Selwyn welcomed back two of its best known alumni this December: television & film star Hugh Laurie and top-selling novelist Robert Harris. They're pictured alongside the Christmas tree in Hall.
Hugh Laurie has a strong family connection with Selwyn: his father Ran Laurie was a student at the college, who went on to win an Olympic gold medal in rowing. Hugh was a member of the Boat Race crew in his time as a student, and it was in Cambridge that he met his long-term comedy partner Stephen Fry. He became the most-watched man on television according to the Guinness Book of World Records through his series ‘House’.
Robert Harris was at Selwyn just before Hugh, and he is now one of Britain's most popular authors with his Cicero trilogy currently being staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company and his latest novel 'Munich' another success.
Hugh and Robert have taken part in separate Master's Lodge events this term in which they've shared their career experiences with current students.
For some time now the JCR has been running a ‘Students of Selwyn’ series, profiling some of the undergraduates at the college. We’re delighted that the MCR is now working to expand the series, so that in future it will include graduate students too.
The first representative of our MCR is Hiba Salem, who talks about her journey from Syria to Selwyn – and her research among refugee communities.
Q: Where are you from? Where did you study before coming to Cambridge?
A: I am from another ancient city, Damascus. I studied and lived in Syria until I was accepted by Cambridge in 2014 for an MPhil. I am now in the third year of my PhD.
Q: What motivated you to pursue postgraduate study at Cambridge?
A: I was living in Damascus during the first three years of the war. Our lives were transformed beyond recognition within mere months. Our home changed so violently and so rapidly. One day, I saw the phrase “a lost generation”, a term used to characterise the millions of Syrian children who would grow up with very little or no education whatsoever. It was devastating to know that this would be written into Syria’s future. While I always wanted to study for a postgraduate degree in Education, it was during those years that I became certain of what it is I wanted to work on.
Q: In a few words (although there will soon be 80,000 of them) can you describe your research project? Is there anything in particular about your work that you'd like to share with a wider audience, especially prospective students to Cambridge?
A: I research the well-being of Syrian refugee students in Jordan using innovative visual methods to engage their own interpretations of their schools. The impetus behind my research stems from the high dropout rates of refugee students in Jordanian schools. Last year, I interviewed 80 refugee students across secondary schools in Jordan to discuss the students’ reflections on their lives. Specifically, my research works to understand how the students’ educational experiences in Jordan, such as being segregated from their Jordanian peers, impact their sense of well-being, feelings about the future, and their own perceived likelihood of dropping out of school.
Q: What do you think is the potential broader impact of your research project? Are there things that you'd like to do in the future that build upon your PhD in education?
A: One of the most challenging issues faced today is the staggering number of refugees across the globe. Experiences of refugees are often underrepresented despite decisions being made on their behalf daily. When decision-makers speak of the struggle to provide refugees with quality education, we ultimately know very little about their experiences and what we can do to improve their well-being. I hope that my research shows the importance of individual voices and contexts. I hope that my future research will encourage the inclusion of the voices of refugee students in assessment and policy-making processes.
Q: How has being at Selwyn influenced your experience of Cambridge? Do you think that the College, or in the MCR, have contributed anything unique to your experience of Cambridge?
A: Selwyn has a fantastic community spirit and is one of my favourite things about Cambridge. It is an incredibly colourful community made up of so many interesting and genuine people from all over the world. Being away from home has been made easier by the friends I have made through the MCR. Oh, and dinner parties.
Q: Anything else you'd like us to know about you?
A: I really like this whole English tea & cake in the afternoon thing.
Keep in touch with all our Students of Selwyn on our Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/Selwyn.College.Cambridge/
The Master of Selwyn, Roger Mosey, has responded to criticisms of Cambridge over its admissions policy – and other recent media stories about the university. In a speech to parents and students, he argued that the university has a good story to tell about the progress it is making.
Mr Mosey cited the record number of state school admissions to Cambridge: 63% of this year’s intake, rising to 71% here at Selwyn. And there is a similar picture for BME students, where 21.8% of the home-based freshers of 2017 are from ethnic minorities – compared with a UK population average of 14%.
He also criticised recent media items, such as the BBC’s Question Time programme saying that the university’s non-white numbers were “poor and decreasing” – and an article in The Guardian which claimed that ‘Oxbridge may be unfixable. Perhaps it should be abolished’. The Master said he believed Selwyn was good for its students, based on its high academic standards and strong pastoral care; and the case must also be made for Cambridge as a force for good in the world.
You can read the speech in full here: http://www.sel.cam.ac.uk/life-selwyn/the-fellowship/masters-speeches/parents-2017/
At this time of year we remember all members of this college who died in conflict. The names of the fallen in the First and Second World Wars, which are inscribed in our war memorials, are read out on Remembrance Sunday; and there is music and poetry in chapel for people of all faiths and none.
We were particularly saddened to read an item from Haileybury School about a young man who died 100 years ago.
Ralph Upton (pictured) attended Haileybury from 1911-1916. He was a college prefect who played cricket and rugby for the school. Ralph was then awarded a scholarship to Selwyn, but never got the chance to come here.
He was gazetted as a Second Lieutenant in the East Surrey Regiment on 11 August 1916. A soldier who had known Ralph at Cadet School wrote that he was ‘a worker whom anyone would choose to have on his side’.
Tragically, he was killed on 3 May 1917, aged just 19. His father wrote: ‘After his wonderful school career, he faced this terrible, gigantic, horrible War with such a spirit and such courage; all the greater for hating and scorning all the ugliness and cruelty of it…But he suffered and hid all that under his cheery, joking manner.’
We think of all Selwynites who fell in conflict, and those like Ralph who never came here, in our Remembrance services.
The University of Cambridge has launched a campaign to promote zero tolerance of sexual misconduct.
Called ‘Breaking the Silence – Cambridge speaks out against sexual misconduct’, the campaign will highlight a range of new prevention, support and reporting measures coming into effect in 2017.
It launched on October 24th with a new website and film showing CUSU’s women’s officer Lola Olufemi, who graduated from Selwyn this summer, and senior leaders including Vice-Chancellor Professor Stephen Toope advocating zero tolerance of all forms of harassment.
The website www.breakingthesilence.cam.ac.uk gives contact points for help, advice and support as well as setting out expectations around mutual respect and consideration and the zero tolerance approach to sexual misconduct. Staff and students are also given information about the university, college and external reporting options via the website.
The campaign has been developed by CUSU, the university and colleges and will be supported on social media using the hashtag #breakingthesilence.
A number of colleges, including Selwyn, are piloting the Intervention Initiative, a staff-facilitated bystander training programme. This aims to equip those who may witness harassment to step in and intervene in a safe and effective way. Studies have shown sexual harassment dropping by significant levels on US university campuses where the programme has been introduced.
The actor Hugh Laurie visited Selwyn on September 25th and took part in a question and answer session with students. Hugh is a Selwyn alumnus (SE 1978) who studied archaeology and anthropology, and he is now an Honorary Fellow of the college.
There was a packed Master’s Lodge for his session with current Selwynites. Hugh talked about his family connection with Selwyn: his father, an Olympic gold medallist, studied here – as did his brother. He spoke about his rowing – he was in the 1980 Boat Race – and how during his time in Cambridge he moved into acting and writing, and met Stephen Fry.
He also talked about the roles he’s played – moving from comedy to drama, though he said he thought there was a lot of humour in the series ‘House’; and about how pleased he is that today’s students also enjoy his comedy from two or three decades ago. He finally mentioned that he’s back in a recording studio later this year to make another album as a musician.