The week in higher education – 18 January 2024

The good, the bad and the offbeat: the academy through the lens of the world’s media

一月 18, 2024
Source: Nick Newman

Most people don’t get a statue made of them until they are long dead, so it was a surprise when, in 2021, the University of Winchester chose to install a life-size sculpture of the climate activist Greta Thunberg, now 21, despite her having no obvious connection to the institution. The bronze of the school striker didn’t last long, however, and was removed last year after being branded a “vanity project” by staff and “greenwashing” by students, as well as also becoming a target for antisocial behaviour. Winchester said at the time that the £24,000 statue had disappeared, not because of the controversy, but because it needed a more stable plinth (don’t we all?) and, true to managers’ word, the artwork has now reappeared, albeit in a “more secluded spot”, the Daily Mail reported. No doubt it is what Ms Thunberg has always wanted.

Joe Gow did not take his sacking from the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse well, claiming losing his job as chancellor because he appeared in online pornography videos with his wife was a violation of his free speech rights. At least he can now console himself with a pint of Hot for Chancellor, a beer made in his honour by local Milwaukee brewer 608. Featuring an image of a cartoon chancellor with a gaping gown and “censored” strip across his nether regions, the fruited brew was described as being “a little tart, not super sour” by the company’s owner, Phil Humphrey, in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. In a post on Facebook the brewery said Dr Gow – sacked for what the Wisconsin regents called “abhorrent” and “reckless” behaviour – was its “favourite chancellor” while making clear what side of the free speech debate it favoured: “Do yo thang Joe!!!!” the post said.

Tom Marion, a professor of theatre at the City University of New York, has been waging a seemingly unwinnable battle against Manhattan’s rats to stop them invading his car when it is parked after dark, and it seems to be taking its toll: “They will find you. And they all know each other and they talk to each other,” he told The Wall Street Journal. Such paranoia seems to be justified in Professor Marion’s case. He has seen rats destroy the cables of his car on four occasions in just over a year, forcing him to take ever more drastic action. He has tried wrapping his ignition in minty tape, spraying it with a garlic-scented repellent and covering the engine with stainless steel wool, but to no avail, and has now taken to never parking in the same place twice in case the rodents are staking him out for another break-in. “By the time they come back, I’m gone,” he said. But one can’t help thinking the rats have already won.

Most modern-day students have shaken off the boozy, degenerate lifestyle and are now much more likely to partake in a wellness shot than a cigarette during the stressful exam season these days. But unbeknown to many, buying a shot from Ryde – a wellness brand that has been targeting undergraduates at the University of Sydney of late – was still helping to fund the tobacco industry, The Guardian reported. Behind the taurine, lemon balm and ginseng exterior, lies British American Tobacco, the sole owner of Ryde; a fact not exactly made crystal clear when the company’s representatives tried to encourage students to try their drinks on Sydney’s campus recently. The university denied giving permission to the company to film students and videos posted on TikTok have since disappeared, but experts said this was only one example of the “healthwashing” of tobacco firms, which is no doubt likely to continue.

Huge supercomputers on university campuses are extremely useful for researchers but also a massive blight on the environment, generating as much, if not more, emissions as flying. The University of Edinburgh thinks it has come up with a way of using some of the waste heat generated by its own advanced computing facility to warm people’s homes. A feasibility study is getting under way that seeks to transfer heat captured in the process of cooling the computers into water that has flooded nearby disused mines. The heated-up water will then be made available to warm people’s homes via heat pump technology. Given the university is set to host the UK government’s next-generation Exascale supercomputer – taking its excess heat generation from 70GWh to 272GWh – researchers believe such projects are vital if universities are to reach their net-zero goals.



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