“Here we go again.”
That was the aggrieved reaction of Jamie Targett, our Director of Corporate Affairs, to the news that Sir Jim McDonald, the principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Strathclyde, has been criticised for spending £99.95 on a “state-of-the-art toaster” as part of the fittings for his recently restored £1.2 million townhouse.
Targett pointed out that such critics completely failed to realise the need for contemporary forward-looking vice-chancellors to create a favourable impression on important visitors. Sir Jim had already done good work in this direction by having a modest £339,000 spent on transforming his present home, so a state-of-the-art toaster was little more than the icing on an already present cake.
Indeed, admitted Targett, very similar reasons had lain behind the recent decision of the university council to allow Poppleton’s own vice-chancellor to purchase a state-of-the-art toaster at a cost marginally in excess of that paid by Sir Jim.
But, asked Targett, was anyone seriously suggesting that it would be appropriate for our vice-chancellor to entertain distinguished guests from the world of higher education with nothing more than a two-slice, single-heat setting, pop-up toasting machine?
What on earth, Targett asked, would be the view of our university adopted by such higher education dignitaries as Sir David Eastwood, Sir Adrian Smith or Dame Nancy Rothwell if they found themselves being proffered toast from a device that failed to offer multiple toasting options, a one-touch “warm” button and an overhead bun warmer suitable for toasting bagels?
And was it really being suggested that a modern vice-chancellor going forward should have to clear the crumbs from his own toaster by holding it upside down and shaking it over a refuse bin rather than taking advantage of a pre-installed integrated crumb tray?
Other members of staff declined to comment on the controversy, although Mr Ted Odgers of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies did observe that the controversy seemed somewhat superfluous in that according to academic opinion within the university, our vice-chancellor was himself already widely regarded as “toast”.
Where have all the Thelmas gone?
According to the latest news, our university has failed to gain a single nomination in any of the 16 award categories for this year’s Times Higher Education Leadership and Management Awards.
Our acting Head of Awards Submissions, Dave Podium, blamed this unfortunate state of affairs on what he described as “the seriously out-of-date categories presently favoured by the award organisers”.
He listed a number of leadership and management categories where he believed Poppleton managers led the field. These included:
- Outstanding development of authoritarian control systems
- Outstanding increase in the number of seriously well-paid non-academic staff
- Outstanding advances in involuntary redundancy procedures
(early adoption of the so-called University of Bolton protocol)
- Outstanding readiness to fork out the hard cash for six whole tables at the awards ceremony.
He hoped this clarified the situation.
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
Next week’s seminar in our Planning for Retirement series will be given by a leading Buddhist scholar under the intriguing title “Zen and the Art of Wheelchair Maintenance”.