Tag Archives: protest

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?

HONG KONG PHOOEY

Lancaster University does not seem to be showing a lot of solidarity with its Hong Kong students at the moment. Private Eye and SCAN reported recently on the college accommodation manager who ordered a student to remove a display of sticky notes in a kitchen window which spelled out ‘Stand with Hong Kong’ – SCAN’s story is online at:
https://scan.lancastersu.co.uk/2019/12/04/hong-kong-posters-raise-free-speech-questions-on-campus/
This was not the only recent incident of censorship. On 13 November, a reader wrote to let us know that, at 8:50am that morning, three members of Security were taking down pro-Hong Kong posters. Our reader made enquiries and was told that the University was removing all such posters because they were ‘against the Students’ Union’s rules.’ Lancaster Poster Code 1, Freedom of Speech 0.
On a related note, a group of Hong Kong students came down to the Sports Centre picket line on the first day of the UCU strike to share their stories and to show their solidarity:
https://twitter.com/ZoeFLambert/status/1198982862013370368

Readers with other tales of anti-HK censorship on campus are encouraged to contact subtext at the usual address.

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?

SPECIAL FEATURE: LANCASTER UNIVERSITY STUDENTS’ DISUNION

SPECIAL FEATURE: LANCASTER UNIVERSITY STUDENTS’ DISUNION
Contributed articles by Ronnie Rowlands
ONE SUGAR, PLEASE
When we covered the Students’ Union officer elections for the 19/20 academic year, your subtext correspondents observed that the new crop of officers ought to make short work of becoming popular. LUSU had been awash with scandal (sometimes justifiable, sometimes not), including the cancellation of Grad Ball, the Snowsports white t-shirt social and the initial decision (rapidly reversed) to officially recognise a society for literal, self-avowed fascists. The combustible elements lit up into a conflagration when a visceral outpouring of rage followed the decision to strip student radio station, Bailrigg FM, of its FM license and reduce its funding. The officers-elect were quick to promise that they would reverse this decision if the then-current officers did not. The decision was reversed before they took office, and all that the new officers – George Nuttall, Grishma Bijukumar, Ben Evans, Lewis Marriott, Bee Morgan and Hannah Prydderch – had to do to elicit a huge voter turnout was to promise to Make LUSU Not Sh*t Again. President Nuttall was already being exalted by Lancaster’s unofficial social media ‘sh*tposting’ pages as the bringer of a shiny new dawn.
Then LUSU announced that its Trustee Board had voted to close and sell the Sugarhouse.
It didn’t take long for the Full Time Officers to distance themselves from the announcement. Some not particularly well-disguised leaks left the student body under no illusion as to who was responsible – the non-student Trustees, plus one ‘rebel’ Full Time Officer whose decisive vote swayed the decision. This Full Time Officer has subsequently found himself ‘un-personed’ by his fellow officers, reviled by a student body that is seeking to remove him from office and doorstepped in the LUSU building by the student media’s TV cameras.
The students weren’t going to let the Sugarhouse go without a fight. And why would they? The Sugarhouse has remained a staple of Lancaster’s dwindling nightlife and enjoys both good and bad financial years. Perhaps more importantly, the Sugarhouse is regarded as a ‘safe night out’ by students, and there should surely be a space for student-led venues to accommodate the cultural, racial, and sexual diversity among our student population.
The wise decision to call a general meeting was taken, and a ‘Save Our Sugarhouse’ motion was duly proposed… along with a pile of others, on issues ranging from affordable housing to climate change.
Yes, seizing the opportunity to bellow at the union officers in front of a huge audience, a group of Labour students set about foisting a comprehensive campaigning agenda on them. The executive couldn’t rely on the meeting becoming inquorate to jettison the motions – with proxy voting now allowed, hundreds of students were able to make their decision before the meeting, arguably making any debate pointless since the motions were already decided.
Nor could the executive hope to run down the clock or suggest that the motions should be considered in a different forum – procedural motion after procedural motion was passed, and the meeting was repeatedly extended, while motions were moved straight to a vote. Those who stayed it out, delighted that they could finally actually mandate their representatives to do something – anything! – duly voted for every single motion.
It will come as no surprise to learn that the motions to save Sugarhouse were passed. The five LUSU Officers who showed up took the opportunity to stress that they personally had voted AGAINST the closure and sale of the Sugarhouse, in a ‘People vs Parliament’ style move that deflected the anger onto the rest of the Trustee Board.
All in all, the student body finally got to vent some steam, and the groundswell of resentment that has built up over several years may have softened for a while. Whether this was the start of some real steps towards a re-democratised students’ union – which could have prevented some real catastrophes over the last couple of years – or that’s your lot for the next five years, it was heartening to see that the volcano of student anger and rebellion is still active.
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THE CASE FOR COUNCIL
subtext kept a watchful eye on the gutting of LUSU’s accountability structures in 2015. We predicted at the time that culling most of the officers and dissolving the Union Council – which met fortnightly and could be attended by any student (although policy could only be voted on by officers) – and replacing it with unaccountable ‘Student Juries’ would lead to the very vacuum of accountability and engagement that has led to some of LUSU’s more questionable recent decisions.
The Union Council was a great body. It met fortnightly and was comprised of all of the Full Time Officers, all of the College Presidents and Vice-Presidents, all of the Faculty Reps and all of the Part-Time Officers. The membership had the power to propose and vote on policy, but crucially, ALL students could attend and ask questions. At each meeting, the Full Time Officers were required to deliver information and take questions, meaning that they could not escape direct scrutiny in the public eye. The whole point of Union Council was for officers to consult with their respective ‘juniors’ (the Faculty Reps with their Academic Reps, the International Officers with international students and JCR reps, you get the picture…), and to propose and vote on policy with their views in mind. Sadly, the Council became infested with grandstanders who wanted to hold inward-looking discussions about tedious personal grudges and constitutional minutiae. This in turn became ammunition for an executive, who couldn’t be bothered to undergo scrutiny and face the public, to lobby for its abolition.

