subtext 188 – ‘eurobants subtext’

Every so often during term time (and sometimes a bit after).

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

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

In this issue: editorial, running out of money, wellings news, atherton news, professional services conference, unconditional offers, nets, partnership quality update, fascists, cash onlyletters.

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EDITORIAL

The European elections are upon us. Despite the fact that the Members of the European Parliament that are returned tomorrow have absolutely no say on what happens with regard to Brexit – they are not even allowed to enter the Westminster Parliament without being signed in by a pal – this election is, just like most of the UK’s European elections over the past years, being treated as a de facto referendum on the UK’s relationship with the European Union.

It seems unlikely that Lancaster students will vote in huge numbers. Turnout in the local elections this month was 18% for the campus, the lowest in the district, although to be fair this was more than double the turnout at the 2016 by-election in that ward (see subtext 156).

An entirely unscientific poll of the University community (i.e. people that the subtext drones ran into while queuing for vegan sausage rolls) suggests that the following factors are preoccupying this small portion of the electorate:

1) Labour’s prevarication over Brexit, and whether or not there should be a confirmatory vote. One poll puts them ahead of the Brexit Party, if only Jeremy Corbyn had clearly come out in favour of a people’s vote, and miles ahead of the Tories:

https://www.newstatesman.com/politics/staggers/2019/05/coming-out-against-brexit-could-put-labour-ahead-farage

2) Speaking of the Tories, the absolute trouncing they are likely to receive due to their own hallowed leader’s approach to the selfsame topic.

3) The likely beneficiaries of most of the votes that would otherwise have gone to the bigger parties: the Greens, the Lib Dems and of course the Brexit Party. The latter has a rather curious mix of rabid, frothing-at-the-mouth Faragists, a sprinkling of former members of the Revolutionary Communist Party, and several people who are already salivating at the mouth at the thought of all the money they can make from their favourite kind of disaster capitalism. Pretty much all of them have some kind of saliva emission problem. And other problems too, as an expose of the many problematic beliefs and links of the Brexit Party’s MEP candidates reveals:

https://medium.com/@SJHolloway/this-is-everything-i-discovered-about-all-of-the-brexit-party-mep-candidates-2a59f8f850c5

4) Stephen Yaxley-Lennon (Tommy Robinson to his less salubrious chums). It is unthinkable that this Islamophobic, hate-inciting and repeatedly convicted criminal should receive even more of a political platform than he already has. A high turnout seems to be the only thing that is likely to stop him, so we urge our readers to do the honourable thing, and – whoever you vote for – please vote today! As long as it’s not Tommy Robinson.

RUNNING OUT OF MONEY

Reports of a curious chill emanating from D Floor have reached the subtext inbox. Apparently, Professional Services roles that are vacant are likely to, err… stay vacant, at least for the foreseeable future. Staff have reported to us that they have been told that new or replacement roles that have been approved at departmental/unit and faculty/division level are being knocked back by senior management. There are also reports of maternity cover not being provided, and of regrades being rejected out of hand.

It is not entirely clear what this practice is supposed to achieve, but likely outcomes seem to be an increase in stress and workload, and a corresponding decrease in wellbeing and productivity, for those Professional Services staff whose areas have vacancies. And the reports around maternity cover, if true, and lack of regrades, which are definitely true, send a worrying signal about the University’s progress on addressing its massive Gender Pay Gap. There has been no statement to all University staff about this, but an email to Professional Services managers that was passed to subtext confirms that the University is basically worried about its cash flow. The rather euphemistic ‘vacancy management control’, i.e. definitely not a recruitment freeze, is used to describe what management is trying to achieve in order to meet its ‘Adjusted Net Operating Cashflow’ targets. No doubt there is a flowchart somewhere that explains it all.

Does this mean the University is about to go bankrupt? This seems rather unlikely, but the massive hole in the University’s finances caused by the shambles that is the LUMS extension, as well as various cost overruns on campus vanity building projects… um, the Capital Programme, seem likely to have weakened the University’s financial position. Plus, D Floor will be nervous about the long-overdue Augar review and of course the ever-present spectacle that gives us so much joy, Brexit.

What seems strange, however, is why Professional Services staff are having to bear the brunt of this recruitment chill – could it be something to do with the REF, perhaps? Or with the perception that Lancaster has a higher ratio of Professional Services staff to academics than many of our so-called comparator institutions? Reports from friends of subtext at some of these institutions of the absolute clustershambles that centralising and reducing admin support can result in – for staff, students and pretty much everyone – should give us pause for thought.

MEANWHILE IN WOLLONGONG

News reaches subtext of Lancaster’s former Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings, now VC at Wollongong in New South Wales. Prof Wellings’ enthusiasm for ‘collaborative provision’ has continued down under, it seems. The Age reported on April 11 that the Australian National Tertiary Education Union had ‘launched a legal bid to prevent the University of Wollongong’s deal with the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation going ahead, after it was fast-tracked by the Vice-Chancellor.’

The Ramsay Centre will reportedly fund ten academics to teach the three year BA in Western Civilisation, and award thirty students more than A$27,000 each per year towards their living expenses.

What did Wollongong’s senate make of this idea? Reportedly it wasn’t asked! The Age notes that Wellings ‘bypassed the university’s academic senate, which ordinarily approves new degrees, to fast-track approval of the Ramsay deal’. The fast-tracking procedure has never previously been used for an entirely new degree. The senate subsequently passed a resolution objecting to the move.

