Regular readers of subtext will know that issues outside the regular fortnightly cycle are released very rarely, and only on issues that the collective deems to be urgent.
As predicted by subtext, the University Court is to be abolished (subtexts 166, 169, 170, 171).
Its final meeting, where members will discuss, but not vote on, the terms of abolition, will take place on Saturday 27 January.
The Court’s external reviewer, David Allen, had asked for the Court to be consulted before any final decision were taken. In his report to the Council, Mr Allen felt that it would be ‘important, if change is contemplated, to devise a careful communication strategy so that Court in January is not simply confronted with a fait accompli,’ and emphasised that ‘it is for Council, not Court, to decide what should happen but it would be courteous to listen to Court’s views, expressed at its next meeting in January 2018, prior to making any changes to University legislation.’
It would seem that the Council carefully noted Mr Allen’s points, decided to be discourteous, approved the Court’s abolition at its November meeting, and agreed to present a fait accompli to the Court’s January meeting, ‘to ensure that members are aware of the rationale for the decision’. Gee, thanks. This decision was taken in secret – minutes are still not available and Mr Allen’s report, which has now been tabled for discussion by the Court, is still marked as ‘Confidential to the University’. The Court is to be replaced with an Annual Public Meeting, although it seems unlikely that this will have any formal status in Lancaster’s governance structures.
Another possible change could end up being even more significant. Mr Allen proposes that the Nominations Committee, which oversees the appointment of Council members and is regarded by many as the only safeguard we have against cronyism within that body, should be entirely gutted.
At the moment the Nominations Committee contains 4 ex-officio members, 2 members appointed by the Council, 2 members appointed by the Court, and 2 members appointed by the Senate. Mr Allen recommends that this be replaced with 100% of the members appointed by the Council. A self-perpetuating oligarchy with members accountable to no-one, perhaps? At present, due to the secrecy of the Council’s deliberations, subtext doesn’t know if the Council endorsed Mr Allen’s recommendation. But we aren’t optimistic.
In its current form, the Nominations Committee was established in 2006, when the Court lost its right to directly appoint members of the Council. Court members were explicitly assured that their influence would continue to be felt via the Nominations Committee. Clearly, if you’re going to abolish the Court, then you’ll need to change the Nominations Committee. We didn’t expect a coup d’état though!
Can members and friends of the University do anything about this? Well, if we don’t at least try, then the answer will surely be ‘no’!