Ask Jeremy! 2
As a stressed-out member of UCL staff, I find that 20mg of Prozac in the morning and 500ml of Super Strength lager in the evening helps keep me going. Do you think this is a good "coping strategy"? Should I increase the dosages?
Professor Will Burnout, Consultant Counsellor to UCL Consultant Staff Counsellors
Jeremy's reply: I most strongly advise you to restrict yourself to ratiocination. I cannot condone any mode of behaviour or character, amongst those involved in the noble campaign against the proposals to dissolve University College in a temple to Academic Mammon, which is not founded in Reason.
I read with interest this morning that the people of Gibraltar have voted on the issue of shared sovereignty between the British and Spanish governments, with 99% voting against. However, the power-brokers in the British and Spanish governments have decided to completely ignore them, and seem to be pressing ahead with this "merger" anyway, even though it would clearly be unacceptable to the people that would be affected by it. I wonder if this sounds at all familiar to our own little situation, and whether there can be any hope for the opinions of the "stakeholders" that really count - the staff and students. Any comments?
I have ever retained a respect and admiration for, and a commanding belief in, the British spirit of fair play and consideration. I should be dismayed indeed to find that, at this grave moment, the minds of the University College Council were so closed as to feel that they could override the spontaneous assertion of the will for independence and freedom which I note to be daily gathering in force amongst staff and students at the College. Were they to succumb to I know not what inducements to cast their votes in any other way but clear and forthright opposition to a merger, they should brand themselves and their memories with an infamy unparalleled in the history of British universities. I cannot conceive that those noble souls, in whose hands the fate of our magnificent institution will be placed, can do otherwise than acknowledge the almost unanimous will of those who work and study therein to remain a strong, proud and influential pillar of British academe.
A mergerista writes:
Hi Jeremy, I have 4 short questions.
1. Being dedicated to the pursuit of intellectual excellence, do you care if departments accepting BCC at A level are chopped?
2. Don't you agree that the merged institution will have a strong international brand image, making the university and its graduates more marketable abroad?
3. Is it a good idea to make the many filthy rich, public school Oxbridge rejects UCL attracts contribute towards their education, whilst continuing to charge nothing to those who can't afford it ?
4. As the (alleged) 'founder' of the University of London, do you despise the divisive 'splitters' who've created this collegiate monster, and do you welcome the recent efforts to bring it a step closer to your founding vision - a single, undivided University of London?
Hope to hear from you !
'Don't Save UCL'
I am ever mindful of Proverbs, ch. 13 v.12, and should not wish even my opponents to languish for want of my response; I therefore rush to present my opinions on the questions you advance. Might I however commence by disabusing you as regards my status; I have never claimed to be, nor anywhere on this site am I alleged to be, a 'founder' of the University of London (as UCL was originally known), much as I should have prized the honour. True, the editor has described me as a 'spiritual founder', and to the extent that my writings and opinions imbued the ethos of those who laboured to initiate, develop and continue the work of the College - all of which effort is threatened by the present controversy - I believe I may reflect to myself with content on my small contribution.
I will address myself to your queries in the order you have written them:
1. It is my undertanding that the meaning and virtue of the examinations commonly known as 'A-Levels' have been so seriously called into question recently that I am bewildered to understand to what extent they may represent any sort of guide. If I understand your sense accurately, you would seem to have some advance information of departments which would be closed following a merger - I should be indeed interested in learning precisely which these are. It seems to me extraordinary to suggest that the criterion for the survival of any departments might be based on the stringency of their own criteria for admission. If you would care to enlarge on any logic that such a rule might sustain, I should be pleased to consider it in more detail. The assessment of the value of a department should surely include, as its major factor, a consideration of the knowledge it generates and is able to instruct. But perhaps we do not share the same sense of values.