Luckily such practices wouldn’t be tolerated here, eh? More at:

https://www.theage.com.au/politics/federal/union-launches-court-action-to-stop-wollongong-university-s-ramsay-degree-20190410-p51cxk.html

MEANWHILE IN DUNDEE

Our former Deputy Vice-Chancellor Andrew Atherton looks like he’s got off to a storming start in his new role as VC at Dundee. ‘Blind student facing deportation says university reneged on support,’ reports The Guardian on 13 May. Bamidele Chika Agbakuribe, from Nigeria, was promised ‘state of the art’ facilities at Dundee but, instead, Mr Agbakuribe claims he was given ‘failing IT equipment’ and inadequate supervision. When he complained, the university reportedly failed him, cancelled his student status and contacted the Home Office, which has said it will deport Agbakuribe and his family on 5 June.

Mr Agbakuribe faces having to repay tens of thousands of pounds to his sponsor and being left destitute:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2019/may/13/blind-student-facing-deportation-says-university-reneged-on-promised-support-dundee-university

There are two sides to every story, of course, and Dundee notes in an official statement that it ‘has an obligation to ensure that academic standards are consistently applied so that the value of a University of Dundee degree is consistently maintained. It would be wrong to permit a student to continue on a programme when these standards have not been met.’ It ‘regrets that, under immigration rules beyond the University’s control, this means that the student is expected to leave the country.’

https://www.dundee.ac.uk/governance/news/2019/statement-regarding-termination-of-phd-studies-case.php

subtext hopes that the new VC can facilitate a solution here.

MEANWHILE AT THE PROFESSIONAL SERVICES CONFERENCE

At the exciting closing plenary of the 2018 Professional Services Conference, where the facilitators helped the audience to uncover the ‘implicit assumptions’ at the University, the overwhelming message was that Professional Services staff don’t feel as valued as academic staff.

How could the organisers top this for the 2019 conference? Hmmm, let’s think: why not invite a keynote speaker who specialises in the kind of casual sexism that is the stock-in-trade of a 1970s comedian?

Will Kintish, who spoke about how to become a better networker, and describes himself as ‘the UK’s leading authority on Business Networking Skills training’, spiced up his 58 minutes on the stage, with the following comedic gems:

1) He asked a woman in the audience to smile. Think that’s a pathetic thing to complain about?  Take a look at this https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/magazine-35422966/stop-telling-women-to-smile

2) He complimented his son-in-law for ‘taking his daughter off his hands’ and for producing his grandchildren. Presumably his son-in-law is part-seahorse.

3) He compared the amount of time he has been married to his wife with the prison sentence for murder. Whilst this might (or might not) work as an in-joke between lifelong friends in a wedding speech, it’s pretty crap to talk about your spouse this way in a public forum.

4) As part of his analysis of the kinds of groups people form in a networking situation, he asserted that women always stand in closed groups (thereby preventing others from talking to them) also stating that for women to open up these groups they will have to go ‘against your natural DNA’.  In an academic institution that presumably values evidence-based claims, this seems to be a particularly stupid, as well as insulting, thing to say.

Ha, you say, we’ve all heard worse down the pub, and these are certainly not the most sexist things a man on stage has ever said. What’s all the fuss about?

Professional Services staff are largely women and amongst the lowest paid in the institution. This ‘top ten’ university has one of the worst gender pay gaps in the sector and recently failed to get an Athena Swan Bronze award for the institution. A current ‘pause’ on recruitment and regrades for Professional Services roles means that there will be more work dumped on fewer shoulders.

Last year this section of the University said ‘we don’t feel valued’. And the University said, hold my coat, I’ll find you a mother-in-law joke.

Portal news story on professional services conference (staffwall):

https://portal.lancaster.ac.uk/intranet/news/article/what-happened-at-this-years-professional-service-conference

Link to Will Kintish presentation:

https://lancaster.box.com/s/xdh6zzekokzpsrsmzbpn2a6zsl370q3q

You can hear the quotes relevant to the points made above at:

1) 18:08-18:20
2) 19:00-19:20
3) 23:40-23:52
4) 39:09-39:21 and 40:38-41:06

Will Kintish is on twitter. subtext does not recommend the use of the hashtag #ivebeenkintished to let him know what you think about his attitude to women.

UNCONDITIONALLY UNACCEPTABLE

subtext readers will have seen that Lancaster was one of 23 universities ‘named and shamed’ by the Department for Education on 5 April for excessive use of unconditional offers to prospective undergraduates (see also subtext 184). In particular, our widespread use of ‘conditional unconditional’ offers, where your offer is only made unconditional if you select us as your firm choice, was slammed by the Secretary of State, Damian Hinds MP, as ‘damaging the reputation of the institutions involved and our world-leading sector as a whole. That is why I will be writing to 23 universities, urging them to stamp out this unethical practice.’

The 23 institutions are: Aston; Birmingham; Birmingham City; Bournemouth; Brighton; City; Derby; Hertfordshire; Keele; Kent; Kingston; Lancaster; Lincoln; Loughborough College; Middlesex; Nottingham Trent; Oxford Brookes; Roehampton; Royal Holloway; Sheffield Hallam; Staffordshire; Surrey; and West London. Perhaps we could suggest that these be listed as our true ‘competitor institutions’ in future admissions strategy meetings?

The DfE statement has had an impact. Aston University reports that it ‘has taken the decision to stop making ‘conditional unconditional’ offers’:

https://www2.aston.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/applicants/post-application/unconditional-offers/index

Roehampton announced on 4 April that, after a review, ‘we no longer offer ‘conditional unconditional’ offers. We also continue to ensure that at every stage of the application process our admissions policies are clear, fair and in the best interests of students’:

https://www.roehampton.ac.uk/general-information/statements/

At Lancaster, however, we’re having none of this defeatist talk. Our press release, as reported in the Lancaster Guardian, states that, ‘there are various assertions within the DfE statement that we do not recognise nor do we feel are backed up by evidence. We don’t practise ‘pressure selling’ tactics and have received overwhelmingly positive feedback from applicants about our approach to offers. We will, of course, consider all advice carefully and will continue to assess our position.’

https://www.lancasterguardian.co.uk/news/lancaster-university-defends-unconditional-offer-stance-amid-government-criticism-1-9701644

subtext understands that, having assessed our position, we are still intending to make conditional unconditional offers next year. Over to you, Office for Students!

