Category Archives: editorial

subtext 192 – ‘strike while the subtext is hot’

Every so often during term time.
Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk
Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/
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EDITORIAL
‘Ultimately our aim is to protect our community’s wellbeing and our collegiate values,’ states the Director of HR in his email to all staff today, setting out the University’s official position on the UCU strike which begins tomorrow. The acting Vice-Chancellor made similar noises in his email on 5 February: ‘We are committed to being a good and fair employer in rewarding you for the work that you do, enabling you to achieve a good work/life balance and supporting your wellbeing.’
This picture of a hilltop vigil contrasts jarringly with a recent open letter on bullying and victimisation at Lancaster, signed by over 400 students, staff, alumni and trade unionists, and handed to the acting Vice-Chancellor in person on 12 February:
‘We are appalled that the University is facing an Employment Tribunal hearing for the trade union victimisation of Dr Julie Hearn, President of UCU’s Lancaster branch. […] The intimidation and bullying of workers and trade unionists at Lancaster University is endemic.’
The acting Vice-Chancellor has promised to read the letter. UCU gave some background to the claims in an email to its members on 5 February:
‘Last year Lancaster UCU has brought three cases against a manager, including a collective grievance case involving 14 members of staff, resulting in two individual settlements. Despite our warnings to the employer since 15 September 2019 that Julie, as president of Lancaster UCU branch has been left open to reprisals and is experiencing detriment on a daily basis, the employer has failed in their statutory duty to protect her, and consequently Julie has been signed off with work-related stress. She is thus unable to carry out her role as branch president and HEC member at a crucial point in two national disputes. We now have an employment tribunal claim for trade union victimisation against the employer, with the preliminary hearing on 28 Feb.’
We hope this matter can reach a settlement before the tribunal hearing. For many of our staff, it will clearly be some time before they trust their employer to protect their wellbeing.
See you on the picket line.

subtext 191 – ‘fresh from the fridge’

Every so often during term time.
Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk
Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/
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EDITORIAL
A new dawn has risen on a new day and a new government. Our next chance to change things in Westminster will probably be in 2025. Shall we just go back to bed?
The need for a university which challenges the marketisation of education, defends its international community and champions free speech has never been more important, but as subtext has reported in issue after issue, our management has been merrily pursuing exactly the opposite strategy for years. Our governing bodies show little or no knowledge of the issues which make our students and staff feel less and less welcome – and our students and staff have little or no knowledge of what our governing bodies do in our names.
There are, however, some reasons to be cheerful. Our students have finally realised that a students’ union governed by unaccountable appointed trustees and advised by ‘student juries’ is no way to represent their interests. The results of two referenda in Week 8, one on the proposed sale of the Sugarhouse (see subtext 190) and one on how many trustees should be elected, showed emphatic opposition to the former and widespread support for electing the majority of the latter. The trustees have decided this week to abandon the Sugarhouse sale – ‘you voted, we listened’ says a LUSU press release, which raises the question of just why the trustees had the discretion to not listen in the first place. Meanwhile, our UCU staff have recently taken strike action, with significant support from students and other campus unions.

This is no time to lessen the pressure on those in power, be they sat in University House or Westminster. If the last ten are any indication, the next five years will be dark. The most vulnerable amongst us – the disabled, those from overseas, the sick – will be bearing the brunt of it. It may be tempting to give up, but if we don’t fight now – when?

subtext 190 – ‘get subtext done’

Every so often during term time.
Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk
Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/
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EDITORIAL
Anyone walking up the Spine on Monday at around 6pm would have seen hundreds of students queueing to enter the Great Hall. A jobs fair? Yet another 6pm lecture? No. In a heartwarming display of activism, they were queueing to enter the Annual General Meeting of Lancaster University Students’ Union – an event that in recent years has seen just a few dozen diehards attending.
Let this put the lie to the notion that students are chronically apathetic. Nark them off enough and they will punish you for it. The spark for the nark this time was the proposed closure of a much-loved nightclub, and it is our hope that these students, having now experienced an intoxicating taste of activism, will develop their impulses in directions more socially rewarding than maintaining their access to 3-for-£5 VKs – perhaps the re-democratisation of their own Students’ Union, or this climate lark that everyone seems to be banging on about.
Speaking of democracy in action, as we go to press the news of the recent UCU ballot on industrial action over pay and pensions reaches the subtext warehouse. Lancaster is one of the 55 (for the pay dispute) and 43 (for pensions) institutions to both vote in favour of action and reach the 50% threshold. Expect more picket discos in the near future.

