Monthly Archives: October 2017

subtext 167 – ‘accelerate… but remember speed kills’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments:

In this issue: editorial, swastikas, criminology, plug, parkarking, crooked, air raid sirens, uain’t 92, idiotic leninism, rock, rock2, Israel, ucu, shart attack, music festival review, concert review, letters



subtext was created for many reasons – to be a forum for discussion, to encourage a sense of community, to propagate a culture of speaking out. But above all else, we are a source of news, and we at subtext are at our most self-congratulatory when we know we’ve broken a story.

The celebration of our scoops on the Gary Neville University and the University Court in the last issue was one such nauseating affair, and we braced ourselves for a warehouse awash with letters the following day. We were awash with letters, comments, and questions on these matters, but what garnered the most attention was our revelation that some office doors had been defaced with Nazi symbols.

Shortly after subtext 166’s release, a number of understandably concerned individuals contacted us directly for more information. We are in agreement that we missed the potential impact and significance of this story. The appearance of swastikas on university campuses is a worrying sign, perhaps, of the increasingly common stench of Fascism that has emerged in Western nations. As such we were not all adequately briefed to provide more information to the affected parties. Given the seriousness of hate-speech on our campus, we should have been. To that end, we have produced a more detailed report in this issue of subtext, and we understand that the University has now taken a direct interest in these


As promised in the editorial, here is everything we know regarding the defacing of posters with Nazi graffiti. The story that we published in subtext 166 refers to three separate incidents in the Sociology Department over the summer. We understand that all of the incidents took place in the evening after lockdown, suggesting it was someone with access to the department. Nobody knows who did this and there appears to be no connection between the three incidents. Security were informed and there were no further incidents. Those whose doors were targeted were postgraduate students, two of whom have subsequently left Lancaster (upon completing their studies, not as far as we know owing to the graffiti).

We understand that there have been incidents of posters being defaced with Nazi nasties for quite a while – certainly more than just this summer.

It was in April when the first incidence of hate-fuelled graffiti were brought to the Sociology Department’s attention by a couple of PhD students. A few posters with references to terrorism were taken down, after being graffitied with comments like ‘Bomb them all’.

After raising this matter with the Head of Sociology and the doctoral directors it was agreed to take it ‘higher’. A meeting took place with two Bowland Assistant Deans, who suggested that little could be done. This may in part be because College Deaneries are not responsible for academic departments, so it is not clear why they were contacted in the first place. University House was contacted and asked for a public notice regarding the policies on hate speech to go out but, as far as we know, this wasn’t done. This starkly contrasts with the actions of other universities such as Exeter and Cambridge, whose VCs or spokespeople issued public statements condemning such behaviour after similar incidents earlier this year.

It is frustrating that there has been no broad denouncement at Lancaster of this sort of behaviour. Tensions are running high on an international scale, and even if it is sadly no longer surprising to see growing support for fascistic ideals, we must treat each incident with equal rejection.


Not long after the messy introduction of a divisive plan to close down a department in LUMS (see subtext 165), subtext learns of some rather odd and worrying developments in the Law Department. The Head of Department, Professor Alisdair Gillespie, held a ‘secret’ strategic review to determine the future of the various Criminology degrees at Lancaster. It is not clear who was in attendance at the review meeting but no staff were involved. Then, lo and behold, a meeting was announced. All staff were to attend including those on annual leave and sabbatical. No agenda was circulated and no details given as to what the meeting was to be about. Staff gathered in the lecture theatre, somewhat perplexed and obviously worried about what this was all about. Professor Gillespie then proceeded to embarrass and humiliate the people who deliver the Criminology programmes in front of the entire staff group. Recruitment is apparently not good enough and if things do not improve he threatens to cease all Criminology teaching in the department, and staff will have to leave. He does concede that he may not have the full facts or the correct data, but apparently he is passing on the thoughts of Andrew Atherton. He also alluded to the fact that HR have known about this proposal for some time.

