|Previous page||Table of Contents||Next page|
Tuesday, 10 July 2001. A Discussion was held in the Senate-House of the following Reports, topic of concern, and the University's Mission Statement:
The Report of the Council, dated 11 June 2001, on the financial position of the Chest, recommending allocations for 2001-02 (p. 865).
Dr G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I considered apologizing for the number of times I intended to stand up today. But that should not be necessary. One of the unfortunate consequences of the move to monthly Council meetings has been the repeated cancellation of half the fortnightly slots for Discussions and the crowding into the remaining sessions of a number of Reports so large as to make it a difficult commitment for anyone to prepare remarks on them in time. There are immensely important matters here for Discussion, appearing all at once in the middle of the Long Vacation Term. Could we go back to a more sensible fortnightly division of Reports for discussion for which the Diary makes provision.
This is the time of year when the Treasurer and I traditionally have a word. For some years it has been a serious question whether to call a ballot on this Report. You may remember the year we did it, how the newspapers loved the fact that the University was not going to be able to sign cheques for six months. It was, to a degree I did not realize at the time, a savage blow against the functioning of the Finance Division, since they had to do everything twice. Since I realized how much disruption it causes, I have not encouraged anyone to do it again, and of course this year it would be doubly disastrous, because it would presumably reveal how little benefit we are getting from the still malfunctioning CAPSA. (Council and Treasurer, may we have some detail in the Notice in reply to this Discussion bringing us up to date on the numbers of permanent and temporary additional staff who have had to be recruited to service it, with a note of the expenditure this is making necessary? May we also have some owning-up about the parts of CAPSA which are still not running at all, and the quantities of geese who have had to be plucked to provide the quill-pens with which much of the work is, we understand, still having to be done?)
The fact of the huge effect the calling of a ballot on this Report can have has, however, been used constructively. In the year after the ballot was called, I could make suggestions at an early stage, because I was still on the Council. I was able to request, under the shadow of its possible repetition, on the alteration of priorities, so that our money went first to salaries and only after that to buildings. In a later year it was the appalling prospect of another ballot on this Report which won us the concession that all those who deserved it should be promoted, with no financial constraints. I am glad to see that that promise is repeated in this Report. It needs to be. The years go on and our very senior staff are still getting their bus passes before they get their Chairs, on work for which they could have been rewarded many years earlier. In short, the mindset of the General Board and its Committees is changing only reluctantly. Promotions Committees at large are, I am told, still being given strong hints about numbers by the secretariat in the Old Schools at those briefing meetings. This must stop. Please.
Three areas of concern, as briefly as I can.
1. Fuzzy figures. First, the lack of certainty which appears to hang about the figures in the Allocations Report each year. Surely it is time we conformed with the SORP as the Board of Scrutiny recommends in its own Report? That comment at paragraph 7: 'As in previous years the estimates have generally been prepared on the historic basis' sends shivers down the spine. I wish I understood better what is proposed by way of change to the methodology. Please could we have it in clear, plain English?
I am glad to see a mention of Lynxvale in this Report, but may we have more detail about the long trail of companies deriving from its creation, to be found in the records of Companies House, and about their Directors? Why is this information not available on our website? If this great University is up to its armpits in business and running companies, of which our own senior employees are Directors (even if unpaid), that is our business too.
Is there going to be any control in the Allocations Report of the gigantic annual expenditure on legal fees? Why have we still not appointed the in-house legal officers it is agreed that we need?
2. People. 'Universities have to submit Human Resources Strategies by 1 June that address the key areas identified by the Funding Council (recruitment and retention, staff development, equal opportunity targets and equal pay, staffing reviews, performance reviews, and dealing with poor performance). The Human Resources Strategy must integrate with the institution's mission and strategic plan, cover the HEFCE-identified priority areas, and contain targets that can be used to assess the effectiveness of the expenditure of the grant monies.' One sympathizes with the Personnel Division in the difficulty of doing this while so many of the strategies and policies with which the HEFCE requires this to be 'integrated' are still in the making, and indeed, some of them are before us for the first time for Discussion today. But why is this the first we have heard about this Human Resources Strategy? Why is that small group of people on the Personnel Committee, whom we had no say in appointing, allowed to make so many huge preliminary policy decisions without at least mentioning in a Notice that work is in hand and inviting us to participate?
A consultative paper has been 'issued to Faculties and Departments (and to the Colleges)' on College teaching officers and related matters. I am tired of explaining to the central bodies that doing it this way means that many of us do not get consulted at all. In most Faculties, consultation stops at the Faculty Board. Please may we move to a regular requirement that all consultation papers are published in the Reporter or referred to there, so that members of the Regent House and others with an interest may get themselves a copy? I keep pointing out that the device of providing a blue line in the web version of the Reporter is quick, convenient, and cheap. We do not have to run this University adversarially and as though secrecy was a move in a power game. We can do it co-operatively.
The Allocations Report is properly concerned only with the financial and resources cost of implementation of the requirements of the Data Protection Act. I am more concerned with the urgent need to do something about the present practice of withholding absolutely everything the University can legally get away with withholding. Would it not be cheaper in 'allocations' terms just to hand everything over and not fight data subjects every inch of the way in the interests of keeping secret from them everything the University possibly can?
No interruptions please, Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, unless you, like me, have attended a course on the interconnection of the issues raise by the Acts we shall be looking at when we get to today's topic of concern. At present members of staff may be the subjects of Minutes created behind their backs. They cannot get sight of these as data subjects under the Data Protection Act in a straightforward way. We shall not improve the treatment of our staff until they are allowed to see everything written about them and to ask to have it corrected or to be allowed to put a statement of their own into the record with the offending Minute. I speak with some feeling here, because the History Faculty Board is currently creating reserved Minutes, headed G. R. Evans, and I am not allowed to correct statements in those Minutes. Enough of me, but be warned, the rest of you.
A promise in our rules that staff and students may be allowed to have copies of any reserved Minute of any committee in which they are discussed and the right to require correction of errors or misleading statements, or to insist that a statement from them is inserted into the record, would surely be good practice, and save the 'allocation' of more 'resources' under this head.
3. Buildings. The plans for the big Marconi Building on the increasingly ugly and crowded West Cambridge Site, include the proposal that a nineteen-metre high dummy radio mast be included, to symbolize Marconi's contribution to the good of human kind: 'The aerial is not intended to be functional but is a design feature reiterating Marconi's early involvement with radio'. Disinterested gift to the University? Whose 'brand' is this then? With such questionable largesses, our buildings programme has swollen from about £80m a year to £280m and now to £400m. Do you have any faith that the University's interests are being properly protected, let alone those of our landscape, as all this goes on? Last week's news of the Marconi crash is a salutary warning about the unreliability of these big corporations as 'partners'. Marconi can be ejected from the FTSE 100 but it cannot be removed as a blot on our landscape.
Meanwhile, for our existing buildings stock, this Report says that 'the bulk of the work is reactive maintenance'. And we do nothing about ensuring that disabled staff get promised parking spaces.
It all shows that the real will and excitement in the University on the 'buildings' front is running with our commercial friends and their big money. How much are they really costing us? We could at least ask for an answer to that question in financial terms before we Grace this Allocations Report. An answer in wider terms would take rather longer.
The Report of the Council and the General Board, dated 11 June and 23 May 2001, on new arrangements for determining the initial place on the scale of stipends on appointment in respect of non-clinical academic and academic-related officers and unestablished staff (p. 811).
Dr S. J. COWLEY:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as an attempt to increase the competitiveness of the pay of non-clinical academic and academic-related officers and unestablished staff, this Report is to be welcomed. I have doubts as to whether the proposed policy is optimal, and I will make a few comments on this subject below.
However, first I would like to thank the Council for the robust statements in their Notice concerning the Report of the Council on the Unified Administrative Service to the effect that 'the University must con-tinue to be academic-led' and that 'the role of the administration is to support, not to manage, the delivery of high-quality teaching and research'. Naturally one might ask how this policy is reflected in the current Report given that the appointment of academic staff and the determination of stipends is one of the most crucial activities of the University. Surely in an academically-led institution the final decision on a stipend should be in the hands of an academic, e.g. the Chairman of the Personnel Committee. However, in paragraph 4.1(5) we read that it is 'the Assistant Director or Director of Personnel who will decide whether or not the Chairman of the Personnel Committee acting on behalf of the Personnel Committee, should rule on the matter'. In other words a non-academic can have the final say on an academic stipend by blocking a referral to the Chairman of the Personnel Committee. Of course this does not mean that the Head of the institution or Chairman of the Faculty Board cannot have an informal word with the Chairman of the Personnel Committee, e.g. asking that he or she discuss the matter informally with the Assistant Director or Director of Personnel, but the possibility of a block seems odd in an academic-led University. Do the Council and General Board have so little faith in the Heads of institutions and Chairmen of Faculty Boards that they do not trust them to take appeals to the Chairman of the Personnel Committee only in exceptional circumstances?
I would now like to address the proposals to abolish the age-related scale, and normally to fix the initial stipend of an appointee who has recent relevant experience at not less than their current salary, with the possibility of only two increments above this salary. One can envisage that for certain disciplines, such as engineering, applied science, management studies, and law, this will a very 'good' recipe. Indeed, if account is taken of 'live' offers by a potential employer, any applicant for a job in Cambridge should simultaneously apply to the city or the US (since I learnt yesterday that the going rate for an assistant professor in biotechnology is $90,000), and then look forward to being appointed at the top of the relevant scale in Cambridge. Indeed, those of us who are conscientious mentors of young staff should encourage potential applicants to adopt such a market-led approach, and take the risk that some of the counter-offers do not appear so lucrative that the applicant takes one of them rather than any subsequent Cambridge offer.
Also, do the Council and General Board really believe that it is in the best interests of the University to make College Research Fellowships even more unappealing? Most are appallingly paid. However, at present taking one does not necessarily prejudice your subsequent salary. That will not be so in the new regime if the age-related scale has been abolished, and you have been naive enough not to apply for another job. Many might then look forward to a stipend at the bottom of the scale plus two increments.
