Sheffield student slams process to shut down Department of Archaeology as ‘unethical’

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Affected students at the University of Sheffield's Department of Archaeology, which faces possible closure following an institutional review have revealed that the process to shut down the world-renowned reputation has been done in an "extremely shady manner".

A student, who requested anonymity, said there were several "questionable moments" during the student review process, which was attended by the Deputy Vice-Chancellor Professor Gill Valentine.

The student said there were two student review meetings – the first one held for 45 minutes on February 12 – but they were "never sent an agenda for the meeting, nor told what the purpose of the meeting was.

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"At the beginning of the first meeting, the students present asked Deputy Vice-Chancellor Gill Valentine why they were there, and she said it was to "support the development of the department".

A student said there were several "questionable moments" during the student review process in early May with the university.A student said there were several "questionable moments" during the student review process in early May with the university.
A student said there were several "questionable moments" during the student review process in early May with the university.

"She asked students to speak about their experiences in the department (nothing negative was said by anyone) and left the meeting with a positive atmosphere," the student said.

Then a second meeting was scheduled on May 19, where the deputy vice-chancellor announced the university was considering closing the department, which was not at all mentioned in the first meeting.

"One of the reasons she listed to the students was undergrad recruitment. For several years, the Archaeology Department has been requesting to lower the admission requirements so that they can bring in more undergraduates. Consistently, they have been told no.

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"In the meeting, one of the students present asked Gill Valentine directly why we couldn't lower the admissions requirements for the department in order to bring in more undergraduates, and therefore more money for the university.

"Her response was, 'We need to protect our brand. If you shop at Marks & Spencers, and then Marks & Spencers brings in Aldi-level products, then people won't want to shop with you anymore.'

"She referred to the University of Sheffield as 'Marks & Spencers' and students with lower grades as 'Aldi-level products'.

"In doing so, this makes students at the University of Sheffield both the purchasers and the products."

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The students have also requested the meeting transcript from both meetings with Professor Valentine only to be told that the meeting records "have been disposed of”, based on an emailed response from the university’s secretary’s office.

The copy of the email was provided to The Star.

The student added: "This feels completely unethical. It is standard procedure to redact sensitive information, not dispose of the notes.

"Along with many failings of the Executive Board during this process, this quote makes the students feel incredibly unwanted and unimportant - we are no more valuable than our tuition fees and our grades.

"The University does not care about us once we are here. The world-class research that the department produces and the extremely impactful community engagement have become meaningless to them.

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"In my opinion, I believe there should be a call for a vote of no-confidence in the DVC Gill Valentine and the Vice-Chancellor Koen Lamberts. "

University of Sheffield's Executive Board (UEB) had proposed the closure of the Department of Archaeology following an institutional review late last month, triggering nationwide outrage.

They said, however, they will continue to support the discipline as it is no longer viable to maintain the status quo due to the declining numbers of students choosing the field.