Skulking around in the altogether

July 27, 2007

Name : Paul Mason

Age : 38

Job : Senior lecturer/director of postgraduate research, School of Journalism, Media and Cultural Studies, Cardiff University.

Salary : We'd still be on strike if I had my way.

Practical training/education/ background : I've been tucked up under the academic duvet since doing my law degree at Southampton University. I started off in law, then criminology and now work in a journalism and media school, but crime and (in)justice is my love. My research is centred on prisons, crime and media. I also coordinate an Innocence Project that works to overturn miscarriages of justice.

Working hours and conditions : I think I've cracked the work/life balance thing now, but the guilt over the five books I've yet to write is never far away.

Number of students you teach/staff you manage/work with : I've been let loose to show off on a big first-year module (250 students) plus smaller modules (50 students) at undergraduate level. I run the PhD programme, which is about 50 students.

Biggest challenge/bugbear this year : The research assessment exercise. This is a useless divisive reduction of academia that merely encourages less and less public engagement and departmental citizenship.

How did you solve it? I haven't really. Publishing and talking outside academic circles, getting involved in activist groups certainly helps. And trying not to get too sanctimonious about it.

Worst moment in university life : A few dodgy seminars in my days as a postgraduate teaching assistant but nothing much beyond that.

What university facilities do you use? I skulk around early morning in the university gym, and when I take a shower after a bike ride, I am paranoid one of my students will see me naked.

Do you socialise with people at the university? A few, but I prefer to keep work and play separate really.

Who are the most difficult people you deal with professionally and how do you cope with them? Career-obsessed academics. In my dreams I slaughter them with cutting Wildean prose. In reality I talk about them behind their backs and smile at them at conferences.

Do you interact much with other departments? Yes, I wander about between my school, law and criminology looking for a home. I like the flexibility of interdisciplinarity - it keeps you on your toes.

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