This Report would have been of much greater use to the Regent House if some of the consequences of adopting the revised policy had been spelled out. It may well be in the best interests of the University for the salaries of certain disciplines to outstrip those of others. Maybe someone in holy orders applying to the Divinity School may not be too worried at continuing to be paid a pittance, but I am not sure that pure mathematicians would feel the same way … but then again, maybe not.
I would also have been interested to know what the likely effect of abolishing the age-related scale would be on the average pay according to gender. If one's guess were correct then the University's membership of the Opportunity NOW Campaign would appear just to be tokenism.
A slavish adherence to previous or offered salaries, which is what paragraph 3.2 suggests to me (despite the muddying spin in paragraph 3.1), seems to be unduly inflexible and likely to lead to idiocies. What of the young lecturer, say an ex-research fellow, who wishes to appoint an unestablished post-doc previously employed at another university? According to the proposed policy the post-doc might well expect to receive a salary higher than his employer (whatever the spin of taking into account the relative salaries of existing staff working in the same area). What about the age-related scales of the Research Councils? If a post-doc with relevant experience is recruited from a well-paid post, say in industry, either the proposed policy is meaningless, or the University will need to find a way to stretch research grants.
In summary, I believe that paragraph 3.2 needs to be rewritten to introduce some more flexibility, and the Council and the General Board should think very hard before abolishing the age-related scale as a lower bound, at least for academic staff. They might also remember that if we really are a world-class university, then we may be able to recruit at slightly less than market rate. That was the case for myself in 1990 when the prospect of working in a bottom-up university was so much more attractive than working in a top-down one. More importantly, as a fan of 'Desert Island Discs', I believe that the Vice-Chancellor was willing to take a far bigger drop in salary for a post here.
We need a revised policy that spells out the consequences, understands the attitude of academic staff, and which cannot be used as a back door to argue subsequently that we should pay excessive market- driven salaries for those not on incremental salary scales.
Dr G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this Report has a good side, in that it is arguably part of a serious attempt to do something about the career expectations of our short-term contract staff. For what astute young scientist is going to opt for a career in academe in present circumstances unless he is Client to an extremely reliable Patron? I hope today's Discussions will go down in our annals as the Clients and Patrons Discussions, for the Local Barons and the Big Leading Players naturally come with a clientèle of Those Who Dare Not Upset Them. Some Clients and Patrons stand to benefit from this, but not, I think, the rest of us.
This has the great fault of so many Reports to the University, in that it does not set out its agenda squarely and in plain language at the outset. And its agenda is this: our old system, where you knew where you were and what you were paid depended on simple objective things like what office you held and how old you were, is to be replaced by a new system in which the power-brokers in the University will be able to decide who is paid what. Some highly fudgy 'criteria' are to be found in this rambling document, such as 'account may be taken of any other relevant factors'.
This is really all about freeing the Old Schools and the Big Leading Players to buy in or hang on to whomever they like on a basis of doing deals. It may amuse that when I mentioned to the Vice-Chancellor a Distinguished Professorship offer in the USA which came my way recently, I teased him by remarking that I was not going to consider this offer to go, while I was still kept waiting for that long-delayed Chair here. Anyone else would be naming his price to stay. I have, of course, already refused enormous sums of money with which the University has tried to tempt me to give up my battle for a fair deal for myself and others, and get me to go away. But for many with families and houses to buy, money is important. This move to a free-for-all for those disposed to drive a bargain for themselves or their Clients, is a recipe for more well-founded resentment among our staff, for more bitter divisions in our community. The secret top-up payments scandal will now become a secret salaries scandal all round.
I move briefly to quotations from other Reports down for Discussion today which make my points crisply.
From the Allocations Report: '31. With regard to pay, through the 'translation' of the Doctors' and Dentists' Review Body award, clinical academic staff have received an increase of 3.9 per cent. For other staff groups, including non-clinical academic staff, negotiations are continuing and … an allowance of 3.25 per cent has been made in the financial assumptions underlying this Report'.
From the Board of Scrutiny Report: Inequalities of Pay: '21. The Board notes the table on page 16 of the Abstract of Accounts headed 'Remuneration of Higher Paid Staff, excluding employer's pension contributions'. That table shows that there has been a 75% increase in the number of (non-clinical) staff paid between £50,000 and £60,000, a four-fold increase in the number of (non-clinical) staff paid between £60,000 and £70,000, and a doubling of the number of (non-clinical) staff paid more than £70,000. In contrast in the same period, the salaries of University Lecturers rose, roughly, in line with the rate of inflation. The introduction of the Senior Lecturer grade was intended to alleviate this problem, but it is doubtful whether the pay of the median lecturer will have increased much as a result'.
The Allocations Report also proposes £1.3m for promotions.
The Board of Scrutiny Report again: '22. A contributory factor here has been the Supplementary Payments for Professors Exercise, which as we write is taking place for a second time … that announcement must have startled members of the Regent House by the scale of the distribution of the Payments. Over £1.1m was disbursed in this first exercise alone and, more important, this generosity scarcely fulfilled the General Board's earlier expectation that 'only a small number of awards would be made, especially at the higher levels' (Reporter, 1997-98, p. 808 §29; repeated in Reporter, 1998-99, p. 55 §9). In fact a total of 110 awards were made to the 129 who applied, giving the remarkable success rate of over 85%. Those applying in turn comprised less than 59% of those eligible, with a marked imbalance in the rate of application between male and female Professors and, nearly as strongly, between those in Sciences and the Humanities. It is not self-evident that the stated aim of the operation, 'to maintain the academic vitality of the University', has been furthered by such means.'
'23. It is also a distinct possibility that the Exercise is creating unequal pay between men and women', points out the Board of Scrutiny Report. In my view unequal pay is a bigger issue than this 'equal opportunities' aspect would suggest, though it is under discrimination law that the University is perhaps most likely soon to find itself in the courts.
Do we really want to continue down this road of unequal pay, what the Board of Scrutiny itself calls 'Patron-Client relationships' and a heightening rather than a diminution of the sense of unfairness and inequality of treatment which has for some time been poisoning the community? I do not believe that there are some so starry as to be worth substantially more than the rest of us. Even if I did believe it, I would not trust the central bodies to identify them accurately and objectively on present showing.
Dr J. P. DOUGHERTY:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I recognize that this Report sets out to deal with a real problem, the solution of which is important to the University. I am critical of the approach used.
The first few sentences inform us that we are not to be given the full description of the matter and its proposed handling. Instead, we are going to be 'drip-fed' the proposals in a sequence of stages as and when these are ready for our consideration. This is something that is much disliked by many members of the Regent House, so naturally arouses suspicion.
The Report asks us to approve procedures that are outlined, but does not seek to enshrine any of them in changes of Ordinance, which in my opinion is where they ought to be. That is another step along the direction of freeing the Unified Administrative Service from Regent House supervision.
The proposals for dealing with difficult decisions impose another layer of authority between the Appointments Committee and the competent authority, by giving the Director of Personnel and the Chairman of the Personnel Committee power in individual cases.
Finally, a new officer, unknown to Ordinances appears. This is the (relevant) 'Personnel Consultant', who turns up in section 4.1 (1) and (5), and who also has authority in certain matters. It seemed to me that I had never heard of him or her, so wondered why we should approve any such proposals, given this lack of information.
Perhaps this will be clarified later, but a recent advertisement in the national press might shed light on it. It reads: 'University of Cambridge. Pay and Remuneration Officer. You will have three years in which to manage the introduction of a 'fair' grading methodology applicable to all groups of staff and help bring about major changes in pay and remuneration to ensure that the University is able to continue to recruit and retain staff. If you have what it takes to get this done, you may be the person we are looking for.'
Once again: solve problems by taking on unestablished staff, and tell the Regent House later!
The Report of the General Board, dated 23 May 2001, on the establishment of a Prince Philip Professorship of Technology (p. 813).
Dr G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, we see from this proposal that when it chooses, the General Board can create a new Professorship which is intended to run beyond a single tenure, without the pretext that the University has been offered huge commercial funding. We have established Professorships, Personal Professorships, now Research Professorships. We really do have to line up all these different kinds of Chair in a row, as well as the variety of routes by which they may be obtained (on which more later) and work out a consistent policy to avoid more games of musical Chairs.
I am sure the future holders of this Chair will be proud to be associated with the name of our faithful long-serving Chancellor, in memory perhaps especially of his many speeches made in the University, to which we have all listened with so much enjoyment.
The Report of the General Board, dated 23 May 2001, on certain fixed-term Professorships and Readerships and future arrangements for awarding the title of Honorary Professor or Reader (p. 814).
Dr G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, for those who have not been able to read the fact in the opaque prose of this Report, this is the Report which 'tidies up' the scandal about the Research Professorships. You remember those? The ones which the General Board had been granting on its own non-existent authority. Do they admit that? Do they apologize for acting beyond their powers? No, all we get is a reference to 'circumstances where hitherto unestablished Research Professorships and Readerships had been created'. That is not even accurate. Not for the first time, I ask, did no one on the Council or the General Board read this text before passing it for publication? The whole point is that 'Professorships' had not been created. I know of at least one case of someone with the necessary funding and backing, who has now lost his chance of professorial status because this Report has come forth too late. There must be others.
Let there be no mistake, I am glad for these people, in principle. Once this system is up and running, Research Professorships will be fast-track appointments for Clients (we must not disappoint the Patron and his funder). Surely it would have been more tactful to 'announce' these particular Chairs at the same time as the ones which will be decided in the Michaelmas Term? Many of us are hanging about miserably all summer waiting for our unreformed promotions procedures to arrive at their bizarre outcomes in November.
There is never going to be any question of the proposed Research Professors not getting their Chairs once they are put forward, is there? This is a process in which the 'candidate' cannot fail. It has all gone on the will of someone with the money and a complaisant or baronial Head of Department, has it not? Nor is it likely that any who continue in the University's employ on completion of their short-term Professorships will be expected to revert to lowlier status. They will get to keep their Chairs, surely, especially if their Patrons are still in power? Yet there appears to be no requirement about 'standard' in the proposals for the creation of these Research Professorships. One is bound to be struck, moreover, by the particular profile of types of subject in which people are getting these special deals.
