Tuesday, October 16, 2007

I'm glad I'm not at Warwick ...

... after reading a recent offering from Warwick Pro-Vice-Chancellor Susan Bassnett in the THES. She says that academics are unjustified in claiming to be overworked, insinuating that they are in fact just "whiney" and that those who work well over full time hours should "get a life" instead. Her reason for thinking this seems to be that she has managed to fit in all her work and life commitments without working long hours.

While I am glad that Professor Bassnett has had an easy and pleasant working life, her single-case induction is self-centred, crass and insulting. Clearly she has never found herself in a mismanaged department, or one with a high teaching load, or one suffering from a lack of administrative support, or one with bullies or sociopaths in positions of authority, or one with multiple problems. Lucky her. In my experience, most academics (especially those who have their eyes on a full research career, rather than aspiring to the role of Pro-Vice-Chancellor) know what it's like to be up to their eyes in it. I've been relatively lucky too, but I don't assume that therefore everyone else is making it up. Maybe she was too busy "having a life" to research her opinion piece by asking other people besides herself about their experiences. It's true that if we were to adopt the standards of argument and research exemplified in Bassnett's article, we would not need to work many hours a week to churn out a good quantity of material.

Unsurprisingly, Professor Bassnett was also opposed to the recent action to secure pay rises for academics, actively urging students not to support their lecturers by appealing to selfish motives.

Update: I have just noticed an odd passage in Bassnett's open letter (linked above), where she appears to promise that on graduation day "every student will get a degree". Maybe she endorses some rather, er, even-handed assessment methods. Such methods would not absorb too many hours a week either. The secret of how to have a low workload is out.

No comments: