Category Archives: letters

LETTERS

Dear subtext,
As the most recent Head of Department of the late School of Independent Studies, I am assuming I can consider inviting myself to authorise my own access to the University’s IT and email?
John Wakeford
***
Dear subtext,
Reading the letters in subtext 192, I was struck by a sense of deja vu. Continuing members continuing to be insulted by the management on the strange basis that providing them with such things as an email address is costly to the university. I wrote before, a long time ago, pointing out that no real calculation of costs of providing IT and library access to continuing members had been made.
It is not legitimate to calculate that cost by dividing the entire cost of these services by the total number of users, to get a prime cost per head, and then to multiply that by the number of continuing members. Prime cost per head and marginal cost are not the same thing. Provision of services to continuing members only costs anything if it means extra staff have to be hired, extra servers bought or leased, more books purchased, et cetera. Until marginal cost has been correctly calculated, there is no case for alienating this group of former colleagues. If the real marginal cost has been calculated, then I think we ought to be told what that is and how it was arrived at, in order to be able to make a judgement about management’s stance, right or wrong, on this question.
Yours faithfully,
Dr Richard Austen-Baker
Senior Lecturer in Law
Lancaster University Law School
***
Dear subtext,
My attention was drawn by a recent news story on the University Portal page, ‘Fixed-term contracts and casual working policy: update’.
One line particularly jumped out at me, which I’m sure colleagues in the Linguistics Department could devote entire research articles to: Paul Boustead, Director of Human Resources & Organisational Development said, ‘Our aim is to continue the effective partnership exhibited throughout the construction of this policy whilst we further mature the roll out plan.’
On the basis of this alone, I think Director Boustead deserves a promotion, as this is a truly visionary refashioning of the English language and sure to become a classic case study on postgraduate Management Discourse modules across the country. Meanwhile, as I celebrate a decade of casual contracts at Lancaster University, I will continue in the hope of rolled out plans being effectively exhibited before I mature any further.
With thanks,
C Witter
[Truly in keeping with our Quaker value of Simplicity – ed.]
***
Dear subtext,
In response to the letter from the frustrated Dr Noel Cass, I think we need to address some of the confusion over the new indefinite contracts. Indefinite contracts can now be given to those whose work is externally funded with a finite end as is the case with many research projects, as Noel points out. The word indefinite suggests that the contract will provide security when the funding runs out, but this is not the case. At the end point of the project, the position for the staff member on the indefinite contract is exactly as it would have been on a fixed term contract, redeployment list access/redundancy. In these circumstances indefinite is not indefinite.
As much as I was disappointed by this situation, a friend did point out that the other benefits of having an indefinite contract are important too. It sometimes makes a difference when applying for mortgages, if your contract is indefinite, and there might be a positive impact with some maternity/paternity/adoption leave scenarios. Sadly, fixed term funding can delay people buying houses and starting a family, due to the financial uncertainty.
Anonymous

