Category Archives: letters

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

Did you know that the university has changed its policy on eye tests?

When I had my work glasses two years ago, I had a refund of £74 from the university – £24 for the test and £50 for the glasses. I went to my preferred optician which was Specsavers.

Now you have to go through something called SEE to get your voucher. This entitles you to a free eye test but only at the opticians listed, so not my opticians then, which I’ve been going to for years. It also entitles you to a free pair of their frames which quite frankly I wouldn’t be buried in, nor does it seem you can try them on before deciding.

https://tinyurl.com/ydyw5hrc

Or – and this is the really shitty part – £25 towards your glasses, that you require to be able to do your job, partly because your eyesight has been wrecked by the tiny text and screenwork that you have been doing for the past 23 years. The two options in Kendal I could use are Boots, their range starts at £50, or Vision Express, and their range starts at £39, so whichever I choose I still have to put money to the glasses that I require to do my job. Interestingly Specsavers start their range at £25 but they aren’t allowed to join the scheme as I’ve been in contact with my branch and they have looked into it.

Thought you might be interested as I’m spitting feathers at this moment in time.

Best wishes for a summer of blindness.

Andrea Kitchen
Timetabling & Room Bookings

***

Dear subtext,

This survey from the group Unis Resist Border Controls researching hostile environment policies in British Higher Education might be of interest to you and your readers. Would encourage folks to fill it in and share it around.

https://docs.google.com/forms/d/17uOdK8IVj_Gm03mVeu80byNKtmV1E7FkFfieZeNla3w/viewform?edit_requested=true

Best wishes,

Toby Atkinson

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

I am an enormous fan of subtext and have been over a number of years. I have been especially impressed by reports on UA92 and much more. This meant I was surprised to see the report on Bailrigg garden village which seemed to lack your usual depth, questions and challenges. Bailrigg garden village has been in the public domain since January 2017 and the ‘issues and options’ drop ins followed Local Plan drop ins in February 2017 and consultations in October 2017. In other words it has been around for rather a long time.

Am puzzled by the housing numbers that you quote since there is a bid in to the Housing Infrastructure Fund – something in the region of £150m on the basis of there being 3,500 houses. This is to justify some funding for the reconfigured motorway junction, the crossing of the mainline west coast railway to access the site, to develop the bus system etc. Maybe a first question to ask is what are the infrastructure costs associated with this particular site? Given recent history of expenditure overruns on say the Bay Gateway the track record is not encouraging.

This week’s Lancaster Guardian (paper edition) includes a two page special report entitled: ‘There’s a sense that Galgate doesn’t count: seven months on from the major flooding that hit Galgate, residents are becoming increasingly concerned about new building developments that could leave them at even more risk than ever before’:

https://www.lancasterguardian.co.uk/news/galgate-residents-reveal-frustration-desperation-and-depression-after-2017-floods-1-9208157

You seem to be dismissing the community impact of Bailrigg garden village as something that only affects Burrow Heights and the tone is ‘well so what?’ Galgate, Bailrigg village, Burrow Heights and Scotforth are Bailrigg garden village’s neighbours. The November floods affected all those areas and additional building simply adds to concerns. Did you attend the recent open meetings around the Health Innovation Campus? Those meetings highlighted how the local communities felt about drainage from University development flowing into the Ou Beck and the Burrow Beck – residents were anxious and angry. Did you read about the angry flood meetings in December following last year’s floods? Residents were not reassured by Lancaster City Council that Bailrigg garden village would solve all that, far from it.

Another question to ask is what relationship, if any, does the university have to Bailrigg garden village? It isn’t at all clear and with a venture that is causing so much local concern it would be interesting to know. Where will people work who live in Bailrigg garden village? I have long been confused by seeming conflicting employment projections from the Health Innovation Campus.

2,000 jobs are quoted in the publicity – how has that figure been arrived at?

There is also massive worry about air quality in South Lancaster, highlighted in research from LEC. You commented on the very vague ‘plans’ for rapid bus transport and the belief that the reconfigured motorway junction would solve air quality for Galgate. But would it? What will happen to Scotforth and the Pointer roundabout, already hardly quiet, if spiralling costs or planning issues and personal choice mean people still use their cars to take their kids to school, to go to the supermarket, etc.?

I am a retired member of the University and I am a Galgate resident so you could say I am an interested party. You normally provide an excellent set of insights and hope this letter might be helpful.

Best wishes,

Mary Rose

***

Dear subtext,

Thought this might be of interest. A group of squatters recently occupied one of Gary Neville’s properties in Manchester in part to protest against the lack of affordable housing in the city and Neville’s role in gentrification. Their collective statement (cited in the below piece) directly takes aim at the UA92 plan and its relationship to the wider marketisation of HE.

https://freedomnews.org.uk/gary-neville-luxury-development-occupied-by-persons-unknown/

Best wishes,

Toby Atkinson

LETTERS

There’s been a distinct lack of letters. Let’s hope for a bumper postbag next time.

LETTER

Dear subtext,

Xin chúc mừng, to the writer of the Saigon evacuation piece!  Actually stayed at my desk to finish reading it, guffawing all the way!

Keep it up, colleagues

Jackie H

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

In 2005/6 when I (as HoD) was trying to support an appeal by a female member of admin who had been downgraded by the job review that was supposed to bring equivalence to roles, I looked  through the internal telephone directory at the names of people who occupied similar grade roles that had not been downgraded. They were almost all male names and employed in University House roles. In departments where the pay was lower, the names were mostly female. The justification was that centralised roles undertook tasks that gained more points, mostly because they undertook centralised tasks!!

My observations were insufficient to challenge the gender neutrality of the job/pay review at that time. I’m pleased to see that gender pay differences is now more valued as an indicator of equality and fairness.

