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Community update from Vice-Chancellor Stuart Croft (22 May)

"Week nine of our lockdown diaries and lots of great things going on. This is mainly, as you know, a space where we’re going to talk about community updates. But I just want to say one more directly related work-related thing and that’s because we’ve put out some material on what our plans are for organising the University, for financing ourselves through this next period of time. And I just wanted to say two things, firstly – thank you, because people are coming back already with lots of ideas about what we might do to save money or to generate the progress that we need through this really challenging time. And secondly also, thank you to people who have said really nice and encouraging things. You’d be amazed how my day is improved when somebody says, ‘Thank you, that was good’, or whatever it might be. So thank you everybody for doing all that.

One of the things that has been a theme for a lot of messages over the last week is parenting and parent-teachering because I think from what quite a number of you are saying, this period of time is going on quite a lot now and it’s becoming more and more challenging to keep going, to keep that variety going. Some of you are being quite hard on yourselves, I think.

Some of you are still being really creative and really imaginative. Thank you for Lisa and Eliza for the things that you have been saying. I know that for a number of people where you have got kids in a category that might be returning to school in a short period of time, I know there’s some pretty tough decisions that you’re making and some pretty hard things that you’re having to think through. We just want to, I suppose, as a community say that we’re with you. You will know who the people are that you can talk to about this and you can share ideas about this, so please reach out, please reach out as a community and take advice and support.

Also couple of people have made a really good point, we’ve got lots of school governors across our community as well. It’s a tough job being a school governor, and perhaps a particularly tough job being a school governor now. So again, thank you for doing that role and we know that every one of you doing the role as a school governor is obviously thinking first and foremost about the kids, about their education and of course about their welfare.

In this context, had a great email this week from Debbie in the University nursery, just setting out a few of the things at that the nursery team have been doing over this period of time when of course they can’t go into work and look after the kids. They’ve been doing activity packs for parents, they’ve been doing parents Whatsapps and Zoom groups as well. Again, I know from some of the others who have been in touch that there are quite a few parents Zoom and Whatsapp (other social media is available) groups get together for solidarity and support and that’s a great thing as well.

Quite a few student things this week, which is great to see – students being in touch. I think perhaps inspired a little bit by the shout out I gave to the students in CLL a couple of weeks back, Anil quite rightly encouraged me to do that. Hossam has been in touch about the fulltime MBA students and the fantastic work they’re all doing to stay in touch and connect together and keep their learning going.

Sreesha has been doing some fantastic work apparently creating online guest speakers so there’s lots of input for the students and what they’re doing. Tapish and Katherine have been doing a newsletter, again to keep the connection going and that’s fantastic to see.

Maria was in touch with some fantastic news that the University has had a donation of some monies that’s going to allow us to have ten funded places for undergraduates to go on a leadership course, an online leadership course, run by the University of California at Berkeley. Now that’s going to be a fantastic opportunity. It’s great to see that we’re getting that support.

Many of you will know we’re reaching out to people at the moment to ask if they’ll give some financial support to some of our students in hardship that we’re trying to raise some funds there, to add to the funds the University is putting in to, to support students at this time.

Lots of great work going on in terms of charity work that you’re all doing out there. Claire told me about her blood donation and my confession is that I’m slightly phobic about needles, that is the truth of it. I did give blood once and they said to me, ‘Please don’t come back’. And that’s really because I couldn’t recover, my face was ashen the whole time, and it wasn’t the giving the blood – it was the needle. Sorry that’s a terrible tale, I probably shouldn’t have said that!

Dilip has sent some pictures and told me about the food donation work that is being done by the Shree Prajapati Association across the city. There’s lots of fantastic work in terms of food banks and food donations. This was in association with Salvation Army. Fantastic stuff.

Again, in terms of students, Simara was in touch to tell me about Warwick Marrow and to give a shout out to the work of Warwick Marrow – they are a branch of the Anthony Nolan charity. Of course, as Simara was saying, we’re doing everything we can, aren’t we, to try and support the community and people through the Covid-19 emergency, but that doesn’t mean that all the other work that is going on in medical charities and elsewhere is less important. We have just got to keep supporting everything that we possibly can.