LETTERS

Dear subtext,
Claire Geddes, the former CEO of LUSU, was seconded to work on ‘strategic projects’ for barely a week before her name appeared on the LU website in another capacity: she is now the University’s Head of Governance Services, overseeing Information Governance (e.g. FoI) and the University’s own internal structures. She has gone from directing the absolute and total failure of democracy in the Students’ Union to overseeing the travesty of democracy in the University. A wise hire for those who wish to consolidate power in UMAG.
Yours faithfully,
Andrew Williams
***
Dear subtext,
My first fixed-term casual research work for Lancaster was in 1991, just after getting my degree and graduating with £100 in my bank account (thanks, funded education!). I worked for 6 weeks at £100/week, minus the 25% emergency tax rate, leaving me with the unimaginable riches of £75/week. I had moved into a vacant room in a student house on Westbourne Road, paying ‘half-rent’ at £12.50/week (thanks, no ‘buy-to-rent’ inflation!). I digress (it happens as you approach 50, apparently). Over the next 28 and a bit years, I worked on and off for Lancaster on fixed-term contracts doing research on matters relating to the environmental crisis, with some major gaps in my work history thanks to jumping on diggers and squatting and sitting up trees ‘In Defence Of Mother Earth’ (how quaint and old-fashioned/scarily prescient!). I didn’t do teaching, and therefore, the possibility of a permanent contract was for nearly three decades an idle dream.
Imagine the hilarity when 13 days after finishing another contract and for the first time becoming an employee of another University (Leeds), the University announced its change of policy on fixed-term contracts, announcing that permanent contracts would be offered wherever possible, and this would even apply to funding-tied contracts such as those I had been on for the entire period we had to avert climate change (ah, those sweet bygone times!). It was almost as funny as when I took my one trans-Atlantic flight to a conference where I was presenting on the environmental impacts of everyday travel, and attending a session on the environmental impacts of academic conferences, and the Icelandic volcano Eyjafjallajökull erupted and grounded all flights in the Northern Hemisphere, stranding me in the Belly of the Beast (Washington DC).
Yours precariously,
Dr Noel Cass
***
Dear subtext,
You report in recent issues of subtext that the decision to withdraw University e-mail accounts from retired members of staff was designed to save the University money. I fear that the reverse will be the case when retired/retiring members of staff who in appreciation of their links with the University have named it as a beneficiary in their wills will be seriously contemplating removing such legacies as they no longer feel the attachment to the University which once they enjoyed. Likewise, retired members who contribute generously to the Chancellor’s Guild and other University appeals will no doubt be thinking twice about contributing to these good causes in the future.
Is it too late to ask the Director of Information Systems Services to review this damaging decision in the light of the serious financial damage (and significant loss of goodwill) it will cause to the University and to restore e-mail access to those from whom it has been, or is to be, withdrawn?
Best wishes, and keep up the good work.
Name supplied
***
Dear subtext,
No email account, no access to numerous academic resources. Rather an exaggeration, perhaps, but ‘cheap’ cancellation makes life unnecessarily difficult.
Best wishes,
Paul Heelas
***
Dear subtext,
Which tense has been used in ‘…be they sat…’? (subtext 191, editorial)
Gerry Steele

LETTERS

Dear subtext,
I read with interest the letter in subtext 190 from ‘Name Supplied’ on the vexed issue of Vacancy Management. I heartily endorse all their sentiments relating to the way that Vacancy Management works in practice, and the lamentable way that the concept of ‘career development’ for Professional Services staff has been sidelined in the wake of the PS Review – even though it recommended the opposite and the Athena SWAN process specifically asks institutions what they are doing to enhance the career development prospects of their PS staff. LU’s long-term failure to grasp the nettle on this issue may not be unconnected to the all-too predictable failure of the institution’s submission for a Silver Athena SWAN award in November 2018 – luckily (!) the Bronze institutional award which we are about to apply for conveniently fails to include PS staff in its purview. This situation does not bode well for the meaningful improvement of Gender Equality in this institution, something that is badly needed as our woeful Gender Pay Gap attests.
However, the specific point I wanted to address was Name Supplied’s comment on the belated claim that of course Vacancy Management would be affecting academics too, and that this would be handled in the departments rather than centrally. What does this mean in practice? In my experience it means that when a much-valued academic colleague takes early retirement on medical grounds, their role is left unfilled for virtually two years. Their work is picked up by a variety of colleagues, several of whom are not on academic contracts. From my own perspective, I am about to cover for this colleague’s absence for the second year in succession on a distance-learning course… and here I am on a PS contract. Presumably if I was to go off on sick leave at the crucial moment my role would not be backfilled, leaving the students without a tutor… or perhaps another academic colleague would be leant on to pick up the slack. Either way it is a most regrettable situation whereby the standards that our students are led to expect can only be delivered thanks to the goodwill of colleagues… over a matter of weeks, months and even years.
Keep up the good work, one and all.
Name supplied
***
Dear subtext,
I’m one of the continuing members who has just lost their email account. The day after it finished I checked it and was greeted by this message:
You have repeatedly attempted to log in with a username or password that is invalid. Your account is currently locked out and cannot be used.
The ‘repeatedly’, apart from being nonsense, makes what is already a charmless message sound positively threatening. I wasn’t expecting thanks for all the years of hard work, but did this have to be so harsh and unpleasant?
Best wishes,
Gerry Cotter

