I realised somewhat later that I had been drawn into a ‘debate’. Now the British love debate just about as much as they fancy baked beans (QI fact: 'Britons eat 97% of the world's baked beans'). It’s cultural and we foreigners just have to get used to it if we are going to live and work here.
On the other hand, this was a mistake on my part. It was a blunder because my position is one of congeniality and co-operation, not confrontation. Not even trying to win the point. What’s the point?
In a nutshell, the whole ‘conversation’ or debate was about our time and energies being micro-managed, knee-jerk responses to management’s change for the sake of change and how these changes are ‘sprung upon us’ with little or no input from us in the first place. There is a lot of politics involved in this: positioning to solidify positions. It reflects a warped sense of what management is about in the first place. In the end, it is mostly about people doing whatever is necessary to pay their mortgages. This makes me very sad because any integrity goes completely out of the window-- abandoned in a smug and self-congratulatory way. Congratulations for having a survival instinct.
After this to and fro by e-mail, I needed to calm down. I was hurt and disappointed and even somewhat insulted that no one seemed interested in hearing my position on these changes. I even felt somewhat scorned for having a position or response in the first place. The silence from most was deadening (some did come to me privately the following day to congratulate me and quietly voice their approval).
Later that evening, I decided to tune into Donald Macleod’s Radio 3 Composer of the Week programme to calm myself down. This week it happens to be Chopin. Macleod has presented some wonderful programmes in this series (his week on Astor Piazzolla, the king of the tango, was amazing for its depth-of-knowledge and variety). He also presents somewhat obscure composers as well and they are a real education for me.
Macleod began by recounting the period when Georges Sand convinced Chopin to spend a winter in a run-down monastery on
The radio programme proceeded with some of Chopin’s Mazurkas. I began to fall into a dream-like sleep (I would say I was having another Keanu Reeves-like narcoleptic episode, but my GP says this is impossible). I began to wonder what it would be like if the University hired Chopin to compose music, but then asked him to give piano lessons.
This is the situation I am in. It is not that I would not like to impart my wisdom to freshers, but I think that my energies are better spent doing the job that I was hired to do: secure the funding to produce cutting-edge internationally important research. I write about it, make films and videos about it and it is shared in a very democratic way with all through the Internet. I have been doing this for some time now. My work is easily available to any student who wishes to access it. This very blog is a tangential and free-form educational tool. I have made commitments to write two books for publication which should benefit students for some time to come. My door is always open and I am available by e-mail at least 12 hours daily. I am willing to chat with anyone about my work or theirs.
I just do not have the time or the energy to commit to ‘teaching slots’ for undergraduates en mass who most likely are not up to speed and not yet very interested in the specific field in which I plough. This job is better reserved for those with subject expertise and experience as teachers at undergrad level.
A portion of my time (40%) is committed through external funding to leading a research project. I supervise PhD and Masters students, which is also time-consuming. The remainder of my time is devoted to making my contribution to the Centre for Qualitative Research and its activities and working across boundaries with The Media School. Enough is enough.
I am in the business of doing what I do best. This is as much as I can do.
‘But your no Chopin’, you might say? Oh, yes, I am.