Reporter 438, 26 July 1999

Sticking up for the students

Simon O’Riordan

Electronic and Electrical Engineering

I was amused to see the letter from Harold Best. I find (as a long-time resident of Leeds), that the locals accept, enjoy and interact with the students in a most positive manner on the whole. I know I usually do, and to be frank, it takes a lot less effort than it might with some of the locals in my neighbourhood.

While we are on the subject of politicians, there were only two in attendance at the vote counting for my ward. The old Labour renegade (kicked out of the party for adhering to rules) and a lady, new Labour young professional standing as the official Labour candidate. They won. Then they all went off to Roundhay Ward to celebrate in style, after getting the poor old East Leeds people to vote them in. It is nice to know they care.

An open letter

Richard Rastall


Dear Mr Best, The purpose and precise meaning of your letter to the University Reporter of 24 May 1999 are not entirely clear to me, but you seem to make three claims: that we are self-congratulatory; that we (or our students) damage the local communities; and that we have been complacent about the spillage of diesel oil into Meanwood Beck. I respond to these in reverse order.

The spillage of diesel oil was reported in an earlier issue. There is no secret that the University has made enquiries about this incident, nor that the Environment Agency is still conducting an enquiry.

The Reporter is not the commercial media, and academics generally have better things to do than make a meal of such events. Please contain yourself, therefore, until 9 June, when the results of these enquiries will be made known.

As to your unfocused comments about the effects of the student population on the local community (in which I live, incidentally), it is my impression that on balance north-west Leeds is the gainer in having a large population of young temporary residents. If you have reason to think otherwise, please be specific and let us know the evidence on which you base your opinion. I see nothing in your letter but mischief-making, and that does not inspire my admiration.

Finally, you accuse us of being self-congratulatory. That is a possible perception, no doubt: but you, of all people in this area, ought to know how important it is for this (or any) University to celebrate its achievements. The enormous damage done to higher education over the last two or three decades - not just by a Conservative government - does not seem high on the list of your Government’s priorities for action.

In my time as a university teacher I have seen student-staff ratios rocket, with all the attendant problems that gross underfunding brings, while our working hours have lengthened and salaries have sunk (in real terms) through the floor. We do not always find it easy to hold our heads high when our own Government treats us as if we are of no importance. It does not help that there is almost nobody in Parliament at present who has any real idea of what universities are for and what they do.

In these circumstances a carping MP on our own doorstep is a mosquito that some of us might be inclined to swat. Kindly stop buzzing, and help to do something about HE funding and our salaries.

Does Harold really know best?

David Irving

Residential and Commercial Services

Re: Harold Best’s letter in Reporter 437 (See no evil, hear no evil, Report no evil?) (1) The University makes no recommen-dations to landlords on vetting their tenants. (2) Unipol has established codes of practice and sets down standards for accommodation but, as far as I am aware, makes no recommendations about taking up references or seeing CVs. (3) The University, under the equal opportunities policy, is totally non-discriminatory in allocating students to accommodation and, indeed, guarantees to provide a place in our accommodation for all first-year students who want one. (4) I think we would take a dim view of landlords who rejected our students as tenants on any grounds other than ability to pay or serious anti-social tendencies. If Harold Best had thought more deeply about his comments on written applications or CVs he would have realised the potential for discriminating against international students, for example. (5) The number of landlords who contact accommodation services for references is extremely low and they are almost entirely concerned with the prospective tenant’s payment history. (6) On environmental issues the report we commissioned on the Bodington oil spillage has been made public.

Unipol sets standards for private sector student accommodation and monitors compliance which (although voluntary) is high. Leeds City Council uses the Unipol code to set its own standards. The intention is to raise standards steadily and aim for even higher levels of compliance.

Meet, sit and scorch

Peter Coltman

Media Services

In the Chancellor’s court, round each of the rocks which comprise the sculpture ‘Meet, Sit and Talk’, there is a ring of dead grass. Why?

Corrected chair

Alastair Lumsden

Earth Sciences

Your item ‘New chairs’, Reporter 437 is incorrect in respect of the first female professor in the science faculties. Dr Marjorie Wilson, School of Earth Sciences, was appointed Professor of Igneous Petrogenesis from August 1998.

Apologies, Editor.

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