Unremarkable NUS National Shutdown backfires as
NUS President is accused of "Failing students 100%"

UCL picket line
Photo: Adam Ohringer
John House

THE NATIONAL Union of Students (NUS) mounted a nation-wide walk out protest against student fees last week on the 4th March, but protesters felt the union had failed them and the Government maintains that student protests will not alter policy.

The NUS hailed yesterday’s Education Shutdown Campaign as an overwhelming success with an estimated two million students taking part in the protest. Some campuses mobilised massive turn-outs enlisting the support of local MP’s and leaving college buildings empty.

In London support was thin on the ground despite the presence of picket lines at most University of London colleges.

Protesters at King’s College London were adamant that the Teaching and Higher Education Bill that will introduce tuition fees and abolish the maintenance grant should not be passed in the Commons: “ I see this as a form of graduate tax that will put up a barrier between poorer students and higher education.”

“I was promoting higher education in Brixton yesterday and the most commonly asked question was: ‘I can’t afford higher education as it is, how am I supposed to afford it now?’ Most were very reluctant to take out a maintenance loan. Poorer students are deterred by the prospect of having to pay £3000 tuition and then graduate deep in dept.”

Other protesters maintained that the introduction of student fees would set a precedent that would result in the gradual erosion of state funded higher education: “By introducing tuition fees we have actually betrayed the principle of free education as a right.

“There’s nothing to stop the government from increasing fees as a means of raising revenue. We’ve seen this happen in Australia, tuition fees have gone up year by year.”

Student Unions across London criticised the NUS president, Douglas Trainer for his handling of the fees issue. A King’s College London Student Union spokesperson said NUS had done too little too late: “NUS have failed to unite students at the start of the academic year when there was a strong feeling against tuition fees. Its a blatant ploy by Douglas Trainer and the rest of the NUS who blatantly want to become Labour MP’s.”

A spokesperson for the London School of Economics Union said they believed the shut down was counter productive and that the NUS has mishandled the fees issue from the start: “Since the Labour Students voted in fees in September LSE has not been satisfied with NUS policy. Douglas Trainer and the NUS have let students down 100%.”

But Douglas Trainer, who was present at the King’s picket line, was confident that NUS action coupled with opposition in the Lords and the Commons would force the Government to re-think student fees: “The Lords rejected the bill on Monday and a very troubled passage is predicted in the Commons.

“If students really get behind the campaign we can make a big difference. We can beat them on tuition fees, we can force them to think again on maintenance loans.”

Significantly London unions are not impressed with Trainer’s rhetoric and believe that NUS have been shamed into taking a harder line on fees because of regional protests: “Douglas Trainer won’t do anything because he’s a Labour Student” said a SOAS Union spokesperson, “He’s been forced to make that statement by the wave of protests that have swept across campuses.”

The Department of Education and Employment stressed that the Government would not reconsider: “Student loans are a Government Manifesto commitment. The defeat in the Lords will be overturned in the Commons. Government policy is Government policy.”

With their huge parliamentary majority, no-one argues.

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Lords rejection of government's student funding bill shows up Labour split

Brooke Anderson

THE GOVERNMENT was defeated twice Monday night when Lords voted to allow maintenance grants to continue for poorer students and to allow the fourth year of Scottish universities to be paid by the state. The double defeat in the government was due in large part to Labour abstentions.

Peers voted by 143 to 102 for an amendment to the Teaching of Higher Education Bill, which means that students will be entitled to up to half the cost of their maintenance.

They then voted by 134 to 89, a conservative call which would ensure that students enrolled in Scottish universities (where an undergraduate degree takes four years), will get their fourth year fees paid by the state.

These Labour Party abstentions reflect a strong division within the party. The NUS believes that there is a split within the party, especially in the House of Commons. There’s a vote on Tuesday in the House of Lords on the bill.

If this bill were to pass, university students would not only have to pay for maintenance (the cost of housing, books, food and other necessities), but also £1000 per year for tuition.

Many people, including those from the NUS and the department of Education have expressed concern that even if tuition fees do go through, the government would not have the system ready in time. An NUS spokesperson said, “There will be problems with means testing, applications for grants, and there will be a dramatic drop in the take-up of places.”

