Students Staff

Latest news

7 August 2020

Welcome 2020

Filed under: Campus news, Latest news, People pages, Student experience, What's on — Communications, CER @ 12:29 pm

Welcome 2020 is going to be managed differently this year, due to the pandemic, so here is a short summary of the new arrangements.

Welcoming our students

We will be launching two Welcome campaigns, one aimed at new students, and a Welcome Back campaign for returning students. This will start with five html newsletters, sent out weekly from 28 August, to the beginning of term, which will include practical information about arrangements for return to campus; information about health and wellbeing; an introduction to some of our support arrangements next term, including for blended learning, and wider information about campus life and engagement opportunities.

The main themes for both the returners and new starters campaigns will be; your health and safety, dual delivery learning, meeting your department and how to get the most from your student experience. We want students to feel confident about their return and positive and engaged with the opportunities available.

Departments are also contacting returning students to help answer their questions and  reassure them about safety measures on campus, and our dual delivery approach.

Welcome activities and a full induction for all new and returning students will be provided via our new online Welcome programme – more on that below.

New online registration system

The new online registration system will allow all students to register and start their studies remotely.  Students studying on campus will attend an in-person Right to Study check where they will receive their registration card. This will start during welcome week and carry on throughout autumn term as students arrive.

Online Welcome programme

This year we are launching a new online Welcome and induction programme for all new and returning students. It will be available following online registration and also via our email newsletters. Students will be expected to complete various learning modules before arrival – including health and safety on campus, and the values and consent modules.

This programme will be available all year, meaning we can offer a great welcome whenever our students are able to start with us.

Departmental Induction and events

Each of our departments will have a section within the online Welcome and induction programme. This will provide a bespoke welcome and induction for their students. Information will include a welcome from the Head of Department, key information on who’s who in the department, Student Voice, learning resources and facilities, a link to the student handbook, as well as any learning the department might require pre-arrival.  All department induction events will take place online where possible.  In-person departmental welcome events will take place where an online version isn’t possible – for instance where there is a need for uniform fittings or other face to face requirements like lab inductions.

Wider welcome activities and events

Our new Student Experience Plan sets out our ambition to create a compelling activities programme for the 2020/21 AY, to ensure students get involved in University and local life. We want a programme tuned to our ‘dual delivery’ approach, with something for everyone, from arts and culture to sports, community and volunteering, clubs and societies and connecting with like-minded people through networks and forums.

We would like as many events to be organised as possible – throughout the year, to ensure we provide sustained opportunities for students to settle in and make friends and connections, whatever time of year they start their studies.

If relevant, we would ask that you start thinking and organising events, both in person and online or virtually. It is useful for these to be planned as early as possible, so that you can work with your local web author to ensure your event is well promoted via our What’s On calendar and other channels. Welcome leads in all areas will have received an email from our Student Experience Team setting out the details of event deadlines and refresher training for web authors.

If you have any problems uploading your event to the calendar, or would like to request training or to be put in touch with your local web author, please contact the web editing team on wedm@essex.ac.uk and they will be happy to help.

Safe campuses

We have been working hard to get our campuses ready for the start of the new term. To prepare for social distancing measures there are now markings and signs on walls and floors, and one-way systems/ single direction staircases in place. Screens have been installed in our shops and food outlets; along with click and collect apps; and more outdoor seating – all aimed at helping to reduce the need for spending too much time indoors.

Teaching spaces will have maximum capacity clearly displayed outside the room, along with a safe seating and furniture plan – which must be adhered to. Hand sanitisers will be placed all over campus, alongside antibacterial wipes, so all surfaces can be cleaned before and after use.

Our students will be required to complete health and safety training as part of the new online welcome programme and will be required to sign an agreement to upholding our standards and keeping our campuses safe.

Arrangements for the safe return of staff to our campuses are available on our staff directory.

Look out for instruction across campus and make sure you do your bit to ensure our spaces are safe places.

