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2012 started in a sad fashion as Lancaster received news of the murder of Anuj Bidve, a student in Graduate College who would have graduated this month. A memorial was held in Week 1 of Lent Term, attended by 200 people. Pro-Vice Chancellor for Colleges and the Student Experience, Professor Amanda Chetwynd, said at the time that the service “was a beautiful tribute to Anuj”.
February saw student activism in action as 370 students attended a LUSU General Meeting to vote against the University’s much-maligned Business Process Review (BPR). Alex Carlin, who was LUSU’s Vice President (Academic) at the time, said that it was “difficult to believe and trust in the agenda” of the BPR. One of the more contentious points related to student administration, with concerns that there would be redundancies in this area.
Meanwhile, a White Paper was published outlining plans for Lancaster and the University of Liverpool to collaborate. This was an idea that had previously been suggested by the University in 2011 until it was met with criticism from several fronts. George Gardiner, then LUSU President, told SCAN: “this second paper is an approach to Lancaster’s strategic future that is much more welcome.” He added: “however, student satisfaction and the quality of academic experience is something that the University should always keep at the forefront of decision making”.
The LUSU Full Time Officer elections of 2012 are perhaps remembered most because of the infamous LUSU Cow, an investment by LUSU in an attempt to promote the elections. The fibreglass cow, named Ellie, led to debate in the pages of SCAN for weeks. Regardless, 3011 students voted – breaking the record for the highest LUSU election turnout ever and showing a 10% increase on the previous year’s figures. Looks like the cow worked.
Towards the end of Lent term, Jo Hardman – then Business and Development manager of LUSU – was appointed as the Head of Commercial Services at the University, replacing David Peeks, who had some history with this newspaper. Around the same time, Mark Swindlehurst – Director of Facilities at the University – was quoted as saying: “College bars used to dominate college life, but now we need to look sensibly to the future and establish the long-term viability of bars which are taking in less profit than the cost of overheads required to run them.”
A short while later, while Hardman was still in his post at LUSU, students mourned the end of nights at The Carleton in Morecambe. The venue was forced to end its Wednesday night events as they had become unsustainable financially. It is perhaps no coincidence that this situation arose shortly after the Sugarhouse created its Jinxed event on a Wednesday, which was previously a night reserved for University of Cumbria students. Stewart Aimson, manager of The Carleton, told SCAN: “I feel that we were misled at the begining of the year by what was happening with Sugar on a Wednesday.”
Summer Term began with the news that the University had scrapped their £1.5 million BPR. Mark E Smith, Vice-Chancellor of the University, wrote to all staff informing them that “no further work” would take place on the review. He added: “It is clear from the review that, regrettably, the BPR raised unnecessary anxieties in many of our colleagues which should, whenever possible, be avoided.”
Lancaster made national headlines in March – but not for the most honourable of reasons. The Daily Mail published a table detailing “misconduct cases”, termed “student cheating” in their article, with Lancaster in the number one position for 194 cases in 2010/11. The University, and LUSU, were quick to dispute the context of the report – particularly as ten of the top 20 UK Universities failed to provide any figures to the Mail. Amanda Chetwynd told SCAN: “Half of the cases relating to the [Daily Mail] Freedom of Information [request] are minor.”
There were strange happenings in the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences when Professor Nancy Wright was (briefly) appointed Dean. Wright came from the University of Queensland in Australia and was described by the Vice-Chancellor as someone who has “talent and experience.” Subtext, the informative and investigative email newsletter produced by academic staff at the University, did some advanced research – using Google – to discover that Professor Wright had not had vast amounts of success in her previous posts, earning some far from flattering nicknames in the process. A short while later, all members of FASS received a message from the Vice-Chancellor saying: “Professor Nancy Wright, for personal reasons, has decided that she is unable to take up her position as Dean of Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS)”.
Summer term ended with rumblings at the College Bars, with student staff in Cartmel seeing their hours cut in an attempt to make the bars more financially sustainable. Jo Hardman said at the time that “on some nights, the bar was paying more student staff wages than was being taken in sales.” It also became clear that the bars were not going to report good financials for the year.
Just as the term ended, with impeccable timing, the infamous Underpass reopened. This marked the completion of the two year long Alexandara Square works – if you ignore the strips of light across the flooring that seemed to work for around a day or so.
The bars continued to dominate the news agenda over the summer, with SCAN revealing in its first issue of the academic year that a new structure had been imposed on the bars while students were away. These changes led to the removal of licencees from the college bars, and was seen by many as another element of a sustained attack on the colleges themselves. Around the same time, a thread on LUSU’s YourVoice website requesting that the Union make a stand on this issue led to intense debate. A General Meeting of LUSU was hastily organised for the first day of the academic year; however, the meeting failed to reach quoracy – meaning that it could not go ahead. Regardless, as Jo Hardman and Mark Swindlehurst were both present, it was decided that a Question and Answer session should go ahead.
A key topic in this Q&A was the failure of Facilities to open Furness Bar in time for Freshers’ Week. This become somewhat of a ‘will it/won’t it’ saga over the Summer, but SCAN broke the news (three weeks before Freshers’ Week) that the bar would not be open in time, even while sections of the University were still insisting it would be. Trevor, as the bar is known, did open several weeks into the term to generally favourable comments. This was no comfort to Furness’ JCR however, who were forced to relocate their events to the Private Dining Room in County having had to deal with a lack of information and support from the University. Indeed, some JCR members commented that they first heard about the delays through SCAN.
The first term of the 2012/13 academic year was not a slow one in terms of news. It emerged that Lancaster were planning to open a new campus in Ghana, while only inviting members of senate to provide feedback via email. The University also appointed a new deputy Vice-Chancellor, Professor Andrew Atherton, who SCAN interviewed and was impressed by. It also emerged that the Deanery system was under review, with the familiar prospect of centralisation and power being taken away from the Colleges hanging overhead.
The NUS’ imaginatively named Demo 2012 received full support from LUSU, with a healthy contingent making the journey down to London. However, the day will be remembered for its rain and a poorly thought out route leading to a rally in Kennington, miles from the centre of power. Liam Burns, NUS President, was heckled and forced off stage.
Towards the end of the term, Ellie the Elections Cow returned to campus after an unspecified ‘injury’. This was, of course, to promote the JCR and CCO elections – as well as the Full Time Officer referendum. The referendum passed, meaning several new changes (such as the separation of SCAN Editor from a Full Time Officer remit) will now go ahead. The stage is now set for 2013, and it doesn’t look like it is going to be any quieter…
Success for the Media
Our stablemates LA1:TV and Bailrigg FM both experienced award success in 2012. LA1:TV received the title of “Highly Commended Station” in the “Best Factual” category at the National Student Television Awards in the Summer Term. The submitted entry was for a clip from ‘The LA1 Show’ focusing on a Lymphoma awarness story.
A few months later, Bailrigg FM received the “Best Technical Achievement” award at the Student Radio Awards at indigO2 in London and kept news of their success quiet. The award was presented for work on a switchboard at Roses 2012, which enabled multiple live streams to be switched instantly.