Bob Sapey

(Retired)

***

Dear subtext,

The so-called Gender Pay Gap is, in fact, a Sex Pay Gap and the efforts that the university are suggesting around maternity and childcare are woefully inadequate, the latter mainly consisting of signposting things that are already available (though in the case of preschool childcare, pretty inadequate – it’s impossible, for example, to get additional hours/days at the Preschool Centre if asked to work extra time by one’s department).

The pay gap is in place way before we have children. Women are less mobile due to tending to have professional partners (while men are more likely to have partners in more portable and less professional jobs, since men earn more than their partners across society). Lancaster could make it easier for women to take a job if they have a professional partner, and advertise this. We could make it more flexible to, for example, take a sabbatical or a non-sabbatical career break so partners can move temporarily together. I had a big struggle when I wanted to take two terms’ sabbatical because it was the right time for my husband and me – he’d just been made redundant but apparently ‘we don’t do that in Psychology, we only take a full year’. One male colleague on hearing this said ‘oh I suppose my wife just gave up her job when I went on sabbatical’.

Women have more other caring responsibilities, not just children. My husband and I needed to stay locally for a number of years – at a time when other colleagues were getting promoted by moving jobs – because my husband’s mother was elderly and needed care. Few men help with care of their mother in law because that’s not what they’ve been taught since childhood.

Travel for work is often impossible for women with caring responsibilities – I couldn’t really travel for the first couple of years after we had children and the only reason I can now is because my husband’s work has become more flexible, not my job (he’s gone part time through choice but also his employer has pushed and enabled working from home a lot more. There’s been no change at all in the help Lancaster has given and no substantial change in the availability of childcare). Even a full day travel is impossible for me (London and back in a day for example) if I’m relying on outside childcare. This means not only could I not go to conferences at first but I also couldn’t go to e.g. a government meeting or grant meeting.

Because of Lancaster’s location, talented postgrads who want to stay in the area have to move into a professional services job – there are few commutable academic jobs if you don’t get one in Lancaster. This is more likely to affect women – men just move for work, while women stay put with, as I’ve said, a professional partner, non-childcare responsibilities or children.

Women have always been taught (since birth and, these days, before) that they are supposed to be less assertive. Obviously if you’ve managed to get a job in academia, you must have managed to push yourself forward to some extent. We recently had an excellent small workshop on promotion for women but previously the University has run workshops where at one a female professor just told us ‘it’s easy to be a professor, you just have to publish a lot and get grants’ (I can hear the hollow laughter of men and women echoing round campus!) and at another senior women just said ‘oh I’ve never experienced any discrimination’.

From the moment the doctor says ‘It’s a girl!’ or ‘It’s a boy!’ society treats us differently – our sex determines what gender roles society thinks we should take, following a partner as a trailing spouse, not speaking up to creepy supervisors, not putting ourselves forward for keynotes and promotions, taking on caring responsibilities for older and younger people – and that in turn determines how much we are paid.

Katie Alcock

Psychology

***

Dear subtext,

I concur with your evaluation of the Gender Pay Report.

I have received an ex-gratia payment of £1000, but I was told not to tell anyone that I’d received it. Apparently it might upset those who hadn’t got one. It felt cheapening at the time. No celebration there, then.

I sent my son to the Pre-School centre 25 years ago – it hasn’t been useful to me since. Indeed, its convenience has probably been instrumental in keeping people (possibly men as well as women) working at Lancaster longer than they reasonably should. At any rate, this and other childcare services, despite their longevity, do not seem to have had the impact on the career ladder of women in the past that the report bandies for the future.

Regarding the report itself, the graphs show annoying blue blocks (men) suffocating the beige (?) women at all levels of the organisation. Even in print there’s no level playing field.  The SS 1-5 ladies’ block is so small the corresponding number has to fit outside it, faintly out of step.

I’d sign this letter, but as the informal NDA mentioned above is probably still in force, I am, yours truly, Anon.

Name supplied

***

Dear subtext,

Noise!!! I have quite an interesting and long story to tell, of which I will spare you the details, about men drilling under my window ledge in Bowland North, me contacting Keith Douglas in Facilities as suggested by them, Keith assuring me on the phone that he had asked them to stop and schedule the noisy drilling 8-9 the following days, the men telling me that they could not take orders from him, and so on and so forth…

Drilling that shakes the floor and deafens your ears is great, especially if accompanied by shouting, swearing, bad singing, plus various types of machinery moving around, beeping, etc…

Never mind my work, but what about the students who are trying to do oral examinations, attend seminars, revise, talk to tutors, etc…

I just wonder whether, like last year, there will actually be noise during written examinations just outside the exam rooms…

Thinking of it, I wrote a similar comment in May 2015, and I thought about writing more every year since then…

Michela Masci

Department of Languages and Cultures

***

Dear subtext,

My own recollection of the Jim Bowen performance, which was in approximately 1997 or 1998 and which I witnessed, is not particularly close to the account given in subtext 176. He performed in the Bowland quadrangle, not the bar, on a stage set up for the extrav that evening, for which he provided an opening act. The JCR President was on the stage with him and was the only one present who appeared to find it amusing, although he admitted afterwards that in fact he had not been listening to Bowen’s act! That consisted almost entirely of racist anti-immigrant ‘jokes’. These might have been suitable for a 1960s white audience or a BNP convention, but were totally wrong in the context of a multi-racial audience of intelligent students, as he should have anticipated. It was a crass and stupid choice of content.

He was not booed off the stage (the Bowland students were much too polite for that), but there was no laughter and much audible muttering and cat-calling. Bowen clearly realised his act was going down very badly and cut the performance rather abruptly short and left the stage hurriedly. One of the audience threw a half glassful of beer at him as Bowen passed by, splashing the leather jacket the ‘comedian’ was wearing. He was very annoyed by this and asked me, as the College Principal in attendance, for the cost of having his jacket cleaned. I refused, telling him that his choice of subject matter was so clearly unsuitable and provocative that he should have expected even more of an adverse response and that he was lucky to get away with only that much damage. This was not well received, but we heard no more from him.