LETTERS

Dear subtext,
On the backfilling of Professional Services roles…
Despite knowing the given, valid, reasons why the University felt the need to authorise any backfilling of PS roles and consequently save money, it still seems a bit odd. Effectively, we undertook a PS Review that was supposedly never about cutting staff, but lo and behold, after the outcomes are forgotten, we start losing PS roles.
There was an outcome from the Professional Services Review which highlighted a lack of career progression for PS staff. Shortly afterwards we get the halt on backfilling of professional services roles.
Any roles which were rejected for backfilling are likely to be roles which are lost forever. If the backfill is refused and we manage to limp along with fewer staff, why would they ever be replaced down the line?
The initial communication about the backfill situation specified that this process was for PS staff only. After the initial backlash it was then said that of course it would be affecting academics too, but this would be handled in the departments rather than centrally. So the situation is impacting everyone, they just omitted to mention it in the initial communication. Though, seemingly, the departments do seem to have managed to put through some academic promotions whilst rumours were circling, not much earlier, of them struggling to backfill some of the PS staff maternity cover.
PS staff have always known, due to the nature of their roles, that the University valued them less, but recent communications over the backfill of PS roles made it a little more explicit. This is a strange situation relating only to working in academia. We all know that the University is a good place to work, particularly in the absence of much other local employment, but the effect on morale of ranking the importance of staff based on whether they are an academic or a PS member, regardless of grade, is damaging.
If academic staff decide to go on strike again due to USS pension issues, it might not be well-received by colleagues on grades 1-6. Anyone who needed to cross the picket line during the previous strike ended up late for work as traffic slowed. For some this will have meant a shortened lunch break in order to make up their hours. As much as many would like to support colleagues and empathise with their disappointment at their eroded contracts, staff with a Local Government Pension commented that it was galling to be told that a 19% contribution was an insult – LGPS gives a contribution of around 14% (which is actually very generous compared to industry standards). Anyone on a grade 6 or above was able to work from home and avoid the unpleasant crossing of picket lines, but this is not an option for those on grades 1-5.
Name supplied
***
Dear subtext,
In regards to the proposal for collective nouns for senior managers, Wiktionary already has a nice glossary of collective nouns. The one for managers is ‘an asylum of managers’.
https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/Appendix:Glossary_of_collective_nouns_by_subject
Regards,
James
***
Dear subtext,
Is it possible to apply a little humour to effect change regarding the wording of the automatic notice on emails originating outside the University?
‘This email originated from outside of the University. Do not click links or open attachments unless you recognise the sender and know the content is safe.’
‘Outside of’ is bad enough, but ‘from outside of’ is excruciating!
Thank you, guardians of my sanity.
Name supplied
***
Dear subtext,
The Students’ Union’s just held its first quorate General Meeting since 2014. That meeting was headlined by a motion that I had authored, in relation to a campaign that I had spearheaded. Similarly for the last quorate General Meeting before that, in 2013. Subsequent LUSU officers have long bemoaned their inability to do this, making the usual lame excuses of ‘outmoded structures’ and ‘changing habits’ when no-one showed up, but the formula has always been tried and true, so let me share five simple tips for student tubthumpers of the future who want to get people out of their beds and into the Great Hall.
1. You won’t get 300 students into a room to listen to your officer reports and vote on your affiliations. A General Meeting needs a single issue to draw people. In 2014, it was fee and rent increases. In 2013, it was the closure of the music degree and the threat of further cuts. In 2012, it was the threatened redundancy of departmental administrators. Sell the consequences of inaction, and they will come.
2. A General Meeting also needs to be tightly controlled by the executive, and should be a campaigning tool disguised as a democratic exercise. The purpose is to announce what it is that you’re furious about, and tell the students that you can’t do anything about it unless they turn up and vote. Thus, your officers have the mandate to act, and the democratic vote to use as ammunition against university management.
3. A General Meeting should not last more than 30 minutes. It is a burst of excitement that draws quoracy in the first place, and that excitement should not be sapped away by grandstanders getting up to quote bye laws and propose procedural motion after procedural motion. The Chair should make sure that everything is constitutionally sound in order to avoid a chapter / verse yawnfest. Leave that to your backroom, minuted meetings – not your big rally.
4. Keep speakers and speeches to a minimum. Chances are, everyone there has already made up their minds, and just wants to vote for their officers to go forth and fight.
5. Officers, take ownership of the agenda! You want a General Meeting to be your chance to tell the students that you need their support to go forth and fight their cause. So get up, speak, tell them you are raring to go and thank them for taking the time out of their day. Monday’s General Meeting lacked that great oratory from the executive, and swiftly degenerated into a two hour b*ll*cking session as officers grovelled like restaurant managers apologising for the disgruntled waiter. It’s all well and good letting the students vent at you, but it’s far better to inspire their trust and support!
Yours,
Ronnie Rowlands
***
Dear subtext,
It was my pleasure to participate in perhaps the greatest exercise of democracy the Students’ Union and the University have seen for many, many years. I must pay particular tribute to a handful of students who went above and beyond in the weeks building up to the meeting and during the meeting itself, in particular Cllr Jack O’Dwyer-Henry and Cllr Oliver Robinson, as well as Atree Ghosh who was behind the Save Our Sugarhouse campaign. Many others played very important roles and they know who they are. There were stumbles along the way, but in the face of blatant obstructionist behaviour by senior SU staff members, a fantastic outcome was achieved for all.
Yours,
Andrew Williams

