Editorial: the University can no longer ignore the voice of its students

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Over three years have passed since Wednesday 3rd December 2008, the last time students turned out at a LUSU General Meeting which met quoracy. Back then, students were voting on a sabbatical review that would create the current system (with a couple of future amendments within the remit of Activities) of Full Time Officers.

With history against the General Meeting, it required a predominant issue to come to light that students felt passionate about. And the current Business Process Review, sponsored by Chief Operating Officer Andrew Neal, appeared to hit all the wrong notes with students.

Thursday’s quorate General Meeting saw a vote on a motion against the Business Process Review. The motion resolved that students’ union will “support the retention of Lancaster University administration staff and to reject all redundancies made by the University as a result of the current BPR”.

The General Meeting is a stark warning to the University. This meeting was not about the officer structures of the Union, nor was it about the governance or the constitution. This was a meeting that discussed the University’s decisions and potential job cuts for members of University staff.

On the 14th November 2011, the then Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Wellings, wrote to staff and informed them that “some reduction in numbers of administrative roles is anticipated.” Fast forward three months and a change in leadership has seen a new approach. Professor Mark E. Smith, the new Vice Chancellor, wrote to all staff and said “at this stage, no decisions have been made regarding organisational changes and job roles.”

It musn’t be easy for the Vice Chancellor. He has come in to the role and been lumbered with a shambolic process initiated by the old Vice Chancellor and the proccess sponsor, Andrew Neal.

It must be a difficult task for Professor Smith, trying to settle in to a new job, whilst dealing with uproar from the student membership, dissatisfaction throughout the ranks of the staff of the University, whilst not walking in and immediately shelving a year’s worth of work from one of the more senior managers of the University.

And then there is the element of cost. One can only begin to imagine how much money has been ploughed in to the Business Process Review. Consultancy firms have a high price, and that’s without the salary of staff seconded on to the BPR and any other expenses.

Yet there is a much higher cost that the University have failed to acknowledge and that’s the price of not listening to your students. As the George Fox Lecture Theatre 1 emptied on Thursday night, and the room returned to its main function as a place for academic lectures, one thing was apparent – the University can no longer ignore the voice of its students. It must consult, it must interact and it must listen, because we won’t stay silent.

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