Laurie Taylor column

January 14, 2005

" From this month, universities face a major culture shock as the Freedom of Information Act starts to make an impact " - The Times Higher , January 7

From: The office of the vice-chancellor

To: Mrs Doreen Knebbit. "High Hedges", 145 University Road, Poppleton.

Dear Mrs Knebbit,

Thank you for your letter in which you make a number of requests under the Freedom of Information Act and kindly remind me that unless these are met within 20 working days you will have no option but to institute proceedings.

Request 1. Does the university plan to close its departments of maths, chemistry and music?

Poppleton University's commitment to attracting students at all costs has never allowed for a department of maths or chemistry. We have no immediate plans to close our small, precarious, unpopular, costly and irrelevant music department.

Request 2. What is the annual cost of entertaining at the vice-chancellor's mansion? Who enjoyed this largesse? Does the total sum include the expensive new wallpaper in the front room?

In 2003-04, the cost of essential entertaining at my "lodge" was Pounds 240,456. Wine and spirits accounted for £239,214. The balance was expended on mushroom vol-au-vents.

Guests included the man who used to head Hefce, Chief Inspector Dogberry of Poppleton CID, Cilla Black and Gary Jackson (midfielder with Poppleton FC).

Frankly, the wallpaper is none of your business.

Request 3. Looking over the hedge from my upstairs bedroom window I can see scaffolding on the top of the Corporate Management Building? Is the university expanding?

Not at all. This building work is merely a modest extension to our Punishment Block. You need have no fear that your property will be overlooked. Windows are not included in the specifications.

Request 4. Is there any truth in the rumour that you are having "a bit on the side"?

None. See my letter to staff titled "No, I'm not having a bit on the side" (November 26, 2004).

Yours sincerely,
the vice-chancellor (signed and written in his absence by Mrs Dilworth).

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