In February 1927 Marcel Duchamp moved to a small apartment at 11 rue Larrey in Paris. Shortly after settling in, he installed a single door to serve two separate doorways.
The door simultaneously closed the bedroom and opened the bathroom, and vice versa: defying the proverb, Duchamp’s door could be both open and closed.*
* though not, of course, when it was ajar.
Heaven loves ya
The clouds part for ya
Nothing stands in your way
When you’re a pope
When you’re a pope
U can wear a uniform
When you’re a pope
Other popes check u out
U get a child
To say your favorite things
When you’re a pope
Popes keep swinging
Popes always work it out
Segregation at UCL
There has been some speculation in the media in the last two days about an event that was held at UCL on Saturday evening. A room had been booked by a member of staff of the Chemistry Department for a public debate mounted by an external organisation.
We issued today the following statement:
“An organisation known as the Islamic Education and Research Academy (IERA) booked a room at UCL for a debate on Saturday evening (9 March). UCL was notified during Friday by some individuals planning to attend the event that the organisers intended to segregate the audience by gender.
“This was directly contrary to UCL policy. We do not allow enforced segregation on any grounds at meetings held on campus. We immediately made clear to the organisers that the event would be cancelled if there were any attempt to enforce such segregation. We also required the organisers to make it explicit to attendees that seating arrangements were optional, and guests were welcome to sit wherever they felt comfortable. We also arranged for additional security staff to be present to ensure that people were not seated against their wishes.
“It now appears that, despite our clear instructions, attempts were made to enforce segregation at the meeting. We are still investigating what actually happened at the meeting but, given IERA’s original intentions for a segregated audience we have concluded that their interests are contrary to UCL’s ethos and that we should not allow any further events involving them to take place on UCL premises.”
UCL was founded in 1826 as a secular institution. That does not mean it is institutionally atheist but that it is an open institution, tolerant of difference, strong on of freedom of speech, but intolerant of discrimination on grounds of gender, race, religion or other irrelevant grounds. There is no shortage of other premises available in London to organisations wishing to operate to different rules.
I often like to follow my lunch with a can of pop and a Picnic. Today I bought a bad one unfortunately. There were no raisins in it at all, none! The first two bites just tasted of peanuts and the second half of the bar was nothing but rice! Half an hour later I can still taste the peanuts in my mouth.
I thought I’d write to you with the details of the batch in case you wish to investigate. It’s hard to read but the print on the back says:
Should I send the wrapper to the “not satisfied?” address on the back?
The name Occitan comes from lenga d’òc (i.e., òc language), which comes from òc, the Occitan word for yes. The Italian medieval poet Dante was the first to have recorded the term lingua d’oc. In his De vulgari eloquentia he wrote in Latin: “nam alii oc, alii si, alii vero dicunt oil” (“for some say òc, others sì, yet others oïl”), thereby highlighting three major Romance literary languages that were well known in Italy, based on each language’s word for “yes”, the òc language (Occitan), the oïl language (French), and the sì language (Italian). This was not, of course, the only defining character of each group.
The word òc came from Vulgar Latin hoc (“this”), while oïl originated from Latin hoc illud (“this [is] it”). Old Catalan and nowadays the Catalan of Northern Catalonia (France, Catalunya Nord) also have hoc (òc). Other Romance languages derive their word for yes from the Latin sic, “thus [it is], [it was done], etc.”, such as Spanish sí, Eastern Lombard sé, Italian sì, or Portuguese sim.
The promised referendum on EU membership
In his long-awaited speech last Wednesday on Britain’s place in Europe, the Prime Minister threw down a challenge. He promised that in the event of a Conservative Government being elected in 2015, it would be on the back of an election manifesto commitment to negotiate a new EU settlement. Having done so, they would put the question to a referendum with a very simple in or out choice: to stay in the EU on these new terms, or come out altogether. They would complete this negotiation and hold this referendum within the first half of the next parliament.
The commitment is noteworthy for having been made in the midst of the current round of budget talks in the EU, to settle a budget – the Multi-annual Financial Framework – for the next 7 years. Our Government’s approach to these talks, constrained by a recent parliamentary ambush by the Opposition, has been highly restrictive. There are many sacred cows which other nations refuse to sacrifice but to which Britain is a net contributor, including the massive Common Agricultural Policy.
But there is one area where British interests face wholly the other way, which is in science and research. Britain’s universities are simply the strongest in Europe, and Britain is by far the largest beneficiary in funding under the various EU research programmes. Research grants are awarded not on patronage but on excellence, assessed on a competitive basis. In research funding, UK is a net beneficiary from its EU contribution. As I mention later in the Newsletter, the most recent crop of advanced awards from the European Research Council sees Britain triumph again, and with UCL in the lead. Of the 10 top performing EU universities, 4 in every round are from the UK (we are joined by Imperial, Cambridge and Oxford). This gives rise to some jealousy amongst Member States, many of which receive no research funding at all.
For the next research era through to 2020, the original bid by the European Commission was 80bn€, which was then raised by the European Parliament to 100bn€. But the UK’s stubbornness in budget negotiations has seen levels of enthusiasm amongst other Member States fall sharply. There is now a serious risk that we will see a cut in existing levels of research funding. That will follow automatically from a reduction in the overall budget. For each billion that comes off the aggregate budget, 150 million will come out of the research budget. There will not be an opportunity to review the internal allocations once the total has been agreed.
So it is surprising and disappointing that the Prime Minister’s speech should have made no mention of universities or research, and contained no recognition of Britain’s competitive excellence and strategic interest in this area that consumes 15% of the budget.
It is apparent at the same time that there needs to be more engagement with the newer Member States, the so-called EU12, in the development of their research capacity. This is not a proper use of competitive research funding, but ways are being explored to engage universities and research institutes in the leading nations with the development of capacity elsewhere, through the focused use of the very substantial cohesion funds which up until now have been largely unrestricted. A new approach to twinning and teaming offers the prospect not only of overcoming some serious disparities in the quality of education and research across the EU, but of securing greater political commitment to its future funding.
The next round of budget negotiations is due on 11 February, and the stakes – for our leading universities – are very high.
Right, apart from safer and cheaper flights, the single market, protection of intellectual property, peace, the euro, regional funds, cheaper and better phone calls, consumer protection, health, environmental protection, equal opportunities, and external trade… WHAT HAVE THE EUROPEANS EVER DONE FOR US?