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January 15, 2009

University refuses to answer questions on financial health

Questions surround the University of Warwick’s financial state after it refused to give details of its budget forecasts and plans for this year and the near future.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request from RaW, the University decided “to withhold information relating to forecasts and budgets, including the five year financial plan”.

Citing Section 43 (2) of the Freedom of Information Act 2000, the Deputy Registrar informed RaW the request had been “carefully considered, but that “Information is exempt if its disclosure under this Act would, or would be likely to, prejudice the commercial interests of any person (including the public authority holding it)”.

Nevertheless, Peter Dunn, the University’s spokesman, has said that “despite the global economic downturn the University remains confident that that it has a sufficiently diverse range of funding streams to meet the challenges posed by such a global downturn.”

Mr Dunn refused to use the term “well placed” on grounds of ambiguity.

The Students’ Union, which is facing a deficit this year of nearly £0.75 million has also expressed confidence in the University, from which it receives a significant annual grant.

Andy Glyde, the Union’s Governance and Finance Officer said: “We have no concerns over our annual allocation from the University as a result of the recession. We are confident that the University will be able to ride this wave and continue to support the work of the SU.”

“They have been sensible with their money and in the past have shown the capability to deal with pressures externally on funding. In the 80s when HE [Higher Education] funding was cut by the Thatcher government, Warwick was at the forefront to developing alternative sources of income in order to cope with the declining funding.”

Mr Glyde who was limited in what he could say, added that it would be “inappropriate” to comment on the University’s financial health.

He also believed that the University had a “reasonable reason to refuse the information” requested by RaW.

“You have to remember that the University runs a fairly substantial commercial operation in order to help fund the activities of the institution. They are not a member organisation like the Union and so are not accountable to students on their finances…. Release of financial information could damage them against competitors.”

Given the deteriorating economic outlook, the University may have greater impetus to protect sensitive financial information.

Last year’s statement of accounts of the University indicated that the University’s surplus had fallen to £2.9 million, a fall from a peak of £11.9 million in 2005/06.

For the year ending July 2008, it blamed the fall in the surplus on “strategic investment” and “increases in staff costs following the most recent national pay agreements”.

In the Treasurer’s report it was stated: “We expect the current year to be a demanding financial environment. We have significant inflationary pressures … The investigation of new and growing sources of income, alongside cost saving and efficiency initiatives, is a priority to help compensate for inflationary cost pressures.”

In the short term the University remains ”...confident that the financial outcome for the current year will be acceptable in the circumstances.”

As for student’s job prospects, the University indicated that Warwick Careers service would be “very receptive” to any new internship opportunities which become available from the new “government scheme or elsewhere”.

However, it was less on clear on whether the institution would be doing anything particularly different this year to help graduating students.

Instead, spokesman Mr Dunn says that students will be able to welcome recent media coverage “suggesting that while city firms are reducing the number of Universities they look to recruit from…they are still looking at Warwick as one of their sources of recruits”.

Sam Shirley

"The Manifesto is written", Conservative Party Chairman tells Warwick students

Caroline Spelman MP speaking to Warwick Conservatives says party is “on war footing at all times” and that universities should offer more vocational schemes to help students

The Chairman of the Conservative Party, Caroline Spelman MP, has told students at a Warwick Conservatives event that she doubts that there will be a General Election this year.

However, if the “polls tighten” and government does go to the country, she expects that Chancellor Alistair Darling will use March budget to cut income tax and then hold the election on June 4th, coinciding with local and European elections.

Ms Spelman, who has been dogged by questions regarding expenses eleven years ago, also sought to quash rumours regarding cabinet reshuffle speculation.

At the talk which took place on in the Ramphal building on Thursday evening, she claimed that rumours indicating that she would swap places with Jeremy Hunt as Shadow Culture Secretary as “a little bit of mischief… as many of you know [Newsnight journalist] Michael Crick and I are at loggerheads”.

She said that it was the right of the party leader to pick who was in cabinet, but that nothing can happen until her position was resolved.

The Conservative Chairman argued that the “the [next general] election will undoubtedly be fought on the economy”, but that the NHS, for which the Conservatives has been “quite hard territory”, is an issue which the party is keen to be heard on.

“On the economy there is now a huge difference between the parties”, she said.

Speaking on the issue of students seeking jobs after university, Ms Spelman admitted that when she graduated during the recession of 1980 that she did not have a job, despite her university claiming that “everybody gets a job”.

She said: “We want to encourage the Higher Education sector to offer more vocational schemes to enhance your chances of getting a job”.

“Jobs for you are going to depend on organisations, public and private, having the courage to recruit”.

Ms Spelman, who is MP for the nearby constituency of Meriden, encouraged students to join the Conservatives to avoid the Government’s “burden of debt” that will encumber their generation.

Seeking support, she said: “Students tend to be anti-establishment… and you regard Labour as the establishment”.

Sam Shirley

November 18, 2008

RaW News At The US Elections

Students fill the Grad at Cholo to watch the coverage
Where were you on the night of this year’s historical American Elections on the 4th of November?

If your answer to the above question is “at the Students’ Union Elections Night” then there is a strong possibility that you may – at some stage in the evening – have been approached by an eager member of the RaW News Team wielding a recorder and a multitude of questions on your views on Obama vs McCain.

If that is indeed the case, then click on the link below to here an edited version of the coverage from the Elections Night from RaW News’ flagship show – Insight. Highlights include a grillling of various sabbatical officers on their American general knowledge, an interview with the organisers, Adam Wilbourn’s ‘lighter side’ coverage and the countdown to Obama’s victory.


