Sunday, January 31, 2010

article: feminism - what went wrong?

Be warned: don´t expect anything too amazing, it is from the Telegraph, after all. What I did find interesting were some of the user comments. There was one woman calling herself "Grace" who loudly stated that feminism was invented by men - and, I quote,
"Yes, we need a third wave of feminism. True feminism, that treats women like human beings that deserve and need a HUSBAND for life to be their helpmeet and together to raise their children. Or is that just TOO old fashioned?"

Yes, actually Grace. Yes it is.

On the other hand, another chap responded to her by stating
"I may only be 20 years of age, but this anti-men society sickens me. If it isn't the media shoving it down our throats, it's women such as yourself."

I´m not entirely sure what he is postulating as evidence for this alleged "anti-men" society but it concerns me that there is so much delusion and hysteria amongst the British public - we´re not only incapable of discussing some issues rationally but we´re also incapable of even correctly identifying what the issues are in the first place, it would seem.

Anyway, the moral of the story is: If you don´t want to get frustrated and end up banging your head into your keyboard then don´t read articles from the Telegraph.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

"He has chosen the most rational mode of transport in the world for his trip round the Carpathians. To ride a bicycle is in itself some protection against superstitious fears, since the bicycle is the product of pure reason applied to motion. Geometry at the service of man! Give me two spheres and a straight line and I will show you how far I can take them. Voltaire him-self might have invented the bicycle, since it contributes so much to man´s welfare and nothing at all to his bane. Beneficial to the health, it emits no harmful fumes and permits only the most decorous speeds. How can a bicycle ever be an implement of harm?"

Monday, January 25, 2010

an email exchange between myself and LUU..

(Oldest email at the bottom.)

Date: Mon, 25 Jan 2010 18:46:03 +0000 [18:46:03 GMT]
From: Philippa Dee United Kingdom
To: M______ G________
Cc: J_____ C______
Subject: RE: A quick question..
Headers: Show All Headers

M_______ and J_____,

First of all, thankyou for responding to my email. I´m happy to know that the Union took my comment seriously, despite it being a spur of the moment email.

I have read the responses sent to me and it is obvious that this is a complex issue and has been handled by the exec as such. As a student, obviously I can understand the concern of others who are worried about the detrimental effect such strikes may have on their degrees. I have spoken to a number of other students about this and opinions were generally pretty divided – there didn´t seem to be any sort of well defined consensus on the matter. Some, like myself, were surprised or shocked on the basis of some kind of perception of the Student Union advising students to rally against Industrial action which, in the wider scope of things, was in their interests. Others, however, felt that it was unfair that they should be penalised as a result of something which they considered to be of little consequence to themselves – and penalised in a way which could be very detrimental to their futures. A good friend of mine who is currently studying for
his masters raised the very valid point that, as he was paying a very considerable amount of money outright for his degree, he was frustrated at the prospect of this action affecting what is obviously a very important time for him. This is just a small sketch of the kind of responses I found students to have. Almost everyone acknowledged the fact that it isn´t a black and white issue.

However, I still couldn´t shake the feeling that there was something in this particular scenario which didn´t sit right with me, and as a student one of the things I have learned is that when something doesn´t feel right it certainly bodes investigation into the reasons behind this, even if they transpire to be a result of nothing more than an anachronism in my own personal beliefs. I found the rationale you put forward in your email fairly convincing, with regards to the need to ensure present students did not suffer as a result of strikes – and if this is the general feeling on campus, obviously LUU is there to represent the views of Leeds Students. But this didn´t quell my feelings that something here was somewhat topsy-turvey, and so I began to consider something mentioned to me by a friend, the person I mentioned in my previous paragraph as studying for a masters.
While worried about the impact the strikes would have on his degree, he nevertheless had some degree of sympathy with the principles behind the striking of Academic staff – and he mentioned that he had discussed it with his Dad, who told him about a time in his youth when something similar had happened. In this time (I suppose late 70s?) the students had not only supported such action by academic staff, they had actually taken action in solidarity with their lecturers!
Similarly, I am studying in a German University at the moment and last July students here actually went on strike themselves in protest against the commercialisation of higher education in Germany. The Bildungstreik movement involves many many students at this university and many others across Germany, and a few months ago they occupied a building here in solidarity with other students in their own and other European countries. The consensus was that education is something that should not be ruled by the needs of business, and it was something very many students felt passionately about. I can understand their feelings – we´re of course way past that in the UK. We pay our 3 and a half grand a year and we expect a certain standard of conduct in return. Our degree is an investment – our time at University is a product we are sold, and as any consumer would, we feel we have the right to demand certain things for our money. So we end up in situations like this one. I can see why the Germans, and other Europeans, protest so loudly at the thought of their University system heading in the same Americanised direction as our own.

