subtext 175 – ‘complicated actuarial subtext’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, strike, lost and found, UA92, remuneration, LUSU, colleges, shart, pine, jones, widden, letters.

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EDITORIAL

It must be hard, being a Vice-Chancellor. Apart from the hundreds of thousands of pounds you earn, the chauffeur-driven Jaguar, oh, and the pornstar martinis of course, there don’t seem to be many positives to the job.

Everyone’s always complaining at you. Staff who want fair pensions. Students who complain when they aren’t being taught, and want their money back. Deans who complain when their HoDs refuse to do what they’re told to keep striking staff in line… And to top it all off, there’s the union members who complain when you don’t come and visit them for 9 days on the picket lines, and then complain afterwards that you haven’t really said anything. Even when you throw them a bone by agreeing to spread out their payments over three months, they still complain because you’ve told them you don’t think they’ve sufficiently considered the financial impact of striking. Fortunately you’re confident that, like you, they don’t understand all the complicated actuarial science behind their pension schemes, so you’re sure they’ll come round eventually if you just keep repeating that line!

And also, you’ve taken some steps to make sure that any dissenting voices won’t have much opportunity to make themselves heard. You’ve destroyed Court, clipped Senate’s wings, and Council is hardly going to cause you much trouble, given the present membership.

And of course you would never stoop to such questionable ‘leadership’ tactics as Glasgow’s VC, who was out on the picket lines from near the start of the strike, or Kent’s, who issued a joint statement with the local union branch. Or Leicester’s, who is only deducting two days worth of pay per month for the strike action, so the financial loss is spread out over seven months. What a wimp!

Nor would you wish to align yourself with the dozens of VCs who publicly called for a return to negotiations – no, when some nasty journos wrongly reported that you had, you made sure to tell people what’s what. And coming right out and saying we should retain defined benefits, like the Cambridge VC – madness! After all, someone in as important a position as chair of UCEA had better watch out, and stay on the good side of his UUK buddies. Yes, that’s what real leadership looks like!

STRIKE UP YOUR LIFE

In the fortnight since the last edition of subtext, there has been a considerable amount of strike-related activity, both in Lancaster and at the national level.

THE LOCAL FLAVOUR

The campus picket lines have been busier than ever, with a head count of over 160 on Tuesday this week, along with music and dancing every day (Zumba being particularly popular) and even some protest poetry on Wednesday. The VC ‘visited’ on the 8th March, but received a markedly less positive reaction than the several HoDs who did their stint on the lines. A video of his visit, with added commentary by the local UCU branch, is available here: https://youtu.be/lfSTLmdnRVE

Compared to previous disputes, the staff on strike are spread across the whole range of departments in the University, with somewhat less representation from LUMS. Meanwhile, the teach out events, featuring everything from a personal history of the 84/85 miners’ strike to yoga, have also been well attended – see below.

Numerous colleagues involved in the strike have remarked what a sense of solidarity and community is emerging from being thrown together in these adverse circumstances, while the lack of day-to-day work schedules seems to have unleashed all kinds of creativity and willingness to engage in activities that we never normally have time for. Union members were particularly heartened by the strong support from students, some of whom have been coming to the picket lines and teach outs every day.

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STRUCK DOWN IN ANGER

At the national level, the past few weeks have seen a flurry of activity. Universities UK (UUK) initially refused to negotiate with UCU, then agreed to meet but not reopen the decision on the pensions proposal (raising questions about what exactly they were proposing to discuss). When one VC after another came out publicly in favour of open negotiations, UUK were eventually forced into a humiliating climbdown and agreed to talks without preconditions at ACAS.

Following a few quiet days last week, and then an announcement that negotiators would be working through the weekend, Monday evening saw the announcement of a so-called agreement between UCU and UUK. This represented an improvement of sorts on the original UUK proposal, but included a worse accrual rate (1/85th of salary for each year of service vs the current 1/75th), an increase in both employee and employer contributions, and a cap of 2.5% on the rate that pensions could increase annually with inflation, meaning that if prices rise by more than this amount, pensions would lose value in real terms.

The reaction from UCU members was… not good. Very quickly, UCU Twitterati took the proposal apart, and an open letter in opposition to the proposal had collected around 3000 signatures by midnight on Monday, while a further 4000 signed by 11am the following morning.

Above all else, members were incensed by the proposal that teaching that had not taken place as a result of strike action should be rearranged. Colleagues argued that this would effectively mean doing work they had already sacrificed pay for. And in any case, there was not nearly enough time to fit 14 days’ worth of teaching into the few remaining days of term.

Throughout Tuesday, members of the union’s Higher Education Committee were subject to a frenzy of social media and email lobbying, overwhelmingly urging rejection. A meeting of branch delegates from all over the country decided almost unanimously to reject what they felt represented a betrayal of the sacrifice that members had made by being on strike.

In the end, the reject camp prevailed, perhaps helped by the large demonstration outside UCU headquarters in London, whose chants could be heard by the delegates arguing inside. The UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, later explained that the negotiators had been tightly constrained by the ACAS process in what and how they were allowed to communicate.

So the strike continues today and tomorrow, with the fourteen further strike days set to hit assessment season, with exam marking and exam boards likely to be a particular target for local branches. This will undoubtedly have a bigger impact on students than just missing a few lectures, possibly even delaying graduations for final-years. Action short of a strike also continues: UCU members are ‘threatening’ to only do the work they are contracted to do, rather than contributing the massive amounts of unpaid overtime that normally keep universities going on a day-to-day basis.

UUK are blaming the dire situation on UCU for walking away from negotiations, while UCU’s line is that the employers could stop the strike at any point by making a fair offer. Students at Lancaster, for now, seem to be largely supportive of their local staff, though whether this solidarity will continue for a further 14 days of disruption remains to be seen.

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TAUGHTILLA

As reported in subtext 174, UCU have been running a series of ‘teach out’ events during the strike – a different way of engaging with staff and students and anyone else who is interested in what the industrial action is about, as well as a number of other somewhat related topics.

While teach outs resemble the form of the labour that staff have withdrawn from their employer, the sessions do not necessarily follow the expected conventions of university teaching. The inherent radicalism of such a venture comes from the enforced interdisciplinarity of the project: colleagues, students and members of the public may come from any academic background, or not be involved in academia at all. It is teaching for interest’s sake, not for ‘knowledge-transfer’, measuring, testing, or satisfying government ‘key information sets’.

