Reporter 395, 20 January 1997


Detecting a smokescreen

Dr Dominic Berry
School of Classics

I know I am not alone in feeling angry and frustrated at the continuing failure of the University authorities to address the problem of smoking in the University, or even to acknowledge its existence. During 1995 a "great debate" on this issue took place in your columns, and staff from across the University expressed their dissatisfaction at the current situation. No official response was forthcoming, and the matter lapsed. The problem, however, remains; and yet another student intake has now taken up smoking. Today the Roger Stevens Building, technically a "no smoking" area, had to be evacuated during lectures as a result of students smoking near a smoke detector. Meanwhile, Leeds Metropolitan University has reaffirmed its blanket ban on smoking and set up a quit programme.

This University is out of step with almost every other university on this issue. The health and safety risks are real, and staff morale, already low, is being damaged still further by the filthy, choking environment in which we are forced to work. It reflects poorly on the University authorities that they have so far said or done nothing. I shall be interested to see whether this letter elicits an official reply.

A survey has been conducted whose findings will inform the University's smoking policy. Responses are being analysed by Occupational Health; when this is completed, a full report will appear in the Reporter.

Painful questions at the seat of learning

Andrew Wright
School of Healthcare Studies

The notion of learning organisations is given some prominence in the Vice-Chancellor's Statement to Court, and rightly so. As Argyris and Schön (1978) have pointed out, 'costs of healthcare, sanitation, police, housing, education, and welfare have risen precipitously, and we urge agencies concerned with these services to learn to increase their productivity and efficiency.'

With a rapid move away from a stable political, economic and social state to one of uncertainty, it is all the more an imperative for organisations such as the University to become a learning organisation by undertaking organisational learning. However, for this to proceed some difficult and perhaps painful questions have to be asked and the answers made public. Questions such as what is the University of Leeds? How should the University of Leeds present itself to the wider community? What are the roles of the staff within the University of Leeds? What are the private images and public maps of the University and what should they be? The University can and should be a Russell Group university. It clearly has the potential, and in some areas no doubt already exhibits innovative practices through conscious or unconscious organisational learning. The challenge for all of us is to form the University into a learning organisation by making organisational learning a conscious activity. Being awake and aware we can take our rightful place in the international superleague of universities.

All (mostly) out

Pam Davies,
AUT departmental rep,
University Library

The strike of 19th November was more effective than your article in Reporter 394 suggests. The Edward Boyle Library did not "operate a restricted service" it was completely closed to readers all day, although some staff, mostly not union members, worked behind closed doors.

The Law Library, Clothworkers' Library, Nuffield Information Resource Centre and University Archive, all parts of the University Library, were also closed to readers. For the sake of future historians who consult the Reporter, let's set the record straight!

The information was supplied by University staff and published in good faith.

Value for money

J Everett Cooke
Building Manager UNISERV

The remarks in the Vice-Chancellor's statement to Court about conserving resources strike chords with the efforts we have been making for several years, both in raising performance and bringing money into the University.

The productivity gains achieved under John Howe's management have raised the number of jobs we do from under 1,000 to more than 2,500 per month, reducing the need to employ external contractors and saving, at the very least, the V.A.T. which would have been charged. We also sell our services to outside clients, bringing in profit which supports the work of estate services. All of this has been accomplished without extra staff, excepting three boiler attendants.

Some members of staff appear to believe that the maintenance workforce is unnecessary and could be dispensed with. The reality is that this team provides a very good service, generally at a lower cost than can be obtained elsewhere.

Ee by Gum

Vicky Statler
Head of Corporate Services

If anyone has any problems with the quality of envelopes, or any other products supplied through the Stationery Store, please let Barry Burnett, Office Supplies Co-ordinator, have the details. He will arrange for the return or exchange of faulty products.

Our purchasing philosophy is to buy the cheapest goods which will perform satisfactorily for the majority of University clients. If we receive complaints and lower cost goods are not satisfactory, then better quality products are tried, until a good value for money product is obtained.

Some departments have special requirements or wish to buy top quality branded goods. Any such needs will be fulfilled by the Stationery Store and the cost recharged to the requesting department.

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