Our Director of Corporate Affairs, Jamie Targett, has roundly criticised all those members of the Poppleton academic staff who have responded to the new University of Warwick “Tone of Voice” guidelines with what he described as “wholly inappropriate sniggering”.
Targett said that he saw “nothing at all funny” in Warwick’s new insistence that its staff should always apply the “What if” linguistic principle in all their communications.
He particularly praised the manner in which the application of the What if principle helped to make communications optimistic, leaving “the reader to feel that you’re there to help them”. So instead of writing “This is only for”, Warwick staff under the influence of the What if principle would write “This is for everyone who”.
But there were many other advantages that could be derived from consistent application of What if. It also inclined writers to be “proactive”. So instead of writing “Your application was received”, Warwick staff imbued with the What if ethic would always write “We’ve read your application”.
Targett said that he also failed to find any humour whatsoever in the further What if insistence that academic staff should always avoid using such tentative words as “possibly”, “hopefully” or “maybe”. So, under the What if linguistic principle, staff would never write “We hope to become a top 50 world-ranked university” but always “Our aim is to become a top 50 world-ranked university”.
In what was being described as “an unexpected move”, Targett received support for his views on the What if principle from Mr Ted Odgers of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies, who thought that the principle made “particularly good sense” in the Warwick context. He went so far as to provide the following example of its application:
“What if the University of Warwick had not recently banned an academic from its campus for nothing more serious than sighing, projecting negative body language and making ironic comments when interviewing candidates for a job? And What if this ban had not been complemented with a ban on the said academic contacting his own undergraduates and tutoring his own PhD students and speaking to his former colleagues? And What if the whole case against the said academic had not then been pursued with the use of a team of high-powered barristers costing the university at least £43,000?”
If all these What ifs had been met, then, added Mr Odgers, Warwick might possibly, hopefully or maybe have managed to retain its former position as an institution that respected the principles of academic freedom.
Targett told The Poppletonian that while he appreciated Mr Odgers’ application of the What if principle, he felt that it did not “at some points” fully capture the essence of its guidelines.
Thought for the week
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
In last month’s Assertiveness Training Course, a number of academic staff learned to:
- confidently express their views
- defend their points of view effectively
- say ‘no’ with confidence
- stay calm and in control of their emotions
We now realise that only the last of these capacities is fully relevant at a modern university going forward. Attendees are therefore requested to forget nearly everything they were told. Thank you for your understanding.