Tag Archives: ISS

GO AWAY, OLDIES

subtext’s recent reports on the removal of IT and email access from hundreds of former staff members (see subtexts 190 and 191) continue to provoke the ire of readers (see letters, below). One subtext correspondent, a life member of the university, recalls their correspondence with the Director of ISS last summer. The Director clarified that formal membership rights, as determined by the Charter and Statutes, do not include any right to access IT services, even though the University has offered this to continuing members in the past. When the Council discussed this issue in 2015 (see subtext 128), it noted that IT provision for continuing members would be reviewed over time; UMAG duly reviewed this provision in August 2019 and resolved that, henceforth, IT access would be offered to continuing members on the same basis as it is offered to other staff leavers, i.e. it would only be provided when the relevant Head of Department confirmed that the member was continuing to work and contribute to the University. Most continuing members no longer have a formal contract with the University – hence no IT services will be offered.
Some good news: after much effort, our correspondent was finally granted an appeal to the Pro-Chancellor, and it has now been agreed to extend their IT access for at least another year, subject to the condition that they continue to publish. This is still far short of the lifetime access which all continuing members thought they were being given, but it shows that persistence pays off.

GENDER STEREOTYPING MASTERCLASS

‘Our emails display our brand just like a letterhead or a business card,’ noted a news item on 14 February, launching Lancaster’s new email signature template files:
Four templates are provided at:
There’s plenty of advice and guidance: email signatures need to be useful, lawful and, of course, accessible to screen readers. Moreover, ‘Lancaster University is an inclusive place to work and learn and therefore, we would encourage people to include their gender pronouns on their email signature.’
Righty-ho. Let’s look at this template text, then:
Jo Bloggs | Postgraduate Programmes Officer
Linguistics and English Language | Lancaster University
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Working hours: Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays 9am to 4pm
Personal Assistant: Ms Jane Bloggs: j.bloggs@lancaster.ac.uk
Excellent, so we have Mr Jo Bloggs the officer and his loyal personal assistant, Ms Jane Bloggs. That Athena SWAN renewal’s going to be a doddle, eh?
And yes, we know that equality is about a lot more than email templates. We’re sure that the imminent equal pay audit will show how much the Gender Pay Gap at Lancaster is closing, given the institution’s work to actively improve it.

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

ARE YOU STILL HERE?

Our last issue recounted the University’s decision to remove the email accounts of hundreds of retired staff on a cost-benefit analysis that determined that they were no longer worth the expense. Since then, we’ve heard from a further six readers: all retired members of staff; all dedicated supporters of the university; and all cheesed-off at having been told to Foxtrot Oscar by the organisation to which many of them have dedicated over half of their lives. In a letter to subtext, Gerry Cotter observes that, even as it tells its former members to go away, the University manages to add an extra helping of unpleasantness. Another reader notes that ‘the excuse this time seems to be a change of Microsoft site licensing, when it was only last year that we were all forced to move to Microsoft!’

The most frustrating aspect of this, of course, is the lack of any serious recourse. When, in 2015, University Council discussed removing privileges from retired members (see subtext 128), at least the matter was being discussed at senior committee level. This decision seems to have just happened, as a way to balance the books, with no approval needed. How many of today’s Council members are even aware of the issue?

GOODBYE EMERITI!

Sad news reaches subtext from a retired member of staff. The University has decided to delete his email account, along with the email accounts of many other retired and honorary staff, with effect from the beginning of November. A curtly-worded email from ISS informs those about to lose their accounts that, no, you can’t export your emails, and no, you can’t have your emails forwarded to another address.
subtext has reported on the rather curmudgeonly way Lancaster treats its former staff, particularly when they want to retain access to email or the library, before (see subtext 128). What has prompted the latest cull? Reportedly it’s partly to do with the way Microsoft prices its services. Since the shift to Office365 and other subscription-based services, it’s possible for Microsoft to know exactly how many users are making use of its services, and bill the University accordingly.
What’s more – it’s no longer possible to ‘just have an email account’ at Lancaster these days. Every account carries a cost, because as part of the package you’ll get ‘Apps Anywhere’, the handy package which enables Lancaster account holders to access hundreds of apps, well, anywhere. So to all the extra Office365 licences required for emeritus staff with email you can add dozens of licences for software they probably never use, but they could if they wanted.

One silver lining – we’re assured that it is still possible for retired and honorary staff to retain library access, even without an email account, and it is still possible to access online journals (although you will need to come into the library to view them). So we do still value our former staff – as long as they don’t incur any licence costs.