Ian Saunders

***

Dear subtext,

Regarding the picture on the university home page (see letter in subtext 176) – it must have been taken some time ago, since that area of the spine has been enclosed within steel barriers for what seems a lifetime but is probably about a year.

Olwen Poulter

Research and Enterprise Services

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

This picture on the University homepage is pretty poor and not inviting AT ALL. Subconsciously, it just does not work:

http://www.lancaster.ac.uk/media/lancaster-university/content-assets/images/home-page/Ambassador(1).jpg

The main focus of the picture is the father figure and not the offspring who is on the visit day. Offspring is set back behind the tour guide and behind the parent. Offspring is looking at the ground. Do you really want Subway in the background of the home page? Thankfully the Chemist’s window is advertising hayfever tablets, could have been worse.

There are so many better backdrops for a photo to advertise the University via the homepage. Have the guide, the young person on a visit day (looking ahead), have the parents but not in the forefront and have a decent architectural backdrop.

Name supplied

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

This week our VC wrote to tell us that Lancaster would have supported the ACAS deal. But it is also true Lancaster would have supported the original UUK/USS proposal (perhaps reluctantly) which amounted to little less than criminal theft of our pensions.

This week our VC also wrote thanking those staff who have carried on working through the strike. I would also like to thank the strikers for having the courage to stand up for what is right. They are making sacrifices in order to protect the common good. They are striking because they care about Lancaster University, its students and the quality of education. Throughout the strike we have carried on teaching and learning at events in the city; this has not stopped. And any gains we make against the theft of our pension will benefit every USS member, not just those who are taking action.

The ACAS deal this week appeared at first sight to some to claw back some of what was being stolen from us. They would steal a little less. But we would pay a heavy price for that and end up all the weaker. It was firmly rejected because it too would signal the end of what we still have now – a mutualised scheme. And that is also why strikers are standing out there on the picket line every morning – because they don’t want to work in a glossy private corporation, they want to work in a university where education is seen as a public good for mutual benefit.

UUK’s position and governance processes are now exposed as a sham and are discredited. University leaders, students and even the financial press are calling for a rethink of the whole process and valuation methods. It seems no one can publicly defend the unethical practices which led up to the UUK’s decision to insist on ending defined benefits. An official complaint has been made about USS governance to the Charity Commission and there is now a crowdfunding initiative to sue the USS trustees. But we can’t give away our pension while the rethink takes place. Everyone will then lose.

So if you are a member of USS and you haven’t yet joined the action, join us for a warm welcome, and you can join UCU immediately. This will shorten the dispute and help us all do what we want – get back to work.

Maggie Mort

Sociology

***

Dear subtext,

Apropos Bob Jessop’s ‘seven crane vice chancellors’ (subtext 174), some time in the 1990s I paid my annual external examiner’s visit to an MA exam board at an institution on the outskirts of Greater London – naming no names. The course – innovative, if not radical, and with a terrific track record in attracting and supporting non-traditional students – had been in the university’s sights for some time, partly for just those reasons but also because several of the staff had had the cheek to object to various managerial ploys. I arrived just after the startled chair of the board had received a phone call from the Vice Chancellor’s office, to say that the VC was planning to turn up in a few minutes, to exercise his statutory right to attend any exam board in the university (not one of his regular habits). We decided that this must be intended to intimidate me, since the internal examiners were well beyond intimidation. A kindly staff member said to me ‘I find it helps if you remember that all VCs are property spivs. Some are developers, some are speculators. Ours is a speculator. What’s yours?’ Since this was in the days of the blessed Bill Ritchie, I was slightly at a loss to answer, but I found the advice helpful, and persisted in writing a glowing report despite the menacing charm with which the speculator took me aside after the meeting and invited me to ‘tell the truth’.

Oliver Fulton

***

Dear subtext,

Thank you for the review of the Dave Spikey show at the Grand Theatre, I am pleased that you liked it. As the volunteer Stage Manager I feel I can answer the question that you pose. The Grand Theatre presents shows which aim to attract audiences from all walks of life. As a charity funded largely by ticket sales we aim to complement the subsidised Dukes Theatre in our programming and attract as wide an audience as possible. Therefore the audience that you were part of merely reflects the followers of the act in question.

Regards,

James Smith

Facilities

***

Dear subtext

In the last edition of subtext your cultural correspondent in his review of the Dave Spikey show at the Grand invited readers to prove him wrong regarding his observation that he was the only member of the audience employed by the University. I was there on row C (that’s the second row for those unfamiliar with The Grand’s unusual seating plan) – a thorn between two retired/semi-retired colleagues. I’m sure there were others, although I will admit that I didn’t see any others from Uni, despite having plenty of time to look during the slexit (slow exit).

Clare Race

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

Mr. Fleming’s letter (subtext 173) is factually inaccurate, and shows complete disregard for the strength of staff feeling on this issue at his alma mater, which had the highest turnout in the ballot in England and third highest in the UK, with over 88% endorsing strike action. I would like to respond to each of the points made in the letter in turn.

1. UCU has a strong mandate for industrial action, given by its members through an average turnout of more than 58% across all 68 institutions that were balloted (a record), with 88% voting for strike action and 93% for action short of a strike. Membership is at record levels, with over a 100 members joining UCU at LU in the last two-three weeks alone. The only thing that seems to be over the top is UUK’s intransigence to negotiations, given a number of VCs across the sector, including institutions like Loughborough, Glasgow, Warwick, Birkbeck, Goldsmiths, Strathclyde, London School of Tropical Hygiene and Medicine and others are publicly calling for a resumption of national talks.

2. While previous pension arrangements are indeed protected, under proposed changes the future pension arrangements will not be protected from 2019. Proposed changes mean our pensions will move from the current defined benefit scheme (which guarantees the rate of pension received in retirement), to a defined contribution scheme (fixing the rate of pay contributing to pension). Crucially, when the chief executive of USS was asked when he visited Lancaster how USS would protect members from the vagaries of the financial markets and that put members pensions at considerable risk, no answer was forthcoming.