Face coverings

All staff and students will be supplied with two washable face coverings and everyone will be required to wear a face covering while inside our University buildings, as well as in all areas where social distancing is not possible. This includes:

  • In corridors
  • Entry to cafes and restaurants
  • In shops
  • In lifts
  • In kitchenettes
  • in toilets

Further detail of all our covid-19 precautions and expected behaviours when returning to our campuses can be found on our student web pages and staff web pages.

Arrivals

This year, arrivals will be spread over a longer period than normal to allow for any required quarantine periods and allow for social distancing during traditional arrivals weekends.

Students will begin to arrive from 17 September in Colchester with main arrivals taking place between 1-4 October.

At Southend students will begin arriving from 20 September with main arrivals taking place on 4 October.

At Loughton students will begin arriving from 19 September with main arrivals on 3 October.

Arriving students will be asked to only bring one friend or family member with them, again so we can maintain social distancing on our campuses.  We are expecting in the region of 500 students to arrive at Colchester Campus each day during the main arrivals period. By the official start of term on 8 October everyone should be settled in and ready to begin their studies.

Accommodation

Our Accommodation teams have been working hard to ensure that our accommodation adheres to all current guidance and that our students can be confident that their new home is comfortable and safe.

Students will form a household, or social bubble, with their flatmates, meaning they can socialise with them without needing to socially distance. However for the time being, students will not be allowed to have visitors from outside their household visit their accommodation. We are recommending that students use outdoor spaces to meet up with friends, at a safe distance.

Lifts inside our residences will be restricted to one person at a time to ensure social distancing and clear guidelines and instructions will be displayed in all communal areas. Our housekeeping teams will be providing essential cleaning in the communal areas of all accommodation, including all shared facilities. Enhanced cleaning will be undertaken in some communal areas, including more regular cleaning and disinfection of high touch points.

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4 August 2020

Decolonising research: north-south partnerships

Filed under: Latest news, Research impact — Communications, CER @ 4:42 pm

Professor Rajendra Chetty (University of the Western Cape) and Dr Colin Reilly (University of Essex) are currently collaborating on two GCRF@Essex research projects. Here they draw on their experiences and highlight some of the key issues involved when thinking about decolonisation in collaborative research.

There is an increasing awareness of the importance of collaboration in academic research and a range of research funding schemes which explicitly require partnerships between researchers in the Global North and Global South. When taking a decolonial approach to our research, these collaborations can raise a number of challenges and opportunities.

To decolonise the curriculum, we have to also decolonise the research that will inform our teaching, and decolonise how we undertake that research. This involves actively addressing how knowledge is produced and whose knowledge is valued. The priority for the radical intellectual is to reflect seriously on the ways academic practices signify, restrain, or empower decolonial turns not only in the curricula but also in real-life concerns of domination, emancipation, justice, and liberation of the increasing number of poor people globally. When both North and South scholars collaborate in Humanities research, there is always the danger of who speaks for whom, especially research on the lived experience of the subaltern. In many academic endeavours, it is not the voices or intellectual production of the subaltern that is foregrounded, but rather the interpretation and utility of their experience from a scholar’s (both North and South) perspective.

Having collaborators who are from the ‘Global North’ or ‘Global South’ researching collaboratively does not automatically mean that the research is engaging with decoloniality. The current engagement by decolonial activists with the complex context of the North and South has to include the hybrid spaces of the ‘Norths in the South’, and the ‘Souths in the North’, given the colonial history of spatial injustice. Often there’s a tendency to frame the Global North and Global South as clearly distinct entities, which are in themselves also homogenous. So the Global North partners bring ‘x’ to the project, and the Global South partners bring ‘y’. When in reality it’s obviously more complicated than that.

The North-South dichotomy is reductionist and unhelpful. Rather, we should view our commitment to radical humanism, both in the North and South, and focus on how nuances of the historical process contribute to the invisibility of coloniality, as witnessed recently with the Black Lives Matter discourse across the US and Europe. Walter Mignolo reminds us that we always speak from a particular location in the power structures, be it in the North or South, and no one escapes the class, sexual, gender, spiritual, linguistic, geographical, and racial hierarchies of the modern, capitalist and patriarchal world-system. All knowledges are epistemically located either in the dominant or the subaltern side of the power relations and this positioning is related to the geo- and body-politics of knowledge.

