issue 57

15 October 2009


'Truth: lies open to all'


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CONTENTS: editorial, news in brief, faculty restructuring, council report, senate report, more pain for HoDs, eL-Zee review, no rumours column, 1966 and all that, letters



It's always tricky writing the first editorial of the year. Of course, the summer holiday is an entirely artificial division - it isn't a 'New Year' in any real sense; management, teaching, building, administration, working - they have all been going on over the summer. Nevertheless, there is always a feeling that it's a new start. It would be nice to think that we could start with a clean sheet, but ...

Conversations with our readers suggest that there are several issues that continue to worry them. The disjunction between the way that the University lauds the College System as an idea while systematically dismantling it as a meaningful concept in practice clearly leaves a bad taste. The changes to Statute 20 also concern them, suggesting at the least that there are widely divergent ideas within our community as to what a University is for. We live in interesting times.

Some people point to the rebuilding programme as a wider symbol of the problem. Let's be clear: the University refurbishment was long overdue, it is a good thing, and we have increasingly better facilities as a result. But the imposition of offices and teaching rooms without reference to those who use them rankles. There is a feeling, justified or not, that Estates run the University and others must fit in with them. One corollary of this is a tendency to see the rebuilding programme as a prime reason for the University's recent good placing in league tables and the like. But it should not be forgotten that it is commitment to good quality research and dedication to effective teaching that produce good league-table results and student 'satisfaction'. The rebuilding programme supports our recent successes, but is not the reason for them. It does not justify the hubris with which the building programme is often perceived as being imposed.

So. Maybe we're wrong. Maybe the University hasn't lost touch with those who work for it. Maybe it's just the usual suspects grumbling. But consider the alternative. What if we're right? And, if we are, is the University content to repeat Tony Blair's ultimatum to the Labour Party; the train is moving, jump on or be left behind?



A farewell party for the retiring University Librarian, Jacqueline Whiteside was held on Friday 11th September. Appropriately, it was held in the Library, and was attended by colleagues from across the University. Indeed, the wide range of departments represented was a testament to the high regard in which Jacqueline was held, in both professional and personal terms, across the entire campus. The Vice-Chancellor paid tribute to her immense contributions over the years, not only in her areas of direct responsibility, but also to many other aspects of University life understood in the widest sense. The Deputy Librarian, David Summers, gave a most eloquent speech, obviously heartfelt, in which he paid tribute to the most fruitful working partnership of his career. Jacqueline herself responded with gracious words and paid particular tribute to her colleagues, not only in the Library, but also in the Ruskin Centre, The Centre for North-West Regional Studies and in Careers. Her contributions looks set to be formally recognised with Senate's recent approval of the title of Emeritus Librarian being conferred upon her.


Word has filtered through of a recent dinner to mark 45 years of the university. subtext had thought that only birthdays ending with an 0 merited special celebrations, but the dinner-jacketed assembly in the Great Hall clearly thought otherwise. In the presence of the former Chancellor, the second Chancellor's portrait was unveiled, apparently showing him not in climbing boots, or on the Bonington Step, but reclining in the Chancellor's chair. After an eclectic mix of alumni, long-serving staff, honorary graduates and senior officers had finished their meal, a video of recent achievements was shown, and the Vice-Chancellor concluded the evening by inviting all present to feel involved in the forthcoming fundraising campaign; reasons, perhaps, for the rest of us to be glad we had not been included.


subtext was pleased to hear that LUSU President Michael Payne was recently elected Chair of Unions94, a group set up in 2007 as a sister organisation to the 1994 Group of Universities. The latter is comprised of 19 universities of roughly comparable academic standing across the UK and is currently chaired by Lancaster's Vice-Chancellor, Paul Wellings. The role of Unions94 is to represent the collective views and principles of the 19 Students' Unions. As well as lobbying at a national level, Unions 94 seeks to work in partnership with the 1994 Group, while also holding the Group to account and ensuring that the student voice is always heard. Michael Payne has already started work on improving the public profile and face of the group and will be meeting the 1994 Group's senior officers in two weeks at their HQ in London. subtext congratulates Michael on his election and wishes him well as he embarks upon this high profile national role.


