all so happy that you have joined us at Connaught. It's been an absolute pleasure to meet so many of you in the last few weeks.

Our goal here is for everyone to feel a sense of belonging in our Hall community – for everyone to naturally want to look out for everyone else, so by the end of the year, we're not sharing this building with 235 strangers, but with 235 friends.

If you join us in working toward that goal, I promise you will make some amazing friends at Connaught Hall this year – forging friendships and great memories that I hope you will carry with you for a lifetime.

And we are going to offer you so many opportunities to get involved.

If you’re all about social events, stand for election to the Residents Club Committee. You'll get to know nearly everyone in Hall and have a great time doing it. There are posters everywhere explaining how to stand for election. We'll be voting next Wednesday.

If you want to help us improve the Hall itself, come to our facilities forums. We'll be advertising the first of those very soon.

And if you want to enrich the cultural environment in which we live, think about getting involved with the multicultural students’ forum, which aims to bring the whole Hall together in celebration of festivals from all around the world. 




Speeches like this are often full of advice that we all quickly forget. So I am going to share only one bit of advice tonight.

And that is, to ask questions.

Ask for information. If you're being being taught something you don't understand, ask your tutor to clarify. You won't be the only one who didn't get it first time.

Ask questions about things. Challenge the way things are done. If you're not happy with something on your course or here in hall, ask what we can do to make it better.

More importantly, ask questions about people. Ask how your neighbours are. Find out what makes them tick. Ask them what you can do to enrich their experience this year. Cultivate your interest in everyone around you. We can all learn so much from the people we share the world with – and they will like you for asking about them.

Ask questions of yourself, too. University is as much about getting to know yourself as it is learning your subject. Use this year to explore and expand your own preferences, your views, and your beliefs.

So… Ask questions everywhere you go. You may not find the answer to every question you ask, but you can at least enjoy the asking.

You know, I have a really good feeling about this year. We're going to have a great year together. But let's not pretend there won't be challenges. It's not always easy studying a new subject, in a new city, with new friends.

And it's ok sometimes to think “hey, actually this isn't the best time of my life”. It's normal to sometimes feel lost or sad. But please promise yourself now that if you're struggling with something, you will tell someone about it. Tell a friend, tell your tutor, tell your college welfare service, tell me or a senior member. We're all here to listen and to help.

Ok. I said I would be brief. So let me finish with a toast. Please raise your glass… To the best year ever!