But there are other issues raised by this Report, on the broader promotions front. Those in the ordinary queue are likely to feel that they have a lesser priority, and I want to take a moment to touch on the reform of promotions procedures, because that forms an essential context against which to 'evaluate' (to use the current jargon) the procedural proposals in the present Report.
I understand that various 'Models' are to be put before the Regent House for consultation at the beginning of the Michaelmas Term. I trust that will include publication in the Reporter and a mechanism for us all to send in comments directly. I hope the consultation document will begin by setting out various prior policy questions for us and that it will end with some detailed attention to the close texture of the procedures. Key policy questions seem to me to include:
1. Should the presumption now be that for the research-active the career norm will be to retire with a Chair and that that should not have to wait until a University officer is almost at retirement age? Rewards by way of title in Cambridge should be achievable at the sort of age they can be had elsewhere, or people will not stay here.
2. General Board and Personnel Committee, please read this next bit carefully. The old justification for the mass production of Readers and Professors each year was that there had to be ranking and some had to be denied promotions it was admitted they had deserved, because of financial limitations. Those are now gone. Many of the difficulties about the length and slowness of the procedure can be made to disappear, if we decide to give candidates proper individual attention, with interviews if requested and an opportunity to explain properly what their lifetime's work has been about. That individual attention is not foreseen to cause any difficulties in the case of the new Research Professorships. Paradoxically, personal promotions could be done with the celerity I am sure will apply to these Research Professorships if we just abandoned the now unnecessary and impossible attempt to compare the incommensurable for which the promotions procedures have attempted to provide. A decent appeal procedure for Clients lacking the necessary Patrons and we could be home and dry.
3. If we must go on with the mass consideration, the times could be shortened considerably if standard dates for the meetings of Promotions Committees could be published in the Cambridge Diary, just as they are for Faculty Boards and Degree Committees.
4. The poor old interdisciplinary candidates are still likely to be getting nothing in the present proposals except some wringing of hands and the suggestion that if the Councils of the Schools ran the procedures, they would be better off. I would not, for one. History and Theology are in different Schools. Why are we not being included in the thinking about the problems of evaluating interdisciplinary work? Why have none of us been allowed to get near the working party which is preparing the consultation document?
5. Should we insist that no one may serve on a Promotions Committee who has not had thorough training in the basic rules of fairness, the proper exercise of discretion, and the avoidance of discrimination. (And that does not mean a couple of hours in a meeting with a secretary to the General Board Committee, but proper training by someone who has been properly trained himself or herself.)
6. Then there is the huge policy question of what should be the future role of a General Board whose own future is now uncertain. If we are going to move to a unicameral system of governance or otherwise radically prune the bushy growth of the General Board it would surely be foolish to build into Statute a continuing role for this body in the promotions process? Its track record is hardly encouraging, if you read through the struggle from 1994 to get any procedures at all, and then to get them sensibly and expeditiously improved. Appointment of Professors is made by the Regent House not by the General Board, as the reason why this present Report is needed amply testifies. But of course, the idea that the General Board would be only too glad to hand over the promotions procedures to Personnel bids fair to be undermined by their realization that that would diminish the power of patronage they hold, the sheer control over who ends up in a position of influence in the University.
7. That takes me to my penultimate main point under this head (and I hope others will have their own to put forward and will send them in as suggestions to Peter Deer, the Director of Personnel, and Professor Lipton, the Chairman of the Personnel Committee). The great need in the promotions arena is to do something about the bitter resentment the whole business causes. That means taking seriously the need to stop the patronage, the power games, the operation of prejudice, as far as that may be realistically possible. A really robust appeals procedure may help. I notice that the controversial GKN Professor appointed last Christmas, formerly not a Professor at all, has been put instantly on to the final stage Appeals Committee this year. Why him? Has he had any training in how to conduct an appeal, one must ask? He can have no experience in the operations of the committees whose work he is now to review.
8. Lastly, under big policy-points for the preamble to the presentation of the alternative Models for Discussion, should we not be doing something which goes to the heart of the proposals in this present Report on the Research Professors? At present you can get an established Chair by pleasing a Board of Electors, who can make up their own rules; you will be able to get a Research Professorship by pleasing someone with enough money to buy one for you, and no procedures seem to be required there either; if you aspire to a personal Professorship, you are herded with the other sheep through those crushes they use on farms to hold the animals down while their hooves are trimmed, held tight, upended, and set back on your feet with or without a marker on your fleece identifying you as a good sheep. At least, that is how it feels. Can we go on any longer running these disparate routes to Chairs when it is obviously so unfair to the long and faithful servants, who have by far the hardest job getting anything like consistency of recognition?
In the document that goes out for consultation in October:
1. Let us keep distinct two questions which seem to me rather confused, namely, whether there should be a single procedure for promotion to Senior Lectureships, Readerships, and Professorships and whether there should be a single sequence of offices; for as we set it up, a Senior Lectureship is a different kind of thing and ought to reward a different kind of contribution to the work of the University from a Readership or Chair. We must not slip into requiring everyone to go through each hoop in turn without making a clear policy decision on this point.
2. When should statutory change be made to give permanence to the procedural requirements? We may be in danger of a quite unnecessary delay and failure to take things in appropriately sized strides here. The sooner we can do what Professor Edwards has repeatedly advocated and get a solid and durable procedure into the Statutes, the better. But fiddling about in the meantime with what does and does not have to go via the General Board seems to me a waste of an occasion of resort to the Privy Council.
3. No one would disagree that we need to lighten the bureaucratic load of the present procedures. But let us not lump things together under 'bureaucracy' which need to be separate. Rigidity is bad; rigour is good. Rigidity has damaged the prospects of a good many candidates, from the disabled and those bringing up small children and losing a few years of writing time, to those such as interdisciplinary candidates who do not fit neatly between the tramlines. At the same time a lack of rigour in the committees' understanding of what they have been doing has led to sloppy thinking and sloppy writing of Minutes and 'forms', and bizarre and self-contradictory 'evaluations', not to mention the losing of whole sets of references and even the Chairman.
4. It is suggested that a single set of criteria might do for all. But what makes a good teacher and what makes a good researcher are not identical qualities. Our present criteria will certainly not do. They are vague to the point where they have allowed committees to 'evaluate' to suit the local politics.
On the Research Professors there has not been all this agonizing, simply a green light to allow them to be sure of succeeding if they are once put forward. But what I have been saying surely does point up the contrast between what is proposed by way of a 'procedure' to enable those with backers and Patrons to get their Chairs, and the realities of life for the long-serving University officers.
First read paragraphs 6 and 7. 'Normally' the Board will constitute an Advisory Committee along the lines of a Board of Electors. That means that they reserve the right to leave out that step. But where they bother with that committee there will be none of that rigorous listing of documentation which may be received, none of that insistence on excluding inconvenient evidence, to which candidates for personal promotions in the ordinary way are subjected. No, the Advisory Committee (if there is one) will 'receive appropriate documentation in support of all such proposals'. The only thing stipulated is that there shall be proof that the money is forthcoming from the sponsor. Does this not amount to buying Chairs? Could a rich relation, if I had one, buy me a Chair? It seems so. We can be quite sure, can we not, that only 'supportive' documentation will in fact be 'received', that those who wish the candidate to get the Chair will solicit the appropriate references (though in fact no references appear to be required) and weed out any unfortunate evidence that the candidate is not the best possible candidate. And whereas we who have served the University for years and wait for personal promotions come up at present against a brick wall when we suggest that there may be exceptional circumstances or that the procedures may need to be varied in order to ensure fairness, in the case of the favoured few, 'the Board recognize that the circumstances of individual cases may vary, and they retain the right to amend the above procedures, on the recommendation of their Advisory Committee'.
I do not think these recommendations should be approved until the hoops through which candidates are made to jump are made to resemble each other more closely. It is simply grotesquely unfair.
The Honorary Professorships need scrutiny too. This looks like a device to allow favoured 'hangers-on' to call themselves Cambridge Professors. Should we allow this blurring of the boundary between those who are our officers, employees, members, and those who are not. Surely we cannot create University offices for people who are not our employees and if these are not University offices but have the title of Professor attached to them, Professor Edwards is going to have to invoke Statute K, 5 again? Or perhaps I will save him the trouble and do it for him, since I know he is out of the country and cannot be with us today. We cannot have Professors in the University who are not even members of the Regent House.
It is interesting that they are going to have to sign up to obey all our codes of practice on bullying and harassment and so on. Yet if these 'Honorary Professors' are not employees nor members of the University there is probably nothing we can do if they ignore the rules.
This Report is really the substance of the famous Notice (Reporter, 1998-99, p. 587) turned into a Report with some Graces loosely attached to it. Another example of the General Board ignoring comment and criticism and carrying on regardless, and the Council nodding it through? Back to the drawing board please, General Board. Bring this back to us and get it right?
The Sixth Report, dated 4 June 2001, of the Board of Scrutiny (p. 881).
Dr R. L. TAPP:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the Board of Scrutiny has pointed out the specialized nature of an academic career and the tendency for academics to become captives of their employers. The situation is even more desperate for an academic who becomes disabled in service. Such a person finds himself dependent upon the good will and support of his employer and, in the case of this University, that is an employer who has been criticized in the Schneider~Ross report for its attitude which is macho and discriminatory towards disability. It is also an employer that lacks the appropriate structures to support such an academic effectively.
Is it right, because a Head of Department believes it inappropriate for a blind person to be in charge of a particular section of teaching, that such a person should be deprived of the very core of his academic career? It should be noted that the Head of Department concerned had received no training in disability awareness and that there is no mechanism within the University to prevent or moderate any action he takes.
If an academic who has been subjected to such treatment lodges a Grievance under Statute U, VI, it is soon apparent that the ponderous machinery cannot cope in time to stop changes that have the most devastating effects on that individual's career. It is only slowly that the vision of a beneficent employer, concerned for the welfare of its employees, is lost to the reality of how impotent the University really is at dealing quickly and effectively with such issues.
