10 December 2009
'Truth: lies open to all'
Every fortnight during term-time.
All editorial correspondence to: subtext-editors [at] lancaster.ac.uk.
Please delete as soon as possible after receipt. Back issues and subscription details can be found at http://www.lancs.ac.uk/subtext.
The editors welcome letters, comments, suggestions and opinions from readers. subtext reserves the right to edit submissions.
subtext does not publish material that is submitted anonymously, but is willing to consider without obligation requests for publication with the name withheld.
For tips to prevent subtext from getting swept up into your 'junk email folder', see http://www.lancs.ac.uk/subtext/dejunk/.
CONTENTS: news in brief, 'Higher Ambitions', postgraduate training, LMU, new building aesthetic, more on the strategic plan, 1966 and all that chapter 5, Wallups's world, letters.
Our bags are packed, warm dry weather beckons and we are ready for the off. No editorializing in this issue, our final one of 2009. Before setting out the collective and the warehouse drones wish to send Season's Greetings to all our readers. See you in 2010.
NEWS IN BRIEF
Last week saw the first Winterfest Extravaganza in Alexandra Square. Organised by LUSU, its Activities Office worked with its volunteering unit, LUVU, to fund and deliver the event. It brought a synthetic ice rink to campus, along with entertainment, a Christmas gift market and food and drink. Open to the general public, families and all staff and students, it was both enjoyable and well attended, particularly on Friday evening. Judging by the long queue which had formed by 12 noon that day for the hog roast, it was also providing popular and welcome relief from the lunchtime diets of pies, burgers and sandwiches. subtext offers congratulations to the student body for all its hard work. Funds were also raised for the Cumbria Flood Appeal. It does seem a pity that the University couldn't see fit to assist with the supply of electricity for the event. Generators had to be brought in and power cables installed at additional cost. Not much goodwill or support there then, but what's new.
Repercussions continue following the lively exchanges at the last Council meeting on the matter of student fees, and the protests of Lancaster students, (see last issue). subtext understands that in a difficult meeting following Council a joint statement was agreed between the University and LUSU. This appeared on the LUSU web site within days (see http://bubble.lusu.co.uk), but it took until last Friday, some two weeks after the meeting, for the University to publicise it. Gritted teeth spring to mind! It also seems that the University lap dog (sorry, Secretary) might have been goaded into further action. It's understood that an allegation has been made that the student demonstration was somehow orchestrated by someone within the Council meeting. How else would those protesting outside have known when to turn up the volume as the Vice-Chancellor spoke? LUSU representatives are in the firing line, though, let's be honest, given a chance any number of Council members might be pleased to see the VC drowned out when commenting prematurely on tuition fees. Evidence of this heinous offence, however, seems rather thin, which doesn't seem to worry the University Secretary, but following past precedent we might call in the police to see if there are grounds for a prosecution - in the public interest, of course. This may run but so will the student protest campaign.
More on students
Certain eyebrows were raised at the personal tone of several of the pieces in the week 8 issue of the student newspaper, Scan, particularly the attacks on the Vice-Chancellor. Whatever one thinks of this and its justification, it is clear that many students do seem to have woken up over the problems of future university funding, the growing levels of student debt and the consequences of higher tuition fees for themselves and those students who will come after them. It shows they do give a damn and for this they should be applauded.
Next year's green shoots
Some weeks ago staff and students might have wondered what was going on at the main roundabout as you enter campus. Turf had been skimmed off by contractors. It was rumoured that the Director of Facilities objected to the shade of green and remedial action was being taken. subtext would like to set the record straight; this was not the case. Rather it seems this is a new method for planting bulbs. Leaving aside whether it was the right time of year to be planting such bulbs, the figure of 50,000 was mentioned: one can only hope that this referred to the number of bulbs rather than the cost of the exercise.
It is understood that the enforcement of campus parking regulations has taken a new turn. Not only do we clamp those who contravene our parking rules on site but it seems we also call city traffic wardens to Green Lane to issue tickets when cars are found to be parked across the double yellow lines, rather than behind them on the grass verge, which is virtually impossible but that doesn't stop people trying. The warden seems to arrive in a car - what else - which is parked up. That the car owners are probably students using the Astroturf and hockey pitches doesn't matter. We leave you to guess the zealot responsible, but you have been warned.