Look at the situation LUSU is in now. Can anybody name the last time that the ‘Student Jury’ sat? Do people remember when LUSU introduced a ‘scrutiny panel’, which involved Full Time Officers appointing people to write reports about them that were then buried on the LUSU website? A fortnightly public meeting with the minutes released in a timely way was an ample means of keeping the paranoid headbangers at bay. If anybody said that LUSU was unaccountable, officers could just say ‘we’ve got LUSU Council. Why don’t you show up?’ With no LUSU Council, a Student Jury and a scrutiny panel that never meets, and an Executive committee that doesn’t release its minutes, LUSU’s pressure valves of old are gone. If LUSU wants to return to transparency in any lasting way, it would do wise to reinstate the structures that were so needlessly abolished in 2016.

CLIMATE STRIKE ON CAMPUS – A REPORT

On Friday 20 September Alexandra Square witnessed that nicest of experiences, an officially-sanctioned protest, as upwards of 300 staff and students congregated at 12 noon to show their support for the ‘climate strikes’ being organised by school pupils that day.
Credit is due to Lancaster’s management for allowing its employees to walk out for half an hour, although subtext suspects that whoever wrote the staff guidance failed to appreciate that the greatest demos are the most spontaneous ones. According to the intranet story, ‘Staff to take part in Global Climate Strike,’ dated 13 September 2019, those wanting to take part needed to:
– let your line manager know that you intend to take part between the agreed times;
– consider the impact of this time on your work; and
– discuss the impact of this stoppage with your line manager.
Any plans for group protests or demonstrations were to be dealt with in line with the Code of Conduct on Protests (see subtext 185).

Still, we should celebrate the occasion. Recyclable placards proclaimed that ‘the seas are rising and so are we’ and ‘democracy divided by greed equals environmental destruction’, rousing speeches were made by Emily Heath and Millie Prosser and, as a final flourish, participants got together to form a living, circular map of the world. Your correspondent is not sure whether the end result actually looked like a globe, but the intention was clear regardless. More of this sort of thing, please! Well – obviously we’d prefer it if the world wasn’t threatened with obliteration and no one needed to protest at all, but you get our drift.

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…

PUT IT TO THE PEOPLE MARCH REPORTS

A MILLION WAYS TO BE CR-EU-L

Lancaster, both the University and the town, seemed to be well represented on the ‘Put it to the People’ March on 23 March, not least judging by the cheerful but slightly sleepy crowd of a dozen or so protestors gathered at Lancaster station at around 8:30 in the morning. The train was already packed, and picked up more protestors at each mainline station (though surprisingly few in Preston).

