Laurie Taylor Column

March 16, 2007

"Clerical errors" at Sheffield University led to three of a department's staff being listed wrongly on its website as having a PhD - The Times Higher , March 9.

From: the Vice-Chancellor and Chief Executive Subject: Inappropriate Appellations I regret to say that a small number of minor clerical errors have been detected on the current University of Poppleton website.

I am now writing to inform you of the following amendments: n Professor D. W. B. Mandrake of the Department of Floristry should not have been described on the site as "professor". Although Mr Mandrake has always wanted to be a professor, and indeed hopes to become one in the not too distant future, he accepts that at the moment he is more accurately described as a "graduate assistant".

* Doctor P. R. B. Stelling of the Department of Early Modern Things should not have appeared on the website as "doctor". It now appears that his common appellation of "Doc" is a reference to his glasses and beard and generally thoughtful manner and has nothing at all to do with his academic qualifications.

* The Department of Media and Cultural Studies. We now accept that it was erroneous for the website to describe this small loose-knit group of argumentative dispirited individuals as a "department".

* Following detailed investigations, it now appears that the university's poet-in-residence, Ms Heather Ling, has so far not written any poems. She explains that she did recently have a good idea for one but never quite got round to writing it down. Her entry will therefore now simply describe Ms Ling as "in residence".

The university is checking all other pages on the site to ensure entries are up to date and factually correct.

The Vice-Chancellor (signed in his absence by Miss Dilworth)

PS: A number of people have recently suggested that the university's Finance Officer is not so much a finance officer as a "common criminal". This is currently under review.

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