"I blame alumni relations." That was the shock statement made by former Poppleton student Derek Winkworth after he was found this Tuesday morning at the foot of the university cooling tower following an unsuccessful suicide bid.
Mr Winkworth told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that he'd left Poppleton in 2003 after completing a degree in Philosophy for Business. Shortly afterwards he began receiving regular personally signed letters from Mike Blagg, our Deputy Director of Alumni Relations.
"I used to love those letters," Mr Winkworth tearfully told Mr Ponting as he was stretchered away. "They were the high point of my lonely and unemployed life. They asked after my health and well-being and told me how much I was still missed on campus. They said they wanted to involve me in 'a meaningful lifelong relationship'."
But then came the turn of events that led Mr Winkworth to the tower. Suddenly the letters stopped. "I was so devastated", Mr Winkworth told us from his hospital bed, "that I rang the Alumni Relations Office to ask what had happened and was told that I'd been placed on the SOS - 'Save our Stamps' - list."
Mr Blagg told Mr Ponting that he was sorry to learn that Mr Winkworth would never walk again, but defended his decision to strike him off the mailing list: "Quite frankly, Winkworth didn't understand that in modern alumni relations the word 'meaningful' is shorthand for 'cash', while the word 'lifelong' is shorthand for 'lots and lots of cash'." He trusted that this now clarified the situation.
Dr Liam Shank of our Department of Biology has admitted writing a reference in which he described a female academic job applicant as "an affectionate, tactful, sensitive, helpful, cuddly sort of person".
However, Dr Shank told The Poppletonian that he had subsequently read an article in Times Higher Education which explained how such "communal" adjectives when used about a woman could damage her prospects of gainful employment in the academy.
He had therefore now written to Dr Janet Frobisher, the applicant in question, saying that he hoped she would see the matter in its "proper perspective" and not allow herself to become "oversensitive".
He had been "extremely reassured" by the reply in which Dr Frobisher went so far as to tell Dr Shank that she had every intention of keeping the matter "in its proper perspective", thereby not allowing it in any way "to trouble her fluffy little head".
Thought for the Week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
This week's illustrated talk on "The Unknown Thailand" should have been described as "aurally exotic". We regret that a printer's error led this to appear as "orally erotic".
'Better off without them' - shock poll results
Following the startling admission by Dame Nancy Rothwell, vice-chancellor of the University of Manchester, that "a small proportion" of her staff "do not think students are important", we can now announce the result of our own poll into the proportion of academics at Poppleton who hold similarly negative views:
Q. "If it weren't for the students, I might be able to get on with my proper job." Strongly agree: 95 per cent
This result should be seen in context with last month's similar poll on another aspect of staff dissatisfaction:
Q. "If it weren't for the vice-chancellor, this university might be able to get on with its proper job." Strongly agree: 126 per cent