Category Archives: editorial

subtext 179 – ‘dragging us into a black and white photograph’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, LUSU, access, calling on gary, lost & found, fascists, tech, canal quarter, garden village, sports science, impact!, more access, no letters.

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

In the last edition of subtext we focused on the subject of precarity. In this issue we highlight the problem of access for those colleagues and visitors with mobility problems. The rather tired cliché trotted out by senior management is that this is the price we have to pay to stay at the top table and continue to see Lancaster ‘punching above its weight’ is nonsense.

The politics surrounding the sector, the increased marketization, the stifling of debate and the closing down of democratic structures and the ongoing farce that is UA92 are subjects that subtext will return to again and again, but campus accessibility and job security are not areas that should be a cause for concern at this university.

Oh, did we mention how much we like the wild flowers and grasses on the roundabout at the far end of the underpass – very nice.

subtext 178 – ‘the future ain’t what it used to be’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, hostile environment (x4), sticky wiki, Gary on teacher (x4), flounders, surveying the surveyors (x2), democracy, LUSU (x3), crazy paving, gradballs (x2), lost & found, mostly men o’ wisdom, wet and forget, spine, buses, UCU (x2), letter.

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

Today, one of the most highly skilled professions in Britain, university teaching, is dominated by zero-hours contracts, temp agencies, and other forms of precarious conditions, while many tasks that relate to areas in which we have world-leading expertise are outsourced to morally dubious consultancy firms. A staggering number of early-career academics are affected by precarity, but none more so than international staff, who are not only uncertain about their full time job prospects, but flat out prevented from enjoying basic academic freedoms (from supporting strike action to attending conferences abroad, and participating in long-term fieldwork). No matter how much energy and effort one puts in navigating the byzantine bureaucracy, the product might be a standardized letter from the Home Office:

‘As you appear to have no alternative basis of stay in the United Kingdom you should now make arrangements to leave. If you fail to make a voluntary departure a separate decision may be made later to enforce your removal.’

We continue to champion our ‘global outreach and commitment to global research’, yet fail to provide even basic assistance for international staff. Our HR processes and visa teams seem increasingly forced to focus on compliance first (and sometimes compliance only), rather than on providing support to staff and students. The glossy ‘welcome package’ sent out to those who survive the immigration process contains little more than empty slogans and a list of overpriced and opportunistic relocation services. Rather than selling narratives of the ‘Global University’ (at open days and to our colleagues abroad with whom we are asked to network), let’s try addressing the realities of people leaving the UK over Brexit, and the increasingly hostile environment for international staff.

 

subtext 177 – ‘be realistic and demand the impossible’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, sports (x3), local government (x2), tech, senate, horticulture, justice (x2), buildings, grads, buses, activism, loans, noise, shart attack, widden, letters.

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

Once again, subtext has an avalanche of news stories regarding the Gary Neville University – ‘UA92’ to give it its official title, and ‘The Golden Goose’ as it has come to be known in the subtext warehouse. Despite a thin editorial roster, we have managed to produce hundreds of words per issue on this ongoing fiasco. It’s subtext’s safety net. If the world stops spinning, and absolutely nothing of interest happens – from the meatiest scandal to the tittle-tattle of the daily grind – we can always rely on Gary and his mates to provide us with material.

It feels like only yesterday that the subtext drones were giggling at the idea. The over-under on the whole thing being abandoned was three months.

And yet here we are, nearly two years later, and the University is still ploughing ahead with the public embarrassment that is the Gary Neville University. Let’s just recap what we’ve covered this academic year:

– The Conservative Trafford Council that was all systems go on approving all of the Class of 92’s requests for planning permission has been voted out, in no small part because it pushed the project in the face of strong local opposition, to be replaced by a minority Labour Council supported by a Green Party that wants Gary Neville out.

– Gary’s gang came within a hair’s breadth of setting up this institution with Salford University, only to jilt them at the 11th hour because there was a better prospect further north.

– They released a prospectus promising the chance to ‘make amazing happen.’ Unironically.

– They want a ‘Principal/Chief Executive Officer’ with a ‘disruptive approach to teaching’.

– We discovered that the owner of the ‘UA92’ title, one Brendan Flood, already runs a rival institution offering the same degrees in the same locale and using the same name, for which he is subject to legal action.

– Gary’s gang took to Twitter to beg businesses to get involved and start offering placements, once it became clear that Microsoft alone was not going to provide the 2000+ placements needed to fulfil UA92’s wild promises.

– UA92 does not have any fully approved sites yet.

