Principal's Blog: Early April

blogBowerscrop1I wish you a good Easter and hope you keep well. We salute those in our community who work in the NHS. The Vice Chancellor has cited an Irish proverb that is very apposite in present circumstances: there is no flood that doesn’t recede.

Coronavirus pandemic and College:
I regret that this blog has a sombre tone. The Coronavirus pandemic has posed extraordinary challenges for our College community but I am so proud that we have faced them as a team and the College has come together as one. I want to pay tribute to all our College staff, academic and non-academic, who have really risen to the occasion. We have had to react rapidly to a fast-changing situations. Either our 12 person Covid Response Group or our smaller managers team meet every day at 9am.

We supported our remaining students with meals for as long as this was feasible within Government guidance. We presently have about forty students in residence on our four sites, who are not able to leave College for a variety of reasons. As the crisis developed we were careful to provide information and support to students that were able to return home.  I am delighted to say that no Brasenose student has been required to leave College.  At the same time we have also focussed on providing the best support we can to those that remain, both domestically and in terms of their welfare and well being. We have been providing daily updates to students and staff. We have an online prayer board. We are giving a room to a Covid researcher from Argentina.

Most College staff are currently working from home. All permanent College staff are being retained on their normal base pay. Some have been (or will be) placed on furlough (with their agreement) as there is no work for them in College, nor can they work from home.

There is unlikely to be any face-to-face teaching for students next term and the Senior Tutor and our IT Director and their teams have worked tirelessly to arrange for remote teaching. We are preparing for a different sort of exam too. We will do what we can as a College to ensure that no student suffers undue detriment in their examinations and all are treated as fairly as possible in the circumstances. Our admissions and outreach team are working on new initiatives to support and communicate with offer-holders and prospective students. We have cancelled most scheduled events for next term, and the rest are likely to follow, but hope that many can be rescheduled.

I have been heartened by the response from all members across our community, staff, Fellows and students themselves. The JCR and HCR have been helpful and constructive. I want to offer particular thanks to Matt Hill the Domestic Bursar who is co-ordinating all things Covid.

We all miss the incredible community spirit that we have at Brasenose and the sense of fellowship but are doing our best to keep things going as well as we can.

Jeff Babb; a legend:
Jeff Babb died on 30 March. He was seen by me as a legend in the three wholly unrelated fields in which I knew him, as the head of the Grimsby Youth Orchestra, at Brasenose and in Hay. I was a rather unmusical student at Clee Grammar School (and then Mathew Humberstone Comprehensive) and I heard great things from my friends about this kindly figure who conducted the Grimsby Youth Orchestra in which many of them played. He was a local legend. He was for many years Head of Music at the other Cleethorpes school although he was not from the local area. He followed the careers of many of them who became professional musicians.

It was only when I became Principal of Brasenose that I actually met Jeffrey. I could see exactly his legendary, charismatic status on first meeting. By then he was in his eighties but we immediately clicked. He always had a twinkle in his eye and we spoke about Grimsby, politics, music and his large family. He attended most of the Brasenose Society dinners, latterly in his electric scooter (which was a danger to life and limb as he drove it around the quad). I once paid tribute to him in my speech as “the Father of the House” which he liked. We were regularly in touch, not least about our admissions policy. He maintained as active a life as he could and he clearly loved College.

The final part of the trilogy is that I discovered when we were talking at College that he lived in Hay on Wye where we go every year to the Literary Festival. We met there three years running. always in the same seats in a local pub, I think called The Blue Boar, with the same non-alcoholic beverage in hand. He was clearly a legend there too as everyone (and I mean everyone) in the pub knew him and he gave each person a cheery hello and asked about their family. The world will be a less jolly place without Jeffrey.

Democratic Primary:
This report has been sent by the Chair of the PPE Society: After last term's success of holding Brasenose UK General Election debate, our very own PPE society decided to organise a Democratic Nomination Debate to bring all politicos in Brasenose community together. The Debate took place on 11th February in Stocker Room. We had Brasenose students across three year groups representing Democratic Presidential candidates Biden, Warren, Buttigieg and Sanders. Our Lecturer in Politics Adam McCauley had kindly accepted our invitation to moderate the debate. Questions were fired from Adam as well as the audience on issues of health care, economy, and most crucially electability. Student audience was highly enthusiastic and some even brought their handmade poster for candidates they support. In a straw poll at the end of the debate, Brasenose voters voted overwhelmingly for Bernie Sanders.   

As with many readers, I have had more time to do some sustained reading during the lock down and have devoured A Crime in Progress (The Secret History of the Trump-Russian Investigation) by Fritsch and Simpson; Tribes by David Lammy and Legacy about the Lyons family by Thomas Harding. I can recommend all three.

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