Interesting times in catering circles. The Sultan Restaurant (next to LUSU) are to cease trading and return to their parent site in Lancaster. We aren't surprised; the food was good but it was too small and almost invisible. Meanwhile, over at the Cafe Republica, it seems that the partners who ran it together until a few weeks ago have fallen out and gone their separate ways. The University decided to continue the contract with one of the partners, at which point the other partner agreed to take over the Sultan's old spot, and took the entire staff complement with him. Watch this space.


It is understood that the Pro-Chancellor was somewhat discomfited when his last set of Council papers was unable to be delivered to his home. Apparently it was too big to go through his letter box and had been left in a local mail depot for him to collect. His response seems to have been that he was far too busy to undertake the mundane task of collection and so insisted that the University send him another set. However, this time the agenda and papers had to be reordered so that they would fit and could be delivered. What else? It was already the case that the current structure and formatting of papers was very much at his insistence on the basis that busy people, such as himself, had little time to read through lengthy documents. It has, of course, contributed to the lack of informed discussion and the rubber stamp approach which now characterizes Council.


The newly appointed Director of Marketing and External Linkages seems an interesting addition to the growing pool of highly paid senior managers on campus. It's believed that two of his suggestions for raising our profile and income generation were: first, to offer an honorary degree to Cheryl Cole (of Girls Aloud and now judge on the popular X Factor TV show). Apparently, we should be impressed by the fact he has her telephone number (possibly via his Chelsea FC connection); secondly, for guests at the University's 45th Anniversary Dinner to be sold photographs of themselves with HRH Princess Alexandra. It is understood that the Ceremonies and Events Office didn't think this a good idea. His main task may be to 'build the brand' of the University but he's clearly on a steep learning curve.


A serious argument appears to be growing between the LUSU and the Director of Facilities over proposed changes to the rent the LUSU are charged for their commercial outlets. The proposed increases, if accepted, would place a serious strain on the LUSU budget and would certainly seem to be at odds with the need to ensure the Union is sustainable in the long term. Discourteous behaviour in not turning up for a long-arranged meeting with LUSU representatives, without explanation or apologies, did little to help the atmosphere of distrust. It is believed that the Director of Facilities is pushing the issue with LUSU in order to strengthen his position regarding other commercial tenants on campus, at least one of whom is said to be pursuing legal action against the University. One of the many aspects which seem to have escaped him is that profits from the LUSU commercial activities go back into funding the student experience at Lancaster and help fund a range of other important areas of work. Squeezing in this way will ultimately result in important student-based activities being reduced. Is this what the University intends?


subtext drones have discovered that over the summer the taste of the coffee served by central catering - or rather its lack of taste - provoked an exchange between the Commercial Services Director and the newly appointed Director of Facilities. In response to criticism from the latter about campus coffee the quality of the water was offered as an explanation. Yes, really. A decision was taken to commission consultants to carry out tests on the water supply in catering outlets. The cost was said to be some £2,500 and nothing was found, other than the liquid was wet. Is subtext alone in thinking it really is time that budgetary spend within central administration was properly scrutinized and justified? The outcome was to pilot a range of different coffees amongst customers using the Management School's Hub outlet. Has the coffee improved? Do let us know.



Readers will recall the inauguration of the Resilience Project, a Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences restructuring project with implications for the Departments of Educational Research, Philosophy, Politics, Religious Studies and Sociology, as well as for the ICR and IAS (see issue 53). Considerable progress has occurred over the summer, and readers may be interested to hear of developments.

We reported that Educational Research and Sociology would be required to undergo the now familiar faculty process of a 'strategic intervention,' with both departments having to produce strategic and business plans which may or may not be approved by the SI panel and FACMAG. Sociology and Educational Research have been asked to undertake an internal Strategic Review during this academic year and to produce a five-year plan. Both have set up departmental strategic planning groups which have met several times over the summer. In the case of Educational Research, it has gathered background data and will soon be putting a discussion paper to a departmental meeting for consultation. The original fears that ICR (recently re-named the Department of Media, Film and Cultural Studies) would be scattered to the winds has, thankfully for them, not materialised and they will now be moving, as a single unit, to LICA. We await further news on prospective developments for the IAS.

