Posts Tagged ‘University’

39 photos from when we were younger

Sunday, May 11th, 2014 | Friends, Photos

No, this is not a BuzzFeed article. I had to go through a lot of my photos recently while updating my website and I thought it might be nice to post some of the old ones.

The whole thing might take a while to load. It is broken down into ten separate images, but is still five megabytes in size. In fact, if you are reading this on the homepage you will need to click the “read more” link below to see the full thing.


Is there any difference between having tuition fees and not having them?

Thursday, February 13th, 2014 | Thoughts

I, on the whole, support tuition fees. Why? Because I do not think that poor people, with less earning potential than myself, should have to subsidise my education. If someone is working really hard driving a taxi every day, why should they pay for me to go to some fancy-pants university and get a piece of paper that entitles me to earn more money than them?

But I am not entirely decided on the issue. There are lots of good reasons to support not having tuition fees. For example, it probably puts people off going to university (I have not checked the stats, but I imagine this is the case). That argument in itself has factors that both support and oppose tuition fees.

The alternative, as well as realise though, is not a free education. I cannot be “free”. It has to be paid for in a capitalist economy. The alternative is an education paid for by the state, and thus reclaimed from taxes.

Either way, some one pays.

You could argue though that in a progressive tax system, the same person pays. Imagine these two scenarios:

Scenario 1, tuition fees. I pay £20,000 to go the university, except I do not pay it, because it is a student loan, taken by PAYE when I start earning. So I pay nothing up front to go to university. I go, do my degree and then graduate. Then I get a job and if I earn plenty of money I repay my student loan via the PAYE tax system. If not, I do not pay it.

Scenario 2, no tuition fees. There are no tuition fees so I pay nothing up front (just like above). i go, do my degree and then graduate (just like above). Then I get a job and if I earn plenty of money I pay a higher tax because the government has to fund all the education (as above). If not, I do not pay it (as above).

The scenarios above are basically the same. Either way, university is free at the point of access and funded by reclaiming the money using taxation. What difference am I missing?

Atheist Society 2013 AGM

Thursday, May 30th, 2013 | Humanism

Earlier this month, the Atheist Society held their AGM. Congratulations to Dan Murgatroyd (President), Josh Hulks (Secretary), Gabrielle Stakaityte (Treasurer), Hugh Clayden and James Murray who were all elected. It’s really looking like a superb committee and I wish them all the best for the coming year – I’m sure they’ll do brilliantly.

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Segregation at universities

Saturday, March 16th, 2013 | Religion & Politics


When we ran events at the University of Leeds, everyone was welcome. But, as they were our events, we insisted on white people sitting at the front, and black people sitting at the back.

That isn’t true.

But imagine if it was – how shocking! How outrageous! To be clear, given I’m known for my sarcastic nature, I am being entirely serious here – obviously it would be completely unacceptable. I genuinely do mean unacceptable – people would not accept it. The good people of Leeds would rise up against me and say “No! We’re not going to tolerate your bigoted views!”

As I said, we hold no such views. But imagine if you replaced the term “we” with “Islamic Society” and the racial segregation with a segregation based on how many X chromosomes you have – another property that, like skin colour, you have absolutely no control of. That is exactly what you get happening up and down the country.

I haven’t been to an Islamic Society run event at Leeds, so I can’t comment on their events, but I have been to Nottingham Trent where they had separate entrances for men and women, Richard Dawkins regularly tweets about segregation at UCL and last time Bob went to Bradford University he ended up making a protest about the whole thing when he refused to move after inadvertently sitting down in a row designated for women – these aren’t one-off incidents, they are happening all over the country.

Firstly, just segregation is just as bad as racial segregation – those who implement such systems are bigots. Yet the irony is that when we call these bigots on their bigoted views, they then try and say we’re racist for not respecting their bigoted religion.

Secondly though, were are the masses standing up against this kind of behaviour?

I’m proud that we have freedom of expression in this country. This means that Nick Griffin can stand up and say he doesn’t like gays – which is undesirable – but at least when he does, a million people stand up and tell him how wrong he is! That is why freedom of expression works, because everyone gets a voice and when bigots stand up and shout, we shout louder than they do.

But when one of the bigoted leaders of Islam stands up and demands segregation, where are the voices that cry out in defiance? They seem to fall silent.

