Staff slam Lancs regime

July 4, 1997

Lancaster University was in the midst of another crisis this week as around 100 academics said in a straw poll that they had lost confidence in senior management and that some should consider their positions.

At an emergency meeting on Wednesday afternoon there was anger about the university's "complacent" response to a damning report chronicling the reckless management regime that led the university deep into debt between 1994 and 1996.

The so-called Crill report (THES, June 13) is to be debated at a joint council/senate meeting today along with a paper to council written by vice chancellor William Ritchie. The paper outlines new "robust" management systems now in place. "I fully recognise the harm that has been done to the university and to individual staff and students as a result of the events described in the report."

Professor Ritchie's paper says: "Our sole purpose now must be to stop looking backwards and to concentrate on re-establishing confidence in the council, in the management of the university, and in its procedures. We need a period of stability and the re-establishment of institutional self-confidence."

But Alan Whittaker, branch secretary of the Association of University Teachers, said there was much concern across the campus about the inadequacy of the response. "We are very worried about this complacency," he said. "Those who were implicated in the report must be answerable."

Senate member Keith Hanley, head of English, said everyone was still "shell shocked". "The vice chancellor is allowing this to fizzle out which is certainly what some in the university would like. Others, though, clearly want to carry on the investigation."

John Wakeford, another senate member and head of independent studies, said many people were "extremely disillusioned" with the fact that no one was taking any responsibility. "The vice chancellor has fuelled these feelings," he said.

The vice chancellor said he did not intend to make a detailed response to the Crill report. However, his paper does refer to "serious errors of judgement and procedures" during the period under investigation. He said the newly formed committee on committees would lead to a clearer understanding of the powers and duties of committees, their place in the structure of governance and their relationship with officers.

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