Fighting back against my critics

I have returned to the University media for the first time this year, in order to give those of you who are new a bit of an introduction to where I stand within the University.

As Pro-Vice Chancellor (PVC) for Students, I sit on the Senior Management Group where I represent your interests in policy discussions, including budget negotiations and set strategy for enhancing the student experience.

It’s like cabinet government. The Vice Chancellor is the Prime Minister and the PVCs, like ministers, hold portfolios: Research, Teaching & Learning, Estates, External Relations and, of course, Students. Together with the Directors of operational sections we hammer out the future direction of the university and make sure that it stays solvent: we think about money. A lot.

I realise that’s all rather factual. But you need to know these things to understand something about the issue of the moment, portering. Listen up to the position I’ve been put in: I’ve been called the ‘PVC Against Students’ recently, so I think I have the right to answer back.

Times are hostile to universities – there’s plenty of warning signs that major cuts are coming. York’s position is comparatively good, but we’re tightening our belts to avoid catastrophic cuts later on. So we did some hard thinking last summer during the annual budget round. Among the savings we agreed, a small proportion involved the re-configuring of porters’ shifts. We did not, as some claim, “slash” portering. We decided to do four things: firstly, save money by reducing the number of managers, not porters. Then we chose to re-focus porters in local zones so they could get to know the students in their care, and also to move three porters into the security team to provide mobile support. Finally we decided to make the ratio of night porters to students more equal across campus. This meant changing night shifts, and no, I’m not deaf and blind – I realise that this is unpopular (although I have to say that little objection was raised when we consulted student leaders on this possibility last term). We’re now looking at how the new system is bedding in, because we think it has some real strengths over the old one. I’m happy to take comments and suggestions on the specific email at: [email protected]

There is a statistic that may calm anxiety over safety. The ratio of porters and security staff to students at night (including non-residents on campus) is one to 500. The ratio of police to public in Heslington and Fulford at night is one to a population of about 10,000. Still think we’re stingeing on student safety?

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