3. We are not working in the private sector – our pensions are just a small recompense for our very modest salaries. Modest in relation to the private sector, with very little movement between grades over the lifetime of work, and with the ‘initial investment’ of time and effort spent in gaining qualifications to work in a University that many in the private sector are not required to make. It seems disingenuous to make any comparisons with the private sector, and hardworking academic and related staff would find any comparisons with employer contributions to a pension scheme in the private sector particularly odious. Those who work in the education sector do so because they have a special set of values, of public good and not individual benefit. Our lifetime contributions to our pensions are being put at risk of markets, with it being left to the individuals to decide what they want to do with their pension pot upon retirement. Do we think vultures would be circling? We only have to see what has happened at British Steel recently.

4. UCU has proposed a range of models that illustrate how defined benefits can be maintained by modest increases in contributions (for e.g. 1% for the employees if employers decide to accept the September valuation), lowering of accrual from 1/75th to 1/80th, and willingness to negotiate on salary thresholds. UUK have rejected all proposals outright saying they will only accept a defined contribution scheme.

Sunil Banga

UCU Exec, Pensions Officer

***

Dear subtext,

I have been trying to understand the reasons for the current pensions dispute, and have found this talk by Carlo Morelli, an economics lecturer at Dundee University really useful:

Most interesting in the talk to me was that the changes appear likely to make the resulting scheme very unattractive to potential new members, causing the very shortfalls in money that Universities UK claim to want to prevent. Over time, USS could fall apart, and each University is legally required to act as guarantor to the current scheme. As I understand it, the danger is therefore not limited to staff pensions, but in the worst case could even affect each university, because each would be required to fund their ex-staff’s existing final salary defined pensions. I am left wondering whether Universities UK are doing a good job of representing the interest of UK universities.

Mike Cowie

***

Dear subtext,

I was disappointed to see, in your most recent mailout, the claim that SCAN’s UA92 debate column was ‘its first mention of the Gary Neville University since the story broke a year ago.’

This is incorrect. The debate column was published on October 23 2017. We first reported on the Gary Neville University in March 2017 (tinyurl.com/yaw4q7go). We published a second article on October 5 2017 [tinyurl.com/ydftypme].

A Google search for ‘SCAN Gary Neville’ would have produced these articles as the first two results. Alternatively, the SCAN editorial team are happy to search our archives if you need clarification of our coverage in future.

Best,

Michael Mander

SCAN Associate Editor

***

Dear subtext,

I would like to issue a complaint regarding your recent article entitled ‘Alt Wrong’. The article is blatantly libellous on numerous accounts, among which are your claims that we are somehow affiliated with the ‘alt right’, that we are ‘fascists’, ‘national socialists’, in favour of ‘pure blooded ancestry’, and further that we were ‘verbally aggressive towards colleagues’ leading us to be ‘ejected by security staff’. There are many other examples of these outright falsities, and the fact that subtext never reached out to our society for comment only reinforces the impression that you did not intend to fairly represent our society, only to defame it. We have numerous eye-witness accounts that can corroborate this.

While you may argue that the article never mentions our society by name, you made explicit reference to us, such that the article incited opposition to the society which may have escalated to violence were it not for the measures put in place by the University. The University felt the need to hire security and have a member of the police present to ensure that peace was kept, which demonstrates the threat that arose directly from the misrepresentations present in your article. Given these threats, I would ask that my name is not posted on your site, due to the false perception of our society that exists both on and off campus.

Your newsletter claims to be one in favour of free speech ‘without fear of backlash’, yet here our impression is that you are presenting things that did not happen as fact, in order to manufacture backlash with the intent of de-platforming our society.

We request that you remove this inflammatory article and issue an apology, in the interests of preventing further undue backlash and promoting intellectual diversity on campus.

Name withheld on request.

[As the writer acknowledges, subtext did not name the organisation they claim to represent – Eds.]

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

As a current member of USS (but not of any union), I must say that UCU’s reaction to the proposed changes to USS seems rather over the top.

Under the proposed changes, benefits already accrued will not change – all that will change is that benefits accrued from 2019 onward. The scheme would move to entirely defined contribution, rather than defined benefit. This is in line with standard practice in the private sector. In addition, the proposal would include an option for employee contributions of 4%, alongside the 85 already offered, making it far more appealing for to staff such as myself on lower salaries.

In contrast UCU’s proposal would see employee contributions increase above the current 8% (hardly a low level to begin with), which would likely price many lower paid staff out of the scheme.

While I believe there is a middle ground between UUK’s proposed reduction to benefits and UCU’s proposed increase in contributions, UCU’s response to UUK’s proposal being chosen over theirs seems to be melodramatic. To call for 14 days of strike action over a change which would simply bring the scheme in line with the private sector norm, and to do so before the consultation period on the new scheme has even opened, looks to me like UCU striking for the sake of it.

Yours sincerely,

Jack Fleming

(History, 2010)

***

Dear subtext,

It is totally unnecessary for the university to require us to ‘double-teach’ lectures, as you report in subtext 172. The lecture can simply be recorded and placed on Moodle. A single optional session can then be organised for those students who wish to ask questions. When I previously wrote to subtext, a couple of years back, in support of the LUSU campaign for the video recording of all lectures, pointing out in the process that this was an opportunity for us all to lecture less, my views were not exactly warmly received. One of those who replied was, if I recall rightly, ‘appalled’ at my suggestion. Perhaps now, faced with the prospect of coming in on a Saturday morning to repeat the Friday afternoon lecture, staff will become more appreciative of the technological alternatives. There are, of course, some things that must be delivered fact-to-face – laboratory/computer practicals being the obvious example. Some of these I do currently double-teach, but in my experience I generally have a flood of students for the early session, and then a sparse group for the late show. Students don’t seem to like double-teaching any more than we do. So let’s not have any talk of double-lecturing – let’s just get out the cameras, apply our non-reflective moisturizer, and get into the 21st century.

