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©Doug Stevens Photography.

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UCW

An unfortunate set of circumstances has led to this page being created.

I (Doug Stevens) decided to finish my photography degree at University last year.

I had numerous awards, and sufficient HE ‘points’ (That’s the way they calculate degrees these days) to just need one module for my degree. I’d already studied at a couple of Universities to get those points, so wasn’t exactly a ‘novice’ in the academic game. As you know, I’m also a member of numerous associations, etc. (Including the NUJ), and run this business. To be honest, it was icing on the cake. I was so ‘close’ to my degree, and I had the opportunity to finish it off, so I chose to go to Uni at the ripe old age of 57… Bad move. Here’s how it’s being described in the press:


Outrage over “sexist” regime at University.


Left wing feminists and bullying exposed at one of England’s newest “University Centres.”


Calls for resignations were growing last night as yet more allegations of sexism and bullying behaviour by both students and tutors at one of England's smallest “University Centre’s” came to light.

UCW (University Centre Weston) is running its own investigation over allegations of bullying by class and staff members within the “Photography In Practice” course, based at the Loxton Campus, in Weston Super Mare.

It follows the bullying and harassment of a mature student in the 2nd year, which was allowed to go unchecked by faculty staff despite THREE complaints in November, January and March during term times. In fact, the latest allegations seem to point to an active campaign by members of staff against the student.

The result has been that the student who made the allegation of bullying has been excluded from the class rather than the people doing the bullying.


Doug Stevens, the student in question explains…

“The faculty and staff have had numerous opportunities to stop this and have failed – in fact they have ENCOURAGED the behaviour of two students in particular; Emma Hill and Charlie Kelly. The result is clear. My marks have plummeted in recent months and – more alarmingly - I’ve been “excluded” from class for complaining about the bullying and references have been withheld as a form of ‘Blackmail’…”

To put this into context. Doug Stevens joined the 2nd year directly, skipping the first year of the degree course due to his previous qualifications and experience as a photographer that spans four decades, including membership of the Prestigious Royal Photographic Society, Association of Photographers and British Institute of Professional Photographers.

Doug Stevens admits he is not the “normal” 21st century student… “I devoured the opportunity to learn. I was at the time in my life where I could take a couple of years out to finish my degree, and looked forward to the experience. The University Centre has excellent facilities, and I would regularly be found in the library, studio or dark-room, or borrowing some of the massive amounts of equipment available to students. In many ways, I was in heaven.”

Records back up this claim. With over 100 books borrowed from the University Library during the term and well over 100 hours studio and darkroom time as well. His attendance was 100%, as well as attending on days off to utilise the studios and library. He also racked up the miles – travelling to Berlin, Iceland, London, Coventry and Scotland for part of his studies.

However, he admits, he was the exception.

He goes on… “It was a culture shock. I was used to timetables, schedules, and delivering on deadlines. I WANTED to be there. Very clearly, this was an outdated concept in 2018. The reality of modern University life (As far as UCW is concerned) is one where students hardly attend, where students decide to change “deadlines” at will, where they even slept in class, and where they were only ever interested in “feminist” issues…”

A source in The Department Of Works And Pensions seems to confirm this notion. They said that, today, the “education system” is seen as a cosy alternative to benefits. Entry is simplified and ‘dumbed down’ to allow almost anyone to attend, and criteria for selection is less stringent than it’s ever been. Institutes such as UCW (and its parent company Weston College) benefit from this in the shape of thousands of pounds per student signed up… There is clearly an incentive for both the government and the Colleges to ‘process’ often worthless courses. The colleges make millions, and the government conceal unemployment and benefit figures.

As mentioned, Douglas was the exception. He already had a rack of qualifications, both in technology, and through previous study at University and Colleges around the country. As well as almost 40 years in industry from Junior Engineer to Managing Director. He is also regarded as one of the best sports photographers in the world, covering a multitude of sports.


Females are superior to males…


Douglas is also one of the minorities in the class. Being a male in an 80% female dominated class.

This became a “problem” early on, when one student, Charlie Kelly, would regularly hijack the class for her own agenda of “All men are rapist bastards”, and rants about “female supremacy.” She would continually come into class with claims of having been “sexually assaulted” and would denigrate everything male, including the male tutors, and, of course Douglas. He explains…

“I learned early on, that the class had dramatically “shrunk” during the first year, with all but one male student dropping out during the previous year. And from the reports from other students, there was one linking theme – they had been the males in the class. When I joined, the token male left in the class, was (to be frank) too scared to say ‘Boo’ to a goose. Charlie, in particular, seemed hell bent of female supremacy. She spouted vile statements in the name of “feminism” and was – to be frank – out of touch with reality in many cases. On one occasion, I stated I was a feminist – meaning I fully support women’s rights and equality – and she replied ‘So you agree women are superior then?’ ”


Empire Building.


