Demure frocks and hygienic gin

January 27, 2006

Name: Sally Fincher

Age: Don't we all?

Job: Senior lecturer, computing laboratory, Kent University.

Salary: Barely sufficient for my extravagant lifestyle.

Practical training: The "merit" I achieved on the food health and hygiene course means that you may safely accept a gin and tonic at my house without undue fear of poisoning.

Working hours and conditions/do you work flexibly? I work from 9 to 5, Monday to Friday. Then, in common with many colleagues, I work flexibly from 6 to 10 in the evenings and during the weekends.

Number of students you teach/staff you work with: With students, it's not the number I teach, but how many learn; with research colleagues it's not the quantity, but the number of time zones they cover.

Biggest challenge this year: The National Teaching Fellowship award dinner.

How you solved it: High-necked frock, low-heeled shoes, no heavy drinking until after the presentation.

Worst moment in university life: The depressing regularity with which funding bodies reject interdisciplinary bids because the subject, design or methodology isn't what they expect.

Do you socialise with people at the university? Well, I have a child with one of them - but that's more a matter of opportunity than eugenics. Canterbury's a small town.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally and how do you cope with them? "Difficult" is a relative concept. At Kent University, where (with apologies to Garrison Keillor) all the research is international, all the teaching excellent and all the students above average, coping skills mostly involve nursing an inferiority complex.

Best excuses for bad behaviour you have heard: 1. The Principle of Dangerous Precedent: "Every public action that is not customary either is wrong or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time." 2. The Principle of Unripe Time: "People should not do at the present moment what they think right at that moment, because the moment at which they think it right has not yet arrived." See: F. M. Cornford, Microcosmographia Academica: Being a Guide for the Young Academic Politician , 1908.

Do you interact much with other parts of the university/ other departments? As I said, it's a small town.

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