[Date Prev][Date Next][Date Index]
INKYTEXT 349 Part I
_ __ __ ______
(_) ____ / /__ __ __ / /_ ___ _ __ /_ __/
/ / / __ \ / //_/ / / / / / __/ / _ \ | |/_/ / /
/ / / / / / / ,< / /_/ / / /_ / __/ _> < / /
/_/ /_/ /_/ /_/|_| \__, / \__/ \___/ /_/|_| /_/
BUMPER TWO-PART PENULTIMATE ISSUE
Issue No 349 Wednesday 26th April 2000
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
Editorial correspondence should be sent to InkyText@lancaster.ac.uk
Subscription requests to Inkytextemail@example.com
------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------ ------
Minutes and Matters Arising
1. Editorial: Information Matters
2. News: Professor Hugh Tinker, University companies, Prof Watson, Call to
halt RAE, Times League Tables, London Marathon, Concerts, Peacocks,
Pay claim, Marketing universities, Warehouse Wine Co, Ruskin Exhibition,
Mardis, Can-DO, Marcus Merriman, Abalone.
3. Memoirs of an E-zine Editor (I)
PART II FOLLOWS AND INCLUDES
4. Paris Diary with a Difference.
5. Online educational e-zines.
6. Readers' Letters: The 'Regulation of Investigatory Powers' Bill, Kind
Letters, Late Ad, Louis Barfe in Private Eye, George Cockburn, Alan
Waters, Deborah Birchall.
MINUTES AND MATTERS ARISING
For 'hommage' read 'homage'. (Another gallicism - sorry.)
The committal of Mrs Martha Gordon took place today (Tuesday) at noon
in the Crematorium.
The two technical staff employed by Mardis did not resign but were
given a year's notice. Worrying rumours emanating from members of
SCOPE. Trying to find the company secretary to verify the facts.
Humanities faculty members are reminded that voting in the decanal
election closes on 5th May.
The major PEACOCK exhibition, Dr Newman's last service to the
university as curator of rare books, opens on Friday. Any closet
peacock supporters are urged to make themselves known to her.
Ernie Phillips's retirement do is on Friday.
The Goethe institute exhibition Paula Modersohn-Becker and the
Worpswede Circle opens in the Peter Scott Gallery on May 4th (next
The AUT National President addresses members on campus next week (3 May).
1. EDITORIAL: INFORMATION MATTERS
I hope you are going to take a peek at some of the American university
newsletters whose addresses are given in Part II of this penultimate
issue. I discovered them and others a long time ago and have been
struck by their astonishing frequency, richness, diversity and (at
least in appearance) openness. Nor do they always skirt controversy.
In Britain generally, and just as much in our universities as in
public life, too much 'official' information is dispensed on a 'need to
know' basis, or announced belatedly as an afterthought. There is a
common assumption that if your job doesn't require you to know a
particular fact, then offering it to you amounts merely to gossiping
and seeking it amounts to nosiness. It's really, however, all a matter
of retaining control and showing who's in charge.
This is both patronising and sad. Adult members of a community should
have a right to decide what they want to know, especially where their
employers and their jobs are concerned. A confident management can
welcome this interest and profit from it. Only weak and shifty
managements with incompetence to cover up need fear it.
In America, they let it all hang out. Staff and students are deluged
with news by competing news vehicles. Even a modest campus the size of
ours often manages to have both official and not-for-profit student-run
daily newsletters. Sometimes these serve the whole town as well.
Usually they exist as hard-copy but also have a web version.
Our own two e-mail lists, News Update (Vickytext) and Notices
(Donnatext) are now at least archived on the web, though not very
prominently. Perhaps they could be combined and issued as a bi-weekly
publication to be looked forward to, though they never reach outsiders.
News Updates can never be very exciting, however, for they are usually
written by various senior officers. Even though they are sent out under
the Press Officer's name.
They were briefly supplemented by more polemical Tracytexts, where
Professor Shennan sought (unsuccessfully) to counter the critical views
espoused here. One issue of Newsview was once given a web format and
even SCAN has failed to update its web-digest as often as one would
We have in recent years clearly sought to diminish the importance of
news, especially the bad kind, and to get it on the cheap. Both of
these things are silly and counter-productive - especially when one is
in the business of touting for donations from industry and alumni.
If past, present and future students are to feel the kind of loyalty
and affection for the institution that is so patently often the case
in North America, they need to feel they are insiders from the start,
that they belong to a body they can feel proud of.
One can feel proud of a body that acknowledges complaints, instantly
admits it's errors and seeks to eradicate them. If you do that, you cut
the ground from under the endemic moaner's feet (excuse the mixed
That has clearly not always been the case. Student knocking copy has
at times been virulent. Their expectations of admin boobs has often
been widespread. Even this year, keeping up with student complaints on
Lubbs would make terribly depressing reading for university house
administrators, most of whom remain aloof by simply not reading it.
