Thursday, 27 January 2011

A donkey, a pin and a tale...

Well folks, my inbox overfloweth to some fine tune.

Instead of dealing with the usual torrent of queries, quips quibbles and quandaries, yesterday I abandoned electronica choosing instead to immerse my diminishing bodily calculus into the pit - or should I say, the rather ethereal world of the Employment Tribunal - Manchester Employment Tribunal to be precise. The case, a hearing, involved the University of Salford (Respondent) and of course a former employee (The Claimant and not this writer). I will not dwell on the detail here other than to say it was both agreeable and painful... agreeable in that I'm of the opinion that a small victory was scored and it's essential to support a colleague against the machine. Painful in that one can only spend a limited period of time in a hot room and in proximity to a particularly oleaginous type before nausea imparts itself like a random piss-protein into one's thigh marrow.

The Devil's Draft - Fresh Coffee and Ibuprofen

I also didn't deal with my morning caffeine addiction which is only exorcised by a torrent of coffee which is now running to around five large-ish cups of Aldi's finest fresh which at £1.69 a pack is excellent value for money. It would be a gross underestimation of the most hideous kind to say that the concomitant withdrawal headache was a bit of a screamer. It would not be an understatement to suggest that the decision to cycle home on a vintage 1950s Raleigh Superbe at full wallop had the resultant effect of raising the unadulterated temple-oriented agony to the power of ten. However a handful of Aldi Ibuprofen at a very reasonable thirty (30) pence a pack is also excellent value and well worth the investment.

The Devil's Footprints but with no Springs Attached

However, my decision to eschew my nearly steam-driven Mark I for the comings and goings of the Tribunal has led to a rather sizeable backlog of correspondence which I nearly subjected myself to. A gander was taken and one rather brief email did leap out like a liquid crystal Spring-heel'd Jack but not as diabolical. I'd like to share some of the contents of this with you as I'm always one for a little satirical muscle-flexing or jape-fuelled journalistic pull-ups which I'm reliably informed cannot be construed as criminal harassment. Besides, it helps in some small way to while away the fag-end of a compulsory obsessive evensong. The originator of the email shall remain firmly anonymous as I subscribe to the journalists' dictum (yes the dodgy one's also subscribe) that sources should always be protected.

My dear Dr Duke this one is clearly addressed
to you as it begins 'Dear Arsehole...'
A task not a game

Below are some selected excerpts  from a leaked letter that outlined the preliminary findings of a ten-man audit panel in 2008.* The task for you is simple: firstly, read the selected excerpts from the leaked letter and consider its contents carefully. Secondly, try and decide to which university this letter refers. Finally you might like to take a guess as to whom the author of the leaked letter may be. I have of course omitted the name of the educational establishment to make it a little more interesting. If you click on the link at the foot of the page, all will become abundantly clear.

"As you know, I recently chaired the institutional audit of the University of _ _ _ _ ."

“…However, we also noted an extensive and debilitating "climate of hostility" at the university, manifested in adversarial exchanges and the habit of dealing with dissent through disciplinary inquiries and litigation…”

“…We found credible and extensive evidence that this "climate of hostility" is damaging staff morale (and may be causing staff to leave), affecting the university's credibility with employers and other stakeholders and disturbing students. The panel was of the view that, were this approach to dissent to continue, there could be serious damage to the university's continuing viability…”

“…The panel has heard that some aspects of this situation are expressed as lack of academic freedom at the university. In coming to understand this, the panel identified two dimensions of academic freedom that may be inappropriately conflated. One dimension refers to the right to teach, to research and to exercise professional judgment on discipline-related issues without interference. The other dimension refers to the right to engage in debate about matters affecting the university. The panel has found no evidence of interference with the teaching and learning and research activities of staff at _ _ _ _. But the panel has found evidence of stifled debate about institutional matters and of debates conducted in ways which obfuscate rather than elucidate issues…”

“…the panel was heartened by evidence that the human resources division is prioritising measures to take the institution from the habit of litigation to the practice of addressing conflict by means of mediation and conciliation…”

Click here and all will be revealed...

* Courtesy of Michael Savides, The Mercury, January 23 2009 sourced at

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