Criminology at Lancaster is rated No. 1 in The Times University Guide.


Our Facebook page has enjoyed a health influx of attention since we announced its launch in the last issue. As part of our ongoing synergised cross-platform interdiscursivity initiative, we’d like to draw your attention to it again and ask you to like / share / follow / thingamajig us on


In the last edition of subtext we reported on the problems of staff on termly contracts and their inability to get a staff bus pass. subtext has learnt of similar problems concerning hourly paid teaching staff who drive to work, and although we have historically avoided publishing stories about parking, we felt this one needed some further discussion on the grounds that a group of staff who are already marginalised and on insecure contracts were being treated unfairly.

Teaching staff attending the security building to renew their staff parking permit for the academic year were somewhat shocked to be told that unlike last year, they are no longer eligible for a staff permit. No prior warning, no correspondence informing them of this change in policy. Despite offering to pay the same amount as they had paid last year – and perhaps more importantly, the same amount as other staff still pay (!) – they were told that they are not eligible for a staff permit and would have to park ‘at the bottom end of the campus’.

The fact Lancaster University is situated on a hill is coincidental but this is highly symbolic; those ‘at the top’ (i.e. ‘proper’ staff) were deemed to be worthier in that they are given the ‘right’ to park in a more convenient location, over those ‘at the bottom’. For those staff, the issue with parking ‘at the bottom’ is not related to laziness but is more about feelings of inequality and the apparent power imbalance.

Why is it that these staff are no longer eligible? Is it because they are not ‘full-time’ members of staff. No. So it must be because they are ‘part-time’ members of staff. Well, no. Apparently the explanation given is that due to a lack of parking and over-subscription for permits, a review (which was not communicated to those concerned) had concluded that restrictions needed to be made and teaching staff who are also undertaking a PhD were the group to be targeted for cut backs. Staff-students have been discriminated against over both full-time and part-time staff who are not studying alongside their teaching. Essential teaching staff are vital for our Part I delivery and are apparently valued members of the research community when we tell stories during our strategic reviews and in our REF narratives. Welcome to the inclusive academic community.

Oh, and for those members of staff (regardless of status) who don’t have a permit at all, it seems there has been another price hike. The car park by the tennis courts has tripled in price from £1 per day to £3 per day. Thus endeth our gripe about parking.


Phil Neville is the somewhat less famous of the two brothers in the Class of 92, our new partners in UA92. In recent years he has become better known for a brief and inglorious career as manager of Valencia FC (owner, Peter Lim) and for his narcolepsy-inducing football commentaries for Sky Sports. This has not deterred him from seeking to branch out into the world of political punditry. The recent appearances of Hillary Clinton on TV to promote her new book prompted him to tweet: ‘Hillary Clinton on the One Show’ along with a laughing-face emoji, followed by: ‘Hillary you lost move on’. Nice.

This was not Phil’s only foray into the maelstrom of American politics. After the Presidential election result was confirmed, Phil announced via twitter: ‘I knew Trump would win’. This prompted a certain degree of scepticism among his many followers, several of whom responded along the lines of: ‘Yeah, sure you did, mystic Phil’. But others were grateful for this enlightenment, with one remarking: ‘Thank God you let us know. I was only asking the lads earlier: I wonder what Phil Neville thinks of it all. Delighted I know now’.


The ‘bomb shelter experience’ currently being enjoyed by the unlucky souls studying in Fylde lecture theatres reminded us of the recent experience involving a high-altitude glass walkway high in the East Taihang Mountains near Handan City in China. Glass-bottom bridges are the latest tourist craze in China. This particular bridge hangs over 3,800 feet in the air, affixed to the mountainside, and has as its newest feature sensor technology which creates the illusion that the bridge is going to shatter under the weight of those walking on it. To enhance this effect, bits of actual broken glass were placed under the sturdy glass floor, and video screens displayed fake cracks in the glass as people pass over it. This is all done without any warning. Not surprisingly this has created a social media storm, with thousands posting negative comments accusing the organisers of being cruel and even dangerous, with the possibility that it might give someone a heart attack. Whilst not on the same level, bangs and crashes loud enough to make students ‘jump’ and squeal will undoubtedly generate negative comment in the NSS and PTES later this year.