There is also the fear that if this bill does indeed pass, once tuition fees are introduced, they would not stay at £1000 per year, but would continue to rise, perhaps by vast sums on an annual basis, as is the case in the U.S. and Australia.

The NUS, however, is optimistic. A spokesperson for the NUS said, “I think we’re going to defeat tuition fees. The indications we’ve had this week are that we’re winning the fight against tuition fees.”

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SOAS set up 'virtual' shop

Leyla Brooks

HAVE YOU ever wanted to follow in Richard Branson’s footsteps? Two university students, Avi Haim and Yoav Gamrasni are following suit with the formation of their own company, Student Warehouse Direct (SWD). SWD is a young and exciting independent company run entirely by students.

As an Internet-based mail order company, SWD sells a wide range of products including stationary, music and computer accessories at prices affordable to students. The concept was born when, as undergraduate students at the University of Sussex, Avi Haim and Yoav Gamrasni found student living expensive and began looking around for money-saving ideas. Avi explains, “I thought that our university shop was ripping off the students so I used to set up shop in my room selling stationary and food products at rock bottom prices. It wasn’t unusual to have friends knocking on my door at 2:00 a.m. buying late night snacks of super noodles and spaghetti sauce.”

After graduating with a degree in Economics in 1997, Avi upgraded his `office’ to his family garage in North London. Now a Master’s student at SOAS, Avi and his partner Yoav, an undergraduate law student have relocated to offices situated in Central London. “As the business took off, we were no longer able to operate within the confines of a garage. Through the use of savings and financial support from friends and family we have managed to come a long way whilst minimising our costs,” says Yoav.

SWD
Photo: Christina Brook

The competitive advantage wielded by SWD lies in its low cost policy and consumer convenience. Both partners state, “We won’t sell anything unless we can sell it cheaper than anyone else.” This bears particular significance as the introduction of annual tuition fees will impose an additional financial burden upon students. In terms of convenience, SWD offers a range of methods through which students can order, including, free phone, mail and the Internet. Yoav says, “Our website is extremely user-friendly and keeps students informed of daily updated items.” In addition free delivery is guaranteed within three days of placing an order. “As students ourselves, we are aware that the majority of students want to minimise both hassle and expense. The service we offer means that students can place an order whether they are in the middle of an essay or sitting on the toilet with a lap-top computer.”

Luke Nicholson, an art student at the London Institute, responsible for developing the corporate ID of SWD says, “I was surprised at how genuine they [Avi and Yoav] were in the sense that I expected greater emphasis to be placed on targeting markets rather than on supplying cheap goods to students.”

Their commitment to a student-oriented approach means that students can enjoy the benefits of one-stop shopping rather than visiting a number of different shops. Their current collaboration with music distributors enables them to offer a choice of CDs from rock and pop, to house and trance at competitive prices. Interaction with the student population is of high priority for SWD and therefore students are encouraged to participate through a number of channels. For example, students are free to submit written music reviews which will then be displayed on the company’s website.This interactive and integrated approach means that the entire logistics of the operation are contained within the student community. As a result, the company promoting “virtual student shopping at real student prices” has come along way from its virtual stage and is today, very much a successful reality.

Student Warehouse Direct

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Anti-Nazi League attempts to expel Greenwich lecturer

John House

THE ANTI-NAZI League is campaigning to have a trainee lecturer at Greenwich dismissed from his course after it emerged that he has connections with the National Front.

Staff at Hammersmith and West London College were stunned when they found, Patrick Harrington, a post-graduate student from the University of Greenwich on a teacher training placement, was affiliated with the right wing party, Third Way.

Patrick Harrington, who is enrolled in a course in Education and Training in IT, is currently a member of Third Way, an offshoot of the National Front, and became notorious in the 80’s as a National Front activist at North London polytechnic.

Hammersmith and West London College immediately barred Harrington when his political connections became apparent. But the University of Greenwich has indicated that it intends to find a placement in another further education college.

A spokesperson for Greenwich said the university has a robust equal opportunities policy and emphasised that sufficient grounds to take action against Harrington do not exist: “All I can say is College guidelines mean that all we have control of is how our students behave while they’re with us on campus. We only have the right to take action against a student if their behaviour on the course is unsatisfactory.”