Lancaster UCU, together with a host of other branches, organised an alternative education experience for every day of the strike action. Most of the sessions took place at the Gregson Community Centre and were largely well attended, with many packing the Gregson Centre’s modestly-sized hall to the rafters. The curriculum features a mixture of debates, interactive workshops, informal lectures featuring some outside speakers as well as Lancaster academics, film showings, a couple of musical gigs and away from the Gregson some ‘walk and talk’ happenings. In the final days of the current round of strike action, sessions with a more restorative agenda were planned i.e. yoga and craft making.

All the sessions were open to University staff, students, and other folk from the wider community. There was a strong student presence at some sessions and even some members of the public at some events. However, it was staff from the University that made up the bulk of the attendees.

Many of the sessions focussed on the question: ‘what kind of university do we want?’ Yes, pensions were discussed, but within a wider understanding of the changing nature of the sector. Attendees remarked that they felt particularly empowered by speaking with other members of the University who they would not normally meet at work. This prompted a lot of talk about the future and how the this strong feeling of solidarity could be maintained after the dispute.

Readers may have ideas on how this ‘new space’ that the striking community has built can be maintained, and what its purpose would be once work resumes. subtext would welcome contributions on this fascinating development at Lancaster, and would be happy to play a part in future conversations.

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RADICAL OR MERELY YOUNGER? A REVIEW

It seems appropriate that on Monday 12 March, midway through Lancaster’s longest period of industrial action in decades, UCU’s teach out at the Gregson played host to an event that seemed to shout, ‘Call that radical? Ha!’ Marion McClintock, Honorary University Archivist and former Academic Registrar at Lancaster, and Alison Lloyd Williams of Global Link’s Documenting Dissent project were our guides as they took us through Lancaster’s radical past, both on and off campus.

According to Mrs McClintock, Lancaster University in its early days was characterised by very conservative Heads of Department, many of whom were ex-military, alongside younger, more radical staff, who pioneered Lancaster’s distinctive degree programmes: Religious Studies (not Theology), Independent Studies, Creative Writing, Environmental Studies, Peace Studies, Marketing, and Systems Engineering. Students were given the chance to ‘grapple with subjects they’d not studied before.’ Above all, Lancaster was shaped by its first Vice-Chancellor, Charles Carter, who actively encouraged this interdisciplinary approach. We were a university that ‘was taking a fresh look at society, was taking nothing for granted and was questioning norms.’

Publications of the time, like John O’Gauntlet and Carolynne, reflected this mood and encouraged debate on drugs, sex and gay rights, although some of their editorial choices, such as pin-up girls in Carolynne, seem archaic today.

Among the many disputes of the early years were ‘the mixed bedrooms argument of 1968’, the David Craig affair (see subtexts 8 and 9) and the 1975 rent strike which lasted over 12 months. Student involvement in these disputes was strong.

Lancaster’s college system played an important role in Lancaster’s free-thinking tradition; Sir Noel Hall, one of the university’s founders, was formerly Principal of Brasenose College, Oxford and had insisted that the colleges must form an integral part of Lancaster’s governance.

Why are things not like that any more? Lancaster’s rising research reputation in the 1980s meant that staff and students no longer had as much time to spend on innovative teaching or political discussion, and even Prof Carter was subject to the same pressures as everyone else.

Ms Lloyd Williams gave a history of the Documenting Dissent project, which was inspired by Lancaster Castle and its status as a symbol of state power and the location of Lancashire’s most important court. Many dissenters, including several chartists, had been tried there.

Lancaster is particularly significant in LGBT history, given the number of people prosecuted for homosexuality at the Castle, but more happily due to the significant presence during the 1970s of the Gay Liberation Front (GLF) on campus, and the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE) in town. Lancaster University pioneered women’s studies and radical feminism, while the very first CHE Conference took place in Morecambe.

More recently, the case of the George Fox Six, where six students and ex-students disrupted a conference in George Fox Lecture Theatre 1 and were promptly prosecuted for aggravated trespass, shows both that the dissenting tradition is still there … but that the university is no longer as tolerant as it was. The Documenting Dissent website includes an account of the affair, including an interview with Matthew Wilson, one of the six.

Contributions from the floor included comments from several people who have been encouraging the radical tradition at Lancaster for decades, including city councillor Andrew Kay, who remembered long campus debates on ‘this house will not give a platform for racist and fascist speakers’ and ‘this house is glad to be gay’, and former city councillor Tony Pinkney, who thought two years stood out in particular – 1886, when William Morris’s talk in the town led to the founding of the Socialist League, and 1999, when Lancaster elected its first ever group of Green Party councillors.

The Documenting Dissent project’s website is at: http://www.documentingdissent.org.uk/

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DEMOCRACY IS THRIVING … ELSEWHERE

There have been many Vice-Chancellorial U-turns on USS and risk recently, but the most notable ones have come from the VCs at Oxford and Cambridge, both on 7 March. Given that the colleges of Oxford and Cambridge were all treated as separate institutions in Universities UK’s September 2017 survey of attitudes to institutional risk, this is a major shift.

Why the change? Of course, we are happy to accept that both VCs will have reached their decisions sincerely. But Oxford’s VC, Prof Richardson, has probably been helped by the meeting of Oxford’s Congregation on 6 March, at which a resolution seeking to overturn Oxford’s existing stance on pensions was first blocked controversially, and then discussed outside, where it passed 442 to 2.

Likewise, Cambridge’s VC, Prof Toope, doubtless had his mind sharpened by the impending ballot of Cambridge’s Regent House, on a motion submitted by 501 members, which seeks to amend Cambridge’s official view on USS.

For readers not familiar with how Oxford and Cambridge work, the Oxford Congregation and Cambridge Regent House are the supreme governing bodies of those institutions, made up of all academic staff. They can, and occasionally do, overrule the University Council.

True democracy in action! But wait. Surely these forms of governance must violate the Committee of University Chairs’ Higher Education Code of Governance, the document which our Chief Administrative Officer in particular is very fond of (see subtext 174 and other subtexts passim)?

Well … yes. But they seem to be doing OK, all things considered.