Another issue was a part time student – Emma Hill. She was slightly more mature than the other members of the class (with the exception of Douglas) and was the “self-appointed” leader of the class. She would repeatedly state that she had already completed this course, so didn’t need to attend, but decided she was “needed” in it anyway. She also shared many of the attributes of Charlie – calling women who want to get married ‘Idiots’” and initially wanted to do a project about the horrible nature of marriage.

Emma’s role in this started early on. When the class was given a “competition” to run… Roles were assigned, deadlines were agreed (In writing) and meeting were held – to begin with.

Except, almost immediately, Emma simply didn’t deliver her role. The others, as Douglas can explain. Were equally indolent.

We were given a little over month to complete the organisation of the competition, and the “deadline” was mid-October. However, October came and went, and nobody had done anything.”

Douglas goes on… “While I can understand it was perhaps thought of as “difficult” for some students, it was nothing. As an exercise, I did EVERY role, including creating a website, Social Media, leaflets, contacted potential Judges (Including the prestigious Royal Photographic Society) and set up a “shadow” competition” just to see where the difficulties lay. It took me six hours…”

All this time, Emma (In particular) was stalling people. Complaining of “personal issues”, and ’Having builders at her property, etc.’” At one point, she even apologised…

Sorry this is my fault, I have been very slack. But communication is key, if I knew a few of you were getting annoyed I would have got my bum in gear! Just talk guys so we know where we all are. I will do it this weekend, promise! I am very aware I need to sort my uni life out, I will get onto it! But yeah, talk through these things before making big decisions.” (29th Nov 2018 – 6 weeks after the deadline).

Doug explains. “This shows that a) we were so far behind schedule, and b) Emma admitted liability for most of this delay. As far as the real world goes, that’s a slam dunk. Also, Emma admitted that she has stolen an image for a poster, and retrospectively bought a license for it.” Doug laughs at this aspect of the problem. “Second year DEGREE photography students can’t produce a photograph for a poster? How can that even be?”

In his usually blunt way, Douglas Explains summarises Emma’s ‘role’ in the class. “Emma was the classic ‘empire builder’. In if for herself, and herself only. She was happy to delay the project, as long as it seemed as if she was boss. Ingratiating herself with the tutors and staff by seeming to be the saviour of the day – covering for the lazier students for her own glory. I’ve seen this a thousand times the Industry, but I’ve never seen it encouraged as much as by my tutors.



Criminal offences as part of the curriculum.


Another important and CRIMINAL offence then occurred. One of the most basic principals in law about “competitions” is that nobody associated with the competition, nor the organisation running it can enter it. UCW (Despite Douglas approaching his tutor, Sam Brooks, and Ross Bliss (HE curriculum Co-Ordinator)) did nothing about it, and did not prevent anyone from the college or University entering. This is a criminal offence, and the fraud office has been subsequently notified. Not only that, but at least two of the “cash prizes” went to College or University students. Doug’s opinion is clear:

“Just what were they thinking? £2000+ of funds was put into this competition, with the idea being to go out to schools and OTHER colleges to show them what a cool place Weston College and UCW was. At the end of the day, Weston students won at least half the prizes… What does that say about Weston College?”


Complaints from all angles.


And it was not just Doug who found the whole episode unpalatable. Complaints from other students, included “I think it’s slowing everyone else down though tbf, me and XXX can’t make a move until the poster, flyer and website are done. But they were ignored by tutors.

When asked by the Tutors to put a website up, Douglas obliged, only to face the wrath of Emma, claiming SHE was supposed to do it.

Douglas again has to explain… “I’m a big boy. I’ve been around 40+ years in the industry. I know misunderstandings occur, so I approached the tutors involved. They did Nothing. Emma is seen as a ‘favourite daughter’. She has been used in the past to ‘cover up’ students with little or no interest in participating in projects, and I can see that.”. Despite only being a part-time student, she is also an “ambassador” for the University and sees herself as indispensable. Undoubtedly, she is ‘much beloved’ because she (In recent years) has taken up the slack for many lazy students in the class.

“Realistically, only half the class are there to work”, claims Douglas. “Half are really nice, creative people, a couple are quite shy, but about four are just what I would call, ‘Education scroungers’ – career students who will take the path of least resistance to get grants and loans…”

Doug was then removed from the web design role and was “advised” to self-exclude from the competition altogether. Ross Bliss even suggesting that Doug “makes the tea” while Emma gets on with the rest of the competition… An offer Douglas politely refused. “This wasn’t a problem for me,” explains Doug. “My ethical stance was I did NOT want to be part of this potentially illegal enterprise. Emma was adamant that they wanted to charge an entry fee, and the University “donated” almost £2000 towards the competition, which effectively stamped its fate as fraud. I was NOT interested in getting a criminal record for the sake of a degree…”

Once he was gone from the competition, Doug says that it simply got worse. With Emma seizing role after role. Design (Which was her original remit) soon had Social Media, distribution, and visits, as well as “overall Administrator” to her cap. Numerous student complaints were ignored as she took over social media, as students were pushed aside as it effectively became “Emma’s competition.”