The Anti-Nazi league dismissed the Universities defence: “It’s not a case of equal opportunities. Equal opportunities aren’t there to give Nazis the opportunity to teach. They’ve gone back on their equal opportunities policy by teaching a Nazi.”

Greenwich refused to comment on the ethical aspects of its admissions procedure for vocational teaching courses.

Greenwich Union is also subject to the university’s equal opportunities policy. Amanda Walton, VP and Education, said: “As far as we know he isn’t practising fascism. If he started forcing his views on other students then we would bar him from our buildings. But we’ve had no complaints and we have to treat him like any other student.”

The Anti-Nazi League is stepping up moves to have Harrington removed from the University of Greenwich.

The issue raises important questions over where an anti-discrimination policy should be applied. To eject Harrington on grounds of his political views would in itself be an act of discrimination. however, were the views of Harrington to result in his, or anyone else’s, behaviour becoming prejudiced against students on ground of race or religion, then there would be little option but for Harrington to be asked to leave.

Meanwhile, all is well.

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Lord Archer tells Royal Holloway: London Mayor bid is "no ego trip."

Anne Goodliffe

LORD ARCHER spoke to Royal Holloway on the evening of Thursday 5th March about the prospect of London voting to have a single Mayor. London currently has 32 Mayors and 2 Lord Mayors. Lord Archer, who himself is a likely candidate, spoke about the referendum on May 7 which will decides this.

More importantly, Lord Archer, explained the role that the Mayor would have in the city. It is expected that the Home Secretary will pass the Metropolitan police over to the Mayor, thus giving him and his team the responsibility of crime prevention. The Mayor will also have the responsibility of traffic and transport, which according to Lord Archer is one of the prime concern of Londoners. Another aspect of the job will be advising the London Tourist Board. Health and education shall remain in the hands of the government. Lord Archer said that he expected the length of office would be a 4 year term with the possibility of a second term.

Lord Archer responded to an accusation from the Evening Standard that this is an “ego trip” by saying, “ I can think of a lot easier ways of getting an ego trip than spending 19 hours a day slogging away and being battered because I want to be Mayor of London...I could spend the rest of my life drinking Pina Colladas in Barbados, that does not appeal. I would love to do this job, I would love to use my energy and talents and make changes and make a difference to London”.

Jeffrey Archer is not, however, the only potential Conservative candidate. Steven Norris, Chris Patten and David Mellor are also names that have been put forward. Possible Labour candidates are Glenda Jackson, Trevor Phillips, Tony Banks and Margaret Hodge. Several independent candidates are also expected to run. No confirmation will be given until after London has given its opinion in the referendum.

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UNL students hypnotised by their lecturers

Jasper Credland

FIRST YEAR science students at the University of North London have been hypnotised as a part of their course. Those students taking a ‘behavioural studies’ module as part of their psychology degrees were given the Paul McKenna-style treatment at the end of a lecture on ‘hypnotherapy’ and its medical uses. Half a dozen students were brought to the front of the lecture theatre before a hundred and fifty of their mesmerised peers. There they were hypnotised in a demonstration of the practical applications of the earlier theory in the lecture.

The head of the course, Nigel Marlow, said that this was the first time he had tried this: “We’ve never had a problem sending students to sleep in lectures”, he said, “but this is the first time we’ve managed to incorporate it into the course.” Despite his own, and other academic’s scepticism on the subject of hypnotism he had been impressed by the lecture: “It’s the only time a lecture has produced such a concentrated hush, students were queuing up to talk to the lecturers at the end.”

The two lecturers, Dr. Anna Zohrabian and Helen Kennedy, work at the London Medical Hypnotherapy Centre. They aim to provide a more useful application of their arts than making late night revellers take all their clothes off, howl like a dog and then simulate the mating rituals of apes in front of an audience of complete strangers. So, had any of the N.L.U. students been made to do a chicken dance or make love to an orange before the gaze of their fellow students? Dr. Marlow’s response to this question was a belly laugh followed by an enigmatic silence. After this success, the two lecturers are being invited back later in the semester. This time, ‘self-hypnosis; how to overcome exam stress’. The queue starts here.