But by far the most radical of the restructuring proposals was that to merge Philosophy, Politics and Religious Studies into a single department. Since the Staff Away Day (see issue 56), a Working Party has been set up, comprising junior and senior representative nominated by the three departments, and chaired by Emma Rose. It has met intensively over the summer and has already started to reach some conclusions. The original suggestion that the new entity be called the Lancaster Institute for Contemporary Thought (LICT) has been abandoned, and the Working Party are suggesting that the new title be the Department of Philosophy, Politics and Religion (PPR). It was felt important to retain these terms both for the purposes of student recruitment and to preserve the identity of the three disciplines.

Within that department, it is proposed that there be a research centre that would cross over all three disciplines, but which would not necessarily include all members of staff of the three disciplines. After some discussion, it was initially proposed that this be 'The Centre for Values, Religion and Public Life', although it appears that this has recently been questioned, and will be subject to further discussion. It is proposed that there be an externally appointed Director of the Centre at Chair level, possibly to be appointed to a Chair indefinitely but Director of the Centre for a limited period. Meanwhile, the headship of the enlarged department as a whole would be an internal appointment from among existing staff, on the model of currently existing Headships of department. It is envisaged that the current separate undergraduate and postgraduate degree schemes would continue and discussions are currently underway as to how the internal administration will be structured and how it will operate.

The process appears to have moved faster than was initially anticipated. The principle of the merger and outline proposals have now been approved by FacMAG, PRC, UMAG and Senate, although concerns were expressed at the last about the lack of student consultation (see Senate Report, below). It is thought that the reason for the acceleration of the process is to give ample time for the procedure of appointing the external Director of the Centre. We await further developments with interest and will keep readers informed.



The Council met on Friday 2nd October with an initial warm welcome by the Pro-Chancellor, Bryan Gray, to new members of the Council.

An insightful presentation by the University Secretary revealed that the university Secretariat saw three key areas of growth in the coming years; Freedom of Information requests, trade union relations and student complaints (an assessment which raises many questions of its own). The presentation received very few questions but grumbles of too many committees duplicating business were voiced by Deputy Pro-Chancellor, Professor Stanley Henig.

The Vice-Chancellor reported as normal on parochial, regional, national and international affairs. He gave an update to Council on key events he had attended over summer, which included the Universities UK Conference. He raised concerns iterated by Higher Education Minister, David Lammy about the 'unlikely' sustainability of public spending as a whole and specifically in Higher Education. The Vice-Chancellor alluded to numerous priorities for Universities UK, now under the stewardship of Steve Smith (VC of Exeter and incoming Chair of the 1994 Group); he saw these as being economic recovery for universities, improved quality of the student experience and the reputation of degrees, social mobility: fair access and widening participation, sustainability of research funding and universities working together to face key challenges ahead such as economic recession and climate change.

The Director of Finance then gave an update on the refinancing deal and its impact on the university's accounts (which is widely expected to fall within the financial year 2009/2010). A clear indication was also given by the Vice-Chancellor that Council needed to understand the 'perturbation' that would be evident in the accounts as a result of significant borrowing from the refinancing deal.

Questions were raised about the necessity of the corporate governance internal audit report, provided by the university's independent auditors. However the Chair of the Audit Committee stressed the importance of proper scrutiny and adherence to accepted format and process, which satisfies the requirements of external parties wishing to provide the university with funding.

A report on Lancaster's performance in domestic league tables showed a steady increase over two years, but a slight downturn from 2009 to 2010 in all three tables was evident. A sharp decrease over three years in Lancaster's ranking from the National Student Survey feedback satisfaction category was explained by Lancaster not improving in certain areas as quickly or as much as other comparator institutions had.

The LUSU President reported the appointment of former University Librarian Jacqueline Whiteside to the position of External Trustee for the Students' Union. The Council also approved appointments of the new University Librarian, Clare Powne and the reappointment of Furness College Principal, Reuben Edwards.

Discussions were then had in a special meeting of the Committee of Council about redundancies, following the findings by the Redundancy Committee, (see below).