Faced with UA92, the new higher education venture fronted by ex-manchester united players , one must confess to a certain confusion. One’s immediate reaction was, frankly, hilarity. This was then tempered by a realisation that this project was a rare example of sportsmen putting their (considerable) money where their (also considerable) mouths were. Then one realised that the project is, however well-intentioned, primarily a money-making venture, and one starts to feel uneasy.

Anyway, cleaving close to the subtext mission statement to carp and criticise, it is perfectly possible to think that this project is a jolly commendable idea in many ways while also thinking that it is not necessarily something that Lancaster University (yes, that’s uppercase) should necessarily be hitching its wagon to. Of course, we don’t know the fine details of the deal, but we’re sure larger and better-informed minds than ours have no doubt thought long and hard about how it will work, and what our commitment and investment should be. However, a number of questions persist, most of them under the umbrella of ‘what could possibly go wrong?’ University teaching is described in the publicity as the third leg of a triad, along with sport and business. Even allowing for the VC’s recent comments on building links with business, this goes beyond links and into partnership. That’s a sea-change. Maybe a good one, but it’ll be difficult to distance ourselves if this all goes wrong, and it might. UA92, it seems, aims to fill a gap somewhere between HE and FE, mixed up with a kind of Matthew Arnold-esque emphasis on mens sana in corpore sano, building character and quadriceps with equal enthusiasm, maximising self-reliance and oxygen uptake in the same programme. If it works, fine. If it doesn’t, our name is all over it.

Which is odd, because you can go through the UA92 website for a long time without discovering what Lancaster University will actually do for these lucky students. You will discover that ‘Universities have traditionally placed academic learning at the core of the curriculum, supported by character development for the world of work’. By comparison, UA92 will deliver ‘a curriculum with employability and character development at the core wrapped around by academic development.’ Um, ok, well, that doesn’t sound so much like a vision, more a change of emphasis at most. And are we happy to be the afterthought in this arrangement?

We learn further that the ‘Target Talent Curriculum’ (harrumph) seeks ‘to put personal development at the core of the learning experience’, and that it will focus on providing students with ten attributes: academic learning, life skills, work experience, how to survive in demanding workplace situations, leadership skills, peer group analysis, participative learning, fitness, and presentation and financial skills. Leaving aside the Blair-esque meaninglessness of a phrase like ‘Target Talent Curriculum’, we note that of the ten desirable attributes, academic learning is just one. Not their priority, then. Is this to be like the Associate College scheme, where students come here for a top-up degree in their third year? If so, will these students, however bursting with peer-group analysis skills they may be, find the academic playing field to be level? Or will the field be re-marked to fit them, in which case how will their degrees compare to those students who have been here for three years, pale of skin and character, and short on resilience and the ability to survive in demanding workplace situations, but nevertheless well-trained in passing exams?

But harken we to the words of the VC. ‘This is a good time to test the appetite for a venture of this nature for two reasons. Firstly, the government wishes to open up the Higher Education marketplace to new and innovative ways of delivery. Secondly, businesses are becoming increasingly interested in how Higher Education can prepare students for working life. This project is designed to address both of those ideas head on.’ So that’s all right then.


Regular readers of one of subtext’s minor competitors, The Guardian, may have come across an article early on Tuesday morning about a letter sent by Tory whip Chris Heaton-Harris to University Vice-Chancellors demanding to know who was teaching students about Brexit, and what the content of their courses was as well as links to online lectures ( It is true that subtext’s coverage of VCs does not always consist of glowing praise, given pay differentials, inaction on pension theft, vanity building projects, and a litany of other charges. But it seems that at least one VC, Worcester top dog David Green, comes off as something of a hero in this tale, by more or less intimating that he intended to tell the MP to chuff off. Whether our VC had a similar response in mind has yet to be established – D floor has not yet responded to subtext’s request for a comment – though according to the Guardian (the local paper, that is, not the national one – keep up!) it was being treated under the University’s Freedom of Information procedures. This, of course, could amount to the same thing.