If such an academic attempts to use Statute K, 5 to raise issues of disability discrimination, he learns that the University's Code of Conduct on Disability lacks the status of an Ordinance and that representations based upon it are inadmissible.
When such an academic is overwhelmed and clinically depressed by the hopelessness of his position, he is likely to find that he is simultaneously instructed, on medical grounds by the Occupational Health Physician, not to work in his Department and required by his Head of Department to do so!
If such an academic asks for equipment to alleviate his disability, he learns that there is no University fund for this purpose but that his Department is expected to make provision. The Head of Department can then determine the career prospects of that individual and, if he points out that money diverted to alleviate disability will not be available to fund active research, it puts great pressure on the disabled academic to accept that his career has effectively ended.
If such an academic applies for promotion, he finds that the procedures do not allow for the proper consideration of disability. He discovers, indeed, that the criteria used are defined in secret, are not available to the applicant, and that his ability to make an effective case is severely restricted. It is even worse; he finds himself strung along by a system that does not have his interests at heart, but which appears concerned solely with protecting itself. He is not told that the secret definitions of the criteria being used have ruled out his application, ab initio, but only after months of delay, procrastination, and being required to produce large quantities of extra documentation, and being subjected to great stress.
I could give many other examples of discrimination, such as the fact that there are no disabled parking spaces on the Downing Site and no text-to-speech facilities at most, if not all, Cambridge libraries. The main point, however, in support of the Board of Scrutiny's Report, is that academics, particularly those who have become disabled in service, are dependent wholly upon the good will of their employer and on the provisions made for their welfare. Unfortunately, the existing provisions do not work effectively, are too ponderous to prevent discrimination, and give far too much control to Heads of Departments. It is doubly unfortunate that such Heads of Departments are not required to train in either management techniques or in disability awareness.
Dr G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there is an emerging pattern of response to Board of Scrutiny Reports which can be clearly seen now we have got to the sixth of them. First, the Council resists the Board's recommendations. Secondly, usually after they have been repeated for a year or two, it grudgingly accepts some of them. Thirdly, it 'forgets' to do what it reluctantly promised. So it is with the promise on p. 405 of the Reporter, made in response to last year's Report (the one which was held up so long because the Council sent it back for the Board to rewrite it to the Council's specifications). How can there possibly be any excuse for the fact that we still do not have the agenda and minutes of the Council and the General Board on the web? I see that the Board of Scrutiny is pretty irritated about that too and has repeated this recommendation. It surely just needs a one-off exercise to set up the process?
I want to make one big point and a few no less important in themselves, but capable of being treated more briefly.
The Board of Scrutiny refers with provisional approval to the Schneider~Ross report on equal opportunities, which brought blushes even to Cambridge's normally shameless cheeks when it was published. 'We would, however, be dismayed if new policies of the University on pay were having the effect of undermining equal opportunities before the agenda for equal opportunity has progressed little beyond discussion of the audit.' There are much deeper things than equal financial reward at stake here, as I think Dr Tapp has just shown us. I would like to raise a complaint, Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, without interruption, on a subject on which I rarely speak: my treatment as a woman academic in this University. I am usually reluctant to say much about that, because my genuine concern is with the wider scene of improving fair treatment for all of us. But I think the moment has come to make a few connected points.
It turns out to be unforgivable for a woman, steadily, year after year, to stand up and call the University to account. My enemies behave, in a role-reversal, like stereotypical 'catty females' and try to discredit me. A man who had shown the qualities of leadership I have shown, who had proved himself able to sustain a level of high-quality commentary on the University's affairs over a long period, would be seeing some rewards by way of being put on the appropriate committees, chairing committees and working parties.
I could live more easily with being sidelined if it were not obvious to me in conversation after conversation that I easily outclass most of the men in this University on all sorts of fronts, that my engine has far more power in reserve than most of theirs. It should not still be true here that a woman has to be ten times better than a man and is still kept below the glass ceiling, knocking interrogatively on the glass above which her inferiors are lording it. Standing before you is a woman whose lack of promotion has become an international scandal. The Promotions Appeal Committees last year, though recognizing that the mislaying of a whole year's references and the unaccountable lack of a Chairman, and the ruling out of the whole Faculty Promotions Committee, did constitute a bit of a procedural flaw, were nevertheless quite confident that whatever had been in the documentation, I could not have deserved promotion. Many of you will have read in the press how, a few months after that, only a few weeks ago, a different membership of my Faculty Promotions Committee decided I deserved top marks for everything, and that I have a 'unique position in modern scholarship'. So now I am apparently in there with a real chance of catching up after all these years, leap-frogging the Readership I should have had soon after my British Academy Readership came to an end in 1988, and getting the Chair which would bring all the expensive warfare about my personal case to an end. But am I? Is not the decision going to be pure politics? Cambridge, have you got the courage to promote your most well-known critic at last even though she is a woman who dared to challenge you?
To other points in this Report. I am interested to learn (paragraph 9) that: '9. The Board has worked together with the Audit Committee to develop an independent review of CAPSA … The Audit Committee will concentrate on the technical aspects of the review. The Board of Scrutiny will concentrate on the policy-formation aspects'.
Are members of the Regent House invited to take part in this aspect of the review of CAPSA? If so, please may we have a formal invitation to do so and provision to make it possible? The Board of Scrutiny should be doing this as openly and comprehensively as the Audit Committee's appointed review team are admirably doing. If their own work is going to lack provision for accountability and transparency, we shall need a Board of Scrutiny of the Board of Scrutiny.
There is reference to the extremely slow progress on the Resource Allocation Model and the Mission Statement (paragraph 11). On the latter, more elsewhere. '16. In the Board's view, distrust of the central bodies by many members of the Regent House and its consequences for the University's in terms of inflexibility in re-allocating resources, is linked with the structure of academic careers, the governance structure of the University, and pay differentials. The General Board's Report (paragraph 38) indicates that the Board has a 'strategy for improving the University's position in recruiting, rewarding, and retaining the high-calibre staff on which its teaching and research depends'. The Board, and, we believe, the Regent House, would be interested to know more about this strategy.'
The Regent House is learning more about all this in Reports on the list for Discussion today. It appears to put the emphasis on buying in at the wish of the Big Leading Players, on a 'name your price' basis. It is less clear what is in this strategy for the faithful servants of the University whose interests are apparently always left on the back burner in the excitement of chasing the latest dot-com will'o the wisp. Like Marconi, Vodafone has been on a cataclysmic slide. Other big benefactors are equally at risk of industrial implosion. I would rather we invested in certainties, such as our proven existing staff, and kept commercial interests in their place. There is that puzzling passage in the April/May Newsletter about the Unilever Centre for Molecular Informatics. Unilever, it says, will provide funding of £13m over a five-year period. 'In addition to funding, Unilever will contribute the time of some of its scientists and, through the steering committee, will work with the University of Cambridge to guide the Centre's work.' Read that again. And again. And tell me it does not worry you that an academic project with our name on it can be bought and run by the funder in this way.
The Board of Scrutiny's observations on the vulnerability of those who are, on the contrary, 'locked into' careers here are just. It goes on: '27. The Board is also concerned about the linkages between the procedures the University uses to decide on pay differentials and governance issues. Where there is a large discretionary element in pay, and large pay differentials, there are opportunities for the creation of dependency relationships and patron-client relationships which are incompatible with internal democracy.'
Few here are now free to teach and write and do research without being beholden to those with rewards in their gift or reprisals in their power. Today's Reports for discussion are full of indicators of the effects of this regrettable trend. It too goes against equal opportunity, for how many of these power-brokers are women, disabled, or from an ethnic minority?
The Board points out that: 'Two aspects of the growing inequalities particularly require wider debate: the balance between the development of home-grown talent and the buying in of outside talent; and the differentials between academic and administrative salaries.' Let us not lose sight of the latter. I remain unconvinced that our administrators, even the best of them, should be getting those astronomical salaries while our world-class academics, each unique in his field, each irreplaceable, remain on school teachers' rates.
Two suggestions for more things for the Board to look into, and I hope the Board in its new membership will take the lead in bridging the divide between the Regent House and the Old Schools and be a force for reconciliation, as well as a source of trenchant criticism where necessary:
1. When is something going to happen about conflict of interests lists, which the HEFCE requires us to have for all sorts of people beyond the Council, the General Board, and the Finance Committee?
2. When is someone going to reveal how little there is to show for the CMI Ltd money? Professor Windle has not answered my inquiry about exactly what CMI Ltd has to show for that £68m of Gordon Brown's, which I sent in response to the invitation on the web page, and which I understand has been passed on to him, since this is apparently too difficult a question for anyone else to answer. From the information published by Companies House it is impossible to tell where this money is. There are no accounts as yet.
Professor T. J. SMILEY:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I should like to follow up a matter raised in the Discussions of each of the Board of Scrutiny's two previous Reports (Reporter, 1998-99, p. 890 and 2000-01, p. 146). The Board of Scrutiny was Dr Gordon Johnson's brain-child, so when he attacks it twice in a row for failing to follow the intended procedure or do its intended job, he deserves a reply. And when he says that successive Boards have all, invariably, consistently got things wrong, and never, ever got them right, I feel a special duty to reply, for I was the first Chairman of the Board and so set a pattern for its work.
I take procedure first. It is quite true that the Wass Syndicate said nothing about the Board making Reports. It envisaged that when the relevant items came up for Discussion, they would take a lead and, if not satisfied by the central bodies' response, call for a vote and a non placet. We departed from this procedure, not because of the somewhat unfortunate adversarial stance which it implied, but simply because of the timetable. The Annual Reports came out on 13 December, just in time for the admissions season, and the Accounts on 20 December, just in time for Christmas. We could not realistically make a start before the Lent Term, nor consequently meet Wass's injunction to give them 'detailed attention' within a feasible timetable before a Discussion was due. So, as we explained at the time, we had to let the Discussion go, and work instead towards a Report in the Easter Term. And I think this actually turned out to be a better way to achieve a constructive result.