By the way, has anyone noticed that it’s now 1 November 2019 and we’re still in the European Union?

subtext 189 – ‘imaginative thinking subtext’

Every so often during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, recruitment driveVC swan songpensionsbailrigg fmdundeeoverheard on the spineart degree show reviewletters.

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And so, we are almost at the end of our sixth VC’s tenure. Professor Mark E Smith, CBE (as of a few weeks ago), perhaps has not quite lived up to the rock star credentials of his namesake. He made a strong start and endeared himself to large parts of the University community by scrapping two schemes overseen by the previous incumbent, namely the proposed (or threatened) merger with the University of Liverpool, and the dreaded Business Processes Review (BPR). He is well-liked by many senior staff at the University, and courteous and relatively even-handed in many interactions with the University community. In talks to wider groups, he has a tendency to focus on detail and technicalities, particularly for contentious issues (see report on the VC all-staff meeting, in this issue). And he has amused some colleagues with a few verbal quirks, using characteristic metaphors such as ‘taking the temperature of the room’ at Senate to decide what Senators wished to do (some of whom might have preferred to be given the opportunity to vote on issues, rather than have their will interpreted in this way).

Relations with staff seemed to sour considerably at the start of the ongoing pensions crisis, where the VC looked rather disconnected and uncaring compared to other VCs, who not only made public statements of support for their staff, but in some cases even stood with them on the picket lines. When the VC did visit the Lancaster UCU picket line, he was dropped off by his driver in the University’s official Jaguar, and then proceeded to attempt to answer questions via megaphone, in his usual technical style. There was little sense of solidarity with staff, despite his claim that his own pension was also affected. He may have been put in a difficult position in this regard due to his role as the chair of UCEA, which represents employers’ interests, and his own substantial pay package.

Other developments during his tenure (see subtexts passim), including the Professional Services Project (the BPR by another name?), changing the Professional Development Reviews of old into a Performance and Development Review, the destruction of the University Court, the disempowering of Senate, the incidents involving bigoted material and behaviour among the University community, the realisation that we have a massive gender pay gap, and the increasing centralisation and managerialism that have crept into many the University’s structures and processes, will do little to leave good memories of his time here.

It may be that another VC would have done far less to arrest or at least slow the flood of utilitarian thinking and marketisation that afflicts the higher education sector, in the face of government policies that very explicitly push in this direction of travel. It is clear from the initial consultation of staff during the new VC’s recruitment process that many staff wish to find a new leader who will stand with staff and students against these trends, rather than attempting to explain them away. Despite this, it is likely that Mark Smith will be remembered as someone who worked hard for the University, and cared a great deal about his work – which is more than can be said about some VCs! We wish him and the staff and students of Southampton University the best of luck in their future endeavours.

 

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.

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…

subtext 186 – ‘stumbling towards a no deal subtext’

Every so often during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, Leipzig, annual meeting, fascists, LUSU hustings, fpsp, ads, widden, letter.

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EDITORIAL

The students’ union VP Education, Ian Meeks, has scored a major win in his campaign for anonymous marking. It’s written up on the SU website at:

https://lancastersu.co.uk/articles/vp-education-gains-support-for-anonymous-marking-proposal

As subtext understands it, the university’s Academic Standards and Quality Committee has accepted his argument that all written assessments at Lancaster should, henceforth, be anonymous. subtext hears that there is also support for a proposal that all submissions should be made electronically.