Sincerely,

Derek Gatherer

BLS (FHM)

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

On the ‘There’s only one University in Lancashire’ thread.

I do applaud UCLAN’s short sightedness on changing their name and as a Lancs Poly graduate I well remember the arguments raging amongst staff about naming. I recall the favourite at the time amongst chattering classes was University of Central Lancashire at Preston which was dropped when they realised it would be UCLaP. Perhaps that should be one of their options?

As a former employee: I should also point out there is a third University in Lancashire, the University of Cumbria, which whilst headquartered in Cumbria retains its largest campus in our County. It also retains a campus in East London for Policing and PGCE training, which amused me most when you heard the red buses halt just a few yards up the road and announce they had arrived at ‘University of Cumbria’ causing some confusion in the initial days. I know HS2 will be fast, but not that fast.

Peter Hurst

ISS

***

Dear subtext,

Your item about the current proposals for the re-naming of the University of Central Lancashire is a replay of a debate from 1991, when Preston Polytechnic was about to become a university and proposed to the Privy Council that it should be called the University of Lancashire. Harry Hanham, robustly supported by the Senate and the Council, lost no time in pointing out the exceptional level of confusion, not to the advantage of the University of Lancaster, that would follow and the proposal was rejected. It is concerning that the issue should be raised again so soon, and with an identical proposal.

Marion McClintock

***

Dear subtext,

Small addition to the subtext point about lower case signage; the letters on the wall of the ‘postgraduate statistics centre’ have been all lower case since it was built (10 or 15 or so years ago I think).

Tom Palmer

Mathematics & Statistics

***

Dear subtext,

This should perhaps be linked for all law students and faculty as a follow up to your best headline ever:

Jay-Z’s 99 Problems, verse 2: a close reading with Fourth Amendment guidance for cops and perps

http://pdf.textfiles.com/academics/lj56-2_mason_article.pdf

Steve Wright

FHM

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

Leadership is a worthless, dangerous concept, in your account of UA92 and its focus thereon. I presume, therefore, subtext welcomes the reorganization/merging of the Department of Leadership and Management in the management school that it has previously bemoaned. As for personal development not being worth of a university programme, it indeed wouldn’t be if it accorded to the banal stereotypes in your criticism of the UA92 ethos.

However, Lancaster has for a long time led the world in the provision of intellectually rigorous degrees which have at the core the principle that the personal development they offer inevitably requires a deep understanding of the social and political structures and processes within which the individual exists and operates. Lancaster is a lead partner in the International Masters in Practicing Management, along with Universities in Japan, Brazil, India and Canada; and its MBA, certainly while I was there, led the world in its development of the concept of managerial mindfulness, integrating this with both the usual business disciplines, and a deep understanding of sustainability and ethics.

OK, I left Lancaster for York. My underlying interest is that I live in Manchester, a great city, but still characterized by inequality and social exclusion. Manchester lost a University, UMIST, on its merger with the Victoria University of Manchester. That merger was a mistake, and a path Lancaster did well to avoid with Liverpool. Particularly with the downsizing of Manchester Business School, and Manchester’s humanities departments, there is a civic gap in the city where another university should be. UA92 might fill that gap. How it does so is up to you guys. But my hope as a Mancunian is that it does what it says it will about leadership and self development, but with the imagination and rigor that already characterize Lancaster.

Professor Bill Cooke

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

Dear subtext,

Did you know the total amount of money the library received from the payment of overdue items (excluding costs of replacing lost book as far as I can gather) was £14,541.95 for the period 7 October 2016 (start of term) to 6 October 2017. Wonder where that went! What do we think of that… certainly not a drop in the ocean.
See freedom of information link for a little more: https://tinyurl.com/ycbem68u

All the best

Alison Clifton

LETTERS

An Open Letter to readers of subtext

The announcement at the annual meeting in January 2017 of a review of the effectiveness of the Court – a body often likened to the annual shareholder meeting in a private company – seemed at the time relatively inconsequential. Six months elapsed before a circular was sent to Court members listing the make-up of the new Court effectiveness committee, with a questionnaire on the perceived role and importance etc of the Court and information that there would be an external assessor. Like others I took a good deal of time and trouble over completion of the questionnaire and I also requested a meeting with the assessor. Meanwhile, rumours were circulating that the University had already decided in effect to abolish the Court.

I felt my meeting with the external assessor went well and like others I have been waiting for feedback from the review committee. Now just two months before the anticipated date for the 2018 Court meeting, we read in subtext about discussions in the University Senate. Evidently the review process is well under way although there have been no public reports as to progress. However, it increasingly seems that for once the rumour mill may be accurate.

The view has been expressed that the Court’s membership may not be sufficiently diverse. It is perhaps worth exploring the whole of the University’s institutional structure in terms of its diversity. I cannot comment directly on the membership of the Senate but I was a member of the Council for a good many years until 2011, by which time that body was certainly not significantly characterized by diversity in its own membership. Indeed, when the Court lost its traditional power to elect some Council members, it seemed inevitable that the latter body would be less diverse. Overall, the University’s governance structure has certainly become increasingly removed from any direct and structured involvement with the outside world. In this context, accountability is perhaps even more important than diversity. The University is certainly in no way accountable in a structured sense to the collective judgement of those who work within it.

Abolition of the Court as a formal body would remove the last vestige of any kind of structured accountability to any locally based institutions. In this sense, abolition would complete what from many perspectives has been an ongoing process. Henceforth, accountability would only be to market forces and national government. Is this a rational choice?

I would like to end by asking what attention is paid by Lancaster University to the wider world which in a real sense determines the parameters within which it operates. The implications of Brexit for the UK’s University sector cannot be other than deeply damaging. If indeed there is a much-needed review of the student loan system, then this too could have significant adverse repercussions for university budgets. In this uncertain world, is it really the moment to send a message to local and regional stakeholders, alumni and others, that the University no longer requires their formal structural involvement? At the very least, is there not an overwhelming case for the regular annual meeting of the existing Court to take place in January 2018 and for its agenda to give priority to debating and determining these issues?