The first Senate of 2009/10 kicked off with a series of reports picking up on the various issues that have arisen since last May. Of these, perhaps the most significant was the summary of the possible look of the new Research Excellence Framework (REF). Although the consultation process was yet to be completed, it was clear that, firstly, the timetable was extremely tight, with publication of the first REF results at the end of 2013, and secondly, that research 'impact' would account for at least 25% in the assessment. The Treasury was lobbying to make this even bigger. 'Impact was the big unknown', mused Professor Diggle. Professor Bainbridge (English and Creative Writing) revealed that his department and Physics would be involved in an early pilot of the new approaches. 'The two best creative writing departments in the University', chortled the VC, possibly referring to our Cambridge colleagues' complaint that the Lancaster Physics department had somehow blagged its way to the top spot in the last RAE.

On now to Section B of the agenda, and after consideration of proposals for honorary degrees to be awarded this academic year, Senate turned to consideration of the first fruits of the FASS Resilience Project. This was a proposal to merge the Philosophy, Politics and IR, and Religious Studies departments into a new department to be called Politics, Philosophy and Religion (PPR). Professors McEnery and Rose, Dean and Deputy Dean of the Faculty, spoke to a paper on the subject written by Professor Rose. In Professor McEnery's view, this proposal was timely and addressed the issues of three departments 'requiring attention' as a result of the RAE. There had been widespread consultation, with staff from each department directly involved in shaping the final proposal. He wanted to assure staff and students that there would be no redundancies and that the same degree schemes would continue to be taught by the same people.

Professor Rose stated that the new department would be stronger and more sustainable in teaching, research and impact. It aimed to be world-class, to be able to influence thinking on global issues of contemporary relevance connecting politics, philosophy and religion (cue Freddy Mercury: 'FASS! A-ah!! Saviour of the universe'). She wanted to make it clear that consultation with all those affected had taken place, including the trade unions (surely a first for a Lancaster restructuring exercise). In particular, she wanted to emphasise that students had been consulted, though she had not wanted to 'inundate' them with information as this proposal took shape over summer. She also wanted to stress that any delay in proceeding with the proposal 'could undermine the whole process'. No pressure at all there, then.

The debate was opened out. It was encouraging to see so many senators willing to speak on this issue, though there was a sense that it had all the spontaneity of a rally in downtown Pyongyang. Even those initially sceptical of the proposal now wanted it to happen. Staff in Politics and IR, declared Professor Geyer, had moved from 'surprise' through 'defensiveness' to 'excitement' (no doubt now quivering with anticipation of the delights to come). Echoing Professor Rose's earlier warning, speaker after speaker emphasised that this plan had to move forward swiftly. 'Procrastination', declared Professor Partridge, 'would be problematic'. Everyone seemed to agree that speed was of the essence, delay could be fatal. Well, almost everyone. There was no one present to represent the views of the Philosophy department, but Ms. Ellie Fitton, a LUSU delegate and part-time Philosophy Department secretary, stated that to her knowledge staff in the department were very concerned at the speed of all of this and had made this known to the Dean. Professor McEnery acknowledged those concerns but did not answer them. In fact, no one had yet explained why this merger had to be confirmed NOW! NOW! NOW! There was one reference to the tight REF timetable but as the proposal being put forward was all about teaching provision it was difficult to see its relevance.

The Problematic Procrastinators now showed their hand. LUSU President Michael Payne proposed that the item be deferred to the next Senate meeting in November. In a calm and carefully worded address, he stated that this was not intended to obstruct the proposals or to oppose the views of academic staff but to enable proper consultation to take place with the elected representatives of the student body, and this had not yet happened. The amendment was seconded by Mr. Simon Bulmer, who stated that though he was a student rep in FASS, he had not been consulted about this merger.

The VC's first response to this was to question LUSU's right to have any sort of role in this matter. The University Secretary, in a rare and commendable display of independence, reminded him that the LUSU delegates' presence on Senate was, indeed, precisely so that they could represent student views on academic matters. The VC did not look entirely convinced but allowed the debate on the amendment to proceed.