This too is sad. If someone is bad mouthing me I'd prefer to know
about it at once, whether to blush and amend my ways or to refute the
allegations. That, incidentally, is why it is actually desirable that
gossip should take a written, and hence amendable, form rather than an
oral one. As with individuals, so with institutions. (Idealists will
say it's better there should be no gossip... but that alas is
Those of us who try to salvage the situation by pointing out that the
university has much to commend it and has no reason to act perversely
in a systematic way get short shrift and have an uphill battle.
On the positive side, this year's major news initiative so far has
been the fascinating file of news items in the alumni pages. Have a
look for yourself:
This is actually provided by Rebecca Leam as part of her Consultant MA
in Independent Studies. In other words instead of being paid to provide
it, she herself is paying for the privilege. It's not the way they do
things in the institutions with which we think we wish to compete.
DEATH OF PROFESSOR HUGH TINKER: Emeritus Professor Tinker, an eminent
authority on the history and government of Burma and the Indian
subcontinent, died in the RLI on Saturday 15th April after a long
Professor Tinker was second Professor of International Relations at
Lancaster from 1977 to 1981. Previously he had been a professor at SOAS
and the Commonwealth Institute. He was briefly (1970-72) a
controversial director of the Institute for Race Relations, whose
journal, Race Today, he sought to turn into a compaigning one instead
of an academic glossy.
He came to national fame, unhappily, through the publication of a
Penguin Special: "Letters from the Falklands, the life and gallant
death of Lieutenant David Tinker, RN". His son David died when HMS
Glamorgan was attacked and his letters home provide in retrospect a
poignant reflection on the evils of war. The book was turned into a
successful play and had two runs at the Royal Court.
Professor Tinker, three times a Liberal parliamentary candidate, lived
at Hornby and is survived by his wife and two sons to whom we send our
CONGRATULATIONS TO PROFESSOR WATSON who becomes chair of the Association
of University Business Schools. This gives him an hour's interview with
Mr Blunkett later in May.
CONGRATULATIONS ALSO TO MARCUS MERRIMAN who is 60 on May 3rd. His
party is this Saturday - all afternoon and evening in Furness if he can
stand the pace. He says he will be in Henry VIIIth costume (he turned
up at the Inkytext party in a kilt!). His list of birthday wishes is
impressive.... but possibly optimistic. It includes: a 1565 Scottish
ryal, his own Henry VIII costume and a Mamod model locomotive.
CALL TO HALT RAE: On 17th April the AUT launched a campaign to stop
the Research Assessment Exercise, basing its case on the March 2nd
judgement of an employment tribunal, which found that a female staff
member at LSE had been discriminated against in a job application. "Sex
discrimination is embedded in university research assessment", says tha
AUT. "Assessment of research in universities should be halted
immediately and the rules revised, to minimise the risk of
discriminating against women."
The AUT is calling upon the funding councils to stop the current RAE.
All the rules and procedures, at both national and institutional level,
should be subjected to a rigorous equal opportunities audit, says the
association, which wants the audit conducted by the EOC (Equal Opps
LANCASTER SLIPPED IN AT 19th in the latest version of The Times league
tables. It has now been leap-frogged by SOAS, Birmingham, Newcastle and
Manchester but is still above Sheffield (just), Loughborough, Leeds,
Glasgow, Royal Holloway and QMC. Most spectacular rise was that of
Bristol which soared into fourth place. In further subject tables we
came 4th in Drama, 5th in Environmental Science, 15th in History, 18th
in Computing. We were 28th in the Financial Times Table.
UNIVERSITY COMPANIES: No news at all is now emerging about these
despite their increasing importance in our financial affairs. Nothing
detailed is any longer published in the annual accounts, and there's
nothing on the web. Impossible to find out easily from the accounts how
much each is contributing to our income.... or losses. Even to find out
who our directors are means scrabbling through back minutes of the
Finance Committee. "Commercial sensitivity", I expect. Perhaps they have
something to be sensitive about. It's almost 15 years since Professor
Hanham first announced that they were not performing satisfactorily and
'something had to be done'. Now we are not even allowed to know how
they are performing. Time to ask questions at Council.
CONCERNS ABOUT MARDIS reflect badly upon our current preoccupation
with exploiting IPR (intellectual property rights: patents and
copyright). Here was an area with development potential, computer aids
for the disabled. It combined two of our areas of expertise: computing
and linguistics of artificial speech generation. Manufacturing the
things ourselves seemed even better than franchising it and getting
Alas, since the departure of Ken Pennington, and perhaps even before,
there were worries about this company. It is not clear whether Dr
Nielsen was brought in to run the thing down gently or to turn it
around and make it profitable again. It is not clear where there took
place the "consideration whether the activity was appropriate for the
university" that seemed to be called for by Mr McGregor in Septemer
It's a modest but useful enterprise. Failure to make a success of it
does not augur well for our larger-scale attempts to raise capital for
building projects or development gifts from "successful" donors.
SO FAREWELL TO CAN-DO the disability careers service, whose remaining
staff say goodbye to us this week on the transfer of the unit to
Manchester. It is still puzzling to know why we were so ready to lose
this quite prestigious and mainly self-funding outfit. Farewell do in
Cartmel Bar later this week.
