Forget the Footnotes

Comments on my Open Day Speech

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Faculty and students are slowly assembling for the new term which officially begins tomorrow. I’ve started to receive feed-back on my Open Day speech. In fact, there’s been something like 2800 hits on this site in the last week alone and the speech itself has been read by some 212 people. I’ve never had my stuff read by so many people during 20 years of writing academic books and articles! I’m such a sucker for attention.

Faculty members — 5 comments so far — don’t deny the truth of what I said but they also, unanimously, emphasise that they never would speak that way. It is not quite clear why. It seems the problem is that some of the things I said, even if true, might reflect badly on the School. ‘I totally disagree with your statement that faculty mainly care about their own research,’ said one colleague, ‘but I’m away on a conference right now and I don’t have time to comment in detail.’ Mainly however my colleagues seem to think I was foolish not to follow orders. Why make trouble for yourself?

Students liked the speech a lot more: ‘too true’; ‘great to hear an academic give an honest account of the student experience’; ‘too often universities are mis-sold and students end up going to the wrong place,’ etc. Many also insist that a balanced account is more likely to recruit students — ‘We aren’t stupid, you know!’ — and that the LSE, just because it is such a great university, easily can afford the luxury of discussing its undergrad programme in a realistic manner.

Some students, however, think that I shouldn’t have said particular things:

  • ‘are accountants really the proletariat of global capitalism?’ My father is an accountant!
  • ‘is the English class system really perpetuated by universities like the LSE?’ My family always voted Labour!
  • ‘why talk about the repressive regime in China? A lot of students come from there after all!’
  • I should have mentioned that ‘a lot of learning takes place outside the classroom and that students benefit from having a lot of intelligent faculty around.’ That’s a good point. I should have mentioned that.

I’d be very interested to hear more comments. In particular critical ones that point out mistakes in what I said. You can click on the ‘comment’ link below.


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