Student anger over bar changes leads to General Meeting

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A general meeting has been called in response to a student campaign on LUSU YourVoice against the proposed changes to the managerial structure of the University’s commercial services. These changes, outlined in the mail out issue of SCAN, involve the current structure of bar managers being replaced by a Retail Services Manager, three Venue Managers and six Assistant Venue Managers.

These staff members will oversee the nine bars on campus as well as food venues such as Café 2012. When LUSU President Ste Smith announced the general meeting he released a statement with the information he had been given regarding the proposed changes.

There are many inconsistencies between the information that Ste Smith had been given and the actual events SCAN has been told had taken place. Firstly, Smith stated that “this is still a proposal and is in a period of consultation.” At the time the general meeting was called, two former bar managers were under the impression that they had been appointed as Venue Managers, one that he was an Assistant Venue Manager, and two others had been informed that they had been unsuccessful at interview for both of these positions.

After the general meeting was called, this was progressed further and SCAN has been told that official job offers have now been made, meaning that the process is not being suspended to await the outcome of the general meeting. The two bar managers who were told unofficially that they were not to be redeployed have been officially offered, since the yourvoice campaign and the call for a general meeting, Assistant Venue Manager roles.

The LUSU President was also informed that all bar managers would “have the opportunity to apply for the new jobs and go through a period of redeployment.” Job invitations and interviews had taken place over a week before the general meeting was called.

It is also rumoured that the job description of the role of Retail Services Manager (to which former Sugarhouse Manager Lou Davies has been appointed) was changed during the interviewing period. Those who were interviewed before the changes were unable to apply for the job under its new description.

The restructuring and uncertainty has left fresher’s week preparation in some confusion. Laurence Pullan, Pendle JCR President assures students that “Intro Week preparation is going well…FTO’s Ste Smith and Libby Martin are making sure that any hindrances to our preparations are being mitigated – we have a committed staff team in the bunker.”

But, despite assurances that “all continuing student staff will be reissued with a new contract and have been contacted by Jo Hardman and his team”, the only contact with student staff has been to inform them that they will have to undergo new training. There have been no rotas or shifts provided for staff for fresher’s week, even though it is five days away at the time of writing.

When the YourVoice thread (which called for LUSU to take action against the changes to the college bar) was created, it was believed that two bar managers had been made redundant. The response from students towards the new structure has been almost unanimously negative, and the thread has received more support (in the form of ‘votes’) than any other thread on the YourVoice site.

Students feel that this restructuring will deprive the bars of their personality. One person commented; “don’t underestimate the importance of bars having a bit of soul and the people that go there having a connection to them.” Many people find this connection through the staff and particularly the managers. There is also a great deal of concern that this is the beginning of the demise of the collegiate system of Lancaster, as one student pointed out; “this is a University that prides itself on its collegiate system and the identity that it helps provide for students.”

Much of the negativity, however, seems to stem from the fact that these changes have been carried out whilst the students were away, and therefore unable to take a stand, as one student remarked; “it is absolutely horrendous that this has been carried out whilst students have been away, therefore meaning that they can’t be consulted. When they return for their Freshers’ Weeks in their college bars, they will find that the soul has been ripped out of them.”

No comment was received from Jo Hardman or the university as SCAN went to print.

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