At the behest of students who were feeling excluded and diminished by the actions of Emma, Douglas complained about this. He was told to shut up – “Because it would be sad if you lost your place at University over your attitude…”

All this time, she (Emma) enjoyed the full support of her tutors, and still does.

Douglas, as blunt as ever, says “It’s almost like she’s married to or sleeping with some of the faculty. I’ve never been in such a situation where someone is so blatantly “Empire Building” and yet allowed to do so to the detriment of the other people.”

Again, Doug explains… “It’s not surprising really… The University took the easy option. Have Emma as the ‘catch-all’, to take the slack from some amazingly lazy students… Win-Win. Lazy students get a higher grade for their degree, and TEFL (A University rating system) is none the wiser.”


After initially excelling, Douglas found that “obstacles” were being placed in his way after his initial complaint. His words are better than ours…

“I wanted to work with a differently enabled person. A female in a wheelchair. This was to be a nude shoot to promote body and disability empowerment, and to challenge the conceptions of body shaming and the ‘stigma’ of people in wheelchairs. I have had a girlfriend in a wheelchair, and know from first-hand experience how many people regard them as second class citizens. I never really expected UCW to share those same bigoted views.”

Nudity is a common theme within UCW and Weston College. They have a specific studio dedicated to it next to the photographic studio, and they even have one of their paid staff who poses nude for teenagers in the College..

‘I explained clearly and precisely my aim – to empower a differently enabled person. I cited other examples (In particular, someone called “Disabled Kev” at Plymouth University, doing his entire Masters there in Performing Arts.) On a very similar theme’.
“UCW put every obstacle they could in my way. Claiming HSE problems, what was I going to do in a Fire? I asked for training on the Stryker Chair (An evacuation device) but that was denied. It was then (falsely) claimed that I wanted to do it behind locked doors, and further (false) claims that I was intending to produce porn in their studios, and a whole list of other objections, including the catchall, it would be ‘controversial’. It was at this point that Sadie Skellon’s name entered the arena. While my tutors eventually signed off on the proposal, it always came back to her blocking it. Eventually, at a meeting, she confirmed that she was the one who claimed it might be ‘Controversial’.”


“This really sickened me,” Stated Douglas. “Before coming to University, I worked for various charities and organisations that dealt with empowerment, suicides, homelessness, domestic violence and many, many other CONTROVERSIAL issues. UCW – as far as I was concerned - blocked them all. I was almost physically sick at the bigoted and dated standpoint of UCW. I stood my ground, and told them, quite clearly that this issue was not going away… I was on the point of organising a demonstration, but my model started feeling the stress and was exhibiting anxiety issues – and at the end of the day, it is about HER, not some armchair bigots, so I didn’t go ahead with the shoot.”


As a further example. Later in the year, Douglas was approached by the Charity “CLIC SARGENT” (A charity that works with young people with cancers.) to work for them as a volunteer photographer. They had seen his sports portfolio, and they were keen for him to shoot their sponsored runners in the 10K at Bristol. One of the conditions was that the University had to confirm he was with them. UCW refused, and so both a disappointed CLIC SARGANT and a devastated Douglas, had to forgo the honour. Again, over to Douglas…

“It was like a badly written sit-com. One person would say ‘Oh, you need to talk to so, and, so’… Then they would say, ‘No… You really need to speak to…’ and so we went around in circles until the opportunity was gone. I could see the funny side if these weren’t important social issues being blocked.”


‘All men are rapist bastards, part 2.


Meanwhile, Charlie Kelly had not been silent. During one of her “All men are rapist bastard” rants in class, she declared she’s ashamed to be called a “Woman” because it has the term “MAN” in it. She also declared that she had found a website, which showed videos of real rapes, and she wanted to screenshot these images and display them at her end of year exhibition – to show the world what an evil bunch of bastards men are.

At This point, Doug had had enough. He contacted the University “Safeguarding Officer”, Nick Reardon. Again, Doug’s words…

“I contacted Nik to discuss my concerns. As a heterosexual male, I felt threatened by her constant allegations of rape, and her almost cavalier attitude of Misandrism (Man hating). I was also extremely upset that someone such as Charlie would try to ‘sensationalise’ rape in such a way.  I was NOT from a genuine empathy for the victims or rape and sexual assault, but as a propogandist attack on men in general.

