This term is obviously a really challenging one for students…  exams and exam pressures are every where.  So it is useful to remember that there are other things going on too.

First, an illustration of a recent tandem outing: five tandems loaded with Fitzwilliam graduate and undergraduates gathering behind us on the top of a Cambridgeshire mountain (some of the hills feel big when you’re lugging your partner up the hill – funny he thinks that’s what he’s doing too!).  I love these regular wanderings just a few miles away from Cambridge, but nonetheless an eternity away, as none of the students we’ve had on these trips had any idea that there were real rural landscapes within easy reach, where the pressures of the Cambridge bubble fall away for a brief interval.  It’s a joy to listen to undergrads and grads in conversation, often apparently for the first time ever, even though the two communities intermingle physically within the College.  Too often they seem tacitly to assume that there’s no mileage trying to strike up friendships across such a massive gulf in maturity – all of 3 years, perhaps!  But sitting outside at lunchtime at a pub somewhere, eating a spartan picnic, the tethered tandems grazing peacefully close by, barriers of seniority fall away.  And we get back to Storey’s Way exhilarated by a crumb of exercise in the open air.

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The College has had many other wonderful events:  the highlight recently has to have been the debate in London, as a variant on the regular format of our “London Dinner”, between Andy Burnham (English 1988), Vince Cable (Economics 1962) and Norman Lamont (Economics 1961), on the issues of the EU referendum.  I am not sure they changed anyone’s mindset (don’t we all know how we are going to vote by now?), but the evening was terrific.  The three main speakers all showed their well-honed but nonetheless remarkable skills of oratory, and were followed from the floor by Marina Wheeler QC (Law 1983) and Professor Catherine Barnard (Law 1986) and others.  Real quality, and all home-grown Fitz!

With the speakers at the London Dinner, from left: Vince Cable (Economics 1962), Andy Burnham (English 1988), and Norman Lamont (Economics 1961).

 

As ever, my two working worlds reflect interestingly on each other.  I spent a day in HMP Altcourse last week reflecting on ‘Understanding and Preventing Suicide within the Criminal Justice System’.  Whilst it is clear (of course) that those who run the National Offender Management Service (NOMS) are deeply committed to new initiatives to support all prisons, both public and private sector, I am still depressed by the failure to join up work between different prisons, and between prison and community criminal justice agencies.  It was the prisoners there who had the best ideas – stop late evening arrivals in prison, don’t lock new arrivals behind the cell door too quickly, allow more than a two-minute phone call on your first night… The decency agenda is so basic.  It is not just a question of resources: as someone said, a smile is powerful, and free.

Nicola Padfield

About Nicola Padfield

Nicola Padfield MA, Dip Crim, DES became Master of Fitzwilliam College in October 2013. She is a Reader in Criminal and Penal Justice at the Law Faculty, University of Cambridge, and has been a Fellow of Fitzwilliam College since 1991.

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