Town House or Clown House?

It cost £50 million, was designed by top architect firm Grafton Architects, and VC Steven ‘Mr. Bland’ Spier has described it as ‘stunning’. But the new Town House is already becoming a Clown House, showing plenty of signs that it is not all that it is cracked up to be. All the colourful KU balloons put up in January have deflated rapidly. It finally opened its doors on January 6, 2020, instead of in Sept 2019 – a full three months behind schedule and half-way through the academic year, much to the dismay of many final year students.

It is a six-storey modernistic building with open-plan spacious design and a ‘silent study area’. But, unlike the old library, it is not living up to all the extravagant promises made by KU and the top SLT Clown. For a start, it is proving impossible for many users to study in silence. It’s not possible to close off noise from the main stairs, which are wooden, open-plan and echo loudly when in heavy use. Footsteps or conversations on the stairs can be heard on all floors, and there are also serious design flaws which mean noise from the ground-floor cafe area and reception inevitably gets funnelled and drifts up to all the other floors. Staff are already reporting that big complaints about the noise problem are being voiced by student reps in student/staff committees. As a former ‘architect’ himself, Spier creamed his pants at the design and vision of the place when it was being built, but library staff were less convinced. And they are right. As well as the noise issue, other teething problems are still being sorted out by the contractors Willmott Dixon, which have involved drilling and repairs both inside and just outside.

Dance students have also discovered that they are often on full display in their studio to a small audience of male students who gather to watch and smirk at them through a glass wall. Another drawback for students is public access to the cafes. The building, which is open to the public until 9pm, has seen a number of local families bring in their children, which has added to noise levels drifting up to other floors or down to those below. Some staff have also taken to dumping their kids there (KU, remember, closed its nursery to save money). This was especially apparent in the February half-term week (a teaching week for students).

The poor old library staff, aware of growing student discontent, have even been forced to employ a couple of students to try and ‘police’ the so-called silent area. What is really needed, though, is surely a big re-think to try and contain the noise problem. Will KU spend yet more to address this? The short answer is ‘no’. As everyone knows, KU is in a deep financial hole (which one SLT member has privately described as a ‘chasm’ to the Student Union), one which Spier and his gang have desperately tried to resolve through cost-savings, compulsory staff redundancies (not applicable to the SLT themselves, of course), numerous course closures, and axing various support services. Fees have also been raised. As part of this, the SLT’s latest big plan is to close and sell off Kingston Bridge House, the KU student accommodation bloc in Hampton Wick. Students were informed out of the blue about this on January 27, just a few weeks after Clown House had opened. It is another desperate gamble to save money, made all the more tragic because, as recently as 2015, the SLT allowed a huge sum to be spent on the refurbishment of (yes, you guessed it) Kingston Bridge House. Spier is due to hold a special opening ceremony for the new Clown House in May, conveniently timed so that very few students will still be around to ask any difficult questions or voice their complaints.

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9 Responses to Town House or Clown House?

  1. atolllmut says:

    ‘the VC has been trousering a tidy £329,000 a year, which makes him one of the highest paid New University VCs in the UK, and that does not include all the claims he has made for “business” trips to Hong Kong, New York and elsewhere’ A ‘consultation based on flawed data’. Looks like UWA have been taking tips from Kingston’s FBSS Dean and KU’s so-called ‘Gold Commander’, who have just trashed Politics at Kingston.

  2. atolllmut says:

    While Dr Fredrics noted that groups of students were submitting identical assignments on disks instead of submitting individual assignments, recent reports in the Kingston University student newspaper, The River , have suggested that groups of students have been submitting virtually identical papers, with a few bits altered to avoid detection, and that this practice is apparently quite widespread within the University.

  3. widalmut says:

    Newsflash: The Surrey Comet now reports that Kingston University never referred to the e-mails documenting attempts to pressurize an External Examiner into changing her critical report on the School of Music, nor the subsequent e-mails from Senior staff encouraging the appointment of more ‘sympathetic’ Examiners as ‘bogus.’ Kingston University did , however categorically deny the authenticity of the e-mails, which were allegedly sent to all full-time teaching staff in the School.

  4. Garmon Awfulshirts says:

    Awfully grateful for your acknowledgment.

    Erm… Er, Yes. Here’s a contribution. Do you recall the awful KU2 bus service I whined on about? Its close relative KU3 is still running, empty. Is Kingston University housing key workers? That really would impress me.

  5. David says:

    Just visited the new Town House for the first time last week. My first thought: an awful lot of money for housing the same size library between two cafes and no additional teaching space. And noise levels did seem a worry.

  6. Brown E John says:

    That Spier bloke sounds like a right devious tosser!!!

    About time the Board of Governors tossed him on to the scrap heap — weasel that this blog makes him appear to be.

    Wonder if any of the Kingston academic sycophant shills will be willing to go on record here and defend him?

    The last guy who did that in Politics looked like a right weasel scumbag.

  7. Dissenter says:

    Would Pen of Penrhyn please contact the blog with a reachable email address (won’t be published of course) – just leave a comment.

    • Garmon Awfulshirts says:

      Dissenter makes a good deal of sense in criticising our employer, but also clearly studies small groups of males perving on (presumably) female dancers, in order to criticise for the sake of it. I am reminded of Dissenter believing someone who claimed to ‘collar room-number surveyors’ and get the ‘truth’ out of them later. Bad form, bad form, dear Dissenter, and probably never happened.

      All I am saying is – great blog, but keep it based in verifiables, and for once in a while, be positive about something. Town House is a nice place for a good view over Hampton Court, if anybody could get the external balcony doors open.

      By the way, there is an awful KU2 intersite bus service which is not at all well explained. How about simple matters like that for an airing? Regards

    • Dissenter says:

      Dear Garmon Awfulshirts
      Thank you for your compliments. The author of the post that included the dancers can answer for themselves, although you cannot accuse the writer of making studies on gawping males while questioning its authenticity.

      But please do send a contribution if you feel there is something we are not saying here. Either post as a comment or email to the Blog.

      PS If you’d like to contact us with a reachable email address we can discuss posting.

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