Though I stood in and around the Canham Turner building six days ago to catch a glimpse of Her Majesty’s emergence, this is my first major event inside the spacious lounge since the revision conference six months ago.
Representatives of thirty-nine organisations had set up stall with the hope of attracting Science, Technology, Engineering & Mathematics students to apply for job opportunities.
There was no buffet lunch this time, but nearly all of the stalls gave away small pieces of confectionary along with the usual branded pens and glossy leaflets.
I guess it beats Trick-or-Treating.
This being my first term, I am a long way off making a firm choice of career path, but events like these are useful for showing me what my options are. Having spent the last few years of my life and education pushing towards a chemistry degree, the late-stage switch to mathematics means that some recalibration is in order. Events such as this are helpful in devising a new strategy.
Many times on this website I have logged my encounters with notable individuals,including so far an astronaut, three MPs, an MEP a baron and a bishop. In recent weeks I have repeatedly made reference to the reconstruction of the campus of the University of Hull. Today those threads intertwine as I recount the opening of the Allam Medical building by Her Majesty The Queen.
First came police bikes and BMWs
Followed by a trio of Range Rovers
I do not know if these children were part of the team.
First notice of the event was given nine days in advance in an electronic message by the vice-chancellor. More information came in stages, with the exact timings revealed only the night before along with a list of suitable vantage points for people not directly involved. Security was visible yesterday, with police cars appearing intermittently on the forecourt. Today crowd barriers were erected at key points and several hundred people swarmed behind them. Having had a long morning lecture I was unable to stand on the front line, so went into the neighbouring Brynmor Jones Library. Even there it was crowded, but I found a spot of empty window space on the third floor. This turned out to be far more advantageous than standing by the barriers – firstly because I could sit down at a computer desk instead of standing in the cold air, secondly because my window was parallel to the southern face of the Allam Medical building, and through two layers of glass we could see the official party moving around inside. We spotted the bright blue flash of Her Majesty’s dress as she emerged from the lift on the third floor. We also spotted some of her attachment running down the access stairs in advance of her departure. Finally she emerged from the glass doors to return to her state limousine to be driven over to the Canham Turner building for the next stage of her engagement.
Royal procession drives in.
Cars outside Allam Medical
Nurses look on following their encounter.
The Queen emerges.
Waiting for the Queen to go by
Another dense crowd formed in advance of her emergence, so getting a view was impossible. I tried to find an upstairs window in the Robert Blackburn building opposite but could not see anything useful. From directly behind the crowd I could barely get a view of the door and from the steps of student central my eye line was blocked by the large metal overhang. Desperately I sought a viewing post inside Canham Turner, eventually joining a smaller clump of onlookers peering through a glass door off the entrance lobby. The view was extremely limited – made worse by so many students pressing their enormous smart phones against the glass. Attendance at these events always requires a delicate balance between present and posterity – one can spend so much time trying to record the perfect video or photograph that one defeats the objective of actually looking at the subject in the flesh. Eventually we saw the Queen and other guests go by (judging by their elaborate clothes we guessed one of them was the Lord Mayor of Hull) and then I dashed back outside to see the flag atop the limousine shrinking as it drove away. Briefly I considered that the day was over – then I had another idea.
Not much of a view.
Is that Virginnia Bottomley?
The tail of the departing group.
Rushing around the back of the Gulbenkian Centre and the Loten Workshops I found that the access road behind the campus (beyond which are the old sports centre and the new Courtyard accommodation) was relatively uncrowded. The procession of cars passed barely a metre from me. Upon spotting a small girl with a bouquet of flowers, one of the support vehicles even paused and collected them to pass on later.
This is probably the peak of my encounters. Reigning for more than six decades in sixteen countries, our hexadecimal nonagenarian monarch is as famous a human as is ever likely to exist in my lifetime. I guess it’s all downhill from here.
Though all sciences are said ultimately to derive from philosophy, the clichéd question “Why are we here?” does not often form the basis of our teachings or deliberations. Today however, that very question was on the minds and lips of all who arrived in Seminar Room A for a meeting of the Board of Studies, for which no agenda had been given. Eventually the document was found and a more substantive discussion got underway.
Attendance remains an issue in certain classes with some tutorials said to have 20-30 students missing. Some staff also reported very low delivery rates for homework assignments.
The issue of academic support tutors returned as the majority of students still have not met theirs since induction week. I was an exception only by virtue of my tutor being present at this meeting. It was agreed that all students would meet their tutors after completion of an upcoming careers training assignment.
We tangentially brushed upon mathematics’ lack of a home when someone suggested creating a student lounge for the subject and suggested that with a new engineering suite under construction we might be moved into the Fenner building currently used by applied sciences. Details at this stage are unclear and it may not take effect for some years.
Other concerns centred around student ID cards: the electronic scanners used to mark attendance at lectures had in many cases malfunctioned, necessitating a return to paper registers. A course representative also complained that the beep noise after a successful scan was too loud and thus anyone arriving late would inevitably disrupt the class.
This was the first of an expected five such gatherings that one is booked to attend over the course of this academic year. All of the university’s course and school representatives assembled in meeting room 1 at Student Central to discuss topics such as timetabling, academic support tutors and democratic engagement.
The timetabling representative informed us that he and his staff were working with technology from 1998 (ironically the same vintage as most of the attending students) and that they had received this year’s student details four days – as opposed to the usual three weeks – before the schedules were due to be published. Several representatives complained about having one lecture per day, requiring a commute to campus to spend many hours idle. There were also reports of problems with short-notice room changes and classes being given venues which had the wrong capacity (some needing to bring in additional chairs, others being lost in a vast void). It was said that only two lecture theatres in the university were capable of seating more than fifty students.
Moving onto academic support tutors, the same points were raised that I heard at the student-staff forum; many had never been seen. Most people in my course have yet to meet their tutor. A third year student complained that his tutor had never even sent an email.
We were finally asked to give suggestions on how to improve the role of representatives. There were musings about turning faculty representatives into salaried positions, as well as changing the school representatives to self-nomination rather than election (since turnout tends to be very low and many positions are co-opted unopposed). Support was lent to the idea of “clinics” between representatives and their constituents, analogous to surgeries with members of parliament. The education officer wondered aloud about creating a course representative society, though the general consensus was that students would only attend for free pizza. I remember two years President Gill saying much the same. Some things never change…