Senators voted 78-15 in favour of modern languages staff
By Kirsten Koss
The University Senate has overwhelmingly called for a halt to the senior management team (SMT)'s ongoing consultation about the future of modern languages.
Senate, the body responsible for “all academic matters relating to teaching and research”, met Wednesday afternoon for an emergency meeting- called in the aftermath of last Thursday’s announcement of a consultation on the future of modern languages provision.
Two motions were proposed during the meeting, as more than 290 attendees filled the virtual Microsoft Teams room.
The first reiterated Senate’s power as the decision-making body responsible for deciding on degree provision at the university. Subject to moderation, this passed with 87 senators backing the motion, with only 3 voting against, and 11 abstaining.
The second motion called for an immediate halt in the consultation process until an “overall plan is presented in detail to Senate for appropriate scrutiny.”
After thirty-six minutes of impassioned responses on the proposal, senators passed the motion with 78 in favour, 15 voting against and 5 abstaining. With the motion successfully passed, the ball now stands firmly in the University Court. Discussion of modern languages will undoubtedly dominate when the Court meets on 12th December.
The Senate meeting was arranged for only one hour, despite calls from the Students’ Union and UCU to extend the meeting. At 16:00, University Principal George Boyne attempted to close the meeting, much to the dismay of senators who called upon the rulebook to extend the meeting.
Owing to external commitments, Principal Boyne called upon Senior Vice Principal Karl Leydecker to take the chair in his absence – however it emerged that Professor Leydecker had already made a swift exit. Eventually Leydecker returned and a 30-minute extension was agreed, with one student senator accusing the senior VP of leaving with haste to “avoid accountability.”
After the same senator extended an invite, Professor Leydecker took time to share that he would not be attending the student-staff planning event in Union Brew this Friday.
Students’ Union Vice President for Education and Gaelic student Rhiannon Ledwell supported the second motion by noting that cutting Gaelic teaching at the university would “cut 25% of Gaelic provision in the country.”
Furthermore, she went on to reveal that various attempts by the Union to widen student involvement in the consultation had been rejected by the steering group, noting that the group did not have “even a vague idea of what student consultation would involve before launching an incredibly rushed consultation.
Ledwell added: “The steering group has shown an unwillingness to engage in genuine consultation. We must stop the consultation now to allow for real engagement with staff and students.”
Speaking on the vote, local MSP Maggie Chapman said:
“I'm glad to see the university Senate assert its authority to scrutinise the senior management team and steering group on this issue. Senior management has not handled this well, and, combined with the university's poorly managed financial position, it risks damaging the university's reputation, not just in Scotland but globally. They must be held accountable for this and change course.
“But we should never have got to this point. Universities, especially those who seek to be comprehensive institutions, should understand the value of arts and humanities courses to their esteem and reputation.”
Staff and students are invited to convene in Union Brew on Friday 8th at 15:00 to further discuss strategy in this ever-evolving situation, with a rally jointly organised by AUSA and UCU taking place on Monday 11th at 18:00.