HEDGING OUR NETS

What with recruitment freezes (sorry, vacancy management controls!), Brexit and a departing VC, you’d think the university would be trying its hardest at the moment not to create any new enemies, but apparently not. We learn that Lancaster has recently managed to seriously upset Chris Packham and a gaggle of other bird fans, by allowing its contractors BAM to instal bird netting around the Health Innovation Campus site. As local ecologist David Morris noted on 23 April, via his Twitter account @JFDIecologist, ‘a month since 1st contact, @LancasterUni & its contractors @BAMConstructUK haven’t removed its bird nets despite repeated advice. Net management goes against the planning permission & hedge tonight has Blackbird & Wren within it. This is utterly poor practice. #NetsDownForNature’

Naming and shaming via social media has quickly prompted the university into action, with Morris reporting a week later that the nets would finally be removed. Unfortunately it seems that large sections of hedge have gone with them! Readers wanting to know why nets are so bad for wildlife are encouraged to read the recent RSPB article by Gemma Hogg at:

https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/rspb-news/news/stories/use-of-netting/

HOW COLLABORATIVE PARTNERSHIPS WORK

Word reaches subtext of some creative approaches to exam-setting in one of Lancaster’s overseas partner institutions. We’re told that, for one particular module, both the proposed main exam, and the proposed resit exam, were exact replicas of past papers, available on the module’s Moodle page… with answers. In case this didn’t provide enough assistance, the resit paper reportedly highlighted key data, and at least one answer, in red font.

Readers are encouraged to contact subtext with any further stories of innovative approaches to standards and quality.

FASCISTS

A Generation Identity sticker was spotted on campus, this time close to the Management School, on 9 April. ‘Patriots walk amongst you’ it claimed. It was removed within 24 hours.

Another GI sticker was noted near Lonsdale College in March, a few days after the Christchurch shootings.

Anyone seeing fascist stickers or posters on campus is advised to take a picture and email this, with details, to Security at security@lancaster.ac.uk or directly to Julie Ferguson, the university’s Emergency Planning & Risk Manager, at julie.ferguson@lancaster.ac.uk.

While students can report alleged incidents of hate crime and harassment via the UniSafe applet on iLancaster, there does not yet seem to be a systematic way for staff to do the same, apart from directly emailing Security.

CAMPUS GOES CASHLESS

Thinking of applying to Lancaster to study or work? Well, make sure your credit history is immaculate, you don’t have any problems obtaining a UK bank account and you don’t have any problems accessing your funds, because campus outlets are going cashless.

Since last week, four bars (Fylde, Grizedale, Lonsdale and Pendle) have been refusing to accept cash, and subtext is told that the plan is to roll this out across all bars, shops and cafés from the start of the next academic year.

The university is enthusiastic: ‘by going cashless, customers will be able to pay for transactions quicker and more conveniently via their card or phone.’

https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/eat/news/cashless-on-campus

subtext is not entirely sure how it’ll be quicker or more convenient to pay for a £1:30 cup of coffee by card, rather than by just handing over £1:30, but we’ll let that objection slide. And, hey, surely no-one uses cash these days? What next, do you want us to accept payment by postal order?

Well, yes, people still use cash, and not everyone has a choice in whether or not to use it. Many people at Lancaster have poor credit histories. Some people may not want family members or partners to potentially track where they’ve been spending their money. Others prefer to use cash as a way of imposing self-discipline on their spending. A large number of international students will not get a UK bank account until several weeks after their arrival, and will depend on cash until their account is set up.

We’re not sure how they’re going to get served in Welcome Week. We’re not entirely sure whether the university cares. We look forward to reading the relevant Equality Impact Assessment.

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

I was interested to see Lancaster University mentioned in the news today as one of 23 universities with an unconditional offer scheme and to also read that this is based in part on references. It reminded me of someone I once knew, who had not only been offered an unconditional place at medical school when he was 18, he hadn’t even had to apply. Such were the benefits of being the son of a doctor in the 1960s.

Bob Sapey

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Dear subtext,

I have been following the debate over the revised Code of Conduct on Protests since criticisms were first made clear in subtext 185. I very much agree with the concerns over the content raised in that issue, and also by others such as Lancaster UCU. Despite following the debate, I still remain puzzled as to why a new, revised code is needed at all. What is the evidence that the previous version was inadequate or failing? University management’s only hint is their description of the previous code as ‘outdated’ and their saying that the revised version would be a ‘simpler document more tightly focused on… practical steps.’

While the justification for the revision is still slightly murky, one thing that is clear is a strength of opposition to the revised code. But mixed messages seem to have been given by the Strategic Planning and Governance department and no public statement seems to have been made in response. LUSU have told me that the university is now creating guidance for the implementation of the revised code (so much for a simpler document!). Meanwhile, the student collective snappily-titled ‘No to the new Protest Code of Lancaster University’ (or NTTNPCOLU for short) have revealed that Mr Simon Jennings, the Director of Strategic Planning and Governance, has ‘agreed to consider forming a committee representing staff and students to redraft the code document.’

Quite what the university is doing, if anything, as their response to the concerns, no one actually seems to know.

Yours,

Andrew Williams

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Dear subtext,

Former University member of staff, student and Bailrigg FM MANCOM member here…

I’m not sure what the SU have been smoking, but the OFCOM fees for a long-term RSL on low-power FM, which is what Bailrigg FM falls under, is only £140 per year. See page 16 of:

https://www.ofcom.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0019/112465/Tariff-Tables-2018_19.pdf

The only other saving I can see would be would be £548 per year for the PPL music licensing subscription.

