Understanding needed 2

September 22, 2006

It is unfortunate that the article about Diana Winstanley's suicide was largely framed in terms of university staff support services. As Sally Hunt said, workloads and other sources of staff stress must be tackled. There is too much work for academics, too many kinds of demands, with far too little administrative support and far too little understanding of the academic personality.

We don't need more human resources policies, surveys, inquiries, websites, procedural handbooks, rhetoric and services. We need more understanding that academics are subject specialists (not administrative, technical and entrepreneurial robots) and human beings (quite likely to suffer from pride, anxiety, low self-esteem and other limitations). We need occupational support and human responsiveness.

Diana Winstanley presumably felt unable to ask for help or had no realistic expectation that the right kind of help would be available. Sometimes the right kind of help is warm human understanding and immediate practical intervention. Not faceless intranet sites, treadmill bureaucracy and inflexible targets.

Colin Feltham
Sheffield Hallam University

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