Another university veteran will retire at Christmas. Oliver Westall, economic historian, director of the MBA, and university orator, will cast his cares aside in December, which raises an issue about the future of the university orations for honorary degrees in July and December. While wisely eschewing presentations in Latin, Lancaster's university orators have each in turn risen to the occasion in their presentations of (often) distinguished honorary graduands in ceremonies that are dignified and appropriate. The work involved in making these events a success should not be underestimated, often involving the equivalent of several working weeks in searching out backgrounds, visiting the people to be honoured and shaping the rhetoric in a way that avoids all the traps of blandness, bad manners, over-familiarity, undue formality, or inaccuracy. The identification of a particular person for the task also prevents untried members of staff being put on the spot in a situation that in practice is both stressful and extremely high profile. subtext awaits with interest the name of the next lucky person to be handed this particular hot potato.
University of Cumbria
No one can take comfort from the plight of Lancaster's neighbouring university as it seeks to grapple with a financial deficit of some £8.5 million. Last week saw the announcement that its Ambleside campus was to close, a decision which is particularly ironic for Lancaster, given the criticisms levied at this institution when it withdrew from the same campus in 1996, handing it over to what was then the University College of St. Martins. The Vice-Chancellor, Peter McCaffrey, has been widely criticised for breaking the news of 200 staff losses to students and the media without any prior warning to staff. Students are gearing themselves up to contest the decision and have been organising a petition and other protests. There is a Facebook group opposing the cuts (http://bit.ly/stopcuts).
Masterplan - yes, there is one.
We learn with much joy from LUText that the blueprint for the ongoing building development is officially known as 'The Masterplan'. This sounded wonderfully James Bond villain-ish (as well as wildly hubristic) and we were all set to make jokes about that. Then someone pointed out a more serious use of the term 'Masterplan' that peaked in 1939 with the invasion of Poland. Which makes perfect sense; the Masterplan will turn the campus into a building site for 1,000 years.
Observers of D floor may be interested to learn that the Vice Chancellor is leaving on the 11th for Australia, returning in the New Year. subtext extends season's greetings to him and his wife and wishes them a safe journey. It's a visit long enough to fit in job interviews, one wag has remarked, though we couldn't possibly comment. For those who might be anxious we are reassured that campus will be in safe hands during his absence.
The 9th December saw the naming of the County College Piazza to 'Lancaster Square', in a short ceremony performed by the University Chancellor. Additional razzmatazz was given to the occasion by the projection of images of students and text, (difficult to see at a distance), accompanied by music, onto the South side of one of the blocks facing onto the square. It's believed that residents were asked to turn off their lights and draw their curtains so as to enhance the lighting effects. Whilst curtains were mostly shut, lights remained on, not surprising, since it was growing dark. The ceremony may have attempted that little extra but the same can hardly be said of the name chosen. Uninspiring and unimaginative are the words which spring to mind. Apparently the result of widespread consultation, though, surprisingly, not with the student body, it's proving difficult to establish who is responsible. The short display ended with the name of the square picked out, only because of the lights and windows it came out as LA-CA-TER SQ-ARE. Strangely appropriate somehow.
Movers and Shakers
It seems the Vice-Chancellor may now have a local rival when it comes to moving amongst and meeting with the 'Great and the Good'. The current Students Union President, Michael Payne, was invited to join the '94 Group' of Vice-Chancellors at a recent meeting which also included Lord Mandelson and the Conservative MP and advisor on higher education, David Willetts. The subject was student funding and Michael Payne was there in his capacity as chair of the (Student) Unions 94 group (see subtext 57). In the absence of the NUS President, he was the sole student representative. A similar meeting, this time of Universities UK, is planned for the 11th December with Michael Payne again invited. Whatever else, it means that the views of Lancaster and other students on funding issues and the raising of the cap on tuition fees are not likely to be misrepresented, a criticism made of the Vice-Chancellor (see last issue).
THE FUTURE OF UNIVERSITIES: THE VIEW OF LORD MANDELSON
Assiduous readers of subtext 60 will have noticed that we made several references to 'Higher Ambitions', the policy document on the future of Higher Education, published by Lord Mandelson, the Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills. The document is of considerable significance for the future of British universities, and so we thought it would be worthwhile giving some indication of the broad contours of the proposals and the implications for teaching and research in the UK in the coming years.