You can listen to RaW News Insight every Thursday at 5pm.

For details on how to get involved email news@radio.warwick.ac.uk

Hannah Smith

News Editor

October 29, 2008

Grade Inflation is “slow and uncontrolled”

Grade Inflation “has occurred at Warwick” and continues to incrementally impact undergraduate results, the Boar has been told.

Dr Duclaud-Williams, a lecturer in the Politics department said: “there is no longer the balance between 2:1s and 2:2s as there was ten or twenty years ago; in examiners’ minds 2:2 scripts are now deemed as substantially defective… today there’s an enormous concentration of 2:1s in my department and others.”

Even so, he and other lecturers are adamant that there is no pressure from the University to award higher marks, but said that it was inevitable that institutions and examiners want to improve results: “All institutions come under competitive pressure”.

Responding the possibility that employers are having trouble differentiating between graduates, he recommended that they should be given the relative performance of students according to their year, but that examiners and lecturers should be left to their traditional understanding of grade classifications.

This view was supported by Professor Jonathan Bate of the English Department: “What I do believe is that the old four class system has reached its sell-by date: in all the top universities, the third is an endangered species and the 2:2, which used to be regarded as the benchmark average performance, is now perceived by students as a kind of failure.”

“This shows that we’re doing a good job on admissions, and that the current generation of students are more results focused than many of us were in my generation, but it’s hard to see the logic of a classification system where the lower classes are used as they are now. The system originated as a kind of rank order: as it were, first class meant the top 5% of finalists, 2:1 the next 40%, 2:2 the next 40%, 3rd the next 10% and 4th, the bottom 5%. I think we’d do better to ditch classes and go for some kind of American-style grade point average.”

Indeed, Andrés Carvajal of the Economics department thinks that the system has a big “inertia”:

“...if one year you give a distribution of grades that is considered atypical when compared to previous years, I would expect that someone (e.g. an external) would ask you to explain, and maybe even curve the grades. But this does not qualify as inflation, as it could go both ways: if my grades are seen to be too generous, I suspect that some alarms would go off.
“...for many people in the UK, a scale 0-100 actually means 30-70. I always use the full scale, so I can give a good student a mark of 97, which may seem like inflation to a person who would give 71 to a Nobel prize-winning essay. But, again, it isn’t: I am also willing to give a student a mark of 3, if their work is really bad.

“To me, the reason that may explain grades going up is the real pain that you have to go through when you fail people – like writing, proctoring and marking resits. So, if you want to do research, you better avoid failing students. But I don’t consider this to be “pressure” – it is just wrong incentives.”

According to University figures, compared to 2003/04, when 20% of Warwick degrees awarded were first class, there was a small increase to 23% in 2006/7 after minor fluctuations in the interim years. 2:1s have hovered around the 61.2% mark and 2:2s have averaged at 14.4% figure for the past five years.

In the long term, the picture is quite different. In March 2004, the BBC reported that Warwick “saw the proportion of students gaining first-class degrees almost double from 10.6% to 20.3% during the five years” between 1998 and 2003.

At the time, a University spokesman said what it was “no surprise” that the results were getting better: “We are becoming more and more popular and we are attracting better candidates”.

At present, the University still awards well above the average of first class honours, approximately double the 2006/07 national average of 11.7%. According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, Warwick is also well above the Russell Group of Universities’ average of 15.7%.

Professor Robin Naylor of the Economics department contests the reasons behind such a rise: “There’s certainly a higher percentage of firsts awarded than was the case, say, 20 years ago: but is this grade inflation, or better work by students, or better teaching? No-one has done an analysis of this locally”.

From the point of view of the Students’ Union Education Officer Mo Surve, a 2:1 from Warwick does not mean any less today than it did ten years ago: “Receiving a 2.1 from one of the top Russell Group institutions is not to be taken lightly. A lecturer I know at another university told me that a 65/66 at Warwick would be equivalent to gaining a first at the institution at which she lectures.”

He also shares the view that there is no pressure on lecturers to award higher marks. Citing a change in the system the Students’ Union won a “few years ago”, marking is now carried out anonymously and some departments double mark all assessed work to ensure there is no bias towards or against a student.

Mr Surve said: “…marking is carried out as objectively as possible and should cut any grade inflation/deflation down to a minimum. If, in some cases when examiners cannot come to an agreement, the external examiner comes to a decision.”

For many students at Warwick, a 2:1 is a prerequisite to attain a job after leaving university. Darshan Shah, an engineering student in his final year said: “If you haven’t got adequate work experience, a 2:1 would be a usual minimum requirement for a ‘good’ job.”

Ian Liverton, a trainee Design technology teacher who graduated last year in electronic engineering takes a more pessimistic view: “As someone with a 2:2, it’s very hard to find graduate placement. I only got my present job because of my experience as an ICT technician at my school.”

Whilst there was considerable grade inflation between 1998 and 2002, the recent figures demonstrate only a slight increase in the proportion of firsts awarded between 2002 and 2006/07 – evewn though the figure 479 firsts in 2006/07 compared to 396 in 2002/03 show that an extra 83 firsts were awarded, or a 21% nominal increase.