2. Apart from adapting the disturbing habit of Messrs. Roberts and Sykes of referring to the activities of institutes of learning as if they were Public Limited Liability Companies, you seem to have succumbed to the error, which I have noticed is common amongst the young (and, indeed, the older but inadequate), that quality is a function of size. I need I hope only refer to you for consideration the Massachussets Institute of Technology in the Americas, which is smaller than Imperial College and yet has no difficulty in sustaining its name and its reputation through the excellence of its output. Both Imperial College and University College already rank as amongst the most highly evaluated research institutions in the United Kingdom and indeed in the world at large, and no-one has explained why they should need to merge to retain this status, or how merging might improve it. Moreover, neither institution has the slightest problem in attracting overseas students, and therefore the exercise of the modern practise of 'marketing' would seem to be superfluous - as well as contravening the spririt of your next question, which is, as I take it, about the need to provide university places for the poor but worthy of our own community.
3. This question concerns 'top-up fees' which is a separate, if parallel, issue to that of the merger. Your very crude analysis indicates that you have not taken on board the true implications of this stratagem. I will only point out to you that, given that it is the financial stringency of government, and strict limitation of the budget which it is prepared to apply to tertiary education, which has precipitated the bid to attract income by way of student fees, no source has been identified which would fund the endowments necessary to enable those without money to attend and obtain a degree. The outcome would therefore in fact be, to make university education a preserve of the rich, which I am able in no way to condone - and which you, too, seem to oppose, so far as I am able to comprehend your mode of expression.
4. The 'splitters' are those who propose this unnecessary merger. Whatever the outcome of the present controversy, the academics who are the engine of the progress and reputation of University College will have been riven by factions which will need a sensitive and diplomatic leadership to mend and heal. No such leadership appears to be presently available from the present, interim, Provost. Let us hope that the College Council will make the correct decision to oppose the merger, and that the hour will bring forth the man.
I am applying this year to study at UCL, and was greatly anticipating studying at UCL (if I get in that is) until I heard about the merger. It has now raised doubts as to whether I should go to UCL if there's the possibility that by the time I get there, it will have already become part of Imperial.
One of the greatest reasons I chose UCL was due to its wide diversity and historical acceptance. But now the principles of UCL are under threat if Richard Sykes gains control.
What should I do Jeremy?
Jeremy replies: I heartily commend your discretion and enthusiasm in applying to University College London. Would that all those associated with the College (and not only the vast majority) shared your discrimination and dedication to its principles! My strong advice is that you should proceed with your application, for our opponents in this battle are already 'beginning to blink', as I believe contemporary jargon might express it. The roster of distinguished academics opposed to a merger, as reported by our colleagues, grows daily and includes some of this country's most distinguished scientists, jurists and men of letters. In Parliament restlessness has already deferred any commendation of 'top-up fees', the financial consequences of which might have played a major part in advocacy of a merger, and the University of Cambridge, (in opposition to whose exclusivness our college was founded), has now ranged itself on the side of the angels by coming out strongly against such mulcting of students. Whilst it would be forward indeed to claim that the wind is in our direction, yet we may discern the breeze which will lead us to victory and the continuing independence of our great institution. Apply, therefore, my dear Sir, and let me wish you the greatest of good fortune .
GOD, together with HMQ, says:
"Well done, my good and faithful servant. Is there anything in the Charter and Statutes which requires that the new Provost has to be a living person? - If not, may we suggest that, as you have proved yourself worthy as a vessel (or icon) of the ethos of UCL, you should be considered for this post."
Dr Tiny Farmer asks:
"When's the party?"
Nostradamus reminds us:
"The future is not pre-ordained - not all things that I have seen in my visions will come to pass - indeed, by the free-will of the free-thinking Friends of Jeremy Bentham the course of history has been changed and a disaster averted."
Professor Will Burnout asks:
'In the light of this most cheering news, would you recommend I stop my 500ml daily doses of Super Strength lager ... and, just for a few days at least, switch to Champagne?"
Major Contributor commands:
"Let us now vow to 'Shape the Future"
Jeremy replies: We should all be proud to have done something truly USEFUL