There have been a lot of articles over the last couple of days criticising the University of Liverpool and Liverpool Guild of Students for ‘de-ratifying’ the Liverpool Medical Student Society (LMSS). This is not one of them.
The online furore that has emerged over the last couple of days following the de-ratification, perfectly exemplifies the LMSS “attitudes” cited by the University and Guild, as being “no longer seen as acceptable in the modern medical profession” or the wider student body. Pro-LMSS articles have popped up citing the LMSS’ 170+ years of “traditions and rich history” as just cause for their past and continued behaviour.
The fact of the matter is, if the LMSS want to be a Guild society, if they want to be recognised and operate within the Guild and University they have to follow the same rules as everybody else.
For years LMSS has been maintaining and glorifying their archaic and offensive rituals, behaviours and attitudes, and the Guild and University have let them get away with it. Resounding choruses of the LMSS anthem Jack Leggate’s song, year upon year of the Smoker being met with thunderous applause, as well as other unsavoury traditions, were enjoyed by all. Their undoing began in November 2014, when ‘SmokerGate’ made national news. This event forced the hands of the University and Guild, and made them finally take action against the LMSS’ modus operandi to which they had previously turned a blind eye. LMSS was asked, not forced, to modernise and finally become a part of the Guild proper. LMSS said no. Though claiming that they made almost entirely all the changes asked of them, the “re-branded” events and negotiated terms still did not pass muster as far as the Guild and University were concerned.
Cue the articles accusing the Guild of being tyrannical and “bullying”. Cue the online petition calling for a vote of no confidence against Guild President Harry Anderson. Cue general online outrage, that has even reached, I am ashamed to say, this very newspaper. The online rhetoric is clearly at odds with the supposedly cooperative LMSS during negotiations with the University and Guild, and suggests that LMSS ‘doth protest too much’! Is this how a blameless and obliging society would respond? Or does it rather sound like the outburst of a society whose special privileges have been relinquished?
The statement released by the Guild and University outlined two issues that prompted the LMSS’ de-ratification: “the promotion of gender segregated events” and “financial procedure“, as well as other issues that have been ambiguously labelled as “other social events“. Though one can assume that “other social events” references the condemned Smoker, I suspect that it also denotes other antics that have not been detailed in the Guild and University’s official statement, tales of which, no doubt, are common knowledge in the Liverpool Student community.
The LMSS claims that it has addressed the issue of “gender segregated events” by “re-branding” the traditional “Ladies’ Night” as the “Secret Garden Party” also named “Annual LMSS Dinner XX”, aren’t fooling anybody.
We are all aware that XX represents the female chromosome configuration. “Ladies’ Night” clearly lives on despite this cunning name change, and one wonders whether the “Annual Dinner” remained the ovaries-free zone it always celebrated being.
Regarding the “financial procedure“: the LMSS’ desire to maintain financial autonomy may seem fair enough. However, all other society money is handled within the Guild, to ensure sustainability and independence, not to mention legal requirements, as the Guild is a registered Charity. We all find PV (Payment Voucher) forms frustrating; yes they sometimes take a while to process, yes they occasionally go missing, but that is how the Guild operates and if the LMSS wants to be part of the Guild, then they must head down to the Reilly Building Reception and fill out these forms like the rest of us?
There have been comments online that LMSS doesn’t need the Guild and that it’ll be better off going solo. If so, then good riddance. As far as I’m concerned LMSS has been hoist with its own petard, but must it try and take Harry Anderson down with it? The petition on change.org to oust Anderson is arguably, nothing more than a witch-hunt, a last petulant attempt to hang onto the LMSS ‘special status’ regardless of what the rest of us think. The fact that Anderson was re-elected for a second term suggests that the majority, of student voters quite like him.
If LMSS are expecting unanimous student outrage that such a prestigious society has been so unfairly treated, I fear that they will be sorely disappointed. Truly, LMSS raised huge amounts for charity, provided fantastic academic and pastoral support for its members, and created a sense of community and family for medics of all years. But these warm fuzzy-feelings can also be found in all other societies existing happily within the Guild, following their rules and receiving their support.
Being old does not excuse bad behaviour; in fact, usually, with age comes wisdom: and honestly, I am not surprised that the deep-rooted belief that it is beyond reproach prevented negotiations with the University and Guild from being successful.
To be honest, I am glad that LMSS has been de-ratified; I disagree with it as a society on so many levels. But to many, LMSS was a family, though perhaps a dysfunctional one and despite its faults, its members will grieve its passing. Still, I sincerely hope that the former LMSS members will be able to move on and together with the Guild and University found new societies, without being deterred by the bitterness and anti-Guild sentiments online: societies that in years to come will inspire and deserve the same loyalty and passion that has been afforded LMSS.