I noticed visits to this blog from DailyNous “Serious Cuts and Stark Choices at Aberdeen“. I asked whether the former Science & Engineering Vice Principal at Queen Mary, Jeremy Kilburn, was repeating one of his destructive assaults against colleagues? At Queen Mary he convinced academics to strike; an act he repeated at the University of Aberdeen. Unfortunately, according to the BBC, it looks like Kilburn continues to call for academic sackings. I wish he fails and faces instead the sack himself.
“Staff and students at the University of Aberdeen, call for fundamental reform of the principles, ethos and organisation of our university, in order (1) that it should be restored to the community to which it belongs and (2) that it can fulfil its civic purpose in a manner appropriate to our times, in the defence of democracy, peaceful coexistence and human flourishing.” You can read their full manifesto here. For me these colleagues represent the University of Aberdeen, whereas Jeremy Kilburn and Ian Diamond represent a huge liability to the institution.
The stakes are high because civilisation depends on knowledge and education and these can only prosper with academic freedom, which is why academic working conditions are protected by a UNESCO treaty, continuously violated in the UK.
If the UK continues to allow managers to build their personal fortunes over the violent ending (see here, here, here, here and here) of the academics’ ability to research & teach, soon the UK university will be synonymous to the Tribunal of the Holy Office of the Inquisition estbalished in the fifteen hundreds in Castile. There is no intended exaggeration in my claim; the fact that the same individual is permitted to wreck institution after institution is evidence of the seriousness of the situation.
photo taken from this post on the Carthusian martyrs
My commentary focuses on actors I know personally, from whom I draw a further example. I was puzzled why the University of Hong Kong would ever hire as Dean of Faculty of Science one of Science’s proven enemies. For you cannot be a friend of science when you have risen the ranks shutting down a Chemistry department or chasing away half of the staff of the Department you joined later as its… “head”. Neither being dishonest about your own publication record helps. It is also very poor to be seen as “rigging assessment thresholds” to target individuals or to breach contract and unfairly dismiss a reputable scientist. Does Hong Kong reward brutal unlawfulness?
But then, I learn that the Vice-Chancellor at the University of Hong Kong is a compatriot of Evans; so there may be a more worrisom trend of failed managers trading on the reputations of the institutions they ruin in order to move elsewhere and produce ‘more of the same’. Why did Peter Mathieson hire Matthew Evans? It certainly was not an appointment compatible with Mathieson’s recent HeForShe initiative (not only because Evans’ gender but also because of Evans’ own record on gender equality). Neither did Evans ever paternilize student protesters (as Mathieson claimed); quite on the contrary students opposed him, again and again and again. Evans’ record was ridiculed by outsiders and insiders equally. I do not hold my breath for news from Hong Kong. Colleagues there can only look at what is happening to the University of Aberdeen and prepare accordingly.
To close this post, I remind of the third of the team that destroyed the School I joined in 2007. I wrote about him recently, so I spare further comments here. Simon Gaskell, the Principal of Queen Mary, and his Senior Executive, are now all gone. But have they ruined the College for good? We will be in position to know pretty soon. In any case, institutions that defend freedom of inquiry and thought will prosper; those who stiffle these freedoms will rotten and disappear. It is only a matter of time and human willingness to stand up to tyranny.