Acting General Secretary, Lancaster University Labour Club, and latent SCAN News Editor

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

It was very interesting to read your article ‘Running out of money’ in subtext Issue 188 regarding the vacancy management control. It was even more interesting that two weeks later there was much fanfare on the Staff Intranet announcing that Edward Roberts Court is to undergo a remodelling project. The remodel appears to include new steps, planting, seating areas and some colourful umbrellas, and all for the bargain price of just £1 million.

I’m sure all subtext readers will be delighted to enjoy this new area where they can eat, sit and relax – it will help take their mind off their increased stress, unmanageable workload and decreased wellbeing.

Regards,

Danny Cairns

***

Dear subtext,

Thanks for covering ‘vacancy control measures’ for Professional Service roles in your last issue. As many readers will know, from the beginning of May, Professional Service vacancies are now only being advertised if they are deemed ‘business critical’, and even these have to be approved by a review panel (consisting of Sarah Randall-Paley, Director of Finance; Paul Boustead, Director of Human Resources & Organisational Development; and a Pro-Vice Chancellor) and ultimately signed off by Nicola Owen, Chief Administrative Officer and Secretary, and the Vice-Chancellor. Professional Service staff will also not be eligible for regrades unless these arise as part of a restructure.

Representatives from UNISON first heard about these measures as they were being implemented, and we were not consulted on them. At a meeting on 2nd May we were told that this is ‘not a hiring freeze’ and that the measures are being put in place because the University is exercising ‘financial caution’, there has been no ‘financial mismanagement’. We were also told that the definition of ‘business critical’ was ‘to be agreed’ – we hope that it has been, but we have not been informed of the criteria.

Our members have raised a number of concerns with us about the potential increase of workloads and resulting stress, effects on flexible working requests, and cover for secondments, amongst other things. Perhaps most worryingly, we have heard that maternity cover roles have been turned down because they are not deemed ‘business critical’. We appreciate that this could be rumour; we certainly hope it is. It is worth remembering that the University is currently attempting to renew its institutional Athena SWAN Bronze Award. Presumably the awarding panel will not look favourably upon an institution that does not fill vacancies created by maternity leave.

So far, the measures have led to a significant reduction in the number of ‘Support – Administrative’ roles that have been advertised but have had seemingly less impact on the number of ‘Professional/Management’ vacancies. Is this because the aforementioned review panel does not deem grade 1-6 roles to be ‘business critical’?

If any of our members (or indeed anyone else) would like to inform us of how they have been affected by the ‘control measures’, please get in touch via unison@lancaster.ac.uk. We will continue to represent our members and raise issues we know about at meetings with HR.

Yours,

UNISON Executive Committee, Lancaster University Branch

***

Dear subtext,

Thank you for your piece on the Professional Services ‘vacancy management control’. It is extremely alarming that requests to advertise for maternity covers posts have been knocked back. My own grapevine (i.e. random chitchat with colleagues across campus) tells me there have been at least three cases. As far as I’m aware, two of those posts did eventually get approved, but not without having to submit a strong business case, through what is a pretty arduous process.

How is a woman in a professional services role to feel now about the prospect of taking maternity leave, knowing that her colleagues may ‘just have to pick up the slack’? How is she to feel about informing her team that she has decided to extend her leave beyond the period she had originally intended to take? How on earth did we get so quickly to a position that a pregnant employee might be viewed as a liability to her team?

And not just pregnant women. What about staff requesting to reduce their hours in order to take on childcare or other caring responsibilities? From a line manager’s point of view, that is now staff time that is lost, with no guarantee that a backfill post would be approved.

Or what about anyone who wants to go on a secondment? Secondments are often the only route to promotion for professional services staff, particularly those based in academic departments. However, the feeling on the ground now is that, as a line manager, you would have to be pretty brave or mad to give permission to one of your team to go on secondment, with no guarantee that you will be able to appoint backfill.

