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September, 2015:

Carbuncle Cup

City GatewayOur City Gateway hall of residence has narrowly missed out on a national award. It was short-listed for the Carbuncle Cup, but was beaten in the final by London’s walkie talkie. The walkie talkie has melted cars; we simply could not compete.

Our tower, which has locally acquired the name “fag butt”, was particularly commended for being placed tight against the adjacent building; some students get a view of a blank wall. It also attracted attention last year when the university chose to enforce a contractual clause allowing it be left empty until now.

I guess the fag butt is a commemoration of the old British American Tobacco factory on the other side of town. Long ago, Rose alarmed fellow activists by describing the BAT plant as “Southampton’s ugliest building”. We’re now free to use the moniker on City Gateway: it has a national short-listing to prove it.

Back on campus, our Mountbatten Building actually won a RIBA award in 2009; unfortunately your UCU health and safety representatives are still having to work hard to bring the cost-engineered plumbing into a safe and usable condition.

Denis Nicole

Flexible retirement: get it while you still can

I wrote about flexible retirement a while back. Several of us have been able to take an 80% flex, and collect our USS pension, without difficulty over the past couple of years. It seems that now, however, management attitudes are starting to harden. We have heard rumours that Welsh universities have been denying flexible retirement; now we have an example of Southampton making it more difficult than it should be. Guidelines have been circulated in FPSE that

FEG would expect staff with no research funding to retain teaching commitment

In other words, however much you retire, you will still be doing a full FTE of teaching. I think that is unreasonable. And surely it is research quality, not funding, that should drive decisions? The guidance also carries the unsavoury implication that teaching is an activity which colleagues have to be pressured into doing; how will that benefit students or deliver better NSS scores?

If you are thinking about flexing, it would a be good idea get in touch with the union before starting negotiations.

† I love this term. It seems that, whenever the university wants to create policies without bothering to negotiate with the recognised trade unions, they call them “guidelines”.

Denis Nicole