As for the national perspective, which has seen the number of first class honours awarded has double over the past decade, Professor Naylor told the Boar that it is more important to look at the disparity between universities:

“If grade inflation occurs in some institutions and not others then that could create unfairness and inefficiency through generating uncertainties and imperfect information.” Dr Geoff Meaden, who retired as a lecturer this year at Canterbury Christ Church University, says:

“They say that the teaching is getting better – by and large this is rubbish. Having worked in schools and/or universities for 30 years I can tell you that it is not. In fact, generally, the kids are getting more difficult to teach. The grades are getting better because marking is now more lenient than it was previously. Notice that I do not say that the exams are getting easier – which I don’t think they are. So, an exam answer today will get about 10% more than would the same answer have got 20 years ago. Why is there a need for higher grades – because schools and universities are competing with each other – by way of various leagues tables. You have to be shown to be near the top if you are to attract the best students – or indeed sufficient students to maintain the viability of courses. I have attended many examiners meetings where we have been told to mark a little more generously. There seem to be all sort of ways of squeezing a few extra marks out for students. When I was at university the ‘average’ grade was a 2(ii) – today it is a 2(i) for many universities. This means that the students are getting 10% higher grades. Well – I am afraid that evolutionary processes could not allow the brain to have developed that much more in such a short space of time !! I think that the world of work recognises what is going on and just accepts that today’s grades are not comparable with those of the past. Also, it now behoves students to get themselves Masters degrees if they are to be ahead of the crowd. In many ways grade inflation does not matter much – but I just wish that the powers that be told the truth about what is happening”

Yet, in Warwick’s case, the University maintains that the calibre of the students is the reason behind the higher than average first class honours awarded. Defending the quality of the University, they claim that: “Data on first destinations of undergraduate students who graduated in 2005 shows that 90% had entered full employment or were taking further study.”
Peter Dunn, the University’s press manager added: “Warwick students get the degree results they deserve…We continue to attract some of the best staff and best students from the UK and beyond and the more of the cream we attract the better their academic performance will be -it’s a virtuous circle.”

June 12, 2008

Warwick Student Cinema: Relocation?

Last week Hannah Smith reported on the problems Warwick Student Cinema are facing regarding new laboratories which are to be built underneath L3 on the Science Concourse, which is home to the screen of WSC. What we know already is that a relocation for the society will cost around £40,000, which is a staggering amount. Unfortunately, a representative from Warwick Student Cinema was unavailable for comment on this issue but the Students Union released the following statement today:

The Students’ Union is of course supporting Warwick Student Cinema with
the issue of new science labs underneath L3. The lines of communication
between the Students’ Union, the department and the wider University
administration are open and clear, and all parties are keen to work
towards a mutually beneficial solution. There is certainly not an
adversarial approach being taken by anyone involved.

At this stage it is impossible to know the outcome of the situation, and
the Students’ Union for its part is working hard to resolve the issue as
soon as possible. It is important to note that the fact discussions are
being had makes it clear there is a recognition throughout the
University of the importance of student-led extra curricular activity.

From there the issue appears to be being dealt with amicably and we will keep you updated on this story, what it means for the WSC. Hopefully we can get a response from the society for next week’s show. As always if you are a member of WSC or simply enjoy the films they show, do email in and let us know what you think on studio@radio.warwick.ac.uk.

Student Opinion: 42 Pre Charge Detention

The Labour government was yesterday successful in the passing the terror law through the House of Commons, which may soon mean terror suspects can be held for up to 42 days without being charged. Home Secretary Jacqui Smith stated the obvious reasons for the legislation of national interest and the view that the threat of terror is wholly new and unique.

The government were, however, very fortunate in getting the legislation through the House of Commons; it has a majority of 66 but only managed to win with a margin of 9. 36 Labour MPs rebelled with the government having to make concessions to the Democratic Unionist Party MPs. The House of Lords still has to make a decision with the likely outcome being that they will send it back to the Commons.

But away from the number politics of the whole vote, what do students here at Warwick make of the issue? Do they reflect the wider, national opinion that holding people without 42 is perfectly in line with the tradition of civil liberties in the UK? I spoke to a few on the eve of the vote, to find out what they thought.

Also, have another chance to listen to David Davis, who resigned over the issue, and the new Shadow Home Secretary Dominic Grieve, who we interviewed back in February on the subjects of liberty and security:

David Davis:

Dominic Grieve:

May 30, 2008

Whitefields students seek compensation for lack of personal revision space

Earlier this term RaW News reported on the newly planned changes to the Union Rebuild schedule. However, this week has been one of much disruption on campus as students in Whitefields have been informed of some rather last-minute changes.

At the beginning of term students had been told that Whitefields would be “a 24 hour quiet zone” and that their revision would go on undisturbed. However, last Friday, the Whitefields accommodation Officer Graham Wright informed students in person that construction works were to begin on Tuesday of this week from 9am – 5pm every day until the end of term. The work will take place from just below the Graduate Bar, past Battered, and around the Cooler, all just a few meters away from the bedrooms – or study rooms as they are referred to – of students in Whitefields.

Students have expressed anger with regards to the Union’s lack of communication and they now fear that there will not be sufficient silent space available to study in – the Library and the Learning Grid are both full more often than not with second and third years who livee off campus, and with potentially a whole hall of residence being forced to vacate their houses to revise, how will the Union provide support for those that need it?

