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LU Hiking Society are the oldest and largest society on campus with 400 members at present. However, despite their numbers, they’re given “barely any support from the SU.” As a ‘recreational sports’ society, LU Hiking don’t receive any funds from the Union unlike the majority of sports societies so rely on membership to cover hiking trips organised throughout the year.
Thousands of students have enjoyed these trips and they’re recognised as a selling point for the University. However, recently these trips have become a source of heartache for LU Hiking with the Students’ Union’s failure to reapply for Section 19 permits. Without these permits, LU Hiking alongside numerous other societies, have had no access to either the mini-buses hired by the SU or mini-buses hired privately.
However, more concerning than the failure to re-apply for the permits is the Students’ Union’s lack of transparency and communication. During an interview with LU Hiking Society, Helen Shaw – President – revealed that they had contacted the SU about mini-bus tests on the 11th October but failed to hear back for over 2 weeks.
It wasn’t until the 29th October that the SU informed LU Hiking that the Union didn’t have the permits.
This confirmation came about after LU Hiking visited the SU Offices every day during Week 3, desperately trying to figure out travel arrangements for their first trip on the 22nd to the 24th October. Failing to receive any confirmation on mini-buses before this trip, LU Hiking were forced to take “extreme measures” and travel using multiple cars driven by members. What was usually their most profitable weekend trip, cost LU Hiking an £800 loss.
For a society, entirely financially dependent on membership and with the SU still yet to obtain the permits required, LU Hiking will almost definitely be facing another serious loss on their trip to Scotland running on the 5th November. For this trip, they have been forced to organise 7 cars and 2 vans to transport 40 members.
LU Hiking Society have been so defeated with the Students’ Union’s lack of transparency and communication that they went public with the dilemma issuing details on their interactions with the Union, rumours of “illegal” mini-bus tests and broken promises. It wasn’t until after this that LU Hiking were finally contacted for a meeting with the SU to discuss the permits.
Conducted by Sports Engagement Officer, Martin Ennis, it was revealed to LU Hiking that the Union had been aware of the lack of permits from the 22nd October despite only informing societies a week later.
LU Hiking were deeply disappointed by this withheld information and felt that it had been, “one too many times” that they had been let down by the SU. However, LU Hiking didn’t feel themselves the only party let down but also Marshalls whom they were planning on renting mini-buses from for their 500 mile trip to Scotland. Despite the SU renting 3 of Marshalls mini-buses during term time for society use, they had failed to inform them of the lack of permits. If LU Hiking hadn’t informed Marshalls of the situation, their vehicles could have been travelling to Scotland completely uninsured.
Acknowledging the difficulties this situation has caused, LU Hiking were offered £500 compensation by the Students’ Union. Though deeply appreciated, LU Hiking felt instead of compensation this was “hush money “and that it didn’t compensate for the stress they’d been put under.
The Students’ Union’s lack of transparency and communication hasn’t only affected LU Hiking Exec but also their new members who have experienced the, “unnecessary stress and frustration that delayed communication from the Union has caused the club’s exec.” Lucy Buckley, who joined LU Hiking this year, expressed that, “Lancaster’s proximity to the Lake District was a very important factor in me choosing to study here” so to see the SU unwilling to communicate on important matters such as permits didn’t, “fill me with confidence.”
The Students’ Union have issued the following statement in response to the situation: