Cardiff University forced to hold fire on Griff Rhys Jones

‘Indignant’ academics block comic’s ‘preordained’ appointment as the university’s chancellor

April 17, 2014

Source: Cardiff University

No laughing matter: Cardiff’s court refused to ratify Griff Rhys Jones’ selection

There is now no chance of Griff Rhys Jones becoming chancellor of Cardiff University because of “indignation” among academics over the handling of the process, according to one of the objectors to his appointment.

Cardiff was forced last week to “delay” the appointment after the university court refused to ratify his selection by the council – despite the fact that the institution had already distributed press photos of Mr Rhys Jones wearing the chancellor’s robes.

Cardiff issued an embargoed press release on 8 April announcing his “election” as chancellor, two days before the court met to discuss the issue. Brian Ford, a tutor in the University of Cambridge’s Institute of Continuing Education who is a fellow and member of court at Cardiff, said he spoke up because the proposal had been presented as a fait accompli. The council had not indicated that the current chancellor, the Nobel prizewinning scientist Sir Martin Evans, was eligible for reappointment, he said.

The vice-chancellor’s office seemed to have “just decided Griff Rhys Jones was a good bloke”, Professor Ford said. There was therefore an “enormous sense of hostility” in the court to the proposal, which was sent back to council for “reconsideration”. Professor Ford said he understood that Sir Martin had also expressed his concerns.

Speaking generally, Professor Ford said that university courts – which usually represent academics – were increasingly fighting back against decisions they thought ill-considered. University councils, he said, used to be made up of “wise, grey-haired women” and “bald-headed men with a paunch” who were trusted by academics. But they were now run by “barrow boys”, and so courts – made up of “older and wiser” people – felt it “incumbent” on them to scrutinise council decisions.

Had the process been handled “honestly”, the court may well have agreed to Mr Rhys Jones’ appointment, Professor Ford added, but there was now “such a sense of indignation” that it would block the move. Whoever was responsible for presenting the issue to court in such a “predetermined” way was “unfit to remain in office”, he said.

While he questioned replacing a “very eminent scientist with a comic”, he stressed that the court had objected primarily to the university’s approach, so the decision was not meant as a “slight” on Mr Rhys Jones.

He added that he liked Mr Rhys Jones on the ITV show It’ll Be Alright on the Night, a compilation of TV bloopers, and suggested that the programme was an apt metaphor for the Cardiff debacle.

A Cardiff spokesman said the university could not comment until council had reconsidered the matter.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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Reader's comments (1)

'Wise grey haired women' and 'bald men with a paunch' ? Which century is this guy from? I'm a Cardiff alum and if that's a reflection of the Court's views, then poor, old Cardiff.

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