Given that the studios, playout, and other costs would remain the same this would appear to be a hugely retrograde step for one of the oldest student radio stations in the UK and the first to hold an LPFM license.

Ian Anderson

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Dear subtext,

I was bitterly disappointed to read your report outlining the cuts to Bailrigg FM.

Student Media at Lancaster University dates back to the 60s – with a tradition for holding the university and the union to account. Ronnie Rowlands’ piece on the importance of student media as a ‘playground’ for future journalists was spot on: but let’s not forget that student media has made a genuine impact on the student experience in its long and illustrious history. Exposing shoddy landlords, keeping students informed on strike action, questioning dubious university claims. Student media is, and always has been, a ‘pillar of democracy’ at Lancaster. Time and time again, they have shown their knack for making the university and the union sit up and take notice.

These cuts are the start of what will undoubtedly be a descent into oblivion for student media. With no FM licence, and SCAN gradually coming out of print, it won’t be long before student media ceases to be. How the full time officers allowed this to happen should astound me – but with a VP Campaigns & Comms who showed no regard for student media while campaigning, and an officer team that has a record for whiney facebook posts lambasting those that have the audacity to criticise them, I’m somehow not surprised.

That the Students’ Union stealthily made these cuts, without so much as a Facebook post for an explanation, is appalling and gutless.

Best wishes,

Michael Mander
Former Associate Editor of SCAN

subtext 187 – ‘yet another meaningful subtext’

Every so often during term time (and sometimes a bit after).

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

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

In this issue: editorial, people’s vote march, cheat’s charter, bailrigg fm, lancaster exchange, where’s regev?, widden, no letters.

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EDITORIAL

How to keep busy in these interesting times now that term is over? If you’ve finished tanking your damp Lancaster cellar so that it can serve as an emergency bunker, or are fed up of barricading yourself in your college bar with bargain tins of baked beans and cheap toilet roll, subtext recommends protest as a way to pass the time. Below, we consider some options.

Why not travel down to London with placards, water bottles and walking boots, especially if you have any opinions at all about the state of UK democracy? If you missed any of the protests that took place over the last couple of weeks, don’t worry. We predict there will be more.

SWP-sponsored bus to the protest of your choice full? Got too much coursework to write/mark/complete? You can always stay on campus and protest! If you’re worried you’ll fall foul of the University’s new permission-slip-and-risk-assessment Code of Conduct on Protest, which we reported on in subtext 185, don’t be. Since it came into effect on 1 February 2019 the editorial team have witnessed two protests on campus (on the occasions we’ve been able to leave the warehouse): Lancashire Youth for Environment’s #FridaysForFuture climate change protest on 15 February 2019, and a protest against the proposed visit of Israeli Ambassador to the UK, Mark Regev, on 27 March 2019 – the day he may, or may not, have been visiting the University. We have been unable to verify if all these protests completed the required paperwork, but we suspect that they didn’t bother, so you probably won’t have to either! If you need some inspiration for how to ignore worrying things that blatantly ignore moral and ethical standards, the University has just published its Gender Pay Gap Report for 2018.

If the weather’s too bad for outdoor activities, but you still fancy making your voice heard, why not consider contributing to the campus bastions of print and broadcast media? SCAN and Bailrigg FM would love to get your input, whilst they’re still here. Failing that, we at subtext are always looking for new editors/contributors – applications to the usual e-ddress…

PUT IT TO THE PEOPLE MARCH REPORTS

A MILLION WAYS TO BE CR-EU-L

Lancaster, both the University and the town, seemed to be well represented on the ‘Put it to the People’ March on 23 March, not least judging by the cheerful but slightly sleepy crowd of a dozen or so protestors gathered at Lancaster station at around 8:30 in the morning. The train was already packed, and picked up more protestors at each mainline station (though surprisingly few in Preston).

It was only when the train arrived in London, however, that the true scale of the impending march became apparent. Converging on Mayfair in all directions, blue and yellow garments of all kinds, cardboard signs on wooden poles, numerous banners and many, many flags were very much in evidence, as were a number of extremely silly hats.

Your subtext correspondent made his way to the start of the protest at Park Lane – after a brief but necessary brunch – only to find it… well, rather full of people. It took around an hour to get from Marble Arch to the other end of the street, and then a further three hours to get as far as Trafalgar Square (normally a 10-minute walk), despite niftily overtaking a mobile disco, a samba band and all manner of other protestors. By this point, the speeches at Parliament Square where well and truly over, despite the vast majority of marchers never getting there.

As is becoming the norm for events of this type, the best slogans and banners have been widely shared on social media. Your correspondent’s personal favourites, however, included:
– the child brandishing an evidently self-made banner proclaiming that ‘Brexit is poo poo butt face’ in bright colours, bringing some much needed gravity to the political discourse around the topic;
– the two adjacent signs with bright green cut-out pictures of salad leaves that said ‘Lettuce Romaine’ and ‘Don’t lettuce leaf’;
– ‘Article 50 does not spark joy’ next to a picture of Marie Kondo;
– The blue sign splattered with yellow paint that read ‘Pollocks to Brexit’;
– The rather dark ‘Dear Dignitas, do you do countries?’;
– And the ever so subtle ‘Frontières sans médicins’.

The mood was a strange mixture of ebullient, joyous and also angry – but not in a red-faced, shouty way. People were laughing, smiling at each other’s placards, and generally having a good time, while their anger was clearly focussed at the people they saw as having got the country into its current predicament.