– Gary’s and Giggsy’s original plans for their multi-million pound Jackson’s Row scheme had to be withdrawn following widespread angry protests. The revised plans were then attacked by English Heritage because of ‘the cumulative harm that would be caused to highly graded listed buildings’.

– The market research into the need for a UA92 has been so limited as to be non-existent, so that local residents don’t even know what the potential spending power of its students is likely to be.

– UA92’s application to be an educational sponsor for Tier 4 Visa students appears to have been rejected by the Home Office (see our report below).

In all of this, Lancaster University has stayed silent, despite its reputation being trashed almost daily. Though there might have been cuts to student services and staff departments over the last year or so, you can’t say that the top table hasn’t made it obvious which good causes those savings are going towards. So stay tuned – there are still three issues of subtext due out before the academic year is over.

subtext 176 – ‘for the avoidance of subtext’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, fash, more fash, gender pay gap, UA92 (in four parts), bad governance, more governance, assistant deans, appeal for more assistant deans, bomb shelter update, grad ball, alternative grad ball, lu text lost and found, email, lusu agm, look at what you could have won, letters.

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

We’ve had a relaxing vacation spent spring-cleaning the subtext warehouse and enjoying the beer garden experience far more times than is good for us. So much so, that the subtext collective is a little disappointed with what it’s had to return to.

Sure, it’s summer term, and that means flowers, fun events and fluffy ducks chirping away on the University’s bucolic parkland campus. But this year, we also have to contend with high-decibel jackhammering, widespread dust and destruction, discord over where students should hold their balls, continued chipping away at our democratic governance structures, and – oh yes – more fascism on campus. And as if that wasn’t bad enough, you all have to put up with subtext going on about it all every two weeks!

All that aside, welcome to summer term 2018 – we wish you a very happy one!

subtext 175 – ‘complicated actuarial subtext’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, strike, lost and found, UA92, remuneration, LUSU, colleges, shart, pine, jones, widden, letters.

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

It must be hard, being a Vice-Chancellor. Apart from the hundreds of thousands of pounds you earn, the chauffeur-driven Jaguar, oh, and the pornstar martinis of course, there don’t seem to be many positives to the job.

Everyone’s always complaining at you. Staff who want fair pensions. Students who complain when they aren’t being taught, and want their money back. Deans who complain when their HoDs refuse to do what they’re told to keep striking staff in line… And to top it all off, there’s the union members who complain when you don’t come and visit them for 9 days on the picket lines, and then complain afterwards that you haven’t really said anything. Even when you throw them a bone by agreeing to spread out their payments over three months, they still complain because you’ve told them you don’t think they’ve sufficiently considered the financial impact of striking. Fortunately you’re confident that, like you, they don’t understand all the complicated actuarial science behind their pension schemes, so you’re sure they’ll come round eventually if you just keep repeating that line!

And also, you’ve taken some steps to make sure that any dissenting voices won’t have much opportunity to make themselves heard. You’ve destroyed Court, clipped Senate’s wings, and Council is hardly going to cause you much trouble, given the present membership.

And of course you would never stoop to such questionable ‘leadership’ tactics as Glasgow’s VC, who was out on the picket lines from near the start of the strike, or Kent’s, who issued a joint statement with the local union branch. Or Leicester’s, who is only deducting two days worth of pay per month for the strike action, so the financial loss is spread out over seven months. What a wimp!

Nor would you wish to align yourself with the dozens of VCs who publicly called for a return to negotiations – no, when some nasty journos wrongly reported that you had, you made sure to tell people what’s what. And coming right out and saying we should retain defined benefits, like the Cambridge VC – madness! After all, someone in as important a position as chair of UCEA had better watch out, and stay on the good side of his UUK buddies. Yes, that’s what real leadership looks like!

subtext 174 – ‘ambitious managed divergent subtext’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, senate stuff, gary’s barmy army, bunker blues, fashion notes, pickets’r’us, sorry scan, court in the act, lusu democracy, lost and found, more lusu democracy, more lost and found, unis for sale, shart, comedy review, widden reviews, letters.

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

Five days down, nine days of strike action to go (unless one side blinks today or tomorrow). It’s time for our Vice-Chancellor to state a consistent position, publicly, on the future of USS.

As subtext revealed in a newsflash last week, Prof Smith denied in Senate that – as reported in the Times that day – he’d broken ranks with the majority of Vice-Chancellors and supported a change to Universities UK’s current policy on USS. Apparently the sides are too far apart and we couldn’t afford UCU’s demands anyway.

