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Has this been King’s worst year ever?

This really hasn’t been a good year for King’s management. Let’s count the ways.

Empathy for senior management is, generally, in short supply. But let us have a moment of silence for the struggles of King’s Chancellor Ed Byrne. He’s had a pretty rubbish year, and it doesn’t look to be getting better.

The woe got going right at the start of the academic year, with study abroad students expressing concerns over violence in Hong Kong. This undoubtedly consumed a lot of planning time, culminating in the withdrawal of students in November. They then had to be reallocated to other partner institutions around the world. The logistical hassle must have been rather intense.

Another problem with Hong Kong emerged when a King’s student was expelled for allegedly failing to meet credit requirements on his course due to a year abroad. However, it became apparent that he actually had met requirements, and was…un-expelled. Egg on the face for King’s admin!

Late in October, Roar broke the story of a serial harasser on King’s staff at the Maughan Library. This was picked up by other outlets, like The Tab, and the university had to mount an investigation. While that kicked off, a fire safety inspection in mid-November at Champion Hill revealed life-threatening construction problems. This was suppressed while, presumably, desperate contingency planning began.

There was a reprieve over Christmas, quickly shattered in January by the overdue decision to evacuate the Champion Hill residence. King’s spent a large amount of money rehouse students in the Hilton hotel. Numbers are still to be calculated, but good odds place it at five or even six figures. The handling sparked some outrage – not least because students in hotels were only given £15 a day for food. The amount was insufficient given the lack of kitchens.

While Ed was busy reeling from that, the UCU declared a rolling series of strikes on the 3rd of February. This was presaged by a rumbling dispute over unfair pay mounted by Graduate Teaching Assistants the previous term. While some Roar staff have expressed disappointment at the lack of barbed wire and defensive echelons on the picket line, there is no doubt that this was a major disruption.

The KCLSU has not been short on problems either. Most notably, a swathe of candidates (all South Asian) were disqualified for the KCSLU Spring Elections – after voting had closed – on unclear grounds (allegedly cheating). The SU has been accused of racism in doing this. The SU remains, we understand, extremely confused as to what is going on.

And then the novel coronavirus happened.

Details on that last are still emerging, but exams have now been cancelled. The university has instead transitioned to take home exams hosted online. How this will be organised remains to be seen. Moreover, at the discretion of module conveners, lectures are being cancelled or moved online.

So, there you have it. It’s been a few months full of general dismay and disaster. When next you curse KCL, then, have a measure of pity for Ed and his gallant(-ly incompetent) band. It’s the least we can do.

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