Not one student turned up to last week’s open meeting on who should be the next Vice-Chancellor.
The event was held in Jubilee’s 500-seat lecture hall, and was advertised by a news item on the University website. Details of what was said in the open meeting cannot be printed by The Badger, because they were classified as “confidential”. According to the University, this was “so as to ensure that those people who were present felt comfortable enough to speak freely and confidently…”
The discussion was chaired by the co-founder of Perrett Laver, a London-based consultancy firm which has been hired by the University to help find Sussex’s next chief administrator. Two Students’ Union officers, six members of staff and a Badger journalist sat in the cavernous Jubilee lecture theatre for an hour. The University’s Council said of the meeting: “[We were] keen to hear from all…students on the type of skills and expertise they believed the new Vice-Chancellor should have”. Second year student Panayiotis Demetriou commented that the terrible attendance “clearly shows students don’t care about [who should be] the [next] Vice-Chancellor, because of what Farthing has done over the last few years”.
Other students told The Badger they blamed the University for failing to communicate that they could get involved in the process. Masters student Joe Miles-Wilson said: “There’s probably a tendency among students to see the search for the Vice-Chancellor as something that happens behind the scenes”. Sam Kean, a 3rd year International Development student, thought more should have been made of the event: “Even just a targeted email would have been fine or invitations to relevant societies”. 1st year undergrad Gabrielle Ekpe said she “didn’t even know Michael Farthing was stepping down”.
Current Vice-Chancellor Michael Farthing announced at the beginning of term that he would be leaving the role in August 2016. President of the Students’ Union Abe Baldry commented: “Many people we have spoken to didn’t know who the Vice-Chancellor was, or what the job involved, although when this was explained, students were keen to offer their thoughts and views”. He went on: “It is important that events for students to have their say are promoted as much as possible”. Abe Baldry will be on the panel which will interview and appoint the next Vice-Chancellor. He has asked for students to have the opportunity to meet candidates as part of the selection process. The second and final open meeting to discuss Sussex’s next Vice-Chancellor will be held on Wednesday 18 November in Arts C133 from 2:30 till 3:30pm.
The University has said it “hopes as many people as possible will choose to attend”, describing their input into the selection process as “valuable”. Students are also invited to make suggestions to Perrett Laver by email: firstname.lastname@example.org.