Well done to the union for their persistence. But should we be celebrating? In the LUSU article, Mr Meeks notes that, ‘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.’ If all that students gained from their work were the mark, his argument is hard to refute.

Assignments aren’t all about marks, though.

The reason we ask students to regularly submit their thoughts to us is not so we can just give it a ‘B+’ and say ‘well done’. Markers think long and hard about their feedback, pointing out errors and suggesting ideas for improvement, and this is greatly helped when the marker knows the identity of the person they’re feeding back to. They’ll have a rounded view of where they’ve gone wrong before, which overarching themes they frequently address, and so forth. From a logistical point of view, many assignments are handed back in person, with the marker keen to follow up their written comments with discussion and support. How would this work?

Well, you could keep the assignments anonymous until the marking’s over, maybe, and only then reveal to all concerned the identity of the people you’ve been assessing. This could work, although in practice most markers get to know their students’ styles of argument. This is especially true in the many departments where coursework is usually handwritten.

Blanket electronic submissions would also be difficult to implement. We sympathise with students who regularly have to leg it to campus to meet a submission deadline, when they could have just uploaded their thoughts to Moodle – but equally, it would be odd if a student ran onto campus and made it to their department on time, only to be told ‘sorry, you’ll need to scan that and upload it!’ Markers are certainly not going to be thrilled if – as seems possible – they’re told that, from now on, they’ll need to do all their marking on screen. Has occupational health been consulted?

What would work well in some departments may well cause massive problems in others, and we think this should be an issue which should be left to departments, in consultation with their students and staff.

subtext 185 – ‘the same subtext, only louder’

Every so often during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, rules on protests, UCU ballots again, not the Court report, steele, vintage satire, shart, restaurant review, letters.

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EDITORIAL

There’s been a Senate meeting this week… but the days when Senate papers were pored over with interest are long gone. Openness and scrutiny have given way to agenda items that are ‘RESTRICTED’, ‘RESERVED’, ‘COMMERCIAL IN CONFIDENCE’, ‘STRICTLY IN CONFIDENCE’ or some combination of these. Senate members have (mostly) fallen under the spell of being the select few ‘in the know’ and happily play along with this cloak-and-dagger game, while journalists – the few permitted to attend, that is – are basically barred from reporting on any of the really interesting stuff. Senate reports now read more like ‘wicked whispers’-style gossip columns, where reporters try their best to drop hints about what might have been said or done, without actually naming anyone or anything.

All we know, for example, about November’s Senate debate on the ‘Senior Team Structure at Lancaster University (Strictly Confidential and Restricted)’ is that they concerned the ‘future structure of the senior leadership team afforded by the forthcoming departure of the Deputy Vice-Chancellor.’ Oh really… do tell us more! No. All we can report is that the Senate ‘agreed that it was fully supportive of the proposals’ and that one comment ‘concerning a proposed role-title was noted and would be considered further by the Vice-Chancellor as part of finalising the proposals for Council.’ Curiouser and curiouser… well, probably not, to be honest, but it’s much more exciting when you label it ‘STRICTLY CONFIDENTIAL’, isn’t it?

Cognitive dissonance kicks in once you notice that all the old Senate minutes are still available online (to current staff and students) and we’re thus able to offer more scrutiny of Lancaster two decades ago than we are of Lancaster now. Reading the 2001 Senate minutes is like peeking into another world where, for example, the decision on whether to elect or appoint our Pro-Vice-Chancellors was decided on a show of hands, with the discussion and vote fully minuted (it was 24 to 22 in favour of appointment, in case you were wondering). If that meeting had taken place in 2019 then the minutes would have recorded the Senate’s support for some proposal or other, which the Vice-Chancellor would of course consider further.