It was only when the train arrived in London, however, that the true scale of the impending march became apparent. Converging on Mayfair in all directions, blue and yellow garments of all kinds, cardboard signs on wooden poles, numerous banners and many, many flags were very much in evidence, as were a number of extremely silly hats.

Your subtext correspondent made his way to the start of the protest at Park Lane – after a brief but necessary brunch – only to find it… well, rather full of people. It took around an hour to get from Marble Arch to the other end of the street, and then a further three hours to get as far as Trafalgar Square (normally a 10-minute walk), despite niftily overtaking a mobile disco, a samba band and all manner of other protestors. By this point, the speeches at Parliament Square where well and truly over, despite the vast majority of marchers never getting there.

As is becoming the norm for events of this type, the best slogans and banners have been widely shared on social media. Your correspondent’s personal favourites, however, included:
– the child brandishing an evidently self-made banner proclaiming that ‘Brexit is poo poo butt face’ in bright colours, bringing some much needed gravity to the political discourse around the topic;
– the two adjacent signs with bright green cut-out pictures of salad leaves that said ‘Lettuce Romaine’ and ‘Don’t lettuce leaf’;
– ‘Article 50 does not spark joy’ next to a picture of Marie Kondo;
– The blue sign splattered with yellow paint that read ‘Pollocks to Brexit’;
– The rather dark ‘Dear Dignitas, do you do countries?’;
– And the ever so subtle ‘Frontières sans médicins’.

The mood was a strange mixture of ebullient, joyous and also angry – but not in a red-faced, shouty way. People were laughing, smiling at each other’s placards, and generally having a good time, while their anger was clearly focussed at the people they saw as having got the country into its current predicament.

The absolute highlight of the march for this correspondent, however, had to be the piper marching with the SNP London branch playing ‘Ode to Joy’. What could be a more evocative argument against Brexit than the European anthem, written in Vienna by a German composer of Flemish extraction, commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society in London and played on Scottish bagpipes?

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LANCASHIRE AND YORKSHIRE EU-NITED AT LAST

Contributed article by Jenny Watts

I was unable to attend the People’s Vote March for health reasons, however, this topic remains very important to me. As a cancer patient the long term impact of Brexit on the NHS is rather alarming. I belong to a local cross-party activism group (Lancaster for Europe, find us on Twitter or Facebook) and they showed me how to donate money to cover the cost of a place, so that another student from Lancaster could attend. It was great watching the Lancaster and Yorkshire flags later on the news. Very encouraging to see the red and white roses!
 
The following is an interview with my Yorkshire-based parents, who were able to attend.
 
Q: Can you tell me what motivated you to get up at 4:30am to catch a coach departing from Hull on March 23rd?
Geoff: I was at the end of my tether! What else could I do? No one was listening to the Remain Team, or challenging the Leave lies.
Gwyneth: I wanted to stand up and be counted. When it all started back in 2016, I was really upset. But then I thought, hang on, let’s give the Leavers a chance; it might work. However, nothing I have seen, or read, has convinced me that it will actually be good for the majority of the country. I can see how it benefits billionaires though! That pesky new EU law on tax avoidance, eh?
 
Q: Your placards talk about honesty, do you feel deceived?
Gwyneth: Not now, personally; I hate being told lies, but I like to check stuff for myself. That lie about having to join the Euro for example, or Turkey joining the EU, or all the wonderful new trade deals…
Geoff: I am a retired police custody sergeant. Never enjoyed being lied to, and if I had practised a hundredth of as much deception professionally as this crew on my placard, I would have been sacked. Rightly so.

Q: What was the atmosphere like during the journey?
Gwyneth: Subdued, a bit tense, we didn’t know anybody or what to expect.
Geoff: Desperately short of sleep.

Q: Would you say you have a history of attending demonstrations in London?
Geoff: Never done anything like it.
Gwyneth: I’ve always been interested in human rights and welfare. As a young mum I stood for election as a Liberal for the local council, but this was my first big march. As a student in Manchester I went on demos, but only because I fancied the organiser!

