Friday, 28 May 2010

"I'm Spartacus"

The latest developments at Middlesex are glorious. In an effort to help management identify and prosecute those "guilty" of occupying the campus buildings, the students and staff have usefully supplied names and photos.

More power to you, I wasn't with you, but there is a part of me that wants to subvert this managerial desire to identify and prosecute.

[Addendum: not wishing to undermine the achievements of those who did occupy Middlesex, but if every student and member of staff at Middlesex held one of these placards, well then management could happily suspend/crucify everyone for daring to question the rule of Rome ... hmmm, sorry, I'd better drop this analogy. Anyway, if they suspended all their students and staff there would be no more possibility of dissent and they could just sit back and collect all that RAE money for the next three years]

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Middlesex Madness Continues

The insanity at Middlesex continues with several Philosophy staff and students now being suspended from the university. Leiter and others have commented on how such treatment, given these particular circumstances, would be met with civil lawsuits in the US. The question then asked is whether this could work in the UK?

Usefully, this is precisely the point at which the neo-liberal, economic model of Higher Education can be subverted and potentially 'comes a cropper'. Increasingly students are referred to as consumers and, as anyone who watches prime time evening television knows, consumers have rights. As educators we may frequently despair at the managerialism that treats the student qua consumer as always right, rendering curriculum design and delivery as a kind of popularity contest meets entertainment exercise. But the thing that management fears is the students who take their complaints and dissatisfaction as consumers in a legal direction. The safety net is that the UK doesn't, as yet, possess quite the culture of complaint that is embedded in the US, plus UK students tend, and I emphasize tend, to be politically and socially demotivated to do this. That said, we do have a National Union of Students and they can potentially be remarkably helpful and empowering to students. I hope that the battle soon shifts to a level that the governors and management at Middlesex can understand.

As a corollary to the last point, while the international academic condemnation of the decisions at Middlesex has been heart warming, I have a certain pessimism about the management's engagement with that condemnation. Namely, the management has already revealed itself to have decoupled itself from the values of scholarly debate and the research ethos of a university. I would strongly suspect that the management worldview of Middlesex is now almost entirely incommensuable with that of the academics who have written letters of regret and complaint. One can imagine management saying 'Who is this Zizek or this Nussbaum anyway?' before consigning their letters to a folder to count simply as two more letters amongst many. The qualitative content of these letters is unlikely to matter. One may easily view management as a paradigmatic withdrawn object here. The causes and relations that will likely connect to it are, sadly, legal and economic ones, and even they are unlikely to touch the qualities of a university that matter most to us.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Not-shocking at all

Graham Harman makes a point about the most shocking feature of the events of the Middlesex closure, namely the RAE money earned by Philosophy continuing to accrue and benefit the university for many years to come.

I suspect that many who are familiar with British HE and the distribution of RAE funds internally within universities do not find this shocking at all. Capitalist realist business as usual.