I’m sure that senior management would say that none of these things are in any way the intention of the vacancy controls, and there may well be specific circumstances at play in the cases that have come up. But the point is that the controls are inviting managers to take up attitudes (‘pregnant’ / ‘part-time’ / ‘secondment’ equals ‘problem’), that are already out there and starting to take root. It doesn’t matter if this is not the message that senior management intended to send – this is the message that has been received by professional services staff, and with good reason. This situation is putting line managers in a horrible position, with a choice between, on the one hand, being supportive of family-friendly working and/or team members’ career development, and on the other hand, trying to protect the wellbeing of the team as a whole in the face of increasing workloads.

If there is a large hole in the University’s balance sheet and steps need to be taken to remedy this, then we all need to share the burden. A department’s ability to weather financial storms shouldn’t be contingent on the reproductive / family / retirement plans of its staff. With plans underway for a £6 million expansion to the Sports Centre, and a £1 million remodelling of Edward Roberts Court, I think it would be timely for the University to try and salvage some of the goodwill of a group of staff who are being told, yet again, ‘you are not an asset – you are a cost’.

Best wishes,

Claire Roberts

***

Dear subtext,

As an undergraduate student, I am a member of probably the least-consulted demographic of the University in the ‘search for a new Vice-Chancellor’. Nonetheless, I was able to sneak into one of the Big Conversations on the topic, a Dame Sue Black-style event involving splitting into smaller groups and feeding ideas back into the middle. While I fear these kind of events will be used as a justification for removing actual democratic participation in University affairs, I was able to contribute what I see as some of the most pressing issues a new VC will face, including student data handling and privacy, institutional inequalities in race and gender, the ethical stance (or lack of it) of university policy, the hostile environment and international students, issues with outsourcing and contracting arrangements, and whether the University wants to serve as a model for regressive policies across the country, such as with the abolition of University Court or the revised protest code.

Everyone else was an academic or in professional services, but the room reached broad consensus that the new VC should focus on the University and wider local community, should avoid making false promises, should focus on the unique aspects of Lancaster rather than trying to become more like every other university, should not fixate on league tables, should be more accessible, and several other things. The current timeline suggests a new Vice-Chancellor in Spring 2020. It will be interesting to see, two or three years on, how much of this has been ignored.

Yours,

Andrew Williams

***

Dear subtext,

A response received after an email to Events Office requesting to know how we would advertise Department events on the University Events page – https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/events/ – does explain why the majority of listings are ‘campus tours’:

‘Please keep in mind that for your events to be approved on the Events page they will need to be accessible to the public in terms of content, it cannot be too academic focused…’

Add to this what you want, the Admin in this department found it very funny, leaving us questioning what exactly is ‘too academic’?

Name and address supplied

***

Dear subtext,

I normally avoid buying food on campus as I know it is a rip off, but today I really needed some carrots. I was faced with a choice of:

1. Central where they sell them at 10p each so everyone takes the largest/best. All that was left was some small manky ones. This approach is obviously going to encourage food waste because people will not buy the small ones. I have been there when they have been throwing those out.

2. Spar where they sell pre-packed 500 gram bags at 85p. That is £1.70 per kilo, approximately 3 times the price of Booths.

Does the University not feel any responsibility to ensure that students have access to fairly priced fresh food on campus?

Olwen Poulter

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

***

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

***

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

***

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

LETTERS

Nothing to see here.

LETTER

Dear subtext,

Roger Kemp is right. Please use a font that can be read.

Michael Heale

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

I like very much the look of your newsletter, and enjoy the terrible puns which hit the spot magnificently.

But from time to time, you rather belie your excellent ‘subtext’ title, and write some piffle.

It is really not enough to label people ‘fascists’ or activities ‘hate speech’, and assume that everyone will immediately condemn them. You do have to advance an argument, otherwise it looks as though you think us all no more than Snowball’s lackeys. Which I am sure you cannot intend.

Cheers,

Richard Martin

***

Dear subtext,

Any chance you could switch fonts from Courier 10 to Calibri 11 or similar?  It may be that Courier brings back warm memories of an Imperial typewriter from when the university was founded but, for those of us reading it on laptops, it can be barely legible. (I usually copy the lot into a Word document, change the font and read it there.)  I’ll not delve into the Equalities Act s20(6) but I’m sure it applies somehow.

Apart from that, I enjoy subtext!

Kind regards,

Roger Kemp
Engineering

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

Many thanks for your recent focus on opposing racism and fascism on campus.