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Queen Mary and Westfield Rag Week: "Time for something completely different"

Ade Oshineye

QUEEN MARY & Westfield College’s Rag Week began on the 9th of March with a showing of the Monty Python Trilogy in the Student Union.

According to Rag Chair James Broe it’s been: “a bit of a non-event in the past” but this year’s Rag was: “an ideal opportunity for students to give something back to society, and particularly the community around them.”

Events included a special Rag edition of Hail Mary - the traditional sports club knees-up, as well as a Pub Golf crawl, a pool tournament and a toga party. Aside from the frivolity this year’s Rag raised money for deserving causes ranging from the Imperial Cancer Research, the Zomba Mission, Stepping Stones Farm in Stepney Green to the Phoenix School in Bow for children with special needs. Broe believes that events such as Rag are important because they: “foster Student Union links with the local community and play an important role in student development which employers value.” He adds that:“it can be very tiring, but those who get involved can tell you it is very rewarding.”

In the elections held the week before, Phil Cheadle won the post of President, with other winners being: Nichola Eagleton, VP Education & Representation; Alex Dawson,VP Communications; Paul Broadhurst, VP Finance; John Beauchamp, VP Association.

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Royal Holloway Rag Week hailed as a 'great success'

Bldzc Kowalewski

RAG WEEK at Royal Holloway College has been heralded as a huge success. The money has yet to be counted but initial estimates are encouraging, as was the increased student participation.

Those involved agreed that a more community friendly Rag Mag, with fewer dirty pictures did a better job attracting attention of the local population. The Student Radio station, Insanity, also upheld the spirit of the week by broadcasting the information about upcoming rag events in the local area.

This year rag at Royal Holloway featured brand new events, which having proven themselves enormously successful and set a precedent for the future. ‘The Full Monty’ show put up in association with the Rugby and Dance Societies is already set to become a RHUL tradition. The pantomime featuring the Sabbaticals raised enormous interest and is set for a re-edition next year.

The parade organised by the Student’s Union was also a community success raining awareness and money for worthy causes.

The General Secretary of RHSU Mark Lloyd-Davis said that: “Bearing in mind what a small campus this is, the rag was a huge success.” He also suggested that this year charity events will be more on-going. A Fashion Show has been planned to take place in mid March and the summer term will feature a bungee jumping extravaganza.

Janette Gibson, a rag executive, commented: “I just hope that this rag week raised college awareness.”

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Hislop brings some wit to Senate House

Jasper Credland

On Monday 9th March Mr. Ian Hislop, editor of Private Eye and rapier-sharp wit on BBC Two’s ‘Have I Got News For You’ and perhaps the least successful regular visitor to the libel courts ever, was at the University of London’s Senate House to answer questions.

The tickets were being sold with all the proceeds going to charity. Hislop was keen to stress at the outset that, unlike certain law firms and their lawyers, he was not being paid by the hour to do this for charity.

He was positively beaming as he noted that the audience was largely made up of lawyers and law students. For all of his publicised dislike of the profession, one could see that the two were a perfect case of symbiosis.

“Would he like to have been a lawyer?” one student asked. As the two things you need to do in court is to keep your temper and don’t be funny, his answer had to be “No.” Hislop first got his job at Private Eye by interviewing Peter Cook for his college magazine. Hislop was taken out to lunch, got drunk, forgot to take notes, failed to tape record the event, and had to sober up and try again in the evening. Cook was impressed by his “professional attitude.”

Hislop commented that he thought all higher education should be free, but equally he believes that the student population has become highly inflated and the number of university places available should be greatly reduced.

Hislop’s antics in court were the source of much questioning. He pays for the Eye’s libel actions mostly through the periodical’s cover price. This is a break from the past when he had to rely on the generosity of readers by running an appeal for financial aid. “We fucked up, please give us some cash” Hislop commented.

Through such means they managed to raise £100,000 in three months in order to pay for the court case against the wife of the infamous Yorkshire Ripper.

This case epitomised Hislop’s performance in court, which he himself finds amusing. In this case the Eye was sued by a mass murderer’s wife for defamation and subsequently lost to the tune of £600,000.