I suppose in the end alls I have really pointed out here is that the higher education
system in the UK has changed drastically over the last 20 years to become an almost
unrecognisible entity but I´m sure you know that far better than I do, with a paltry two years of uni under my belt! So I´m not intending to sound arrogant or like I think I know more than I do (and if I come across that way I apologise); obviously there is a lot going on behind the scenes that students aren´t privvy to and it´s all too easy for idealistic young twenty somethings like me to come along and insist we aspire to some kind of lofty ambition of unblemished, but ultimately abstract, values.
But try as I might, as much as I hear these rational reasons and understand why they are being put forward, I simply cannot get behind the fact that the Union is advising students to pressure (emotionally blackmail?) their teachers into avoiding industrial action which is ultimately in the interests of the wider academic community and therefore the students themselves. Unless, that is, they are students for whom the individual student „experience“ is more important than the health of the institution of academia itself – the institution became a participant of when they began their degree. I know we´re Thatcher´s children, and we expect recognition of our interests and the entitlement that money can buy but I still find it saddening that in this instance so many people consider it perfectly natural to condemn their teachers for acting in the interests of Leeds University as an institution.

I think essentially the problem I have is not so much with LUUs choice of action but
rather with the fact that the commodification of Higher Education has resulted in a
scenario in which the interests of students and their lecturers have diverged to such a degree that they are now in direct opposition to one another.
When you enter University, you are joining academia – you´re the footsoldiers in a war on unreason, or to put it less pretentiously, you´re on the bottom rungs of a ladder which reaches great heights and performs an essential role in a healthy democracy. You are a part of a symbiotic system which functions with the overall goal of the progression of human knowledge. And now, because you pay your money, you are a consumer, and an invisible line has been drawn between you and those who are supposed to guide you in your quest for knowledge, and those who are supposed to teach you become the opposition.
At worst this is unethical, at best it is hardly conducive to a proud and united Academic front. But of course, while we´re still forking over those fees, we´re still going to expect our product not to be faulty – and I suppose that´s the key issue here.

So, there we go, a pound sign has now successfully been smacked onto the progression of human knowledge as well.

Please don´t feel pressured to respond to this, as I found the previous email more than helpful. I just wanted to express my feelings on this particular matter because it is something that I feel strongly about. Ultimately LUU takes action on the behalf of students, and in this instance I suppose that most students feelings on this matter mean your course of action is justified.

Thanks for your time,


Quoting M_________ G________ :