The lack of substantive attention to the lived experience and condition of the marginalized other, the subaltern, is construed as a continuation and reinforcement of colonialism. The need for re-thinking knowledge in the Humanities is urgent given the current context of increased mass social resistance, neo-colonial approaches of developing states and student demands for university reform. An important step is to take some distance from the dominant philosophies, discourses and practices and detect its mechanisms of operation, whether it emerges from the North or South and the places where it has effect. Most disciplines in the Humanities lean towards Eurocentric indoctrination that marginalizes Africa and often reinforce patronizing views and stereotypes about the continent.

In disciplines such as English and Philosophy, European and white values may be perceived as the standards on which the curriculum is rooted. Respectful and effective collaboration between North and South colleagues should therefore assume a political position that makes possible an ‘other’ discursive strategy, other philosophical work, and which opens other spaces of theoretical production. Catherine Walsh clarifies that it is these other places, spaces, and positions, other philosophies and other knowledge that challenge not only the definitions and boundaries of philosophy’s continental-analytical divide, but also the geo-political ordering of knowledge and the questions of who produces knowledge, how and where, and for what purposes.

The dilemma in the Humanities is that Western canonical traditions of knowledge production have become hegemonic, alongside the dominance of conservative scholars, this actively reinforces these traditions in the guise of values and standards. This hegemonic notion of knowledge production involves a particular anthropological knowledge, which is a process of knowing about native/ indigenous/ barbarian others – but a process that never fully acknowledges the other as thinking and knowledge producing subjects. The epistemic traditions of the other are disregarded – a form of  cognitive injustice. Cognitive justice as a prerequisite, recognizes the presence of different forms of understandings, knowing and explaining in the world. The commitment from scholars (North or South) should be towards a radical humanism that engages with the voices of the subaltern. This is a crucial foundation for decolonising collaborative research, which will in turn contribute to the decolonisation of the curriculum.

A Critical Resource for Ethical International Partnerships by the Sustainable Futures in Africa Network provides practical advice for developing equitable partnerships.

If you would like to contribute to this ongoing series of blog posts on decolonising the curriculum please get in touch with Hannah Gibson h.gibson@essex.ac.uk

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20 July 2020

How often should I take breaks and what are the benefits?

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:41 pm

Our Workplace Wellbeing Manager, Stuart Henty, tells us more about the importance of taking regular breaks, especially when you are working at a computer for long periods of time.

Stuart Henty

Stuart Henty

Time away from your screen can be more difficult to manage when working remotely, with no commute nor the need to walk to attend meetings across campuses. This can result in long periods working in the same position, which could be detrimental to your health.

The NHS article Why we should sit less says that ‘Sitting for extended periods with no breaks or regular exercise is thought to slow the metabolism, which affects the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, blood pressure and break down body fat’. Long periods of inactivity may contribute to or increase the risk of developing musculoskeletal or circulatory conditions such as deep vein thrombosis (DVT).

How often should I take breaks and what are the benefits?
The Health and Safety Executive recommend breaking up long spells of Display Screen Equipment (DSE) work with rest breaks of at least 5 minutes every hour or changes in activity. Setting alarms or reminders on your smart phone will help to remind you to take a break.

During these breaks, you could consider doing short activities, whether that is walking or similar light exercise, such as these examples kindly provided by Essex Sport and the NHS. We also offer additional lunchtime activities such as art and crafts with Wellbeing at the Hex, as well as weekly healthy back and yoga sessions.

Making time for regular short breaks to concentrate on non-work activity will not only provide physical health benefits, but can also help with your mental wellbeing. This time can be used to manage feelings of stress through mindfulness exercises and allow you to return to a task refreshed, which can lead to being more productive and focused during your working day.

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16 July 2020

Decolonising the social epidemiology curriculum

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:22 pm

Dr Cara Booker is a Research Fellow at the Institute for Social and Economic Research. Here she tells us why systemic racism is the missing factor to understand health inequalities.

