Reggie volume 6 - 1991
What has happened at Imperial College during the last few years by Alan Barnett
What has happened at Imperial College during the last few years? Some things have certainly changed but the place is still recognizable as the same old IC. In the next few lines I shall take the opportunity to explain just a few of the events of recent times. This is by no means a definitive list but rather those which come to mind.
By far the most significant event has been the formation of the Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine by the merger of IC and St. Marys Hospital Medical School which is located in Paddington. The student-unions also merged a couple of years later, and IC Union now has a fourth constituent college union. This year the college received the Queen's Award for Exports for its ability to attract foreign students.
For anybody who is really out of touch I should mention Lord Flowers successor as rector is Eric Ash, who received a knighthood in this years new Years' Honours List. Victor Mooney also moved aside to make way for Rob Northey who took over the refectories and made many needed improvements. The Southside and Sherfield refectories have been completely refurbished and the spiral staircase that connected the SCR and Ante Room has been removed. The old disused Real Ale Bar is now reopened as a pizza outlet and in the room above Southside Bar there is now a Kebab Shop! The most dramatic change however has taken place in the JCR which now houses the most successful catering outlet of the lot. This is a MacDonalds style fast food joint called Q.T. During term-time this is always extremely busy and the once mostly empty JCR is now jammed packed most of the day which is good news for IC Radio who still broadcast there. No mention of canteens is complete without mentioning the Union Building. This has not always gone smoothly. At first the Snack Bar made an enormous loss which resulted in the dismissal of some of the staff and a police investigation into where a large amount of the stock had gone.
Another retail outlet has also seen changes. The bookshop now recast as the "IC Union Bookstore" is also run by the Union, indeed the new manager is an ex-ICU president. It is a sign of the times to see the Union managing more of its affairs and operating more like a business. More permanent staff have been taken on to cope with the extra work. The Southside Shop in contrast has seen little or no change other than the inevitable price rises.
Accommodation is something which is as important today as it has always been. IC has lost the head-tenancies in Hamlet Gardens and Earls Court Square. Rayleigh House has also been sold. But there are some new halls. Fisher Hall in Evelyn gardens (located in the road opposite Willis Jackson House) and a new postgraduate hall. An earlier attempt to make Weeks an all postgraduate hall was abandoned when Vickers, who paid for the hall and still have some say in its running, did not give their consent to the plan. The latest news is that a large hall in Ealing is to open in the next year or so. Michael Arthur, a name known to many club members I am sure, has left. I wish I could report that his successors had done a better job but I don't think that this is the case. When Linstead Hall celebrated its twentieth birthday, money for the commemorative party came from the selling of unclaimed items which had been left in the basement over the years. The owners of some of the items however were not celebrating with the hall and its residents.
The Holland Club is now located in the basement of the Sherfield Building. The move came about when it was announced that the old site, on stilts on the side of the Huxley building, was structurally unsafe and would have to be demolished. It is an interesting fact that after the Holland Club had settled in to its new home, the former premises were refitted as lecture theatres for the department of computing. Underneath the Holland Club, currently under construction, are the buildings that will house a new interdiciplinary research centre in semi-conductors and solid-state physics.
The computing department has also expanded into another new building. Called the William Penny Laboratory it has been constructed next to the bookstore between the JCR walkway and the Royal College of Music. The lab houses research groups from the department and stands out from all the other buildings by its extensive security system. This is probably another sign of the times. The day may be not too far off when all the research groups will be locked into their own little cupboard competing against each other for that all too important research contract.
Central stores, the college department with virtually everything from pen and paper to toxic chemicals as anyone who was around during the new mixer project will know, has vanished. The powers that be deemed it to be more cost effective to let individual departments buy their supplies from outside distributors. The management school has expanded to consume the music room in Princes Gate and a little further afar the University of London library in Malet Street is also being wound down.
On a more upbeat note the Union has come into a considerable amount of money from the sale of gravel at the Harlington Sports ground. What this money will eventually be spent on is yet to be seen, but it does look like something good will come of it.
An ex-FELIX editor Bill Goodwin has also been in the news recently. In his first job he managed to publish an article using sources which the long arm of the law wanted him to reveal. He refused to do this and a long legal battle followed during which Bill appearing on Radio 4's PM programme and News at Ten to name but a few. I think the case went as far as to involve the House of Lords and ended with Bill being fined; a fine which was paid by the NUJ. Another ex-IC student, Nina Temple, has also become famous. She graduated in 1977 and has now been elected the leader of the British Communist Party. On a more humourous theme, during an IC Radio OB at Rag Week, back in the 1987/8 session the union president Ian Howgate changed his name by deed-pole to Sydney Harbour Bridge in aid of Comic Relief. He later appeared on Radio 1's Newsbeat programme and on page 3 of the Sun; appearances which gave much needed publicity to the college's radio station!
But what of the future? Mergers are still very much on the agenda as far as the college is concerned. It was not long ago that a college working party reported on the feasibility of the merger with Royal Holloway and New Bedford College. The conclusion was that it was not a suitable option but who knows what will be dreamt up in the future. The students union is certainly becoming much more of a commercial enterprise and it remains to be seen what effect this will have on IC Radio. Finally I'd like to remind past-members of something they will probably have seen many times before and newer members of something with which I am sure they will become familiar, and that is the IC Alumi covenant form. It is certainly an apt item to end an article about IC during the last few years.