Tuesday, April 20, 2010

An old colleague of mine, a drama specialist, was asked a while ago to teach English literature.
She responded by saying that English literature was a different academic discipline, and one that she was not qualified to teach.
Just as you would not reasonably expect a physics lecturer to teach undergraduate courses in chemistry.
She was dismissed; and because I was still at the time a functioning professor, i wrote a letter in her support.
She took her case to an employment tribunal; and, after months and months, the judgement has just come out against her.
"The outcome document is lengthy and complex; but – in a nutshell – the view of the tribunal was that it was reasonable for a university to require that a lecturer in Theatre Studies teach (with no HE qualifications in the subject) English Literature courses; and a refusal to undertake such teaching amounted to misconduct, punishable by dismissal."
She writes, with a very characteristic and elegant use of academic understatement: "As you can imagine, this outcome is deeply disturbing for me, both personally and professionally; and the implications for our subject discipline and, more widely, for academic standards in HE in general, are – I think - serious."
As the social crisis deepens, it confirms my sense that a lock down of academic freedom of thought is going hand in hand with the curtailment of more and more of our freedoms.
That happen by stealth.
The Institute where I work (IASH) feels like such a haven from this brutal academic world. I am so grateful for it.
While it lasts.

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