Now that our Court has met for the final time, and our Senate has willingly handed its power to amend statutes over to our Council, perhaps we should start advocating something similar here? After all, our VC’s usual answer when challenged about centralising power is ‘the Warwick clincher’ – they do it at Warwick so it must therefore be a good thing – so perhaps we should start playing ‘the Oxford gambit’ in response.

LU TEXT LOST AND FOUND

Once again, subtext brings you the stories you won’t read in the leftist MSM (well, in LU Text, anyway). There is a double page spread in the latest edition of the Big Issue about the Gary Neville University, focussing on the Stretford residents’ opposition to the project. We could upload some photos of the relevant pages, but we’d rather our readers purchased a copy from their local vendor.

Our soon to be illustrious leader Gary Neville has been profiled by the BBC, in a long article about his business successes. According to Auntie, we are in safe hands. You can read it at www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-43229602

The piece also links to some related articles, such as ‘Council pitches plan backed by Neville is opposed’, ‘Neville and Giggs’ £200m Manchester plan opposed again’, and ‘Ex-Manchester United stars’ university plan revised.’

SPAWT!

TRAINING GROUND MOVES

News from Manchester of continuing local opposition to the onward march of Gary Neville’s Barmy Army (subtexts passim ad nauseam). The campaign this time is to protect Turn Moss, a stretch of open green space on the outskirts of Trafford. The Council is backing Gary’s plan to turn this public amenity into the headquarters and training ground for Salford City FC, owned by Gary and his billionaire financial backer Peter Lim.

According to local opposition group Save Turn Moss, this will involve ‘building a new floodlit 3G football pitch with 4.5 meter enclosed fence, building sports changing facilities; the development of a new football training facility including 3 enclosed (fenced off) training pitches for SCFC, goalkeeper training pitch, running mounds, changing/office facility, gym; removing healthy mature trees, drainage, extension of car parking area, highways alterations, erecting bollards at the entrance and other works’. This would then be leased back to Salford City FC, but only after the development costs had been paid for by Trafford council tax payers. Although the plan is for the new facilities to be open for public use, there is considerable scepticism about how much access local residents will be allowed. It has emerged that the new Salford City FC centre will also be the main sports facility for UA92, whose students will have first dibs on use. (Readers may well wonder how all this squares with the noble conservation sentiments expressed by ‘Green Lancaster’ but hey, it’s not on our doorstep).

None of these details were made clear during Trafford Council’s ‘consultation period’, and residents are understandably up in arms about it, catching the attention of local media, including Granada Reports. Nearly 900 objections have been lodged with Trafford Council and it is anticipated that this will reach 1000 by the deadline of 28th March. Organisers hope that the local opposition will cause a re-think by Trafford Council, or at least encourage some discussion about how, as one activist put it, ‘we can get something for people who aren’t Gary Neville or UA92’.

Further information on the plans, the local opposition and the green space under threat can be found at https://saveturnmoss.tumblr.com/

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HAIL TO THE FOUNDER

Recruitment firm Anderson Quigley’s search for the ‘Principal and Chief Executive’ for UA92 continues. As revealed in subtext 174, the ideal candidate doesn’t need to have any experience of HE, but being able to provide ‘a disruptive approach to teaching and learning’ is a must. But, needless to say, what will most concern candidates will be the amount of dosh on offer. Perhaps mindful of the public outcry over bloated VC wage packets, Anderson Quigley are somewhat coy about specifying a salary range, which will be agreed with the successful candidate. Other goodies will include ‘a generous holiday allowance, a direct contribution pension scheme, a range of positive lifestyle benefits and perhaps a share scheme’. The recent revelations about VC expenses perks should provide some insight into what ‘positive lifestyle benefits’ will encompass. And a ‘share scheme’ as well!

So far there has been little information on the selection process, apart from the fact that the final decision will be taken by a nine-member panel. Readers will no doubt be intrigued as to how the selection panel will identify the candidate with the most ‘disruptive approach to teaching and learning’. (Candidates could do worse than take a few tips from UUK, who have shown themselves to be the leading experts in this regard). However, it is a very distinguished panel, and includes the VC, the Principal of Trafford College, the CEO of Trafford Council and other Lancaster University senior officers. And top of the list, with the simple but eloquent title of ‘Founder’, is Gary Neville, whose own career as Man Utd and England right-back exemplifies what is meant by a ‘disruptive approach’.

For readers who may be interested in getting a glimpse of those making the shortlist, interviews for the post will take place at the University on 27th April. We’ll let you know when we find out where.

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ANOTHER GLORIOUS VICTORY FOR SUBTEXT

In subtext 174, we noted that recruitment firm Anderson Quigley described UA92’s Target Talent Curriculum as being ‘underpinned by 10 principles that prepare UA92 graduates for the workplace’… before going on to list 11 principles. We can now report that, in another glorious victory for subtext, the firm has corrected the error on its website. Eleven was the correct number all along, and the text has been amended accordingly. Which is a relief – the thought of UA92 having to drop ‘survival’ or ‘life skills’ or ‘self and peer group analysis’ from its remit for the sake of clarity just doesn’t bear thinking about.

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COMPETITION

What is a ‘disruptive approach to teaching’ anyway? We were somewhat glib to suggest that candidates should take tips from UUK, and would like to offer some serious suggestions as to what it might entail.

Candidates who have a ‘disruptive approach to teaching’ may, for example: set off campus fire alarms during peak periods; enter exam halls with an airhorn and casually blast it at random intervals; deliver lectures in a sort of raspy whisper; have open book exams with magic 8-balls instead of textbooks; set group work but in every group there’s a saboteur; set presentations but every time a speaker says ‘ummm’ they get a little electric shock; have everyone come to your lecture but you aren’t actually there and when everyone is seated the doors lock and a voice on a loudspeaker says ‘I’m sorry to have lured you here under false pretenses’; in the middle of a gym session, have an elephant fly out of the score clock with a parachute to see how the students react; set problems which are insoluble due to missing data or logical flaws, then berate students who complain; start every lecture with ‘welcome to logical positivism 101, please leave now if you’re in the wrong room’ (unless you’re teaching logical positivism); respond to all student feedback with ‘I know you are, but what am I?’; arrange for major campus building works during term; set up an electronic attendance monitoring system which doesn’t work and then use up valuable lecturing time logging in students whose phones won’t connect.

