by Kristina Murkett
Monday, 4
October 2021
Campus Wars

St Andrews reverts to 16th Century Calvinism

Instead of original sin, students now have to acknowledge 'personal guilt'

You would be forgiven for thinking that universities are secular institutions. But it turns out that the University of St Andrews is reverting to something akin to 16th Century Calvinism: except that this time it is preaching the doctrine of ‘personal guilt’ rather than ‘original sin.’

The university has introduced new induction modules for students (or should I say converts?) for students on sustainability, diversity and consent, and will not allow students to matriculate if they do not pass. How do students pass? By agreeing with certain statements, such as “acknowledging your personal guilt is a useful start point in overcoming unconscious bias.” ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 28
September 2021

Penalising private schools will help no one

Labour's latest policy announcement will hurt the very children it aims to help

Keir Starmer’s announcement that Labour will pledge to end private schools’ charity status and use the tax revenue to raise £1.7 billion for state schools may sound like a good idea. After all, private schools are run like a business and should be treated as such. It is also refreshing to finally see a clear Labour policy (even if it is a rehash of one of Jeremy Corbyn’s) — I just wish it was a coherent one.

While it may make a good headline, the scheme is likely to harm more families than it will actually help. It’s also a distraction from some of the Labour’s more interesting ideas, such as improving financial education so that students are taught about pension planning, mortgages and credit scores at school. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Wednesday, 22
September 2021

TikTok’s voyeuristic probe into Gabby Petito’s disappearance

Social media sleuths may be hindering the case more than helping

Since Gabby Petito was declared missing on September 11th, the hashtag #findgabbypetito has been viewed on Tiktok 1.2 billion times. Tiktok creators and internet sleuths such as Haley Toumaian have dissected every detail in her disappearance, with one of her videos gathering over five and a half million views. Gabby Petito’s own Instagram account now has over one million followers — before her disappearance she had around 13,000.

In some ways this internet frenzy is unexpected — our obsession with true crime is well-documented, and Gabby Petito is an ideal target for social media detectives: 22 years old (within the same age demographic as most TikTok users), beautiful, active on social media herself, and living the #vanlife dream (another hugely popular hashtag with over 5 billion views). TikTok users can analyse everything from her vlog content to the bodycam footage of Gabby meeting the police in August following an alleged altercation between her and her fiancé. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Monday, 13
September 2021

KPMG enters the diversity minefield

The firm wants more working class staff, but can't define who they are

Last week, KPMG announced that they are aiming to recruit more working class staff, and by 2030 want 29% of its workers to come from parents with “routine and manual” jobs such as drivers, cleaners and farm workers.

On the surface this seems like a worthy and admirable cause, and it is refreshing to see a large corporation using a broader definition of inclusion and diversity that includes class as well as race, gender and sexual orientation. However, there are also some serious questions that need answering if KPMG are going to be able to justify judging their applicants by ancestry rather than achievements. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 7
September 2021

Michael K. Williams was an antidote to today’s identity politics

His portrayal of Omar Little in The Wire defied stereotypes

When asked about her sexuality on Desert Island Discs, BBC Presenter Sue Perkins said that “being gay is maybe the 47th most interesting thing about me” and that she hoped one day “the process of ‘coming out’ would not be a big deal or a great fanfare.” I thought about this quote when I learnt yesterday that Michael K. Williams, who played Omar Little in The Wire, had tragically passed away at the age of 54. Why? Because being gay was almost the 47th most interesting thing about Omar Little too.

Omar Little is an enduring character for many reasons. He’s a walking mass of contradictions: he is a trench coat-wearing anti-hero, a stick-up man with a sawed-off shotgun who is as comfortable helping a single mother feed her baby as he is shooting a man in his ‘hind parts.’ With his terrifying facial scar and strict moral code, he’s both a superhero and a villain: a man who goes out for a box of Honey Nut Cheerios in his silk pyjamas and comes home with the entire drug supply of a stash house. Some people have compared him to an archetypal Robin Hood figure, but he is an anomaly in almost every aspect: an openly gay, hyper-masculine African American who seems completely comfortable with his sexuality. ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Thursday, 19
August 2021

TikTok’s bizarre new craze: reporting the news

The app is leading journalism in a strange new direction

TikTok, the most downloaded app of 2020, is expanding into the news business. Influencers and news outlets are capitalising on TikTok’s young user base (60 percent of its US users are between 16 and 24 years old) to drive engagement and build their brand: The Washington Post now has 900,000 TikTok followers; NBC has 1 million. Max Foster, a London-based CNN reporter, has 380,000 followers, more than his audience on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram combined. 

Just as infographics took over Instagram, news videos are a hit on TikTok because they provide a perfect tool to create a succinct, story-telling snapshot. One of the most recent TikTok news success stories is this Guardian Australia video breaking down the current Afghanistan crisis, which amassed over 4.5 million views. Dave Jorgensen, self-proclaimed ‘Washington Post TikTok guy’, retweeted the video, saying that it was “really well done” and “accessible.” ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Tuesday, 20
July 2021

It’s time to talk about Covid vaccines and periods

Women have reported changes to their menstrual cycle after being jabbed

Recently Pfizer and Moderna regulators announced that they would be adding heart inflammation as a potential side effect of their Covid vaccines. The European Medicines Agency found 145 cases of myocarditis and 138 cases of pericarditis out of 177m doses given of the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine, and 19 cases of myocarditis and 19 cases of pericarditis out of 20 million doses given of the Moderna vaccine.

This is an important update, but it raises another question: why haven’t menstrual cycle changes been listed as a potential side effect too, given that over 13,000 women in the UK have reported this, and the true number is likely to be much higher? ...  Continue reading

by Kristina Murkett
Thursday, 17
June 2021

The UK-Australia trade deal is a disaster for animal rights

The Government is breaking its manifesto promise about protecting animal welfare

Yesterday the UK agreed a historic free-trade deal with Australia, and while much has been written about how the move will affect farmers, less has been considered about how this will affect animal rights.

The RSPCA released a statement yesterday warning that the deal will lead to lower welfare imports of animal products that have been reared in ways that are currently illegal here; for example, 40% of beef produced in Australia has been made using hormones, a practice not allowed in the UK.

Indeed, Australia has a pretty poor record when it comes to animal welfare standards; the Chief Executive of RSPCA Australia called them “basic at best.” In Australia, CCTV is not compulsory in slaughterhouses; hot branding is permitted; beef cattle can be transported for up to 48 hours without food or water in intense heat; and they also allow chlorinated chicken. Battery cages for laying hens and sow stalls (tiny cages used to prevent pregnant pigs from moving) are also both legal, as well as the practice of mulesing (cutting off parts of the sheep’s buttocks and tail with no pain relief.) ...  Continue reading