Meanwhile, Prof Smith’s statements to staff meetings over the past few months have been broadly supportive of retaining a defined benefit scheme, and many staff had been heartened to read that ‘Mark’s on our side’ last Wednesday. Some may have decided at the last minute not to take strike action, in the belief that Prof Smith was one of the good guys and gals within UUK who deserved support.

So was the Times’s story just fake news? Or has our Vice-Chancellor been giving different messages to different audiences?

A string of Vice-Chancellors made public declarations of support for a change to Universities UK’s pensions policy in the last week, with one (Glasgow Principal Anton Muscatelli) even joining striking staff on the picket line . Now might be a good time for Prof Smith to side with the staff at his own institution …

… or not, if his statement to the Senate is a truer reflection of his thinking. If so, then he should say this openly – at least we’d know where he really stands.

subtext 173 – ’empowering your opinion with impartial information’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, campus fascists, senate newsflash, campus fools, campus activists, ua92, researchgate fail, buses fail, bomb shelter update, we need you, love poem, shart, concert review, letters.

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

Back in October, subtext reported on recent incidents of office doors on campus being defaced by swastikas (see subtext 166 and 167). Now, we bring news of a campus ‘alt-right’ would-be society whose members endorse a white Christian Europe and spread tales of Israel chemically castrating immigrants (see lead story below).

Freedom of speech at Lancaster University, although defended by (almost) everyone here, has in recent years been a mostly theoretical debate. There really weren’t significant numbers of people saying things that really caused offence – not openly, anyway. Demonstrations and counter-demonstrations on ‘giving a platform to hatred’ were things that happened at other universities. Well, those times seem like they might be over, so we need to start thinking about what we should do when people propagate hate speech – at meetings, in seminars and at public events.

subtext has not seen any evidence that our new alt-righters might be planning or encouraging acts of violence – their style is more to disrupt debate and deliberately be ‘provocative’. It’s quite possible that they are really very desperate for attention and, if we leave them well alone, they’ll soon get bored and go back to retweeting memes about frogs.

So do we give them what they want, and start organising demonstrations? Or do we ignore them? And what will our students’ union do about their application for official society status? Let a student jury decide? Your comments and letters would be most welcome.

subtext 172 – ‘panic in granadaland’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, strike, more strike, pile ’em high and sell ’em cheap, UA92, court report, bomb shelter news, letters.

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

Imagine the situation. You’ve just been named ‘University of the Year’. Yes, we know it’s a marketing gimmick. But they’re not going to trash their reputation by giving you the thing if they don’t think you’re pretty good, are they? And you’ve just got a ‘Gold’ rating in the national assessment of teaching quality. Again, yes, we know it’s a flawed measure. But you’re pretty keen to keep hold of it, aren’t you?

Given all this, what’s your headline strategy for the next few years? What’s that? ‘Go all out for an increase in numbers, with no investment in facilities to match, get the staff to double teach their courses, and make them teach on a Saturday,’ you say? Well, congratulations! You’re just the person we’re looking for to drive our ‘dash for growth’ proposals forward.

Oh, just one more thing. Do you have a private pension plan? You see, I’m not sure you’re going to like our plans for the company scheme…

subtext 171 – ‘the stable genius of a shithole subtext’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: http://wp.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/about/

In this issue: editorial, tech, groveling apology, website, UA92 bonanza, court, leadership bonanza, UCLan, BAM, lowercase letters, shart, concert review, letters.

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

We had it all sewn up – the editorial was written, the issue was edited, and we were seconds away from hitting our big red button…

… and then we heard this breaking news:

Stretford residents have just scored a major success in its opposition to Trafford Council’s regeneration plans, to which the Gary Neville University is integral. The Council has withdrawn its plans for Lacy Street, the proposed site for UA92 student accommodation. They now want to focus on a significantly reduced size, with commercial use alongside joint student and key worker accommodation, and on a much slower timescale to allow for proper consultation. The delay is expected to be a year. There is no information as yet on how this will impact on the main campus development on the old Kellogs site, but this is likely to be a major blow for UA92, which is supposed to be ready for the first student intake in September 2019. Close observers of recent events in Stretford will realise that locals have worked hard to make their voices heard. Their success is, apart from anything else, a lesson to us all in the power of organised opposition.

Welcome, readers, to another year of subtext!

subtext 170 – ‘A frontier without borders, a subtext without regulatory alignment’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

Back issues & subscription details: www.lancs.ac.uk/subtext

In this issue: editorial, the vc’s pay, deliverology, plug, court, qa at ua, plenty of pvcs, signs, more signs, damp, lost and found, spirit of 84, end of term message, shart, mark thomas review, letters

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

UCU members have received ballot papers to vote on proposals for strike action to defend USS pensions. We have been here before (see, for example, subtext 82). What makes this one any different? Well, aside from the refrain of ‘won’t get fooled again’ which should be ringing in the ears of everyone as they cast their votes, this is the first strike ballot called by UCU since the Trade Union Act 2016 came into force. The ballot will not be valid unless 50% of the UCU membership participates.