Q: What happened during the march?
Geoff: Lots of chat and banter with other Yorkshire groups, making very, very slow progress towards Parliament Square. Never been in such a huge crowd, never seen such a crowd on TV, and so much warmth, good humour and anger being expressed in a very British way. Very heartening.
Gwyneth: Two and a half hours after joining at Marble Arch, we were still dancing down Park Lane – literally! We were joined by various bands, and it resembled a festival when the sun came out. We had to turn back at the end of Piccadilly about 4:30pm, to return to our coach, and thousands of people were still marching, following the route to parliament. It seemed wrong to go against this tide, but we’d made our point.

Q: Do you think you will be attending marches in the future?
Geoff: Let’s hope I won’t have to.
Gwyneth: For this cause? YES!

Q: What advice do you have for those joining large demonstrations?
Geoff: Essentials – comfortable shoes, water bottle, and a sense of humour. Stick anything relevant to you on your placard, and go with the flow. Expect lies about the size of the crowd…
Gwyneth: Do it! Always decorate both sides of your placard, collect photos of the wittiest slogans, meet lovely people, realise you’re not alone.

HAS ANYONE SEEN AN AMBASSADOR?

A group of around 35 activists, some from campus, others from the city, met at 6pm on Wednesday 27 March to protest against the possible appearance of the Israeli ambassador, Mark Regev, on campus.

It was never clear whether Mr Regev was actually coming to campus, or whether he had even been planning on coming. Reportedly he’d been booked to address the Politics Society, but this meeting had been cancelled. Or had it? Various people walked around campus peering into lecture theatres to try and discern evidence of a gathering, but there was no sign of any heightened security. The sight of a large black luxury car provoked a brief frenzy of interest… until the person behind the wheel turned out to be a Lancaster student.

The new Code of Practice on Protests (see subtext 185) led to a certain amount of bravado (permission for this event had not been sought) coupled with paranoia (were we under observation from University House?). In the event, no one disrupted the protest, and the consensus was that the ambassador was nowhere near Lancaster, but it had still been worthwhile to gather together.

Those present came from a wide variety of organisations and perspectives; the leaflet being handed out, produced by the Lancaster Palestine Solidarity Campaign, emphasised the need to listen to other voices in the Israel-Palestine conflict besides the ambassador’s, and included links to Jewish and Israeli organisations devoted to peace.

Some of those present felt this message of Jewish and Arab unity was marred by some of the chanting, in particular the divisive ‘from the river to the sea, Palestine will be free!’ – not everyone joined in with this. This aside, the sentiments were overwhelmingly inclusive and peaceful.

It is unknown whether Mr Regev is planning to come to Lancaster in the near future.

‘BUILD A BONFIRE, BUILD A BONFIRE…’ (PROVIDED YOU’VE COMPLETED A RISK ASSESSMENT FIRST)

Having said that there’s nothing interesting to be found in Senate agenda papers, we’ll immediately contradict ourselves by examining the proposed Revised Code of Practice on Protests, discussed by the Senate this week. Drafted by the Director of Strategic Planning and Governance, someone who certainly knows how to mediate at a protest (see our Court report from subtext 172), it’s due to come into force today, 1 February.

What will an official protest now look like? Let’s imagine you’re unhappy because you’ve discovered that someone you really don’t like is coming to campus in a few months time, and you’d like to organise a demonstration…

– Obviously you’ll need approval from a designated University officer.

– You need to appoint one (just one!) of your number as the principal organiser of the demo, who’ll take responsibility if things kick off. Nothing too scary – just be aware that failing to follow the rules could lead to ‘being subject to action under the relevant disciplinary regulations and, in serious cases, potential legal action.’

– It goes without saying that you’re going to need to submit a risk assessment. This will involve ‘responding to the reasonable requests of the Responsible Officer’ as well as providing details about the nature and theme of the event, including how you plan to use banners and megaphones, what route you’ll be taking and whether there’ll be any external speakers.

– We need to ensure your protest doesn’t cause any disruption! Nothing too onerous – we’d just like you to guarantee that students, staff and visitors can still move around freely, making sure events can continue unhindered and uninterrupted, ‘including excessive noise in or intruding into buildings.’

– In return, the university will endeavour to ensure the protest can go ahead, unless it would be unsafe (fair enough), be illegal (also fair enough), ‘present an unacceptable disruption to business’ (not so sure about that) or cost too much (definitely not sure about that!).

