Principal's Blog: Week Two

johnbowers7Our new Principal, John Bowers, shares more thoughts on the first few weeks of his time at the College.

22 October:
I indulged in my first ever ribbon cutting to open the newly refurbished Treasury building (pictured). This houses part of our fascinating Archives which is on public display. I do not want too many people to know this (which is why it is entirely safe to mention in my blog!) but I practised the ribbon cutting several times before carrying it out with such aplomb. Our Archivist does an incredible job along with student volunteers cataloguing our extensive Archive. The refurbished Treasury at the top of the tower up some high uneven stairs (even though I have moved between quadrangles all my life I have never seen so many uneven steps as at Brasenose). When it was first built there would have been an unrestricted view over the Radcliffe Square; All Souls College is a relatively recent development, the Radcliffe Camera was not there; all one then could see was the Church of St Mary. The Treasury kept all the silver and deeds for the College because of distrust of that time of the banks. This is the beginning of our very exciting library project.

In the evening we went to the opening of the Ruskin School of Art in Bullingdon Road. It is a massive contrast with the rather staid building in the High Street (the existing site for the School). It feels like the Pompidou Centre with exposed wires and ducts. This is a significant boost for Fine Art in the University. Brasenose has several fine art students and we are likely to increase this.

26 October:
I spoke at a seminar in Middle Temple on social mobility. Access and outreach are major issues for the Bar just as they are for the university. It was heartening to see four Oxford academics in the audience for the event, including Simon Smith our Senior Tutor. I have already attended an event in a London school where our Schools Liaison Officer Joe Organ sought to deal with the myths about entrance to Oxford. This is very important work.


Meeting the staff
I have been meeting as many members of our staff as I can in early morning visits and by holding teas. I have learnt so much from them. Many have worked for the College for decades (as have other members of their families) and have seen many Principals come and go! I was in particular very touched at how helpful they were to my 95 year old father who came to stay for two days this week.

Missing the boat
I have been out running on Christ Church Meadow several mornings but as the mist rises I have yet to locate any of our boat crews (not because of the mist but because my visits have not coincided with their training yet). I have seen many different college’s boats. I trust I will connect with the 'BNC' crew next week!

Meeting the Heads
One of the joys of the job is meeting other Heads of colleges and talking over our common interests. They come from many different backgrounds so that it is possible to locate an expert (usually an internationally known authority) on most things within the group. The interchanges may be in structured meetings of the Conference of Colleges or one-to-ones with other heads. A good example of where this co-operation may be constructive is the current initiative along with the Council for At Risk Academics (CARA) to bring scholars from Iraq and Syria to Oxford.

Meeting the alumni
It is a real pleasure also meeting our extraordinary alumni community. I have also realised that I can bump into them anytime anywhere: I went back to London last weekend and on Sunday morning I was outside a bagel bakery in North London when I met an alumnus offering congratulations (I’m  not sure whether he reads this column).

Meanwhile in another visit to London, Suzanne and I were entertained by a group of 1966 alumni. It was a lively interesting group and all agreed what a great year 1966 was.

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