Maybe the culture of secrecy helps more senators speak frankly, safe in the knowledge that their criticisms will never form part of the public record? Perhaps senators can be more effective ‘critical friends’ if their criticisms are heard behind closed doors? If you’re sympathetic to this argument then subtext would like to say four things to you: ‘U’, ‘A’, ‘9’ and ‘2’.

subtext 184 – ‘life’s an illusion love is a dream’

Every so often during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, unconditional offers, stansted 15, lusu referendum, shop news, lost and found, restaurant review, widden, letters.

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EDITORIAL

At the beginning of term, subtext reported on the apparent fait accompli around evening teaching:

http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2018/10/11/good-evening-everyone/

Definitely here to stay, we thought, and management won’t budge. Looks like we weren’t quite right. While some evening classes took place throughout the term, and this looks set to continue until at least 2020, there has been quite a bit of furious backpedalling by senior management and Timetabling. This means that the number of evening classes has already been reduced by some shuffling (of deck-chairs, more cynical readers may think), and management are even apparently exploring other options, including lecture live-streaming where departments are keen. From being a sure thing that only need to be evaluated for impact, evening teaching at Lancaster has now apparently shifted to being an emergency measure to cope with a temporary space problem. Trebles all round?

There are, however, still some unanswered questions around how the University will cope with the projected year-on-year increase in student numbers, when newly built lecture theatres may only solve the current teaching space problem. Perhaps some more radical solutions need to be considered, including – shock horror – only accepting as many students as we have room to teach?

subtext 183 – ‘(white man) in lancaster sugarhouse’

Every so often during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, snowsports special report, demo in the square, charges for overseas staff, lost and found, shart, letters.

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EDITORIAL

For the past week it appears University House has been on lockdown. Once you walk through Reception and make for the stairs to B Floor and above you have to either explain yourself to the Security guard, or have a ‘valid pass’.

Organisations go into lockdown when they fear something. In this case, the fear is of student action over the fallout from the Snowsports Society white t-shirt social. That the information was leaked by a whistleblower and picked up by the national press shows the scale of the issue which senior management are trying to brush off. They are right to be in lockdown, because people are angry. Lancaster: we have a problem.

From the scrawling of swastikas on office doors to the Snowsports Society shitstorm, fascism in its many masks, old and new, is here on campus. It wants women in the kitchen and it thinks rape is a joke. It demands ‘free speech’ in order to promote hate, and wraps all this in either a sugar coating of intellectual rigour, or vomit stained fresher-on-a-bender banter. It is part of a wider wave of global far right populism and xenophobia that results in children being separated from their parents and incarcerated at borders, and in a ‘hostile environment’ that punishes and ostracises the very people it should be welcoming. It leads to spots and sometimes swathes of political extremism, right out in the open, in the mainstream, in government. Anger in response to this is normal and it is right.

The Students’ Union should be ashamed of itself for acting so slowly, and in future should take immediate and visible action to investigate and sanction societies that enable this kind of behaviour. They should reinstate suspended LUSU officer Chloe Long: whistleblowers should not be made scapegoats. Senior management should denounce the most recent events, and all those preceding, publicly and loudly. More than that, they should be proactive and transparent in enabling staff and students to create a positive culture that welcomes everyone… except fascists.

And the rest of us? We have to show up, and stand up to this crap wherever it appears. Let’s put the whole campus on lockdown for fascism: they shall not pass.

subtext 181 – ‘mean as you start to go on’

Every so often during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, evening teaching, gender pay gap, UA92, wellings, stansted 15, heaton-harris, masons, buses, letters.

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EDITORIAL

Over the long hot summer of 2018 market forces required us to undertake radical restructuring at the subtext warehouse, rationalising the workforce and streamlining our operations. As a result we have reduced the number of drones by 50%, relying largely on accidental consumption by bears and rifts in the space-time continuum to prevent enforced redundancies. Several functions of subtext will be outsourced to freelance drones on zero hours contracts. All drones and subcontractors will now work to an enhanced day of 25 hours to mitigate the effect of the extended teaching day. We have agreed a range of new Kwantifiable Pseudo Intentions (KPIs) including: identifying efficiency savings of 5-10%, eliminating any remaining work/life balance and counting the number of teeny-tiny paving stones in the new-look Spine.

