Wednesday marked the official retirement of Patrick Loughrey as he attended his last Open Meeting held by our SU President Joseph Tema. These termly meetings are arranged in order to hold the senior ranking member of university staff accountable by giving the student body the opportunity to raise concerns. Specifically, this term the conversation focused on the Warden’s achievements and how a successor shall be appointed, both of which were scoffed at by those in attendance.
You may be asking at this point what the fuck is a warden anyway? This question was the first on JT’s list. As explained by Loughrey, the role of the warden is to be held accountable and to facilitate the plans of the university. If you are easily irritated by the vagueness of bureaucratic academia and why this is role is worthy of a £200,000 salary, I would suggest never attending one of these events. From my understanding (following a little google search), the Warden is the head of the university – much like a Vice-Chancellor – and therefore oversees the university’s necessary areas of concern whether that be recruitment, housing, student support etc.
According to Patrick Loughrey, he perceives his main achievements at Goldsmiths to be the creation of more courses that meet students’ needs, and the opening of further discourse between higher departmental staff and the student body. The former was met with heavy criticism, with one student arguing that courses had been started without the sufficient funding, in an attempt to market the university to a wider audience. The latter, however, could potentially be regarded as more credible due to the regularity of these open meetings. Initially introduced four years ago, the Q&A sessions are an opportunity for students to engage in direct discussion with the Warden. Conversely, the consistent ambiguities in the Warden’s answers make you wonder whether the event is really a ‘Look at Me Aren’t I Approachable and Normal’ promotional hour.
Having said this, my experience as a BA student at University of Liverpool was vastly different. Not once were we invited to a discussion with Janet Beer, our Vice Chancellor who was a key player in the cutting of pensions which lead to last year’s NSS strikes. Undoubtedly, the students would have appreciated (if not relished) the opportunity to contest her position as a credible and accountable Vice Chancellor.
Further issues were raised by the student body: difficulties with disability access, the duty of care to BAME students who receive racism and microaggressions within the classroom and what focus is being put on the BAME attainment gap. All of which are issues that deserve individual attention. What this meeting did highlight, though, was that whilst Loughrey claims that these problems are being attended to, there is a disconnect between the discourse of the university’s bureaucratic institution and the realities of everyday students. For those who remember the occupation of Deptford Town Hall over tuition fees last year, or the lack of support for our staff during the UCU strikes, Loughrey’s departure may be welcomed with relief. Let’s hope Loughrey’s successor continues the tradition of open meetings, and chooses to put the students and staff (academic and maintenance) first on more occasions.
Words, Billie Walker – @queen.feta