– Oh, and we need a week’s notice, in writing. Is that OK?

Will the new system be a success? Campus demo organisers are encouraged to share their experiences with subtext at the usual address.

CONTRIBUTED ARTICLE: GROUNDED

Former LUSU President, Laura Clayson, stands on trial at Chelmsford Crown Court with fourteen other defendants charged with ‘terrorism related charges’; ‘endangering an airport’. The group known as the Stansted 15 are facing potential life sentences after grounding a charter flight on which 57 people were being deported to Nigeria and Ghana. Many of those on board have since been granted leave to remain through legal challenges to their deportations.

Many of the activists are affiliated with the End Deportations Now movement, which aims to stop the inhumane practice of deporting people at a moment’s notice to potentially unfamiliar and unsafe places – places that, as recent press stories have highlighted, they may have never even seen as an adult. The deportees are often asylum seekers, many of whom have fled dangerous and hopeless situations and have built a life in the UK. Many people consider the deportation of these people a violation of human rights and a number of organisations, including Amnesty International, are calling for an end to the practice. Amnesty consider the Stanstead 15’s charges to be political in nature and are monitoring their case. (https://www.amnesty.org.uk/press-releases/stansted-15-amnesty-observe-trial-amid-concerns-anti-deportation-activists)

Although it may seem that the charges against the defendants are disproportionate and thus unlikely to hold, the recent case of the Frack Free Four, three of whom were sentenced to fifteen or sixteen months each in prison for non-violent direct action, sets a scary precedent for harsh and extreme sentencing of peaceful protesters. One hopes the case in question does not follow suit. In a democracy much shaped by positive social changes brought about by peaceful protest, these recent rulings are an unwelcome insight into the current attitude of the justice system. The ‘hostile environment’ which Theresa May initiated for people from outside the UK now extends to their defenders and peaceful protesters in general. To tar these protesters with the brush of terrorism and threaten them with life imprisonment is absurd and cruel. As one of Laura’s friends observed: ‘Can you think of anyone less akin to a terrorist? The lass vomits unicorns and rainbows.’

The Stansted 15’s trial started on Monday 1st October and is scheduled to last six weeks. You can find out more about the End Deportations Now movement, and keep up to date with the trial via http://enddeportations.com/. Please show your support by sending messages of solidarity to End Deportations Now, contacting your MP (e.g. was anyone from the Windrush generation on board?) and spreading the word about the #stansted15 on social media. Please send solidarity messages to the 15 at enddeportations@riseup.net.

Read about the Frack Free Four here: https://reclaimthepower.org.uk/news/support-the-frack-free-four/

COURT: THE FINAL

Unloved by the people organising it, but defended by the people attending it, the final meeting of Lancaster University’s Court on Saturday 27 January 2018 in George Fox Lecture Theatre 1 ended up being very long, occasionally lively, and rather enjoyable.

By subtext’s count, 116 members turned up, with 53 sending apologies. The student numbers had increased from 2017, while the numbers travelling from outside the region seemed to be slightly down – why make the effort when you don’t feel wanted?

As is fitting for any good meeting of Court, there was a rambunctious, intense, and highly explosive political demonstration outside the building – well, four UCU activists politely handing out leaflets about their pensions, and chatting with Court members about the current dispute. There had earlier been disagreement with the organisers over where UCU should stand – just inside the foyer of George Fox, or outside in the rain? The dispute was resolved, not entirely amicably, when the Director of Governance and Strategic Planning called on six members of security staff to stand around near the front of the foyer. When questioned, they reassured the activists that they had definitely not been called to escort them outside! So that’s all right then. A great way to defuse tensions in advance of a major industrial dispute.

Into the meeting at 10am, and an opening address from the Chancellor, on his 60th birthday. ‘Welcome to the university of the year!’ began Mr Milburn, in what seemed like a mostly improvised speech. He was particularly proud of his recent trip to Accra, where he had conferred degrees on the first cohort of LU Ghana graduates.