We welcome contributions from readers who might have their own ideas on what constitutes a ‘disruptive approach to teaching.’ To the usual address, please.

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BAD MARKETING NEWS

Who, really, is UA92 aimed at? A read through the 2019-20 undergraduate prospectus has left subtext none the wiser.

Clearly, UA92 needs to target the local market. Trafford College is a partner institution and it’s easy to imagine UA92 developing as a collaboration à la Lancaster University and Blackpool & The Fylde College. So how will students from Lancashire, Cheshire and Greater Manchester be persuaded by UA92? Well, according to the prospectus, if you come to UA92 then you can ‘do as a real northerner and get stuck into a ‘proper pint’ at a ‘proper pub’ – there are lots of them.’ Erm. Right. Meanwhile, if you like music (from 20 years before you were born), ‘Joy Division, The Smiths and The Stone Roses have all called Trafford their home.’ Quite how this is relevant to today’s applicants is not explained.

How about recruitment from overseas? Given the Class of 92’s much-publicised South East Asian business connections (see subtext 158), careful marketing to China, Malaysia and Singapore will be critical. We wonder, then, what some of Gary & Co’s investors will make of the description of the links between the Class of 92, Lancaster University and Microsoft as the ‘UA92 Golden Triangle’. Let’s look that term up on Wikipedia, shall we? ‘The Golden Triangle is one of Asia’s two main opium-producing areas. It is an area of approximately 950,000 square kilometres that overlaps the mountains of three countries of Southeast Asia: Myanmar, Laos and Thailand.’ Oh dear.

Come to think of it, the very name ‘UA92’ could have unfortunate connotations in some markets, particularly the USA, where it might be interpreted as a very tasteless pastiche of Flight UA93. Did anyone think of this?

The subtext collective would like to make clear that we aren’t making any of this up. There’re 70 pages of this – UA92-Master-Prospectus-Digital – and we encourage readers to submit their own analysis of UA92’s marketing strategy to the usual address.

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IT’S RAINING UA92’S

There’s exciting news for those interested in UA92 Manchester, as detailed information about the project has now been published online. According to the blurb, ‘our academy provides unparalleled opportunities for aspiring professionals to study university degrees in football business, coaching and/or related industries alongside their football training programme, giving them the best chance at a successful career in the beautiful game, whether on or off the pitch.’ Students will be ‘based at our inspiring campus in Manchester’, with direct access to ‘world-class coaches’ including former MUFC assistant manager Mike Phelan, and a number of 100% scholarships available to the best players.

We can see you’re looking a bit confused …

… ah, sorry! Did you think we meant UA92? We were referring to UA92 (see subtexts 171 and 174), the venture backed by Burnley FC director Brendan Flood and his ‘football university college’ UCFB, launched in partnership with Bucks New University: https://www.ucfb.com/programmes/ua-92-manchester/

Whilst we suspect that UCFB’s appropriation of the UA92 name, backed up with several registrations at Companies House as discussed in the last subtext, amounts to little more than gentle trolling on Mr Flood’s part, subtext continues to wonder whether the titans behind Gary Neville University have factored UCFB’s ambitions into their forward planning. UCFB can showcase ready-made facilities at Etihad Stadium and Wembley. Gary and the boys can only respond with artists’ impressions and planning applications. One-nil to the Blues…

AND YET ANOTHER BLOW STRUCK

Last December we responded on our Facebook page to a testy complaint from the HR Director that we had falsely claimed (subtext 170) that the VC sat on the Remuneration Committee – the same body that sets his own salary. We apologised profusely but pointed out that we had gleaned this information from the University’s own website. So we are delighted to announce that the relevant University webpage has at last been amended – a mere six months after Council hastily changed the Remuneration Committee, prior to the publication of HEFCE’s damning report on the same arrangement at Bath University. Lancaster’s management may lack the speed of response of an Anderson Quigley but they get there in the end – with a little help from subtext.

LUSU NEWS

ELECTION

Amidst all the ‘disruption of the student experience’ caused by the strike, the LUSU sabbatical elections rolled around last week, and six new people have been elected to replace the outgoing officers. The results were as follows:

  • President: Rhiannon Llystyn Jones
  • Vice-President (Union Development): Matty Robinson
  • Vice-President (Activities): Toby Wilkinson
  • Vice-President (Welfare & Community): Emily Delaney
  • Vice-President (Education): Ian Meeks
  • Vice-President (Campaigns & Communications): Islay Grant

We note that Rhiannon Jones is the first woman to serve two terms as LUSU President, and the first person to serve two non-consecutive terms in any sabbatical LUSU post for nearly 40 years. She comfortably defeated sitting President Josh Woolf.

Many of the contests offered a standout candidate who had done their homework, were deeply experienced, and had a lot to offer.

The contest for the role of Vice-President (Union Development) was not one of them. The ‘ding-dong’ between the three candidates at hustings was so devoid of content that SCAN’s live-bloggers saw no point in fact-checking their answers because ‘they said nothing of substance’.

The contest for the role of Vice-President (Campaigns & Communications) had a standout candidate. That the student body instead opted to elect a candidate who ran on a whim; has no campaigns experience; believes experience isn’t important; wants to give student media ‘directions on what needs to change’ (we’re sure SCAN editors will be only too pleased to take direction from someone who doesn’t read it); and demonstrated zero enthusiasm or knowledge of any major on-campus issues, was therefore baffling.

The Vice-President (Education) race, in the midst of intense industrial action with staff working conditions at the forefront of everyone’s mind, was won by a candidate who thinks that a four day turnaround on feedback can work in all departments because it does in Physics.

Oh dear. Resentment is growing among students – the strike action, the current political discourse, the on-campus refurbishments, the lack of transparency from their union, the rises in rents and fees, and the cuts to services are just some of the causes. LUSU’s utter failure to weaponise this is bizarre. It’s raining soup, and LUSU is out in the yard with a fork. The golden goose is heavily pregnant, and they’re plucking it ready for Christmas dinner.

Readers might have thought that the atmosphere on campus would have lead to more candidates standing on an invigorating platform, and a couple of them maybe even winning. The students deserve better than the hollow, tepid, no-effort cacophony of ‘listening to students’ and ‘having an open-door policy’ and ‘bringing people together’ that it got.