Union Rebuild Site

The Union have apologised for the short notice that was given to Whitefields residents, stating that this was due to a “slight breakdown in communications and the unfortunate timing of the bank holiday”. They have also stated that although the work will take place near to Whitefields it will not involve any heavy construction work until the end of the exam period. The preparatory work will not cause any disruption to students sitting exams in Rootes and contractors have full details of exam timetables. Welfare and Equal Opportunities Officer Ed Callow has agreed to block book rooms with enough space to accommodate the front row of houses from today onwards, when the noise was thought to have escalated.
This week on Insight we invited Lev Taylor, a resident in Whitefields, and one of the students instrumental in campaigning against the building works. He suggested that perhaps the Union were not as in control of the rebuild as we would like to think…

You can listen to the interview to find out more by clicking on the link below. I started by asking Lev what he was hoping to achieve by appealing to the Union at this stage in the works:

(Link unavailable)

Hannah Smith
News Editor

May 23, 2008

Warwick Labour predicts loss in by–election

Today, Thursday 22nd May, voters went to the polls in Crewe and Nantwich for the by-election in which 10 candidates took part in the contest, which follows the death of long-serving Labour MP Gwyneth Dunwoody last month.
Almost 72,000 people were registered to vote, with turnout expected to be above 60% even with the dreary weather conditions that have plagued the days voting. Polling stations opened at 7am and closed at 10pm, with the result expected at about 2.30am tomorrow morning.

On Insight this week, RaW News invited Warwick Labour’s Ben Nolan and Tom Wales from Warwick Conservatives to debate the events surrounding the by-election and to gage their thoughts and hopes for the results. In a controversial statement Nolan stated that a Labour win would be “unrealistic” and he essentially conceded defeat to the Conservatives – albeit a slim one – and Wales was confident of success in the next general election. Much debate was to be had with regards to the tactics used by both parties during the campaigning, and there was some speculation as to the causal roots for a potential Tory win.

Listen to the full debate here to find out more:

Was Warwick Labour being realistic or defeatist?
If the Conservatives do indeed win the by-election what will this mean for the future of the Labour Party in government?
Have your say by leaving any comments you may have in the section below.

Hannah Smith
News Editor

May 22, 2008

Britain should "expect significant slowdown" in the economy

After last week’s inflation report from the Bank of England, RaW News spoke to Dr Andrew Sentance, an external member of the Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) at the Bank of England. He told us that he expected inflation to return towards the 2% target in the medium run and whilst he said that we cannot rule out a recession, we should expect a “significant slowdown” in the growth of the economy. Asked whether the rising food prices would hit students would be disproportionately, he said that everybody would be affected. He also said that students should be the ones to decide what economic problem they should worry about, but wanted to emphasise the point that we all benefit from a low inflation economy.

As regards the future, he thought that if consumers become more cautious in the coming years, we may become more dependent on export led growth. This will also be helped by the depreciation of the pound.

The MPC is responsible for setting interest rates in the United Kingdom and it targets the Government’s target of 2% inflation (CPI).

We began by asking what his role is:

Please note: if your browser is having trouble opening the file, click here. and then click continue.

To read the overview of May’s inflation report, click here.

Sam Shirley
Programme Controller

The interview was conducted on Tuesday 20th May.

May 20, 2008

Warwick delegates vote for No Platform at NUS Conference

Monday 12th May saw the last Union council of this term, and after 4 and a half hours, it was certainly in the style of councils this academic year. With no policies up for review, and the governance reform, which had taken up a lot of time during previous meetings having passed at referendum, there were 12 pieces of new business to be debated. There were motions on welfare and liberation issues, on education, on international students’ issues and democracy in the union.

Questions to Union Officers were numerous. Officers were asked about their general activities since the last council, and about campaigning during local elections. A question on the voting behaviour of delegates to the NUS national conference on No Platform attracted the most controversy, due to the recent referendum that removed Warwick University’s No Platform Policy. Warwick’s NUS delegates controversially voted in favour of supporting No Platform on a national level, and RaW News invited the Union’s Finance, Democracy and Strategy Officer Tom Callow onto the show last week to debate with Rajiv Shah, a staunch supporter of the removal of No Platform.

No Platform symbol

Were the delegates right to vote for No Platform on a national level, or have they mis-represented the students who put them there in the first place?
To hear the debate click on the link below and feel free to add your comments in the section below.

Hannah Smith – News Editor
Andrew O’Brien – Chief Political Correspondent
Alex Fowles

May 14, 2008

First year student found dead in Claycroft

RaW News has today learnt of the tragic death of Jason Venezia, a first year student from the Psychology Department who lived in Claycroft.

His body was found on the afternoon of Tuesday 13th May on campus in his residence in Claycroft and the cause of death is as yet unconfirmed.

University staff and health professionals are working to support those students who were closest to him and his family have been contacted.

According to the University website, the Vice-Chancellor Professor Nigel Thrift said of the death: “The death of any student is felt deeply by the University community – particularly by friends and staff who knew them well. We offer our sincere condolences to his family and his friends.”

The University also says that a book of condolence will open in the Chaplaincy on Friday.

Hannah Smith
News Editor

May 12, 2008

Protestors Say No! To New Coal

On 1 May, 2008, students and other activists at the University of Warwick protested against E.ON’s plans to build a new coal power station at the Kingsnorth site in Kent. Members of the People and Planet network were joined by others interested in the cause, and members of the local group The Rising Tide in marching from the centre of the campus to E.ON’s national headquarters, located on the edge of the university in Westwood Business Park.

