Our university has been very much a pioneer in the use of dog cuddling sessions to reduce pre‑finals stress among its undergraduate students.
However, in the wake of a new research report from Professor Nickie Charles and Dr Carol Wolkowitz of the University of Warwick, attention has turned to the demands that such work places on the admittedly broad backs of the participating dogs. In Professor Charles’ words: “There’s an approach that says that animals are just there for us to put to work. It’s time we started to think more carefully about that.”
It was with this reproof very much in mind that we asked one of our leading dog workers, 7-year-old chocolate Labrador Auslander, for his point of view.
“All things considered,” Auslander told our reporter, Keith Ponting (30), “I’m perfectly happy with most of the petting and cuddling. But I do take some exception to having my fur rubbed the wrong way and to having my head patted in a manner that hints of condescension.”
“Did the other Poppleton working dogs share these views?” asked Ponting.
“It’s difficult to say for certain,” admitted Auslander. “I do know that one former police dog has become bored by students asking to see its badge, and that a Great Dane tried to control her working conditions by operating a ‘three strokes and you’re out’ policy, but otherwise there seems to be a general acceptance that a day’s worth of being cuddled has the edge on pulling sledges.”
In response to further questions, Auslander admitted that his own background might have made him “somewhat more sensitive than some of my canine co-workers to anything that smacks of patronage”.
Footnote: Auslander holds an MA in Human Behaviour from the University College of Kenilworth.
Minding the gap
As regular readers of The Poppletonian may recall, Lancaster University recently made a major contribution to the measurement of excellence in universities by combining its own research excellence framework and teaching excellence framework ratings in such a manner as to secure itself a place as the eighth best university in the country.
But even as the university was celebrating this new-found status, a major survey into the gender pay gap in higher education found that Lancaster had the third-largest such gap in the whole of the sector, being only marginally overtaken by the London Business School and the Royal Veterinary College.
There are, however, signs that Lancaster may be contesting this finding. Leaked documents show that senior administrators have been hard at work recalculating the results and are now able to claim that if this apparent gender gap is added to Lancaster’s REF and TEF scores, multiplied by the age of the current vice-chancellor and then divided by the distance of the campus from Morecambe Bay, the actual gender gap at Lancaster turns out to be one of the lowest in the country.
A spokesperson for the university claimed that the newly calculated results were “yet another testament to the power of statistics”.