Dr Cara Booker

Dr Cara Booker

When I describe what my research expertise is, I usually say social epidemiologist. Social epidemiology has been defined as “the branch of epidemiology that studies the social distribution and social determinants of states of health”. To do this, we examine the sociostructural factors of a society to determine how they impact the distribution of health and disease. Gender, social class, social capital, social policy, discrimination and race/ethnicity are just a few examples of the sociostructural factors that have been explored in their relation to individual and population health.

While these factors are inextricably linked there is an over-riding driver of some of these factors that is often overlooked: systemic racism. When I am analysing data on adolescent mental health, I often explore inequalities by ethnicity. However, what my and many other’s research have failed to properly account for are the laws, regulations or unspoken policies that have perpetuated the oppression of people of colour and may be better predictors of the observed inequalities compared to the ethnicity of the individual. There are several reasons for why systemic racism is not accounted for, but I will focus on two: lack of discussion in lectures and poor measurement of systemic racism.

I attended the University of Southern California (USC) which is located in South Los Angeles. A couple of years before I arrived, the 1992 riots occurred following rising racial tensions and the acquittal of the police officers involved in the Rodney King beating. These riots were close to the USC campus and the effects of the riots could still be seen two years later. The riots should have opened doors for discussion in my classes about the systemic racism that allowed these events to occur. Dialogues on redlining*, racial profiling, gentrification and racism in medicine should have been imbedded in lectures. Wider discussion of how these systems directly and indirectly impact health and the inequalities we observe in population health should have been taking place in our classes.

Ignoring systemic racism does a disservice to those who wish to examine social determinants of health and, in turn, to reduce health inequalities. We are trying to address this problem with only partial information. Thus we are not equipped to develop suitable questions nor can we include information in our analyses that sufficiently captures the ongoing impact of systemic racism. We were not trained to do so.

The past 5 months have highlighted this lack of training and poor measurement of systemic racism. The COVID-19 pandemic has adversely impacted people of colour. While some of the reasons may be related to social capital, social class, or discrimination, there are also structural and systemic racist policies and laws that have driven these inequalities. Many of these laws have been repealed, but their impact lingers on. Explicit training which provides future social epidemiologist the tools and vocabulary to identify the structures within their society continue to contribute to inequalities and marginalisation based on race is necessary. Such training should not be limited to one or two classes, but should be embedded from the onset and underlie all training of social determinants of health. Graduates should not have to learn these lessons once they embark on their own career paths. We should all work to call out those structures to create meaningful change.

*Additional resources on redlining

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15 July 2020

Healthy from Home challenge success stories

Filed under: Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 3:16 pm

Stuart Henty, our Workplace Wellbeing Manager, shares your success stories from the ‘Healthy from Home’ challenge.

We hope you enjoyed and benefited from the recent four week Healthy from Home Challenge.

Stuart Henty

Stuart Henty, Workplace Wellbeing Manager

It isn’t finished however, as even if you didn’t take part you are still able to access Kaido Experiments. These are programmes that you can use to proactively manage areas of your health and wellbeing that are important to you. From kicking caffeine to breathing better to beat stress, Kaido Experiments can support you to make improvements to your health and wellbeing.

Congratulations to the 140 members of staff that took part in the challenge, forming 27 teams. In particular, well done to our the Pre-Award Team (REO), ISER Staff and Students and Team IADS who came in the top three. The Fab Four were also the lucky winners of Stonehenge Tickets in a milestone prize draw.

We have loved seeing you engaging with the programme and have recorded 275,075 minutes of physical activity, 30,409 minutes of meditation and 2,311 reflections.

Key highlights include:

  • 74% of staff noticing an improvement in their health
  • 88% feeling the challenge helped them to better cope with the current lockdown
  • 45% feeling calmer
  • 51% feeling more motivated to improve their own health and wellbeing

Thank you all again who participated in the challenge.

If you have feedback about the challenge or want to find out more about the Kaido Experiments, please email Stuart Henty.

 

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Celebrating our annual staff picnic

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 12:01 pm

For the first time since the 1990s, there will be no staff picnic this year. Mandy Borges, from our Organisational Development team, tells us more about the history of the picnic and what we have got planned. You can also watch our video to see some highlights from previous years.

Our staff picnic has always been a popular event, and it’s a great way for people to spend time with colleagues from across the University. The first picnic took place in 1997 and was designed to celebrate all the hard work that people put in over the course of the academic year. It was originally known as the VC’s strawberry picnic because the Vice-Chancellor at the time, Professor Ivor Crewe, agreed to pay for the strawberries out of his own budget as a ‘thank you’ to staff.

The first year we held the picnic, we arranged for musicians and buskers to entertain people. This included David ‘The Balloon Man’ and some people may still remember the balloon sculptured animals they were presented with. Since then we’ve enjoyed a variety of different entertainment. In 2010 East 15 performed a 15 minute adaptation of the Riverbank Scene from the Wind in the Willows, whilst in 2013 we marked our 50th anniversary with an ice cream van giving away free ice-cream.

The picnic has always been held at the beginning of July, originally by the lake nearest the library, although in recent years it’s moved to the lake near Wivenhoe House. The weather hasn’t always been kind and when rain has meant the picnic can’t be held outside, we’ve used various locations to make sure it goes ahead, including inside – with people sitting on their picnic blankets on the floor – and under umbrellas on the squares.

The picnic couldn’t go ahead without the help of people from across the University. Organisational Development co-ordinate the whole thing and Estates and Campus Services have always helped to make sure it goes ahead without a hitch. Over the years they’ve helped by providing a generator for the musicians, and transporting the strawberries to the venue, as well as making sure everything is set up on the day. Our Catering Section are responsible for ordering the all-important strawberries and, more recently, staff from the Sports Centre have been very creative with arranging sports activities for everyone to enjoy.

This year, we’re going to be celebrating the staff picnic virtually on Thursday 23 July, and we’d love you to join us by enjoying your own picnic wherever you can. To help us document the event, please email us your photos to develop@essex.ac.uk, along with your favourite strawberry based recipe, craft or drink, so we can share this very different picnic with our whole community.

We’re really sad that the picnic won’t be going ahead as usual this year, but hopefully we’ll all be back on campus again in 2021 for the next one.

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8 July 2020

Help us tackle hate crime

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 2:02 pm

To help tackle problems with hate crime, our Colchester and Southend campuses have been assigned as Hate crime Incident Reporting Centres (HIRC).

A HIRC is a location whereby our staff and students can receive support from trained Hate Crime Ambassadors (HCAs) in reporting hate crimes to the Police in a safe environment. HIRCs and HCAs also help to raise awareness as to what hate crime is and why it’s important that it’s reported. HIRCs are particularly beneficial to support people who may not feel confident or comfortable to go directly to the Police.

We would like to ensure that as many front-facing staff as possible are trained as Hate Crime Ambassadors (HCAs). Essex Police will be providing the training free of charge to anyone wishing to become an HCA via Zoom on Tuesday 21 July from 10am. The training will be around 90 minutes.

Please contact Suzanne Harrison for more details.

You can find out more about hate crime and the support we offer to people experiencing hate crime on our Report and Support platform.

 

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7 July 2020

Support our Hardship Fund

Filed under: Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 6:00 pm

The Coronavirus pandemic has raised a lot of challenges for everyone at Essex, but it has also seen our community come together to support each other.

We launched our Hardship Fund at the start of April and the Essex community has already raised over £140,000 to support those students who need our help most. We have received donations from £5 to £10,000 from a total of 345 people scattered across the globe and we are incredibly grateful for all your support.

Students receiving support from our Hardship Fund

It’s incredible to see teams finding novel ways to fundraise. Our Estates team recently auctioned off bikes, generating an impressive £1,235 for the fund. We want to thank them for their innovative efforts, and to anyone who bought a bike – you have made a huge contribution to helping our students.

We’ve been amazed to see how our students have responded to the challenges of this year and proud to see them rally together to support their peers and contribute to the fund. When given the opportunity to receive £30 for completing a recent ISER survey or donate this fee to the Hardship Fund, many students opted to donate their fee, raising a further £540 for the Hardship Fund.

