THE Scholarly Web - Fear itself

Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere

April 25, 2013

When Times Higher Education covered the goings-on in the depths of Romania’s Movile Cave - complete with references to the strange creepy-crawlies that inhabit its sun-deprived environment - it was only natural that our readers started to talk about their phobias.

We used our Twitter account to try to bring those phobias a bit closer to home by asking readers to share their higher education-specific fears. The responses to our #HEphobia call were many and varied.

Alice White (@HistorianAlice), a PhD student at the University of Kent, struck a chord with many of her peers by declaring her fear that “this isn’t writer’s block, but actually I’ve just peaked and am incapable of ever finishing this chapter”.

Fellow doctoral student Linda Asquith (@VaiBabe), completing a PhD at the University of Leeds on the subject of genocide, was less worried about finishing her work but more concerned that as soon as she gets her degree and has “a couple of publications, there will be something else I need to do in order to get a job”.

Ian Giles (@iggiles), emeritus fellow in the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Southampton, expressed a rather more quotidian fear. “PowerPoint,” he tweeted. No doubt his use (or misuse) of the Microsoft presentation software would not go unnoticed by Tom Buckley (@bigbadbuckley), course developer (technologist) at the University of the West of England, who wrote that his #HEphobia is “people using learning technology poorly then blaming the technology”.

Anna Notaro (@notanna1), programme leader in contemporary media theory at the Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design, University of Dundee, expressed several fears, including “academics turning themselves into grant writing molochs” and “the futility of the endless ‘meetings’”.

Mark Murphy (@socialtheoryapp), reader in the School of Education at the University of Glasgow, has struggled to cope with students turning up to seminars in their pyjamas.

“It’s wrong on pretty much every level imaginable,” he tweeted.

“What about onesies? Are they acceptable?” responded David Edmundson-Bird (@groovegenerator), principal lecturer in digital marketing communications and enterprise at Manchester Metropolitan University, before adding: “I have to see it every day. Send trauma counsellor.”

Meanwhile, “students who say they couldn’t submit their coursework because their nan died or mum has cancer - [when] it isn’t true” was the #HEphobia of Andrea Werner (@drandreawerner), senior lecturer in management at Middlesex University.

Deirdre O’Donovan (@deirdre_od2012), PhD researcher and part-time lecturer at the Cork Institute of Technology, pointed in horror to “text speak in exam scripts”.

However, it was perhaps the phobia expressed by Phillip Cole (@phillcole40), visiting professor of applied philosophy at the University of South Wales, that struck fear into the hearts of most people following the discussion: “the ‘coffee’ supplied in committee meetings”.

“I need it but know I’ll regret it,” he tweeted.

Send links to topical, insightful and quirky online comment by and about academics to chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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