Thought control: new evidence

October 13, 2011

Alarming allegations of "impact rigging" have been prompted by the revelation that Gordon Lapping's recent address to the Poppleton branch of the Royal Antediluvian Order of Buffalos on "Epistemic essentialism in regional television news bulletins" had received an impact score of more than 95 per cent.

However, Professor Lapping, Head of our Department of Media and Cultural Studies, hit back by pointing out that he had scrupulously followed the suggestion by Ann Dowling, Head of the Department of Engineering at Cambridge and chair of one of the main REF panels, that the "impact" of such outreach events should be measured by questionnaire evidence that they had changed the audience's thinking.

Lapping pointed to results showing that more than 95 per cent of his Buffalo audience had responded affirmatively to the question: "Has this lecture made you even more dissatisfied than you were before with the insights provided by practitioners of media studies?"

He did not feel that this finding was in any way vitiated by the news that a large section of the audience had left during his presentation. "In some ways," he insisted, "this is further evidence of impact thought change in that those who left initially thought they wanted to hear me speak and then as a result of that experience completely changed their minds."

(Professor Lapping's retirement is long overdue.)

Come up and see my ruins

Our Head of Archaeology, Leonora Pullover, has given her "full support" to the recent claim by Marilyn Palmer, emeritus professor of industrial archaeology at the University of Leicester, that "archaeology departments have been slow in taking on and teaching post-medieval and modern archaeology".

Dr Pullover said she particularly sympathised with Professor Palmer's view that this "slowness" had led to the academic neglect of Britain's great industrial heritage: its local canals, factories, docks and mills. However, she believed that the critique might have been extended to also lament the failure of contemporary archaeology to pay attention to Britain's higher education heritage. This had been one of our country's major contributions to civilisation, she argued, but now all around us lies evidence of its demise: crumbling academics, rotting principles, decomposing ethics and mildewed integrity.

"Unless we act now," said Dr Pullover, "in a few years even these valuable reminders of our higher education heritage will lie buried beneath thick layers of managerial verbiage and political expediency."

(Dr Pullover's retirement is long overdue.)

God only knows

"Very, very dangerous." That was the immediate reaction of Jamie Targett, our Director of Corporate Affairs, to the news that our ecumenical chaplain, Georgina Spandrel, was one of the signatories to a letter from 40 university chaplains criticising the government's White Paper for omitting any consideration of "the wider and more fundamental aims for higher education".

Targett said that this was an unfortunate example of people who knew nothing about the prioritising of strategic objectives "stepping beyond their area of expertise". Although prepared to acknowledge the importance of religion, he believed that God's operational significance over time had been seriously undermined by an inability to think "outside the box".

Thought for the Week

(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)

"Whatever hits the fan will not be distributed evenly."

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