>Dear Pippa
>Thanks for your email, sorry for the delay in getting back to you.
>I will try to explain to you the thinking behind the exec's position, though >equally happy to discuss in person if you'd like (I realise now having re-read >your email this may in fact be tricky!)
>You may have heard that the university has announced its intention to save £35 million pounds from 2011. Why they are doing this is explained in greater detail here:
> We have already publically
>stated that we strongly oppose all cuts to higher education and have written to the
>university Vice-Chancellor and to David Lammy MP, the government minister responsible
>for universities, asserting this. You can see our initial response and these letters by
>going to We support the
>intervention of our Vice-Chancellor in the Guardian on 12th January
>(, and share his concerns about the fate of the student experience. Unfortunately, the government has already announced a £915 million reduction in spending to universities from next year
>torycode=409782). Whilst opposing this, we believe it is also our job to represent the
>concerns of students about the impact on their education of cuts, and ensure that there
>is minimal impact on current and future students as the University of Leeds prepares to
> deal with reduced government income.
>We are committed to working with staff at all levels of the university to do this,
>including representatives of university staff, who we meet with regularly. We have
>signed a joint statement which commits us to working with them; you can see this at
> This statement agrees that there should be minimal impact on students of any industrial action that the campus trade unions take. We intend to support the campus trade unions when the views of students are in line with their concerns and when there is no negative impact on students. We do not deny the right of lecturers to take industrial action, but only one of the three trade unions on campus, the UCU (the trade union for academic staff), is balloting for strike action showing that even amongst staff there is disagreement over how to resolve the dispute. We would question why a local ballot is being held when ACAS (the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service) talks are ongoing between the university management and UCU representatives and when proposals for achieving 10% savings necessary for the university's economies exercise have yet to be confirmed. If the debate is about government cuts to higher education, why are staff in other campuses not balloting for strike action? Is it fair that Leeds students should endure strikes and not others? There are talks currently being chaired by ACAS currently going on and the exec has, rightly I believe, expressed a hope that the dispute will be resolved without the need for industrial action. I hope this is something you will agree
>Following a motion that was democratically passed at our Union Council, we wrote to the
>campus trade unions asking them not to take action that would be detrimental to
>students but they were not prepared to give us this guarantee. With rising graduate
>unemployment levels and fewer graduate jobs available than before, we believe that
>students at Leeds University need and deserve a high quality, disruption free
>education. The number of emails that students have sent to staff shows there is real
>concern about this, and that concern is legitimate. We would rather not go back to the
>days of 2006 when industrial action from staff meant students' exams were not marked
>and graduations for final year students were threatened. These are real possibilities
>this time round, and we want to avoid getting to July and final year students asking
>why they are unable to graduate on time and why nothing was done to stop the situation
>from arising.
>This does not mean we are not pressing the university on the economies exercise. You
>are right that we certainly do want money to come into learning and teaching and we
>have asked what steps the university are taking to reduce unnecessary spending, the
>answers are on the blog at Cuts/
>where you can also find the latest information on what we're doing to represents the
>concerns of students. We have asked for and been given assurances that there will be
>minimal impact on students during the economies exercise. The university have admitted
>this will be a challenge, but it is one they are trying to meet. We are engaged in
>constant discussions to ensure the university sticks to this commitment. There is more
>we are preparing to do. Over the coming months the university will be revealing what
>they plan to cut, we'll be there to ensure the effect on students is minimal, and
>we'll consult with students in schools to ensure we're relaying student concerns. We
>will also ensure the university directly consult with students. We'll oppose any
>threats to the student experience and are prepared to campaign against them as we are
>doing now.
>The exec is trying to be pragmatic in its response to national cuts to universities.
>None of us want to see a shortage of educators, the exec wouldn't have put themselves
>forward to do the jobs we are doing if we didn't want the educational experience of
>students to be better. We believe that the position we have adopted is one which puts
>students first. We are against all cuts that have a detrimental effect on the student
>experience, but we are also against strike action by staff, especially as proposals to
>make the savings have not been yet been confirmed. We do not believe that these
>positions are incompatible. I hope over the coming months the student body will unite
>to condemn cuts to higher education. We will continue to listen to the views of
>students and represent their concerns.
>I hope this is helpful in answering your questions, if you have any more then I'd be
>happy to try and answer them.
>Best wishes
>M________ G_______

>Leeds University Union
>-----Original Message-----
>From: Philippa Dee []
>Sent: 18 January 2010 13:55
>To: M________ G_______
>Cc: J____ C______
>Subject: A quick question..
>So in the latest newsletter email thing from LUU I was quite surprised
>to see the union advising students to put pressure on Academic staff
>not to take any industrial action. A bit of investigating tells me
>that this is to do with the Education First campaign, which I have
>just been perusing on the Union website. While most of the sentiments
>expressed in that campaign seem fairly commendable, I am still
>confused as to why exactly students should be pressuring their
>academic staff not to strike. Surely, in terms of the bigger picture,
>staff striking is beneficial to students in terms of making a stand
>regarding budget cuts and the importance of this money going to
>teaching staff rather than, say, a bloated and unnecessary
>administration or outlandish research projects?
>I´m not being aggy or anything but I´m quite interested and I´d like
>to hear your reasons for this course of action!
>Pippa (3rd year student currently abroad)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Women working in the UK earn on average 23% less than men. The conviction rate for rape is 6.5%. During the 1990s the number of men paying for sex acts doubled.