Letter: Free within limits 2

January 11, 2002

When I appealed against my degree result years ago, the procedure involved sending a letter to the dean, who considered the matter in secret. I was upset as the dean was a maths professor and I was complaining about the behaviour of another maths professor.

This Christmas I attended a lecture by Mike Edmunds, an astronomy professor at Cardiff University, in which he acted the role of Isaac Newton to illustrate a point. The Royal Society had set up a committee to determine whether it was Gottfried von Leibniz or Newton who discovered calculus. The committee decided on Newton. This pleased its chairman, who was none other than Newton himself. The story succeeded in getting the required laughs.

The situation is not that far removed from the way universities still conduct themselves. It was bad enough in my case that the dean judged a case involving his colleague, but what would have happened if my complaint had been against the dean himself? Would he have still been allowed to pass judgement on the appeal himself, in secret just like all other complaints?

Brian Daugherty
Open University.

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