E.ON Protest

In a statement released by the organisers they state: “In our view, the issue is very simple: climate change is a fact, and burning fossil fuels (coal, gas and oil) for energy provision is a vast contributing factor to this, accounting for about 86% of global energy production. The UK is also obliged, under EU energy policy, to source 20% of its energy from renewable sources. For all these reasons, it seems very short-sighted and unreasonable to be investing large sums of money (£1.7 billion for Kingsnorth alone) when attention should be focussing on making renewables more efficient and wide-spread. E.ON claims that the replacement of the existing Kingsnorth coal power plant will be fitted with carbon capturing technology, which will enable it to store the emissions underground. However, research into carbon capturing is only at the trial stage and solutions will probably not be deployable until the 2020’s.”

With all this in mind, the protestors gathered at noon in the Piazza, Warwick’s central square, where they erected two 12-foot model power station chimneys. The 50-60 protestors marched across campus, chanting and handing out information leaflets, gaining momentum and attracting a lot of attention from a student population that is currently much more concerned with revising for impending summer examinations. Upon reaching the E.ON building at the far end of the business park, the group continued chanting and the staged a game “catch the carbon”. This was a playful reference to E.ON’s claims that the emissions from the coal power station would be negligible with its new carbon capturing technology, which will supposedly be able to “store the carbon underground” (E.ON website). The game involved one person with some black balloons (the carbon emission) being chased by others with fishing nets (the carbon capture). The game concluded after several rounds that the carbon capturing technology was unfit for purpose at present, thus demonstrating what the protestors were there for in the first instance.

Carbon Capture Technology

After enquiring whether he could have a statement from an E.ON member of staff, Alex Fowles, an organiser of the protest, was joined by Emily Highmore, E.ON’s senior press officer. When asked why E.ON was supporting a new set of coal power stations, she reasoned that it was their duty as energy providers to maintain a low price and a constant supply of electricity to homes and businesses. It was for the same reason that E.ON opposed a public enquiry into the governments impending decision about whether it should support E.ON’s plans. She further quoted E.ON’s commitment to an “energy mix”, in which renewable sources of energy played a part, but all in the context of guaranteeing energy supplies. She was not able to offer an explanation as to how carbon capturing was to be used if the technology was not ready yet, insisting that it would be installed from day one.

Overall, it is probably safe to say that the protest itself will probably not impact greatly on E.ON’s and the government’s decision-making processes. However, as part of the bigger movement of events, such as a protest outside parliament on April 1, and the Camp for Climate Action in August to be held at Kingsnorth, and a planned meeting with the University’s MP, Warwick University’s People and Planet society have great hope that it will have raised awareness and made their contribution to the ever louder growing voices saying “No!” to an “unsustainable and short-sighted” energy policy.

Alex Fowles
Hannah Smith

Links to find out more:

May 11, 2008

Brown takes the biggest blow for Labour since the 1950s

As if things could not get any worse for Gordon Brown, local elections have risen to strike another blow against the Government. In an election result, the likes of which have not been seen since the golden days of New Labour back in the mid 1990s, the Conservatives smashed the Labour Party across the country securing over 200 seats and the Governments losing around 300 seats. The Liberal Democrats had a disappointing night, gaining around 30 seats but a silver lining appeared when the BBC revealed that their share of the national vote was 1% higher then Labour, putting the Government in third place at 24% compared to 25% for the Liberal Democrats. The Conservative Party was in buoyant mood when the poll put them on 44% enough to secure a majority of over 120 seats, if such results were to occur in a General Election.

Whichever way the results are put, they are disappointing for the Labour Party. 331 Councillors down, reduced from 27% of the National Vote to 24% and 9 councils lost, including some in their midland and northern heartlands. The Conservatives picked up 256 new councillors, 12 new councils and increased their share of the vote by 4%. The Liberal Democrats had to content themselves with 34 new councillors, a single new council and a reduction in a vote by 1%.

Labour was given a further kick in the teeth, when the Conservatives managed to secure the London Mayoralty from Ken Livingstone. The charismatic but gaffe-prone, Boris Johnson, beat the former Mayor of London by over 100,000 votes making for more depressing reading from the point of view of the Prime Minister.

The week worsened for the Prime Minister when Scottish Labour Leader, Wendy Alexander made what could be one of the most important political decisions ever taken by a Scottish Labour Leader, when she decided to push the First Minister Alex Salmond to call a referendum on independence. Mrs Alexander told Alex Salmond to ‘bring it on’ and the Prime Minister was humiliated at Question Time as he tried desperately to get out of the mess his Scottish counterpart had put him in. Leader of the Opposition David Cameron battered the Prime Minister on other issues as well including early release schemes and called on Mr. Brown to ‘stop the PR and start being a PM’.

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg also stuck the boot in when it came to the 10p Tax Revolt, saying that as a matter of principle the Prime Minister should compensate those that are going to lose out from the tax changes.

The Weekend Newspapers though have not given the beleaguered Prime Minister any respite. Saturday saw the release of Cherie Blair’s Memoirs in the form of a serialisation by The Times, she claimed that Mr. Brown had ‘rattled the keys’ of No.10 to get Tony Blair out earlier and that Mr. Blair was now helping Mr. Brown to get through this politically damaging times, rumours which have been denied by senior Brown aides. The Sunday papers are even worse, with John Prescott’s Memoirs stating how he had advised the former Prime Minister, Tony Blair, to sack the Chancellor as well as describing the PM as ‘annoying, bewildering and prickly’. An Observer Poll has also shown the Prime Minister being rated as ‘worse then Cameron’ on all tests that they conducted on public feelings.
The Prime Minister is going to have to act fast to stop the rot, with most political commentators speaking of the Conservatives waltzing towards a landslide akin to 1997, a possible third revolt on benefit cuts in the Budget and a personal poll rating even worse then his predecessor at his most unpopular this looks like another tough week for the Prime Minister and the Government. As ever, RaW News shall keep students up to date with all the latest events and provide analysis.