As to performance, Dr Johnson's criticisms are so sweeping ('Nothing is ever put in context, ever comprehended, or ever explained', 'consistently slip-shod') that I can only take a sample. He says that the Board 'pursue at random bits and pieces of business which one or other of them, or one of their chums, has felt strongly about regardless of its relevance to the task in hand or of the appropriateness for consideration by this particular Board'. We said in our first Report, 'members were unanimous in disclaiming any attempt to press any preconceived agenda or to duplicate the work of other bodies. What we have done is to select a number of topics arising from the Accounts or Annual Report about which members of the Regent House might feel a reasonable concern, or a legitimate curiosity, and look into them on their (hypothetical) behalf'. He says that we invariably present ourselves as 'sniffing out scandal galore'. We said in that Report, 'Though there has been no special hunt for skeletons in cupboards, it should be a source of mutual satisfaction that none have been discovered'. He complained (first in 1999) that the Board was distracting other bodies and the principal officers from getting on with their business because of the 'tremendous amount of time and effort' they had to devote to meeting the Board and answering its questions. I reply that this was flatly untrue of the first year, and in 1998 the Council even voiced the 'hope that there may be more contact through the year between the officers of the Board and those of the Council'. In the last Discussion the then Chairman described the claim as being simply false for the current year, but that did not stop Dr Johnson from repeating it twenty minutes later, like some recorded announcement. He had earlier attacked the Board's integrity: 'the questions the Board has raised that I am familiar with have simple and reasonable answers, and I know that in some cases these have been passed on to the Board (or at least its Chairman). But the Board has chosen to ignore them'. The incoming Chairman, Mr Howarth, thereupon invited him to supply any evidence to substantiate this grave charge among others, but nothing has been forthcoming.
It makes one wonder whether any rational response can put a stop to what is beginning to look like a campaign. (The detached observer might be forgiven for wondering whether one source of this hostility is that the Board is, as Professor Schofield put it last year, a 'collection of ordinary academics', i.e., people who do not count, i.e., people that those who do count do not regularly work with or even know. So I am pleased that he is arranging to meet the incoming Chairman informally - a most welcome move.) All I can suggest is that you read the Board's successive Reports and ask whether they merit Dr Johnson's strictures or whether they are a significant contribution to the healthy working of the University. They can readily be found in the Reading Room of the University Library, and the references are: Reporter, 1995-96, p. 795; 1996-97, p. 856; 1997-98, p. 818; 1998-99, p. 792; 2000-01, p. 25 and p. 881.
I finish with a proposal on a quite different matter. Looking at the references just listed, one sees an odd blip - nothing seems to have appeared in 1999-2000. The present Report refers mildly to this delay as merely 'extremely regrettable'. It was exposed more fully by the Chairman of the Board at last year's Discussion. In brief, what appears to have happened was that some of the Report's material struck a raw nerve on the part of some members of the Council, which expressed itself in allegations of factual inaccuracy. These turned out to be groundless, as was spelt out very thoroughly in the Board's response to the Council, contained in its letter to the Registrary of 21 September. By September, however, the damage was done: not only did the Council themselves not register the Board's expressed concerns about CAPSA, but they actually prevented these concerns from reaching the rest of the University until too late. The irony of this will not be lost on Dr Johnson, who was regretting in 1999 that the Board's decision to proceed through formal Reports had caused it to 'diminish any impact it might have had on the great issues of the day'.
How can this sorry episode be prevented from recurring? The answer lies in Mr Howarth's remark last year that 'The Chairman of the Board of Scrutiny is not invited to the meeting of the Council which discusses the Board's proposed Report. Perhaps many of the points at issue between the Board and the Council might have been resolved had this discourtesy not been repeated'. The point is not confined to the Board of Scrutiny and the Council. I recall from my time on the General Board how much delay was created and unhelpful feeling generated by referring back to Faculty Boards things which could have been painlessly cleared up in a short face-to-face discussion. And it is, of course, in keeping with the Wass Syndicate's generally overlooked (but equally generally applicable) suggestion that if necessary the Board should 'engage the central bodies at a joint meeting'.
Topic of concern: the issuing by the Personnel Division of Guidelines, whose authority is unclear, on the acceptable use of computer facilities, e-mail, and the internet (for breach of which all categories of staff are threatened with disciplinary action and summary dismissal, and in which provision is made for the reading of private e-mails or listening in on telephone conversations at the request of 'the Institution') (p. 786).
Dr K. M. WHEELER:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there is a need for guarding against pornography, harassment, and other indisputable abuses of computing and telephone facilities. However, these needs must not interfere with legitimate needs and rights of privacy, or with the protection of academic freedom of expression.
Concern for such protection does not imply any distrust of anyone. These freedoms are so important that they cannot be left as matters of trust. They have to have absolute safeguards; and for these reasons, we do need direct, explicit answers to the following questions:
1. What precisely are the current rules?
2. Do they permit the tapping of telephones and the reading of e-mails?
3. Under what authority, when, and for what purposes were these rules instituted?
4. Do the rules have the authority of the University Council? If not, whose authority?
5. How are they applied in practice: how many times a month, say, and for what specific purposes?
6. If they are felt to be necessary, how is academic freedom to be safeguarded?
7. Should not some University body (such as the Council or the Board of Scrutiny) receive annually a report on what has happened regarding the use of these rules, so that abuse can be prevented?
Only scrupulous, carefully scrutinized monitoring can protect the freedom of expression and communication which is the very ethos of this University.
While things may be perfectly fine at the present time, we also have a duty to guard against any abuses in the future.
Professor A. FABIAN (read by Dr K. M. WHEELER):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am concerned by the monitoring of e-mails and telephone calls, and other computing activities, as described in Personnel Division and Computing Service guidelines issued this Easter Term. The Regent House must now have reassurances of absolute safeguards to academic freedom of expression.
Dr K. M. Wheeler: Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, may I read a statement from someone else?
The Deputy Vice-Chancellor agreed that Dr Wheeler could read further statements after the next speaker.
Professor P. LIPTON (read by Ms J. WOODHOUSE):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I wish to contribute to this Discussion on the use of computer facilities as the Chairman of the Personnel Committee.
The need for guidance was brought to light by the problems that have arisen in some Departments in connection with the use of the University's computing facilities. For example, some members of staff have used the system to send large numbers of personal e-mails, to access the internet for long periods during working time for personal use, to download pornographic material, and to download other material which, while otherwise unexceptionable, imposes an unreasonable financial cost on the University.
The publication of guidelines is intended to discharge the responsibilities of the University as an employer by drawing to the attention of staff:
(i) what is and what is not acceptable use of University-provided computing facilities, and in particular e-mail and the internet;
(ii) that unacceptable use could result in disciplinary action; and
(iii) that in rare circumstances the electronic communications of members of staff may have to be monitored in accordance with Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 and the Lawful Business Practice Regulations.
The first draft of the guidelines was produced by a working group comprising officers of the Personnel Division, the Computing Service, the Data Protection Office, and Departmental representatives. The group attempted to bring together existing rules and procedures, including those promulgated by the IT Syndicate, into one widely circulated document. Amendments were made after consideration of the draft at the University and Assistants Joint Board and at the Personnel Committee. Legal advice was taken, particularly in respect of the implications of the Human Rights Act 1998 and the Data Protection Act 1998, before the draft was approved.
The Personnel Committee accept that the guidelines have caused concern to some members of staff, and that they may need revision and clarification. However, they believe that guidance of this sort should be provided; indeed, they have noted that other universities have already done as much. They therefore propose to revise the guidelines to make it clear that there is no intention to permit those who manage the University's facilities to intrude capriciously upon individuals' privacy nor routinely to monitor e-mail and internet traffic. It is also proposed to set out in detail the procedure by which files and mailboxes would be accessed on the rare occasions when this is necessary. The revision will also take account of points made in this Discussion.
Dr R.A. COX (read by Dr K. M. WHEELER):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the recently issued guidelines concerning the monitoring of e-mails and telephone calls gives me cause for concern. Whilst such precautionary activity may be appropriate for governmental and commercial activities, there is a potential for restriction of freedom of expression, thereby undermining the ethos of a centre of learning.
Dr P. AEBISCHER (read by Dr K. M. WHEELER):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am concerned by the monitoring of e-mails and telephone calls as well as other computing activities, as described in Personnel Division and Computing Service guidelines issued this Easter Term. The Regent House must have reassurances of absolute safeguards to academic freedom of expression.
Dr M. CHAUDHRI (read by Dr K. M. WHEELER):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am rather sorry to see that the Personnel Division of the University needs to impose restrictions on the use of e-mail by the members and staff of the University.
I hope that something will be done to remove this unnecessary burden on us.
Dr A. J. CLOSE (read by Dr K. M. WHEELER):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the premises that underlie the guidelines give legitimate grounds for disquiet, and these become apparent in the statements in bold in section 3, headed 'Misconduct'. I quote: 'Any member of staff whose use of computer systems breaches these standards may be subject to disciplinary action which could result in summary dismissal and, in some cases, there is a possibility of a criminal prosecution. The University reserves the right to inspect any files held on any of its computer systems, whether on University-owned workstations or networked fileservers'.
From the first statement, it appears that staff may be liable to disciplinary action, even summary dismissal (which is against the Statutes of the University of Cambridge), for offences whose precise nature has not yet been made clear and explicit to all of them. The second statement is even more disturbing, since it presupposes that any material generated on computers supplied by the University is the property of the University, and this includes material which we would assume to be private, confidential, and subject to intellectual property rights. The document further states that normally the privacy of members of the University will be respected, and would only be infringed on suspicion of misconduct or if, while a University officer was absent and unavailable to be contacted, it became necessary to access data in his or her possession. However, it does not state who authorizes the monitoring of employees' computers, or what checks and restrictions would be placed on its abuse, or what person or body would make these effective.
