WORD OF MOUTH

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The Independent Online
The swinging intruder

You pull together an entire coterie of academics and a sprinkling of eminent philosophers at one of France's finest chateaux, and persuade a top-drawer politician to address them, and who ends up getting all the attention? Why, a trumped-up pop star who wasn't even invited. The story is recalled by Britain's only representative at this remarkable summit meeting: Dominique Davison, who heads European Studies at the University of Derby. The conference at the Chateau de Ferrieres dealt with "moral values in lifelong learning", and was about to be addressed by EU commissioner and former French prime minister Edith Cresson, when discussion was halted by the arrival, under heavy police guard, of Michael Jackson. "I didn't recognise him at first. I thought he was a youngster with a scarf around his face," Dominique recounts. In fact, Jackson was there to give the chateau the once-over. For a concert? No. He's interested in buying it from the French government. Some people have more money than sense.

In the swim

Manchester has got off to a swimming start in its plans for the Commonwealth Games, to be held there in 2002. The city council has been given more than pounds 19m towards a new pounds 29.4m aquatics centre, including a 50-metre swimming pool. The grant has come from the National Lottery Sports Fund, whose remit is to help governing bodies "bid for and host world class events". This exciting complex is to be housed at the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology (UMIST). Makes me proud to be an old Mancunian. And I'll have none of those quips about Manchester's rain already making it the nation's aquatics centre.

DHL comes to Trent Park

I still recall the shock I felt when, some 20 years ago, I visited an exhibition of "the work of local writers and artists" at Nottingham Castle, and found not a single example of DH Lawrence's output. "We don't talk about 'im," a jovial museum security officer told me. At nearby Eastwood, the small mining town where Lawrence was born and lived, it was the same pathetic story. Locals claimed not to know where his house was, and there were no signs of it. Things have changed, thank goodness. And Nottingham University, Lawrence's Alma Mater when it was Nottingham University College, has just inherited the world's finest collection of Lawrence's work, including a magnificent copy of his first novel, The White Peacock. Of the book's 798 pages, 629 are in the author's own hand. The collection, lovingly built up over a period of 70 years, was left to the university by George Lazarus, the remarkable Stock Exchange jobber in gold shares, who died in January.

Students not for marketing

I'm delighted to hear that Cardiff University has decided to rename its public relations and student marketing division, on the grounds that the title "marketing" is "inappropriate" when dealing with the public. Quite right. You market butter, cheese and boots, not students and their profs. So what has the division been called? External relations. But is that really "appropriate?" What about Internal Relations - equally important (often more so). Why not PR, information and development? That covers the lot.

Bullies will out

Why not an ombudsperson to deal with complaints against bullies? It never fails to shock me to hear just how many people are subjected to persecution, not just in the playground but also in university and school staff-rooms, as reported in Education+. According to the latest European Commission report, at least 30 per cent of the entire female workforce and 4 per cent of males have suffered sexual harassment (which, after all, is just one type of bullying) in the workplace. Only Belgium and The Netherlands have set up a "comprehensive policy" to tackle this problem. Britain, where bullying appears to be rife, keeps stumm. Under the Maastricht Treaty, Europe's social partners have nine months in which to reach a collective agreement. Let's hope they do.

Off their trolleys

It never fails to amaze me how many supermarket trolleys one finds dumped, sometimes miles from their rightful home. I've seen them in the muddy banks of the Thames, in playgrounds and alleyways. We are a nation of untidy slobs, and students are no exception. Now Tesco is doing something to retrieve stolen trolleys from, of all places, Essex University campus. According to Wyvern, its newsletter, the university has agreed to return parked trolleys to Tesco, and no questions asked. What a waste of time and money. All because some students are too weak and lazy to carry a few bags of food.

And finally ...

The Principal of Queen Mary and Westfield College, Professor Graham Zellick, is vice-chancellor-designate of the University of London. This must be considered among the most prestigious posts in academe, considering that London, with more than 900 undergraduate courses, is the biggest university in the country, and one of the biggest in the world. Professor Zellick, an eminent lawyer who obtained his MA and PhD from Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge, and was Ford Foundation Fellow at Stanford University, has justifiably made it to the top. It wasn't always so. I can disclose that when young Zellick was a sixth-former at Christ's College, Finchley, two London University colleges rejected his application for a law degree course. He would not tell me which they were - and he bears no grudges. You can take your pick. Could it have been King's, or UCL, or the LSE?.

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