Professor McEnery found Mr. Payne's 'assertion', that students had not been consulted, to be 'insulting'. Was the LUSU president suggesting that Prof McEnery was trying to mislead Senate? In the face of this 'you calling me a liar, pal?' attack the student representatives held their ground. Ms. Fitton stated that there had been no consultation with Philosophy students and Mr Mackrory, LUSU Academic Affairs officer, said he had only been informed of the plan the previous day.

Mr. Slavin (Psychology) wanted to know exactly how students were consulted. Professor May, attending his first Senate as a FASS Associate Dean, was happy to oblige. He had emailed all Politics and IR students at the end of the summer term informing them of the proposed merger and inviting anyone who had any questions to come and see him. None had. (The Professor May of old would probably have filed this example of a consultation exercise under the heading: 'cobblers, load of old'. Ah well, Omnia Mutantur, Nihil Interit.) Professor Geyer announced that a general meeting of Politics students on the merger would be held on 19th October (i.e. after the decision had been confirmed by Senate).

Perhaps sensing that sympathy for the LUSU case was beginning to gain ground, the VC announced that he would be proposing an amendment of his own should Mr. Payne's not succeed. This would be to require departments to meet with their students to explain the merger and answer their questions (again, after Senate had given the scheme the go-ahead). No one questioned the propriety of introducing another amendment while the tabled one still under discussion, but Senate is by now well-used to the VC's idiosyncratic interpretations of the rules of procedure.

Faced with choosing between senior academics, who maintained that 'Students Had Been Consulted', and real live students, who said they hadn't, Senate (apart from a handful of the usual suspects from the Colleges) overwhelmingly voted down Mr. Payne's amendment. The main resolution to approve the merger, with the VC's amendment, was duly passed.

Another Resilience proposal, to integrate Media, Film and Cultural Studies with LICA, was also passed, with only token LUSU opposition. What was the point, Mr. Payne seemed to indicate, if Senate was not prepared to accept the principle of consultation with its student members?

Senate then went on to approve proposals by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor to limit the number of regional partnership arrangements to enable greater focus on overseas ventures (goodbye Accrington, hello Amman), and to approve the establishment of Dual Degrees with COMSATS Institute in Lahore.

At this point the VC announced he would be leaving before the end of the meeting to catch a plane. Was this a dash on the London shuttle for a meeting with Lord Mandelson? A city-break in Prague with the lads? Another job interview? He didn't say. Bidding a farewell to all, he vacated the chair for the Deputy Vice-Chancellor to complete the agenda, half-jokingly expressing the hope that the latter would not break the University in the process. Professor McKinlay bared his teeth in a rough approximation of a rueful grin.

Following a decision to refer back for further discussion a proposal to create two new categories of student, the meeting closed with a discussion on how Lancaster had fared in the National Student Survey, informed by another close data analysis from Mr. Graves. Everyone agreed that it was essential that Lancaster responded positively to student feedback, and a number of recommendations from UMAG to improve our provision were endorsed. In view of its earlier decisions on departmental mergers, the irony of Senate's concern for student opinion was perhaps lost on most senators but not, one suspects, on the student members. It is highly unlikely that Senate, and FASS, has heard the last of this.



A report from the Redundancy Committee went to the Committee of Council on 2 October (it meets after the main Council but without student representatives and various officers in attendance), under the name of the new Director of Resources. It seems that over the summer the Redundancy Committee met once to consider proposed redundancies for staff covered by Statute 20. Council members were asked to agree its recommendations for dismissal of 38 fixed term contract staff on grounds of redundancy. However, a more intriguing recommendation from the HR Director was that the relevant HoD should now become the appropriate officer to dismiss each member of staff concerned. Both were duly rubber stamped with little or no discussion. The reasoning of the HR Director seems to be that it is only right that the HoD as the line manager should do this, a view which betrays a complete misunderstanding of why most individuals take on this role. What it means is that they and not senior officers will become the focus of any potential antagonism. It might be wondered why they were not consulted or informed before this new obligation was placed on them but, of course, that might have raised awkward issues for the centre. One suspects, moreover, that this is only the beginning. Capability and disciplinary dismissals are round the corner. The HoD role, never an attractive one, will become even less appealing - to all concerned.