Another theme of the week has been people saying, ‘How is the future going to look, how are we going to get back onto campus?’. Simply to say, there is a lot of work that is going on at the moment about what this might look like and I’m hoping we might be able to say something in a few weeks’ time. Because of course at the moment we’re still waiting a bit for government advice, what is it going to be possible to do and not do? What is the context going to be? Hopefully we’ll get that, if not by the time of the next one of these diaries, certainly I hope by the time of the one after that.

Now last week I talked about this online project, this digital archive, collated together of what’s going on now for us, for our community, and of our community. And people have been in touch, thank you so much, with contributions – Gary, Jade, Claire, Katie, Nikki. Thank you so much for the things that you’ve been sending. Some of you have some brilliant stuff before I said we were going to do this and I don’t dare use it, unless you tell me I can use it, if you see what I mean. So please, the great stuff you’ve sent me before, just send it to me again if you want it to be a part of this and we’ll just add it into that archive of materials. And for others, please just send stuff in, so that we’ve got lots of material we can work through to demonstrate what a community we are and all the fantastic things we’ve doing in this period of time.

Mel was in touch with a fantastic idea about this. Mel said, we’ve got all these different things going on but why don’t we have a section on what Mel says call it possibilities, or hopes. What might change for the better through all this period of time? How might we be a better community, better society, better individual through this period of time. So, if you have thoughts you want to share on that as well, please, please do add that in.

Let me also, if I may, give a shout out to Paul, Ninna and Margaret who have all said they will help with the putting of this together and that’s great, because if it was left to me to put all this together, it wouldn’t be put together as I just don’t have the technological skill and knowledge for it. But thanks so much for volunteering. If there are other volunteers who can help us do this, that would be great. I really would love this project to be from, and for, and of, our community.

Actually, while talking about these sorts of things, Penny was in touch quite rightly to say I need to say something about the Faculty of Arts at home videos. Great stuff out there on YouTube – fantastic. If you’ve got a moment there’s great ideas, great experience, great knowledge being shared. So, the Faculty of Arts at home videos – fantastic.

Now, fun stuff. Lots of fun stuff going on out there! So, let me just pick out a few. Andrew was in touch about a song that’s been put together for the Leamington Cycling and Athletics Club warm up and it’s quite an interesting piece of music! Some of it in rap, Andrew tells me that the rap is slightly inspired by John Barnes rapping the England World Cup song. I then looked it up and that’s nearly 30 years ago. But worse than it being 30 years ago, there is a reference, in terms of warming up, to the Morecambe and Wise. I’m suspecting there’s quite a lot of people saying, ‘Morecambe and Wise, I’ve vaguely heard of them – they’re ancient history, aren’t they?’. But there’s this thing in Morecambe and Wise where at the end they are going out and they’re doing this and apparently a version of that is part of the warmup of the Leamington Cycling and Athletics Club.

Diane has been in touch about all the amazing stay connected work that’s been going on in Chemistry including, for example, the foodie lab. Chemists and a foodie lab…slightly scary thought but obviously really, really popular. In some of these stay connected groups, Diane says a really, really popular one had 132 users in a day. So, brilliant stuff – thank you. If there are other departments doing stuff like this, let me know. Let me give you a shout out as well, perhaps give some ideas and inspiration to others.

Becky was in touch about the Doctoral College team. They had a superheroes day and that means superheroes bingo, the making of superheroes mascots and the making of and

wearing superheroes outfits. And I have the photographic evidence! So, if you’ve got crazy ideas like that, that you’re putting into practice, let me know – do be in touch and tell us about that.

Finally, a great story from Amanda. Amanda is doing brilliant work supporting the local community, particularly the senior citizens with company and with their shopping. And she tells me that one of the senior citizens asks her quite often to go to the Post Office to post things and she says to Amanda, ‘Buy yourself a chocolate bar with the change’. Goodness me, that takes me back! My gran used to say buy yourself a chocolate bar with the money from, in that stage, it was buying milk actually.

So, lots of great stories, lots of wonderful things going on. Please keep sharing, please if there are things that you want for our online archive, please mark them as such. Otherwise I won’t put them in, as I just want to make sure that you’re absolutely comfortable with these things being put into that time capsule that we’re going to create.

Lots of sunshine forecast, I hope that brings a good weekend for you and your family and thanks very much for listening once again. Best wishes to all."

Professor Stuart Croft