Is it that all Islamists are bigots? I doubt it. None of my Islamist friends are bad people – otherwise I wouldn’t be friends with them. I think it says more about the evils of religion, than it does about the people following it.

Religion brainwashes people. There is no other word for it. It gets them to do things that typical human beings would not agree to, whether it is murdering abortion doctors, blowing yourself up, or supporting segregation whether it be racial, gender or down any other lines.

If Islamists want to convince people that their religion is one of peace and harmony, perhaps they should start by calling out their leaders on the hurtful, bigoted views they spread in university lecture halls up and down the country.

Freshers’ week statistics

Saturday, October 8th, 2011 | Thoughts

While attending the Atheist Society talk this week, I picked up a copy of Leeds Student which had some interesting statistics.

43% of people pulled last week and 23% threw up. That’s to be expected.

However, I was quite shocked that 14% of people said they had had unprotected sex.

I mean, seriously? Lets assume that one third of people had sex in freshers’ week. That is quite a lot I believe, not just because that is generally a lot but because only 43% of people pulled, which would mean that most people who pulled, also went home with someone.

But if we assume that such a high figure is true, that means that half the sex had during freshers’ week was unprotected. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to pretend condoms are a great solution – they’re a massive hassle when you’re in the middle of it, and lets not pretend otherwise, but given the prevalence of STIs and most of these events being one night stands, surely people at one of the best universities at the country are smarter than that?

The Ab Soc debate saga

Friday, October 1st, 2010 | Humanism, Religion & Politics

Because the Islamic Society at Leeds University Union generally refuse to talk to us, we were left wondering how we could get an Islamic debate for this year’s Reason Week 2010 held in April.

In the end the solution we went with was to contact Ahlul Bayt, which is a different sect of Islam – they are basically to Islamic Society what the Catholic Society is to the Christian Union. They’re treasurer had spoken at an interfaith panel discussion we had held before so we were on fairly good terms with them.

The debate itself took place to a packed out tent, as people crowded in to hear Norman Ralph speak for our side on the subject of whether Islam provides everything you need to live a good life.

The debate itself went very well so we thought. With a formal debate there is always a little toing and throwing – or as you would normally call it, debate, but everything seemed to remain friendly.

We had also gone out of our way to accommodate the members of their society, providing a specifically vegetarian dinner with no meat option at all so that we could avoid any issues surrounding non-Halal meat.

One rather amusing incident was when the present of AbSoc, who was sitting in the audience, raised her hand to make a point and explained that she wore the headscarf because it empowered her to hide her looks. Norman countered by pointing out that with or without her headscarf, she was clearly a rather attractive woman.

The debate continued and afterwards several of their society members hung around to continued the debate is a less formal environment until eventually everyone dissipated and we thought job well done.

However a week later we received an email from Ab Soc saying that our attitude had ruined the debate. They accused us of not being impartial, of them not being given chance to respond to points and it generally being an attack on Islam.

They also said it was highly inappropriate for people to have been drinking in the tent and that there were people in the corner shouting and jeering which isn’t “the sort of behaviour that we expect at a formal debate.”

Further more, when they’re speaker spoke about the constitution of Islam, an audience member apparently replied “that’s shit” and Ab Soc went on to demand that there was “action taken against this person” as it was “at least offensive and at greatest illegal!”

To address these points…

The debate was chaired by a representative of Debate Society. I personally felt they were impartial, but even if you didn’t, I don’t see how you can throw a criticism at Atheist Society for that.

The people shouting and jeering in the corner of the tent where not members of the Atheist Society. But even if they were – that actually is the kind o attitude you expect at a debate. It isn’t a real debate unless there is at least some fist banging and shouts of “here, here!”

These were the same people who were drinking. We have a no alcohol policy in the tent, but we don’t control these people and drinking is part of the real world – they wouldn’t tolerate alcohol in a mosque nor would we take alcohol in out of respect, and yet when they come to our venue they do not respect our free choice to consume alcohol.

Finally, it certainly isn’t illegal to criticise an idea. I’m not exactly sure what is referred to by the “constitution of Islam” but I’m fairly sure it is a pile of shit and I have every right to voice that opinion under British law.

