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A modest proposal to praise the university administration unconditionally.

We, the undersigned, would like to take the opportunity to express our undying devotion to the University of Melbourne. In particular, we would like to attest to our unshakable faith in the Wisdom, Courage and Unfaltering Justice of the current University Administration.

With the recent demotion of Dr Paul Rees, our hitherto flaccid esteem is now, in accordance with the Melbourne model's motto, fully tumescent. Ignoring the opinions of professional trouble-makers (I name the unfortunate Robert Pascoe, the doyen of some provincial university of which no one worth mentioning has ever heard), we, the postgraduates of the University of Melbourne (an Internationally prestigious institution), take the demotion of Rees as a sign of good things to come: namely, the great, long-awaited step to complete control of academic life by university bureaucracy.

By offering his own thoughts on matters pertaining to government policy without first consulting the University, Rees displayed Independent Thought, an aberration which, as the world knows, has no place at the University of Melbourne. Some of us have come across this Independent Thought before. We know it, if you will allow us our post-graduate idioms, as the Adversary, as the Bringer of Discord. It is the Force that Obstructs Innovation, the Spectre that makes us Look to the Past instead of the Future(tm). With it, esteem is diminished. Independent Thought corrodes. We would not be surprised to find that it kills.

We have heard, of course, of a time--forgotten by most save a few superannuated greybeards--when Independent Thought was rife within the University. But we have never ourselves seen such a state of affairs, and it strains our Imaginations to think about this. Testimony to the implausibility of this historical hypothesis: how would these alleged students and academics of the past have managed to survive academic life if they were constantly distracted by such a chimera? How would they have filled in their enormous grant applications? Were their performance reviews and self-assessments done by magic? How could a young academic know, or be attentive to, which positive-sounding buzzwords should be juxtaposed with which others, if she were constantly allowing her Mind to meander into the thickets of arbitrariness? How could she pre-empt, in thinking about what she should write, what her given University Administration wanted her to think? Crippled and corrupted by Independent Thought, even the juxtaposition of positive buzzwords (Creative, Innovative, Future-Oriented, Concern for the Other) starts to sound less like the bread and butter of university life and more like a cottage cheese of pleonasms spread over the insubstantial rice-cracker of vacuity!

Frankly, we are sceptical about the existence of these past generations. They are doubtless a ploy by revisionist historians like the aforesaid Professor Pascoe. But, if they did exist, we would like to join our administrators in denouncing them. In particular, we would like to denounce those heresiarchs in the media and Outside World who occasionally suggest that some of the things we most want to promote, for instance Innovation(tm), are in some ineffable way linked to the aforementioned Independent Thought and its attendant carcinogens. This is, we would like to state categorically, the worst lie ever told by anyone. Everyone knows that Innovation[TM] comes from Committees to Promote Innovation (CPI). It comes from special study groups on Innovation Promotion (IP) and from Programs to Foster Innovation (PFI). It is not a plant that grows in any other soil and saying otherwise (to change metaphors) is like saying that babies come from storks.

Having denounced this heresy we would like, in conclusion, to make a few suggestions. To spare the University the tiresome chore of demoting more academic staff we demand that more bureaucrats be appointed immediately to investigate these twin tumours of Independent Thought and Academic Freedom. Who knows: perhaps Professor Rees isn't Working Alone. The first step, we think, would be to immediately spend a few million dollars hiring consultants to deal with this issue. We suggest that they work in conjunction with our two new offices: the Office of Esteem Generation and Innovation Protection. With the aforesaid synergy established [sic], we should immediately set these consultants to work in a restructure of the University to completely purge it of Independent Thought.

Apart from sacking staff (especially the dead-weight academic staff of the Faculty of Arts), this should largely consist of creating an illusion of perpetual movement. The best way to do this is by sending out a flurry of emails suggesting that 'something is going to happen', and then changing the names of things constantly and moving furniture about with a simulacra of intent. In the chaos that follows, Independent Thought (henceforth 'the bad, as opposed to the good, IT') will be confounded.

May the Administration succeed in all its struggles!

Devotedly, B. C. PhD candidate, Department of WAG (Whatever Academic Ghetto will have been created by the time you have read this).
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Title Annotation:LETTERS
Author:Roberts, Lois
Publication:Arena Magazine
Article Type:Letter to the editor
Date:Aug 1, 2008
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