What is made abundantly clear throughout the document is that is informed by a particular conception of the university as a vocational training ground for the inculcation of 'skills' so as to produce the employees now being demanded by business. We are told that 'In a knowledge economy, universities are the most important mechanism we have for generating and preserving, disseminating, and transforming knowledge into wider social and economic benefits.' (p.7). This explains the document's repeated emphasis on 'skills' and the almost complete absence of the word 'education', other than when it appears as part of the unavoidable term 'higher education.' The elision of these two terms is obviously significant. As one academic recently pointed out, he was happy and reassured to know that his school-age daughter was being taught sex education; he would be considerably alarmed to discover that she was being taught sex skills. The two terms are clearly not synonymous, and it is telling that one term has been almost totally eclipsed by the other. The second fundamental assumption that informs the document is that 'the constraints on public finances will make it impossible to sustain the growth in public spending on universities seen over the last decade.' (p.7). The report omits to mention, of course, that this growth in spending only partly rectified the effects of many years of underfunding that was so chronic that it brought the sector to the brink of collapse. The task assumed by the document as a whole, therefore, is clear: how to improve the contribution of universities to the economy and society while operating financially on a shoe string.
There then follow six chapters, the first of which deals with the issue of fair access. Here the aspiration to expand experience of higher education to 50% of the population is reaffirmed, although it is accepted that this will not necessarily be achieved entirely through the provision of traditional three year residential courses. Universities will be encouraged to develop other forms of more flexible provision. The second chapter is perhaps the most significant and far reaching. It is called 'Equipping Britain's Workforce for a Global Economy' and it is here in particular that the s-word proliferates out of control. The 'process of knowledge generation' is said to be important in its own right. But 'we are determined that no stone should be left unturned in maximising the economic potential of higher education for this country' (p. 41). In particular, employers are complaining of a lack of key skills in mathematics, science and engineering and 'a lack of 'employability' skills in graduates such as business awareness and self-management'(p. 42). These deficiencies must be remedied. How? First, by redirecting funding to support the STEM subjects - science, technology, engineering and mathematics, and HEFCE will be asked to devise a formula to bring this into effect (p. 45). Secondly, by encouraging 'a greater degree of competition between universities for funding, with the winner being those universities who can best respond to the evolving economic challenges' (p. 45). Furthermore, 'all universities should be expected to demonstrate how they prepare their students for employment, including through training in modern workplace skills, such as team working, business awareness and communication skills' (p.51).
The third chapter is entitled 'Research, Innovation and Knowledge Exchange.' Here, the ubiquity of the s-word is replaced by the ubiquity of the i-word (yes, you've guessed it, IMPACT). Admittedly, it is affirmed on p. 57 that policy prescription here is not intended to effect a shift from 'fundamental' to 'applied' research, although this affirmation appears difficult to sustain in view of the recommendations that follow. The chief preoccupation of this chapter is to address ways in which 'knowledge generation' can be made to yield significant 'economic impact'. The first step here is to move towards greater research concentration, especially in high-cost scientific subjects, so that we move away from a situation in which there are pockets of excellence widely spread (p. 59). 'We do not however intend formally to designate research and non research universities' (p. 60), although there will be an informal move in this direction, so that maximising success in RAE/REF terms and attracting doctoral students will not be central to the mission of every university. The second and more crucial step, however, will be that the next REF will 'explicitly assess the impact of past research on the economy and society ... for example, the translation of research into new products and services; collaboration between academia and business; and how research has supported innovation in public services, such as the health service' (p. 63). No matter that over 16,000 academics, including some of the most distinguished Nobel prize winners have signed a statement slamming these proposals as being detrimental to fundamental research (and as threatening the genuine long-term impact of research). As the document goes on to tell us, our very own Vice-Chancellor appears to know better than these Nobel prize-winners. 'Professor Paul Wellings' contribution to the debate on the future of higher education recommended that HEFCE should seek annual reports from universities showing how each institution sets out to maximise the economic, social and environmental benefits to the UK from their research' (p. 64). Well, if Paul Wellings advocates as much, it will surely come to pass.
