What with recruitment freezes (sorry, vacancy management controls!), Brexit and a departing VC, you’d think the university would be trying its hardest at the moment not to create any new enemies, but apparently not. We learn that Lancaster has recently managed to seriously upset Chris Packham and a gaggle of other bird fans, by allowing its contractors BAM to instal bird netting around the Health Innovation Campus site. As local ecologist David Morris noted on 23 April, via his Twitter account @JFDIecologist, ‘a month since 1st contact, @LancasterUni & its contractors @BAMConstructUK haven’t removed its bird nets despite repeated advice. Net management goes against the planning permission & hedge tonight has Blackbird & Wren within it. This is utterly poor practice. #NetsDownForNature’
Naming and shaming via social media has quickly prompted the university into action, with Morris reporting a week later that the nets would finally be removed. Unfortunately it seems that large sections of hedge have gone with them! Readers wanting to know why nets are so bad for wildlife are encouraged to read the recent RSPB article by Gemma Hogg at:
In subtext 179 we noted that the new Human Performance Laboratory mentioned in a sits vac for an LU Sports Science Lecturer (and also suspiciously similar to one mentioned in UA92 literature) was to be built at an unspecified site: ‘The Human Performance Laboratory will initially be housed at a separate site which is presently being developed’ and expressed concern that development needed to be PDQ for the first intake in September. Possibly in response to this searing piece of investigative journalism LUText 15th June reported that in fact this separate site is … an extension to the sports centre! ‘The new extension will temporarily accommodate a Human Performance Lab to support research and learning around the newly introduced Sports Sciences degree. The Human Performance Lab will move to the new Health Innovation Campus (HIC) in 2020.’ So why the mysterious reference to an undisclosed separate site when the HIC(up) is referred to elsewhere in the advert? Could it be that the final decision regarding the location (which should ideally be equally accessible for both LU and UA92) was not actually taken until after the advert had been written? Is it possible that the visionary planning had omitted an actual location for a heavily advertised facility? Surely not – that would be like opening a chemistry department without deciding where to build the labs before the students started!
In subtext 161, we published a piece on the proposed office layout of the new Health Innovation Campus. We wrote of a Great Seat of Learning populated by Those In The Know and Men of Wisdom (mostly men, that is, as we know from our coverage of the gender pay gap at Lancaster, see subtext 176) who decided to build a new tower which they called the High Intensity Corporate.
The new tower would have lots and lots of room for the (mostly) Men with Lots of Money (more Lots of Money than the Women, anyway) to visit. Tucked away in the tower would be the Knowledge Producers. It was very important that the Knowledge Producers did not realise how much the (mostly) Men of Wisdom depended on them to attract the (mostly) Men with Lots of Money , and many different methods were used to obscure that fact. Most of the Knowledge Producers were hired on Fixed Term Contracts. This made it easier to Keep Them On Their Toes. They knew that if they were naughty they wouldn’t get another contract when their’s ended (see our piece on precarity, above.)
Another good way of obscuring the importance of the Knowledge Producers was to make them feel small. The (mostly) Men of Wisdom decided that, in the new High Intensity Corporate tower, the Knowledge Producers would not sit together in little rooms. This had tended to foster Cooperation in the Old Tower – a market force the (mostly) Men of Wisdom felt was uncomfortably close to Solidarity. It would also be much easier to keep an eye on the Knowledge Producers if the place looked more like a call centre. Some of the (mostly) Men of Wisdom were quite impressed by what call centres had achieved in terms of ‘employee productivity’.
It would appear that the (mostly) Men of Wisdom do not read subtext. Loath as we are to side-line the humour (attempt at – ed.), subtext would like to spell it out. The plan is to go ahead with the new open shed layout. The thinking (?) behind this idea is that the Health Innovation Campus will be a hive of industry. Desks will be hired out to companies – people from these businesses will mingle with folk from the university and individuals from other corporations and organisations to Shoot The Breeze and interlock with Blue Skies Thinking. Members of the public will be encouraged to come along and engage with debate – meeting that awkward engagement element of the university’s mission statement.
The (mostly) Men of Wisdom are excited at the prospect of creating their own version of Silicon Valley. Meanwhile, the researchers and academics and evaluators will be at these very same desks, working on their large high resolution computers that you can read from several feet way, on highly sensitive personal health records and confidential social care files. Who could possibly object to that?
OVERHEARD AT LANCASTER
In the Management School Hub. A young man obviously very thrilled to have been offered a job at Lancaster University. ‘I am so pleased, fantastic, and they told me I don’t have to wear a suit every day to work but under no circumstances must I ever wear jeans to work’. Obviously not a teaching post then.
THE THIRD RED SCARE
In subtext 167, we reported on the ill-advised letter from Chris Heaton-Harris MP, sent to large numbers of Vice-Chancellors asking for all educational materials relating to Brexit, and the academics involved in its teaching. We were unsure at the time whether our own Vice-Chancellor had received Mr. Heaton-Harris’s pleasant little missive, and if so, what the response had been. Since then, SCAN has reported (http://tinyurl.com/y74h6dbd) that the VC did receive the request from Mr. Heaton-Harris, that it was considered under FOI procedures, and that the ruling followed the precedent set by Arkell v. Pressdram. It was to be expected, but pleasant to learn all the same.
As one of subtext’s drones was returning from a trip to the balmy South [they get holidays now?? -ed], imagine its surprise when it saw, as it was cruising up the A6 and passing the field immediately north of the current Lancaster University campus, the label ‘Lancaster Science Park’ emblazoned over a large grey rectangle to the right of the road on its sat nav screen. There may be no buildings, paths, lights, or any activity whatsoever on the field between Bailrigg Village and campus as yet, but at least someone is preparing for Lancaster’s bold northward expansion!
ANOTHER GLORIOUS VICTORY FOR SUBTEXT
Here in the warehouse we are always pleasantly surprised when we learn how widespread and diverse our readership is. Following our story on the overcrowded bus (subtext 168) it cannot be a coincidence that your correspondent witnessed a Stagecoach driver, in the underpass, stood outside of his bus counting the passengers on so not to exceed the legal numbers of standing passengers. The power of the press!
Following our trip down memory lane (see subtext 168) a number of readers have expressed interest in knowing a little more about the Lancaster Social Education Project during the miners strike (1984/85). subtext would like to hear from readers who involved with the project or indeed the children and grandchildren of people who were active during that time and know of any ‘tales from the campsite’.