“Well done, Liverpool!”
That was how Louise Bimpson, our corporate director of HR, reacted to the news that the University of Liverpool now requires every member of its academic staff to be observed at least once a year by one of their peers.
Ms Bimpson pointed out that such peer observation was already in place at Poppleton. Indeed, the practice had become so common that a recent second-year Department of English lecture by Professor F. R. Beavis on “What’s not to like about Milton’s Satan?” would have been totally unattended but for the presence of 14 peer observers.
She allowed that the presence of such observers might occasionally affect the performance of an individual lecturer. She instanced the recent case in which peer observer Professor T. R. Gilbert’s endemic tendency to flatulence had marginally diminished the impact of Dr L. G. Ames’ third-year musical theory lecture on the pianissimo section of Debussy’s Clair de Lune.
But an even more critical impediment was the reluctance of peer observers to give honest unflinching criticism of their own colleagues. This was the impetus behind Poppleton’s innovative device for ensuring peer observer anonymity. This simple recessed timber-framed cubicle allowed the observer to view the lecture without being personally visible to the lecturer. At the end of the session, the observer’s critical notes were anonymously dispensed to the lecturer through a hole-in-the-wall device attached to the side of the cubicle.
Ms Bimpson described a recent occasion on which the cubicle dispensed 12 Hail Marys and one Our Father as “an aberration”.
Cheap at the price
Our thrusting Director of Corporate Affairs, Jamie Targett, has expressed “surprise” at the amount of attention given to the recent decision by the University of Bolton to spend £100,000 on taking all its 700 members of staff for an overnight stay in a luxury Lake District hotel so that they can learn from their vice-chancellor about the university’s “strategic aims”.
Targett admitted that he was not familiar with Bolton’s strategic aims, but assuming that there were no more than half a dozen of them to convey to the 700 members of staff, then a simple calculation based on the overall bill showed that the actual cost of conveying each strategic aim amounted to no more than £24 per person.
However, said Targett, this “relative bargain” had been obscured by the additional news that the vice-chancellor of Bolton owned and operated a yacht on Lake Windermere and had been loaned £960,000 by the university so that he could buy a “luxurious Edwardian house” near the campus.
The reaction to this, said Targett, was “the politics of envy”. After all, if this argument were pursued it might lead to “the absurd conclusion” that our own vice-chancellor’s judgement was in some way undermined by his personal ownership of a string of thoroughbred horses or by the recent decision of University Council to assist his morning ablutions with a daily allocation of fresh asses’ milk.
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
Next week’s lecture will critically evaluate, strictly define, carefully outline and rigorously assess current practice in examination paper setting. Apply in writing (using only one side of the page).