Universities have become bastions of managerial madness. The trends began some time ago, when money became the ultimate pursuit, and Mr Dollar became chancellor and chief. The obsession with obtaining grants, the panjandrums awarding grants, the siphoning off funds, underwriting projects, have all made the academy a sad state. Since universities now obsess about having a “marketing unit”, the idea of making education a matter of commercial viability rather than educational worth has become all important.
There is another aspect to this development. Gone are the days when academic exposure was confined, left to the irate letters to the editor section or the occasionally controversial scribble. The great academics of history also doubled up as intellectuals, revolutionaries and, as A. J. P. Taylor showed so well, teledons.
They wore many hats in the pursuit of learning, refusing to be holed up as scholar squirrels. Now, the scholar squirrels are everywhere, and more vulnerable. University establishments watch with eagle attentiveness to see that appropriate behaviour in the public eye is observed.
In such an environment, opinions must be carefully expressed. It is one thing to go through the coddling set of such a publication as The Conversation, where academics are managed by journalists through the minefield of implications an article might involve. Suggestions of slander, sauciness and political inappropriateness are culled. Bland outcomes are…