Stanley Henig

A founding member of the University’s Department of Politics 1964-6; elected Member of University Council 2001-11; and elected Deputy Pro-Chancellor 2006-11, in which capacity I chaired the previous Court Review.

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Dear subtext,

In response to Cheryl Simmill-Binning’s query (letters, subtext 169): weather forecasters never sit down because of where they have to talk out of.

Keep up the good work!

John Foster

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Dear subtext,

I always ‘enjoy’ reading up on developments at Lancaster Uni! And would love to continue my subscription!

It is not just a way of staying in touch with a university’s politics at which still several of key colleagues of mine work, but also subtext is a source for envisaging what may come to to other universities on earth,
in countries that lag behind in neoliberalising higher education.

Cheers,

Ingmar Lippert (IEPPP/CSEC student 2005-7, now IT University of Copenhagen)

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Dear subtext,

An update on the university’s response to Heaton-Harris’ letter – the university have told me (after much prompting), via twitter, that they have sent him a copy of the prospectus. There was no mention of the previous response of ‘treating as an F.O.I request’

Cheers,

Sarah Beresford

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Dear subtext,

College Council minutes appeared in my inbox last week, and one of the items reported was that ‘the churches’ are withdrawing the funding for the two full-time Anglican and Methodist chaplains, with the possibility that the two posts will be lost during the coming year.

Given that this is a service provided to the University in addition to its own provision for student and staff wellbeing, I wondered if the subtext collective can shed any further light on this situation?

Keep up the good work!

Many thanks,

James Mawdesley

THE ONLY WAY IS UA92

It is with sadness that subtext noted that the authors of the letters in subtext 168 regarding the plans for UA92 all wished to remain anonymous, implying concern about expressing views other than that lending our collective academic credibility to this scheme is a fantastic idea.

It is noticeable that the ubiquitous propaganda screens which have appeared all over the refurbished areas of campus portray only one acceptable body type for anyone associated with UA92 i.e. beautiful, young, muscular, athletic and healthy, combined with a Serious Expression* (presumably indicative of ‘academic excellence’).

It would be a great shame if the repeated reinforcement of the message that ‘the university’ welcomes this association with the world of sport has also led to a perception that there is also only one acceptable mindset for anyone associated with Lancaster University i.e. blind agreement with the leaders’ decisions.

*if you haven’t clocked this expression on the UA92 PR machine then imagine a cross between Einstein, the Curies, de Beauvoir and Confucius at their most contemplative. Now forget that, and instead combine a lot of boredom, a touch of bewilderment and just a hint of belligerence.

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

Why is it that every time I contact the central Travel team for some bookings I find that they cost much more than I thought they would? I’ve been consistently finding the quotes that Travel get to be more expensive than what I could find anywhere online. This is especially true for airline tickets, which are at least 10%-20% more expensive booked through Travel than through any respectable airline website.

Corridor conversations always stumble upon them providing ‘additional care’, but I did not find this to be true at all. I recently needed help during 2 conference trips where there were misunderstandings about the booking with the hotel. It was extremely difficult to get in touch with either Travel or Key, their provider, which resulted in frustrating experiences that required many non-fun hours of undoing with Travel and the Expenses admin team upon return.

Furthermore, I find that many times the bookings Travel make are expensive but not necessarily better. Even when I do the homework of researching hotels, flights, etc, I often end up with a sub-optimal itinerary from Travel that costs much more than expected. So on top of wasted time, I find that my hard-earned research funds are unnecessarily depleted by an aloof team that seems indifferent about spending taxpayers’ money.

Name withheld

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Dear subtext,

Those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it? Your drones could assist Lancaster’s current management a little by unearthing the story of Lancaster’s first experiment in importing a head to a thriving department.

In an attempt to suppress the young revisionists in Sociology (such as Nick Abercrombie, the late John Urry and John Hughes) in 1972 Vice Chancellor Carter recruited Michelina Vaughan, an author of a letter to The Times attacking the 1968 LSE student protesters, to the first chair and to take over as head of department.

The rest is history…

John Wakeford

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Dear subtext

Show me the way to go! How exciting the new high-tech, illuminated maps that have popped up all over campus are! I’ll be even more excited when the second phase is completed – and the magnifying glasses are attached so I can read the text…

Joanne Wood

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Dear subtext,

Regarding your piece on sedentary professions (subtext 168). Television weather presenters. I have never seen, in this country or abroad, anyone present the weather forecast sitting down. I wonder why this is?

Best wishes

Cheryl Simmill-Binning

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Dear subtext,

Lancaster University Contracts of Employment have referred to ancillary documents relating to sabbatical leave entitlement. With that detail ever changing, a request went from the VC’s forum on sabbatical leave (May, 2015) for a time-line of contractual changes. Having kept no records, HR was unable to provide that information, so leaving it for individuals to inform HR of their contractual terms. Effective from August 2017, this ‘embarrassment’ has been resolved. All earlier statements are now void. For example, an entitlement to sabbatical leave ‘as of right’ (PS/97/782 March 2007) is replaced by ‘the granting of Academic Research and Education Leave which is not an automatic right’ (http://tinyurl.com/ybxxxb2f). That it is still possible to download ‘Sabbatical Leave – 10 Question and Answers’ and ‘Lancaster University Application for Sabbatical Leave (HR111)’, shows that there is some tidying-up to do. The legal implication of losing an entitlement ‘as of right’ is beyond the layperson, whose best guess (in the case of this writer) is that the change is analogous to an individual being ‘innocent until proven guilty’, to one who is ‘guilty until proven innocent’. That the presumption of leave in the absence of any contrary argument is gone; replaced by the presumption of no leave without the approval of an HOD.

Gerry Steele

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Dear subtext

You may be interested to learn of the recent UA92 meeting (9 November) for Stretford residents. I attended in that capacity.