We promised readers that subtext would comment on the Learning Zone when it eventually got going, and that time has come. Your reviewer's cup runneth over. We have Learned much, in spite of what the vulgarly illuminated and emblazoned words 'Learning Zone' seem negatively to imply about the rest of campus.

Maybe the conceptual lighting is a good place to begin? There are wall-high bars of light to admire. They move from red ... to green ... to blue ... and back to red. Nice. Perhaps even soothing, though perhaps looking too much like traffic lights for comfort. (We'd be interested to see the research paper confirming that this sort of lighting facilitates Learning.) But the lights don't really matter. It's really very smart, swishy and show-offable. Which we assume was the point. Let's Learn from the top.

ACCESS - it's 24/7, supposedly, though if you want to get in outside office hours to Learn then you'll need to come in through the University House 'Air Lock'. Which will be just about impossible if you're in a wheelchair. Isn't that illegal and potentially dangerous, as well as rude? And there are pressure plates to prevent people sneaking in two at a time, so if you're a Larger Learner you may well be refused entry.

TOILETS - there aren't any. Nor are there signs to those nearby. Nor are there any disabled facilities, or nursing facilities, or ... this is a very, very bad idea. Given that the eLZee will be a magnet for students looking for somewhere warm to eat their chips at 11pm, and given that they will perhaps have had a shandy or two, well, we don't want to go into unnecessary detail, but human nature being what it is and given what any porter can tell you about the state of the college lifts after a big night out ... well, what do you think a small minority of people might just do?

CATERING - we don't know if anyone else got the impression a year ago that the plan was to have a rather swish little cafe in the LZ serving non-alcoholic drinks to Learners till all hours - something, incidentally, that has been proposed repeatedly by those who prefer not to drink alcohol or to sit in the middle of those who do - but apparently we all got the wrong end of the stick. Cafe? Not us, guv. Vending machines full of crisps and chocolate, that's the ticket. Yes, we know that the University is supposedly pushing healthy eating, but what really facilitates Learning is anything that gets the brain all zingy - and that means sugar, fat and additives, the three main food groups.

CLEANING - already the rubbish on the tables is starting to pile up, and let's not talk naively about it being a self-tidying area. There's no such animal. If the LZ is to fulfil its function, it needs to be clean and tidy all the time. You don't want to go to do some Learning and have to clear a space amongst the rubbish for your books first. (Incidentally, why isn't there a full range of recycling bins?) Some would argue that the smell of baked potatoes and vinegary fish that your reviewer noted isn't ideal Learning conditions either, but maybe that's the future of Learning for you. And inevitably, things will get spilt. Which is why all the chairs are made of hard-wearing, easily-cleaned, liquid repellent, non-absorbent fabrics ... oh, hang on a minute, no they aren't. So, is the University going to provide a dedicated cleaner for the area? And if not, how exactly will this work? And, while on the subject of people ...

SECURITY - let's tread carefully again here. The loungers. Exactly what relationship to Learning do soft reclining loungers have, and if it's so important, can we equip seminar rooms with them too? Your reviewer took one look at these comfy prone-position-promoting devices and his first thought was 'I know what type of Learning people will do on those, and it isn't anything to do with books'. Your reviewer then felt ashamed of his bad thoughts and went off and told someone of the bad and unhelpful and unjustifiably smutty thought that had occurred to him, and the same someone told him that he had in fact walked past the eLZee late on Tuesday evening and there, on those very loungers, a couple were Learning the very thing your reviewer had feared. Give it two weeks and it'll be on YouTube. By next year the JCRs will be using them for an event in Freshers Week. And what about noise? It'll be the warmest, comfiest, driest place when the bars shut. Which means that people who aren't sober will go there, and they will bring cans and takeaways, and there will be beer fights and the throwing of food. How will Learning take place under these circumstances? Maybe all this isn't true, maybe there's something we don't know, but will someone explain who exactly will stop anti-social and/or inebriated people from behaving like this? Because that's how they behave elsewhere.

THE REST - one thing the eLZee does do very well, as one stands in the Square and admires its lines, is that it brings into sharp relief just how scruffy and urgently in need of refurbishment the parts of Bowland College immediately above and beside the eLZee are.