Our heartfelt thanks go to outgoing editors Ian Paylor, Ronnie Rowlands and Joe Thornberry. Over the last 5 years (7 in Ian’s case) they have investigated a huge variety of University shenanigans, bringing satire and panache to your inboxes, and this will undoubtedly be a loss to subtext’s pages. This leaves us with a collective captaincy of three remaining editors, and we would like to have more! If you don’t think you can commit to being an editor, we’d really welcome contributions – you know the things we like to print: it’s what you like to read. If you’re interested in either of these possibilities, please contact us at subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

SUBTEXT ANNUAL REVIEW: 2017-18

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

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

‘Like’ us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/lusubtext

To receive subtext via email, subscribe at wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about

In this issue: hello again, appeal for volunteers, reflections and predictions including: printers, Gary Neville, legal action, University Court, attendance monitoring, power grabs, fascism, disabilities, assistant deans, working at Lancaster, building works, Gender Pay Gap, Students’ Union – stop press! – news of LUSU activism at this weekend’s open day, postgraduate colleges, letter of the year, letters.

During 2017-18 the editorial collective of subtext consisted (in alphabetical order) of: James Groves, Ian Paylor, Ronnie Rowlands, Joe Thornberry, and Johnny Unger.

This subtext annual review was brought to you by Ronnie Rowlands.

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HERE WE GO AGAIN

As the equinox slowly dawns and the subtext drones count the days before the university springs back into life, we offer you the chance to look back on the year that’s just ended, with a recap of the biggest stories of 2017-18. The last time we produced an issue like this, we quoted snippets of articles from various issues on a series of themes and stories. Now that the subtext computer has been updated from Windows 95, we have managed to move our website into WordPress, so you can look forward to opening lots of tabs in your browser.

The first subtext of 2017-18, lovingly formatted as ever in 10 point Courier, will be hitting your inboxes in Week 1. Until then, enjoy our end of year review, and help us open 2018-19 to as large an audience as possible by ‘liking’ us at www.facebook.com/lusubtext and encouraging everyone to subscribe.

subtext 180 – ‘better sorry than safe’

Fortnightly during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, welcome week, deanshare, lab location, UA92 galore, FASS typos, house-building, union blues, shart, poem, TV review, letters

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EDITORIAL

Gaps, holes, deficits, cuts, absences. Call them what you will, it would be hard to deny that the academic year has been littered with them, providing the subtext drones with more than enough metaphorical material to stretch to breaking point and enough space to fly the traditional end of year round-up through on a bus.

The biggest gap generator has been the ongoing building work on campus, particularly on the Spine. There have been holes in the ground where the Spine has been dug up, communication gaps where the pink and purple diversion signs have failed to keep up with the actual situation ‘on the ground’, and most worryingly there has been a huge gap in provision for disabled users of the spine, with accessible routes around the pinball game that traversing campus has become having all but disappeared. Add to this the gaps of buildings that failed to appear (squints at the Management School) and the gap we didn’t know we had (cocks an eyebrow at Alexandra Square’s Big Screen), and it’s a wonder we didn’t all get a collective sprained ankle.

There have been financial gaps as well. Students who may have specific learning disabilities have seen a cut of 50% in the funding available from the University to be assessed for them – a massive blow to the life chances of those that need one but can’t afford it. Nationally, the most disruptive gap of the year was the deficit in the UCU pension fund – and understanding thereof – that saw an unprecedented turnout in support of strike action, and UCU members picketing for two weeks in freezing conditions. Whilst the picket lines saw a huge amount of support from students and non-striking staff there was another gap: no clear or coherent response from the VC. The University as a whole continued to fail to cover itself in glory when the Gender Pay Gap report was published in April, revealing LU to be third from the bottom in the country (University of the Year, though!) with a mean pay gap of 27.7% as opposed to the national average of… cough… 17.8%.