The fourth chapter, 'The Student Experience of Higher Education' predictably defines students as 'the most important clients of higher education' (p. 70). A chief recommendation here is that universities should publish a set of information describing their product: 'what students will learn, their own study responsibilities, what that knowledge will qualify them to do, whether they will have access to external expertise or experience, and what facilities they will have access to' (p. 74). There are also commitments to strengthen the external examining system (p. 77), although the report is vague as to how these will be realised. Plagiarism is identified as a particular problem. Why? Because it undermines the integrity of academic life? No, because it 'attracts significant media attention and is damaging to public perceptions of higher education' (p. 78). Of course, media and public perceptions are what really matter; we were forgetting that this is, after all, Mandelson's document.
The fifth chapter, 'Engaging our Communities and the Wider World' is comparatively platitudinous, although there is encouragement to seek funding from Regional Development Agencies (p. 84), and a commitment to the process of 'internationalisation.' In the final chapter, 'Supporting a World Class System', the opening context of financial constraints again comes to the fore. We are told that 'Growth based so heavily on state funding cannot continue ... That is why the development of a diverse set of funding streams is important' (p. 95). The prospect, therefore, is undeniable: universities will increasingly have to pay their own way. Inevitably, there is also a call for 'strong governing bodies', being defined as 'ones that are not so large that decision making becomes unwieldy' (p. 106).
It is difficult to avoid the conclusion that the future of British universities is bleak to say the least. We have for some time being saying that the government's policy is to turn all universities into polytechnics, and this report appears to bear that out. The university is to become a vocational training ground for the inculcation of business, technological and management 'skills'. Even if one were to accept this re-definition of the university, it is striking that such vocational 'skills' are defined almost exclusively in terms of business skills. There is very little mention of the acquisition of the very different 'skills' required for such professions as teaching, the civil service, social work and so forth. Furthermore, it is difficult to see how the arts, humanities and social sciences will fit into such a model, other than they might somehow be 'tolerated' on the margins. What further emerges from this report is that we can not labour under the illusion that our own Vice-Chancellor, in his approach to these questions, is reluctantly reacting to government pressure and demands. On the contrary, he emerges from this report as an active purveyor and promoter of these values. A dispiriting thought as we embark on the Christmas vacation.
The intrepid may find the full document at http://bit.ly/higherambitions.
DOCTORING OUR POSTGRADUATE TRAINING
subtext readers may have heard that from 2011 the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) will be restructuring the way that it supports postgraduate research student training. Up to the present, individual departments, schools, and centres have been able to apply to the ESRC to become a Recognised Outlet and thus be permitted to host ESRC-funded students. But now universities are having to apply for accreditation at the institutional level to host an ESRC Doctoral Training Centre (DTC), 'a high quality and coherent postgraduate training infrastructure across a broad range of social science disciplines', or a smaller Doctoral Training Unit focusing on a narrower range of expertise. Only those universities with a DTC or a DTU, each of which will have a number of 'pathways', will be able to train research students with ESRC funding. There are only going to be 20-25 DTCs in the UK, so not all universities will get one, though Lancaster should be well-placed. A working party has been set up under the Dean of Graduate Studies, including the respective Associate Deans for Postgraduate Studies from the individual faculties, and is expected to submit Lancaster's proposal for a DTC by the 11 March 2010 deadline.
All sounds well and good, you say. However, there are concerns that the working party could be on course to produce a result that is not optimal for Lancaster. Regarding procedural issues, Lancaster has been rather slow off the mark: the original ESRC consultation document 'Pathways to Excellence' was issued in December 2008, but it was only in June and July of this year that a working party was established at Lancaster, and that the departments who will be involved in delivering the DTC's pathways selected (generally these were departments with an existing track record in ESRC recognition - this has not been used as an opportunity for redistribution). More seriously, no minutes, guidelines or papers have yet been circulated outside the immediate circle of the working party, so information is scarce and piecemeal. This is even the case amongst those departments who have been selected to participate in the DTC and devise and deliver its pathways. They are not represented on the working party, nor do they receive its papers; they have been invited to devise a pathway, but are doing so in virtual ignorance of who each other are and what the other pathways are like, let alone the overall shape of the bid.
More substantively, concerns are mounting about the direction that the working party is taking, which seems to be involve the wholesale abandonment of traditional disciplinary postgraduate training in favour of a small number of new thematically driven interdisciplinary training pathways, plus a methodological one, to which any future ERSC-funded PhD projects would have to conform. Some are saying that this strategy has derived from a rather heavy-handed over-interpretation of ESRC advice, which prompted subtext to scrutinise the new ESRC Postgraduate Training and Development Guidelines (http://bit.ly/pgrt).