She also admitted to mutually assisting her boyfriend to self harm, The list is long and notorious as to her disruptive behaviour. During a field trip to Berlin, she was caught in another man’s bed (Not her boyfriend) and disrupted male dorms by entering them at night because “the bitches are wrecking their own dorm” (Charlie is very disparaging about other ‘non-feminist’ women, calling them traitors.). She had also approached a model at the University and asked her how she could “whore” herself by displaying before “men”. She also had a conversation with someone else about “fishnets – and how that was the sign of a slut…” These were all markers for some form of danger and possible mental illness that was a risk to others as well as herself, and I didn’t want to be the casualty over it”, explains Doug. “After meeting with Nik, I mentioned my concerns to Sam Brooks, assuming confidentiality. Instead, the brown stuff hit the fan. Next minute, I’m being approached by people (some even crying) saying that Sam had ‘ambushed’ them and asked if they felt I had put words in their mouths. I was both astonished, and, to be frank, alarmed, that a senior tutor had taken this stance. Apparently, Charlie was running around the University, making allegations, and asking for a hug from everyone and anyone she could. It was a melodramatic joke, but one that could have had serious repercussions. But worse was to come.”

Doug then requested for a formal meeting, to put forward formalise his complaint.

Present was Sadie Skellon, assistant director of HE at UCW, Ross Bliss, Sam Brooks, and Jamie Dormer-Durling.

“Sadie asked to keep the meeting informal, and immediately launched into a character assassination of me. Stating that Charlie had the right of free speech (Including calling me an evil old bastard) and could say anything she wanted. She then immediately countered my use of the word “girls” to refer to female members of my class (Who are all approximately 25 years my junior) and stopped the meeting and asked that her disgust be added to the minutes of the meeting. She then went on with a tirade of racial, sexist and generally insulting remarks aimed at me. At one point, I said something like ‘I appreciate as an Alpha Male, I can be difficult…’ Sadie almost leapt onto the desk. I quote: ‘You’re not an alpha male, you’re a nothing!’ Further insults included ‘You’re just a loud mouth (Referring to my strong Scottish brogue) and again reiterated that men are not allowed a voice at UCW, and feminists can do whatever they want within it. It was also ‘suggested’ that I go to another University, ANY university other than UCW.”

Douglas was so shocked, he hardly felt capable of putting his points forward at that meeting.

“The bottom line was. I was expected to self-exclude from rest of the year, and to strongly consider going to another University.”

The proposal was put to me (primarily by Sadie) that I exclude from class ‘voluntarily’ and only attend specific one-to-one tutorials ‘by appointment’, or to attend the library. Feeling quite bruised and battered, I agreed to that, thinking my weekly tutorials would continue. Subsequently I only had two tutorials – one of which was held in the University Canteen and I was not invited to any other tutorials or other course related activities.”

Clearly, only a few weeks before two important modules were due, he felt very uncomfortable, and – equally, not surprisingly, he couldn’t do his best under the circumstances.

Yet, despite being excluded, and being refused tutorial support, and not being allowed to exhibit with the other students, which had been hijacked by Charlie. (One student said that it was a “bit shit dominated by a few individuals if you know what I mean but it’s gone okay,’) and the sometimes blatant interference by tutors and Sadie Skellon, Douglas did pass, and has been awarded his degree (Although, at a much-reduced grading of 2:1).

However, he felt bound to make a formal complaint, not only about the behaviour of Emma and Charlie, but also of Sadie Skellon and his tutors.


Blackmail.


Once he’d made the formal representation to UCW about his complaint, they went into overdrive to get him out.

“Normally” the next step after passing your (foundation) degree is an automatic progression to 3rd year, with a (Hons) top-up course. As long as you make the minimum mark, you are accepted. The Faculty does have to give you a ‘reference’ to rubber stamp the application but it is an all but automatic progression. There’s no known record of the faculty refusing the progression onto 3rd year. Except in Doug’s case.

“My first suspicions were raised when I didn’t get an ‘invite’ to a formal tutorial on what was expected for third year students – your projects, your dissertation, etc.”.

But, apparently, because he was bullied, and had made an official complaint about the actions of both the students, and the staff involved, UCW has “withheld” the required reference to allow him to do so, suggesting he “Defers” for at least a year - or better still - go elsewhere.

As he says. “This is clearly to support the two bullies (Emma and Charlie) and to punish me for standing up for my rights as an individual and a victim of bullying. What this shows is very clearly the bullying “culture” of UCW at work under the ‘leadership’ of Ross Bliss and Sadie Skellon…”


As Douglas sits at home, with a pretty worthless degree, he ponders on the question: “Why has it come to this?“


As always, Doug is blunt and to the point. “Any ethical organisation would have sorted this out in October last year. A few firm words to all parties, outlining the position, would have solved it. I’m an ex director and senior engineer myself, and I’ve faced many similar (And often worse) situations, and I’ve solved them with classic conflict resolution. Why hasn’t UCW done that?  The answer to that - for me - is quite simple. I’m the wrong gender and nationality for them.”