Obviously the first reaction of the committee was a very offended one but we soon calmed down and suggested we just ignore it. Our president at the time Sophie, felt that it needed a response though and decided that rather than cause an argument she would send an apology.

We presumed this would be the end of it but apparently not – we received another angry email back from Ab Soc, in response to our apology, saying that Norman had repeatedly attacked Islamic and this should have been totally off the cards is a debate about Islam.

Meanwhile, when Sophie had pointed out that they had laid into homosexuals during the debate this was only apparently because someone had asked about it and the question was answered “representing Islam” which as you will probably know, is intolerant of homosexuality.

They then want on to state that saying “that’s shit” was a violation of the Public Order Act because several members of the audience felt “distressed” by the comment. They went on to say that they would never make such a comment (presumably about the atheist constitution if there was such a thing) and put this down to their respect for diversity – even though they’ve already said that they don’t tolerate the gays.

At this point we made a decision as a committee that Ab Soc were just looking for an argument and the best thing to do would be to simply turn the other cheek and ignore the email so as to not aggravate the situation any further. Again, we presumed this would be the end of it.

However a week later we received another email from Ab Soc demanding an answer to their previous email.

So eventually Sophie emailed him back saying she hadn’t responded because she didn’t want to cause more of an argument, but while we’re on the subject we didn’t appreciate being compared to football hooligans, that she didn’t appreciate the threatening emails he had been sending her and that if they wanted to go the police and ask for a criminal investigation, we would welcome it.

Personally I would have added that if we were to be held accountable for the behaviour of people who weren’t members of our society but were never the less self describing as atheists, whether Ab Soc would be answering for those individuals self describing as Muslims who carried out 7-7 and 9-11. But Sophie is more diplomatic than I am.

Ab Soc shortly emailed back saying they would discuss their next move in their next committee meeting but encouraged us to take their emails to the police if we wanted, showing how meaningless their initial threats against Sophie had been.

Sophie still wanted to repair relationships however and so set up a meeting with Kay, our development coordinator for faith and cultural societies at the union. The meeting with Kay went well – Sophie presented her case and Kay agreed that the emails were threatening and offered to set up a meeting with Ab Soc so we could talk it out.

Unfortunately, on the day the meeting was schedule to take place, Kay was off sick. It was rescheduled to a week later but again, when the say came Kay was off sick again so once again the meeting didn’t take place. So by this point we decided to give up and wait to see if anyone else forced the issue. And that was the end of our exciting adventure with Ab Soc.

University of Leeds staff fair

Sunday, September 5th, 2010 | Foundation, Humanism

On Friday we were down at the University of Leeds 2010 staff fair to promote the Humanist Chaplaincy at the university.


Friday, August 6th, 2010 | Friends, Life

Because I don’t yet have a partner to send individual congratulation cards with both our names on it, I thought I would just give a shout of congratulations to all those who have recently graduated.

Most notably my sister who recently received a 2i in Theatre Costume Design. Of course, it’s not quite as good as having a degree from a Russell Group university such as the University of Leeds, but it’s very good none the less and that’s the perfect amount for remaining on good terms with me.

Also congratulations to Kat, Sarah, Charlotte (kind of), James and anyone else who has graduated recently who I genuinely do care about, just not enough to remember you’ve just graduated.

Getting old

Thursday, September 24th, 2009 | Friends

Myself and George hit The Old Bar last night. It was a somewhat sobering experience, which was useful given I was driving, but never the less unwelcome reminder that we’re getting on a bit.

I didn’t leave my previous engagement until 9:30, which resulted in me getting to the union at 9:45, which I thought was rather late to be hitting the pub. Never the less it was dead in The Old Bar. I mean, there were a fair few people but few enough to allow everyone to get a seat and after all it’s freshers’ week – you would expect it to be rammed.

After a few drinks we headed off a little after 11 – at which point hordes of people began arriving in the bar. Granted I still had two hours of work to do when I got home so it wasn’t like I was going home to bed, but there can be little doubt it’s a sign of the inevitable aging of the class of ’08.

George Chris

Thus beginneth

Thursday, September 24th, 2009 | Events

Monday saw the start of freshers’ week as we began the recruitment drive for members this year. The first days days of the fair have been reasonably successful, especially with myself and Zoltan speaking on the welcome stage on Tuesday lunch time.

The stall Freshers week '09 Atheist Society stall