Andrew O’Brien
Chief Political Correspondent

April 28, 2008

Sense Through the Smoke: Student's Views on Cannabis

Earlier this month the Advisory Council on the Misuse of Drugs issued its
update on the classification of cannabis. The government had sought a
review of its 2004 re classification of the drug from a class B to class C. The
review was commissioned out of a concern that the strength of cannabis
people are taking is far stronger than it was four years ago. Concern is also shown by the home secretary Jacquie Smith and PM Gordon Brown, who appeare determined to tighten the laws on cannabis, but The advisory council suggested that the drug remain at its current classification. The Association of Chief Police Officers, however, have compelled the government to reverse its 2004 decision. They suggest that the drug be taken back up to class b. Downgrading cannabis sent out the wrong message that cannabis was legal and harmless. This has all been a bit of a confusion for the government, as saving police time and resources was the primary reason put forward by the Home Office for the down grading of cannabis in the first place.

As for the statistics, well, come to all sorts of conclusions. For example last year the London’s Institute of Psychiatry, estimated that at least 1/10th of the 250,000 schizophrenics in the UK could have avoided the illness if they had not used cannabis. Only this month, Keele University’s research suggested this wasn’t wholly true; there was no causal link between cannabis use and mental health problems. So with the government, police and experts all giving out mixed messages, is it possible to find our way through the smoke? I spoke to 2 students about their encounters with cannabis and other drugs and what they made of the inconsistencies. I began by asking them, if they thought the government was right to down grade cannabis four years ago…

Listen to Rithee’s report here:

March 15, 2008

Warwick Atheists lose Best New Society Award

With the headline in the Boar shouting “I don’t believe it” when it came to the news that Warwick Atheists had won Best New Society Award two weeks ago, the famous catchphrase seems to have been proven correct. On the last day of term, the Union decided to revoke the Society’s award and the accompanying £100 they had won. At the centre of this decision and sudden acrimony between the society and the Union’s Welfare Officer, are the posters depicting religions being disposed of in a bin. Their inspiration might very well have come from the campaign to keep the No Platform Policy, who used a symbol of a person binning a swastika, but it seems that Atheist version led to a ‘number of complaints’.Boar Front Page Week 10

According to the Union, the Executive Committee of the Warwick Atheists Society was sent an e-mail regarding the posters that were put up around campus entitled ‘The Importance of Atheism’. The society’s executive was informed that these posters were in the process of being taken down, and that we would be in contact again once the issue had been dealt with in the appropriate manner. Indeed, Ed Callow was seen taking them down with much determination. The main image within the posters themselves was of an individual discarding the symbols of nine major global religions into a litter bin, with the tagline “It’s time to take out the trash” written at the bottom. The Union claims that they included a level of unnecessary and discriminatory language which included: “If you’re sick and tired of hearing “it’s my faith” used as a smokescreen for ridiculous viewpoints, come and take a look at what we have to say”.

The Union has also taken the decision to ban the reproduction of the image in any other publication or media. They have claimed that the “The bounds of the Equal Opportunities Appendix apply to reproductions of these posters in the same way as the posters themselves”.

According to sources close to the Warwick Atheists new Exec, the society is planning to to appeal the decision. Indeed, their main argument against revoking their award was that they were judged on their progress throughout the year, not afterwards. However, the Union takes a different view; ‘Even though this publicity went up after the distribution of awards, given that the criteria include ‘Commitment to Equal Opportunities’, ‘Good intersociety relations’ and ‘Contribution to the Union / wider University environment’, it was felt that this breach was serious enough to merit withdrawal of this honour for the 2007/2008 academic year.’

It seems that Warwick Atheists are not prepared to sit back and accept the Union’s judgment. On an unofficial blog called ‘ToolChronicles’, the ‘Chronicler’ – an anonymous ‘individual’ who according to the ‘webmaster’, doesn’t represent Warwick Atheists, highlighted the words ‘Fuck You Ed’, evidently referring to the Welfare Officer, and he/she defends Warwick Atheists position: “We’ve produced nothing as or more offensive than has been seen in the past, and it was merely a free expression of a valid viewpoint held by a great many people. Religion is mocked in every form of entertainment we have nowadays. We weren’t even doing that. This poster is not offensive to average people. A minority, an incorrectly outspoken minority at that, expressed that it offended their sensitive theistic values.”

The issue does raise questions about freedom of speech and sensitivity towards different religions. After the recent Referendum decision to now allow racists and fascists into the Union, the debate about information will not rest. Warwick students will now enjoy a rift between Mr Callow and Warwick Atheists. The ‘Chronicler’ stated “We’re taking it to appeal, and we’re going to fight it every step of the way. Bring it on, Callow.”

To visit the Warwick Atheists’ website click here.

To visit the blog Tool Chronicles, click here.

For the Students’ Union website, click here.

RaW News is not responsible for the content of these external websites.

