Laurie Taylor column

March 1, 2002

Competition between university departments is leading to an increase in "subject chauvinism" - article by Grenville Wall, THES , February 22.

Item 12. Dr Quintock, I believe this is yours.

Thank you, Professor Lapping. As we know, this department has recruited record numbers of undergraduates as a direct result of our twin-track strat-egy. All prospective students are told that our course in media and cultural studies is not only intellectually undemanding but so geared towards job opportunities that 60 per cent of graduates obtain a position in media-related employment.

Like working in a record shop?

Thank you, Mr Odgers. Now, our success has prompted jealousy. Last year, we stifled the psychology department's attempt to introduce a degree on the psychology of media studies and rebutted the history department's plan for a diploma entitled Coronation Street : the early years. But there is a worrying new trend. I refer to conceptual appropriation. My analysis of course handouts shows philosophy is routinely using "deconstruction"; English studies is relying increasingly on "decoding"; while women's studies has made several blatant references to the "empty signifier".

You obviously attach great importance to this matter. 

I intend to propose to faculty board that "concept appropriation" should become a disciplinary offence. Any department purloining another's key concepts would be penalised by the loss of some of its own conceptual underpinning. Thus philosophy might be deprived of "epistemological presuppositions", while English and rela-ted studies might lose "objective correlative", and women's studies would have to cope without "phallocentric".

You have some recommendations for action?

Indeed I do, Professor Lapping. This lies at the heart of univers-ity life. What we are talking about is intellectual integrity.

I suppose there is that.

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