In relation to this, we cannot do enough to highlight the grave injustice that is the prosecution of the ‘Stansted 15’ for taking courageous direct action to halt charter flight deportations – a despicable and legally dubious practice that directly endangers the lives of deportees. For the crime of acting in defence of human rights and taking on Theresa May’s beloved ‘hostile environment’, these brave people are being charged with ‘Endangerment of an Aerodrome’, contrary to section 1(2)(b) of the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990, which is a very serious charge carrying a maximum penalty of life imprisonment. This has prompted Amnesty International to express ‘serious concern’:

https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/stansted-15-amnesty-observe-trial-amid-concerns-anti-deportation-activists

It is worth noting that Laura Clayson, former LUSU President, is one of those facing prosecution. I’m sure many on campus will still remember this very popular, principled, energetic young woman. They may also remember that she was, in all probability, reported to police by the University for holding ‘extremist views’ – namely, that bombing Palestine and fracking should be opposed:

https://www.theguardian.com/education/2014/dec/02/anti-terror-bill-making-radical-ideas-crime-campus

(Following the mandatory ‘Prevent’ training, I’m given to understand that labelling your left-wing students ‘extremists’ is a practice officially known as ‘safeguarding’…)

For those who desperately want to oppose the upward surge of racism and fascistic ideas in recent years, here is an opportunity: there are many positive things that can be done to support the Stansted 15 in opposing racist Home Office policies, including writing to MPs, letters to the press and donations to support the Stansted 15 and their cause.

More information on this can be found here:

http://enddeportations.com/category/stansted-trial/

https://www.facebook.com/EDeportations/

https://chuffed.org/project/end-deportations-charter-flight-action-trial-related-costs

In solidarity,

Chris Witter

***

Dear subtext,

There must be a group of people who when they hear/see/read the name Mark E Smith automatically think of our esteemed Vice Chancellor. Within this assembly of folk, there will be some who read the New Statesman. This particular weekly journal has a regular slot where a subscriber is invited to select whom they would like to see on the cover of the New Statesman. Imagine how perplexed and concerned (or elated) the said group of people were, when perusing a recent (9-15th November 2018) edition, to discover that Fergal Kinney of Hackney, East London had chosen Mark E Smith.

Yours,

Ian Paylor

***

Dear subtext,

I feel like wading in somewhat on the white t-shirt issue that’s been plastered all over the news. Honestly I’m a little disappointed that some drunken idiots trolling for reactions has caused such an uproar while more physical safety concerns have ended up being swept under the carpet.

In my fresher’s week, someone I was living with was displaying outright predatory behaviour towards myself and at least two other girls, and though we all complained nothing was done and we got to feel unsafe in our accommodation for the rest of the year. I know someone else (also female) who was the victim of a physical attack by a male student and to my knowledge, no action was ever taken against the perpetrator.

I can’t help feeling like the University cares more about maintaining an illusion of safety, than actually making the University safe.

Name supplied

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

In the last but one Capita survey, one LUMS department was particularly identified for ‘bullying’. By the next survey it was lauded how that situation had improved. To which the (rather obvious) reply is that, by the tendency of those who are bullied to quit, the metric is more likely to improve. This might apply to other ‘well-being’ criteria?

Name and address supplied

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

Re: car parking and passes

Ah for the heady days of yesteryear (well about 18 years ago) when car park passes were collected in person from the security office. And parking, at least on a Friday (or POETS day – Push Off Early Tomorrow’s Saturday) meant my husband and young son could parallel park on the back carpark across as many spaces as they wanted (yes, it was that empty) with our caravan in tow. They’d get the kettle on and have a brew while waiting for me to finish work before a weekend escape to the Lake District. Eeh, them were t’ days.

Irene Dudley-Swarbrick
Teaching Fellow, Project Management Unit, 1999-2001

***

Dear subtext,

While I never met any Freemasons during my time at Lancaster (or since for that matter), I do recall seeing posters on the spine advertising for new members. I think this was at the start of my third year – October 2012. A secret society advertising struck me as rather defeating the point!

Yours,

Jack Fleming

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

I don’t normally email but as a fairly new starter to Lancaster I was gobsmacked yesterday when I received my new parking permit through the post. Just seems a waste of money to me.

A second class stamp costs 58p. Lancaster has 2,500 staff. So if 80% apply for a parking permit that is a cost of = £1,160.

Why don’t they use internal post? Do we even have one? Or send out in batches to departments so staff can collect from named individuals. They could even use the money saved on postage to invest in digital technology that could scan licence plates to see if people have a pass or not, so moving to an automated system would save loads of time and money in the long run.