Consider the likely consequences if the 50% threshold is not met. ‘If they can’t get half their membership to vote on an issue like their own pensions,’ the country’s VCs will think, ‘can they get half their membership to vote on anything at all?’ Probably not. Slightly perversely, this means that a vote for ‘No’ on a high turnout would do more for the future bargaining strength of our unions than an overwhelming vote for ‘Yes’ on a turnout of 49%.

So it is all about the turnout and subtext urges all its readers in the UCU to attend one the UCU’s pension information meetings and then cast their vote – we hope you’ll vote ‘Yes’, but would prefer that you voted ‘No’ rather than not voting at all.

subtext 169 – ‘Their tongues are silver forks. There’s a lack of wisdom, you can hear it on their breath’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

In this issue: editorial, disability cuts, subscriptions, hods, senate report, short stuff, rent pasta, stretford surveys, dept merge, UA92 bodies, VC twitter, shart, zionism review, letters

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

In today’s issue, we report once again on the proposed gutting of University Court. The body, which is Lancaster’s largest and most diverse stakeholder gathering, has already been pushed close to being merely a ceremonial gathering, but D Floor’s clear ambition is now to abolish it entirely and replace it with a PR event. Not that subtext expects top table to meet much resistance – there was little opposition to the idea of abolition at Senate last week, and now, we assume, we just wait for the University Council to drop the axe.

What are the implications of this? Well, it means in no uncertain terms that our alumni, dignitaries, and other external stakeholders will now receive no say whatsoever in any part of the University’s operations. The Court – our last truly democratic governing body, which elects large numbers of its members and is responsible for approving our Chancellor and, until recently, Pro-Chancellor – will cease to exist, depriving stakeholders from whom we rarely hear of the chance to offer unique perspectives and propose policies that the Senate and University Council are mandated to, at the very least, discuss. Attending the University Court, especially for alumni and external stakeholders, is a labour – members travel from miles around to be in attendance, and they do so because there is a sense of duty to the University as well as the opportunity to be involved in Lancaster’s decision-making. Is anybody going to swell with a sense of social responsibility at the thought of traveling 245 miles to listen to a drab presentation from the Deputy Vice-Chancellor on financial performance and hear Roger Liddle shouting ‘long may the University prosper’ before retiring to the lobby for some ‘light refreshments’?

The ‘pitfalls’ of having a University Court, as outlined by the Chief Administrative Officer, are vanishingly small. At this stage in the Vice-Chancellor’s tenure, it is easy to draw patterns between meetings that have put his nose out of joint or embarrassed him and proposals to make those meetings suddenly disappear. Make no mistake – the abolition of University Court would be an act of petty isolation, and a means of senior management keeping a tighter grip on just who gets to be involved in decision making. The role of Bath University’s own Court in bringing their overpaid VC to book admirably demonstrates the value of having such an independent minded body with the ability to intervene. Maybe this is why so many Vice-Chancellors are so keen to get rid of them.

subtext 168 – ‘giving our graduates the tools to make subtexting happen’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

In this issue: editorial, part one, part one part two, social media, football, football, more football, university of the year, shakin’, big brother, correction, memory lane, buses, lul, queen albert, concert review, letters

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

In subtext 166, we alluded to plans within FASS to undertake external searches for several Heads of Department. The subtext drones are doing some digging to unearth some of the rationale behind this, but in the meantime, we are moved to comment on the implications of such a radical policy-change. Long-toothed Lancastrians might remember the ‘Deansgate’ scandal. No, not the Mancunian thoroughfare – the move by the University to cease the democratic selection of Faculty Deans, leaving us free to externally appoint our Deans if needs be (subtext 42). We said at the time that this would prevent faculty staff from having a say in who their leader would be.

While HoD appointments have never been democratic, they have at least guaranteed that the appointee would be well-known to the staff they were to lead, knowledgeable of a department’s processes, strengths and failures, and (importantly) not permanent. Any potential HoD is required to have reached a certain level of seniority, which guarantees that your Head Honcho is going to have an intricate knowledge of the department, faculty, and university in general.

