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Warwick's young academics need an alternative to the 'traditional' University social life

Originally Published 12 June 2002

In a previous feature, Mike Waterson, Department of Economics, felt that Warwick's young academics were restricted in their opportunities to meet other people within the University community. Here are your responses to Professor Waterson's views...

Ben Lockwood, Department of Economics

I would like to strongly endorse the views expressed in Mike Waterson's recent article. In fact, I would go further and say that based on my previous teaching experience, Warwick has a serious problem.

The basic problem, as I see it, is that there is no reasonably quiet and private environment, either on campus, or off campus within a reasonable walking distance, where staff (of all ages!), academic or related) can meet, have a drink, and possibly something to eat. Nor do postgraduates have such a dedicated facility: everything is shared with undergraduates and/or the general public.

For comparison, Exeter has a staff club in its own building with a restaurant and bar, plus a separate centre for postgraduates with similar facilities. Even Birkbeck, with its location in the heart of Bloomsbury with a plethora of places where staff could comfortably socialise within minutes' walk, has a staff club. Needless to say, Cambridge has colleges and a dedicated graduate centre on the banks of the Cam. Maybe this last one is an invidious comparison, as we do not (yet!) have the financial resources of the University of Cambridge: however, we are, by most criteria, richer than both Exeter and Birkbeck.

Why does this matter? Because there is more to academic life than an office and a pay cheque.

The sense of belonging to a community and interaction with colleagues, even (or perhaps especially) outside one's own department is important for many people, especially for young, possibly single, newly arrived members of staff, many of whom (as Mike Waterson pointed out) may not be from the UK. I certainly felt that lack of such a community when I arrived here four years ago. In our department, we have lost one outstanding young lecturer within the past year, partly because of this problem. We will undoubtedly lose more, or fail to recruit more, unless something is done.

Pavel Erochkine, Undergraduate Student

Warwick?s young academics do need a better social life and I will leave it up to them and their senior colleagues to design and implement such arrangements.

What concerns me is that personal relationships between students and academics are almost non-existent. Anonymous written (rather than oral) assessments and examinations remove the essential link between them. Thus, I believe that focus on young academics is appropriate but incomplete and would like to urge Mike Waterson and others to think more about greater involvement of students in their departments.

Emeritus Professor, John Annett

I was both saddened and pleased to read Mike Waterson's call for a social club to meet the needs of young academics. Saddened because when I joined the university in 1974 there was, thanks largely to the active support of Jack Butterworth and his wife Doris, a flourishing Staff Club which welcomed me and my family. It certainly helped to make me feel that Warwick was the place to be and led to many life-long friendships in my own and other disciplines.

By the late 1980's patterns of social life had changed and our premises on the top floor of Rootes had been taken over by 'Hospitality', no doubt from sheer economic necessity. As its last elected 'chairman' I saw the Staff Club fade quite away and I am naturally pleased that there is now a call for a new club to meet new needs.

As 'Chair' of the Retired Staff Association I could object to the implicit 'ageism' of Mike Waterson's remarks. It is not youth per se, but newness that calls for genuine social support. I recall being a new student, a new lecturer, a new professor and also a new retiree. At each stage I was glad of at least acknowledgement of my new status and informal advice from those already there. It would be a pity if a renewed staff club were to be only a youthful ghetto for that would mean that we old-timers have finally given up our responsibility to welcome and give encouragement to those younger and newer than ourselves.

Paul Trimmer, IT Services

Whilst I agree strongly with what Mike says about needing a method of bringing staff together, the article does seem to imply strongly that it is only academics who have this problem ? I would suggest that this is equally a problem for clerical, technical and manual staff. In IT Services we are attempting to resolve this by organising department-wide activities, hopefully to include non-administrative grade members (as I am one of them). I can assure you that there are many members of staff within the clerical grades (including those of us with academic backgrounds and those without) who would be very pleased to have a way of meeting more members of University staff in an informal environment.

The Issue: Club 25-40 " Warwick's young academics need an alternative to the 'traditional' University social life