The absolute highlight of the march for this correspondent, however, had to be the piper marching with the SNP London branch playing ‘Ode to Joy’. What could be a more evocative argument against Brexit than the European anthem, written in Vienna by a German composer of Flemish extraction, commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London and played on Scottish bagpipes?

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LANCASHIRE AND YORKSHIRE EU-NITED AT LAST

Contributed article by Jenny Watts

I was unable to attend the People’s Vote March for health reasons, however, this topic remains very important to me. As a cancer patient the long term impact of Brexit on the NHS is rather alarming. I belong to a local cross-party activism group (Lancaster for Europe, find us on Twitter or Facebook) and they showed me how to donate money to cover the cost of a place, so that another student from Lancaster could attend. It was great watching the Lancaster and Yorkshire flags later on the news. Very encouraging to see the red and white roses!
 
The following is an interview with my Yorkshire-based parents, who were able to attend.
 
Q: Can you tell me what motivated you to get up at 4:30am to catch a coach departing from Hull on March 23rd?
Geoff: I was at the end of my tether! What else could I do? No one was listening to the Remain Team, or challenging the Leave lies.
Gwyneth: I wanted to stand up and be counted. When it all started back in 2016, I was really upset. But then I thought, hang on, let’s give the Leavers a chance; it might work. However, nothing I have seen, or read, has convinced me that it will actually be good for the majority of the country. I can see how it benefits billionaires though! That pesky new EU law on tax avoidance, eh?
 
Q: Your placards talk about honesty, do you feel deceived?
Gwyneth: Not now, personally; I hate being told lies, but I like to check stuff for myself. That lie about having to join the Euro for example, or Turkey joining the EU, or all the wonderful new trade deals…
Geoff: I am a retired police custody sergeant. Never enjoyed being lied to, and if I had practised a hundredth of as much deception professionally as this crew on my placard, I would have been sacked. Rightly so.

Q: What was the atmosphere like during the journey?
Gwyneth: Subdued, a bit tense, we didn’t know anybody or what to expect.
Geoff: Desperately short of sleep.

Q: Would you say you have a history of attending demonstrations in London?
Geoff: Never done anything like it.
Gwyneth: I’ve always been interested in human rights and welfare. As a young mum I stood for election as a Liberal for the local council, but this was my first big march. As a student in Manchester I went on demos, but only because I fancied the organiser!

Q: What happened during the march?
Geoff: Lots of chat and banter with other Yorkshire groups, making very, very slow progress towards Parliament Square. Never been in such a huge crowd, never seen such a crowd on TV, and so much warmth, good humour and anger being expressed in a very British way. Very heartening.
Gwyneth: Two and a half hours after joining at Marble Arch, we were still dancing down Park Lane – literally! We were joined by various bands, and it resembled a festival when the sun came out. We had to turn back at the end of Piccadilly about 4:30pm, to return to our coach, and thousands of people were still marching, following the route to parliament. It seemed wrong to go against this tide, but we’d made our point.

Q: Do you think you will be attending marches in the future?
Geoff: Let’s hope I won’t have to.
Gwyneth: For this cause? YES!

Q: What advice do you have for those joining large demonstrations?
Geoff: Essentials – comfortable shoes, water bottle, and a sense of humour. Stick anything relevant to you on your placard, and go with the flow. Expect lies about the size of the crowd…
Gwyneth: Do it! Always decorate both sides of your placard, collect photos of the wittiest slogans, meet lovely people, realise you’re not alone.

THE CHEAT’S CHARTER

Contributed article by Steve Wright

I read with interest, and serious concern, about Ian Meeks, LUSU VP Education’s, pyrrhic victory for ‘fairness’ in marking, achieved through the blunt and often inappropriate instrument of enforced anonymous marking (subtext 186). As such I propose it is re-dubbed a ‘Cheat’s Charter’ – because the only big winners here will be cheats. However, it is about much more than just making cheating easier, and shows a wilful disregard for education, professionalism and oversight in the institution.

I suggest the following five points are, or will be key outcomes and all should be of real concern:

– Making cheating much, much easier
– Blocking effective and innovative pedagogy
– Prioritising marks over feedback
– Imposing UG standards onto PG work
– Lack of faith in academic staff and University policies and procedures

I will address these in turn.

1 – Making cheating much, much easier

Whatever the proportion of students who cheat (differing figures are given here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-45358185 and here https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/education-43975508), the selling of essays is a growing market and a serious concern. Maybe when you’re paying so much for education it seems only a small extra cost to take on – insurance perhaps?

One of the main justifications for introducing anonymous marking is that it will benefit BAME students by eliminating unconscious bias. Some who work and write for such services seem to share the Students’ Union’s concerns about institutional racism and discrimination (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-36276324 for a fascinating interview with an essay-for-cash writer).

The evidence for anonymous marking benefiting BAME students is contested. The gap for medical education exists in anonymous examinations (see https://www.ucl.ac.uk/teaching-learning/sites/teaching-learning/files/katherine_woolf_seminar_bme_attainment_seminar_addressing_ethnic_differences_in_attainment_in_higher_education_january_2019.pdf). Meanwhile research and evaluation by the HEA suggests that inclusivity is best served through ‘a range of assessment which includes ways to draw on experiences – personal, professional, volunteering for example – and bring those in’ (https://www.heacademy.ac.uk/system/files/bme_summit_final_report.pdf). However, bringing in those examples serves to de-anonymise students and is thus likely to be discouraged by a focus on anonymity as a cure.

By contrast anonymous marking really, and singularly, benefits those who buy essays. Furthermore, this makes effective approaches to combat cheating and enhance teaching, as well as improve inclusivity, much, much harder – if not impossible – to implement.

