Don't even ask

January 12, 2012

"I really don't see why anyone should be required to spend valuable university time counting the cost of excrement."

This was how our Head of External Relations, Kirk Swavely, responded to the news that the University of York had been asked under the Freedom of Information Act to reveal the precise amount of money "dedicated to the clean-up of duck excrement on a year-by-year basis for 2008, 2009 and 2010".

Mr Swavely said that Poppleton had been plagued by similarly tendentious uses of the Freedom of Information Act.

Among recent requests was one for precise details of the vice-chancellor's daily intake of alcohol and another that paralleled the York example by asking for an estimate in tonnage of the amount of management bullshit shovelled on to academic staff by administrators during the past calendar year.

Other tendentious FoI requests included one that asked how many of the 97 photographs of smiling multi-ethnic students in the latest university brochure had been posed by actors, and another from a current student that sought to discover the rough geographical coordinates that would enable him to contact Dr Piercemuller.

All these requests had been refused on the grounds that such information might be of commercial value to universities with more sober vice-chancellors, more accurate prospectuses, fewer jargon-ridden administrators and less elusive supervisors.

You make me feel brand conscious

News that our university spent £254,000 in the 2010-11 financial year on "brand management" has been described as "money well spent" by our Deputy Director of Logo Development, Roger Placement.

He told a hastily convened press conference in the atrium of the Brand Management Complex that there were a great many misunderstandings about the science of brand management. In particular he cited a recent article by Paul Temple in Perspectives: Policy and Practice in Higher Education, the journal of the Association of University Administrators.

In this article, Dr Temple, a reader in higher education management at the Institute of Education, had insisted that "people are not, mostly, idiots: they will see what is branding candyfloss and what is the reality, created over time by good management and a well-nurtured academic culture. Branding work...can have no significant impact on these matters."

"These assertions, with all their talk of 'reality'," said Placement, "are philosophically naive. What would have happened to our student applications if we hadn't wrapped some branding candyfloss round the 'reality' of our inadequate buildings, second-rate research, inept lecturing, half-hearted supervision and disgruntled academic staff?"

Placement used the occasion to reveal that the next stage of the ongoing brand-management exercise at Poppleton would involve the creation of a new logo to replace the present leaping hare, which had been deemed too "rabbit-like" by the logo development committee, and the creation of a working party to paint the campus grass a somewhat fresher green before next month's Open Day.

Thought for the Week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

I'm delighted to say that next week's seminar will be given by a leading neuroscientist who will demonstrate how parts of his bank balance light up when he delivers yet another unfounded generalisation about the cortical basis of human behaviour.

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