So why they voted for it is anyone’s guess. We invite the candidates-elect to prove us wrong.

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HUST NOT LEST YE BE HUSTED

Contributed by Craig Jones

This year’s LUSU FTO hustings saw a handful of candidates that (in my opinion) promised to truly change the Union and may well have seen it become a political entity once more, rather than nothing more than a front desk for management. However, the results have now been announced and only one of these four promising candidates has made it through.

Hustings were held in Barker House Farm on an evening of bar sports, resulting in the husting speeches being drowned out at times by cheers and shouting from the teams.

For the position of VP Union Development, candidates were asked what they understood the word ‘union’ to mean, to which none of them responded particularly well. A personal favourite was the answer that opened with ‘The student union is a collection of students…’. Something new every day!

The candidates for president were asked what their opinion on the UCU strikes and why they held these opinions. All candidates said they supported the strikes and when asked if they would come and show support at the picket line, all said they would ‘try and make it down’. Only two presidential candidates visited the picket line at all – one simply to hust to the students in attendance, and the other (Rhiannon Jones) to show support to the staff.

With the results in, it doesn’t look like the SU will see any massive changes any time soon… or maybe I’m too pessimistic…

PG TIPS

Some months ago, a number of students were cross with LUSU for refusing postgrad students the right to play intercollegiate sports with their undergrad colleges. One of the unsuccessful LUSU Presidential candidates pledged to investigate how to make this possible. We at subtext thought this rather odd. Were people not aware that in 2014/15, the Provost of Colleges, Student Experience and the Library undertook an exhaustive and costly review of the college system which recommended, among other things, that PGs should have the option to stay with their UG college? Or were we imagining things?

Keen to check that we weren’t getting forgetful, we studied the original proposals in their entirety. From the original report (which isn’t available anywhere online): ‘Recommendation 10: Consideration should be given as to how to allow incoming postgraduate students a choice between remaining with their undergraduate College or joining Graduate College. It should also be made possible for undergraduate entrants to state a preference to live alongside the graduate population.’

The Colleges and Student Experience Committee (CSEC) voted to endorse this recommendation in February 2015, and the University Council ‘noted’ the implementation plan of the College Review in July 2016.

The student body and candidates to represent them politically have been complaining that PGs can’t play sports with their UG colleges. LUSU has rejected requests to make this possible, entirely in good faith, because they thought ‘thems were the rules’. As it turns out, allowing PGs to stay in their UG colleges and, as such, continue to play sports in them is, ostensibly, university policy!

So why hasn’t it been implemented? Who knows. What we do know is that the Grad College issue is another of the College Review’s recommendations that has either been rejected at consultation, ignored, or directly contradicted – further solidifying it as the ‘orchestrated waste of time’ that we were calling it three years ago.

(PS. If it turns out that this recommendation was in fact scrapped by CSEC and has never proposed for implementation, please note that it’s not our fault CSEC hasn’t uploaded its minutes in two and a half years.)

SHART ATTACK

FROM: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U).
TO: Hewlett.Venkklinne123@blueyonder.co.uk
SUBJECT: Interview with student journalist

Hi Hewlett,

I trust you’re well. I was just writing to show you how well the department has been functioning since I subsumed your responsibilities. Only the other day, I did an interview with a student journalist, the highlights of which you can listen to here:

Went rather well, I thought!

MMS.

PS. I hope you find a new job soon.

PPS. Can you critique the interview so that I can be even better next time. Ta.

REVIEW: COURTNEY PINE AND THE INNER CITY ENSEMBLE

Following Dave Spikey’s show at the Grand (subtext 174), your correspondent visited the same theatre to see quite a different artist a few days later, along with some familiar faces from Freehold and other Lancaster environs, plus some well-known faces from the University. They had come to see Courtney Pine. This world famous saxophonist is one of the most exciting and talented performers around. Fusing hip-hop, jazz, and groove, he is revered across the world for his innovative style and love of live performances. Last time he played Lancaster he was at the Dukes and brought the house down (well, the ceiling at least – the pitch and volume of his playing caused flecks of paint to drift down into the audience).

No such happenings at the Grand, a theatre Pine described as ‘old school’. He also expressed some apprehension to be playing at a venue that would be hosting Roy Chubby Brown in a couple of weeks time!

Courtney is credited with dramatically transforming the face of contemporary British Jazz over the last 30 years. This groundbreaking saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist has led a generation of players who have broadened their styles to take jazz out to a wider audience.

On this occasion, Courtney was joined by the Inner City Ensemble – a free-form improvisational musical collective featuring young, pioneering crossover musicians, combining different sonic backgrounds including jazz, post-industrial, noise-rock and electronic. Their music is full of discrete melodies and subtle rhythms – somewhere in between meditative ambience and percussive trance. The ensemble played drums, double bass, piano/keyboards, guitar, tuba, trombone and clarinet/baritone saxophone with warmth, imagination and a soulful intensity.

Each player was showcased during a variety of numbers, occasionally engaging in some playful end-of-the-pier call-and-response routines. Courtney got in on this act with a frantic ‘dueling banjos’ riff between his saxophone and the young drummer. Together, Courtney and this band of very talented musicians fused the central elements of jazz and soul with shades of drum and bass with energy, improvisation and huge smiles on their faces. This was all accomplished after just two days of rehearsal and four live shows. Amazing. Great night, although your cultural correspondent is still intrigued by the composition of the various audiences who chose to attend particular venues, people-watching being part of his day job.

REVIEW: MILTON JONES IS OUT THERE

Radio 4 listeners will be familiar with Milton Jones’ surrealist sense of humour and endless stream of one-liners. Your cultural correspondent was curious as to whether his particular style of comedy would work in an extended format – he need not have worried, as he could barely stop laughing for the whole show. Milton Jones edges sideways on the stage dressed as Great Britain, in order to give Brexit and Scottish Independence a wry sideways glance – geddit? Support act Chris Stokes offered up twenty minutes of amiable comedy to an already contented audience, with stories of everyday life – from his Black Country childhood, to the breakup of his marriage, from injured pigeons to dog walkers. Stokes is an ideal comedian to put in front of Jones’s audience – very different to Jones but likeable, inoffensive and funny.