Whilst Turnitin offers text matching (not plagiarism detection) and there are a variety of practices and misconceptions about it (e.g. high percentage matches are not necessarily indicative of plagiarism, whereas very low matches are often indicative of other substantial issues etc), the essay-selling companies promise a plagiarism-scan passing essay (see https://www.customessaymeister.com/ for example) so this will only help identify some areas of poor academic practice NOT bought essays.

2 – Blocking effective and innovative pedagogy

Rather than making ‘Lancaster a beacon of good practice’ the Cheat’s Charter will have a chilling effect. The Certificate in Academic Practice (CAP) programme identifies innovative ways to introduce assessment that can be more than the mere summative mark the Students’ Union seeks. Good assessment also encourages good practice, additional skills and deeper learning, whilst also discouraging or preventing merely buying summative essays.

Examples include developing presentation skills, as well as preventing cheating, by asking for oral presentations. There can be processes for requesting essay plans (as distinct from purchasable ‘drafts’) or other work that associates the process with the person and the product so that early formative feedback can shape and improve work, provide constructive input and feedback as well as an audit trail precluding merely buying an assignment to be anonymously marked. Other innovative approaches such as students correcting Wikipedia entries based on research evidence and the tutor reviewing their change log – so that instead of your work resulting in an anonymous mark and an essay in the bin you actually contribute to open information access based on your privileged position with access to paywalled research – well that’s out too as it can’t be anonymous! Peer-marking of group contributions to address the dissatisfaction with a single group mark that is so clear in NSS feedback complaints? Nope – anonymity makes that too problematic.

Furthermore where there has been close work with students to help develop a piece of work and work through issues, or where more than one person may have a similar overall project, anonymity prevents customised, personalised feedback. It requires impersonal comments rather than connecting back to formative assessment and supervisory support. Anonymity has rarely made communication fairer, politer or more nuanced – just look at Twitter! Here it has an equal likelihood of undoing the careful work of personalised guidance to support students’ learning in favour of impersonal ‘objective’ harshness and judgement.

3 – Prioritising marks over feedback

The Cheat’s Charter prioritises one thing over all others: the mark. Feedback, as subtext rightly pointed out and point 2 argues extensively for, is the key element for academic improvement. Tailoring that, and connecting it to other work so it can be acted on, is much, much harder with anonymity. The implementation of this pledge prioritises the mark over the feedback, the assessment over the learning, singular attainment over ongoing education.

4 – Imposing UG standards onto PG work

The rationale for imposing this on PG programmes is that ‘exams are the main form of assessment currently marked anonymously, but Ian is keen to see the practice expanded to ensure students have all their work assessed fairly’.

This not only suggests exams are seen as fairer, but it is also a category error when imposed across all work including that of postgraduates. Despite this massive blind spot in the assumptions it is based on, there is no nuance in the recommendation or its implementation. Postgraduate work with smaller numbers, asking for examples from professional practice and experience or a bespoke topic cannot be meaningfully marked anonymously. This should be a strength, not a weakness or something to root-out, yet that is what is happening.

5 – Lack of faith in academic staff and University policies and procedures

In his comments about the introduction of anonymous marking, the VP Education said: ‘Anonymous marking reduces the risk of unconscious bias by the marker, increasing the level of confidence students can have that they are getting the mark they deserve.’

As per points 1 and 2 – this could be argued to be the case but it certainly couldn’t give a student the confidence their peers would get the marks they deserve if they were in a group, or cheated by buying an essay. It strongly suggests an assumption that all academics are so prejudiced they’re not even aware of their prejudice, and furthermore that LUSU have no faith in the University for having academic standards, academic professionalism or appropriate procedures for challenge, review or complaint.

The paradigm exploration of this has to be the plot of the History Man (for those unfamiliar the TV show was filmed at Lancaster University in the 70s and is still available to view via Box of Broadcasts which is HIGHLY recommended – see link below). In this story a right-on, left-wing academic marks down a Thatcherite student’s essay and discriminates against the student. However, the student complains and his complaint of bias is upheld. The bias isn’t the unconscious racist bias Ian suggests is rife at Lancaster, but it is bias, and even in a 70’s satire there are University procedures to handle it!

Recording available via Box of Broadcasts through the library:

The History Man, 21:00 15/02/2009, BBC4, 95 mins. https://learningonscreen.ac.uk/ondemand/index.php/prog/00DD68BC?bcast=31635147 (Accessed 04 Mar 2019)

All of the above combine to suggest that this ‘Cheat’s Charter’ is misguided, and leads away from creative pedagogy and applying insights to professional experience or context, and towards summative, anonymous, impersonal, anodyne, reduced value, standardised assessment.

The beneficiaries will be cheats, the costs to reputation that result could be very high. Despite this, the imposition of this has occurred without consultation, and with a heavily bureaucratic requirement for exceptions. My fear now is which will be the next values and faith in professionalism to be burned on the pledge pyre of a LUSU officer?

BAILRIGG NOT-FM

As subtext goes to press, Bailrigg FM’s members have been sent an email informing them that Lancaster SU will no longer be supporting the station’s FM broadcasting license, something it has held for over 20 years. This would mean the station going online-only from the end of August 2019, and ceasing to be regulated by Ofcom. The reason is given as ‘budgetary re-evaluations’ – apparently the cost of a license, somewhere in the region of £1000 per annum, is ‘poor value for money and not enhancing the student experience.’ Members have been told there is very little that can be done about this, despite offers by the station management to try and crowdfund the money.

Supporters of SCAN and other student media must now be wondering how these ‘budgetary re-evaluations’ will affect them.

***

BAILRIGG SET AT £1000

Contributed article by Ronnie Rowlands

The idea that a monolith like Bailrigg FM would stand to lose its FM license is inconceivable, yet entirely inevitable, as the Students’ Union whittles itself down further and further in a desperate bid to save cash.