OH DEAR - As we feared a year ago, the eLZee appears to be a bit of a mess, conceptually and practically. At the least, the design, while probably fine in theory, doesn't appear to be 'fit for purpose'. It's as if the designers didn't get together with those who will actually run the place and find out what systems and procedures would apply. But we're probably wrong about all this. Unimaginative, cynical, even jaded. Perhaps Learners will write in to us with their experiences, good and bad. Nothing would make us happier than reports of many students sitting in the eLZee, happily Learning, and none of the above problems arising. Really.

Still think there should be toilets though.



If you've a printer in your office for your own personal use, we understand that when it breaks down it won't be replaced. Henceforth your printing will be sent to a whizzy laser printer in a central position in each department. Where your printing can queue and get mixed in with the printing of 25 other people. Assuming the paper doesn't run out. And it'll get lost, dropped, and taken away by mistake. And you'll have to leaf through all the other stuff to find your own. Let's hope there's nothing confidential in there then, eh? We're all for saving money and trees, but surely there have to be better ways than this? (See elsewhere for suggestions.)


Surely there can be no truth in the rumour doing the rounds of University House that the haggling around one of the new senior appointments made over the summer was all about demands for an £8,000 all singing and dancing fridge, (presumably manufactured by Samsung?), in addition to a c£90k package and a final salary pension scheme, as the recruitment consultants put it. That the matter was resolved and the individual arrived at Lancaster would indicate that the University has broken new ground in the area of 'golden hellos'.


Some readers have wondered as to the purpose of the new pavement that has appeared on the left hand side of the road up to the roundabout. Is it, perhaps, they wonder, to match the perfectly good one that already exists on the other side of the road? We think we know why. When the new sports centre is built, if the new pavement had not been provided, anyone walking down to it would have to cross the road to get there. And might get hit by a car. And might sue the University. This way, anyone who gets hit by a car can't say that the University forced them to cross the road. Spend a little now, save a lot later. We can all learn from this.


While on the subject of the new sports centre, let's talk about covered ways. Presumably the University intends us to walk down to the sports centre - the irony of driving to the Centre in order to exercise is bad enough, driving just 500 yards would be environmentally ridiculous for a University with Green pretensions, and anyhow no one will want to risk losing their parking space. So, we'll be walking. We anticipate that a rather nice tunnel will have to be constructed, sealed against the elements to protect the would-be exerciser. We'll comment on that when it appears, or, as seems likely, when it doesn't.

Meantime, does anyone think that the present provision on campus of weather protection for pedestrians follows any sort of logic? The path to the existing sports centre, for example, one of the busiest in the university, has never been covered in the last 45 years, although there is a weird sort of shelter nearby where no-one ever goes. We suppose the run through the rain to the centre at least functions as a pre-exercise warm-up. At the other end of campus, the short soggy sprint up the uncovered steps that used to characterise any trip to County has now been substantially extended with the recent demolition of the covered way that, while it stopped tantalisingly short, at least got you almost to the foot of the steps. Now it's around 100 metres of uncovered path, but hey, it could be worse, if you're disabled it's closer to double that distance. Lucky it rains so seldom around here.

And then there's that odd curved roof thing over the path outside the Venue, which fails to keep the rain off much of the area, fails to let the light in, (which we assume was its purpose), and has to be professionally cleaned every few years for a sum not un-adjacent to a lot of money. There's no sense to any of it. We spend a fortune on replacing paving stones, but fail to protect people from the rain as they access the rooms we force them to use. One day someone will catch pneumonia as a result of a soaking and will sue. Then we'll see some action.



David O'Dell was amongst the first students to study at the newly-founded University of Lancaster. He arrived, aged 19 1/2, in the autumn of 1966 and, in 1967, was a founding member of The County College, becoming its first full-term JCR president in 1968. He also played hockey for the university, sang with the S. Martin's College choir and was involved in many other aspects of Lancaster life. This is his story. As he remembers it.

