Sep 282011

Shit floats

Anglophone university presidents are a curious lot—if you get one who is not a financial or sexual criminal, you are beating the odds.

Allan Gilbert, the late, unlamented “President” of the University of Manchester and the sort of market fundamentalist you are talking about (“Lee Todd was an idiot,” August 24), managed to screw up two large universities on different continents one after the other. His creature, the completely market-driven Melbourne University Private, nearly bankrupted the University of Melbourne, and prompted a parliamentary enquiry (from the state of Victoria). Moving to the new University of Manchester as “President” he screwed that thoroughly too, to the point that a supposed elite university has a student satisfaction rating in the bottom half of UK universities. He at least had the decency to drop dead a month after retiring, though, thereby saving the British academic pension fund (USS), which is heavily skewed towards rewarding fat cats who clawed preposterous salaries in their last few years, very large sums.

The new University of Manchester had been formed when the old one swallowed a technical university (UMIST) whose administration had absolutely no sense of honesty or decency, and would say and do anything to get commercial sponsorship even when the sponsor was very dodgy indeed. At one point there were even jokes about “The Curse of UMIST,” when a string of honorary grads were shortly thereafter investigated by the Serious Fraud Squad, and went to gaol. Gilbert was an appropriate choice for such an institution.

Gilbert’s predecessor at the old University of Manchester, who is alas still with us as the head of USS, was “Sir” Martin Harris, known for some years after his appointment as “the man who put the ‘vice’ into Vice-Chancellor.” He had been picked up by the police for kerb-crawling soon after his appointment, but managed to wriggle out of charges, thanks to a well-remunerated doctor testifying he was a suicide risk, and friends in high places who forced the Crown Prosecution Service to claim his prosecution would not be in the public interest. The cops were not happy: a decade later, when the authorities at UMIST tried to get the police to stop soliciting whores and kerb-crawling johns in the 200 yards between UMIST and the main train station, they were told “the last time we tried to do anything about this sort of thing, we caught a vice-chancellor.”

Eurohypersceptic, Smirking Chimp blog

Where’s Charles Young Center?

So that’s all about the Charles Young Center (“Gray’s Mean Hyzer,” July 13)?

A lot of nice info and well-worded regarding Frisbee golf. However not much difference between “other capital projects.” And the amount of space the writer gave to Charles Young Center, “the likewise de-funded handicap entrance for senior citizens,” gets only a little mention…hmmm.

NAM Oshun, online

Author responds:

Hey—I can’t cover everything. The article focused on the disc golf courses for a number of reasons:

(1) That’s what Jim Gray used as a whipping-boy project to muscle through his budget. The press statements issued in his name made big play out of the disc golf courses and make no mention of the Charles Young Center. The article responded to the rhetoric put out by the Mayor’s office and parroted by most media outlets, including the Lexington Herald-Leader and Barefoot and Progressive.

(2) This paper has a history of actively supporting those sports played by people in the community, and it actively supports activities that make use of public space. This does apply to disc golf but does not apply to the Charles Young Center.

(3) It seems clear that Jim Gray’s austerity budget is intended to free up money for the sport known as UK college basketball—a sport, it should be pointed out, to which very few in the community have access. (When’s the last time you played a pick-up game in Rupp?) The article pointed out the difference in funding priorities when it comes to sports that the community must pay to watch and those the community can freely access and play ourselves.

(4) The East End, where the Charles Young Center sits, has a number of advocates calling for its “revival,” which includes a bank-sponsored East End Farmer’s Market. I would think that, since North of Center is the only free paper distributed in the area, those advocates would be aware of us and make the case for Charles Young themselves. As it is, all I have experienced are a group of advocates who seem unwilling to put pressure on the very mechanisms and people who are selling them down the river with big city “world-class” projects. That might not be true. Maybe the advocates are thinking beyond their East End projects. Maybe you or somebody else could write an article on Charles Young that might prove me wrong. I know I’d love to see it.

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  4 Responses to “Letters to the editor”

  1. Just Now seeing This, Will write a poem on the subject.. and submit to this thread etc..

  2. Great NAM. We’ll get it in one of next two print issues.

  3. As a published and award-winning poet myself, I believe poets should have integrity. If one means to write satire, it is appropriate to write the opposite of what one means. NaM Oshun, however, does not claim to write satire.

    I find it lacking in integrity to preach about peace and love, willing to accept awatds for “peace poetry,” while reveling in rudeness, unkindness and even bullying. His personal interactions with others undermine his supposed message of “peace and love.”

  4. I really enjoyed my many interactions with Nam Oshun. He has been kind, accommodating yet confident and spoke well in our personal interaction. Turns out he is human and has rubbed at least this person the wrong way. I know the context of the interactions with any human being is a contributing factor in the interpretation of events. However, to question some one’s integrity and essentially demonize a person’s interactions are questionable due to the “focus only on someone else’s perceived negatives” approach. Are you the type of person who remains quiet unless you are complaining? If that is not so, I’m sure you have something positive to say about Nam Oshun? You Peace for Peace, don’t fight for peace.
    In my opinion, he is a decent person and great poet. Most people who are quick to judge others tend to forget the plank in their own eye.

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