Only last term, the union called on students to vote ‘yes’ in a referendum proposing to reduce the number of paid officers from six to five, going as far as to denounce themselves as a waste of money whilst spouting some nonsense about ‘focusing representation.’ To no avail – the turnout was not quorate, and the SU was unable to make an eighteen grand budget cut. The SU had already made savings when it palmed major services like volunteering, international programmes, and enterprise off onto University House two years ago. And so, at last, it has no choice but to start looking at the pennies.

Bailrigg FM, and the student media as a whole, has been an easy target for many years. This is mainly because the people in LUSU responsible for financial decision-making don’t understand anything about it.

Even though my tempestuous tenure as the SU officer in charge of student media is far behind me, I still get a twitch when I recall enduring meetings listening to certain representatives flapping their gums about making SCAN online only, or making Bailrigg FM digital only. The argument has always been that not enough students listen to Bailrigg FM to justify the amount of money that goes into it, and that ‘radio is dying.’ I would not be at all surprised if such an inane contention was the clincher in whatever meeting the decision was made.

Bailrigg FM has never been about the listeners. Commanding a large audience is a bonus, not an objective. Bailrigg FM has always been about its members. The aim of Bailrigg FM is to provide a playground for budding broadcasters, journalists, producers, writers, engineers, performers, and any of the rest of them.

This is vital to a university that does not offer any vocational media degrees (until the Gary Neville University opens its doors, of course…), and doesn’t cater to such-minded students at its careers fairs. In 2015, I established the LUSU Media Conference as a means of allowing students to network with well-connected and highly experienced industry professionals, but even that seems to have shifted its emphasis towards PR, social media, digital marketing, and suchlike. The SU are entitled to do this, of course, but it only serves to diminish further the limited offerings that Lancaster has for budding ‘meeja’ types.

I hear the flapping of gums again. Am I not reacting as though Bailrigg FM is being shut down completely? Surely FM radio is, quite literally, an analogue concept in a digital age? Quite. But while FM is old-fashioned, it lends legitimacy to the station. It gets taken more seriously by awarding bodies, and it is more appealing to potential sponsors.

It also obligates you to follow Ofcom regulations. Great! Radio without limits, right?

Perhaps.

But being bound by Ofcom requires you to follow its programme code. That means you must adhere to standards of taste and decency, show due impartiality on current affairs, play the news on the hour, avoid product placement, devote a certain amount of your airtime to certain genres, abstain from promoting dangerous behaviour, etc. Basically, it means that you have to behave like you are working at a real radio station, because that is precisely what you are doing. The discipline involved puts pressure on members not to get fined by Ofcom, on the management to ensure that certain standards are kept, and on broadcasters to behave themselves. These are all vital, vocational skills in broadcasting, journalism, and management, that students can take with them should they wish to go into ‘proper’ radio.

Rules around taste and decency force you to be a little more creative with crude ideas – the greatest episode of Seinfeld ever written was the one with the masturbation contest, and yet it never once explicitly alluded to masturbation. Taking some of your mates into a studio, getting tanked up and shouting ‘C*NT’ at each other for an hour and a half might be great fun, but Derek and Clive you are not, and it isn’t something that you’d want to put on your demo-reel.

Then there’s the small issue of policing what gets broadcast. With Bailrigg FM no longer under the jurisdiction of Ofcom, it will fall to LUSU and the University to enact procedures when somebody acts unlawfully on the air.

Such tight fisted, tiny-mindedness tells us nothing new about the SU’s financial shape. Nor does it help the perception that the SU has had a huge deficit of accountability since it did away with Union Council in 2016.

Back then, elected officers, concerned Bailrigg FM members, and the general membership of the University could have shown up to many different meetings to give the Executive a piece of their mind. Alas, more marketing types and fewer media types are being elected to the officership overseeing student media, as the SU continues to shut itself off from scrutiny.

Now, they can freely flap their gums, and merrily whittle themselves down to nothing, the potential consequences little more than static.

With thanks to James Masterton

REPORT – THE LANCASTER EXCHANGE

‘You’re here to witness an experiment!’ announced Pro-Chancellor Lord Liddle, as Lancaster’s first annual public meeting, The Lancaster Exchange, got underway in LICA at 10:30am on Saturday 30 March 2019. Would the new event justify the controversial decision to abolish its predecessor, the University Court (see subtext 172)? subtext went in with an open mind.

The main topic of conversation over coffee seemed to be the relative lack of publicity. An email had gone out to most, but not all, former members of the Court. LU Text had mentioned it on 8 March. A quarter-page advert had appeared in the Lancaster Guardian (just two days previously, though). There was a webpage with plenty of information, if you knew that it was there! Some of those present commented that they’d first heard about the event via subtext.

Turnout ended up at somewhere between 110 and 120, pretty much the same as the number who attended the final Court meeting. The composition was different, however. Very few members of management, or the University Council, had attended the last Court, but there had obviously been a three-line whip to get them to the Exchange – deans, associate deans, Pro-Vice-Chancellors and Council members were all milling around. This meant that there were rather fewer ‘ordinary’ people present, although it was reassuring to note the presence of several longstanding Court members, including Claire Hensman, Lord Judd, Ian Saunders and Jacqueline Whiteside. Only a handful of students were present, but holding the event after the end of term probably didn’t help.

In we went, and the layout was cabaret-style, with 13 round tables for us to choose from. This made proceedings more informal but also made it trickier to observe contributions from the floor. The first few items – a short welcome from the Chancellor, a ‘warm-up speech’ from Lord Liddle, the Vice-Chancellor’s report on the last year, and then a Q&A to the VC – would have been familiar to previous Court members. After that, though, we were promised a ‘panel discussion’ followed by four ’roundtable debates’, before the VC would wrap things up at the end.

