Two undergraduate members of the University of Sussex’s senate have resigned amid continuing controversy over senior management’s engagement with staff and students.
The pair, joined by one union observer, resigned on 14 June from the body responsible for overseeing and approving academic matters at the university.
Lyndsay Burtonshaw and Ross Davidson, two of three undergraduate faculty representatives, said they resigned because they felt redundant in their roles and because of a perceived lack of consultation by senior management, in particular over the outsourcing of 235 estates and catering jobs.
“I’ve not been able to be effective in representing views that oppose the privatisation because management has been so oblique to any sort of opinion that opposes the privatisation agenda,” Ms Burtonshaw told Times Higher Education.
She said that consultation often occurred only after decisions had been made, adding that “management doesn’t seem to consider that student or staff views could have any positive impact on the way it does things”.
‘Degree of truth’
A member of the senate present at the meeting when the students resigned who wished to remain anonymous told THE that when Ms Burtonshaw explained her reasons for going, “it was something that a lot of people in the room felt was fully justified”. The source added that the student’s perception that her views had been treated with a disrespectful attitude had “a degree of truth”.
Many staff now think that senate scrutiny is little more than a “rubber-stamping exercise”, the member added.
The University and College Union’s representative on the senate, a non-voting observer, resigned at the same meeting. She did not want to be named but said that although opportunities for voices to be heard were “plentiful…the one problem is that there is no wish on the part of senior management to listen”.
A Sussex spokeswoman noted that the UCU was due to appoint a new observer in the autumn and that because student representatives are appointed on an annual basis, Ms Burtonshaw’s and Mr Davidson’s terms were coming to an end.
She said that at a senate meeting in April, members voted against a motion proposing to halt the outsourcing process. THE understands that the result was 19 against and 13 for, with five abstentions.
The spokeswoman added that a report by the university’s librarian, Kitty Inglis, found that although the outsourcing process could have been better communicated to the wider campus community, the project was “being conducted appropriately and professionally, and there is strong evidence of good practice”.
Meanwhile, Sussex’s Quality Assurance Agency institutional review, published on 14 June, found that student involvement in quality assurance and enhancement is “strongly embedded in the university’s history and culture, with a well established and substantial volume of staff-student engagement activity”.
However, it also recommends that Sussex “review, improve and, where appropriate, widen the range of mechanisms for all students to make an effective contribution to quality assurance and quality enhancement, by the commencement of the academic year 2014-15”.