The University’s reduction of access to Muslim prayer space on campus led to a peaceful protest by Islam Society and a series of motions at Student Council. Formerly accessible 24/7, the University made the controversial decision to limit opening hours on weekends to just five hours on a Saturday, with a spokesperson citing “operational difficulties with the King George VII Prayer Space – such as members of the public sleeping in there overnight and others trying to gain access not for prayer purposes”. This was, however, strongly criticised by the student body, as members of the Islamic community must pray five times each day – including if they choose to spend their weekends at the Robinson Library. This left the University’s Muslim community – estimated at a few thousand students – forced to pray either outdoors on the ground or in an alternative hideout on campus to get the privacy they deserved. This led to an on-campus peaceful protest of about 100 members of Islam Society on a windy October day prying together outside the King George VII Building to highlight the importance of the prayer space. Some society members expressed fear of a “hidden agenda” behind the University’s decision, referring to Islamophobia sentiments in the mass media, which was vehemently denied by the University.
Other news that week included an attempted armed robbery in the Lonsdale Pub in West Jesmond. A rapid response from Northumbria Police ensured that no property was stolen and no people were hurt.
Student activists protested outside the BBC Newcastle studio to express their outrage against then British National Party leader Nick Griffin’s appearance on Question Time. Following Griffin’s election to the European Parliament in June 2009, Griffin was invited to feature in the primetime political discussion show Question Time. While the BBC argued that, as a democratically-elected politician with nearly a million votes for his party at the European elections, he was allowed a platform, many Newcastle students and residents evidently disagreed. Protestors voiced their concerns about the party’s opposition to racial integration, with one protestor crying, “Question Time is a platform for debate, but there is no debate to be had with fascism”.
The Courier provided coverage of recent developments in the 2005 Tory leadership contest. Describing the contest as an “enthralling battle between monolithic titans that simply cannot be missed”, the reporter stated that “the Conservatives are THE student friendly party” with a “realistic and practical approach” to Higher Education Policy. Here the author cited their policy “to replace student fees and government grants to universities with a new system of government-funded national scholarships to meet the cost of educating students”. Unfortunately, despite the years of continuous Tory rule, this policy is yet to materialise. The reporter also criticised the “dirty tactics” used by David Cameron’s opposition during the leadership contest, arguing: “isn’t university about experiencing life before things get boring?” and saying that they don’t resent Cameron for his “(alleged) experimentations”. Unfortunately, the article wasn’t referencing what blew up to be known as the Piggate scandal; the reporter was merely referring to a smear campaign ran against Cameron for his supposed use of as while a student.
While it may have been an intense week in politics, it certainly was a successful week for the film industry with the release of the first full-length Wallace and Gromit film, Curse of the Were Rabbit. The Courier’s entertainment supplement Pulp gave the film a five star review, praising its animation, storyline and humour.
Chaos ensued on campus when teen idol Donny Osmond made a surprise appearance to the Debating Chamber.
A man was seen carrying two guns during a near-riot in the Union Ballroom on a Friday night. Shouts and disturbances across the venue had already interrupted songs performed during the live music gig, which was exacerbated by the fact that someone had already tampered with the sound system. When band Gnidlorog performed, about 20 people, who all appeared drunk, allegedly broke through the Fire Escape yet the porters made no attempt to stop them. Alongside boisterous dancing in front of the stage, an attendee started fiddling with the band’s £7000 equipment and even managed to turn the sound off entirely. The band were understandably frustrated and left the stage. The Students’ Union’s Social Secretary described how “the whole place went wild. There was even a guy running round with a couple of guns. It was only a selfish minority who ruined it for the rest. I regard entertainments as a service to students but if a minority want to blow it, then there's no future for entertainments in the University." It was even reported that a disabled man was verbally abused and then beaten when he left the Union for asking attendees to be quieter. The band’s lead singer said: “I feel like crying about the whole thing,” and the roadie added that they would not play here again.
The Students’ Union building caused further controversy when the Union Management Committee decided to install a one-armed bandit gambling machine in Men’s Bar (now known as Luther’s) by a landslide ten votes to two. Honorary Treasurer of the Union Society Michael Chilton was outraged by the decision, complaining that “young boys and girls will spend their money in it, and not have any left for sandwiches.” Discussing the one-armed bandit machines at the Benton Conservative Club, of which he was a member, Chilton described: “I have seen grown women spending their house-keeping money in it. I gamble myself, so I know what the temptation is like”. The machine, however, came with no financial risk to the Union; the supplier provided the machine for free in return for half of the takings, and would also be responsible for all maintenance and repairs.
Other attempts to introduce new retail offerings in the Union also failed, with the Courier featuring an article simply titles “Wot – no knickers?” Beginning with a beautiful opener of “there will be no knickers in the Union”, the Courier reported that the Union Management Committee made a further bold decision against introducing a vending machine selling “strong, soft, hygienic” disposable panties in the Union. A secretary working at the Union tried out a sample pack, and praised the attractiveness of the panties and their delicate floral pattern, but said: “I would not wear them on their own. I would always put something on top”. Despite the potential for a similar machine selling men’s pants also being discussed, the Union Management Committee ultimately decided against introducing the vending machine due to lack of demand.