Ian Hislop
Photo: Chi Yin Sim

When asked what his favourite guests have been on HIGNFY, Hislop named the Hamilton’s. They have “skins like Rhinoceros’”, “you could say , ‘Hello, you are a crook’, and Neil Hamilton would say, ‘Oh, hello, very nice to meet you.’”

After his witty question and answer session in Senate House, Hislop kept his word and went for a pint in ULU’s Duck and Dive pub. However, all did not go smoothly as the “black shirts” on the ULU door asked for Hislop’s student ID. The only way he was able to get access to the building was by being signed in as a guest by a helpful student.

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Vice squad raid student over pornographic photos

Gee Wong

A confrontation between the University of Central England and the West Midlands police Pornography Unit following the police’s confiscation of photographs by the controversial photographer Robert Mapplethorpe.

The police raided a student’s flat after being alerted by a chemist who developed her photographs of the book, which she was using in an academic essay. The university bookshop was subsequently ordered to destroy its copies of the photographer’s book.

The university’s vice-chancellor has made clear his objections to the police’s actions.

“I find the police’s actions extraordinary and surprising” said Dr Peter Knight. “ I do not believe the book is obscene...we’ve had it for five years and it’s a significant part of the curriculum...we will vigorously defend our position.”

Although the late Mapplethorpe’s work is seen by some as controversial many do not view his work as pornographic. His book Mapplethorpe has been in print since 1992 and is in most university libraries. Despite its wide-spread availability, this is the first time that a police force in this country has taken any action. A police spokeswomen said that they had made the decision under the 1959 Obscene Publications Act after advice from the Director of Public Prosecutions. “We had no idea that the book existed until this case arose,” she said.

The police seem to be surprised at the sudden media interest in the story. The spokeswoman said that discussions about the action were continuing with the university. However Dr Peter Knight said “We have had no meetings with the police despite a meeting being arranged for the end of this week.”There seems to be widespread opinion amongst the academic community that the police’s actions were heavy-handed.

Sam Francis, the student union’s communications officer, said the police’s actions were “outrageous and astounding” and that “it was an act of a police state.”

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Dyslexia breakthrough denied

Robert Vahey

PROFESSOR STEIN of Oxford University has denied press reports that he has made a heralded breakthrough in his ongoing research into the causes of dyslexia.

Professor Stein has been carrying out research into the condition in conjunction with professor Tony Monaco of the Wellcome Trust for Human Genetics. They carried out DNA tests on more that 400 people from 90 families with one dyslexic parent and at least two dyslexic children. They subsequently found three common genes that were associated with dyslexia in most of these families.

It had been suggested that this constituted definitive proof of the hereditary passage of the condition from parents to children, which would facilitate a new test to discover the existence of dyslexia at a far earlier stage and would thereby alleviate pressure on children with the condition.

This was refuted by Professor Stein however. “We haven’t published anything over and above the research conducted by the Americans four years ago” he said. Professor Stein did admit however that he would attempt to establish such an indisputable link in his continuing research: “If proved hereditary it will help people a great deal. However even if there is linkage to a gene it won’t prove anything.”

The news of research into the genetic cause of dyslexia was welcomed by Patrick Molcahy the disability co-ordinator at UCL. “It is something we have suspected for some time” he said. “At UCL we have the Department of Human Science which has studied dyslexia for some time.”

Mr Molcahy voiced hope that persistent doubts about the authenticity of the condition would subside. “There is always prejudice by people who won’t accept it. It is now becoming increasingly accepted due to overwhelming evidence.”

Mr Molcahy added that huge strides had been made into the diagnosis and treatment of dyslexia in recent years. “At the moment we have our own dyslexic clinic and there is an access centre in my office. Students now have extra time in exams and help with essays. There was always the idea of students using it as an excuse for not doing well. However we now have diagnostic tests to prove it.”

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Stars go out for Greenwich Observatory

Maria Terry

THE CLOSURE of the Royal Greenwich Observatory (RGO) in Cambridge has been announced by the Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC). The closure will result in the loss of over 90 jobs, and an even greater loss to science and research in astronomy for this country.