We believe that many members of the University object in principle to the central administration adjudicating to themselves the right to intrude on privacy in this way. It is not evident how the central administration's claim of a right to hack into our computers and intercept our e-mails differs in any significant way from the claim of a right to break into our offices and go through our private papers. The remedy it proposes seems more sinister than many of the misdemeanours it wants to prevent. It scarcely squares with the guarantee of intellectual freedom that is incorporated in the University's Statutes, or with the routine assertions of a policy of non-discrimination in job announcements, since the right to privacy is a precondition of those two other kinds of freedom.
Professor K. I. B. SPARCK JONES:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, notwithstanding the reassurances intended by Professor Lipton, I am glad to hear that the remarks made this afternoon will be taken note of.
I am Professor of Computers and Information. I have been using computers for nearly forty years.
The Personnel Division's Guidelines, especially 'Section A: Required Standards', is the most insulting document I have encountered in nearly fifty years' membership of the University. No body in the University should address any person in the University in this hectoring (bullying, harassing?) style; and no one in this (or indeed any) university should be dumped with the bald statement: 'The University reserves the right to inspect any files held on any of its computer systems'.
It is proper to draw people's attention to the powers that the University may, under recent legislation, be obliged by others to use, or may itself perhaps be justified in invoking because it believes, after careful consideration, that some crime is being committed.
It is quite improper for a university that has, like any university, a special duty to respect the intellectual rights of individuals, certainly at least as much as its institutional safety, simply to assert that it will snoop anywhere it likes.
Dr R. J. ANDERSON:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, as Reader in Security Engineering, I am perhaps the University Teaching Officer whose professional interests are closest to this matter, and as I also chair the Foundation for Information Policy Research I have a particularly close interest.
In addition to these qualifications, I have a somewhat less conventional one: I am an international terrorist. How I added this qualification to my curriculum vitae may be instructive.
One of my professional concerns is the safety and privacy of medical information systems, and among my consultancy clients is the Icelandic Medical Association (IMA). I advised it on its opposition to a new medical database being promoted by a company in Reykjavik. This database combines the medical records of all Icelanders, unless they opt out, with genealogical and genetic data, and makes them available to a Swiss drug company. On privacy and medical ethics grounds, this database was opposed by the majority of doctors in Iceland, and was even denounced by the Information Commissioners of the other countries in Europe, including our own Information Commissioner, Elizabeth France. The Icelandic Medical Association therefore organized a boycott of the system, and, the last time I checked, some eleven per cent of the Icelandic population had opted out of it. My role was to assist the IMA with technical advice.
Following the introduction of the Terrorism Act, I was somewhat sobered to realize, in February this year, that it applied to me. The definition of terrorism includes 'the use or threat of action, designed seriously to interfere with or seriously to disrupt an electronic system, to influence the government, for the purpose of advancing a political, religious, or ideological cause'. The Act is fully extraterritorial in its scope. Thus by assisting the Icelandic Medical Association to organize a boycott of a database run for the benefit of a Swiss drug company, with the unashamedly political aim of persuading the Government in Reykjavik to safeguard medical ethics and European data protection law - and with the open support of a senior British public official, who reports directly to the Home Secretary - I have made myself liable to a long prison sentence. What's more, now that you have heard my confession, you are all also liable, unless you immediately seek out a police officer and report that you have just learned I am a terrorist.
The guidelines under discussion today clearly imply that I must not use University systems for matters related to Iceland. However, the problem is very much wider than that.
Over the past few years, we have seen governments follow businesses in a mad rush to stake out territory in cyberspace. Many of the claims are in conflict; they conflict with each other, with existing law, and all too often with common sense. Sorting out the mess will take many years, and in the meantime I expect that many university staff and students will find themselves routinely in technical breach of some public law, or of the rights claimed by some other private party.
As a further example, academic publishers repeatedly widen their assertions of copyright, with the result that many staff and students who routinely place copies of their academic publications on their personal web pages are in breach of their publishers' copyright claims. The appropriate way to deal with this problem is not to close down all personal web pages. That would make Cambridge an international laughing stock, and have exceptionally grave consequences for academic recruitment and retention. It is for academics worldwide to put pressure on publishers to stop being foolish. In the case of publishers who are also professional bodies, such as the IEEE, some progress is being made.
Patent law provides another minefield. With companies scrambling to patent everything from the human genome to basic business processes, and with the US Patent Office in particular apparently willing to grant formal protection on just about anything, much research in the biological sciences and elsewhere involves technical breaches of US patent law. It is completely predictable that, on occasion, this will lead to open confrontation between university researchers and companies. If Cambridge staff are forbidden to engage, then we will be at a significant disadvantage.
The laws surrounding cryptology, including the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act cited in the guidelines, pose particular and novel problems. The injunction that we only set passwords and security codes that the University can bypass will have a chilling effect on my own research (were I to abide by it, which I will not). It would not only prevent staff and students from using many services that are protected automatically by encryption, ranging from some webmail accounts to the latest peer-to-peer systems such as freenet. I would like to remind this House that our beloved University Card was first introduced by Dr Rashbass at Addenbrooke's to enable medical students to access patient records remotely as part of their training. To comply with medical ethics and the NHS security policies, such data must be encrypted and must not be available to local system administrators. It would appear that the new guidelines will seriously endanger telemedicine in Cambridge.
Turning now from computer science and medicine to the humanities, the laws of libel, sedition, and blasphemy are further obvious flashpoints. Ancient legend has it that our University was founded by scholars fleeing Oxford, where they were under suspicion of heresy. More recently, one of the founders of our University Press was burnt at the stake for translating and printing the Bible.
One can understand the Director of Personnel's wish to avoid doing anything that might conceivably give offence to the civil authority; but it sits poorly with our traditions. When his ukase is broadened to include not just material that might invite prosecution but also material that could result in legal action, then the University's contribution to litigious fields such as information technology is in peril. And when it is extended still further to 'messages which could be offensive to others', then our scholars of the humanities might consider the consequences for their work if they are unable even to cite books that have been declared anathema by some leader of the church, of the synagogue, or of the mosque.
It will be many years, and it will involve much conflict, before the rules of online discourse are settled. I expect to remain engaged in this process through my links to the Foundation for Information Policy Research, and I hope that many other staff and students will be engaged in various other ways. This is how the academic community will continue in our centuries-old task of advocating freedom of expression and acting as a liberating force in the evolution of our global culture. Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, the guidelines issued by the Director of Personnel are designed to have quite the opposite effect. He shows no understanding of what a university is for, and I would suggest that he resign.
Ms V. WORTHINGTON:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, there is no mention of e-mail use in the Student Handbook, nor are these new regulations easy to find on the University's website. People do not seem to realize that they will also affect students. Although we cannot be sacked, we can be disciplined and excluded. It is for this reason that I felt it necessary, as Student Rights Officer, to put forward my views today.
E-mail is a quick, easy, and convenient form of communication. It is an obvious method of 'staying in touch' and transmitting information. Most students use University e-mail frequently. They do so with the knowledge that what they are sending and receiving is absolutely confidential. Personal Tutors and supervisors are incredibly busy, so students often correspond with them via e-mail. The nature of these correspondences can be vast - from personal problems to academic matters. Can students risk e-mailing Lecturers with such issues, if they do not know who is reading what they are saying in trust? This is a serious matter. I know I would not want other people to read my messages, because it is an invasion of privacy. Is this not taking the whole 'big brother' society a little too far?
The University Counselling Service is another area where students use e-mail to communicate. Appointments are often made online, and are done so in the knowledge that the system is confidential and secure. I am quite sure that if students realized (and at present I do not think many are aware of these new regulations) that third parties could and would access personal e-mail, there would be much reservation in sending messages and getting help.
This brings me to another matter. At CUSU, the Sabbatical Officers deal with a lot of casework. Again, communication with students is most often done by e-mail. For reference these messages are saved online. By nature, these issues are highly confidential, and are certainly not 'public property'. Trust is very important in all the areas mentioned. Lecturers, the Counselling Service, and CUSU Sabbatical Officers are all entrusted with confidential and personal information.
I totally appreciate that regulations are necessary. We would not want staff (or students) spending their days surfing porn sites and wasting time sending lots of personal e-mail messages. However, I do not see the solution being imposing such unclear and unfair rules. Having the power to listen in on personal telephone calls and to read personal e-mail at the 'request of the institution' is certainly an unclear statement. Staff, like students, do not want to be made to feel as if they are being 'watched' or 'checked up on'. Such rules breed fear and wariness where it is not necessary. Opening other people's post is against the law. Surely e-mail should come into the same category. If the University needs to access an e-mail account, reasons should be given and permission sought from the relevant person.
The Schneider~Ross report revealed a high level of discontent amongst staff in the way they are treated by the University. Many felt undervalued by the institution, although they put time, passion, and energy into their work. Is this a fair way to prove to staff that they are respected and valued? Could not time be better spent on improving training for Tutors, or discussing issues such as updating our Student Handbook, than on imposing such invasive regulations regarding e-mail?
Dr G. R. Evans: Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, I am glad that it was recognized that if Dr Wheeler was asked to read speeches for others, she must constitutionally be allowed to do so. May I first read a speech for Dr de Lacey and then my own?
Dr D. R. DE LACEY (read by Dr G. R. EVANS):
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, setting aside the procedures by which this extraordinary document was promulgated, I wish to make two comments on the content. It is careless and it is inaccurate.
The very title and structure of the document indicate how little care went into its composition. It describes itself as being 'Guidelines', yet the title of Section A includes the word 'Required', and the section twice includes the phrase 'you must not'; with threats of 'disciplinary action' for non-compliance. Then Section B begins 'The following advice is intended as guidance rather than strict rules'. What status, then, has Section A? The entire structure of the document appears designed to minimize clarity.
The section on 'Required Standards for E-Mail' discusses issues which have nothing to do with e-mail ('internet access'; the use of 'computer facilities' for commercial gain).
There is no definition of the terms used, a fact which robs all the instructions of meaning. What is 'limited' use? What is the 'proper' use of a password? What is intended by 'University computer facilities'? What legitimate but non-academic access could there possibly be to pornographic or racist materials?
The document is littered with grammatical errors and infelicities. The University should be ashamed that such slovenly work be promulgated in its name.
Detailed study increases the impression of carelessness and adds that of ignorance.
