Our new Principal, John Bowers, shares more thoughts on the first few weeks of his time at the College.
I attended a Welcome to Oxford event organised by the Counselling Service to learn more about University provision for students, which complements the support which individual colleges offer. Oxford students can self-refer in confidence to trained advisors if they need to. In 2014-15 between 8 and 9% of the student population attended at least one session, the great majority reporting afterwards that the experience benefitted them. As Chair of Brasenose’s own Welfare Committee, I try to help ensure that student well-being remains a College priority. Readers might find these two stories interesting.
Amongst the many differences from my days as a student in Oxford are the increased emphasis on wellbeing. I was delighted to hear that we have massages for students in our Lecture Room. Other big changes are the increased emphasis on security, the greater proportion of graduates as against undergraduates, and the increasingly international body of students.
The diary gets very full here very quickly and clashes can easily occur which my fabulous PA has to try to sort out. I chaired a book launch at 5pm for an excellent new Oxford University Press book called the Concept of the Employer by Jeremias Prassl a tutor at Magdalen College just down the road. The normal area of debate is about the nature of the employee so this is a ground breaking book. I then hot-footed it back to College at the speed of sound to hear the first “blurbs” of term. This is an event in which both tutors and post-graduates speak on two different topics united by a common theme. On this occasion Dr Jonathan Katz spoke on "Translating Emotions" especially from German to English, followed by Franziska Kohlt on "What has Alice in Wonderland got to do with Cognitive Science". Both were fascinating.
I finally caught up with the College rowing boat crew going out to train at 6.45am. It is eerily quiet early in the morning on Christ Church Meadow and then I heard a cacophony of shouted instructions from the river bank as I moved towards the Head of The River. Our novice team looked in great shape although I’m not the one to ask about the finer points of rowing technique. I am sure I will learn.
I attended my first Platnaeur Concert in the ante chapel. Maurice Platnaeur was one of my predecessors as Principal. It was a special treat that the concert was given by Clare Wickes (pictured), a recent alumna of the College and an astonishingly talented flautist. Together with her superb accompanist Nigel Clayton she played a varied range from classical pieces by Schumann and Schubert to work by a fascinating living Russian composer called Elena Firsova.
I have attended chapel three times and have marvelled at the choir under the direction of our new Director of Music, Christian Wilson. It has about thirty five members.
The Brasenose undergraduate student committee (the 'JCR' committee) has passed a proposal for meat free Mondays by a large majority. This was in the same week that the WHO issued a warning on meat and cancer. I also offer congratulations to the new JCR President Elect Beth Jenkinson whom I caught up with at 9am the day after her election. I noted that the manifesto of the runner-up offered the prospect of morning discos which presumably was no more popular than early morning meetings with the Principal!
Meeting the freshers
My wife Suzanne and I have been putting on a series of fresher’s drinks parties. I hope they will forgive me for not remembering all of their names. It was very interesting to hear why they chose to apply to Brasenose. One thing that was frequently mentioned was the quality of and welcome extended at our superb Open Days; another popular feature is the offer of accommodation for all undergraduate years. Clearly our central location and excellent teaching and facilities are further draws.
Locked out on rotunda
We naturally have a sophisticated electronic entry system in College. One day however I took my 95 year old father out onto the terrace near the Tutors' Common Room (called the SCR) to see a wonderful view we have over Lincoln College and we could not get back in!