Onwards to the Court Effectiveness Review, and leading the case for abolition were the independent reviewer, David Allen, and lay member of Council, Robin Johnson. Mr Allen, a friendly soul, was upbeat about his proposal to dissolve Court, noting that 65 Court members had commented on his consultation paper and he’d carried out over 20 interviews last summer. ‘Universities are private corporations,’ he noted, ‘but they are accountable to the public.’ Court should be disestablished in favour of an annual public meeting. Mr Johnson addressed Court as if it were a much-loved employee who, with much regret, Mr Johnson was now going to make redundant. Court was analogue. The world was now digital. It was nothing personal. And the recent appointment of a PVC for Engagement, Dame Sue Black, showed that Lancaster cared about its stakeholders.

A spirited discussion followed, albeit one where no-one was allowed to vote. Opposing the changes, and the procedures that led to them, were Cat Smith MP, Lord Judd, former Chair of Court Stanley Henig, alumnus Richard Morrice, city councillors Lucy Atkinson (Labour) and Charles Edwards (Conservative), and Management Accountants representative Richard Kenworthy. The only person in the audience cheerleading for the proposals was alumnus Don Porter, while LUSU President Josh Woolf and city council leader Eileen Blamire stayed diplomatically uncommitted. The strongest speech against came from former Chair of Court Gordon Johnson. ‘History and tradition play an important role in the life of this institution,’ he noted, adding that he’d not responded to Mr Allen’s consultation because ‘the direction of travel had been set some time before.’ And that, it seems, is that.

The Pro-Chancellor, Lord Liddle, was next. Today’s discussion would be reported to Council, although Council had already approved the first reading of the proposals to abolish Court, when it met yesterday. The Pro-Chancellor seemed receptive to suggestions for how to make the annual public meeting work, however, and in particular he ‘wouldn’t like a meeting to which the local MP couldn’t attend,’ suggesting that next year’s replacement will remain a Saturday event. Tributes were paid to former Council members John Hadfield and James Carr, who died during 2017, and departing Director of Facilities Mark Swindlehurst, who was sat at the back.

‘I want myself and my fellow officers to be remembered as real changemakers,’ announced Josh Woolf. The LUSU President’s report was certainly entertaining and will be remembered for its montage of outdated brands, including Marathon and Opal Fruits wrappers, over which he suggested that however well-loved Court was, maybe we needed to move on. No retro sweets for Sarah Randall-Paley, however. The days when the Director of Finance would battle with the LUSU President for the most extravagant presentation at Court are long gone, perhaps reflecting the increasingly secure nature of Lancaster’s finances. The biggest bombshell in this year’s financial report was the announcement of a preferred new measure of financial health, the Adjusted Net Operating Cashflow (ANOC).

The Vice-Chancellor rolled up to the rostrum shortly after 12: ‘Good afternoon, everyone!’ There was clearly concern about the timing of Court’s successor, and it needs a name ‘that reflects the nature of what we’re trying to achieve.’ He paid tribute to Mr Hadfield and Mr Carr, and thanked Mr Swindlehurst, while wondering why he was still here: ‘the job’s gone, mate!’

The VC focused on the new regulatory landscape, following the approval of the Higher Education and Research Act. It was very complicated, he didn’t yet know what it would mean, and neither did the new Secretary of State or the new Minister for Higher Education. Our big challenge would be ‘retention’, where we perform poorly against our competitors, but on the plus side we have a Gold rating in the TEF.

subtext readers will want to know that, yes, the VC mentioned UA92, ‘in case I was asked a question on it.’ Top table are still in the final stages of seeing whether it hangs together. Is the VC aware that all of UA92’s publicity says that Lancaster has fully committed to it?

Pensions were the ‘big elephant in the room’ – significant and ongoing industrial action was likely. Would the proposed changes affect the recruitment of academic staff? ‘Only time will tell,’ he said. It might affect international recruitment, but probably not from the UK. What can the VC do to resolve the dispute? Not much. ‘Our level of deficit pales into insignificance compared to the big beasts. Those people don’t want that on their balance sheets.’ Last autumn, the VC had been relatively hopeful, but then the pensions regulator sent a letter to trustees which almost closed all options. ‘It will be a very disruptive term,’ he concluded, and ‘students will be in the middle.’

The final words at the final Court went to the Chancellor, just after 1pm. He thanked members for ‘sharing my birthday with me’ and praised the quality of debate, suggesting that other chambers could learn from us.

And so the Court ended for good, as members joined the queue for soup served in coffee mugs. Did someone forget to order any bowls?