Just seems crazy to me. I couldn’t find a suggestion page or anything from the staff intranet so thought I would email you! Rant over!!!

Thanks

Jennifer Kilner

***

Dear subtext,

And so it begins again: the daily ‘Lancaster Thousand Tonner’, in which hundreds of cars fight their way onto the campus, their drivers – white knuckled and perspiring – engaging in a mechanised gavotte designed to minimise the distance between vehicle and office. The University, increasingly a parking lot with facilities for teaching and research, must surely accept that the problem cannot be solved by carving out more and more of the estate to accommodate the motorist. But it also behoves the enlightened (?) community that make up the majority on campus to consider alternative modes of transport, and while there are no doubt some who must move children or lack other travel options, there will be others not so constrained. I suggest that for a start the latter group consider other privately and socially healthy choices. Alternatively, they can just stick with their cars and continue to bugger up the planet.

Bob Rothschild

LETTER (OF THE YEAR)

Dear subtext,

The so-called Gender Pay Gap is, in fact, a Sex Pay Gap and the efforts that the university are suggesting around maternity and childcare are woefully inadequate, the latter mainly consisting of signposting things that are already available (though in the case of preschool childcare, pretty inadequate – it’s impossible, for example, to get additional hours/days at the Preschool Centre if asked to work extra time by one’s department).

The pay gap is in place way before we have children. Women are less mobile due to tending to have professional partners (while men are more likely to have partners in more portable and less professional jobs, since men earn more than their partners across society). Lancaster could make it easier for women to take a job if they have a professional partner, and advertise this. We could make it more flexible to, for example, take a sabbatical or a non-sabbatical career break so partners can move temporarily together. I had a big struggle when I wanted to take two terms’ sabbatical because it was the right time for my husband and me – he’d just been made redundant but apparently ‘we don’t do that in Psychology, we only take a full year’. One male colleague on hearing this said ‘oh I suppose my wife just gave up her job when I went on sabbatical’.
 
Women have more other caring responsibilities, not just children. My husband and I needed to stay locally for a number of years – at a time when other colleagues were getting promoted by moving jobs – because my husband’s mother was elderly and needed care. Few men help with care of their mother in law because that’s not what they’ve been taught since childhood.

Travel for work is often impossible for women with caring responsibilities – I couldn’t really travel for the first couple of years after we had children and the only reason I can now is because my husband’s work has become more flexible, not my job (he’s gone part time through choice but also his employer has pushed and enabled working from home a lot more. There’s been no change at all in the help Lancaster has given and no substantial change in the availability of childcare). Even a full day travel is impossible for me (London and back in a day for example) if I’m relying on outside childcare. This means not only could I not go to conferences at first but I also couldn’t go to e.g. a government meeting or grant meeting.
 
Because of Lancaster’s location, talented postgrads who want to stay in the area have to move into a professional services job – there are few commutable academic jobs if you don’t get one in Lancaster. This is more likely to affect women – men just move for work, while women stay put with, as I’ve said, a professional partner, non-childcare responsibilities or children.
 
Women have always been taught (since birth and, these days, before) that they are supposed to be less assertive. Obviously if you’ve managed to get a job in academia, you must have managed to push yourself forward to some extent. We recently had an excellent small workshop on promotion for women but previously the University has run workshops where at one a female professor just told us ‘it’s easy to be a professor, you just have to publish a lot and get grants’ (I can hear the hollow laughter of men and women echoing round campus!) and at another senior women just said ‘oh I’ve never experienced any discrimination’.
 
From the moment the doctor says ‘It’s a girl!’ or ‘It’s a boy!’ society treats us differently – our sex determines what gender roles society thinks we should take, following a partner as a trailing spouse, not speaking up to creepy supervisors, not putting ourselves forward for keynotes and promotions, taking on caring responsibilities for older and younger people – and that in turn determines how much we are paid.
 
Katie Alcock
Psychology

Issue 177

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

Did you know that the university has changed its policy on eye tests?

When I had my work glasses two years ago, I had a refund of £74 from the university – £24 for the test and £50 for the glasses. I went to my preferred optician which was Specsavers.

