Grubby Kingston

Kingston University is in financial trouble, we know. Naturally the Senior Mismanagement Team, responsible for poor decisions in the past, has decided to cut back on the costs they consider unimportant — the staff. The loss of academic and academic support staff is well publicised (so far about 71 academic, 47 support), and now the fundamental cost of cleaning staff is to be cut.

An email distributed round the University informs us that offices are now only to be cleaned once a week. Yet some offices look as though they are barely cleaned at all, never mind every day. This does seem to vary from site to site, or even from floor to floor in some buildings, but dirt is to be found on the floors and desks of many staff.
Dissenter watched a TV programme some time ago in which a senior research academic at another institution asked how could people have good ideas in a smelly old building. He had the clout to build a shiny new one for his department. Although Kingston is putting up one new building, it won’t house many academic staff, maybe none.

The basic welfare requirement of clean toilets is unfulfilled at KU. Some are disgraceful, not helped by a selection of students who were never properly toilet-trained. Again this seems to vary between sites. Knights Park looks the best; there are even decent hand dryers, unlike the wheezy machines installed at other sites. Penrhyn Road is foul, Kingston Hill mixed.

Another variation between sites is staff catering facilities. In the neoliberal spirit of outsourcing, KU even has Tax Dodgers Inc (aka Starbucks) selling pricey coffee to the students. For staff, Penrhyn Road has the Picton Room, refurbished not long ago. The interior is not bad but the piped pop music and the big screen showing daytime television is not conducive to staff rest and recuperation. Worse, students are allowed in during the afternoon, but often go in earlier. The only site with a dedicated staff room is Knights Park, comfortable and relatively peaceful, with a piano too should anyone musical care to sooth their stress with some playing.

If an institution cannot get the basic facilities right, it is unlikely to get anything right. Clean toilets and decent catering are fundamental to a happy workforce. Until recently Kingston wanted to emulate the old universities. Installing senior common rooms would have been a worthwhile step. Like all potential worthwhile steps at Kingston, they never happen.

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