Meanwhile, back to Heaton-Harris’s shenanigans, around Tuesday lunchtime, by a report that Downing Street had issued a statement saying Heaton-Harris had been acting not as a Government whip, but in a personal capacity as an MP ( That man must have some interesting conversations with himself. In future, he might take the time to have a good chat with himself about who actually teaches at university, as his letter asked for details of ‘professors’ teaching in the area – presumably unaware of the fact that in the UK, professors mostly do what they can to avoid teaching, which is largely carried out by more junior staff. Or perhaps he thinks anyone who is not a professor can’t be taken seriously? Given the leave campaigners’ attitudes towards ‘experts’, we rather doubt the latter could be the case. Heaton-Harris has been the recipient of failed Tory leadership candidate Andrea Leadsom’s full support, so it can only be a matter of time before he is sacked.

A number of other newspapers have jumped on Heaton-Harris-bashing bandwagon since Tuesday, while some of their… less salubrious fellow publications have jumped to his defence, with hand-wringing articles mentioning ‘remainer universities’ and ‘fears students are being brainwashed by remain-supporting lecturers’. You’d almost think universities had some vested interest in EU membership, such as depending on millions pounds of EU project funding, partnerships with other European universities for inbound and outgoing exchange programmes, and being able to recruit thousands of highly qualified staff from other EU countries.


Staff, students, and alumni of the university will have recently received an invitation to the launch of ‘When Rock Went to College’ – a comprehensive book detailing the bands that played the Great Hall by Paul Tomlinson and Barry Lucas. subtext has twice reported on this work; once to encourage anybody with any information / photos to contact the authors, and once to announce a release date… of Spring 2016.

We’ve no idea what the delay was, but it’s a delight to see that it wasn’t a (too!) long one. It is well remembered, but little known today, that the Great Hall formerly was a regular stop on the live music circuit. We played host to U2, Elvis Costello, The Who, Sparks, and many others. The launch takes place tomorrow in the Great Hall at 7:30PM. Your correspondent was fortunate enough to see the reams of research, photos, and trinkets that co-author Paul Tomlinson had compiled back when the project was in its infancy. That alone is enough for us to recommend the book, which can be purchased here:


Further to our little plug for Paul Tomlinson and Barry Lucas’s compendium of the bands that played Lancaster, the sheer magnitude of the acts we played host to does raise the question: why don’t we do this anymore? The Great Hall is laid out like most live music venues across the UK, has an entire audience on its doorstep, and a vast heritage. While we’re sure the official explanation of fire regulations has some basis in fact, we welcome suggestions for more creative theories from our readers!


Posters appeared on campus yesterday advertising an event at the Cornerstone Methodist Cafe at 7pm on Wednesday 15 November, titled ‘Balfour, May and the ‘Wrong Kind of Jews”. subtext’s first impressions were not positive. First, because many in our community will have been alarmed to see a poster which brashly promises to discuss ‘the prospect of Jewish opposition to Zionism today’ and mentions dismissively, almost in passing, that ‘most Jewish communities around the world will be celebrating the anniversary’ of the Balfour declaration. Yes, they will – according to an Ipsos MORI survey for Yachad in 2015, 93% of British Jews feel that Israel is important to their identity. One gets the impression that those who view the Balfour declaration as, on the whole, probably a good thing, are unlikely to feel welcome. Second, because faced with a subject matter which cries out for authority and reassurance, the designer has opted to typeset it in Comic Sans. Oh lordy. Not that we at subtext can talk, given our choice of font.