Sam Shirley
Outgoing Head of News

March 05, 2008

Students Win Change on Recycling in Halls

At a meeting of the University Environment Committee last Thursday 21st February 2008, the Students’ Union gained University officials’ commitment to implementing recycling in every kitchen on campus. The meeting was especially timely given that it took place during Go Green Week. As a result of the meeting, the Union resolved to collaborate with Warwick Accommodation and Estates in implementing this scheme by September 2008.

Many students have contributed to the campaign over the years. In 2005, 2006 and 2007, 3000 signatures were gained during Go Green Week, Paul Smyth – Union Environment Officer and Campaigns Committee Chair 2004-6 – stands out as a champion of the environment by demanding that Recycling in Halls to be brought in, cuts in Carbon dioxide emissions and he succeeded in lobbying for An Environment Officer to be appointed.

This year Union President Joe Kirby demanded that students be included in the negotiations for the university waste contract in January and he managed to secure a clause in the contract. This stated that any company who won the tender would be required to remove mixed recyclables from halls and separate them off site. This enabled the University and Union to devise a scheme with one bin for waste, and one mixed recycling bin for tins, cans, plastic and cardboard.

Go Green Coordinators Hannah Smith, Kate Shayler and Alex Fowles have been collecting signatures this year to reinforce the demand for recycling on campus and were instrumental in setting up direct action by several students involved in Go Green Week this year to lobby the University in its own place at University House, which was crucial to the final decision taken at the Committee.

According to to Warwick’s Environment Officer Nick Hillard, the scheme is set to hit recycling rates of 90% cross-campus, comparing with the current some-what dismal rate of 11%. However, there is still a long way to go before recycling is finally delivered in every hall. A Coordinator of Go Green Week said:

‘People and Planet Society have been campaigning on this issue for many years now and have compiled several thousand signatures from students insisting upon the matter. In fact for many, recycling in halls has been the largest issue of contention when analysing the university’s environmental impact. Go Green Week this year was very heavily focussed on pressuring the University to commit to a deadline for the installation and it seems as though the endless petitioning, meetings with the environmental committee and implementation of Union Policy has finally paid off, thanks to the help of Warwick’s environmental officer, Nick Hillard and the many students who have been involved in Go Green Week over the past few years.

‘Personally, I see this as a huge achievement for the People and Planet Society and I would like to thank all of those who have been instrumental; it is very rewarding to see the hard work of so many finally paying off.

‘It is now time to reassess the direction of student action on campus and re-focus our energies on new projects, as this chapter is drawing to its conclusion.’

The fine details of implementation of this scheme are as yet to be decided upon and The Union and the University will be working together to deliver this. In an Interview with RaW News, Union President Joe Kirby and Go Green Coordinator Alex Fowles expressed their views on where the University, the Students Union and active individuals go from here.
Click on the link to hear the interview and please do leave any comments in the section below.

Hannah Smith
Head of News

Go Green Students

Free Trade or Fairtrade? RaW News analyses Make Trade Fair Week and the Referendum Motion

Last Week on Campus was Make Trade Fair Week, an event run by the People and Planet Society. Now in the wake of the Union Referenda this week, RaW News Correspondant Rithee Pandya described the ideas behind fair trade and introduced the contentious debate as to whether Free Trade or Fair Trade is the direction in which this Union should be heading.

Warwick Students in the Yurt

Just as go green week ended and you thought you had had you fair share of ethical issues, fair trade week began here at Warwick. The week saw a tent put up in the piazza, fair trade chocolate fountains and an abundance of Oxfam leaflets and badges. There was a Fairtrade forum discussing workers’ rights and the effectiveness of Fairtrade in trade justice and local protest against Topshop.

RaW News interviewed Make Trade Fair Week organisers James Hall and Sara Johnson to analyze the success of the week. To listen, just click on the link below:

But what actually is fair trade? Unfortunately, it runs the risk of being one of those vague concepts that the majority of people follow because of its wash of morality.

The idea behind it is producers of goods, such as bananas, coffee, tea and cotton, in poor countries are given a better-than-market price for their products. This will guarantee them a decent wage,ensuring they can develop their business an infrastructure, rather than being gutted every time the bottom falls out of whichever market they’re in.

In the UK, £300m worth of Fairtrade products were purchased in 2006, up from £493m in 2005. There are predictions that that over the next 5 years this will grow by 11% and total £585m by 2012.Tate & Lyle has just said it’s going to turn over its entire operation to Fairtrade sugar with 40% of the cost of each bag of sugar will go to its growers and producers in Belize. Scotland has said even said it’s going to try to become the world’s first fair trade country.

However, according to the Adam Smith Institute, there are ‘inconvenient truths’ about fair-trade which have yet to surface. This week the ASI published a highly critical report suggesting that fair-trade benefits only a handful of farmers are the expense of the majority. Those farmers who qualify for fair trade certification are given higher prices for their produce, making it ‘unfair’ for the farmers that don’t. Even for Fairtrade certified farmers, only 1/5 of their produce sold ends up as fair-trade.

Those supporters of fair trade point to its successes; schools/hospitals built and agriculture sustained. A representative of the farmers of the Winward Islands in the Caribbean at the ‘Whats the point in fair trade?’ conference here at Warwick, highlighted the benefits the islanders have gained from fairtrade. The windard island produces bananas on, due to their location and resources, an extremely small and expensive scale. Fair trade has allowed them to sustain their business and they can now compete alongside the more developed banana producers of South America and Europe.

Given the wave of fair-trade products sweeping our shelves, what does it mean for consumer choice? By doing our little bit, are we addressing the wider issues? Do we know what the wider issues are? RaW News invited representatives from Make Trade Fair Week, the Warwick Tory Party and then threw in a few extras, in order to debate the pros and cons of fairtrade.