The new guidelines seem broadly to be aimed at devolving power to the institutions, and represent a dramatic shift away from the ESRC's former rather dirigiste approach to structures of delivery, and towards a more pragmatic focus on outcomes. Compared with the existing 'Recognised Outlets', DTCs will thus be trusted to be far more flexible and imaginative in the way that they match training provision to the needs of different areas of study and even individual students. There are some signals from the ESRC about new priorities, including strengthening capacity in certain disciplines and methods, and increasing impact and transferable skills through placements and partnerships with outside bodies. In order better to address contemporary research challenges, the ESRC also hopes that 'institutional level accreditation will further serve to support the identification and development of positive synergies between disciplines and further trends towards purposeful interdisciplinarity research and training' (p. 5). However, they also repeatedly make it clear that this encouragement of interdisciplinarity should be seen as additional to, rather than at the expense of, disciplinary training, and that it does not signal any diminishing of commitment to promoting 'the core strengths of individual disciplines' (p. 5).
The new focus on interdisciplinary can only be of benefit to Lancaster, and it is clearly sensible to capitalise on this. However, the working party seems to have decided not only that a Lancaster DTC should ONLY offer thematic interdisciplinary pathways, but also that these should as far as possible match the indicative list of seven contemporary research challenges given by the ESRC, such as 'new technology, innovation and skills', 'security, conflict and justice' and 'social diversity and population dynamics' (pp. 2-3). This route would seem to commit Lancaster not just to abolishing the existing tried and tested disciplinary training routes which departments have been using for years to provide subject-specific knowledge to ESRC-funded students, but also existing interdisciplinary training initiatives which are built on Lancaster's research strengths but which do not match the ESRC's list of priorities - a list which of course is always in flux.
subtext hopes that it is not too late to have a wider, systematic discussion of the options that includes all major stakeholders, and to have papers made available to all relevant parties.
LONDON METROPOLITAN UNIVERSITY
Sir David Melville's report on the recent events at London Metropolitan University makes interesting reading, and we commend it to our subscribers.
One paragraph in particular stood out for us. Sir David suggests that the administrative structure supported and enabled the mismanagement of the University, and agrees with the description that it was run by '... a highly centralised and dictatorial executive, led by the Vice-Chancellor, which was incapable of listening to what was going on in the University, discouraged or ignored criticism, and made decisions without consultation.' Gosh, what an indictment of an appalling situation. We must be careful and vigilant, and must never become complacent. We must all continue to work very hard together to make sure that Lancaster's jealously-guarded traditions of independence, democracy and plurality of decision-making remain uncompromised, ok?
THE NEW BUILDING AESTHETIC - A Student of Architecture writes
With the recent completion of the LZ, it feels like a good time to look at what the building programme is doing to the visual aesthetic of the University, particularly the central areas which are, by definition, the ones which the majority of people see, use and work in.
The thrust of the original design of the Alexandra Square, Bowland and Lonsdale buildings was horizontal (a trait quite common in low rise modernist buildings), with the white metal window frames inserted in between two white bands. These served as window lintels and ledges and ran right around the building. Though there are corresponding white vertical bands separating the window frames, these do not run up the entire building, but only between the horizontal bands. The effect of replacing the old white-painted metal window frames with the new dark blue-grey ones has been to remove that horizontal thrust, replacing it with nothing in particular.
The whizzy and much-trumpeted Learning Zone is, architecturally, a lean-to extension. For all the expensive materials used, it's the same idea you'd come up with to put a shed on the side of your garage. It also places the newest and shiniest building in the University right up against the oldest and scruffiest one, which unsurprisingly detracts from the newness and emphasises the dilapidated. Nice work. Not only is the LZ out of keeping with its surroundings, but creating such random contrasts seems a current architectural article of faith - as well as being, rather handily, a way of justifying unimaginative and cheap solutions. The removal of the cloisters (the alcoves under the covered way) along one side of the Square amounts to both aesthetic and functional vandalism: it disrupts the coherence of the design, without adding anything to it (the mass of white - reconstituted? - stone and glass is very bland) and loses space (the shortest covered way between the North Spine and University House). But of course there is soon worse to come, with the unimaginative, depressing and utilitarian proposals for the redesign of the Square as a whole, where all it really needed was to replace some of the poor materials such as the 1960s concrete paving with something better quality. Meanwhile the Underpass lurks below in all its everlasting unabashed and depressing squalor.
