Our vice-chancellor has given a nod of approval to research findings that demonstrate the implicit gender bias in university hiring practices.
He told our reporter Keith Ponting (30) that he had carefully read the relevant article in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences and been "impressed" by Yale University researchers' discovery that applicants for academic posts who were "believed" to be male were judged more competent and deserving of extra pay.
However, he profoundly rejected the researchers' conclusion that such gender bias was "unconscious". "In fact," he told Ponting, "I've always been very conscious of women not having quite what it takes when it comes to academic life. I'm also very conscious that they can be a tad overemotional, somewhat inclined to whinge, liable to disappear for long periods of time on so-called 'maternity leave' and possess a natural tendency to be somewhat on the shrill side of things."
In response to further questioning, our vice-chancellor claimed that in many crucial respects he had "a positive gender bias towards women". Could he give an example? "Well, even though it's not currently a valued academic attribute, one can't help but be very conscious of their quite exceptional ability to dance backwards," he replied.
No thanks for the memory
One of our leading psychologists, Dr Ted Thorndike, has told The Poppletonian that he is greatly looking forward to participating in The Proust Phenomenon, an event organised by multidisciplinary body the Memory Network, which will explore Marcel Proust's account of how the smell and taste of a tea-soaked madeleine sponge cake involuntarily brought back memories of an earlier time.
Dr Thorndike's own distinctive contribution to the event will be a paper that experimentally explores the capacity of certain objects to bring back memories of what life was once like on a British university campus.
His paper reveals that he has so far succeeded in inducing involuntary memories of such times by exposing his academic subjects to a range of stimuli including the smell of chalk dust and Roneo ink, the distinctive taste of academic freedom, the engaging sound of democratic debate and the refreshing sensation of non-instrumental scholarship.
However, he sounded a note of caution. "I can't help but notice", he said, "that Sebastian Groes, senior lecturer at the University of Roehampton and the principal investigator for the Memory Network, speaks of memory as 'a force that can contribute to shaping a more stable, sustainable world'. Unfortunately this did not prove to be the case with academics in my own study. After they'd been reminded of past university times, they tended to do little else for the following hours but weep inconsolably."
Can't sign, won't sign?
We learn that our vice-chancellor was among the number of distinguished people invited to become founding members of the Council for the Defence of British Universities, which will include in its ranks all those who value the "supremely human activities of teaching and learning, the pursuit of knowledge and the life of the mind". However, in common with nearly every other vice-chancellor in the country, on the very day that the letter of invitation arrived, he was completely unable to find either his pen or his conscience.
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
Next week's seminar on modern management is titled: "We all believe in the values of teamwork but I happen to be in charge and you're sacked."