Chapter 1: The Gathering Storm


* As the BEF retreats across Northern France to Dunkirk in May 1940, my father, his bren gun carrier and the 2nd Battalion of the King's Royal Rifle Corps are sent the other way to Calais to hold up the German advance. After the first day's fighting, he is one of only four men left alive from a section of 20. Three days later he is taken prisoner and spends the next five years as a POW, most of it spent on work details. The Second World War therefore delays my arrival in the world by several years but allows me to attend the University of Lancaster which otherwise would not have been built by the time I had finished my A levels.


* Sugar, and therefore sweets, come off ration and I go to school.

* Move to Hemel Hempstead New Town which has been planned on the basis that one in ten people will own a car. My primary school still has underground shelters left over from the war and we use chalk and small slates to do our arithmetic.

* The Munich Air Disaster is marked with much reverence and apparently someone called 'Elvis the Pelvis' is very important. If I want to watch The Lone Ranger or The Cisco Kid I have to go round to my friend Michael's house because he is the only one I know who has a TV.


* Pass 11+ and sent to a bilateral school in the next town. The school occupies the buildings of the Thomas Coram Foundling Hospital which moved from London to Hertfordshire in the 1930s. It is set in 40 acres of parkland with its own chapel and an organ that Handel played on. Do not realise that this is not normal.

* School is 10 form entry - 1U1, 1U2 and1U3 are grammar streams and 1A1, 1A2, 1A3, 1B1, 1B2, 1C1 and 1C2 are secondary streams - and, like the football league, there is promotion and demotion at the end of each year. Of the 1,000 pupils, only 60 are in the sixth form. I am in 1U2 so I don't do Latin. Boys wear caps until the end of the third year (Y9).


* Snow on the ground until March and more talk of us joining this Common Market thing.

* Sit 'O' level but don't bother to collect my results until start of term. Have passed five of the seven I sat, but not French which is required by all but four universities.


* Apply through UCAS to read geography. Get six rejections. Enter clearing but rejected again.

* Turn down the chance to go to Plymouth polytechnic to do an external London B.Sc. in favour of spending a third year in the sixth form.


* Make a further six applications to various universities, this time to read economics. Get six rejections.

* Stand as the Conservative candidate in the school mock election and get swept away in the Labour landslide.

* Go camping in a field in Wales with the rest of my family while waiting for my A level results. The owner of the field invites all the male campers to his farmhouse to watch England win the World Cup in black and white.

* My A level results arrive on a Saturday morning, but, like Drake, I finish my lunch of sausage and mash before opening the envelope that will determine my fate. ACC and a distinction at S level.

* Enter clearing and, on 15th September 1966, Bill Fuge writes to me from University House offering me a place to major in Economics at Lancaster. I accept.

* Do not realise that this decision has determined the rest of my life. If I hadn't gone to Lancaster I wouldn't have joined The County College, wouldn't have met its JCR treasurer who told me about Study and Serve Overseas, wouldn't have gone to the University of the West Indies, wouldn't have gone to that party where I met my future wife, wouldn't have had those particular children, wouldn't have had those grandchildren ... Would make a good Dr Who script.

* My parents remind me that I will be the first person from my family to go to university, apart from a distant cousin who spent two years in a teacher training college somewhere in Pembrokeshire, but according to my parents, this doesn't count.

In the next issue: Chapter 2 - Freshers' Week, 1966



Dear subtext,

I am dismayed to learn of the absorption of the Student Learning and Development Centre by Human Resources (issue 56). Support of students with difficulties, both with and without Disabled Students' Allowances is already very fragmented and, in part, delegated to an external agency with no provision of accommodation for specialist tutors. I find it hard to believe that there is sufficient common ground between the needs of staff development and student support for this move to make any kind of sense. It seems to be driven by some misplaced idea of administrative tidiness rather than any real wish to provide the support some of our students badly need.

I have had some experience both of student needs and the support which is currently available and I am convinced that this is something the University needs to do better not worse. I hope that those in charge will think again and consider setting up a one-stop-shop for all students with special needs and difficulties both with, and without DSA's.

Richard Carter, Engineering


The editorial collective of subtext currently consists (in alphabetical order) of: George Green, Gavin Hyman, Bronislaw Szerszynski and Alan Whitaker.