More generally, we had a great deal to be thankful for in the original campus plan. It is less flashy and brutalist than those of our sister 'plate glass' institutions, more practical and humane. (Try visiting a few of the others if you doubt this.) The best of the buildings at Lancaster, by-and-large, are precisely the original mid-sixties core, Alexandra Square and environs, plus the double quads of the first two colleges, Lonsdale (now Bowland North) and Bowland Colleges, plain but well-proportioned, and with the same kind of special flexibility as Georgian terraces, or the medieval cell units (the oldest Oxbridge quads; Vicars' close in Wells) which were their direct antecedent. They have survived not because they were originally perceived as beautiful, but because they worked, and still do. Assuming that InfoLab and the new Computing building are still standing in 40 years, will we be saying the same of them?
Coda: the Learning Zone
In the first issue of this term we promised to review the LZ after some time had passed. 10 weeks should do it; here we go.
Let's keep it short and simple. Most of the time the place is pretty busy. A fair number of people appear to be working. Those who aren't do seem to be behaving themselves. A shame that in week 9 the roof started to leak. However, the plastic buckets matched the coloured lights rather fetchingly. A lot of people have realised that it's a warm and dry place to eat their sandwiches. So, litter, crumbs and coffee spills. It's also the obvious route to University House when it's raining - that'll teach 'em to demolish the covered way.
A simple question - what is the difference between the LZ and a well-appointed JCR with a few computers provided? There's no jukebox, but anyone who wants music these days brings their own. The level of chat is about the same. The smell of food is, if anything, a bit stronger. Does anyone seriously think that the difference is worth £3m?
THE STRATEGIC PLAN: PART 4 (AND COUNTING)
We continue our commentary on the University's new Strategic Plan (http://bit.ly/strplan). This issue we move on to 'People'
Unsurprisingly, this section is full of worthy language. Let's see if we can pull it apart a little.
We learn that the University's priority is to place increasing emphasis on the employability of students, (which is government policy and so fair enough,) and on 'the professional development of our staff'. This is the second assurance to staff that their professional development is a prime concern of the University. It thus behoves all staff to start thinking hard about how they can develop professionally, what courses and activities might help that development, and then apply to the University for help with that course. There is a catch, natch, which has caught a few of us out in the past; 'professional development' does not mean 'training which you would like to take with a view to intellectual enquiry and finding stuff out about where you might see yourself in ten years time', it means 'training which has a direct and quantifiable effect on the job you do right now'. Training which does not necessarily do the latter, but which would probably make you into a more rounded, informed human being and so a better worker, not to mention a more grateful, committed and motivated worker, this does not qualify. Which means in practice that 'professional development' for administrative staff is a synonym for 'unpopular courses in the Management School'.
The University will also 'foster a culture of ... respect for all'. Which is nice. While happily accepting that this University is a fairly nice place to work, most especially if you're male, white and above the median salary point, one wonders what specific steps have been put in place recently to drive this laudable aim. Several unsavoury instances of bullying have come up over the last few years; the University's preferred tactic is to clamp the lid on, sit it out and hope no-one goes to court.
We then learn that '... staff survey results for 2008 identified 80% of staff self- reporting as 'highly satisfied'.' The staff survey was a while ago, but this substantial figure didn't sound quite right, so we checked. As we suspected, this turns out to be a case of 'satisfiction' quite as blatant as the catering services survey we reported on in subtext 40. 80% of the mere 53% who responded reported themselves 'highly satisfied' with regard to their 'Job Satisfaction'. Job Satisfaction was by far the highest scored category of the 13 available. For comparison, the fifth category, which with a trace of irony happens to be 'Training and Development' (see paragraph above) got just 55% satisfaction, slightly down on the previous staff survey, and the thirteenth category (leadership) got a paltry 33% satisfaction rating. With those figures in mind, perhaps a statistician would like to confirm what mark a student who made a claim like '80% of respondents declared themselves satisfied' in an essay would get?
And we're apparently promoting a 'healthy environment'. It may be true that the University is big on Health and Safety, though there are those who say it isn't, but either way there's more to health than well-anchored ladders. Last issue we talked about catering provision; we aren't aware of any research that suggests that replacing sit-down meals with take-away services and vending machines will improve the health of those who need to eat here.
