Reporter 419, 27 April 1998


That sinking feeling

Dr G.R. Rastall
Department of Music

I was fascinated by the data concerning the survivors of the Titanic disaster (Reporter 418) – not just that only 705 survived out of a total of 2,227, but that the percentages of survivals in the different classes of accommodation had been so different (62% in 1st-class accommodation, 41% in 2nd-class, 25% in steerage). This was also very frustrating: the data gave only two equations, which cannot be solved when there are three unknowns (at least, the mathematics that I did at school won’t allow it.)

So how many passengers set sail in each class? I tried to solve this empirically, with a spreadsheet, and came to an approximate answer of 220 1st-class passengers, 350 2nd-class, and 1,657 steerage. But even if this were accurate (which it is not), it would presumably not be the only possible answer.

Would Dr Howells and some kind mathematician please enlighten me? What were the actual numbers of passengers in different classes of accommodation, and how many possible solutions are there to the equations derived from Dr Howells’s data (a + b + c = 2227; 0.62a + 0.41b + 0.25c = 705)?

Burning issue...

Dr Colin Hendrie
School of Psychology

Nicotine is a drug. It has well-documented negative effects and largely ignored positive ones. Smoking in the over 40s has a protective effect against Parkinson’s disease and certain forms of dementia. Nicotine is also a well -known cognitive enhancer – improving performance on tasks requiring mental concentration.

The use of this drug by an ageing population engaged in academic pursuits does not seem incongruous in a University setting. However, there are health hazards for users and non-users associated with the most common form of drug delivery, smoking. Nicotine is also highly addictive and there is no proven ‘treatment’ for this. The University already makes provision for those who wish to consume alcohol, the other widely-used legal drug. There are positive health benefits of consuming moderate amounts of alcohol. However, it can be addictive and there are diseases associated with its long-term use.

There are also potential health hazards to non-users associated with its most common effect, intoxication. The use of alcohol is restricted to certain areas, where those who object to being in the presence of people drinking alcohol are not forced to be. Therefore, segregating smokers from non-smokers simply employs a strategy which is already in place to cope with legal drug use on campus. The University must, of course, make the physical means available to render this a practicality. Alternatively, if there is to be a total ban on smoking on campus, there must also be a campus-wide ban on drinking alcohol, if consistency is to be preserved.

...smoulders on

Amanda Banton
International Medieval Institute

I’d like to respond to the call for comments on the University’s smoking policy published in Reporter 418.

Since the Parkinson Court has been ruled a no-smoking area, my colleagues and I have experienced endless battles of wills with students who have continued to smoke in the half of the Court which used to be a smoking area (and which is directly below the International Medieval Institute). Since no one seems to have been assigned to monitor the situation, many individuals continue to smoke unchecked. I have approached anyone smoking whenever I have seen them, and have come in for a lot of direct personal criticism.

One student last week called me a “Lifestyle Nazi”, merely because I had pointed out that he was smoking in a no-smoking area.

My comment on this is that a no-smoking policy (whatever the details) must be enforced unequivocally. It is unsatisfactory to expect such a policy to evolve into place, especially when the bins retain their ashtray tops and the signs stand on unobtrusive bollards which can so easily be ignored. Also, there should be a system for reporting and monitoring incidents of smoking, so that further measures can be taken if and as required: how about penalties for breaking the code?

Finally, I am glad and grateful that the Parkinson Court is now officially a no-smoking area; but what about the Gallery (onto which the IMI gives?) Students taking their exams in the seminar room opposite the Council Chambers engulfed us in a haze of foul, grey smoke this January, and when asked to extinguish their cigarettes, pointed to the bins on the floor and asked, “Why are there ashtrays, then?” It is tiring and demoralising to battle against the insistence of such smokers.

Break the chain

Moira Hanvey
School of Medicine

Early in February I opened a letter from the internal mail which requested that our Department send a compliment slip to a young boy in Surrey who is “terminally ill with cancer”, and to send the request to 10 other places asking them to do the same. This young boy is apparently “hoping to get into the Guinness Book of Records for holding the largest collection of compliment slips”. Attached to the letter were several pages listing all the other departments in universities all over the UK to which this request had been sent.

My reaction was to ignore this as a chain letter. I have since received a further copy of this letter, again with several copies attached, from Burnley College. The letter is, as usual, on letterheaded paper (University of Central Lancashire in this case) and is, as usual, anonymous.

Is there a University policy regarding such chain letters? Clearly, a lot of time, paper and postage is being wasted by people who are moved by a desire to help make the dying wishes of a young boy come true.

This chain letter is a hoax which has appeared before. The best thing to do is ignore it - Editor

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