Your own Prof Sharon Huttly was in attendance as well as Gary Neville. They both gave bland presentations then we proceeded to question.

The background is that as part of UA92 they want to put high rise student accommodation on a small site which is currently a well-used car park. The proposed building would be out of scale with the rest of the area and right next to our two listed buildings, Stretford Public Hall and the Essoldo building. It is true that some people support the idea, and Gary Neville’s fame no doubt contributes to that. We also have a dated shopping centre with a high vacancy rate, so some people believe the student accommodation will give that a boost. The whole project is being sold by the council as ‘regeneration’.

There is also much opposition among people who think the building will be far too overbearing in the proposed location and that it will have a detrimental effect on the area in terms of amenities, etc. It seems to be these people who are attending the meetings, including myself. Both Gary and Prof Sharon looked a little shocked at the negative reaction from locals.

Since that meeting, there has been a change of tone from the council in my opinion. There has been another meeting (21 November) to discuss Stretford Town Centre, were it was stressed that nothing is decided. There was more listening, and less of the ‘selling of their plan’ approach we had initially. There are, however, obvious concerns. The council will be landlords of the student accommodation, so there’s an obvious financial incentive for the proposed site to be as densely populated as possible. It is in a Labour ward of a Conservative held council, so there’s no political backlash for the majority of Councillors to worry about. We are now coming towards the end of the consultation so we will soon find out if the Council have listened to locals. To reiterate, neither I nor the locals I speak to are against students coming here. The concerns are the very high density accommodation proposed, and the prospects for the area if this is built and UA92 does not succeed.

Best regards,

Mike

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

I suspect I’m not alone in asking if you’ve seen our latest signage but if not I suggest you pop ‘down south’ for a look. At first it all appeared very corporate and professional, a smart look with clear white on black text (though some colleagues feel the text is too small). However as of this week we’ve had a very odd black monolith appear at the south end of the spine with a map so small you’ll need to be issued with a magnifying glass to view, and a step ladder if you’re under 6ft tall. To cap it all Charles Carter has gained purple, black and white signage and the ISS building itself has a nice place for students or staff to rest their pint glasses, empty bottles and ashtrays on. The funny thing about the ISS building is you’d have to walk right up to the door to even read the sign!

Also has anyone commented on the removal of the location grid from the maps, replaced by some sort of numbering scheme? Patently the designer of the map has never had to use one to find anything! Nah let’s just get rid of the grid lines, we don’t like boxes, we’re not a box university! You can just imagine the meeting.

Name supplied

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Dear subtext,

The new UA92 campus will educate 6500 new students – a 50% increase on Lancaster’s current numbers. This is being imposed on a town in Manchester which has a settled, established community of 30000. Many residents are very worried about the impact of such a high influx of students on our infrastructure and existing community. Part of the plan is to build a 20 storey tower on a very small site in the heart of Stretford which will house 1700 students. In a ‘masterplan’ consultation, our local council has shared vague information about how it will all work, hiding the most alarming plans within very long documents. It feels like our concerns are going unheard. We have yet to have any direct input from UA92, or from Lancaster. We would really like to hear evidence that all parties involved are considering the local community – perhaps some commitments to widening participation schemes and other outreach locally. But there is nothing, and we feel like our town is just being used to make more money for people who already have lots.

A Stretford resident (name supplied)

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Dear subtext,

Your concerns over posters on campus advertising a public meeting on the centenary of the Balfour declaration (HOW NOT TO PROMOTE A POLITICAL MEETING, 26 Oct. 2017) seem to me misplaced. subtext objects to the ‘alarm’ likely to be caused among members of the University community by discussion of ‘Jewish opposition to Zionism’. There will doubtless be those that that disagree with speaker Robert Cohen’s views on Zionism, but is there really any reason to be alarmed at this subject being discussed?

subtext also objects to part of the poster’s blurb which states: ‘most Jewish communities around the world will be celebrating the anniversary’ of the Balfour declaration. This is actually the first half of a sentence, which in full reads: ‘While most Jewish communities around the world will be celebrating the anniversary, Palestinians see it as an historic betrayal of their rights, the implications of which are still being played out today’. Again, it is hard to see what is objectionable about this statement.

The piece goes on to cite a survey recording that ‘93% of British Jews feel that Israel is important to their identity’. The argument that seems to follow is that a similar number of British Jews regard the Balfour declaration as ‘on the whole, probably a good thing’ and would therefore not feel welcome at the advertised event. It seems a stretch to interpret British Jews seeing Israel as ‘important’ to their identity to represent any value judgement about the modern state of Israel, let alone a statement by a British Foreign Secretary made 100 years ago – even one as important as the Balfour declaration. More worrying is the inference that because a certain group holds something to be central to their identity, critical debate of this subject should be discouraged for fear of offending members of that group.

In a week when Chris Heaton-Harris MP seemingly united academia in defending freedom of political expression on university campuses it is disappointing to see subtext (usually a staunch defender of these values) objecting to a poster advertising discussion of a controversial topic – even if it is in a silly font.

Yours sincerely,

Thomas Mills

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Dear subtext,

Have you seen the promotional video for the UA UA92? https://www.ua92.ac.uk/about-ua92. It is wrong on so many levels! Coming from a University that used to pride itself on its Centre for Women’s Studies we now seem to have slid into a very ‘iffy’ area of marketing. Entire thesis could be written about this representation of women in this presentation (the funding should be easy to achieve in the current Weinstein climate). It is so inappropriate that it would take an entire edition of subtext to discuss. Am I the only person who feels this presents Lancaster University in a very bad light? Sorry but on this one I feel Lancaster is way off trend.

