Analysis: Saving the Arts

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It was great to see such a strong turnout at the Emergency General Meeting. I did fear at one stage that it might be a struggle to rally 300 people, with last term’s inquorate General Meeting in mind. However, I am glad to see the Lancaster student population prove me wrong.

It would have looked quite ridiculous in Senate the next day if LUSU were to debate the closure of the music degree while admitting that less than 300 people were against it.

A lot of this success is down to effective promotion by the Full Time Officer team. Great promotion techniques were used: Rachel Harvey’s gravestone in the square declaring “R.I.P. Music Degree” was a stroke of genius, while every student on campus must by now have been photographed holding the “I support saving the arts at Lancaster” sign.

The event itself was a relatively straightforward affair. There was just one item on the agenda – the Saving The Arts motion, which was proposed by the LUSU President, Ste Smith.

The motion was passed unanimously. The headline point arising from the motion is simply that the Union resolves to assert its opposition to the closure of the Music programme at the University.

However, it broadens quite substantially to oppose any moves to “devale” the Faculty of Arts & Social Sciences (FASS) at Lancaster. It also mandates all officers to represent the views expressed in the motion to all relevant committees, and mandates Smith to write an open letter to the Vice-Chan- cellor, Professor Mark E. Smith, on behalf of LUSU to express the “grave concerns” the student body has over the University’s strategy as a whole.

Rousing speeches were made by Joe Thornberry, Bowland Principal, and Ronnie Rowlands, who was invited to the stage by the LUSU President. Thornberry was more than effective in summarising the key issues here. “It looks like Lancaster have decided music no longer counts as Contemporary Arts,” he told the EGM, going on to suggest that Theatre Studies could be next to experience problems.

He brought up FASS’ failure to include Faculty Teaching Committees in the decision:“A further area of concern … the University has not followed the correct procedure,” he said, later discussing the “suicidal policy of forever raising the entry requirements.”

Rowlands used more emotive language, emphatically declaring: “No amount of committee busybodying is of no use without the backing of students.” He also encouraged, indirectly, that students protest outside Senate the following day. Indeed, students were present and correct out- side the meeting, complete with a bedsheet quoting Nietzsche.

There was very little debate, although at one point some of the questions directed towards Thornberry made it seem like an inter- rogation of him. Perhaps it might have been good to see some senior management from the University in attendance to take some of these questions.

Regardless, the motion has been passed with only minor amend- ments in what was a unified EGM, and opposition was put up in Senate the next day. However, there is still a long way to go if LUSU wants to save the arts at Lancaster.