The most surprising nomination for a university Rector in history, increased measures against protesters, drops in violent crime, and a debate on the merits and pitfalls of a private education are hot topics in recent UK mainstream and student news, as Jamie Timson and Rachel Barr contextualise in this week’s ‘The Bottom Line’.
WATER CANNONS have been at the forefront of the political debate this week as both the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) called for discussion on their use in riots. This news came on the back of the Mayor’s earlier plea for the Home Secretary to fund the purchase of cannons for the Metropolitan Police service (MPS). Boris cited the riots of 2011 that started in London as the catalyst for his decision claiming “I am broadly convinced of the value of having water cannon available to the MPS for those circumstances where its absence would lead to greater disorder or the use of more extreme force.”
The prospect of water cannons, however, has brought uproar in some quarters with Joanne McCartney — Labour’s police and crime spokesperson — describing Mayor Johnson’s actions as “deeply worrying” and going on to question the necessity and speed of the implementation. “This is being rushed through, and Londoners are being given virtually no chance to express their views. Such a monumental shift in policing needs a proper public debate”. Others have questioned the supposed implicit meaning behind Acpo’s briefing and the danger to public protest it could result in:
‘We need a water cannon.’ Why? ‘Austerity will lead to continued protest.’ And? ‘Protest is unacceptable, obviously.’ http://t.co/Clo6bYPpt2
— Barney Guiton (@BarneyGuiton) January 22, 2014
DESPITE INCREASED MEASURES against “great disorder”, crime figures in England and Wales have actually fallen by 10% – the lowest estimate made since 1981, when the Crime Survey of England and Wales (CSEW) began. Prime Minister David Cameron tweeted his congratulations to the police, posting:
Congratulations to the police. Independent stats show #CrimeIsFalling again, bringing security to people. It’s down over 10% under this govt
— David Cameron (@David_Cameron) January 23, 2014
However, while crimes such as violent crime have decreased, there have been ‘worrying’ increases in other areas of deviance. Fraud offences recorded by police have increased by 34% , and sexual offences have increased by 17%. This increase has been attributed in BBC reports “Yewtree Effect“, where a greater number of victims have come forward to the police to report historical sex crimes, as seen in cases against Rolf Harris and other ‘household’ names.
HIGH PROFILE SEX ALLEGATIONS have featured heavily again in the news this week as Disgraced Lib Dem Peer Lord Rennard’s lack of apology has resulted in opprobrium from all sides. Rennard had been the subject of a criminal investigation and a Liberal Democrat disciplinary process after at least 10 women came forward alleging that he had behaved inappropriately towards them during his time as chief executive. The 53-year-old campaign mastermind was cleared by both the Crown Prosecution Service and the Lib Dem’s own investigation as the “burden of proof would be too high” but these findings have seen the party come under fire.
Alison Goldsworthy one of the alleged victims spoke out against her former party claiming “Faced with the opportunity to take strong action, the Liberal Democrats have once more opted for cowardice.They have failed to say Lord Rennard’s behaviour is unacceptable, they have failed to discipline him and therefore failed to give victims the justice they deserve.”
Lord Rennard was not the only Lib Dem to be embroiled in a sexual harassment scandal as Mike Hancock MP was also suspended this week following reports of “prima facie evidence” that Hancock had made inappropriate sexual advances on a constituent.
THE BIG STUDENT NEWS of the week in the UK was the nomination of US fugitive and whistleblower Edward Snowden for the position of Rector of Glasgow University. The decision had come late on in the nomination process and as such took many at the University by surprise. Snowden — who currently resides in Moscow in temporary Asylum — was contacted by an “informal group of Glasgow University students” via interlocutors, however it is claimed he accepted the nomination personally. The position of Rector is currently held by Charles Kennedy the former Lib Dem leader and his duties include meeting with students and sitting in on disciplinary hearings in the University Court. It remains to be seen how Mr Snowden intends to carry out these responsibilities should he be elected, considering his appearance on the Obama administration’s most wanted list and the UK’s extradition policy with the US.
Chris Cassells, PHD Student at the University and one of the leaders of the ‘Edward Snowden for Rector’ campaign claimed “Edward Snowden’s candidacy is a unique opportunity to show our gratitude to a brace whistleblower and thus to all other whistleblowers who take risks to reveal criminality and corruption of powerful groups in society.” While some have claimed the campaign is nothing more than a publicity stunt, most students and former students have welcomed the opportunity for protest. One former student added “The role of Rector is above all often a ceremonial one, and as such it makes sense to nominate a figure who represents the sentiments of many within the student body.”
HEAD TO HEAD: Student Newspapers on Private Education
“Some things only money can buy – and a good education is one of them”, claims Becca Atkinson, who goes on to equate “posh prejudice” as being ‘just as bad’ as racism or homophobia. Writing for the Bristol branch of The Tab, she argues that while some parents ‘choose’ to spend on “flashy holidays and expensive cars”, others invest their money on school fees and their child’s education.
“From my perspective”, Atkinson continues, “my parents paid two sets of school fees; mine at a price I won’t disclose, and yours, through their taxes”. Quoting the superior resources available to private school students and the better life prospects awaiting them in future as advantages, Atkinson concludes that – all in all – private schools get better results.
“This may be because the students who go there are more clever: you have to pass stringent tests to get in…Regardless, better results mean better prospects, and that is worth paying for”.
On the contrary, retorts fellow Bristol University journalist Jessica McKay, encouraging your children to work hard and be proud of what they have achieved displays far more love and commitment to their future than splashing a few thousand pounds a term. Yes, she agrees, private schools do have better resources – a ‘valid point’.
However, McKay continues, the ‘splendour’ of which state school children are deprived is instead replaced with something which money cannot buy: an ‘enriching school community’:
“Non fee-paying schools mean that children of all economic backgrounds and academic abilities interact and learn together. Some private school advocates argue that they do not want another child to ‘hold’ their own back. Yet, what of the ways children ‘spur‘ each other forward?”
McKay asks a central question of private school advocates: “Why do we segregate our children by monetary worth through ages four to eighteen when, one would hope, they certainly won’t be penned into such divisions in later life?”.
She concludes that, “in trying to ‘protect’ a child from others you, arguably, preclude entire worlds of experience.”