An academic has described a culture of fear in their department following staff opposition to proposed changes that would see professors give up office space in the Zicer building and Climatic Research Unit for undergraduate teaching.
The university has confirmed that floor 0 of Zicer will be converted from a staff-only floor to one that accommodates “accessible teaching space.”
Concrete understands that postgraduate students will also have to be accommodated for in the change, but that there are no plans to add more teaching space to Zicer or the Hubert Lamb Building.
A concerned party told Concrete they believe that “actions taken this term will set research back for upwards of a decade.” Responding to these claims, a UEA spokesperson said “The university values the research of all our academics very highly and we would never knowingly damage this core element of our success.”
Reportedly, faculty, staff, and postgraduate students were not consulted about the loss of Zicer floor 0. A concerned party said: “Every suggestion that ENV staff have put forward has been dismissed out of hand.”
Concrete understand that the announcement of floor 0’s permanent conversion led to multiple meetings, in which “all those in the meetings (near unanimity) were strongly against the proposal.”
An academic described the university’s treatment of staff as having created a “dictatorial atmosphere” whereby staff feel they if they publicly oppose the decision their jobs will be at risk. They said: “Fear is rampant on the part of the faculty in ENV.”
In response to these claims a university spokesperson said: “We are concerned to hear of these reports as all efforts are being made to reassure staff and to allow free and frank dialogue.”
They added that the moves “are being coordinated with School colleagues” with academics retaining sole office occupancy and the co-location of research teams established as “key priorities.
We understand that any office move can cause short-term disruption but by working with ENV to meet their key needs we do not anticipate any major long-term impact on the research of those involved.”
Norman Lamb, the MP for South Norfolk, spoke out against the changes, telling Concrete: “I feel very strongly that the university must not undermine or compromise world-renowned research in the pursuit of increased capacity,” though stopping short at condemning the coalition’s decision to abolish a cap on student numbers from 2015.
A concerned party added that “both Zicer and the Lamb Building were built with money raised by the researchers as research buildings,” and were not funded for teaching.
In a letter to Vice-Chancellor Professor David Richardson, Mr Lamb said he was particularly concerned about the fate of the Hubert Lamb Building, so named after his father.
Mr Lamb wrote that he felt “incredibly proud” of his father’s work at the university “and the reputation the Climate Research Unit built as a result.”