The Master's Blog: Week Eight
The weather has turned: blue skies still but the temperature has dropped. Week 8 and we have to admit that summer is behind us and winter has set in. But that’s OK, because winter brings hearty meals, crisp walks and holidays.
Rosie has decided that Port Meadow is the best place in the whole world – but doesn’t stay still long enough to be photographed: so here’s an image from the end of a Sunday walk.
We have been taking full advantage of the range of music Oxford has to offer: from the Leonore Piano Trio at Holywell Music Room to Jools Holland at the New Theatre, via jazz at St Giles in David’s case.
I was pleased to attend Pusey House’s moving service on Remembrance Sunday, followed by lunch, and an Advent service which reminded me just what a talented choir they have – so no pressure for next week, St Cross! My enjoyment of sharing space with our friends and neighbours is certainly not entirely dependent on their hospitality – but they do have very good teas!
We had a very successful Open Day: around 40 prospective students visited the College to see what we have to offer and talk with current staff and students.
I have been gathering together all the great ideas students have for making the St Cross experience even better for next year’s arrivals – some would take more resources than currently available, but there are all kinds of relatively simple things we might be able to do to make it easier, particularly for those coming from overseas. I hope to have some proposals to discuss in Hilary Term.
I’m grateful to Exeter College and the University Student Welfare and Counselling Service for the offer of places on relevant training and awareness courses – and to Ed, Navin and Colleen for attending. Sharing this kind of resource is a great way of making contacts and learning from others.
St Cross talks from Professors Jan Toporowski and Sarah Harper illuminated the worlds of debt and life expectancy/longevity: each in a much more enjoyable and encouraging way than might have been the case with less accomplished and engaging speakers. It was a pleasure to attend both talks and to welcome our speakers to dinner in the Hall afterwards. The Michaelmas St Cross Special Ethics Seminar was a thought provoking lecture on mass surveillance by Carissa Véliz, which generated terrific exchanges with the audience.
The HAPP Conference on the History of the Moon brought 120 guests into College for an enjoyable and fact-filled day of speakers whose talks flowed seamlessly from one to the other all day. We’re all now looking forward to next term’s conference on The Émigrés in Oxford Physics.
As well as Halls and Special Dinners, I have also experienced my first Founders’ Feast: a wonderful evening with a great – and rather emotional – atmosphere. Fellow Anthony Geffen was kind enough to bring his latest Emmy with him.
Building work has recommenced, with scaffolding being erected for work at height and the site looking cleaner and tidier every day. The removal of the cabins from Pusey Street was a great relief to us and to our neighbours. More students moved into the 3rd floor on 14 November as planned and others will be joining us in coming weeks. I’m very grateful for the forbearance of all concerned as we hit the final straight. We are balancing the need to press on to completion with managing the environment for residents – never easy, but informed by the weekly meetings which continue to be a good way of highlighting any matters that need attention. The recent sunshine has really highlighted the quality of the building and visitors are enthusiastic. and complimentary.
My first visit to the Oxford Centre for Islamic Studies was to attend a lecture by former Prime Minister Sir John Major. Entitled ‘A World Adrift,’ it offered no easy answers but raised a number of the key issues of the day in an informed and accessible way. And, like the Vice Chancellor, Louise Richardson, Sir John has a very straightforward approach to answering questions.
As a member of the Conference of Colleges’ Equality and Diversity Forum, I’m delighted the graduate colleges have been offered the opportunity to take part in a facilitated discussion group for black and minority ethnic students to talk about their experiences of Oxford. Successful and honest discussions have already taken place in mixed colleges and generated a range of ideas for taking forward action. I’m sure this will be no different. Students from St Cross will be attending, along with others from Linacre and Wolfson. I look forward to considering the ideas that emerge.
I will also be Chairing my first meeting of the Oxford University Museum of Natural History Visitors (a bit like Trustees, but not quite).
Next week we have alumni winter drinks in London, the Medical Sciences lunch, the Carol Service in Pusey Chapel, and our traditional Christmas lunch in College. My guests for the Special Dinner on 9 December will be Sir Peter and Lady Luff. Before becoming Chair at the Heritage Lottery Fund, Peter was the MP for mid-Worcestershire for over 20 years.
In mid-December, the Bursar and I will join our sister college, Clare Hall, Cambridge, for their Christmas Feast. We look forward to returning the hospitality later in the academic year. It’s great that both students and staff are reinvigorating the relationship with Clare Hall and look forward to new ways of strengthening our connections.