Elected Reps for Oxford, Little Men On Campus.

July 10, 2009

Students at Brookes sway the environments in which they study. Oxford’s elected are not beyond the reach of those who hold them accountable. In fact, from Oxfam to New Internationalist to Corporate Watch, Oxford has a great history of doing so. Oxbro.com thought it would be a good idea to examine MPs expenses against Halls of Residence costs.

Andrew Smith (Labour Member of Parliament for Oxford East) has accrued on top of his wages, expenses of £564,937 (Ben Leach, The Telegraph) over 4 years. On a divided by four average this works out at £141,234.25 per year.

Evan Harris (Liberal Democrat MP for Oxford West and Abingdon).: Well, I’ve not bothered to work out his expenses, although theyre online. He has been claiming for a second house – between 2004-2008 he claimed £81,982 on this. Divide that by four and thats £2,0495.50 a year. A loan off Mum and Dad helps but I’d not try to fuck them for the amount Evan has done recently. (Rosa Prince, Telegraph)

MPs halls

These halls are 38 week stays except Cheney which is 50. But then, I’ve included the £200 returnable deposit per unit that Cheney asks for.
Some are catered, such as Harcourt, Cotuit and Lady Spencer Churchill Hall. (Brookes Halls Link)
In some cases, Evan and Andrew might have to take it in turns for the shower. Clive Booth might work as they could move their families in. They’d get internet access as long as they paid their Hallnet fees on time. Or perhaps they could cope with the pooled computer rooms.

Smith and Harris, among other politicians through the UK, name ‘expenses’ as ‘allowances’ on their websites. Thats quite sad. Its equivalent to referring to rape as making love. Its not even like some the Mob Wars game on Facebook game, were your starting income goes up and then you move around buying up property LOL HHUK. Not like that…

andrew smith mob wars

Go do stuff you put off aye.

Re-Invention Centre for Undergraduate Research

May 1, 2009

The Reinvention Centre is on Floor 2 of the Abercrombie Building, several flights above the library. A collaboration between Warwick University and Oxford Brookes, flagflying ‘Research as learning’.

With that in mind, I thought “I could read a book up there and hear myself think!”

As part of the Space to Think campaign, it certainly meets that measure well. A spacious, plushly furnished state of the art lab all for undergraduates. Well carpeted, its acually um…just like a rather good modern conference centre. And if you’re an undergraduate its all there for you. Seemingly, no library card need be on your person.

In many ways, it delivers the ‘study ability’ function the library is supposed to. Upon arrival, a girl blaring loudly on her mobile phone and three nattering.That said, it is laid out largely with group space in mind. There are two studewnt groupmeet rooms, one for AV purposes and one with the more traditional but retro boardroom feel. Booking is advised for the rooms in busy periods, if free you can just colonise right in.

The noisy vending machine needs thrown out an open window as its permeating the room louder than you’d think.
A thumbs up from this one and well worth a visit. If you want to teach your group the value of study, treat them there. But please, please, don’t fuck it up.

Brookes Bus Survey

May 1, 2009

Well, that report made for a pretty damning read. I’ve been investigating and campaigning for change in the Brookes Bus for years. Relieving to note I’m far from being a lone voice in the wilderness.

Researcher and VP Commerial Development & Communications Di Caplinska doesn’t try and hide behind any positioned niceties of her role and presents the facts as found. It all needed to be said, and I’m glad some students spoke out with honesty. Some were a bit harsh, but I guess it had been a long time coming.

Almost all of the 155 providing statements had negative things to say about the service, things which could be easily rectified. As noted in an earlier post, it seems once the Oxford Bus Company take over, theres avenue for the situation to get a lot worse. One month to go. Buy the Stagecoach drivers chocolates while you can.

The results of the Brookes Bus Survey are in

April 16, 2009

Pdf file, so you may like to right click ‘save target as’ (via livej)

Lights

March 31, 2009

A while back, I noted the conversion of Harcourt Hill into a no-smoking zone, a situation thats fairly unpopular, not least because of the suddenness of its introduction and the threats of disciplinary action issued by Campus Manager Sue Johnson and others.

In the weeks that followed the small wooden smoker’s gazebo was filled with colour photos. Such as,


A Google image search brough them up fairly quickly. Those are all I can find from memory, a few were amusing cartoons along pro-smoking perspectives, and the message ‘Non-smokers welcome’.