The history of the observatory dates back to 1675 when it was built in Greenwich. It was relocated to Cambridge in 1990. It is, according to a spokeswoman for the RGO, “the most famous observatory ever built” and its name is recognised throughout the world. In recent years its main role has been supporting university astronomy.

Charlotte Allen at PPARC, which currently funds two observatories, in Cambridge and in Edinburgh, said it was no longer “financially viable” to keep both sites open. Instead they have decided to focus their attention on the Edinburgh observatory. The site will be an important telescope manufacturing centre for the country. This move of extra funding to Edinburgh was said to be the most “cost-effective way of getting good science.”

Of interest to London is the announcement by PPARC to jointly fund an updated centre at Greenwich on the historical site of the old observatory in Greenwich Park. This will be aimed at answering the general questions of the public about astronomy with teams of people answering phones and a related website which will supply additional information. The staff at the RGO did not see the new development in Greenwich as a replacement as it was of no “scientific interest.”

Greenwich Observatory, London
Photo: Yina Chan

The news of job losses has been received, as one would expect, with great sadness and shock. The highly qualified should be successful in finding new jobs, however there remain others who, though they have committed themselves to the work of the RGO, will find themselves without employment after the closure. Cambridge University has fought against PPARC on the decision.

However, as the future seems decided for the observatory, the RGO seems to be: “waiting for a fairy godmother.”

PPARC Online

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Claims of false figures given for 'Countryside March' to Hyde Park

Martin Dawson

THE ORGANISERS of the countryside march held in London on the first of this month have questioned the methodology of a study conducted by Napier University in Edinburgh estimating the number of people taking part in the procession from the Embankment to Hyde Park.

The march organisers released numbers ranging between 284,500 and 300,000, while three researchers from Napier university calculated that the numbers were between 133,118 and 151,400.

The Edinburgh based researchers were notably commissioned by The Campaign For The Protection Of Hunted Animals who opposed the march. Their estimate was based on video grabs taken 2 kilometres into the march every three minutes throughout the five hour event. These pictures of a 3.7 metre wide strip found that a median of 27.49 people were in the 100 video grabs with the flow of marchers remaining almost constant.

The Countryside Alliance’s security officer Ian Hallwood said on the sixth of March that “They had carefully counted marchers as they started the march and were confident of their figures”. He also remarked that “some of the marchers may have not made it to the Napier University’s counting point and that although we stressed that people should start at the beginning many just went straight to Hyde Park to show their support”.

Country Marchers and torch
Photo: Chi Yin Sim

A spokesperson for Scotland yard confirmed that they estimated that 250,000 people took part in the march though they emphasised this was only an estimate and that march numbers were always difficult to assess.

The motives of the demonstrators has also been brought into question. Although the pro hunting group have been most prominent, the majority of people were concerned with wider issues surrounding the fate of the countryside.

In particular many protested against the treatment of farmers following the problems over BSE, and the threat of possible development of the green belt.

Regardless of the dispute over numbers the demonstration made an impact that few Labour MP’s could ignore, and issues surrounding the future of the countryside have been brought to the fore of politics.

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Minimum wage could spell end for tips

Nicole Stoesser

The implementation of a National Minimum Wage could possibly adversely affect the large numbers of students working as waiting staff in the light of proposals being discussed by restaurateurs to abolish tipping as a practice.

Waiting at tables in restaurants is one of the jobs most favoured by students who need to work part-time to support themselves at university. A large proportion of workers in the major chain restaurants are paid low hourly rates ranging from £2.00 to £3.50 an hour but are currently able to top-up their salary with tips. When the government introduces the National Minimum Wage the restaurant looks set to make up for losses because of wage increases by introducing a set service charge which will go to employers and not employees.

Waiting staff in busy restaurants are the ones who will be most likely to lose out as places with a high turnover undoubtedly yield more in terms of tips.

Jo Wilmot, a fine arts student who works at Café Pasta and can make over £25 in tips in a good evening, criticised the idea: “Students working as waiting staff benefit greatly from tips which are untaxed, and service is likely to suffer without the financial incentive to make it as good as possible.”

