Laurie Taylor – 4 February 2016

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

February 4, 2016
Man looking at statue of Mao Zedong, China, 2016
Source: Alamy
Monumental folly?

Keeping our Marbles

It looks as though the fierce controversy surrounding the future of one of our university’s major monuments might finally be over. A brief statement issued from “The Office of the Vice-Chancellor” announces that the 22-foot-high statue of Attila the Hun that graces the forecourt of the Jo Johnson Admin Building will “remain in situ”.

As regular readers of this newsletter will know, the Attila statue has been the subject of a large number of protests from students and members of staff who have argued that it is inappropriate for a modern, go-ahead, second-rate university to offer any form of homage to a person with a proven record of rape and pillage.

However, other university voices argued that it was quite unreasonable to judge Attila’s lengthy imperial career by modern standards of morality and taste. During his heyday back in the 5th century, rape and pillage were, in the words of one statue backer, “very much part of the fabric of everyday life”.

Opponents of the statue’s staying in place have already issued a statement expressing their “profound disappointment” at the university’s decision. Some have even gone so far as to suggest that the decision was not based upon reasoned argument but upon the likelihood that existing university donors with well-known Hun or Vandal sympathies might withdraw their current financial support.

Now that Attila’s place on campus is secure, it is feared that attention may well turn to such other controversial university icons as the large oil painting of David Willetts as John the Baptist which hangs in the Student Debt Repayment Office.

Forcible induction

Our only leading social psychologist, Dr Mike Goshworthy, has roundly condemned the US-based Center for Open Science for its decision to offer large cash rewards to academics who pre-register their experimental intentions. Such pre-registration would, claim managers at the centre, prevent researchers recasting the aims of their research, depending on which results turn out to be statistically significant.

However, according to Dr Goshworthy, who recently gained national media attention and top impact marks for his discovery of the causal relationship between watching Manchester United at home and the early onset of dementia, it makes no sense at all to register a hypothesis before beginning the actual research. “One has only to look at the history of social psychology to see that the discipline depends almost entirely upon the discovery of correlations of such banality that no one in their right mind could possibly have thought of them at the beginning of the research process.”

And neither, insisted Dr Goshworthy, was social psychology alone in this respect. “Did Newton pre-register his interest in gravity before sitting down under that apple tree? I very much doubt it. Did Archimedes draw up a hypothesis about displacement and volume measurement before filling his bath? I think not.”

(Dr Goshworthy is currently pre-registered for compulsory retirement.)

Jennifer Doubleday is spending more time with her family.

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