University withdraws support for October opening of Langwith bar

Approval for the autumn opening of the first Student Union bar in Langwith has been withdrawn by the University in a statement released yesterday.

Redevelopment work on the bar was supposed to begin at the end of this term, enabling the opening of the new venue to coincide with the start of Freshers’ week in October. However in an email to YUSU Services and Finance Officer Matt Burton, and seen by Nouse, Keith Lilley Director of Facilities Management said: “[we] are aware that our proposed start date was October, but they can only commit themselves with confidence to a January 2009 start date. This is principally because of the pressure on the Directors of Facilities, Management and Estates to complete a large number of high priority projects this summer.”

Burton expressed his disappointment at the decision, saying: “We thought we’d found a window of opportunity in the summer when the Langwith walkway project is being done, and the whole area will have to be shut down with regards to asbestos in the walkway, so they’ll be no people coming in and out,” he said.

“We thought that would be the perfect time to do our project as it’ll be the least disruption to people in that area.”

The decision to reverse this new development lies with University Vice-Chancellor, Brian Cantor. Burton remains optimistic that they will be able to convince him to take positive action towards the plans for the new venue.

“Hopefully, if we get to speak to the Vice-Chancellor about this, he’ll see that students care about this our project, and that it could be really beneficial to the university estate,” Burton said. “If we have it ready for Open days, I think it could be really good as a showcase to show potential students what we have on offer.”

“We’re very strong advocates of working through diplomacy and democracy, and we’ve gone through the democratic processes of the university, but now it’s come down to us having to get the Vice-Chancellor’s ear to present our case as to why this is so important to us and to the kind of social welcome that Langwith has to offer in October,” he added.

Burton has also revealed plans for a student-lead protest to further the campaign for the new venue, the date of which has yet to be decided.

If the decision is not reversed, Langwith College will face the prospect of a Freshers’ week and Autumn term without a bar. Langwith JCRC Chair Zach Pepper, echoed Burton’s concerns as to the impact this would have on his college.

“Some colleges do Freshers’ week without a bar – James manages it – so we will manage through Freshers week. I think the bigger impact will be the Autumn term,” revealed Pepper.

“It will restrict access to L/028, and the snack bar would have to close. It would also have a big impact on the academics who live in the building; essentially it’s their job to read books and they can’t if people are building next door,” he said.

Pepper said he was sceptical as to the University’s claim that the redevelopment could be done in the ten weeks of autumn term. He said: “They’re saying they haven’t got time to do it in summer, but they have in the autumn term. But that just doesn’t seem to fit,” he said. “You just can’t get people working over Christmas. The project is eight or nine weeks long, so it would mean them shutting from week two.”

“The space is there in the summer, the time is there; they’ve closed the college off because of the walkway, they have no conferences in, there is nothing there all summer, it’s just going to sit there, empty, and they’re saying they can’t do it. I think it’s a bit double-standard to be honest. People have put a lot of time into it, they approved the idea, and they’ve now stuck these obstacles in,” he added.

Burton was keen to recognise the pressure that the Director of Facilities is under with concerns to development work over the summer, however he confessed that there could potentially be a ”conflict of interests” at work.

“There is also the commercial side to it,” he said. “We will be going into competition with the University, which we hope will be a positive thing, but we are aware that the Facilities Management do have control over the commercial services, and so there could be some conflict of interests there.”

11 comments

  1. Absolutely terrible news. A real shame, i was honestly looking forward to YUSU’s bar next term.

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  2. This whole situation smells funny. It is almost as if the university doesn’t want a YUSU run bar opening in Freshers week which could lull alot of freshers away from its own university owned bars. “High priority”? -once again the university administration shows a blantant disregard for the students and pretty much implies that student satisfaction is not a priority.

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  3. I couldn’t agree with Oliver more. I’m really gutted actually, as I was really excited about seeing what we could do with it. Hopefully the university will see sense and remember that they ultimately exist to serve students.

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  4. We have to fight this.

    The work can be done over the summer and everyone needs to get involved and make sure the University do what is right for the students.

    We’ve heard too many excuses in the past. This project can be done – let’s battle it out.

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  5. Typical University of York.

    YUSU offers them hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of investment to campus, plus a STUDENTS’ UNION BAR like every other decent university, and can’t even organise themselves enough to get it done.

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  6. I personally think its brilliant! Seems like karma is having an affect on YUSU for trying to monopolise next term and inflict more damage on the already failing college bars!

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  7. I’m not really sure what you’re getting at Mike. We’re not trying to inflict damage on any college bars – in fact the plans laid down support the way the college system works – colleges without their own bars will be able to run fundraisers in Freshers’ week, etc. All colleges have the same number of events, and we’ve now got a home for events providers like RAG and Student Action.

    We’re working to press the University to overturn this decision and give students the choice of a student-run bar for their first term here. The support that we’ve got so far (not to mention the overwhelming majority the plans got at the UGM, where students voted to tell us what they want) has given us the conviction to push forward with this and make the University a better place for all students, from whichever college, to attend.

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  8. Surprise, surprise. What a bunch of arseholes this university is run by.

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  9. Do UoY make any money from the takeover? Are YUSU buying the franchise from them?

    If there’s no money to be made from it, I’m not surprised this has fallen through. Seeing as the university fund the union i’m amazed they even let it get to the consultation stage.

    If they were against it all along, why allow the union to waste money on architect’s drawings etc…

    One presumes that the coffee bar will be needed for the first part of summer at least for guests, especially as L/028 is used a lot in the holidays by local groups, conferences etc…

    I feel sorry for incoming langwith students though, i feel a rather impersonal and cramped freshers week programme in collaboration with derwent may be on the horizon…

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  10. Mike,

    What are you talking about? Clearly YUSU isn’t trying to ‘monopolize’ anything, and even if they were, YUSU having a monopoly would be worse than the curent university monopoly how?

    L

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  11. No, Dr. Z, Langwith College is closing down over the Summer break to strip out and revamp the walkway that runs through the middle. There will be no conferences or local groups in there, the entire space will be off-limits for construction work.

    Unfortunately, the university does not consider the building of a Student’s union bar to be a high priority project, so will not allow it to go ahead while Langwith is closed off, but will wait until week two of the Autumn term, and close off Langwith’s snack bar, lower JCR, and L/028.

    As opposed to bringing students into a university with a Student’s Union bar, I will now be welcoming my freshers into a building site – for the second year running.

    YUSU has offered the University investment in their campus and an excellent chance to add ‘student union bar’ to the list of things that York has to offer, but still things get in the way.

    I will certainly be doing my best until the end of term to attract the attention of the ‘powers that be’ and let them know how ridiculous this is.

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