The second half of the show is a well-crafted hour plus of comedy from Jones. Scattered props and some slides on a big screen create a space in which Jones can run around. A birdhouse houses an old dial phone. A wheelie bin filled with many large flags, which Jones uses for a bit of business about nations speaking to each other. Built entirely around one-liners, there is always a punchline but it is never going to be the one you expect, and that is why Jones excels. Behind his demeanour of a very silly man is a brain that can connect words and notions in a unique way. There were times in the act where Jones makes a point of pausing so that half the people in the room can catch up with his wit.

Jones breaks up the show with some improvisation, asking the audience to come up with subjects for him to deliver lines on. Coming up with a strong, hour long set and memorizing its material is very impressive. Being able to come up with clever one-lines on the spot is remarkable. Dealing with a persistent heckler was equally impressive. The random heckles, followed by a giggled ‘I’m sorry’ from one audience member, provided a good ten minutes more material. The persistence of these interruptions was beginning to grate but Jones handled this all with ease and grace.

On the way home after the show, your correspondent tried to remember any of the brilliant one-liners and could not – testimony to his ability to combine trickery with language with a weird juxtaposition of ideas that are unlikely to ever occur to anyone else.

MARTIN WIDDEN: ‘RED PILLING THE MUSIC INDUSTRY, ONE CONCERT AT A TIME’

Review: Kathryn Stott

It is often asserted that the sound of a violin improves in a period when it is being played quite intensively. And not only the violin – similar claims are made for other stringed instruments. Such claims are widely believed by musicians, but although careful scientific tests have been done to examine the truth of them, unfortunately no one has managed to prove that such improvements actually occur.

A piano is a very different case, because every piano is a complex mechanism, which could suffer if it is not given some exercise. The University’s Steinway concert grand, which sits silent in the corner of the Great Hall more than 99% of the time, could undoubtedly benefit from being played more.

The Steinway was given plenty of exercise at the recital given on 1 March by the pianist Kathryn Stott. The three Danzas Argentinas by Ginastera (1916-1983) are percussive and highly original compositions, written by Argentina’s foremost composer when he was aged only 20 – the pianist clearly enjoyed playing these exuberant pieces. Another test for both pianist and the Steinway was provided by Percy Grainger’s arrangement of the love-duet between Sophie and Octavian, from Der Rosenkavalier, by Richard Strauss. As the programme note said, Grainger particularly admired Strauss’s music for its ‘sumptuous vulgarity’: there is no way to perform this music without luxuriating in this, and Kathryn Stott did so.

To prepare the audience’s palate for these excesses, she opened each half of her concert with two arrangements of works by Bach, the Siciliano arranged by Wilhelm Kempff from the second lute sonata, and the cantata Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring, arranged by Myra Hess. These pieces are very far from vulgar, and Kathryn Stott played them excellently, demonstrating both her own versatility and that of the piano.

The arrangement of Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring had been played by Hess herself in London’s National Gallery on 10 October 1939 in the first of the long series of lunchtime recitals she curated every weekday without fail throughout the Second World War, and beyond – a total of almost 2000 concerts spanning a period of more than six years. She was supported in this by Kenneth Clark, the then Director of the Gallery, and was created DBE by King George VI for her contribution to maintaining the morale of the people of London during the War. Incidentally, those concerts were very informal. There was no advance booking, and audience members were free to walk in and out as they pleased between movements, or indeed to stroll around, lean against the walls, or sit on the floor. And why not?

Contributed by Martin Widden.

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

This week our VC wrote to tell us that Lancaster would have supported the ACAS deal. But it is also true Lancaster would have supported the original UUK/USS proposal (perhaps reluctantly) which amounted to little less than criminal theft of our pensions.

This week our VC also wrote thanking those staff who have carried on working through the strike. I would also like to thank the strikers for having the courage to stand up for what is right. They are making sacrifices in order to protect the common good. They are striking because they care about Lancaster University, its students and the quality of education. Throughout the strike we have carried on teaching and learning at events in the city; this has not stopped. And any gains we make against the theft of our pension will benefit every USS member, not just those who are taking action.

The ACAS deal this week appeared at first sight to some to claw back some of what was being stolen from us. They would steal a little less. But we would pay a heavy price for that and end up all the weaker. It was firmly rejected because it too would signal the end of what we still have now – a mutualised scheme. And that is also why strikers are standing out there on the picket line every morning – because they don’t want to work in a glossy private corporation, they want to work in a university where education is seen as a public good for mutual benefit.

UUK’s position and governance processes are now exposed as a sham and are discredited. University leaders, students and even the financial press are calling for a rethink of the whole process and valuation methods. It seems no one can publicly defend the unethical practices which led up to the UUK’s decision to insist on ending defined benefits. An official complaint has been made about USS governance to the Charity Commission and there is now a crowdfunding initiative to sue the USS trustees. But we can’t give away our pension while the rethink takes place. Everyone will then lose.

So if you are a member of USS and you haven’t yet joined the action, join us for a warm welcome, and you can join UCU immediately. This will shorten the dispute and help us all do what we want – get back to work.

Maggie Mort

Sociology

***

Dear subtext,

Apropos Bob Jessop’s ‘seven crane vice chancellors’ (subtext 174), some time in the 1990s I paid my annual external examiner’s visit to an MA exam board at an institution on the outskirts of Greater London – naming no names. The course – innovative, if not radical, and with a terrific track record in attracting and supporting non-traditional students – had been in the university’s sights for some time, partly for just those reasons but also because several of the staff had had the cheek to object to various managerial ploys. I arrived just after the startled chair of the board had received a phone call from the Vice Chancellor’s office, to say that the VC was planning to turn up in a few minutes, to exercise his statutory right to attend any exam board in the university (not one of his regular habits). We decided that this must be intended to intimidate me, since the internal examiners were well beyond intimidation. A kindly staff member said to me ‘I find it helps if you remember that all VCs are property spivs. Some are developers, some are speculators. Ours is a speculator. What’s yours?’ Since this was in the days of the blessed Bill Ritchie, I was slightly at a loss to answer, but I found the advice helpful, and persisted in writing a glowing report despite the menacing charm with which the speculator took me aside after the meeting and invited me to ‘tell the truth’.