These remained up for several weeks before disappearing. In the last month, three or four photos of a rather attractive young lady appeare’d in the ‘hut’, taken from several different angles. Heres some photos I took of the aesthetic work.

090305_0838201090305_0838511

Yes, thats the tree behind the smoker’s hut shes sitting in. I’ve also managed to capture the ashtray in its rarely-seen emptied state, I just wish the newly elected SU officers and their oppostion could clear up their posters after them. Those noticeboards are needed for other purposes. One for the encouraging people to vote in SU elections perhaps?

(The most recent issue of OB Scene places voting figures for the last election at around 1000 if I remember rightly)

New up on the link list is Brookes e-learner extra-ordinary David Hopkins with his rather wonderful e-learning bloggery ‘Dont waste your time’also available on Twitter as hopkinsdavid. Student Peter Lewis who put an interesting photo on Twitpic yesterday.

Pete tweets,

Traffic lights outside Gypsy Lane (Oxford). Would LOVE to know the logic behind this. http://twitpic.com/2lqlq

Something tells me this isn’t photoshopped. His rather good twitterings as petemwah,

I didn’t miss the bus, the bus missed me

March 26, 2009

I started this weblog with the kindest will I could muster. Yet my life at Brookes, with its sizeable list ‘Brookes is a great place to study’ competes with ‘Do Not Study At Brookes’.

Brookes issues to be resolved needs turned upon itself. The bus service, an essential component in the functionality of this modern new university, is a shambles. Students and staff are all too aware of this – their apathy forming itself more often than not in twee language, or ‘get over it, theres another’ . There are a number of factors to blame – the council for roadworks every year. The bus companies for punctual ticket rises. A cluster demonstration at 11:45 on a chosen day on the second floor of Gipsy Lane places solely were the issue needs to be delegated – Brookes.

As thats not likely to happen, allow me to spell out just were the problems lie and will lay. The university can take this as example of bad service practice. Perhaps I will be reprimanded for souring its profile.

Oxford may be five minutes ahead of the UK, but it is an international centre were GMT Minus Five Minutes is not equal. Students and staff who work hard to prepare for seminars and lecturers are frequently punished by absences. Too many drivers see themselves as drivers, not as facilitators, with sharp speeds and stops, with dismissal of banging on doors or windows – the authority of regulatory protocol over commonsense judging of safe space. The speed factor blurs together doubts over timetables. I didn’t miss the Brookes Bus, the Brookes Bus missed me.

The Brookes Bus website is very pretty to look at. In terms of functionality, most first year undergrads in Web Design or Online Communications could do much better.

Half of Brookes Bus Stagecoach drivers are friendly, prepared to go that extra personal cheer. High praise to them – a tin of chocolates if I can afford it. About a quarter exhibit exclusive impersonal traits. Fox FM/Heart FM and Radio 2 are played loud for their marking of territory, occasionally a thumping that is not just anti-social but brute aggravation. This is not conducive to an academic environment.

The provision for waiting, is shit. The hilltop setting of Harcourt and Gipsy Lane is just high cold.

Oxford Bus Company won the franchise by stating their fuel emissions are half of Stagecoach. This is in keeping with the ethical UK university image they pioneered. The same university whose shops are yet to charge for plastic bags, or stock free range eggs, or register their concerns with other nationwide universities to The Coca-Cola Company. Not worth escaping the attention is that Oxford Bus Company’s fuel usage is reported by an industry insider to be double that of Stagecoach.

If you’re with me so far, heres another uneasy environmental note. Stagecoach owns the current Brookes buses so Oxford Bus Company has a whole new fleet of double deckers coming to the city. I’ll ‘amber’ light the ‘newly commissioned’, as this seems less reliable. The hand-over occurs on July 1st. Maybe a source can confirm or deny this.

I have this on very good authority.there are profound differences in the two company’s communications structures. Whereas with Stagecoach, one driver facilitator can radio another about delays, OBC has no on-board communications that lead to an individualised communications. The closest analogy I can come up with is sending a Twitter or Facebook status message through, and waiting on it to be approved before its posted.

