I have received a rather pained letter from someone who, for reasons that will become clear, wishes to be known only as "Peter", a dean of equine hygienestudies in a non-traditional degree-awarding institution in the Brecon Beacons.
He writes: I am not by nature a reactionary man, but I have begun to wonder whether the attempt to appear on the same wavelength as our student customers can be taken too far. Last year, I was asked by our press office to deliver a lecture to prospective students and their parents in the persona of someone called "Prof Diddy": a venture that involved my wearing a leather jumpsuit and unconscionable amounts of cheap jewellery while shouting above an intrusively loud musical accompaniment. The resulting publicity (you may have seen an article, "Prof in da hood", in Horse and Jockey ) resulted, I'm told, in a fall in this year's student intake of approximately 18 per cent. Since then I have jumped out of a light aeroplane strapped to a GMTV weather girl ("It's raining Mensa", The Sunday Sport ), played five-a-side football with students on our new asphalt surfaces MSc ("Best foot forward for Dean", Welshpool Evening Mail ) and attended a graduation ceremony dressed as a horse ("Mare degree of success for local students", The Morning Advertiser ). However, when the vice-chancellor recently asked me to be the "staff lead" for the "Oi, Porky!" campaign for healthy eating, I drew the line. I will concede that I am no longer on the svelte side of statuesque, but no amount of column inches in the local press will induce me to lecture while wearing a scarlet T-shirt bearing the motto: "Cut the Gut!" Can something not be done to stop this slide into madness?
Dr Dai Llemmer replies: Madness indeed, Peter! Being rather moved by your plight, I sought guidance from acquaintances who have had similar experiences. Jackson Schwepps, a friend from Kettering Metropolitan University, suffered for years from the affliction of being strangely photogenic (go to the university's website, click on the link marked "cash cows" and navigate to the "Lifelong Learning" homepage; you can find his picture under "Meet our facilitators"). This meant that he was forever being asked to appear at student fairs and other events in a variety of inadvisable costumes. Until, that is, he hit upon the simple yet effective strategy of being just a little too ready to do his bit to show that the university was a crazy place to study. His advice to you is to consider dressing as a horse rather more often, perhaps for meetings of senate or sessions of the student disciplinary appeals committee. Why not wear your own motivational T-shirts bearing slogans such as "Learning rocks!", "Only here for the beer", or "Study elsewhere? I'd rather eat my shorts!", making sure to drift into shot whenever the vice-chancellor is being photographed with potential overseas investors? You'll be surprised how quickly your details will disappear from the press officer's "up for anything" list of frequently dialled numbers.