If the VC and the Dean of FASS are serious about making external HoD appointments, then what does this mean for morale across our departments? It is perfectly possible that a number of our academics are itching to take on the role of HoD. It’s an extra workload, but it can be an excellent bit of career development; leadership, survival, and self and peer group analysis skills if you will. If an external search becomes policy, then that’s a whole lot of academic staff being actively prevented from ‘boosting their CV.’ Furthermore, the potential cost of this has to be considered – if every department (or even a great deal) is now expected to make an external appointment, then that’s an additional professorial salary per department.

Astute readers will have realised by now that the subtext collective is extremely concerned about the proposals, and suspects that their sudden emergence isn’t something that ‘just occurred’ to the top table. We advise any readers who share our concerns to lobby their Heads of Department about this should it come to Senate – not that turkeys voting for Christmas is a rarity on that body…

It’s a kick in the teeth for serving and former Heads of Department, who are essentially being told that their service has been so bad as to necessitate a new way of doing things. But it must surely be ten times worse for anybody currently in the running to take over a department – the message being that the prospect of their leadership is so horrifying that the VC is willing to completely overhaul a policy that has served us well for over half a century just to keep them away.

subtext 167 – ‘accelerate… but remember speed kills’

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

In this issue: editorial, swastikas, criminology, plug, parkarking, crooked, air raid sirens, uain’t 92, idiotic leninism, rock, rock2, Israel, ucu, shart attack, music festival review, concert review, letters

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

subtext was created for many reasons – to be a forum for discussion, to encourage a sense of community, to propagate a culture of speaking out. But above all else, we are a source of news, and we at subtext are at our most self-congratulatory when we know we’ve broken a story.

The celebration of our scoops on the Gary Neville University and the University Court in the last issue was one such nauseating affair, and we braced ourselves for a warehouse awash with letters the following day. We were awash with letters, comments, and questions on these matters, but what garnered the most attention was our revelation that some office doors had been defaced with Nazi symbols.

Shortly after subtext 166’s release, a number of understandably concerned individuals contacted us directly for more information. We are in agreement that we missed the potential impact and significance of this story. The appearance of swastikas on university campuses is a worrying sign, perhaps, of the increasingly common stench of Fascism that has emerged in Western nations. As such we were not all adequately briefed to provide more information to the affected parties. Given the seriousness of hate-speech on our campus, we should have been. To that end, we have produced a more detailed report in this issue of subtext, and we understand that the University has now taken a direct interest in these

subtext 166 – ‘building a subtext that works  or everyon ‘

Fortnightly during term time.

Letters, contributions, & comments: subtext-editors@lancaster.ac.uk

In this issue: editorial, technology, special report: gary neville, iLancaster, centralisation, buildings 1, court in a trap, court again, the times, nazis, buses, printers, swoosh, inkytext, inkytext 2, buildings 2, buildings 3, John Hadfield, shart attack, theatre review, letters.

*****************************************************

EDITORIAL

The drones are oiled, the shelves are dusted, and the caretaker has been rendered conscious long enough to re-open the subtext warehouse just in time for the 17/18 academic year. And not a moment too soon, for the summer has lived up to its reputation as a time for either burying bad news or pushing it down the hill to snowball until it’s too late to make sense of. Sometimes, the subtext collective wonders if it should be active during the more conspiratorial months. Other times, the valedictory Vanilla Skies and the preparatory Pinot Grigios that buffer either end of the summer vacation are much too distracting.

Readers will remember that we opened the 16/17 academic year by allusively referring to the Gary Neville University. Only seven months after its existence was unceremoniously broken by the Manchester Evening News, the University last month finally acknowledged its impending birth(https://tinyurl.com/y77ekv5r). There are only so many times that subtext can harp on about what a Bad Idea this is going to be before we end up looking like a doomsday preacher, but… this is a very, very Bad Idea.

Below you will find our most detailed report on the matter yet, written now that the collaboration is no longer ‘commercial in confidence.’ Stepping back from our detail driven sleuthing, though, we can ask a broader question; ‘Why?’

Why are we taking a 40% financial stake and a 100% reputational share of what is essentially a new university set up with a group of retired footballers? If it were some private educational firm like Study Group International, subtext would at least be able to understand why top table would be enticed. But we are going into business with a collection of individuals who emphatically are NOT experts in higher education. THEY can cut their losses and walk away if it all goes wrong, whereas Lancaster University would suffer years of reputational damage. The fact that tuition fees are due to be frozen for an unspecified period will leave the University with a hole in its budget over the coming years, but with no reduction in how much it has to contribute to the Gary Neville University. A series of funding cuts (see subtext 165) were already ordered at the end of the last academic year – looking down the line, how much harder are we going to be squeezed to fund this absurd project?