Recollections of a Bowland President

Recollections of a Bowland President -

Dick Harris (Computer Science, 1973, Bowland) recalls his time at Lancaster in the seventies.

"The photo shows the Bowland JCR executive in 1972 when long hair for men and short skirts for women were de riguer.  I am third from the left of this group which is lined up in front of a peculiar sculpture that used to stand in Bowland’s quadrangle.  On my right is Tim Hamlett, one of the six vice-presidents, cradling his whippet.  Tim and I both attended the Lancaster 40th anniversary celebrations in 2004.  I had travelled merely from Brussels where I was working whereas Tim came all the way from Hong Kong where he still lives and delivered one of the hilarious speeches for which he was famous when chairman of the Federation (the precursor of the Students' Union).  In those days, student power was exercised by the Student Representative Council upon which JCR reps were in the majority.  This meant that mass meetings of the students (which typically were modest gatherings of political activists) were not able to take control of student affairs.  To get a true campaign going the activists needed to mobilise each JCR separately.  This was easier to achieve for things like the quality of study bedrooms and rents than for movements like anti-Vietnam war or Troops Out which were big external issues at the time. The  secondCraig affair was another issue which united many students against the university (I say second because certain earlier alumni of a journalistic bent assure me that the first Craig affair was more significant).  As I recall, Dr Craig (who I never met) was a popular English lecturer suspected of favouritism towards students sharing his left wing views.  There were sit-ins and much else before a resolution was found in creating a department of independent studies for him.  In retrospect it seems like a reward.

I have immensely vivid memories of my time at Bailrigg.  Our saintly Vice-Chancellor, Charles Carter, had set things up so that students were represented in almost everything.  Indeed it wasn’t always easy to find volunteers for all the jobs.  At one point, late on in my Lancaster career, I found that I must have been nominated to the appeals tribunal.  A summons came to sit in judgement on a case where a young female student was appealing against being sent down.  The tribunal was taken aback to find that she was represented by a man who had recently decided to live as a woman and who appeared in a pink dress complete with five o’clock shadow.  I am proud to think that, in this, as in its tolerance of Gay Lib, Lancaster may have been if not ahead of its time at least abreast of it.

Another vital element of Lancaster, which also owed much to Carter’s influence, was a modular course structure that made it easy to blend a variety of subjects.  It also made it easy for visitors from abroad for a year to choose modules that fitted in nicely with their home courses.  One result was the Junior Year Abroad programme for American students.  As I started life at Lancaster aged 25, this programme was a godsend.  In fact, some years later, I ended up marrying one of the JYA’s and I have two dual national sons to prove it."