Oliver Fulton

***

Dear subtext,

Thank you for the review of the Dave Spikey show at the Grand Theatre, I am pleased that you liked it. As the volunteer Stage Manager I feel I can answer the question that you pose. The Grand Theatre presents shows which aim to attract audiences from all walks of life. As a charity funded largely by ticket sales we aim to complement the subsidised Dukes Theatre in our programming and attract as wide an audience as possible. Therefore the audience that you were part of merely reflects the followers of the act in question.

Regards,

James Smith

Facilities

***

Dear subtext

In the last edition of subtext your cultural correspondent in his review of the Dave Spikey show at the Grand invited readers to prove him wrong regarding his observation that he was the only member of the audience employed by the University. I was there on row C (that’s the second row for those unfamiliar with The Grand’s unusual seating plan) – a thorn between two retired/semi-retired colleagues. I’m sure there were others, although I will admit that I didn’t see any others from Uni, despite having plenty of time to look during the slexit (slow exit).

Clare Race

subtext 174 – ‘ambitious managed divergent subtext’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, senate stuff, gary’s barmy army, bunker blues, fashion notes, pickets’r’us, sorry scan, court in the act, lusu democracy, lost and found, more lusu democracy, more lost and found, unis for sale, shart, comedy review, widden reviews, letters.

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EDITORIAL

Five days down, nine days of strike action to go (unless one side blinks today or tomorrow). It’s time for our Vice-Chancellor to state a consistent position, publicly, on the future of USS.

As subtext revealed in a newsflash last week, Prof Smith denied in Senate that – as reported in the Times that day – he’d broken ranks with the majority of Vice-Chancellors and supported a change to Universities UK’s current policy on USS. Apparently the sides are too far apart and we couldn’t afford UCU’s demands anyway.

Meanwhile, Prof Smith’s statements to staff meetings over the past few months have been broadly supportive of retaining a defined benefit scheme, and many staff had been heartened to read that ‘Mark’s on our side’ last Wednesday. Some may have decided at the last minute not to take strike action, in the belief that Prof Smith was one of the good guys and gals within UUK who deserved support.

So was the Times’s story just fake news? Or has our Vice-Chancellor been giving different messages to different audiences?

A string of Vice-Chancellors made public declarations of support for a change to Universities UK’s pensions policy in the last week, with one (Glasgow Principal Anton Muscatelli) even joining striking staff on the picket line . Now might be a good time for Prof Smith to side with the staff at his own institution …

… or not, if his statement to the Senate is a truer reflection of his thinking. If so, then he should say this openly – at least we’d know where he really stands.

SENATE SKETCHES

PLUNDERING THE PENSION

The VC opened his report with some good news. Applications are up, including a 9% increase from EU countries, while the sector average is down. Research grant income continues to be strong. Work has at last started on the new £41M Health Innovation Campus. Now for the not-so-good news. The level of university fees was now being questioned by the government (yes, that same government that increased them to over £9K in the first place). This was not good for universities, and while students might raise the odd cheer, the VC was scathing, especially about Lord Adonis’ suggestion that fees be pegged at £6K.

The big issue was the pensions dispute. The VC gave a succinct account of the recent history of USS pensions, showing how the various changes over the last few years had steadily reduced their value. There was a dispute about the size of the scheme’s current ‘deficit’ but he had thought that an agreement was close until the intervention of the Pensions Regulator. This, he believed, was political. The Regulator had been publicly lacerated over its laxity in the BHS and Capita pensions scandals and needed to show that it was on the case with USS. (Of course, an alternative interpretation might be that, as with Carillion, the Regulator was only too willing to support the employers’ interest). So this was how we got to where we are now.

At this point Senators might be forgiven if they thought that the VC was about to announce that he would be joining the picket lines himself the next day. Alas, this was not to be the case. When asked if he would be supporting LUSU’s and other Vice-Chancellors’ calls for an immediate return to national negotiations, he said emphatically that he would not. He denied the report in that day’s Times that he had joined ten other VCs in calling for a resumption of negotiations. The two sides were too far apart – he used the word ‘chasm’ – and as such there would be nothing to negotiate about. Besides, Lancaster could not afford the UCU demand for a 2% increase in the employer contribution to the pension fund. It would cut into our annual surplus, and everyone knows that our surplus is for Spine embellishments, football universities, and golf courses, not for frittering away on staff. Was there any chance of students’ getting any compensation for lost contact time, as is their right as consumers? Hardly! What about the strikers’ pay deductions? Would the money the university saved be donated to the student hardship funds, as had happened with previous strikes? Yes, of course, but only after certain university expenses had been covered. And what were these? Why, the cost of providing pensions advice to staff who would have to grapple with the complexities of a new defined contributions scheme. You can’t say that our VC doesn’t think ahead.

***

ALL POWER TO THE COUNCIL!

The big agenda item for the day was a raft of constitutional changes for Senate to approve. The Chief Administrative Officer opened by stating that the proposed changes followed from the recent Council Effectiveness Review and the abolition of Court, and it was largely a tidying up operation. She would not go through these in detail as she presumed that everyone had read the papers. It soon became clear that most Senators had not read the papers. Some had, though, and the claim enshrined in the proposals that Council was ‘the supreme governing body and final decision-maker’ was challenged. According to the CAO, this was required by the Code of Practice that all university governing bodies had to observe. Not so, said some Senators, with one reading aloud what the Code actually stated. To which the CAO responded with an irrefutable alternative fact – that this is what the new Office for Students might in the future require us to do. Senate seemed happy to accept this line of reasoning. One Senator seemed particularly troubled by the proposal to give Council the sole authority to make and amend Statutes and Ordinances, ‘Henry the Eighth powers’, as he called them. Against this the VC deployed his ultimate debating weapon – the Warwick Clincher. His old employer had done this, therefore so should Lancaster. Senate duly voted in favour. However, there was by now enough disquiet about the future position of Senate in terms of academic governance that the rest of the proposed changes were withdrawn for further working. But the VC had achieved what he wanted – Council now had the sole right to make, change and remove Statutes. Lancaster can now look forward to having a much smaller Senate – just like they have at Warwick, where they don’t have colleges.

***

BEST OF THE REST

The Dean of LUMS presented the formal proposal to close the Department of Leadership and Management, and split its activities between the departments of Organisation, Work and Technology, and Entrepreneurship, Strategy and Innovation. It would seem that the process to bring this about was a model of best practice, with a ‘consultative approach’ throughout ‘the project’, ‘clear communication given to staff’, and ‘consistent’ involvement with the unions. For what really happened, see subtext 169.

