7 - 14 March 2013 - The week in higher education

March 14, 2013
  • A student has started a campaign against sexism after enduring misogynistic heckling during a debating competition. Rebecca Meredith, a politics student at King’s College, Cambridge, said she was shocked by vile sexist taunts directed at her and her debating partner Marlena Valles, of the University of Edinburgh, in the Glasgow Ancients competition hosted by Glasgow University Union. Writing in The Sunday Times on 10 March, Ms Meredith said her address had been affected by booing and cries of “Well, what does a woman know?”, “shame, woman” and cruder comments about the size of her breasts. She denied she had been “reduced to tears”, saying such false reports had “tried to make us look self-obsessed and elitist - like hysterical whiny women who couldn’t take any criticism”. Ms Meredith said she had received more than 1,000 emails of support since the event and had set up a survey for people to report sexism at Glasgow - whose union is investigating the incident - and other universities.
  • A student who suffered a serious brain injury during a protest against tuition fees has been acquitted of violent disorder, The Independent reported on 11 March. Alfie Meadows, a philosophy student at Middlesex University, was charged by police after the 9 December 2010 student protests in London, despite suffering life-threatening injuries, allegedly from a police baton blow to the head. A jury returned a unanimous verdict of not guilty on 8 March, accepting that he and fellow student Zak King had been defending themselves and fellow protesters. The decision means 18 of the 19 students charged with violent disorder over a series of protests in November and December 2010 have been acquitted, said Hannah Dee, of Defend the Right to Protest. Mr Meadows has called for the Independent Police Complaints Commission to reopen the investigation into his injuries after it was suspended while criminal proceedings were brought against him.
  • More than a month after the University of Leicester confirmed it had discovered the remains of Richard III, you’d think its PR juggernaut would be slowing down. But not a bit of it. A press release from Leicester on 11 March features statisticians putting a Plantagenet spin on their work. According to the release, undergraduate maths students at the university worked out the chances of finding the king’s remains were about 120 to 1 against, while the chances of discovering him on the very first day - as the archaeologists did - were 0.0554 per cent, or odds of 1,785 to 1 against. What use these figures are now is not entirely clear. But we can say with a probability of 100 per cent that there will be more Richard III press releases.
  • University College London has suspended the holding of any further campus events by an Islamic society after it insisted on segregating audience members by sex. In a statement on 11 March, it said the Islamic Education and Research Academy had ignored its instructions that segregation during the debate on 9 March would not be allowed. It follows reports in The Guardian on 11 March that students were kicked out of the auditorium for not obeying the proposed seating plan. This move prompted one of the speakers, particle physicist Lawrence Krauss, to walk out of the auditorium, saying he would not speak at the event until the students were reinstated and segregation stopped.
  • As the political parties and newspapers continue to wrangle over the future of press regulation, what next for the scourge of Fleet Street, Lord Justice Leveson? The chancellorship of Liverpool John Moores University, of course. Sir Brian will take over from another Brian with long curly locks (his are real) - legendary Queen axeman Brian May - at the end of March. Liverpool-born Sir Brian said he accepted the post with “enormous pride”, adding that he had “long been aware of the transformational impact of the university”. An interview with Times Higher Education this week suggested the Leveson inquiry has left Sir Brian well trained in the art of resisting journalistic questioning. Asked if he might apply any of the press inquiry to his work in higher education, for example on libel law in science publishing, he answered “No”. After a pause, he added: “Good try…I’m not going to be commenting at all on the inquiry. The ball is very much in the court of the politicians.”

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