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The Problem with Senate
Hello gorgeous. I am very, very pleased to welcome you back into my print home for as long as you can bear. As you can see, there is yet more of me, my new picture now makes me look like a sneering sod, rather than an *old* sneering sod, and the layout has been rearranged, much like the deck chairs on the Titanic. The feedback on Postscript has been flooding in, in the form of drinks being thrown in my face, people snubbing me on the spine and University House people taking me to task in meetings (see ‘Diggles Dig’)
In the last issue, I briefly alluded to the restructuring of the University Senate, defended the notion that it should hold a large student / college proportion, and also that it should retain its current size.
The cross-departmental consultation on the Senate review is now well underway, and by all accounts it has been a rocky road, with many faculty members failing to see the good in a shrunken senate. The argument from the university is that a smaller Senate will encourage more open debate from its members, something that the Senate has been sorely lacking in. The argument from everybody else is that an unwillingness to speak up stems from the Vice-Chancellorship of Paul Wellings, a man who many felt equated debate to a capital offense.
This is a valid argument, but there are more to make against the restructuring. I’m on my platform, so I may as well put mine forward. First of all, the Colleges and the students need larger representation on the senate. Academic matters are the primary focus of Senate, so many feel that students and colleges haven’t much to say. On the contrary. Academic matters affect students. Students are… well… students, and colleges generally have a closer relationship with students than academic departments – both bodies are more than neccessary in a debate on academic affairs.
Secondly, there are too many Associate Deans sitting on senate. Associate Deans, who oversee the managerial aspects of faculties, were initially added to the membership (in the last senate review, conducted with the aim of shrinking senate but ultimately enlarging it) to dilute the influence of the colleges. The University Secretary said that, in the past, academic representatives resented the colleges for ‘dominating’ Senate discussions. If this is true, it’s an outrageously prissy way to behave, seeing as the academics always have had the voting majority. It also runs against the idea that the Senate is a forum for discussion – ‘dominate’ presumably means ‘disagree’ in this instance, and if people care about issues that much, they’ll tackle those pesky colleges over it.
‘Toeing the line’ is endemic in any institution, and universities are no exception to that. It isn’t hard to believe that some academic representatives may feel pressured by the presence of people who have the power to make or break them, like having your father breathe down your neck as you tell your mother you’re sorry. In contrast, who knows what prospects lie in store for someone who is consistently compliant and well behaved? Maybe a Professorship? Who knows.
If senate is to become the talkative, thoughtful and decisive body that this review sets out to make it, then it needs far more academics who are elected by their departments, and a sizeable chunk of diverse representation for the students and the colleges.
Postscript has gone utterly stratospheric, and certainly not unnoticed by the University. At last week’s meeting of the Colleges and Student Experience Committee (CSECtion), it became apparent that Head of Facilities and down-to-earth everyman Mark Swindelhurst is an avid reader. In between threatening to close the College Bars and interrupting anybody who raised points in response to his report, he remarked that he “very much enjoyed” Postscript’s report on the closure of Diggles.
He then explained that Diggles’ decision to close was in light of their predicted inability to cope with the incoming competition from Subway; an exposition that I can only assume was intended as a reiteration of exactly what I wrote. Oddly, no reference was made to the increases in shop rents imposed upon non-university run outlets.
This is absolutely fine, but he also mentioned that students bringing their own food into food serving bars could impact upon sales and sustainability. Presumably no notice was paid to last week’s warning that opening a Subway directly opposite to the food-serving Bowland Bar would present a far bigger problem.
It is of massive importance that anybody who wishes to use this column as a segue into discussions reads its contents thoroughly.
Subtext, Lancaster University’s underground, staff edited newsletter, will be celebrating its 100th issue this Thursday.
Subtext came to life in December 2005, when a small but vocal group of academics and students felt that nobody was taking the university to task over the George Fox Six affair, a fiasco which involved former Vice-Chancellor Paul Wellings pressing charges against six students for protesting. A considerable hole had been left in the university’s critical voice in the four years since the tragic and untimely death of Gordon Inkster (writer of ‘Inkytext’, a similar publication), and the decision was taken to resuscitate that voice.
Since then, subtext has been in bi-weekly circulation, and its editorial collective has consisted of many Lancaster heavyweights, including (in alphabetical order); Rachel Cooper (PPR), Mark Garnett, Gavin Hyman, David Smith and Alan Whitaker.
Sarcastic, incredulous and sometimes flippant, subtext was the first to shed light on many salient yet obfuscated stories, including the Business Process Review, the worrying hiring of Professor Nancy Wright as FASS Dean, and the controversial establishment of a redundancy committee.
Anybody wishing to bone up on activities behind the curtain would be well advised to subscribe to subtext, at www.lancs.ac.uk/subtext
Long may it continue, quite literally, to accentuate the subtextual elements of the university press office.
University Looking to Spread the Clap
Attention students – your university needs YOU. The University has asked LUSU for its opinion on graduation ceremony clap policy. Under the current measures, the clap is well controlled, contained and disseminated at the end of graduation roll-call in one big orgasmic frenzy.
However, it has been suggested that such strictures render the procedings too dull and responsible, and that the clap should be allowed to spread. Essentially, rather than collectively, we are being asked to consider allowing parents to give their sons and daughters the clap on an individual basis, as such happy occasions render the urge to do so infectuous.
If you have an opinion on the matter, then do not hesitate to get in touch with the LUSU Vice-President (Ceremonial & Sensorimotor Affairs) and offer your input. It’s what we’re here for.
And Another Thing…
– Farewell to the departing Jeremy Bethell, and many thanks for his 11 years of loyal service to the County College. It is a shame to lose any individual with a collegiate passion, and a greater one to lose the man who brought true character and community to County Bar. I fear that Lancaster University will never recognise the value of men like him. Mr. Bethell – we will ALL miss you.
– You saw Pro-Vice Chancellor Chetwynd’s article in the last issue of SCAN. Do your bloody student experience(s) survey NOW. If you don’t, you will be harassed via email until you do. It is vital that you fill in and submit it, so that the university can get right to work on ordering staff to increase contact time by 800%, extend lectures to 9 hours per session and offer essay feedback within ten minutes of submission.
– Students complained that the Great Hall is too tacky for Grad Ball. LUSU have combatted this tackiness… by moving it to Blackpool. Good game, good game.