Stagecoach drivers are also particularly aware of their rights as employees given that the company was one of those first challenged circumventing harsher aspects of Blair’s ‘New Deal’. Their CEO signed an ostensibly fair rights for employees agreement back in 2000. For specific details of this featured segment on a nationally broadcast prime time Channel 4 show follow this link and click on Show 2

The outcome of this is as follows: as a student I have taken extra-ordinary steps to vent my feelings on missing a seminar I studied relentlessly for. I am a fee-paying student, unsatisfied by the poor communications thousands of others like me have felt over a great number of years. Its not chiefly a matter of Stagecoach, I’m really sorry about twisting the knife in but Oxford Bus Company have to know we’re watching. Its about a university taking the responsibility and delivering a service in keeping with the promises and demands they make on their student-customers. The structure needs more staff and more development producing greater functioning. If you’re branding a service, you’re associating,and as an extension of Oxford Brookes University, NOT MADE OF WINS.

If you could share a link to this article on your Facebook or blog, word will get around that somebody else is doing something. The focus directed on this active blog should make the key people at the University sit up and take some notice. We’ll have to be so visible to make sure they don’t drive past us.

dark alleys

March 20, 2009

Pullens Lane is a long dark alley leading past several residents houses, linking the main road with the popular Morals Bar, its club nights, as well as Morrell and Clive Booth Hall. I’ve become completely irked lately at the amount of SU officers using the lane’s reputation on their campaign tickets.

The lighting put in several years back isn’t as great as it could be. Though its not quite ‘Rape Alley’ or ‘Rapey Lane’. Its a side-route of notable vulnerability. Before midnight, a longer route to the designations than through the official Brookes complex which is well-lit and manned by security guards. Approximately 2am when the gates close, the difference is a five minute walk. As far as I know there have been no dangers there. Good on VP Matthew Hayes for forwarding and volunteering group safety walks.

A much more serious situation is the direct path from Wheatley campus to the nearby Asda. A dangerous winding country road, with no lights. I think this falls into the definite risk category. It can be an apprehensive walk, for fear of assault by person or automobile. Perhaps Brookes University and the SU should team up with local residents and Asda to petition the city council. The heavy green growth make low-level lighting a requirement…even some cats eyes, or solar-powered devices would make a huge safety difference.

Have a cup of tea

March 15, 2009

There are Brookes shops and cafes, 3 at Wheatley, 9 accross Headington, and 2 each at Harcourt and Marston Road. Most of them offer a cup of hot water for 30p. By carrying a food bag full of tea bags with you you can get a fresh cuppa on campus for half of the usual price. And the fact conviction of this idea prevents me stating just how many times staff have said “Oh, I’ll not charge you for that”.

Theres one exception, were an SU shop has a label reading 55p. This was large cup only. I forget which campus.

Or you could always carry a flask. They do some nice recyclable flask-cups at a few of the campus-shops with first refill free.

Firefox in Pooled Computer Rooms

March 15, 2009

I’ve had difficulties with this since about June of last year. I’ve let the Computer Services staff know, but the style of their response seemed to indicate I am alone in this problem.
I’d be interested in knowing if anyone else has difficulties with this. I have found that by opening Internet Explorer, and on top of this activating the Firefox link I can surf with the browser of my choice.

Brookes Blogging

March 11, 2009

I had a chat with Kevin around the Brookes Blogging concept, and hes come up with an idea whereby seven writers at Brookes blog on different areas – whether it be their area of study or whatnot, consecutively for a week. Seems like a great idea, and one that could be shared between blogs or here on Oxbro.com

Kevin also raised the point that as I and several others contributing in this area graduate in a few months, there’ll be no one left to carry on Oxbro.com. The domain name is registered for another year. I wished to assemble a group of bloggers and hand the publication onto these folk. Some will have good knowledge of wordpress,html, css, others may not. Keen insights, and clear writing style are sought and these are important.

Sidenote: Issue 2 of ObScene, the Brookes student paper is out. I’ve only skim read it, but I am impressed. The mag has had a long troubled history and its good to see the group taking a new, professional approach off their own bat.

Please get in contact if you’d like blogging rights on here. I can be emailed at 05066722@ brookes dotacdotuk – send me a copy of something you’ve casually written and any ideas you may have for the website and I’ll set you up an account. I’m looking forward to having another group of names on the About page