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This week, Lancaster University Students’ Union (LUSU) are running a campaign celebrating the collegiate system here at Lancaster. The College Spirit campaign aims to help students and staff engage with their colleges in a way which the union hopes will be both fun and interesting for anyone who gets involved. Several events are planned for the Week, including a “Battle of the Bands” competition, and a campus bar crawl on Saturday, Week 2. There will also be a talk about the history of the University’s colleges by Lancaster University’s honorary archivist Marion McClintock on October 16th.
Throughout the week there will also be a series of “pop-up Unions”, which aim to bring the Union to the students. For four days of Spirit Week, LUSU officers will be stationed at different points on campus; including popular hotspots such as Alexandra Square, the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) building and George Fox.
Laurence Pullan, VP (Union Development), one of the officers spearheading the campaign, told SCAN “we are hoping that if we can bring ourselves closer to the student population near their colleges we can use the pop-up unions to showcase what the union and the colleges can do in partnership in terms of events, activities and campaigns.” The pop-up Unions are also to be used as a means of gaining feedback from students. “We are going to be asking passers-by a few questions about the college system and the union and how they interact” Pullan enthused. “The best way to move forward with any future campaign is to get feedback directly from the students that we can act upon.”
The College Spirit Campaign itself was borne out of the experience of Pullan and his brother, Joel, LUSU President. Both of the Pullan brothers held the position of President of their respective colleges during their time as undergraduate students at the University. “We believe very strongly in the college system, as do our fellow officers” Pullan said. The spark for the campaign came with a LUSU training session over the summer period, in which the officers were asked to think of campaigns that could get as many people to become activists as possible, and the officers settled on the college system. Pullan said that the aim of the campaign is to “make a statement, because the colleges are so often overlooked and taken for granted.” In an interview with SCAN, Pullan said he believed some members of University management were largely indifferent to Lancaster’s college system, as evidenced by the last academic year’s Senate Effectiveness Review. “There are a few changes going on where we need to remain vigilant and make sure the college system remains intact, and that [the colleges] maintain their own distinct identity.”
The College Spirit campaign is therefore as much about engaging staff with their colleges as it is about engaging students. “Staff are assigned to colleges as well, but often you’ll find that they have no affiliation or connection to their college. [We hope] anybody who has any sort of tie to a college gets involved and can reap the benefits of it.” Pullan is particularly excited for the lecture by Marion McClintock, university archivist, for this reason, saying “we have invited both students and staff to come along, and we have a few ‘big-hitters’ from the university who have already confirmed that they will be attending – it is a good statement from the University that they will show their support for the week.”
The timing of the College Spirit Campaign is very much with students in mind, however. “It is a very tight timeframe, but we’ve been planning it over summer” Pullan asserts. “After Freshers’ Week, students feel a little disengaged with their colleges. Using the college spirit campaign is another way for students to get together in their colleges as a community.”
Why is it important that students feel a connection to their college? Pullan is adamant: “If you walk down the street and you met someone from Lancaster University, the first question you ask them is ‘what college are you in?’ The college system is great because it is multi-purpose, and unlike most other universities you get a much broader social experience: you have your college which has your college friends, and you have your course with your course friends.” It seems that other LUSU officers agree, with Bowland President Patrick Somervell telling SCAN, “The college system provides Lancaster students with a sense of community and belonging. It also has the capacity over time to instil a sense of pride and commitment to a cause you might have never discovered at any other university.”
In addition to this, Pullan adds: “That diversity is something which is taken for granted quite often and something we should cherish. The colleges themselves have their own identity, and in theory there is something for everyone: you’ve got Fylde with its sports, County with the comedy club, Pendle with the live music… you have a broader experience, a broader social experience, and the college system is the best way of doing that.” Ultimately, Pullan wants the entire campaign to enjoyable for every member of Lancaster, emphasising that the point is to “have fun”. Speaking passionately about the event, Pullan told SCAN, “I want them [students] to realise that the college system is a huge positive for the university. I also want the staff to acknowledge that the college system is a great positive. I know Amanda Chetwynde [Lancaster University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor for colleges and the student experience] is a huge advocate of the college system, but there are those – students and staff – that don’t really choose to engage with their college, but if they do, it opens the door for so many opportunities that you wouldn’t realise. The aim of the campaign is to try to get as many people involved in the campaign and make a statement because the colleges are so often overlooked and taken for granted.”