Here we go again. Vice-Admiral Steven ‘Polyversity’ Spier’s bonfire of courses and services at Kingston University rolls on with yet more ‘consultations’, the latest one being an IT Service Delivery consultation. It is all part of what the VC has called his ‘Future Organisational Model’ (FOM), and he was squawking on about it again in the latest Board of Governors (BOG) meeting, held on 23rd June, and in the special BOG Dinner held afterwards. It makes you almost feel sorry for the BOGsters. Almost.
The self-annointed Gold Commander, who is like an absentee landlord who refuses to meet his tenants, loves to hide away from students and staff in his Holmewood Bunker (when he can be bothered to even turn up, of course). He has also taken to sheltering behind the mirage of the ‘consultation’. The only time he dares to emerge is when he can spin a line to a BOG meeting, or to certain favourites in the SLT (he does not trust them all, you see), and a favourite strategy is now to employ the ‘consultation’ as a convenient cover for cuts. But don’t be conned.
In recent times we have had to suffer a ton of ‘consultations’: in 2018 there was the chaotic Research, Business and Innovation (RBI) consultation, which set out plans to ‘reconfigure’ RBI. Staff input was treated with contempt. In 2020, the Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education made many nurses completely miserable with proposals to ‘realign the Academic Business Units’ and force more depts to shift to Kingston Hill. Again, staff objections were overruled.
The Uni’s spinmeisters always point to MOR procedure (Managing Organisational Restructures) to try to portray the ‘con’-sultation as a way of involving staff in shaping the way forward. Don’t be fooled. It is nothing of the sort. In the hands of Spiersy and his Lack-of-Leadership Team, it is a meaningless device, the favoured tool of managerial tricksters who seek to cover up their incompetence by claiming to be democratic and consultative. In the hands of Admiral Spier-spin, the word consultation combines ‘con’ and ‘insult’ all in one nasty little soundbite. The reality is that a Kingston consultation is shaped by a ‘We say, you obey’ approach, a top-down SLT formula designed to sideline those pesky bloody lecturers and their annoying questions. All the key proposals have been decided beforehand, and staff contributions are are regularly ignored.
The latest con-insult-ation will follow the same pattern. The main decisions have already been made. It proposes huge changes to service delivery functions within IT provision across the University, and will have a hugely detrimental impact on all teaching staff. According to an announcement placed on the Uni website the changes will help the delivery team work ‘more flexibly’. Oh, yeah? The reality is that there will be no on-campus IT support for classrooms, workshops and science labs – the support ‘team’, which has already experienced job losses from previous cuts, will be slimmed down even more, and everything in future will be provided remotely. If you are in a classroom or a lab on site, and suddenly find the p.c. has a fault, the sound does not work, the mouse has gone, or your slides will not project – well, tough. Don’t expect an IT team member to quickly come to your aid. You will be on your own, left hung out to dry like an idiot in front of your pissed-off students who still expect the session to start on time.
The BOGsters need to realise that Commandant ‘Poly-Uni’ Spier’s consulmania is leading Kingston over the cliff. He may squwark endlessly on about how great the new FOM is going to be and how the ‘Polyversity’ will be comprehensive and innovative, but staff on the ground know it is all the BS of a deluded conman.
To add insult to injury, recent weeks have revealed the spectacular incompetence and poor quality of the SLT Mis-Managers who have been conducting consultations in FBSS and KSA. The con-sultation on Politics, International Relations and Human Rights in FBSS, overseen by Jill ‘what’s the point of human rights’ Schofield, has turned into an insulting farce. Staff have not been provided with the proper and full documentation, which breaks MOR guidelines and is also illegal, and they still have little idea of how many face the axe. In meetings with staff, all ‘The Scoff’ has been interested in doing is to complain over and over about ‘leaks’. It was clearly a diversionary tactic, designed to avoid the fact that the FBSS consultation has been handled very, very badly. The FBSS managers have now reluctantly conceded that there will have to be a second round of negotiations after the outcome to the first con-sultation is published.
Recruited by Admiral Spiersy in 2018 on the basis that she was an ’eminent business management expert’, Dean Scoff has brought all the bad habits of her time as a manager for BUPA Hospitals to Kingston Uni and tried to apply them to running FBSS. It has been a disaster, and the Politics con-sultation rubs salt into the gaping wounds. Spiersy has been disappointed about The Scoff, especially when she alienated Business Studies lecturers up the Hill, and she has been desperate to get back in his good books. The result has been a determination to drive through radical restructuring, and Politics were deemed an easy target. But it is not quite going to plan.
And now word has reached Dissenter of a similar major display of incompetence and indifference to loyal staff in KSA. According to reliable sources in the Faculty, the KSA con-sultation, which closed over two weeks ago and should have resulted in a final outcome document by Tuesday 22nd June, has now been delayed. The committee overseeing the con-sultation, chaired by Dean Mandy ‘Who Her?’ Ure, has failed to submit its findings to the SLT for review, and has awarded itself an extension! Yep. An extension. We kid you not. The agony must continue for those staff whose jobs hang in the balance. Shocking, isn’t it? But this is the level of uselessness and contempt for staff wellbeing that now seems the norm at KU.
It should come as no surprise. In meetings with staff, Ure has apparently been evasive and unable to answer very basic questions. She has seemed lost and out of her depth. This is what happens when you have Admiral Spiersy appoint a patsy as Dean. Ure is the least qualified Dean on the SLT and, prior to KU, her only experience of staff management was as an advisor to a motorcycle showroom and a brief spell working for Bristol Driving School. After the useless Dean Rhodes left KSA, Ure suddenly found herself rapidly promoted to the Deanship in order to carry out Spiersy’s dirty work. But even that seems beyond her abilities. Her KSA middle managers are now openly slagging her off behind her back. One of them, a former HoS who nurses her own ambitions to be Dean, has even tried to leak things to Dissenter. We did not bite.
Spare a thought for the staff who are worried about their jobs during all these con-sultations. While Mis-Managers fight amongst themselves like cats in a sack, and the VC keeps himself at a cowardly distance as the ship slowly sinks, the livelihoods of hardworking staff have been put in great danger. The claim that KU cares for its staff is the biggest con of all.