Further investigation reduces our concerns. The speaker is Robert Cohen, a writer of note on modern Jewish identity, who explains his provocative choice of talk title in a recent Patheos article ( The organisers include the Lancaster Methodist Church and the Catholic Diocese of Lancaster’s Faith & Justice Commission, although there don’t seem to be any local Jewish bodies involved (were they invited, we wonder?). Nevertheless, this could be a thoughtful contribution to the debate on Balfour, and subtext hopes to send an observer.


The first (in this academic year) General Meeting of Lancaster UCU took place yesterday. The meeting took place in the ironically named Welcome Centre Lecture Theatre 1 – cold, airless, almost windowless, accessible only via a building site and acoustically unfriendly to boot. The gathering was an modestly well–attended affair – many readers may feel glad to see UCU with a blossoming, increased membership and an active and vibrant executive. Only two main items were on the agenda, both seemingly sponsored by the letter A. USS Pensions: aghast and aggrieved plus ua92: against and aspersions (as in casting). The branch also voted for a couple of motions to be tabled at UCU National Congress in Manchester later this year, one on the pension crisis and the other on campaigning alongside other disputes and campaigns.


FROM: Chris Heaton Harris, MP for Daventry.
TO: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U)

Dear Professor Shart,

I was wondering if you would be so kind as to supply me with the names of professors at your establishment who are involved in the teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit.

Furthermore, if I could be provided with a copy of the syllabus and links to the online lectures which relate to this area I would be much obliged.

I sincerely hope you are able to provide me with such and I look forward to hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,
Chris Heaton-Harris MP


FROM: Mike M. Shart, VC, Lune Valley Enterprise University (LuVE-U)
TO: Chris Heaton Harris, MP for Daventry
CC: Hewlett Venkkline, Executive Controller: Populace Perception Precision

Dear Chris,

Many thanks for your interest in Lune Valley Enterprise University. I must confess to being a little unaware of individuals within the Government, but I am informed by our Executive Controller of Public Misperception Interception, Hewlett Venkklinne, that you have recently attained some prominence within the media, with ‘Lord Patten’ and the Chief Exec of UUK both having commented on your recent campaigning activity.

I feel that you are an ideal candidate for an Honorary Fellowship of LuVE-U – Hewlett tells me that the nature of your work would make you particularly useful in our ambitions to form partnerships with institutions in mainland China.

I have to say that I am a robust defender of academic freedom, and at Lune Valley our professors are free to think what they want, so long as they do it in their own time and not when they are being paid by the University. Therefore, I will of course furnish you with the details of our many, many professors and their views on Brexit. In the meantime, Hewlett has asked me to stress to you that he definitely voted ‘Leave.’



The 9th Annual Lancaster Music Festival started just after our last subtext issue gently settled in readers’ inboxes. This year two of the sponsors were iLancaster (ISS) and Lancaster University Management School and the programme featured University of Lancaster Music Society (ULMS) Big Band, ULMS Brass band, ULMS Choir and the Haffner Orchestra – Lancaster’s very own symphony orchestra. They played in St. Nic’s arcade on Saturday afternoon, the crowds making it impossible to push a buggy through the shopping mall!

Running from late on Wednesday (12 October) to late on Monday (16 October) and featuring over 500 acts at nearly 50 different locations this was an ambitious project and for this correspondent the organisers dutifully delivered. Sprinkled with some international and national acts the programme featured predominately Lancaster bands/groups/artists. We have mentioned this previously but it is worth reiterating that it is something of a sociological phenomenon that a place as relatively small as Lancaster has over the years produced, and continues to produce, such an eclectic and talented bunch of musicians.

The festival brought together the various tribes of Lancaster and its hinterlands in the city centre. These are distinct groupings of folk who are rarely seen in the city together; they descended upon this temporary ‘tin pan alley’ because of their love of and/or curiosity about music in all its glorious forms. The actual range and variety of styles and genres of music was amazing – to use the old saying, there was something for everyone. Your correspondent was particularly entranced by the Lancaster band EZCP playing ‘video game music’, something I had not come across before, and from Graz, Austria the very entertaining trio Uptown Monotones who are best described as brilliantly odd. A strange, very entertaining mixture of folk, beatbox, pop and electronic weirdness – great fun.