Lord Liddle was optimistic. He’d always imagined that a University Court should include ‘a procession to music from Die Meistersinger,’ but ‘we’ve tried to move on from that.’ Prof Dame Sue Black, our Pro-Vice-Chancellor for Engagement, was going to ‘lead an exchange of ideas,’ but first it was time for ‘our wonderful Vice-Chancellor’ to give his report.

The VC’s presentation was well-paced and entertaining, with plenty of infographics. Those who have seen his report to departments this year will be familiar with many of the slides, which focused on the Augar Review of Higher Education, Brexit, UA92, Leipzig and the new developments on campus. Major investments in 2017/18 included the Physics refurbishment, Isolab, phase 2 of the Library redevelopment, the mock courtroom and the Big Screen. Isolab was mentioned in particular as a world-leading building that was made possible largely through philanthropic donations, and the VC noted the new ‘Donor Wall’ in the Library. Visitors were encouraged to look at the ‘tremendous’ new Spine. Coming up would be the Health Innovation Campus, the LUMS Space Programme, phase 3 of the Library redevelopment, the Accessible Campus initiative, the LICA refurbishment, the Sports Hall extension and our new 400-seat lecture theatre. The VC praised the university’s engagement with the local area, mentioning Sue Black twice and the Eden North project once.

The headline finances, displayed on a single slide, looked reassuring but the VC sounded his first note of caution, observing that we were needing to take out loans to finance our projects.

Questions followed on students’ mental health, student housing, international student recruitment and the importance of preserving open spaces on campus, but the one which animated Prof Smith the most was on the attitude of the press to higher education: ‘where do you start?’ Because of David Willetts’ decisions as a minister, universities were still relatively well-funded in England, and some elements were ‘somewhat resentful of that.’ Universities had been strongly remain-voting, and ‘we get labelled as bastions of the left wing… it’s just not true!’ If only!… thought some people in the audience.

The best one-liner came from a local resident who worked for Ludus Dance, who asked, ‘is Lancaster a university town? Or is Lancaster University just near a town?’

On, next, to the panel discussion, led by… Sue Black, who was going to explore ‘what is the role of a university in the 21st century?’ With her were Chancellor Alan Milburn, Yak Patel from the local CVS, Students’ Union President Rhiannon Llystyn Jones, and Alistair Eagles from Seatruck Ferries, ‘a ferry company that actually has ferries.’

The debate seemed hamstrung by a humdrum choice of subject, as the speakers spoke earnestly about communities, poverty, skills, jobs, opportunities and so forth. Ms Jones discussed students’ mental health – this was perhaps the last mention of students’ problems, as opposed to the problems students are perceived to cause, all day. Sue Black made the intriguing assertion that, ‘I think I have become the equivalent of Tinder for the University!’

Mr Eagles, the last and best speaker, boldly noted that he didn’t like ‘engagement’, preferring the word ‘integration’, and noted that he could have said all this in Coventry – ‘what can we do that’s so different?’ We had a world leading management school, but relatively few business startups – why? How many of our students did local work placements? Just as things were getting rather animated, however, we broke for a short coffee break.

We then split up into four groups for ’roundtable discussions’ on Healthy Communities, Digital & Innovation, Economic Development, and Heritage & Culture. In each group, there were rather more people present than would fit around the tables, so people expanded outwards to form a big circle, giving them something of an ‘encounter group’ feel. Feedback from the sessions seems to have been very good – the University seemed to have persuaded some significant local decision-makers to come along and listen. University Council members, in particular, seemed very interested in what people had to say.

The VC summed up by saying he was ‘going to slightly disagree with Alistair Eagles,’ who had asked: what makes us different? ‘I already think we are different,’ said the VC, citing the colleges, UA92 and Leipzig. Perhaps Sue Black’s title should now be changed to PVC for Engagement and Integration, he wondered, in the light of Mr Eagles’ comments?

Prof Smith felt that ‘the whole dynamic is very different from our old meeting and, I think, better.’ The Chancellor agreed that ‘it had been a really fascinating meeting.’ subtext’s verdict – it was more like a pilot episode than an experiment, but if management really publicises next year’s meeting, makes the topics for discussion a little less boilerplate, and involves the students a lot more, it could be really very good indeed.

And so the Lancaster Exchange closed in good humour at 1pm, as everyone joined the queue for a buffet lunch.

HAS ANYONE SEEN AN AMBASSADOR?

A group of around 35 activists, some from campus, others from the city, met at 6pm on Wednesday 27 March to protest against the possible appearance of the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, on campus.

It was never clear whether Mr Regev was actually coming to campus, or whether he had even been planning on coming. Reportedly he’d been booked to address the Politics Society, but this meeting had been cancelled. Or had it? Various people walked around campus peering into lecture theatres to try and discern evidence of a gathering, but there was no sign of any heightened security. The sight of a large black luxury car provoked a brief frenzy of interest… until the person behind the wheel turned out to be a Lancaster student.

The new Code of Practice on Protests (see subtext 185) led to a certain amount of bravado (permission for this event had not been sought) coupled with paranoia (were we under observation from University House?). In the event, no one disrupted the protest, and the consensus was that the ambassador was nowhere near Lancaster, but it had still been worthwhile to gather together.

Those present came from a wide variety of organisations and perspectives; the leaflet being handed out, produced by the Lancaster Palestine Solidarity Campaign, emphasised the need to listen to other voices in the Israel-Palestine conflict besides the ambassador’s, and included links to Jewish and Israeli organisations devoted to peace.

Some of those present felt this message of Jewish and Arab unity was marred by some of the chanting, in particular the divisive ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!’ – not everyone joined in with this. This aside, the sentiments were overwhelmingly inclusive and peaceful.

It is unknown whether Mr Regev is planning to come to Lancaster in the near future.