We are grateful to have received donations from all over the world, from alumni, honorary graduates, local residents, students and staff. We have all come together to help as many students as possible, at a time when they have needed it most.

At the start of this campaign we set an ambitious target of raising £250,000. We are over halfway there, but there is more we can do. We want to support 500 students with £500 bursaries, making sure that they can overcome financial hardship and complete their studies here at Essex.

To make a donation to the Hardship Fund please click here.

If you have any questions about the appeal, or ideas about how you can fundraise to support Essex students, please email thankyou@essex.ac.uk

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1 July 2020

Your pathway to permanency during COVID-19

Filed under: Latest news — Laura Mathias @ 3:46 pm

We’re supporting new academic staff on their pathway to permanent positions by providing an extension to Pathway to Permanency (P2P) agreements.

The Covid-19 pandemic has created exceptional circumstances for the University which is impacting on everything we do. During this time, a priority remains supporting our community of new Essex academics who are at an early stage of their career and on our Pathway to Permanency (P2P) process.

Flexibility is already inherent within our current procedures but we appreciate that the current external environment may present colleagues with a number of challenges in achieving their specific agreed objectives and we want to be as flexible and supportive as possible. We also appreciate that individual circumstances and pressures will vary and that it is not always easy for colleagues to voice their concerns.

In order to ensure that P2P staff experience no detriment as a result of a likely 12 month period of disruption, we will apply a 12 month extension to complete P2P agreements. This will provide the additional time needed to reflect on, adjust and complete agreed priorities while supporting staff to work towards establishing their academic career.

An automatic 12 month extension for every colleague will ensure equality of opportunity and affirm our commitment to our people and communities as set out in the University Strategy 2019-2025.

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24 June 2020

Helping our students celebrate Graduation in 2020

Filed under: Latest news — ckeitch @ 4:23 pm

Graduation 2020 – how we are helping our students to celebrate this year

As you know, we’ve had to postpone July’s Graduation ceremonies but we still want our graduates to celebrate their achievements, wherever they are around the world.

While we are hoping that we can hold our ceremonies in 2021 when it is safe to do so, I’m writing to let you know about our online celebrations, certificates and HEAR arrangements for this summer.

The communications team will be using our central social media channels to share student stories on Wednesday 29 July. We want to share our students’ excitement at receiving their results and celebrate their success at Essex. We need your help to make this work.

Graduation online: Departmental events with a difference

This year things have to be different but it doesn’t mean we can’t enjoy Graduation with our students. We would love our students to mark the occasion through virtual events.

Here’s how your department can get involved

1.Showcasing your students
Our communications team is working on a social media campaign to showcase exceptional student achievements. If you haven’t already sent through ideas of students with exceptional stories to tell, please send details to the communications team by Friday 4 July.

2.Online celebrations
We know students feel at home in their departments, so we’re encouraging each department to host virtual celebrations, online and on social media, when students receive their results. This could be as simple as scheduling a message on your departmental Facebook page or streaming a live video congratulating them. Perhaps you could ask your students to share photos of their best moment here at Essex, or how they’re celebrating their achievements at home. We are not setting firm requirements but we are asking you to contact your students and let them know we are proud of them. If you have any exciting ideas for celebrating with your students, please let us know and we will support you.


Issuing certificates and awards

We’re not able to produce hard copy award documents whilst working remotely but we hope to return to campus over the summer to print certificates for all 2020 graduates. We will make sure certificates are sent to students’ permanent home addresses, free of charge.

HEAR transcripts

As usual, all undergraduate students will be able to access their transcript digitally via HEAR. We are also able to provide digital transcripts (PDF) for postgraduate students, if needed. We will be updating our final-year students with everything they need to know in the coming weeks. We will copy you in to any student communications to keep you informed.

We understand that this has been a particularly challenging year for all of our students and staff. I hope that your energy and efforts can still give graduates an opportunity to celebrate, and remind them they’ll be part of our University community for life.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this year’s Graduation. Please contact Chelsey Smith (Graduation and Awards Manager) by email with any comments, questions, ideas or suggestions: graduation@essex.ac.uk.

Richard Stock
Academic Registrar

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