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Consultation, or a lack thereof, has been a recurring theme this academic year at Lancaster. Last term began with a hastily arranged LUSU General Meeting to develop a response to Jo Hardman and Commercial Services’ changes to the structure of the college bars, which were forced through with precious little staff consultation and absolutely no student consultation. This term, the focus has shifted to the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS), who seem to have the ambition of alienating both their academic staff and their students one department at a time.
In the last issue of SCAN, we outlined changes to the Applied Social Science (ASS) department; Criminology was to be moved out to the School of Law. Tony McEnery, the Dean of FASS, told us that the Criminologists had been consulted, which is fair enough. However, he conceded that the other half of ASS, Social Work, had not been consulted to anywhere near the same level. Since Social Work are now left in the awkward position of being the only constituent part of ASS, the next expected move is for them to be moved to a completely different Faculty – namely the Faculty of Health & Medicine. The section of the department that had not been consulted is arguably that which will be most affected by the changes.
Academics told us of rumour and denials that have been plaguing the department for months. This is not a healthy way to run an educational establishment. As for the students, SCAN has been told that there is simply confusion and bemusement.
This issue, we publish the news that Music will no longer be taught at Lancaster. FASS have been tinkering with the degree scheme endlessly and have now decided to make the academic staff redundant. Once again, the changes have been enshrined in rumour, with academic staff feeling the need to break the news to varying extents to students via email.
I am not saying that Lancaster University should be afraid of change. All organisations need to adapt, consolidate, and grow to face changing environments. However, Lancaster has this bizarre ability to go about change in the most comically inept ways possible.
Management need to consider who the stakeholders are. The students and the academic staff should be more than an afterthought. Universities serve two main purposes: to teach students, and to develop new research. If you alienate those two parties, the quality of the institution will suffer.
Stop the rumour. Be clearer. Talk to all parties involved in the change, not just a small cross-section. At the moment, some people feel like pawns in some grand game of “Whose Department Is It Anyway?” FASS need to make clear what their strategy is, where they see the Faculty going, and why they see fit to end the teaching of Music at Lancaster.