Since our online launch in January 2020, we've only recieved one letter (published below), but the wonders of modern social media mean our critics (and occasionally, our fans) have a 24/7 platform to publish their thoughts, a curated selection of which we've re-published here.
In the last week, two stories first broken by Spineless have hit the national press. Our exclusive on Professor Gail Whiteman being bullied out of her job was picked up by The Times ('Professor quits Lancaster University complaining that bullying was ignored', 14th March). And our revelations about former Deputy-VC Professor Andrew Atherton's 'revolving door' antics are published in the latest edition of Private Eye ('High principles: campus follower', 20th March).
An alternative LUSU
It will not have escaped your readers that we have once again reached the time of year where our slickest and most ambitious BNOCs ['Big Names on Campus'] and careerists alike try their hand at playing politics. Following the FTO [sabbatical officer] hustings and manifestos it is apparent that, as with every other year, very little has been promised, and if experience is anything to go by, even less will be delivered. Over the last 18 months especially, LUSU has continually shown us that it is no longer fit for purpose and is now little more than the youth wing of university management. From the aborted Sugarhouse sale to its own internal anti-democratic ramblings (as covered in your publication), LUSU has let students down and sadly the ongoing FTO elections show little prospect of improving that.
I therefore find myself asking the question: Is it time we took matters into our own hands, disaffiliated from LUSU, and established an alternative students' union?
This organisation could host its own events, conduct its own democratic processes, independently represent Lancaster students, and hold university management properly to account. This surely should be the key responsibility of a students' union (and indeed historically always was) yet our own SU has proved itself utterly incapable of fulfilling this.
Whilst I do not know of any instances of a similar proposal being tried elsewhere at other universities (on which I am happy to be corrected), I am convinced we have nothing to lose by attempting to establish an independent, radical, and democratic students' union worthy of the name. I would strongly urge you and your readers to consider exploring this idea so that we might abandon the shackles of LUSU incompetence and move forward to a future where Lancaster students are genuinely represented by a students' union that doesn't dance to the tune of senior management and university bureaucrats.
Given the explosive nature of some of the stories we've broken, it may come as a surprise that the Spineless article which has stoked the most controversy was when we had the temerity to point out that the LUSU President decided to leave an important meeting early, causing it to be inquorate, and therefore prompting a report to the Charity Commission. The article was branded 'fake news' on Facebook by our detractors, who inaccurately claimed that the meeting was never quorate to begin with... despite accepting that there were 11 committee members (the requirement for quorum) present in the meeting until the President left!
One alumnus took issue with the article's use of language, commenting: 'Have to say I find the term “accomplice” unnecessarily aggressive, if any breaking of the rules occurred it would have been in genuine error and I don’t think anything is achieved by being needlessly rude.' Another alumnus offered their suggestion of a name for the incident ('#quorgate'), which we shall definitely use if such a situation re-occurs.
One failed LUSU election candidate took to Facebook to complain about an article which pointed out that Lancaster University Ghana (LUG) has recently appointed its third white man in a row as Provost: 'Have Spineless spoken to LUG’s SRC to see what their opinion on this is? I’d feel uncomfortable if a publication ran by white students is effectively speaking on behalf of ethnic minority students without consultation.' Spineless has not spoken to any LUG students (if any are reading, please do get in touch, as we'd love to interview you), so we have never claimed, or attempted, to speak on behalf of students at LUG. It's regretful that some people's response to institutional racism at our University is to attack Spineless for writing about it, as opposed to the managers who enable it.
The proliferation of Facebook 'confession' pages to distribute unattributed comments regarding campus life is not unique to university culture in Lancaster. Where Bailrigg perhaps differs, is that there are three such pages (Lancfessions, Lancfessions 2: Electric Boogaloo, and Lancfess), resulting in thruple the amount of posts about Spineless – lucky us!
The 'angry ducks' (the collective name of Lancaster UCU members' Twitter presence) have proved to be a loyal support base, especially during the strike, when Spineless got almost daily shout-outs from trade unionists addressing the picket line. We especially appreciate the kind comparisons to our friends in subtext...
Did you know that a long history of providing alternative news exists @LancasterUni? Current ones are called 'subtext' https://t.co/gxCM5ojxqv and Spineless: https://t.co/bmNcG3tv9y subtext currently headlines with a timely piece on bullying: https://t.co/L7KsRDnYPA pic.twitter.com/sn38FeebYo— Lancaster UCU (@LancasterUCU) February 26, 2020
Further strike day update: Lancaster Uni's (unofficial?) student journalism site Spineless is BRILLIANT: https://t.co/oUlLF8eJ1R— Dr Liz Brewster (@LizBrewster) February 26, 2020
One thing I miss about Lancaster Uni; the unofficial newsletters for staff and students.— Christian Cable (@christiancable) February 19, 2020
I'm not aware of any Kent version of https://t.co/6KSVVfy0Zl or https://t.co/xebYvSVT6W
I remember first getting on the Subtext list and feeling like I'd joined the undergound.
Delighted to see students weighing in against high-level bullying of academics and lying ba***rds all round. Thank you, Lancaster :)https://t.co/HelAsY1Vpe— David Roberts (@visual_learning) March 15, 2020
A very interesting interview with Lancaster University's brilliant archivist, Marion McClintock, in this student-run newsletter about the history of students' democratic involvement in the running of the University: https://t.co/gyJzIB6Tyu— Bruce Bennett (@BruceTBennett) March 14, 2020
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