To listen to the debate click on the link, and should you have any views on the matter, please do leave your comments in the section below.

Rithee Pandya
Political Correspondent
Hannah Smith
Head of News

February 20, 2008

Huhne accuses Labour of 'riding roughshod' over Civil Liberties

The Liberal Democrats’ Shadow Home Secretary, Chris Huhne, has condemned the government’s record on Civil Liberties in an interview with RaW News, accusing Labour of ‘riding roughshod’ over our basic rights, and saying that by panicking, the government were playing into the hands of terrorists who seek to destroy our ‘distinctive’ way of life. Mr Huhne was clearly relishing his new role on the Liberal Democrat Front Bench, following his defeat by the narrowest of margins to Nick Clegg in the party leadership election in December.

On the issue of detention without trial, he said Tony Blair and now Gordon Brown had gone ‘massively overboard.’ He quoted the example of the Troubles in Northern Ireland, saying that no matter what the level of threat from the IRA, detention without trial was not extended beyond two days. He said that he was ‘entirely against extending the twenty eight day limit’, adding that the case had not been made for extending the limit at all. He also stated that the Liberal Democrats would review the system, and did not rule out the possibility of calling for the limit to actually be reduced.

Mr Huhne said the government had gone ‘far too far’ in removing traditional checks and balances and moving away from habeas corpus, often seen as a cornerstone of the British legal system. He said one of the most infamous examples of this was the case of the elderly Walter Wolfgang who was arrested under anti-terrorism measures merely for heckling the platform during the then-Foreign Secretary Jack Straw’s speech to the Labour Party Conference, saying this highlighted the huge potential for abuse of these powers.

On ID Cards, Mr Huhne is perhaps even less convinced by the government’s argument. Asked if they would not be a small price to pay for defending national security, he replied ‘well, Spain has ID cards. It didn’t stop the Madrid bombing.’ He went on to argue that it is ‘not the role of a legislator merely to give in to a professional without seriously testing the argument.’

He also raised serious practical issues about the proposals, asking how we could be expected to trust the government to keep this confidential data safe, especially in the light of the recent missing data scandals. Mr Huhne said while you may be able to change your bank account number, ‘you can’t change your fingerprint.’

The Lib Dem Home Affairs Spokesman called on the government to ‘stop panicking’ and said they had got the balance between defending liberty and defending security ‘quite wrong’, but did welcome news that the government was taking some constructive steps, particularly the announcement that they would begin using intercept evidence. However that didn’t stop there being ‘alarming prospects’ for civil liberties, and Mr Huhne said he himself had used the phrase ‘sleepwalking into a surveillance society.’ Here he raised the particularly worrying issue of the abuse of the ‘Wilson Doctrine’ established in the 1960s to protect the privacy of constituents when talking to their MP. He said this showed that safeguards were simply not there to prevent the abuse of new technologies.

The Conservatives did not escape Mr Huhne’s wroth either, however, telling RaW that the Tories were ‘fair-weather friends’ of the government on issues of freedom, and adding that they were ‘all over the shop on ID cards.’ He paid tribute to liberal-minded Conservatives such as David Davis, but feared they were coming under fire from within their own party.


Scott Dobson
Chief Political Correspondent

Gadsby–Peet calls for students to reclaim Saturday nights

The Union’s Communications Officer, James Gadsby-Peet, has launched a new campaign which he has styled ‘Sat_your_day’ in response to ever-growing criticism of Flirt, the current Saturday night event in the Students Union. Flirt is a brand that has been developed nationally by the NUS, but it has proved very unpopular with some sections of the Warwick student body. With the ‘Get Flirt Out of Warwick’ Facebook group now boasting over 900 members, Gadsby-Peet is offering students the chance to attend a meeting and offer ideas for the union event on Saturday of Week 8. If the event is a success, he sees no reason why this can not be rolled out to other events, meaning that perhaps Flirt may be on its way out of Warwick. Listen to what James Gadsby-Peet had to say when Political Correspondent Andrew O’Brien spoke to him earlier.


Scott Dobson
Chief Political Correspondent

February 18, 2008

Channel 4 journalist says more information to be released against MMR reports

Brian Deer, the Channel 4 journalist who produced a documentary criticising the reports which link between MMR vaccines to autism, has said he would release even more information this year against the reports.

Speaking to RaW News, Deer said that there was “a big bunch of stuff” he would “release to the world” against the report published by a medical team led by Dr. Andrew Wakefield more than 10 years ago.

Deer’s previous documentaries have led to Wakefield launching libel action against him, which was subsequently dropped later.
Brian Deer
Deer called Wakefield’s action “the biggest mistake in his life.”

Speaking about the current state of journalism, he feels that competition has restricted the scope of stories which journalists could cover.

He thinks that journalists can no longer cover more general social issues such as poverty and homelessness.

“We are more caring about ourselves, and less caring about others,” says Deer, who thinks that people are no longer looking out for each other as they had in the past.

The journalist also looks fondly back at his days when he was an undergraduate philosophy student, from the time when he was the only student in the whole of what is now the Rootes Residences, to the time when he planned an attack with the student union president against the pro vice chancellor and had his degree award delayed.

He encourages students to get engaged with journalism, saying it is one of the most open industries in the market.

Listen to the interview here:

Or, click here:


Jon Ng
Political Correspondent

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