SOCIETY EMAILS GET ‘NUKED’

Everyone who uses Lancaster’s IT systems will have been briefed many times on the much-publicised phishing attack this summer that led to applicants’ data being stolen – for example, see:
https://www.theregister.co.uk/2019/07/23/lancaster_university_data_breach/
For most local users, the changes to IT access since then have been a relatively minor inconvenience, though they’ve caused substantial increases in workload for staff who do still have access to relevant systems and data – basically we can’t all be as functional as we used to be, because we can’t stay secure that way. But for some student societies the problems are more significant – an anonymous correspondent submits the following (content redacted to remove all the swear words):
*
The uni decided, over the summer, that it’s too much of a data breach hazard for societies to have IT accounts. They decided this… because staff got phished. Clearly, staff getting phished and a data breach happening that way means society IT accounts are a problem. So what do they do? Do they make a sensible choice and enforce regular password changes for society accounts? Enforce more data protection training? Remind societies to be secure?
No, they just decide to nuke society accounts. Nuke ’em entirely. Do they communicate this effectively? No they don’t.
ISS were meant to get all this sorted before term started. Naturally, it wasn’t sorted in time, but for some reason they decided to not allow room bookings to be released to societies. LUSU front desk staff had to rescue societies by doing bookings for them. Any socs who wanted to have their meeting places on their freshers’ week advertising had only from the Monday of freshers’ week to go to LUSU and book rooms.
Otherwise many many societies would have been handing out flyers that said ‘WE’RE THINGY SOC, WE LIKE THE THING… FIND US… SOMEWHERE. WE GUESS.’
On top of this, the nuking of society accounts means that now, the only way to get any room bookings done is via the personal student accounts of any exec who’ve been verified as exec members. They now seemingly have to validate ALL student exec members EVERY YEAR… which will totally happen on time. And then de-validate them whenever execs change hands. Oh, that’ll be great, won’t it?
On top of that, there’s zero policy in place for non-student exec. At all. Not one bit of thought about us. We are a thing. I’m doing an important activity-coordinating role and now I can’t access room bookings or the society’s email inbox at all – not even room bookings viewing access, so I can’t go ‘Hey, President, please book exactly these rooms at exactly these times’, unless I physically use one of them for access. Similarly, I can’t send emails as the society.
Also, society web pages can be hosted on uni servers. Those are tied to the society account. Or were. We were told that ISS wouldn’t pull society accounts until they had a solution to this, and every time we ask anyone about it, they say ‘Oh, the unioncloud page?’ and we say ‘No, the society web page hosted on uni servers, this one’ and show them, and they say ‘Oh I dunno lol’.
*
This has happened, our correspondent suggests, because someone’s used ‘a sledgehammer to crack a walnut.’

subtext sympathises with our correspondent but also sympathises with ISS, who found themselves all over the press this summer and facing external investigations left, right and centre. We trust that an amicable solution can be found.

NO ONE’S WATCHING

Fancy learning Chinese calligraphy? How about Tai Chi? Perhaps you’d like to pick up touch rugby? And were you aware that Adam Taylor of Lancaster Medical School is to receive the Basmajian Award from the American Association of Anatomists?

For these and similar public information messages, just sit in an empty lecture theatre where, thanks to a new initiative from ISS, you will experience a constant diet of news, views and adverts, whenever there are no lectures scheduled, whether you want to or not. The Confucius Institute seems to be responsible for a high proportion of the messages on display, along with Lancashire Fire & Rescue and the Students’ Union.

Well, why not? It beats just staring at a blue screen showing the time. subtext found the experience slightly mesmerising, although we’re not sure how many students will share our fascination.

Just make sure you keep your kitchen clean, though

WATCH THIS SPACE: PRINTERS

A lot of university decision-making is slow-burning, and months will often pass before we are able to provide an update or a follow-up. We will pepper this year-end review with a some of the stories we briefly covered in 2017-18 that, we predict, will be revisited in 2018-19.

For example, in subtext 166, we reported on the mass cull of office printers by ISS, as part of a review which presented two options: ‘do nothing’ or ‘obliterate everything.’ It may be time for us to see how that panned out.

http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/2017/10/12/pc-load-letter/

PC LOAD LETTER

Do you have a printer in your office or shared area? Well you won’t for much longer!

Following the outcome of the ‘print transformation project’, all standalone inkjet and laser printers are due to be removed from offices and disposed of ‘in an environmentally friendly manner’. In their place, we’re being told to use the printing and scanning facilities on our departmental photocopiers. This is supposed to ensure a ‘consistent high quality user experience’ for all.

How on earth did this decision happen? Two business options were considered for our office printers: ‘do nothing’ and ‘obliterate everything’. The latter option won, on cost grounds, although given that ISS are also going to end all attempts to monitor individual usage of the copiers (the staff print journal will no longer be maintained), subtext wonders how this claim of value for money is going to be monitored.

‘It is possible,’ reported ISS at the time of approval, ‘that removal of personal printers may be unpopular.’ Oh!?