There have been notable gaps in democracy, honesty and decency. Maybe it started when Lancaster University Students’ Union refused to take a stance in regard to supporting the UCU strike, and it definitely didn’t end with their ‘creative’ approach to the online AGM ballot. Maybe it started when the University Court was abolished, removing one of the last democratically elected bodies in the institution (and one that oversaw the appointment of various posts). In fact, subtext notes – with some glee – that you can read all about the machinations of Lancaster University’s ‘Strategic Planning & Governance’ division at gap.lancs.ac.uk. Maybe it started when the VC led us to believe that Lancaster was the first port of call for UA92 (it wasn’t) and shrouded the entire business in a cloak of secrecy. Maybe it started with swastikas on Sociology department doors appearing overnight followed by the attempted setting up of a new student society concerned with white supremacy and other alt-right (i.e. fascist) ideas. This is a gap that is going to take more than a bit of polyfilla and a trowel to sort out.

And we’ve been feeling a bit gappy ourselves – retirement and illness have left us short of an editor or two in the subtext warehouse, so we welcome all those readers with a critical eye, a writerly bent and a typing speed of 80wpm to drop us a line at subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk to get involved. And so, once more unto the breach, dear readers – starting October. Until then, thanks for reading, and thanks for writing in – do keep doing that. Failing that, hit us with your ‘like’ stick on our Facebook page, at www.facebook.com/lusubtext

subtext 179 – ‘dragging us into a black and white photograph’

Fortnightly during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, LUSU, access, calling on gary, lost & found, fascists, tech, canal quarter, garden village, sports science, impact!, more access, no letters.

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EDITORIAL

In the last edition of subtext we focused on the subject of precarity. In this issue we highlight the problem of access for those colleagues and visitors with mobility problems. The rather tired cliché trotted out by senior management is that this is the price we have to pay to stay at the top table and continue to see Lancaster ‘punching above its weight’ is nonsense.

The politics surrounding the sector, the increased marketization, the stifling of debate and the closing down of democratic structures and the ongoing farce that is UA92 are subjects that subtext will return to again and again, but campus accessibility and job security are not areas that should be a cause for concern at this university.

Oh, did we mention how much we like the wild flowers and grasses on the roundabout at the far end of the underpass – very nice.

subtext 178 – ‘the future ain’t what it used to be’

Fortnightly during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, hostile environment (x4), sticky wiki, Gary on teacher (x4), flounders, surveying the surveyors (x2), democracy, LUSU (x3), crazy paving, gradballs (x2), lost & found, mostly men o’ wisdom, wet and forget, spine, buses, UCU (x2), letter.

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EDITORIAL

Today, one of the most highly skilled professions in Britain, university teaching, is dominated by zero-hours contracts, temp agencies, and other forms of precarious conditions, while many tasks that relate to areas in which we have world-leading expertise are outsourced to morally dubious consultancy firms. A staggering number of early-career academics are affected by precarity, but none more so than international staff, who are not only uncertain about their full time job prospects, but flat out prevented from enjoying basic academic freedoms (from supporting strike action to attending conferences abroad, and participating in long-term fieldwork). No matter how much energy and effort one puts in navigating the byzantine bureaucracy, the product might be a standardized letter from the Home Office:

‘As you appear to have no alternative basis of stay in the United Kingdom you should now make arrangements to leave. If you fail to make a voluntary departure a separate decision may be made later to enforce your removal.’

We continue to champion our ‘global outreach and commitment to global research’, yet fail to provide even basic assistance for international staff. Our HR processes and visa teams seem increasingly forced to focus on compliance first (and sometimes compliance only), rather than on providing support to staff and students. The glossy ‘welcome package’ sent out to those who survive the immigration process contains little more than empty slogans and a list of overpriced and opportunistic relocation services. Rather than selling narratives of the ‘Global University’ (at open days and to our colleagues abroad with whom we are asked to network), let’s try addressing the realities of people leaving the UK over Brexit, and the increasingly hostile environment for international staff.

