Laurie Taylor – 21 January 2016

The official weekly newsletter of the University of Poppleton. Finem respice!

January 21, 2016
Genghis Khan Equestrian Statue, Mongolia

The very model of a modern v-c?

“Quite frankly, Australia is a foreign country.”

These were the dismissive words of the head of our university’s Remuneration Committee, Sir Hartley Grossman, when he was invited to respond to the news that a leading Australian university had appointed a vice-chancellor who not only described the salaries of “many other” vice-chancellors as “high” but proceeded to pitch his own emolument at a level that would not make him seem like an “outsider” to other members of his staff.

Sir Hartley told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that our own vice-chancellor’s annual salary of £369,000 was strictly based upon his “unique portfolio” of abilities and could not therefore be compared with the salary of “some upstart from Down Under”.

Neither did Sir Hartley feel that it would be appropriate for our vice-chancellor to become less of an “outsider”. Nobody really wanted a modern vice-chancellor who got “tangled up” with ordinary members of staff. “After all, Genghis Khan may have felt it necessary from time to time to consult his generals but he hardly felt the need to eat in the Mongol Dining Hall or fraternise in the Mongolian Senior Common Room.”

Ponting wondered if Sir Hartley’s views took into account the additional news that Professor Brian Schmidt, the “Aussie upstart” who was to head the Australian National University, was also the holder of a Nobel Prize in Physics?

Sir Hartley was unmoved. “Let’s face it, lots of Nobel prizewinners couldn’t find their way out of a paper bag, whereas our own vice-chancellor has a proud record of achievement in such key areas of contemporary university administration as ‘constructive dismissal’, ‘departmental closure’, ‘nepotistic advancement’ and ‘euphoric future-oriented bollocks’. In my book that’s well worth £369,000 of anybody’s money.”

University staff discussing Jeremy Corbyn
Talking points: make the party go with a swing

Written any good books recently?

A new study of knowledge workers by Alexandra Michel of the University of Pennsylvania suggests that academic workweeks are far too long. In her experience, the only people who have avoided burnout and achieved some sort of balance in their lives are those academics who limit themselves to no more than four hours a day on original research. But peer pressure constantly pushes academics to work ever harder. Professor Michel instances the manner in which academics are constantly approached by other academics at parties and asked what they have “published recently”.

In order to alleviate this situation at Poppleton, our Head of Personal Development, Jennifer Doubleday, suggests that academics might replace their conventional enquiry about recent publications with one of the following alternative conversational openers:

  • “You must have been upset about that David Bowie. I’ve always felt that his music provided the soundtrack to our lives” (recommended for colleagues in Cultural Studies)
  • “I see that Stuart Broad took 6 for 17” (all-purpose male)
  • “My word, it’s bloody cold/warm/wet/overcast for this time of the year” (not recommended for climate scientists)
  • “I’m so very sorry, but I already have this month’s Big Issue” (graduate teaching assistants only)
  • “Is that a research submission in your pocket or are you simply pleased to see me” (after closing time)
  • “That Jeremy Corbyn, eh?” (all-purpose).

Ms Doubleday said that she hoped this “clarified the situation”.

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