Now you have to go through something called SEE to get your voucher. This entitles you to a free eye test but only at the opticians listed, so not my opticians then, which I’ve been going to for years. It also entitles you to a free pair of their frames which quite frankly I wouldn’t be buried in, nor does it seem you can try them on before deciding.

https://tinyurl.com/ydyw5hrc

Or – and this is the really shitty part – £25 towards your glasses, that you require to be able to do your job, partly because your eyesight has been wrecked by the tiny text and screenwork that you have been doing for the past 23 years. The two options in Kendal I could use are Boots, their range starts at £50, or Vision Express, and their range starts at £39, so whichever I choose I still have to put money to the glasses that I require to do my job. Interestingly Specsavers start their range at £25 but they aren’t allowed to join the scheme as I’ve been in contact with my branch and they have looked into it.

Thought you might be interested as I’m spitting feathers at this moment in time.

Best wishes for a summer of blindness.

Andrea Kitchen
Timetabling & Room Bookings

***

Dear subtext,

This survey from the group Unis Resist Border Controls researching hostile environment policies in British Higher Education might be of interest to you and your readers. Would encourage folks to fill it in and share it around.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/17uOdK8IVj_Gm03mVeu80byNKtmV1E7FkFfieZeNla3w/viewform?edit_requested=true

Best wishes,

Toby Atkinson

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

I am an enormous fan of subtext and have been over a number of years. I have been especially impressed by reports on UA92 and much more. This meant I was surprised to see the report on Bailrigg garden village which seemed to lack your usual depth, questions and challenges. Bailrigg garden village has been in the public domain since January 2017 and the ‘issues and options’ drop ins followed Local Plan drop ins in February 2017 and consultations in October 2017. In other words it has been around for rather a long time.

Am puzzled by the housing numbers that you quote since there is a bid in to the Housing Infrastructure Fund – something in the region of £150m on the basis of there being 3,500 houses. This is to justify some funding for the reconfigured motorway junction, the crossing of the mainline west coast railway to access the site, to develop the bus system etc. Maybe a first question to ask is what are the infrastructure costs associated with this particular site? Given recent history of expenditure overruns on say the Bay Gateway the track record is not encouraging.

This week’s Lancaster Guardian (paper edition) includes a two page special report entitled: ‘There’s a sense that Galgate doesn’t count: seven months on from the major flooding that hit Galgate, residents are becoming increasingly concerned about new building developments that could leave them at even more risk than ever before’:

https://www.lancasterguardian.co.uk/news/galgate-residents-reveal-frustration-desperation-and-depression-after-2017-floods-1-9208157

You seem to be dismissing the community impact of Bailrigg garden village as something that only affects Burrow Heights and the tone is ‘well so what?’ Galgate, Bailrigg village, Burrow Heights and Scotforth are Bailrigg garden village’s neighbours. The November floods affected all those areas and additional building simply adds to concerns. Did you attend the recent open meetings around the Health Innovation Campus? Those meetings highlighted how the local communities felt about drainage from University development flowing into the Ou Beck and the Burrow Beck – residents were anxious and angry. Did you read about the angry flood meetings in December following last year’s floods? Residents were not reassured by Lancaster City Council that Bailrigg garden village would solve all that, far from it.

Another question to ask is what relationship, if any, does the university have to Bailrigg garden village? It isn’t at all clear and with a venture that is causing so much local concern it would be interesting to know. Where will people work who live in Bailrigg garden village? I have long been confused by seeming conflicting employment projections from the Health Innovation Campus.

2,000 jobs are quoted in the publicity – how has that figure been arrived at?

There is also massive worry about air quality in South Lancaster, highlighted in research from LEC. You commented on the very vague ‘plans’ for rapid bus transport and the belief that the reconfigured motorway junction would solve air quality for Galgate. But would it? What will happen to Scotforth and the Pointer roundabout, already hardly quiet, if spiralling costs or planning issues and personal choice mean people still use their cars to take their kids to school, to go to the supermarket, etc.?

I am a retired member of the University and I am a Galgate resident so you could say I am an interested party. You normally provide an excellent set of insights and hope this letter might be helpful.

Best wishes,

Mary Rose

***

Dear subtext,

Thought this might be of interest. A group of squatters recently occupied one of Gary Neville’s properties in Manchester in part to protest against the lack of affordable housing in the city and Neville’s role in gentrification. Their collective statement (cited in the below piece) directly takes aim at the UA92 plan and its relationship to the wider marketisation of HE.

https://freedomnews.org.uk/gary-neville-luxury-development-occupied-by-persons-unknown/

Best wishes,

Toby Atkinson

LETTERS

There’s been a distinct lack of letters. Let’s hope for a bumper postbag next time.