A proposal from the PVC (Education) for the establishment of an ‘Institute for the Enhancement of Learning and Teaching’ (InELT) was warmly received, its safe passage ensured by the promise that it wasn’t going to cost any money. However, it was felt that the acronym was insufficiently cumbersome for a Lancaster University institute so it was agreed that ‘curriculum’ should be inserted somewhere in its title. Perhaps it could be called something like ‘CELT’. Now that name rings a bell…

Finally, a paper from PPR and the Deputy VC for the establishment of an ‘Interdisciplinary Research Centre focused on China’. Now this one would cost money, so the paper was a testing of the waters rather than a definite proposal. Senate rather liked the idea, and agreed that the sponsors should go ahead with putting together a more detailed proposal.

SPAWT!

APPLICATIONS WELCOME FROM AXE-WIELDING MANIACS

The search for a permanent full-time Principal for UA92 has begun. As our own HR department was clearly not up to the job, the task of finding the right person has fallen to posh recruitment consultants Anderson Quigley. Prospective candidates logging into their website will discover a mine of information to help their applications. Candidates, we are told, will need to ‘embody and exemplify the values and behaviours through which UA92 has been founded’ – (a trawl through numerous back issues of subtext will be of enormous help in this regard). However, they do not have to come from ‘an academic background’ to be eligible, clearly a recognition that the academic claims of UA92 will be somewhat elastic. But they will be required to provide ‘evidence of adopting a disruptive approach to teaching and learning’ (we’re really not making this up). Good to see that UA92 encourages applications from all sections of the community.

Our recruitment specialists also provide a lot of useful information on the thinking behind UA92. Central to this is the Target Talent Curriculum (TTC), with its ‘Ten Principles that prepare UA92 students for life’. They then go on to list eleven. It seems that a grasp of simple arithmetic will not be an essential requirement for this post.

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‘I’M UA92!…NO, I’M UA92!

One of our friends from the M32 Masterplan and UA93 Facebook group has spotted some rather curious anomalies concerning the entity known as ‘UA92’. It seems there is more than one of them. There is ‘UA92 Ltd’ registered at Companies House (managing director, Brendan Flood). This, it transpires, is actually ‘Undergraduate Academy 92’, a part of UCFB, the rival Man City-linked outfit based at the Etihad Stadium which Flood wants to become ‘the Harvard of sport’. Another Flood manifestation of the title is ‘UA92 Manchester Ltd’. Then there is ‘University Academy 92 Limited’ and ‘UA92 Old Trafford Limited’, both based in Enfield in London and both naming one Clifford Donald Wing as chief officer. To complicate the picture further, Wing is a business associate of Gary Neville and sits alongside him on the board of Zerum Consult Limited, one of a number of Zerum companies linked to Neville and all registered at the same address in Manchester.

So where is the Official UA92? Or even the Real UA92? And is there a Provisional UA92 and a Continuity UA92 lurking somewhere in the background? Will students know which one they’re signing up for? But perhaps there is a more mundane explanation for this proliferation of UA identities. Could it be that some of Gary’s erstwhile business mates have stolen a march on him and registered all the varieties of the UA92 brand, rather like internet domain names, hoping to flog them back to him at a later time?

***

SPACE RACE

We have received reports of Acting UA92 Principal and Dean of FASS Simon Guy and his team being ejected from a meeting room for failing to go through room bookings. It is standard for bodies which aren’t ‘officially’ a part of the university to have difficulty securing space on campus, as the Putin fan club has found (see story below). Since, according to the VC, we’re still seeing if our partnership with Gary Neville ‘hangs together’ (even though we feature in most UA92 publicity and news coverage), it makes perfect sense to ensure that only officially affiliated bodies and societies get first dibs on space. Well done to all involved.

TALES FROM THE BUNKER

The bomb shelter simulator or marathon man experience continues apace. subtext ponders that it might be the case that senior management have sensed a ‘good day to bury (or should that be dig up, retile, dig up again, and make lots of noise with a jackhammer) bad news’ moment. The opportunities presented by the strike (i.e. empty lecture theatres and seminar rooms) have provided senior management a fortuitous moment to instruct construction workers to bang on with doing what they have been doing with added gusto. Rumours have reached the subtext warehouse that students have witnessed a noticeable increase in the banging and crashing in a variety of places on campus. Whether management have seized the moment, or it is just a coincidence, it is still the case that a building site is not the place to undertake any form of educational encounter.

FASCISN’T?

subtext’s report on racist and antisemitic comments and questions at a public lecture (see subtext 173) seems to have hurt a few feelings (see letters, below). Isn’t it amazing how quickly people who insist on their own right to express hateful opinions start throwing around words like ‘libel’ and ‘slander’ as soon as someone challenges them? As so often in right-wing populist circles, it seems free speech only travels in one direction.

Since the report, LUSU has confirmed that the group in question was denied society status ‘because there was not enough detail in the students’ plan of activity or their description of the group to convince the committee of the group’s sustainability or unique offer, two of the key criteria that all groups are judged by.’ Perhaps the applicants forgot to mention important details, like how they get hot under the collar about black actors playing historical figures on TV, or equal marriage? LUSU went on to clarify that they ‘are working with the students, as we would any student wanting to form a society, to help them address these concerns of the committee and anticipate that they will resubmit an application[…] The union respects the rights of individuals and groups to hold or express potentially controversial opinions – however, all of our groups are subject to union policies designed to deal with instances of discrimination, harassment or hate speech, which are applied accordingly if issues are reported and evidenced.’ So that’s all right then.

Despite not being a student society, the group in question nevertheless set out to organise an event on campus to discuss the life and times of Vladimir Putin, an event ostensibly co-organised by the Russian Society. Until, that is, it turned out that the Russian Society was, to quote LUSU again, ‘suspended temporarily after its president decided to step down this week and it came to light that the group does not meet a number of the union’s administrative requirements. The union is now working with the Russian Society to address these issues in order to return the group to active status.’ No doubt this sudden interest in the administrative workings of the Russian Society, which led to the campus event being cancelled, was entirely coincidental, and nothing to do with their links with the other group. But isn’t it wonderful how LUSU wants to help all societies to meet their full potential!