Name supplied

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

Perhaps subtext can afford to be generous in its lineages, and permit of two Inkytext successors? Vickytext’s first issue followed within days and by agreement on the heels of the final output from Inkytext in May 2000, as Gordon admitted he no longer had the stamina to continue. It was the first time that an official communication had been sent out electronically, the format was freeflowing, the choice of initial subject matter directly followed on from Inkytext (including reports of Senate and Council, and buildings and finance), there was a single named editor, and letters and responses were strongly encouraged. subtext followed in 2005; a younger sibling, produced by a collective in term time only, and initially focussed on a particular topic that was troubling at the time before broadening out into the admirably wide range it now presents. Neither followed the somewhat quixotic Inkytext practice of frequent Parisian restaurant reviews.

Gordon’s achievement was remarkable; over 600 separate items in six years, all expertly researched and with a wit and style all his own. When the Inkytext electronic archive was created after his premature death, however, the complexities of his output, when a single issue might contain Parts I, II and III, with subsections a, b and c, on occasion sent out on the same day, meant that some material was missed. Fortunately a hard copy had been made of the items as they first appeared, and that is still extant and available for reference.

What is of special interest is how those two siblings developed, what familial resemblances they still have and how they have diverged.

So, welcome to subtext for its 18th consecutive year, eagerly awaited and carefully read. Keep that warehouse well furnished.

Marion McClintock

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Dear subtext,

I was devastated to learn of John Hadfield’s passing whilst reading your most recent issue and wanted to echo what Ronnie Rowlands wrote about him.

I too was an Officer of the Students’ Union from 2014-15 and can attest to the fact that John truly believed students were at the heart of everything. He was the only University Council member we could count on for allyship – even finding the occupation that took place in 2014 rather amusing. He was of the mindset that decisions that benefited students benefited the university also, and highlighted increasing concerns about the direction of Lancaster and Higher Education in general throughout our interactions. His actions and words consistently reflected that, often speaking up for students and supporting challenges student representatives put forward.

John will always have a special place in my heart and Lancaster shines a little less brightly without his endearing presence and mischievous nature.

In Solidarity,

Laura Clayson

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Dear subtext,

Your reference to the possible ‘standing down’ of the University Court reminded me of two almost forgotten moments in the history of the Court and of the University.

In the winter of 1972 the campus was still experiencing the aftershocks from the previous two terms’ assaults on academic freedom, aka the Craig Affair, in which Vice Chancellor Carter had forsaken his liberal roots and supported a determined effort to suppress and evict a group of radicals from the English Department. Faced with considerable criticism of his newly made authoritarian turn, both within and without the University, Carter had turned to Blackburn Council’s political leader Councillor Tom Taylor (1929-2016) to review the events of 1971/2. Taylor was on route to becoming an establishment figure, enshrined in his ennoblement five years later. His report, imaginatively called the Taylor Report, failed to address any of the issues raised by the Craig Affair and should appear on the syllabus of Politics 101 as a classic example of a ‘snow job’.

Carter clearly imagined that publishing the report would bring matters to a close, and indeed he was largely right in this calculation although resentment simmered on. As we approached Christmas that year it was apparent that the Court might be the last chance to raise a protest, and so the students’ union (then called the Student Representative Council) and a group of academics, eschewing the Association of University Teachers in favour of membership of the left leaning Association of Scientific, Technical and Managerial Staffs (ASTMS, long ago merged into the Manufacturing Science and Finance Union), produced an alternative review report and attempted to introduce it on the floor of the Court. To our great surprise this inevitably doomed move solicited considerable support from Court members from outside of the University, their unexpected support undoubtedly acting to some degree as a brake on Carter’s efforts to stifle criticism. When our motion was ruled out of order, I explained to the Court that this left the students with no option to walk out of the meeting, a move that gave us a half hour start on the sumptuous food and drink then provided for Court members (or perhaps it only appeared sumptuous to impoverished undergraduates). We made a good hole in the half hour or so that this afforded, but more seriously were greatly heartened by the support from other Court members who joined us later.

Roll forward some four years and Carter was shifting the University from liberal beacon towards business partner, much to the disquiet of many of his senior staff (echoes of today?). By that time I was a ‘community representative’ on the Court and a series of ‘deep throats’ made their way to my door in Preston to express concern about the future direction of the University. Carter would have been astonished if he had known the identity of some of these sources. Their insights allowed us to raise a resolution at the Court querying the direction of the University. The motion was doomed to fail, Courts will always have an inbuilt majority for the Vice Chancellor, but the existence of the Court did at least allow alternative voices to be heard. Sadly on this occasion we were at least allowed to be heard fully and so there was no repeat opportunity to hit the reception first!

subtext’s welcome arrival always reminds me what a vital place a University can, and indeed should, be. The existence of a Court is an essential component in which big issues can be discussed away from tightly managed and narrowly defined agendas. Its suppression, or ‘standing down’ … call it what you will, can only be a bad thing for free debate.

Best,

Jerry Drew
Chair of the Student Representative Council 1972-1974

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Note from the editors: We would like to thank the anonymous author of a letter about the University’s staff travel service. We do not publish anonymous letters, but are happy to consider requests to withhold the author’s name. If this correspondent would like to contact us again, we would be happy to consider publishing the letter in the next issue.

LETTERS

Dear subtext,

Can anyone who saw this kind of behaviour from doors [see article on weird door behaviour in subtext 165] let me know which ones? Most of the access controlled doors are supposed to fail open, especially those on fire routes.

I’d like to investigate ones not doing the right thing if they’re ours,
or pass them over to Facilities if they’re somebody else’s.

Regards,

Tabitha Tipper

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Dear subtext,

I have been grateful for your coverage of the spine remodelling project, as well the various questionable and expensive projects that the University has taken on in past year. Given this, I thought you might be interested to see this pamphlet (http://tinyurl.com/yc7txqw5) that me, Joey French and few other disabled comrades produced, written to spread information about and critique the remodelling project currently underway on campus. (It cites your newsletter as well.) They have already been distributed at Fresher’s Fair Part 1 and to school tours; people seem interested to know the full extent, expense and effects of the project, and we intend to continue distributing throughout this term.

Keep up the good work,

JN Hoad