 

subtext 177 – ‘be realistic and demand the impossible’

Fortnightly during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, sports (x3), local government (x2), tech, senate, horticulture, justice (x2), buildings, grads, buses, activism, loans, noise, shart attack, widden, letters.

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EDITORIAL

Once again, subtext has an avalanche of news stories regarding the Gary Neville University – ‘UA92’ to give it its official title, and ‘The Golden Goose’ as it has come to be known in the subtext warehouse. Despite a thin editorial roster, we have managed to produce hundreds of words per issue on this ongoing fiasco. It’s subtext’s safety net. If the world stops spinning, and absolutely nothing of interest happens – from the meatiest scandal to the tittle-tattle of the daily grind – we can always rely on Gary and his mates to provide us with material.

It feels like only yesterday that the subtext drones were giggling at the idea. The over-under on the whole thing being abandoned was three months.

And yet here we are, nearly two years later, and the University is still ploughing ahead with the public embarrassment that is the Gary Neville University. Let’s just recap what we’ve covered this academic year:

– The Conservative Trafford Council that was all systems go on approving all of the Class of 92’s requests for planning permission has been voted out, in no small part because it pushed the project in the face of strong local opposition, to be replaced by a minority Labour Council supported by a Green Party that wants Gary Neville out.

– Gary’s gang came within a hair’s breadth of setting up this institution with Salford University, only to jilt them at the 11th hour because there was a better prospect further north.

– They released a prospectus promising the chance to ‘make amazing happen.’ Unironically.

– They want a ‘Principal/Chief Executive Officer’ with a ‘disruptive approach to teaching’.

– We discovered that the owner of the ‘UA92’ title, one Brendan Flood, already runs a rival institution offering the same degrees in the same locale and using the same name, for which he is subject to legal action.

– Gary’s gang took to Twitter to beg businesses to get involved and start offering placements, once it became clear that Microsoft alone was not going to provide the 2000+ placements needed to fulfil UA92’s wild promises.

– UA92 does not have any fully approved sites yet.

– Gary’s and Giggsy’s original plans for their multi-million pound Jackson’s Row scheme had to be withdrawn following widespread angry protests. The revised plans were then attacked by English Heritage because of ‘the cumulative harm that would be caused to highly graded listed buildings’.

– The market research into the need for a UA92 has been so limited as to be non-existent, so that local residents don’t even know what the potential spending power of its students is likely to be.

– UA92’s application to be an educational sponsor for Tier 4 Visa students appears to have been rejected by the Home Office (see our report below).

In all of this, Lancaster University has stayed silent, despite its reputation being trashed almost daily. Though there might have been cuts to student services and staff departments over the last year or so, you can’t say that the top table hasn’t made it obvious which good causes those savings are going towards. So stay tuned – there are still three issues of subtext due out before the academic year is over.

subtext 176 – ‘for the avoidance of subtext’

Fortnightly during term time.

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

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

In this issue: editorial, fash, more fash, gender pay gap, UA92 (in four parts), bad governance, more governance, assistant deans, appeal for more assistant deans, bomb shelter update, grad ball, alternative grad ball, lu text lost and found, email, lusu agm, look at what you could have won, letters.

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EDITORIAL

We’ve had a relaxing vacation spent spring-cleaning the subtext warehouse and enjoying the beer garden experience far more times than is good for us. So much so, that the subtext collective is a little disappointed with what it’s had to return to.

Sure, it’s summer term, and that means flowers, fun events and fluffy ducks chirping away on the University’s bucolic parkland campus. But this year, we also have to contend with high-decibel jackhammering, widespread dust and destruction, discord over where students should hold their balls, continued chipping away at our democratic governance structures, and – oh yes – more fascism on campus. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, you all have to put up with subtext going on about it all every two weeks!

All that aside, welcome to summer term 2018 – we wish you a very happy one!