Members of UEA’s decision-making body, University Council, were treated to a £550 dinner this month in the Vice Chancellor’s Wood Hall residence, Concrete can report.
Information about the dinner was passed to Concrete by a previous full-time officer, and has been confirmed by the university. The dinner is a regular occurrence and is held to welcome new members of University Council, but this year the newly elected student union officers (who sit on University Council) declined to attend, as they were involved in the running of social activities for new students who arrived during Welcome Week.
Despite student union officers declining the invitation, the dinner went ahead with the Vice Chancellor, the Chair of University Council and other new members. Other senior university staff also attended the dinner, where food and alcohol was served by UEA catering staff. A second dinner for Council as a whole will be held in December, at Vista on campus. According to the university, in 2013 the September dinner for new members cost £550 and the December dinner cost £815.
When asked why the dinner was being held, despite two out of the three new members deciding not to attend, the university declined to offer any comment.
Josh Wilson, Ethical Issues Officer at the Union of UEA Students (UUEAS), expressed outrage at the dinner, saying:
“This is a ridiculous waste of students’ money, representing the difference between the higher echelons of the university and ordinary workers. While we have a pay differential of 15:1 and the university still cannot confirm it can pay its subcontracted workers decently, this dinner is inappropriate. Figures from the National Union of Students suggest that students spend £50 a week on food, which means that the £550 price tag for this single dinner for a handful of senior UEA staff could feed the average student for eleven weeks”.
University Council is the decision-making council of the University of East Anglia, composed of sixteen members including the Vice Chancellor, two Pro Vice Chancellors, seven independent members, two student union officers and other appointed members.
The new members of University Council being welcomed this year include Dr Wendy Thompson – a former advisor to Tony Blair on public service reform – as well as Chris Jarvis, Campaigns & Democracy Officer at UUEAS, and Yinbo Yu, Activities and Opportunities Officer at UUEAS. Neither of the student union officers attended the dinner. Recent appointees to University Council also include Joe Greenwell CBE, a former Chairman of the Ford motor company and a UEA alumni.