Ah, a week in Cambridge. Thanks to Stephen Hawking's proximity to us, time doesn't seem to pass linearly here. Weeks are over before you know it; blink an eye and suddenly you're thrust into next week, with a fresh load of lectures to pre-read, essays to write and bitchy supervisors breathing down your neck to get that obscure exam question from 1985 done before it's too late ("too late" in this context meaning "when the exam hits", which is NEXT YEAR).
And so it is that students here manage to study 25 hours in a 24-hour day, and that Stephen Hawking manages to give speeches, write books, perform calculations and get divorced repeatedly despite running his life solely through eye winks and cheek movements.
I attempt to make sense of the past week in a university city that is never short of stories to tell.
Students hijack lecture theatre to protest top-up fees
A bunch of students, fed up with the Vice-Chancellor's blatant profit-mongering, hijacked a lecture theatre this week in a desperate bid for attention. Booking the theatre from 5pm to 6pm, the group, calling themselves Cambridge Education Not For Sale, held a 'teach-in' (whatever that means) and then, just for fun, informed the custodian on duty. The custodian, not being trained to respond in such circumstances, proceeded to wet himself, then called the University's Department of Guardianship of Pointless Ancient Traditions, otherwise known as the Proctors.
The Proctors, led by the Senior Provost Lord Master Doctor Frank King (his dad obviously couldn't think of a more regal-sounding first name), proceeded to barge in, assess the situation, and as usual demand that everybody get out. (Cambridge proctors are taught from birth to demand everything they want. From the biography of one of the very first proctors to stalk the halls: One of my first remembered complete sentences was "Mother! This breast is drying up. More milk, you incompetent hag! What do you mean, you can't lactate so much? Get a mastectomy, woman!")
Unfortunately, Proctors, being trained to glide along effortlessly in robes and speak in hoarse ghostly voices, don't always know what's going on. When faced with a situation like this, sometimes they don't really know what to DO. This excerpt from an article in The Cambridge Student says it all:
After clearing up confusion over the group's purpose - Dr King initially suggested that the group should have just booked the room for longer - the proctors informed the students that they were in breach of university rules, and encouraged the group to make a swift exit.Give the man a medal!
The proctors asked the group to commit their names to paper in accordance with what one of them described as "ancient" university rules.I hesitate to be harsh here, because Proctors can be quite slow, see. You have to give them time. The poor dears don't get much action anyway, and people don't even bother telling them that "ancient" times are over, or give them an updated copy of the University rulebook.
A local newspaper editorial a few weeks ago stated that students at Cambridge aren't pushing hard enough against the unfair idiocy that is top-up fees, and I personally agree. Groups like Education Not For Sale are doing what they can, but most students seem content to hold their silence. The protest organised a few weeks ago by the King's College Student Union attracted a handful of protesters, two bicycles and a lonely CUSU banner. British universities are facing a financial crisis, but for donkey's years the greedy coffer-fillers have staved off bankruptcy by taxing international medical students with fees 300% higher than those paid by local students. Then, of course, the racist morons in the British Home Office decide that they've had enough of brown-skinned doctors upstaging them in hospitals and that curry smell wafting out of hospital catering departments, so they go and implement protectionist laws that cut off universities' supply of rich international medical students. Then the number-crunchers see the profits dropping and panic. Well, if you can't tax international students, whom do we tax then? That's right, local students. (Smart reader. I can tell you're never going to be a proctor.)
I wait with bated breath to see if the National Union of Students achieves something with their National Demo against Top-Up Fees in London today. It'd be a nice if something they did was useful for once.
Supervisions with Dr Mumble
Me: But what I don't get, sir, is how exactly caspase 8 is activated in the apoptotic cascade.
Supervisor: mumble mumble.
Me: ...sorry, sir? Didn't catch that.
Supervisor: mumble. mumble, mumble mumble.
Me: ...uh. No really sir. Sorry, I didn't hear you.
Supervisor: mumble mumble you don't need to know that.
Me: That's a relief, sir.
Question One: Describe how caspase 8 is activated in the apoptotic cascade. You are encouraged to draw diagrams. Marks will be given for detail.
An Ode to Boobs
Whilst waiting for 'The History Boys' to start in the local cinema, a friend and I caught a trailer at the start of which a woman in a field, shirt unbuttoned, slid off said shirt to expose her breasts. (You gotta give it to them, folks. No better way to grab attention.) The trailer, showcasing breasts of all shapes and sizes (and ages--watch out, you free porn addicts), encourages women to show their boobs some TLC--Touch, Look, and Check. Viewable here, the trailer is part of BreakThrough's Breast Cancer Initiative in conjunction with October being Breast Cancer Month.
The New UK Flag
From an e-mail circulating in the University:
Says it all, really.