Sunday, 22 May 2016

A Lumber Jack, a Zombie Professor, and Mums know best!

Last week students at University of the East Anglia were told they were banned from throwing their mortarboard hats at graduation ceremonies because of Health and Safety concerns. The square academic hat forms part of the robes worn at Graduation ceremonies, and the donning of the hat marking the move from graduand to graduate. Many students throw their mortarboards into their air as part of group photos, signifying joy, freedom and completion. A Health and Safety Executive spokesperson noted that it was very unlikely anyone would get injured by a flying mortarboard hat.

I chose not to go to University as I wanted to be a Lumber Jack. I didn’t become one, although ironically when I was much younger, to make extra money I spent many an hour in the forests of Wales cutting down and hauling Christmas trees each year. My parents wisely didn’t try to deter me from becoming a Lumber Jack, and I did eventually get to go to University later in life. But I never did get to throw a mortarboard hat. I also recalled the wisdom of my Mother last week as I struggled through a head cold.

She often told us that a cold takes 3 days to arrive, you have it for 3 days and it takes 3 days to leave. I remembered this piece of advice on day 4 of my cold when I was streaming and feeling very miserable. It was a very busy week, with lots of meetings, including Senate which required me to do a presentation. By day 6 of my cold, I had become a Zombie Professor. I would get home from work and sit feeling sorry for myself, sipping a hot whiskey toddy (parental recommended cure with the addition of whiskey) before going to bed before the 21.00 watershed.

Most of us get 2-4 colds a year (children often have 6 – 8). They do actually last around 10 days and there is not much we can do about it. Such infections have been around since ancient times. There are well over 200 virus strains that can cause the common cold, and colds are spread through the air during close contact with other people and indirectly through contact with objects in our environment. So last week I conducted my meetings at arm’s length and 3 times a day I wiped all my office surfaces down with white vinegar (another of my Mothers tips). Time will tell if my precautions were effective or not.

Whilst colds are very common so are mental health problems. 1 in 4 people are likely to experience a mental health problem during their lifetime. For some this will be a short lived experience, for others their mental health problem might last over many years. Globally 350 million people live with depression. Worldwide nearly 50 million people have dementia. Last week was both Dementia and Mental Health Awareness Week’s. Our University marked each week with many different activities. I liked our free fresh fruit stall provided by the Salford Business School. Eating well can have a dramatic impact on our mental health and wellbeing.

Likewise, I was very privileged to be a signatory at a ceremony held at the Whitworth Gallery where a 3 University Memorandum of Agreement was signed to form the Manchester Dementia Consortium. The agreement was between University of Manchester, Manchester Metropolitan University and our University (Salford). I was proud to share the stage with Ann Johnson, one of our Salford Institute for Dementia, dementia Associates. She has lived with dementia for some 12 years and is a formidable person. She was also a former nurse and nurse educator who worked at University of Manchester.

The University of Manchester is one of the Russel Group University group. This is a self-selected group of 24 Universities in the UK. There is a tough selection criteria for joining the group, plus a joining fee of circa £500,000 (at least it was in 2013). They are the so called ‘elite’ universities in the UK. In the week the UK Government published a White Paper on its proposed far reaching changes to the UK University system there was a deliciously satisfying story of what appeared to an example of the distance between Russel Group universities and reality.  

This was the story from the University of Edinburgh (another Russel Group University). Last week their website offered female students fashion advice regarding what might be considered an appropriate wardrobe for graduation ceremonies. The article, (which I think has now been deleted) was sponsored by Harvey Nichols. The recommendations as to what clothes, hand bags, shoes and so on too buy for the perfect graduation event amounted to some £1000. It’s to be hoped that after spending that kind of money you would be allowed to throw your mortarboard hat in the air at the end of the ceremony.