Enough about People, it'll just make us even more cross. Let's spin through the next page, 'The Lancaster Experience'. (A 1970's prog-rock band, very big in Japan.) The University will take '... full advantage of our distinctive collegiate structure' and will support '... a distinctive college system'. We repeat, while turning ever more blue in the face; the University doesn't care about the College system except insofar as it sounds good to parents. Challenge: if anyone anywhere can think of a single measure that the University has taken in the last 10 years which unequivocally supports the College system, we'll buy them a big drink. And while they're drinking it we'll tell them the whole heap of things the University has done to downgrade and ruin our once-vibrant college system.
Moving on, 'community' will apparently be promoted 'by valuing open and responsive modes of interaction that emphasise collaboration.' Which means, um, maybe 'we will herd people into big well-lit open spaces where they can chat'?
The section finishes by assuring us that the University values 'academic freedom and critical enquiry'. Our heads are starting to hurt, so rather than engage with this yet again can we just say 'Statute 20, subtexts passim' and finish here? Thanks.
1966 AND ALL THAT - CHAPTER FIVE
David O'Dell was amongst the first students to study at the newly-founded University of Lancaster. Here we continue his story - as he remembers it.
Chapter 5: Year 1, Lent and Summer Terms, January-June 1967
'A Day in the Life'
* Spend first eight days of the Christmas vac as a 'Christmas Casual' at the local Post Office. Pay is good: 3/11 an hour on weekdays and 5/11 at weekends.
* 8th January, 1967. Return north. I haven't completed either of the two essays I meant to do, but I can now use the word 'vac' without embarrassment. The train comes to a halt at Preston because of engineering works and we are bussed the rest of the way. When will they sort out the west coast line? Calculate that this term I shall have 14/- a day to spend, so on arrival buy a set of darts in Market Square for use in the St. Leonardsgate bar.
* Last term I had nowhere to work at Bailrigg, apart from the Library, so I am delighted to learn that over Christmas I have been allocated a study work room in Bowland which I will share with 45 others.
* My Economics' seminar this term is with Dr Cramp who is rumoured to be a high-flying monetary expert. Attempting to explain the cobweb theory I do not label the axes on the graph I have drawn on the board. 'Why?', asks Dr C. 'Because I can't remember them', I tell him. 'You would make a good teacher', he muses.
* I determine to enlarge my cultural horizons and so sign up as a member of the Choral Society. All twelve of us join with S.Martin's College to sing Britten's Rejoice in the Lamb at Cartmel Priory. I learned to read music singing with my school choir but that doesn't quite prepare me for rehearsals for which the only accompaniment is a tuning fork.
* Hockey is now a major part of my life. On a trip over the Pennines an overheating engine means we arrive an hour late for a game at Leeds and when we do get there they refuse to play us. The Leed's women's team offer to give us a game but the groundsman turns up on his bike and without dismounting informs us in no uncertain terms that we must go away. We do, and end up on the terraces at Elland Road watching Leeds draw 1-1 with Valencia in the Fairs Cup.
* March brings Rag Week. Turn down the chance to be part of the team that goes on to set a new world record for ten pin bowling - 172 hours and five minutes without a break.
* The Rag Ball on Wednesday features the Alan Price Set, while the Cupid Dance three days later has Peter Jay and the Jaywakers, and Jimmy Powell and the Dimensions, all for 5/-, the same price that Ewan McColl and Peggy Seeger command at the Folk Club later in the year.
* The Rag Parade in Lancaster on Saturday afternoon begins well, although the floats are rather crude. However, in Penny Street bags of flour are thrown and by the time the lorries reach Market Square, pitched battle has been joined with eggs, cabbages, tomatoes and feathers all being utilised in the cause. What the cause is, or was, no one seems to know, but it doesn't seem to matter. Streets, shops and onlookers are coated in a layer of uncooked quiche Lorraine. The VC is inundated by messages from angry Lancastrians who want their dry cleaning bills settled. The Lancaster Guardian reports that it will need five workmen to clear up the mess at an estimated cost of £15.
* In an attempt to save money, decide to hitch home. My cause is not helped by a duffle coat covered with a concretion of flour, rice and water.
