Poet joins professor in criticising University of Essex

Glyn Maxwell, whose departure follows Marina Warner’s exit, claims the importance of high-profile academics is ‘lost’ on Essex

October 9, 2014

Source: Getty

Open letter: Glyn Maxwell left Essex after being told to reapply for his post

A respected poet and playwright has become the second departing University of Essex literary scholar to criticise the institution this year.

Glyn Maxwell, whose nine volumes of poetry include Hide Now and Pluto, has left the university after three years as a part-time lecturer in creative writing.

It follows the departure of Marina Warner, until recently professor of literature, film and theatre studies, who in September criticised the way the university is managed.

Mr Maxwell told Times Higher Education that earlier this year, he had been offered a full-time position for which he had not applied and did not want. He said he was told that to continue in his existing position, which would be “ring-fenced” for him, he would need to reapply and have an interview.

However, 48 hours before his interview, Mr Maxwell said the date was changed to a time that clashed with a prior commitment and he was told that if he failed to attend, his post would be advertised nationally.

In an open letter to Lorna Fox O’Mahony, executive dean of the Faculty of Humanities, Mr Maxwell said he had decided that “enough was enough”. He also claimed that under Professor Fox O’Mahony, the department of literature, film and theatre studies had lost a number of research “stars” and “declined to reappoint a Nobel Laureate” – a reference to the departure of poet Derek Walcott as visiting professor at the end of his contract.

Another letter, sent by Anthony Forster, the vice-chancellor, to Professor Walcott, exposes “manifestations of ignorance and incompetence” in the university’s administration, Mr Maxwell told THE.

In the letter, Professor Forster, a former army officer, says that “having a Noble [sic] Laureate on campus” had been a privilege for staff, students and the local community.

“Perhaps the ex-military v-c touchingly thought the Nobel prizes came with a sort of chivalric moral sheen,” Mr Maxwell said. “It seems to me that the importance of a Walcott or a Warner to the students, the department, the very life of the place, is dismally lost on the administration at Essex.”

A spokeswoman for the university said: “While we cannot comment on individual contracts, we continue to work closely with academic colleagues in literature, film and theatre studies to ensure we place student benefit at the heart of all we do.

“This includes consulting with staff about how our leading researchers contribute to the student experience by embedding research at the heart of the curriculum, so that we can achieve our ambitious programme of excellence in both education and research.”

chris.parr@tesglobal.com

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Enough sinecures now

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