As well as Lancaster residents it was obvious that people had travelled from far and near to enjoy the festival. We bumped into ex-residents who had come up from London, families from Yorkshire and folk from Manchester, hardly a place devoid of musical entertainment. Visitors could be spotted with their festival maps trying to work out where the various venues were. Some folk obviously, after consulting their programmes, moved on to enjoy a different act elsewhere whilst some festival goers found a venue and stayed put whatever acts were performing. This year there was a shuttle bus service helping people move around the city.

During the day it was a very family friendly affair with babes-in arms, toddlers, kids, teenagers, mums and dads and older folk mingling and enjoying what was a wonderful extended weekend of live music. Throughout the Festival the city centre had an entirely different vibe – it really did feel quite jolly. The weather was generally kind, despite Get Carter (who were, as usual, brilliant) teasing the audience about the threat of rain.

The organisers should be warmly congratulated on putting together such a fantastic event and Lancaster University should be proud to be so closely associated with such a widely appreciated extravaganza.


By Martin Widden

It was once the convention that a concert would begin with a work by a composer from early times; the programme would then move chronologically through pieces by successively more recent composers. A concert by a string quartet might open with a quartet by Haydn (1732-1809), the composer who virtually invented the genre. Next might come a quartet by Beethoven (1770-1827), and the concert might perhaps close with a piece by Dvorak (1841-1904).

Not so the programmes put together by the Brodsky quartet: in their Great Hall concert on 19 October, they rejected the obvious chronological order, opening their performance with a new work they had commissioned from the Japanese composer Karen Tanaka, born in 1961. This was followed by the 4th quartet by Shostakovich. Written in 1949, while Stalin was still in power, the quartet takes a considerable risk by including Jewish themes, or at least music that is Jewish in character. Shostakovich’s music had recently been denounced, and he had been dismissed from his post as professor at the Moscow Conservatory, so he was extremely hard up. Despite this, the quartet evokes the horrors experienced by the Jewish people during the Second World War. The players gave it their all, to the extent that the leader broke a string during the performance. He returned to the stage after an absence of less than a minute; remarkably, the players carried on as if nothing had happened. The quartet was not performed until 1953, after Stalin’s death.

In the second half of the concert the players focused on a particular musical form: the fugue. (For those unfamiliar with this form, a fugue is based on a simple theme – the subject (a single line of notes), which is played at the outset. This subject theme then enters successively at different pitches, and all are developed together with further entries, so that the whole becomes a fascinating and complex work.)

Towards the end of his life, J S Bach composed The Art of Fugue, demonstrating the range of possibilities of composing in this form, and also his own skill at composing in the genre. This is pure music, which can be performed on any instrument or group of instruments, provided it lies within their range of pitch. The Brodsky quartet played two pieces from The Art of Fugue in their concert, showing convincingly that the string quartet is an excellent medium for performing this music.

They followed this with a fugue for string quartet by Mendelssohn, a brilliant demonstration of his skill as a composer for this group of instruments.

They concluded their concert with a performance of the Grosse Fuge opus 133 by Beethoven, originally composed as the finale of his opus 130 quartet. As its title suggests, it is a massive work, taking some 17 minutes to play. The publisher persuaded Beethoven to compose a shorter and less demanding movement as the conclusion of this quartet, which was published as opus 130. But the original fugal movement, now known as opus 133, remains a towering achievement.

This concluded a fascinating concert: excellently played by the Brodsky quartet, and a great start to the 2017-18 Great Hall concert season.


Dear subtext,

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.

Marion McClintock


Dear subtext,

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.

In Solidarity,

Laura Clayson


Dear subtext,

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.


Jerry Drew
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.