There are ludicrous errors of fact: the Internet is not 'a form of publication'; computers are not 'essentially' tools to do work previously done by other means, to take only two absurdities among many.
The section on security, while neurotic on viruses, seems blissfully unaware that there are far more serious challenges to data and system integrity: there is no reference for instance to operating system bug fixes, which are essential to the maintenance of security. It is not merely recommended practice that passwords not be shared; the IT Syndicate Rules 'explicitly forbid the giving, lending, or borrowing of an identifier and password for any Computing Service facility FOR ANY REASON except where previously sanctioned by the Computing Service' (http://www.cam.ac.uk/CS/ITSyndicate/guidelines.html).
We are forbidden by this document from relaying jokes to our friends, but chain-mails, which are a far greater threat, are ignored. The suggestion that you should tell 'all your contacts' of the latest (and always spoof) virus danger is far more problematic than any joke among friends could be.
In complete contradiction of the IT Syndicate's own guidelines, the author states, 'All communications and stored information sent, received, created, or contained within the University's systems are the property of the University'. College users of CUS may well find that a most remarkable claim.
The author shows some awareness that there is no inherent security of e-mails ('E-mail messages are not private or secure') yet claims that 'in normal circumstances the confidentiality of your files and e-mail communications is guaranteed' [my emphasis]. Even a lay audience such as the one I am currently boring will have, I trust, a greater awareness of IT issues than this document displays.
These are not trivial points. Anyone who studies and follows these 'guidelines' may nonetheless become guilty of gross dereliction of duty, since they emphasize the wrong issues in the wrong ways. And I suspect, though I am not a lawyer myself, that anyone in the University administration who plans to take the section on monitoring seriously, and to read e-mails 'when staff are on holiday' or 'for quality control and staff training purposes' (whatever that may mean) may need the help of a lawyer, and a good one at that.
The irony is that the writer is aware that there are already both rules and guidelines for the use of the University's electronic systems: the document cites them. So what is this amateur commentary intended to add other than confusion? If the Personnel Division is so desperate for displacement activities, must not its current staffing levels be questioned? I suggest that in future the issuing of guidelines on computer use be left to members of the IT Syndicate. They do it so much better.
Dr G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, why is this a topic of concern? There are a number of reasons, but before I set them out, let me just make one pre-emptive strike. It is frequently said patronisingly on the central bodies that Discussions are a safety-valve. They allow us to let off steam (with the implication that it will then be possible to carry on regardless). It is also often said that after all there are never a great many speeches. That is historically true (though not, I think, today), but it has not prevented speech-making in the Senate being a powerful vehicle of change, reform (and sometimes, let's admit it, of reactionary sticking with the status quo). It does not matter how many speak. It matters what is said. One remark can make all the difference. I hope the recent eruption of criticism over CAPSA and the (apparent) withdrawal of the Commissary Statute show that Discussions can have an effect. And Professor Edwards's eventually successful invocation of Statute K, 5 over the Research Professorships began with the calling of just such a Discussion as this. That was sneered at too, on the Council, but in the end it turned out, as so often, that the 'dissidents' and 'radicals' were right.
The Board of Scrutiny touch in their present Report on the reasons why we are seeing an increasing number of calls for ballots and calls for emergency Discussions like this one. The Board make suggestions which they believe might 'help to create transparency and accountability'. That is a very long-term project, I fear, and in the meantime, please no sneers at remarks made today, and no pretending they were not made at all.
To the present topic of concern.
1. The failure to put a Report to the University on the policy matters. This is a frequent problem. Proposals with vast implications are pushed through with no proper policy discussion, on the Council or in this forum. There was not even a Notice before these 'rules' allowing our e-mails to be read and our telephones tapped came round. There should have been a Report, setting out the new legislation clearly and simply and explaining to us that we, the University, the Regent House (not the administrative staff and committees who are our servants acting on their own), have to conduct a balancing exercise between the requirements of the Data Protection Act, the Investigatory Powers Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Human Rights Act. We were entitled to be told what factors have to be weighed against one another.
In the Report we should have had the reservations I know the Computing Service expressed about what was proposed taken seriously and set before us, with due weight. I think it is not good enough for Ms Woodhouse to stand up now and read a paper-thin justification still not going to this central question. 'Sorry' would have been good.
We should have been able to expect that proper protections would have been built into any regulations, to ensure that in this increasingly 'top-heavy' and 'top-down' society Heads of Departments and Chairmen of Faculty Boards could not go on fishing expeditions at will by claiming that there was a 'need' in their 'institution'. If I suggest that those not in positions of power should, in a direct democracy, have reciprocal opportunities to see into what their 'seniors' were doing perhaps that will put the thing in a sharp enough light. For surely that is only fair. If my fellow citizen in this direct democracy is allowed to read my private correspondence I should be allowed to read his too? I say that just to point up how outrageous it is that there should be no 'equality before the law' in this matter.
Academic freedom cannot be protected where such imbalance of power is allowed.
Let us have some broader promises about openness and accountability in the rules we are now discussing, when they are reformulated by a proper legislative process. For far more problems of overlap and conflict of requirements arise under these Acts than the question whether the University has a 'duty' to create rules to allow it to read our e-mails, which the Personnel Division has rushed to answer with a 'yes'. I mentioned one of them earlier in touching on the right of access to reserved Minutes dealing with individuals personally which also form part of the University's archive. Records management is, I understand, being taken in hand. Registrary, may we have a Notice with some details about what is proposed and an invitation to submit comment?
If there had been a Report and a Discussion it is inconceivable that the mismatch between the Computer Service's clientèle and the category of employees of the University would not have been pointed out. College Bursars are entitled to be angry that they, College employees, can no longer be confident that College business is private if they choose to conduct any part of it by e-mail or telephone on the University's systems. Students are entitled to be disturbed that their very existence was overlooked. What does this suggest about the priority we give their concerns in this community?
If it had been recognized that there would have to be a Report and a Discussion, perhaps the materials would have been more critically scrutinized before being released. We desperately need to be able to trust the Personnel Division and its Committee to improve the treatment of all our staff. As a first public indication of what they are going to do for us, this was a real own goal.
2. The creation of rules and regulations in the University of Cambridge. We have a simple and time-honoured legislative process in this University. We put a Report to the University. We Discuss it. A Grace is approved. The result is the creation of a Statute (which has to go to the Privy Council for approval) or an Ordinance or an Order. The difference between an Ordinance and an Order is that an Order is, roughly, a one-off legislative Act, such as approves the creation of a Chair for a named individual. It now seems clear, thanks to Professor Spencer's recent K, 5 ruling as the Vice-Chancellor's deputy, that all the rules which are intended to achieve continuing regulation of the conduct of our affairs are, in principle, Ordinances. They should all, therefore, be created through the proper channels, surely? It is so simple, so easy, so open a method. Any other method smacks of power games on the central bodies, and it has the attendant danger to the University that it may not be able to enforce such rules.
We have enough problems with the implementation of the rules we have which have been created by the proper process (no training, again; discipline of assistant staff for trying to do what they were told by a Patron, and getting it wrong; health and safety dangers because our staff are terrified to speak up when they are told to do something conscience or common sense warns them against).
What is going to happen when the University, trying to sack someone for misuse of computer facilities under these new provisions, is taken to court and has to explain that no, actually, these are not rules at all; we have a perfectly straightforward legislative process and, no, the Personnel Division did not bother with that; it did not bother to notice the difference of contractual protections affecting various kinds of employees; it did not bother to look at the protections for certain University officers (laughable as they are, I find) under Statute U? 'Actually, My Lord/ Your Honour, we just sort of rushed these through without asking anyone how to do it properly. Sorry, My Lord/Your Honour, bit of a mess really. But you have to realize that that is how Cambridge is really run. We don't bother with the Statutes and Ordinances that much, actually Sir.' (And the awful truth is that they may get away with it, represented as they will be by leading Counsel against the poor individual fighting the sack.)
I point those who are interested in the technicalities to two articles by Simon Whittaker in the Oxford Journal of Legal Studies, dealing with student aspects of these problems: 'Public and Private Law-making: Subordinate Legislation, Contracts and the Status of 'Student Rules'' 21 (2001), 103 and 'Judicial Review in Public Law and in Contract Law: The Example of 'Student Rules'' (forthcoming). He explores the differences between rules which may be enforceable by contract, which are based on mutuality (that is, requiring both parties to agree, with no unfair pressure put upon the weaker party to accept unfair terms); and rules which can be imposed unilaterally by a university on its employees or students. In Cambridge as in Oxford, we have the interesting twist that we are the University. So they do have to ask us first.
Please may we have these 'rules' withdrawn and a report to the University so that we can consider properly and openly what we really need and what will be acceptable in a free speech community which also has to give students and staff a 'safe place' to raise concerns without fears that someone may be looking over the shoulder of the recipient of an e-mail or listening in to a conversation on the telephone? And while we are about it, can we attend to records management issues and rights of access for individuals to those Minutes which are written about them behind their backs? One should not have to read corrections into the record in a Discussion in order to get them kept for posterity.
If they want to save face and pretend, as usual, that there was really nothing wrong here, all they have to do is take advantage of the forthcoming implementation of the Freedom of Information Act, and put before us a Report introducing us to the 'wholly new subject' of the relationship of the Data Protection Act, the Investigatory Powers Act, the Freedom of Information Act, and the Human Rights Act. They are quite good at revisionism on the central bodies.
Dr D. R. J. LAMING:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, this University has about 5,000 employees with access on a daily basis to computing facilities provided by the University. Human nature being what it is, it is to be expected that many of those employees will occasionally use their computers for purposes that are not strictly academic and that a small number will do so to excess. If that excess were to involve the downloading of paedophile or racist material from the internet, the University, as employer, might be held liable if it sat back and did nothing. The Personnel Committee's guidelines do no more than any responsible employer should be doing in this day and age of e-mail messaging and the internet. Moreover, those guidelines let us all know where we stand, and that is to be welcomed. So why are fifteen signatories calling for a Discussion on the issuing of those guidelines?
