Monday, 15 February 2010

Climb The Montaigne Of Conflict

«Nous ne travaillons qu'à remplir la memoire, et laissons l'entendement et la conscience vuide.»
'We only labour to stuff the memory, and leave the conscience and the understanding void.'
 Michel de Montaigne

'Sounds like a plan.'
H.R. Woudhuysen


  1. Year Abroad Student27 February 2010 at 14:34

    There are quite a lot of personal attacks on the Dean on this blog (the poem/song being another good example aside from this one). Surely that's not going to help the campaign win influence with him? If anything, it simply helps him; it gives him ample reason to simply dismiss the campaign as immature and, well, offensive. This is not a US presidential election. We UCL students ought to be above that kind of intellectually-derift type of behaviour.

    Attack the process, attack the proposal. But personal attacks aren't the way things get done or people get listened to. There is a lot of good stuff on this blog, but it's message is seriously marred by the personal attacks.

  2. It has been shown this week that the Dean himself was standing in the way of a consultation extension. It is Dean who has refused a student voice on the curriculum working group. It is also the Dean who has rebuffed the ideas and questions of students without offering, even for a second, to pass them on to the Committee as a whole. He has, at every turn, stonewalled members of his own faculty instead of acting as a conduit or a place for debate. He has discredited himself and this deserves to be stated in an arena where jobs cannot be put at risk.

    While I agree that process must be the target, the current consultation process is not being treated as such - a man in questionable authority is seeking to replace it with a flat statement of intent. For this, he rightly deserves criticism.

    We have seen this week that highlighting his intransigence and ineptitude forces the hand of those in a higher position - the Provost has countermanded him, and David Price has agreed.

    Ad hominem has a place where procedure is suppressed.

  3. Year Abroad Student27 February 2010 at 19:11

    Personal attacks never work. I am extremely disappointed that the person running this blog thinks that, especially as they are presumably a student (or staff member) of UCL. It does not give me, a year abroad student, much confidence in this campaign. I'd like to think that you have our best interests at heart, and actually, I am sure that you do. But, the way you are going about it you are more likely to aid the College in cutting courses than the opposite. That makes me very sad.

    It does seem to me that this campaign has been hijacked by the radical element of student political activists, as is demonstrated in some of the campaigning by candidates in the ongoing UCLU elections. Perhaps it's a sad coincidence of timing that these elections are taking place at the same time. I understand that there are people who are going to wear t-shirts saying "UCL is killing my department". All I can say is, be careful what you wish for.

    I hope that there are also people working to counteract the threat to the language departments in a more measured, sensible and less counter-productive way somewhere. For all of our sakes.

  4. There is a difference between attacking someone on a personal level just because you don't like what they're doing and exposing the inadequacy with which they are doing it. I agree that the former is petty and does not work, but the latter is known as holding people to account and has been working for investigative journalists, satirists, lawyers and members of democracy for generations.

    The Committee and its representatives are not so apparently naive as yourself, and if they were to discard a campaign and further ignore process in response to being examined, they are aware that would be even more seriously investigated.

    Your suggestion that the campaign has been 'hijacked by the radical element of student political activists' is pure nonsense. We are composed of both moderate and radical tories, liberals, labour members, greens, socialists and every other political denomination under the sun - most of us do not have trenchant political leanings whatsoever. Our actions vary from investigation, analysis and polite discussion to democratic motions and peaceful protest. Naturally some have more radical views, but they are equal stakeholders in the department to their moderate colleagues and deserve a voice in whatever compromise is reached.

    By painting us a single contingent you reveal nothing but lazy cynicism, which is not what I have come to expect from UCL students.

  5. Year Abroad Student27 February 2010 at 19:51

    On the contrary, I am far from lazy or cynical. I wouldn't have visited this blog if I were. But, that you now turn this into an attack on me just makes me ever more sad.

    I actually wrote and sent my own letter of protest to the dean several days ago, so please don't think that I do not care about this. It's precisely because I do care about modern languages at UCL, that I am so worried that the tactics of your campaign will have the opposite consequences to those that you intend. Unlike many of the radical people supposedly campaigning on my behalf, I actually study languages at UCL! Two of them. Do not misunderstand what I am saying: I do not believe for one minute that is your deliberate intention to be counterproductive. I applaud your dedication to the cause. It is the methods that you advocate that give me cause for serious concern. Personally attacking the Dean without closely and intelligently linking it with criticism of the process/proposals, as seems often to be the case on this blog, and even more especially on the Facebook group, combined with wearing t-shirts saying "UCL is killing my department" and demonstrating in front of prospective applicants is definitely only a way to allow College to dismiss your concerns.

    Again, I do not for a moment suggest that UCL will not notice your campaign!! Far from it. But, by not engaging with them in a sensible, grown-up way, they will find it easy to dismiss it. Sadly, that don't actually have any obligation to listen to students' views (and no, I don't believe that is a good thing; but we have to fight within the confines that reality dictate). If you assault their person and put off applicants, they will dismiss you as incapable of being serious and doubtless cite that as a reason not to listen to the views of students (as they will be able to argue that we're collectively not sensible enough to be worthy of being listened to).

    Again: I am fully behind what you are arguing for. It's the methodology that gives me serious cause for concern.

  6. Well for a start, the piece on which you are commenting is a clear satire on the intention to replace focused theoretical study with generic European surface-scraping.

    The song is, as a piece in the protest-song vein, opposed to what the Dean has been proposing, not the man himself.

    I am baffled by this, honestly - I know that a supposed 90% of the population doesn't understand satire, but those who do appreciate that it does not attack the individual, but rather exposes a greater folly through its construction. It is by far the least vicious method of deconstruction.

    You must remember that this is a blog, and as such targeted at putting out news and opinion and interpreting the facts in their context(be that the Dean's mouth or the vagaries of a document). The meat of our work is currently the preparation of an alternative proposal for the Committee's consideration. If that is not productive then I don't know what you expect, but you have to accept that playing the Committee's game will only get us so far, and that a compromise is not reached by offering up defeatism.

  7. Year Abroad Student27 February 2010 at 20:21

    Well, of course, maybe I am among the 90% who don't get satire. I am willing to accept that this is the case. Although, I don't believe it to be so despite the odds. ;)

    I am certainly not advocating defeatism! Quite the opposite. I find your last paragraph somewhat reassuring and wish you every success with your alternative proposal. All I say (and now I really will sound like a scratched record, sorry) is, please be careful not to destroy the credibility of your alternative proposal by putting its reception at risk by radical actions such as those envisaged in one Facebook group.

    Positive criticism (I realise that sounds somewhat oxymoronic, but it's not, honest) is sure to work far better. If we can convince them that we students have found serious faults and present intelligent proposals on how to fix them, I am sure we'll have a far greater chance of influencing the direction of the language review.

    Once again, good luck with the alternative proposal.


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