Tag Archives: University House


Contributed article
As a diligent and (short of annual leave) member of University staff I dutifully made the first-day-after-Christmas pilgrimage to our office in University House on 2nd January. Following the many complaints over previous years I arrived confident that the building would be toasty-warm. How wrong I was. Entering University House was akin to walking into a four-storey freezer.
Arriving at my desk I elected to keep my coat and scarf on. The radiator was stone cold and, as individual fan heaters were banned some time ago, I resigned myself to making the best of it. Jogging on the spot was the thing. Jogging, however, makes it very difficult to work, so after two minutes I sat down.
A short while later a polar bear, which had taken up residence during the break, appeared at the door and demanded that I surrender my coat to him. For a moment I contemplated resisting his request, but he gave me an unfriendly smile and off he went with my coat.
After fifteen minutes waiting for my PC to process essential updates my fingers were numb. I wrapped my scarf around them, but soon discovered this made typing difficult and resulted in my first email being somewhat ruder than I had intended. I was still debating what to do (send emails full of verbal garbage or risk frostbite in my fingers), when I was interrupted by voices. Poking my head around the office door I noted three penguins deep in conversation with the polar bear. There was some gesticulation with flippers and glances in my direction. I retreated to my desk and had barely begun wondering what was going on when the penguins appeared beside me.
‘We want the scarf.’
‘I’m sorry?’
‘Your scarf, we want it. Don’t be difficult or this could get ugly.’
‘Right. Grab him lads.’
Ever been slapped by a penguin flipper? It hurts. As the penguins waddled off with the scarf a figure wrapped in furs stumped past. Followed by a sled and a miserable-looking camera crew.
‘Mmmph mmph mm bfff.’
The camera crew looked at each other, nonplussed. The fur-clad figure pulled the covering away from the lower half of his face, and Sir Ranulph Fiennes indicated the corner of the office:
‘Set the fire over there. By that Yucca. Be quick about it or we’ll freeze.’
Stolidly refusing to be distracted further I returned to my PC. By this point my legs were numb and thinking was becoming difficult. Why was Sir Ranulph Fiennes in our office? Andrea was not going to be very pleased if they started a fire next to her Yucca. Maybe I’d be warmer if I had a little lie down.
I woke in the ambulance at around midday. The crew told me it had been a close thing, hypothermia being generally bad for you. Ah. I must have been hallucinating.
‘We found your coat and scarf. Why on earth weren’t you wearing them?’ The ambulance crewman looked concerned.
‘I have no idea, but I had a very odd dream about them…’
‘Think your boss also wants to speak to you urgently about some odd scorch marks in your office.’
The moral of the story? A plea to Facilities. Next year could you turn on the heating just a little earlier? I cannot otherwise be held responsible for my actions.

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

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



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

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

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

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

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


Yet another senior management post is currently being advertised, this time a Pro-Vice Chancellor for ‘Engagement’. Some time ago, we supplemented our PVC for quality and standards and our PVC for the student experience with a new PVC for education, to add to our dangerously understaffed top floor. It then seemed that the number of education-related head honchos threatened the status of those on the research side of the stairs, as this autumn another senior management post was advertised, at a to-be-negotiated, but one assumes eye-watering, salary, adding more top brass to the research pontiffocracy. Again, exactly what this person was expected to do was not clear. The REF was alluded to but no actual measurable duties were specified other than ‘answering to’ the existing PVC for Research and Enterprise.

And now it is the turn of ‘Engagement’. Remembering that each department already has at least one person responsible for teaching / research / etc who answers to their faculty Associate Dean, who in turn answers to a Dean, who in turn answers to at least one PVC, we felt it was time to look more closely at what these rather expensive new colleagues will do for their daily crust.

Simon Hoggart used to say that if the opposite of a politician’s statement (e.g. ‘we support hard working families’) was ridiculous then the original statement wasn’t worth making. Kenwright has suggested that if it is not clear how the holder of a management post’s success or failure could be judged after a given interval from the job description, then the post isn’t worth having. So, let’s look at the PVC for engagement’s ‘specific duties’, shall we?

– University Planning and Resource Group
– Internal groups as advised by the Vice-Chancellor
– Business and Community Engagement Group (Chair)
– Various promotions and professorial pay committees
– ‘We are Lancaster’ (Lead)
– Dukes Partnership
– Lead on the Public Arts Strategy
– Santander Advisory Group (Chair)
– Appropriate approvals as delegated by Senate or the Vice-Chancellor

Well that’s perfectly clear then!

Those of us unfortunate enough to have to assess module descriptions are told to use Bloom’s Taxonomy of measurable verbs to ensure our learning outcomes can be tested (e.g. ‘able to explain phlogiston theory’, not ‘understands phlogiston theory’). If our leaders cannot come up with more convincing descriptions of what their new chums will do, other than add critical mass to the air of collective self-importance with which they stride across campus between meetings clutching folders and frowning earnestly, then one wonders whether the money might be better spent on subscriptions to journals, books for the library, bottles of deuterated solvents or anything else which would actually enhance research, learning or the university in general.