Our thrusting Director of Corporate Affairs, Jamie Targett, has declared that he "totally agrees" with Dr Bruce Charlton of Newcastle University, who recently argued that universities lack sufficient eccentrics and "stratospherically intelligent semi-crazies".
"Very shortly", he told our reporter, Keith Ponting (30), "we will be advertising a new post of University Eccentric. This will be open to all those with a proven record of intelligent craziness. However, in view of Dr Charlton's warning that such eccentrics can manifest 'antisocial and impulsive behaviour', the appointment will be for one year only." Targett further confirmed that the successful candidate would be housed in a purpose-built sealed office fitted with an observation gallery "so as to allow other academics to witness their eccentric behaviour".
Asked if these restrictions might inhibit the incumbent's spontaneity, Targett insisted that it was not operationally feasible "to have eccentrics running wild on campus" where they could readily jeopardise the university's hard-earned reputation as a "community of dullards".
THIS SCEPTRED POCKET
The Head of our Department of Geography for Business, Professor Arthur Winkel, has joined the debate about the appropriate name for world-class research departments in teaching-led universities.
Speaking from his Map Room, Professor Winkel denounced the decision by David Eastwood, the chief of Hefce, to change the phrase "pockets of excellence" to "islands of excellence" in order to "imbue them with a greater sense of isolation".
"This decision", he said, "is geographically illiterate." "Islands are conceptually less isolated than pockets. Very few lack connections with other islands or a proximate mainland whereas pockets have an independent existence in separate articles of clothing, such as trousers, sports jackets and overalls."
Professor Winkel's own preference was for the term "atoll", in that it captured the likelihood that Hefce's low level of appreciation for such departments of excellence might soon secure their total submersion.
WOMEN NEED PATIENCE - OFFICIAL
"One step at a time." That was the cautionary advice issued by our Vice-Chancellor when confronted with new statistics showing that female academics at Poppleton University were, on average, earning 30 per cent less than male colleagues on similar grades.
"These figures", he explained, "need to be seen in context. Until recently, female academics occupied only 7 per cent of the highest grades. That has now shot up to 9 per cent. Women who suddenly achieve these elevated positions need time to acclimatise in much the same way as climbers who move up from base camp."
Asked if his mountaineering analogy also covered those cases in which male academics pulled up the rope behind them or chose to step on the faces of following women, he declined to comment.
THOUGHT FOR THE WEEK
(contributed by Jennifer Doubleday, Head of Personal Development)
Although it's refreshing to see how many people have signed up for our course on Enjoying an Active Retirement, I'm always sorry to say "goodbye and good luck" to some of our less youthful colleagues. They're a loss to us all. As the saying has it:
There's only one way to stay looking young. Hang around with older people.
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