* As the University grows, so do the number of colleges. On 1st August 1967 a fourth, The County College, will come into being. The Dallam Avenue guest house decides to join the new college en masse and on 22nd May, 1967, each of us receives a letter from the Chairman of the Student Representative Council, Alan Reid, inviting us to attend the first meeting of the County JCR on 1st June.
* 1st June. John Towers is chosen as the first County JCR president and the Beatles release Sgt Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band. There are only 18 of us in the JCR, and we have no building, but there are roles for anyone who is interested. That evening we sit in Mike's bedroom listening to Sgt Pepper on Radio Caroline North anchored in Morecambe Bay, eating our evening malt loaf. Can life get much better?
* On 19th June The County College Committee meets to decide, in order of priority, the size, colour and design of the new College scarves and ties, financial arrangements, the constitution and the Freshers' Conference.
* All of a sudden Part I exams are upon us. I must sit six papers between 10th and 16th June, starting with Politics on Saturday morning and afternoon. In the absence of any room large enough to accommodate all the candidates at Bailrigg, the exams have to be held in various buildings in Lancaster. By the end of the week I have, inter alia, given my opinions on Lenin's role in the evolution of the Soviet State, accounted for dissatisfaction with the British parliamentary system between 1780 and 1930, discussed the view that 'the state is not an organism, but like an organism' and commented on both the extent and methods of protection in British agriculture.
* As the week progresses, the more juvenile undergraduates compete to see who can finish and leave the room first. I win. However with twenty minutes to go of an Economics' exam I discover that I have answered two questions from Section A instead of two from either Sections B or C. My efforts to recover from this error are not improved by Lancastrians waiting outside for the Friday evening bus home and banging on the door next to my exam desk.
* When the results are published I have managed to get two 'M's and an 'N' which means that next year I can major in either Politics or History but can only take Economics as a minor. But the good news is that, come September, I will be back in 'the land of the dismal north, the land where men are men'.
From: Office of the Six-Year Plan, Lune Valley Enterprise University
To: All staff
Subject: Pressure loss
We have been informed of a loss of pressure in the main chambers of the university which has affected the supply of independent thinking on campus. All members of the university should watch out for symptoms of identity loss and amnesia about the purpose of higher education, which seem to start at the head and work their way slowly down the institution.
For those overcome by nausea and vomiting at this outrage - sorry, outage - emergency toilet facilities will be erected in Upchuck Square. If you require any other assistance please contact the Facilities helpdesk at Lord Mandelson House on ext 666.
At this time we have not yet been advised of the duration of the outage, but contractors are working strenuously to restore the supply of critical thought as soon as possible. However, it may take 1 to 2 years hours for pressure to mount and sense to be restored. If further communications from University House are discoloured in any way it is advised that they should be ignored until clear. As an additional precaution, for the foreseeable future it may be advisable to boil any emails before opening.
Emergency Masterplan Officer
I couldn't find five shillings (what are they?) for the glossary of Association Football terms but I have had the offside rule explained to me a number of times. I still don't understand it. But, like Thierry Henry, I believe that what the referee doesn't see, should be treated as a figment of media imagination rather than cheating.
Now, as to amendments to procedural motions 'that the question be not put', I would rather trust the Senate Constitution (see Annex B, Procedure for the conduct of meetings of the Senate) that in point one allows for procedural motions 'that the question be not put', explains in point two that 'amendments shall be determined before the principal motion is put' and at point five says 'when all amendments have have been disposed of, the principal motion, in its finally amended form, shall be taken as the substantive and conclusive motion'. There is no clause in any paragraph proscribing amendments to tabled motions, procedural or not.
You see, this is the trouble with getting footballing hacks with their old hands dangling on the terraces to write senate reports for subtext. Since I enjoyed the playful quality of the report I will not on this occasion seek damages from subtext for impugning my ability to understand committee proceedings. Of course I cannot speak for the Deputy Vice-Chancellor (the 'referee'), who, for all his giving the impression of confusion at the complexity of the process, did not actually miss a trick.
I was reminded by your article on the Storey that it was also the place where the artist Andy Goldsworthy first experimented with 'land art'.
'At the Art School, students were not allowed into the garden. It was protected by a tall wall. I thought that was ridiculous and climbed over and made the work.'
You may view his first land artwork here: http://bit.ly/goldsworthy.
The editorial collective of subtext currently consists (in alphabetical order) of: George Green, Gavin Hyman, Bronislaw Szerszynski and Alan Whitaker.