All Bar One waitress
Photo: Stephan Luderitz

The realisation that friendly service generally means more money is not one that eludes many a working student and is a an advantage to both the worker and the customer, who is likely to get better attention on the basis of this premise.

The fact is that tipping is not a guaranteed income and should therefore in theory should not be calculated as part of a salary. Waitressing/waiting students and restaurant staff on the whole are part of the sector of the population that the government claims it wants to help by introducing the National Minimum Wage, not penalise.

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Report confirms cannabis does 'less harm' than cigarettes and alcohol

Saskia Wirth

An investigation by the World Health Organisation (WHO) into the effects and dangers of cannabis, published in New Scientist last week, found new evidence that the drug poses less of a health threat than alcohol or cigarettes.

The article states that the amount of cannabis smoked world-wide does less harm than drink and cigarettes, even if consumed on the same scale.

The report further stated that cannabis is less addictive than the legal substances. While heavy drinking can lead to cirrhosis, severe brain injury and a much increased risk of accidents and suicides, the report finds that there was only “suggestive evidence that chronic cannabis use may produce subtle defects in cognitive functioning”.

Many scientists believe there is also no conclusive evidence that marijuana can harm foetal development. Although either drug can lead to dependence and long-term health damage, only alcohol produces a “well defined withdrawal syndrome”.

The report concludes that “in developed societies cannabis appears to play little role in injuries caused by violence, as does alcohol.”

In contrast to cigarette smoking, cannabis does not lead to blocked airways or an impact on the functioning of the lung. Tobacco is calculated to cause 3 million deaths a year mainly from lung cancer and circulatory diseases.

The New Scientist has claimed that the World Health organisation tried to suppress publication of the report, which was originally due to be published in December.

Insiders say that the organisation was under political pressure from the US National Institute on Drug Abuse and the US International Drug Control Programme to sit on the report.

New Scientist argues that after 30 years of research into the harmful effects of cannabis there can be no hidden dangers left to discover.

The magazine claims that marijuana does neither rot the brain nor does it inexorably lead to the consumption of harder substances.

In addition , the drug is known to have beneficial therapeutic effects. It is believed to relieve cancer patients from nausea caused by chemotherapy. The drug has also been used help AIDS victims to suppress the strong side effects of many AIDS drugs.

The World Health Organisation defended itself against accusations that it withdrew the report by arguing that cannabis is still known to be a mind-altering drug, and as such any recommendation to legalise the drug was considered highly irresponsible.

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'The Intimate Enemy' - festival aims to prevent violence against women

Sumithra Kalidas

THE FIRST two weeks of March marked the 42nd session of the UN Commission on the Status of Women to commemorate International Women’s Day on 8 March.

According to a new report ‘The Intimate Enemy’ by the Panos Institute, gender violence seems to be a fast growing problem. As the UK government prepares a National Strategy Against Violence, the report draws attention to issues like death and mutilation resulting from violent attacks on women. A key UN meeting which began last week aimed to address this issue. The report highlights efforts taken by communities world-wide providing all forms of support for victims. New laws against rape and domestic violence have now been passed or are being considered in India, Uganda, the Caribbean, Chile, the Bahamas and Latin America. In the UK, it was not until 1991 that a man could be found guilty of raping his wife. According to the World Health Organisation, at least one in five women have been sexually abused by a man at some point in her life. Many women, sadly, are silent victims.

Protection for such women and prevention of violence against women is a key issue for the UN Commission on the Status of Women. At present 30 countries have yet to sign the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW).

The UK marked International Women’s Day through a world arts festival on March 7, an event jointly organised by the International Centre Against Disappearances (ICAD), the Turkish and Kurdish Refugee Worker’s Cultural Association, the Union of Turkish Progressives and the Iranian Community Centre with the support of the Tamil Human Rights Committee, the Columbian Human Rights Committee and various other individuals and organisations.

Jenny Sutton of ICAD told the London Student “All of the women here tonight are from different communities and many are refugees. What they have in common is an experience of oppression. These women also share the experience of being refugees in Britain. We hope to establish a permanent March 8th organising platform and we want to support each other in a common struggle for women against oppression.We have had to overcome cultural differences and language barriers to put together this event and it has proved worthwhile”, she said.

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