Why should the University have to lose money catering for students’ whims and fancies?

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Photo by Elliot Westacott

Here at Lancaster we are fortunate to have the college system and nine on-campus bars at our disposal. But whenever senior University figures, such as the much-reviled David Peeks, make a decision that goes against what students want in terms of the bars, there is always one thing to blame: the profit, or lack thereof. And that lack of profit comes back round to only one possible set of culprits: the students who don’t use their bars.

How many of you drink in your college bar? How many of you drink in there more than once a week? How many of you used them on the day they’re now closed?

The bars are a student facility and college space which shouldn’t have been taken away from us, but surely none of us can fail to realise that they are also a business. For every demand and complaint we make about these changes, the University will always have the same answer, and the same reasons to make the cuts in the Commercial Services division.

So many think it’s acceptable to go into the bars and not buy anything; something which they would never dream of doing in a bar or restaurant in town. We need to realise that the bars are there to provide a service, not a seating area.

The students who use the bars aren’t the only people who will feel the loss; the people in this situation who have suffered the most are the bar staff and licensees who have lost hours to work, and the money that comes from them. Some of these members of staff are students themselves.

I’m not saying we should spend all our money on the college bars, we all know how hard times are, but why should the University have to lose money catering for students’ whims and fancies?

The bars help with a feeling of community in the colleges, but we need to put this in perspective. The changes in Student Based Services are far more likely to have serious repercussions in the long term than the closure of the college bars for one night a week each.

All that said, it’s hard not to feel that the University doesn’t help itself – every time a decision has been made about the bars, it has been done with little, if any, consultation with students for their opinions. It’s the same pattern over and over again; the University makes a decision and takes a service away, we kick up a fuss, but nothing will have been done to prove we use the service, and the campaigns only last for so long.

It might seem counter-productive to close them to try and make money, but making savings must come first when profits are so low. There’s more that can be done than joining a Facebook group and not using a vending machine; for many there’s more at stake than just a college bar. For most students the college system as a whole is under threat by this move and for some members of staff this is just the latest in a long line of efforts to gradually remove Lancaster’s collegiate system.

If students are passionate about getting the college bars back to their previous opening hours, the best thing they can do – better than any protest or boycott – is use the bars as much as possible. And sitting in them isn’t enough. It would be a wonderful world if the Facilities division hired people to sit in the bars and do a quick head count to prove how popular they all are, but they don’t.

We need to come together and spend money and demonstrate – at least on a financial level – how much we love the bars and our colleges. If we don’t, the University can insist upon making these cuts without any consultation.

The only chance of getting the message through to the University is through profit. It’s a shame, but for some it is a small price to pay for the use of the college space and community that sets Lancaster apart from so many other institutions.

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3 Comments

  1. I think the decision with regard to opening times could have been better made had their been a consultation period with either the JCRs or with a group of students. Instead the University, as always have chosen to look at this issue in the manner of black and white figures and sums.

    For the teams competing in the George Wyatt league; 5 pool tables and 4 dart boards (presuming they’re all in working order) is not should they want to practice of a Saturday. Furthermore, it makes no business or common sense at all to close a bar of a Saturday afternoon which has Sky Sports or other such channels; there is no where to go to watch a Midday kick-off. I can vouch for this, having been in Lonsdale bar at Midday when the Manchester United Liverpool game was on, and the place was completely packed out!

    It’s funny how this nicely ties in with the University’s big push for catering and cutting staff hours; this institution no longer represents its students, merely its own selfish business interests.

  2. I think the University needs to realise that they have priced themselves out of the market. If you want more people to go into the college bars, they need to be cheaper. I went to a college bar at Durham University lent term last year and bought 8 pints of lager and a coke for £8.90. A similar round in a Lancaster University bar would cost me, at best, £16-£17. Students can get hold of cheaper drink at Spar, LUSU Central or at a supermarket in town.

    Unfortunately society has moved away from the idea of going for a couple of quiet beers in the pub and now believes in a “all or nothing”, get shit-faced or nothing at all sort of mentality. With this in mind, why would people go into their college bar and spend £5 on a couple of drinks when they could go out for a meal for the same amount of money?

    You also raise the point that these bars “are not a seating area”. These bars are essentially a pub… which is short for Public House, which means that you can go in and sit down and just chat if that is what you want to do. To tell people that they can’t just go into their college bar and sit for a chat to discuss some work or whatever else is rediculous. Or someone like myself who represents our college in all 3 bar sports – am I not meant to be able to go in and just practice these without buying a drink?

    The University needs to drop the prices of drinks if they wish to see an increase in business through the college bars. People don’t mind paying £2 a pint but when it’s up towards £2.50 and in some cases £2.70 for a pint, students are just going to find different, cheaper options to drink and socialise with one-another.

  3. I was going to comment on this article, but Paul has just hit the nail on the head.
    I couldn’t agree more. Well said.

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