If it is suspected that some person is using the University's computing facilities for unacceptable purposes, there has to be surveillance to discover the truth of the matter. Moreover, if that surveillance is to be informative, it has to be covert. But, just as it is possible to use the University's computing facilities covertly for other than their intended purposes, so it is also possible to abuse the opportunities for surveillance. The Personnel Committee is sensitive to that possibility, and in his speech the Chairman has promised to 'set out in detail the procedure by which files and mailboxes would be accessed on the rare occasions when this is necessary'. That also is to be welcomed. But what, I believe, the signatories to the call for this Discussion are really concerned about is the possibility that surveillance, doubly covert, might by-pass those promised procedures.
Surveillance requires only a suspicion of unacceptable use of computing facilities and suspicion, in turn, does not require actual evidence. The surveillance is covert, and if one cannot actually establish that one's mailbox has been accessed by others, there are no grounds for investigating the possibility of unauthorized surveillance. The procedures that the Chairman of the Personnel Committee has promised, though desirable in themselves, do not substitute for trust - trust on the one side that employees will not abuse the computing facilities provided by the University and trust on the other side that surveillance will not be used capriciously. I believe the real point of this Discussion is that, for the fifteen signatories at least, that trust is lacking.
Now the notion of trust, or a lack of it, involves two parties. It does not concern just the individual signatory - it concerns the University, or its senior officers or administrators, as well. It would be easy to dismiss this present protest on the grounds that there will always be a few individuals (amongst 5,000) who mistrust their employer; but that will not do, because in the matter of establishing trust between employees and administration the University, as employer, has the primary responsibility. I have no brief to speak for any of the signatories who called for this Discussion; but I do know that in one case the lack of trust has a history extending back in time for nearly twenty years. There is an important aspect of personnel management here that has simply been ignored in the past and the University is not without responsibility in the matter. I hope that our new-found Personnel Committee, with the support of the Director of Personnel and his staff, will address the problem of lack of trust that underlies the call for this Discussion.
The University's mission and core values (p. 787).
Dr G. R. EVANS:
Madam Deputy Vice-Chancellor, our primary purpose now is to 'contribute to society'. Is it? We also claim to be international in our 'levels of excellence', so is it only British society to which we are going to contribute? What if all our 'contributing' benefits USA business, or indeed global business more than business in the UK? Will our masters, the Government, like that? I pointed this sloppy thinking out before I left the Council (which tells you that this has been hanging about since last Michaelmas Term before being published for your comments).
In conceptual terms the list which follows is of a banality of which we should be ashamed. What will history make of this when in future centuries this stands in the long succession of our reflections, and scholars of the future (if we produce any at this rate) will see to what we were reduced by the passing business ethic of the beginning of the twenty-first century. Another absurdity, another mouse, and again after a lengthy delay. (I have nothing against mice in themselves of course; but mice do not belong in our mission statement.)
The fostering of religion, education, learning, and research remains our purpose. The relationship between our continuing core (and legal) purpose as a corporate body and our 'mission' must be clearly articulated. So what have we here? 'Broad subject coverage'. Does that mean that we must have a lot of options in our Triposes, since there is to be a 'close inter-relationship between teaching, research, and scholarship'? Does it mean that our researchers will be rewarded for breadth? Does it mean that we intend to continue to appoint University officers in rare subjects like Sanskrit even if there are few students? (I hope so.) All these need debating as separate issues. What happened to depth? Are all these researchers to have proper long-term jobs or are we going to go on exploiting the short-term contract scientists? How exactly is this 'strong support' for individual researchers going to be offered? Those of us who have sought it know that it does not exist. You are left to fight your own battles. And the individual researchers in the research groups need support, too, in the nests of prejudice and patronage in which some of them have to work.
Teaching. Yes, it seems we are going to continue to offer a good range of subjects. Here, but not in research, we are to have depth. The students, however, are apparently not going to get the benefit of our 'breadth'. That belongs in the research category. Residence in Cambridge as central to 'most' courses is very sinister. It means that the Judge Institute and the e-university projects can in reality go ahead with proposals which will progressively undermine that requirement. (But perhaps I am unduly anxious, so inefficient are we. The poor prospective part-time doctoral students who were promised a Statute in time for them to come in October have not even been given a Report proposing the Statute yet.)
The education which enhances the ability of students to learn throughout life is probably the thing we have been doing best, though our students do learn from highly visible examples that it does not pay to ask awkward questions in Cambridge. I would like to see the encouragement of a questioning spirit added here, and then a culture change to make that something we really do welcome. Reward and recognition for challenge and questioning?
The University would be unwise to include under 'teaching' the provision for opportunities for participation in all those 'cultural activities'. They are not part of our teaching provision but a feature of the richness of life here. Students will be able to sue us if we put them in our mission statement as promised provision by the University. The Government wants us to be entrepreneurial and to encourage our students to become businessmen. I am glad to see that that seems to have got left out of the list, but I fear that is more from muddle than because we reject it as part of our mission. I hope I am wrong.
Please can we ban the word 'portfolio' from the Reporter? It is now creeping in everywhere in Old Schools-speak. The Pro-Vice-Chancellors are to have 'portfolios' when we have 'reformed' these expensive people. The senior administrative officers whose future functions are uncertain are to have 'portfolios'. Perhaps we can enact a requirement that they carry them about at all times and that members of the Regent House may be entitled to look into them on request?
It seems no more clear which society when we come to the detailed list under 'The relationship with society'. Local, yes, that must mean East Anglia; but 'the broader academic community' is international. The item which gives me most ground for concern is 'opportunities for partnership with business, industry, commerce, charitable foundations, and healthcare'. We want their funding, but I am not at all clear why we want 'partnerships'. Has anyone really thought this through? What is the purpose of this rush to form 'links' and 'partnerships' and 'associations' which is trumpeted all over our web pages in the most unlikely places? If it is really that we want to ensure a continuous flow of funding, let us say so. If there are academic advantages, that is advantages to our teaching and research in these partnerships, those should be spelt out, and I suspect that they will prove to be specific and related only to certain areas of research where an industrial partner is needed to try out something too big and expensive to be tested in our laboratories. One of the most important tasks for this 'mission statement' is surely to give us something to point to when confronted by big corporations greedy for our name (or 'brand') so that we can say that we should be glad to talk 'business' with them, but only on our terms.
The need to get rules about these business links into our Statutes and Ordinances grows more and more urgent. On the Working Party on the ethics of accepting benefactions (news on that soon, we hope, if the Council allows our report to be published) we have discussed this problem among others.
Why is student access last in this list?
University staff. One wonders how they have the effrontery to write those words about 'recognition and reward of the University's staff'. The lowlier administrative and assistant and academic-related staff have a very poor deal here in every way. Rewarding our staff is a particularly sore point among academics today, I should think, when we are discussing the special rewarding of the few under more than one head (Research Professorships gained on patronage and on the nod and the special salaries for the secretly favoured few). On academic freedom to teach, watch out. My Faculty, as I have pointed out in the Senate-House before, thinks it can instruct me to lecture in History and stop me offering interdisciplinary lectures, since everything I do has to be rubber-stamped by the Faculty Board, which is having a macho moment with Statute C (those threats I hinted at earlier).
Freedom from discrimination. I sat down recently with the Disability Adviser and we went through the Schneider~Ross recommendations to see how things were going from a disability point of view. Under 10.00, Recommendations, we found again and again that she had not even been consulted or informed. 'Not consulted', 'not approached', I wrote in the margin at item after item. The staff of the Disability Centre were not invited to the occasion on 21 May at which the Important People in the University were given their first 'training' session by the (untrained) Vice-Chancellor, with some assistance I understand (the help of someone it would be unfair to name).
The Vice-Chancellor sends out begging letters, which are followed up by students hired to telephone the recipients. Can he really assure these representatives of the 'society' we have a 'mission' to serve that this is a fair, inclusive, even-handed place with nothing to hide? (To be fair, they have rushed a chair with five legs to my desk for health and safety reasons.)
I do not trust the Planning and Resources Committee to complete this task and create a Strategic Plan we can 'own' and feel proud of. I hope their full text will be published in the Reporter for further Discussion on a less crowded afternoon before it goes out in our name. And if they say time is short, I ask them why they have not come back to us sooner. It is a very long time since it was announced that this project was in hand and we were asked to send in our thoughts. This does not seem a great deal to have achieved since Michaelmas 1999. Perhaps if they had consulted 'Mission Statements' (http://www.natcom.org/Instruction/Resources/Mission_Statements.htm) they could have got on faster. There may be found handy materials from the National Communication Association of Washington. They know what a Mission Statement ought to be. It is 'a summative declaration of a corporation or organization's (department/program) philosophical ideals that subsume some combination of the corporate/organizational mission, vision, and values'. It is 'the corporate or organizational version of an ego ideal'.
'Contrasted to ethical codes, mission statements are written in a strategically ambiguous way to maximize interpretive flexibility. This enables them to function with a 'ghostly immanence' over and above genres that get things done.' Ah, so this is relevant to Cambridge then. 'Given the failure of some groups [in higher education] to recognize communication departments as an important part of the academy, creation of sound mission statements seems a worthwhile endeavour'. For the 'communication departments'? The 'communication department' is advised to 'project an inspiring message, positive tone, and positive image' and to 'address constituents: faculty, administrators, students, alumni'. It will need to, to judge from the examples of actual mission statements to be found on this web page. 'We are somewhat unique in the diversity of our approaches to our phenomena' (Humboldt State). 'We have used many tools, some of which we have discarded realizing that only those ideas that are honed by the sharpest tools will withstand the blunting criticisms of others' (Michigan State). I am sure they are honing away and discarding tools like billy-o in the Old Schools so that we too may be somewhat unique in the diversity of approaches to our phenomena. Then we shall indeed be beyond criticism in our mission statement.
No remarks were made on the following Report:
The Report of the Council, dated 11 June 2001, on the construction of a Nano-Fabrication Building at West Cambridge (p. 810).
|Previous page||Table of Contents||Next page|
Cambridge University Reporter, 18 July 2001
Copyright © 2011 The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Cambridge.