Amy Fox

Writer. Editor. Bad at blogging.


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Concrete: UEA to defer Syrian students’ fees

The University has said that it will be deferring fees “where possible” for Syrian students that are struggling financially, but it will not waive fees altogether despite a petition of almost 300 signatures.

SyriaSyrians protest Assad’s regime in Times Square, NYC last March. Photo: Flickr / asterix611.

Pro-vice-chancellor Prof. Nigel Norris met with representatives of the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS) and Syrian students to discuss the matter last Friday (22/3). The students have been assured that they will not be automatically expelled if they are unable to pay.

A statement from the University said: “All cases will be looked at individually and fee deferrals agreed where possible. A member of staff from the Dean of Students’ office is meeting each of the affected students individually and discussing appropriate options and support with them.”

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Concrete: First buses want your complaints

The 25/25A bus services were late 15% of the time from October to December 2012, and as often as 40% on 14 December, the final day of UEA’s Autumn term.

Chelsea de Silva, regional PR & marketing manager for the South East and Midlands, cited several reasons for the delays when speaking to Concrete in December. Most of the problems related to the “teething time” following the system change in September. “One of the biggest issues we’ve had, not just on the blue services but on all of them, is drivers understanding 1) the routes 2) the new ticket machines, which were brought in August/September … at the moment it’s just taking time for our drivers, some of whom have been with us 25-35 years, to go from one system to another. And it just so happened that that came in at the same time as the network revision. So that, tied in with the learning of the routes, meant there were massive gaps in between buses of late running.” Additional training for drivers has been provided.

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Concrete: Gender neutral toilets at UEA

The Union of UEA Students has passed policy to introduce gender neutral toilets in Union House in order to accommodate for those who do not identify within the male-female gender binary.

Photo: Chris Teale

The vote, which responds in part to findings of the Union’s recent LGBT+ survey, was approved by Union Council with 55 votes in favour and just 16 against (plus one abstention).

Although the budget is yet to be confirmed, the plans for Union House have already been drafted. Firstly, the womens’ toilets on floor one near the advice centre will be converted into a campaigns store room, with the large mens’ facilities becoming gender neutral. This means that there will be cubicles much like in standard womens’ toilets, but available to everyone.

Depending on funding the next stage will be the facilities in the Hive, which the Union plans to merge into one large gender-neutral space, removing the urinals from the mens’. The LCR toilets will remain segregated, so that students will have the option to use male, female or gender-neutral facilities across the Hive/LCR area.

The final stage will include the toilets in the Blue and Red bars. However, as these are the most recently renovated, they are currently the lowest priority.

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Concrete: UEA accommodation

Looking for a place to live can be stressful, but it was especially difficult for one Japanese student transferring from Into this summer.

“[UEA] said they can see I have already applied for a room, but they said I have to wait. But other students had already got a room,” said Katy*. Despite believing she had correctly applied for accommodation, she was simply told to wait whenever she got in touch with the University to ask about its progress.

With national visa delays from the UKBA meaning she could not even reach the UK, Katy called on friends for help. However, confidentiality rules meant they were also unable to find out any information regarding the status of her application.

Once term began, Katy had to stay at a friend’s house when she finally reached Norwich, and find a house with strangers through Home Run. Despite an accommodation guarantee for all international students, she was never officially rejected from UEA accommodation to her knowledge, meaning living arrangements were left until the last moment. Following the experience, she admitted: “My image of UEA has changed.”

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Concrete: Enterprise centre could make Norwich a “green capital”

UEA are hoping to pioneer one of the most “trailblazing” sustainable buildings in the country.

Instead of the University’s infamous concrete, the £15.9m NRP enterprise centre will be made from locally-sourced renewable materials such as timber and chalk. It will be used by students and new businesses in order to provide a link between UEA and the local community.

Following an exhibition of the plans at the Sportspark on Tuesday 7 August, the EDP reported project director John French as saying: “What we are trying to do is create a world-class building that is exemplary in its low-carbon performance. Just like the Olympics, we want to create a buzz about the place.

“It will be a huge benefit to Norwich’s economy and to Norwich’s reputation as a green capital. It is a statement building. It states a set of values associated with the university, making its contribution at a practical level towards addressing climate change. Alongside our world-class research and teaching this is a practical example of how we can put it into practice.

“We want to demonstrate that this is possible to do, so that people will copy it. People never change in society unless someone comes along and does something differently.”

The goal for the enterprise centre will be 168 kilos of CO2 per square metre. This is extremely low when compared to the best practice of “embodied energy” university buildings, which currently at 845.

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Concrete: Police close Climategate case

Police announced yesterday (18 July 2012) that they have closed the investigation into the theft of emails which began the Climategate scandal at UEA in November 2009. No criminal proceedings will be followed, with the breach being described by the Norfolk Constabulary Major Investigation Team as a “sophisticated and carefully orchestrated attack on the CRU’s [Climate Research Unit’s] data files, carried out remotely via the internet.”

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Superintendent Julian Gregory, said: “Despite detailed and comprehensive enquiries, supported by experts in this field, the complex nature of this investigation means that we do not have a realistic prospect of identifying the offender or offenders and launching criminal proceedings within the time constraints imposed by law.

“The international dimension of investigating the World Wide Web especially has proved extremely challenging … There is no evidence to suggest that anyone working at or associated with the University of East Anglia was involved in the crime.”

In response to the case’s closure, UEA vice-chancellor Professor Edward Acton said: “We are naturally disappointed that those responsible for this crime have not been caught and brought to justice. We are very grateful to Norfolk Constabulary for their sustained effort over the last two-and-a-half years, and appreciate the difficulty of devoting continued resources to such a complex international investigation. Clearly the perpetrators were highly sophisticated and covered their tracks extremely carefully.

“The misinformation and conspiracy theories circulating following the publication of the stolen emails – including the theory that the hacker was a disgruntled UEA employee – did real harm to public perceptions about the dangers of climate change. The results of the independent inquiries and recent scientific studies have vindicated our scientists, who have returned to their important task of providing the best possible scientific information on this globally critical issue.”

Meanwhile, Professor Phil Jones, Research Director of the CRU, commented: “I would like to thank the police for their work on this difficult investigation and also for the personal support they offered me. I am obviously disappointed that no-one has been prosecuted for this crime but hope today’s announcement will draw a line under the stressful events of the last two and half years. My colleagues and I remain committed to the research CRU undertakes to illuminate the globally important issue of climate change.”

The investigation, “Operation Cabin”, focused on the unauthorised access of material, an offence under the Computer Misuse Act 1990. However, there is a three-year limit to proceedings after the original offence, meaning that Norfolk Constabulary, in consultation with The Met, were forced to close the case, with the possibility of finding the perpetrator deemed unrealistic.

Independent inquiries into the Climategate emails did not find any evidence of wrongdoing by the CRU scientists.


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Concrete: Students’ film on homelessness wins BBC prize

The documentary, entitled 16:01, was created by Guy Wilson, Will Hanford, Nate Dove and Alex Francis, and was originally displayed over five screens at the Forum. This meant that several different shots could be viewed at once, while the main interviews were shown. However, it can be seen in its single-screen form here.

It was shown as part of a series of fifteen films made by students for Campus City in February, a presentation at the Forum which was a collaboration between UEA, BBC Voices and the SeaMedia project. The students were given the opportunity to make a film based on any subject, as long as it was relevant to Norwich and Norfolk.

Speaking to Concrete about the inspiration for the film, Wilson said: “We wanted to tackle it and get a real strong issue, given the platform that we had, the great opportunity that it was. We saw the opportunity to do something important and to make something that could make a difference.”

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