Perhaps subtext can afford to be generous in its lineages, and permit of two Inkytext successors? Vickytext’s first issue followed within days and by agreement on the heels of the final output from Inkytext in May 2000, as Gordon admitted he no longer had the stamina to continue. It was the first time that an official communication had been sent out electronically, the format was freeflowing, the choice of initial subject matter directly followed on from Inkytext (including reports of Senate and Council, and buildings and finance), there was a single named editor, and letters and responses were strongly encouraged. subtext followed in 2005; a younger sibling, produced by a collective in term time only, and initially focussed on a particular topic that was troubling at the time before broadening out into the admirably wide range it now presents. Neither followed the somewhat quixotic Inkytext practice of frequent Parisian restaurant reviews.
Gordon’s achievement was remarkable; over 600 separate items in six years, all expertly researched and with a wit and style all his own. When the Inkytext electronic archive was created after his premature death, however, the complexities of his output, when a single issue might contain Parts I, II and III, with subsections a, b and c, on occasion sent out on the same day, meant that some material was missed. Fortunately a hard copy had been made of the items as they first appeared, and that is still extant and available for reference.
What is of special interest is how those two siblings developed, what familial resemblances they still have and how they have diverged.
So, welcome to subtext for its 18th consecutive year, eagerly awaited and carefully read. Keep that warehouse well furnished.
I was devastated to learn of John Hadfield’s passing whilst reading your most recent issue and wanted to echo what Ronnie Rowlands wrote about him.
I too was an Officer of the Students’ Union from 2014-15 and can attest to the fact that John truly believed students were at the heart of everything. He was the only University Council member we could count on for allyship – even finding the occupation that took place in 2014 rather amusing. He was of the mindset that decisions that benefited students benefited the university also, and highlighted increasing concerns about the direction of Lancaster and Higher Education in general throughout our interactions. His actions and words consistently reflected that, often speaking up for students and supporting challenges student representatives put forward.
John will always have a special place in my heart and Lancaster shines a little less brightly without his endearing presence and mischievous nature.
Your reference to the possible ‘standing down’ of the University Court reminded me of two almost forgotten moments in the history of the Court and of the University.
In the winter of 1972 the campus was still experiencing the aftershocks from the previous two terms’ assaults on academic freedom, aka the Craig Affair, in which Vice Chancellor Carter had forsaken his liberal roots and supported a determined effort to suppress and evict a group of radicals from the English Department. Faced with considerable criticism of his newly made authoritarian turn, both within and without the University, Carter had turned to Blackburn Council’s political leader Councillor Tom Taylor (1929-2016) to review the events of 1971/2. Taylor was on route to becoming an establishment figure, enshrined in his ennoblement five years later. His report, imaginatively called the Taylor Report, failed to address any of the issues raised by the Craig Affair and should appear on the syllabus of Politics 101 as a classic example of a ‘snow job’.
Carter clearly imagined that publishing the report would bring matters to a close, and indeed he was largely right in this calculation although resentment simmered on. As we approached Christmas that year it was apparent that the Court might be the last chance to raise a protest, and so the students’ union (then called the Student Representative Council) and a group of academics, eschewing the Association of University Teachers in favour of membership of the left leaning Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (ASTMS, long ago merged into the Manufacturing Science and Finance Union), produced an alternative review report and attempted to introduce it on the floor of the Court. To our great surprise this inevitably doomed move solicited considerable support from Court members from outside of the University, their unexpected support undoubtedly acting to some degree as a brake on Carter’s efforts to stifle criticism. When our motion was ruled out of order, I explained to the Court that this left the students with no option to walk out of the meeting, a move that gave us a half hour start on the sumptuous food and drink then provided for Court members (or perhaps it only appeared sumptuous to impoverished undergraduates). We made a good hole in the half hour or so that this afforded, but more seriously were greatly heartened by the support from other Court members who joined us later.
Roll forward some four years and Carter was shifting the University from liberal beacon towards business partner, much to the disquiet of many of his senior staff (echoes of today?). By that time I was a ‘community representative’ on the Court and a series of ‘deep throats’ made their way to my door in Preston to express concern about the future direction of the University. Carter would have been astonished if he had known the identity of some of these sources. Their insights allowed us to raise a resolution at the Court querying the direction of the University. The motion was doomed to fail, Courts will always have an inbuilt majority for the Vice Chancellor, but the existence of the Court did at least allow alternative voices to be heard. Sadly on this occasion we were at least allowed to be heard fully and so there was no repeat opportunity to hit the reception first!
subtext’s welcome arrival always reminds me what a vital place a University can, and indeed should, be. The existence of a Court is an essential component in which big issues can be discussed away from tightly managed and narrowly defined agendas. Its suppression, or ‘standing down’ … call it what you will, can only be a bad thing for free debate.
Chair of the Student Representative Council 1972-1974
Note from the editors: We would like to thank the anonymous author of a letter about the University’s staff travel service. We do not publish anonymous letters, but are happy to consider requests to withhold the author’s name. If this correspondent would like to contact us again, we would be happy to consider publishing the letter in the next issue.