AUT PAY CLAIM: A 2.5 PERCENT PAY OFFER was fairly predicatably made on
12th April and, still more predictably, rejected by the AUT.
Discussions on job security and equal opps have been on-going for 12
months as part of LAST YEAR's pay claim.
LONDON MARATHON: WAS KEITH JONES THE SAME K JONES who was 16307th in 4
hrs 41 minutes 33 secs? Hope so. Phil Payne, running for the Orchard
Vale Trust also completed the course in 4 hrs 55 minutes, but it took
him 16 minutes to reach the start line after the official clock
started, so his actual time for the distance was 4 hrs 38 mins 33 secs.
Many congratulations to both and keep that sponsorship money rolling
IN PRAISE OF PEACOCKS: their history in Art, Religion, Literature, &c
And at Bailrigg, This exhibition, curated by Dr Newman who has been the
life-support system for our peacocks over recent decades, opens in the
University Library South Room on Friday. Admission Free. Normal Library
opening hours until 26th May. A must. Many were impressed by the
moving 'Death of a Peacock' tribute written by Dr Newman and published
both here and in SCAN.
RUSKIN EXHIBITION: TREASURES OF THE RUSKIN LIBRARY PART I. This is on
until 11th June. The exhibition is in two parts so that items currently
on loan to the national exhibition in the Tate can be displayed later.
Fulsome praise as usual from round the world in the visitors' book.
The critical and exegetical apparatus provided is fuller than on some
earlier occasions, and is also included in a modest but attractive 50p
catalogue. I was interested in the evolution of the great man's drawing
style from the 'line and dot' architectural drawings in the style of
Samuel Prout to the slightly more fluid style of his own later pen and
wash or water colour studies.
A few of these are quite interesting, and the studies of Chamonix and
the _mer de glace_ will appeal to the mountaineers among us. I have to
confess though that I still find Ruskin's world a lonely one. Quite a
Proustian study of the interestingly angled shadows under a bridge.
One major sketch by Burne Jones and some works by Prout, Fairfax
Murray, Severn etc. Interestingly annotated or dedicated books given or
received. I was intrigued to find that Scott was his fave novelist -
that explains a lot about his syntax! He was also madly fond of the
Arabian Nights which is another link with Proust.
Admission Free. Open usual times. Go - you could enjoy it!
HAVE YOU DISCOVERED THE WAREHOUSE YET? It's in the old Mitchell's
brewery., behind the grand theatre. A large choice of mainly fine wines
from around the world. Some interesting upmarket stuff, and the
infamous Cuvee Jean-Paul is the lowest priced at 2.99. Minimum 12
bottles purchase (a bit like Majestic) but you can mix them. Pop along
before April 30th and you get a fiver off your case.
"LOOKOUT", THE UCLAN (CENTRAL LANCS) ONLINE BI-WEEKLY, leads its last
issue with a note signed Malcolm Macvicar, Vice-Chancellor and headed:
MARKETING FOR ACADEMIC STAFF. Herewith. Comment please.
"Marketing is not a task that can be left to others. It is a
responsibility shared by every member of staff in the university, and
academic staff are actually in the front line. It is to academic staff
that prospective students want to talk. It is academic staff ultimately
who persuade businesses or partner institutions to buy our services. It
is academic staff who have to create the products that will attract
customers of all kinds. Academic staff sometimes say "but we are not
trained to do this". This is a reasonable point to which the University
is responding. A new course entitled: 'CAN MARKETING REALLY WORK? -
EFFECTIVE MARKETING SKILLS FOR UNIVERSITY ACADEMICS' has been created
specially for this purpose. This intensive 1 day programme will
describe the whole marketing process in universities, and it will set
out the part that academic staff can play alongside the marketing
professionals at University, Faculty or Departmental level."
HAVE YOU PLAYED ABALONE YET? You can sign up free in French or English
at www.abalone-online.com The blurb says it is "a game of reflection
that has collected more awards than any other and is known the world
over. So, the site was posted to enable Abalone players to get together
and play around the famous six-sided board. This site is yours. You
will shape the way it develops, and with the e -mails you send, the
games you play and the active contributions you make, you w ill become
its central figures. Abalone draws its motto "Life as a game, the game
as a way of living" from its ethos based on the pleasures of playing
and togetherness. For what the site proposes is truly a way of living
and the possibility of constructing a real community is a good
illustration of it."
3. MEMOIRS OF AN E-ZINE EDITOR (I)
Inkytext began in 1993. The immediate cause of its conception was the
editor-to-be's realisation that the university was not so much
teetering towards bankruptcy as waltzing towards it with cheerful
abandon. Not really hard to see, for in those days one could still just
about carry a model of our finances in your head. Though few did.
One such person however, apart from the editor, was the then
secretary, George Cockburn. No one knows what exactly transpired
between him, the VC and the Treasurer, but one spring evening, to his
astonishment, the VC, Professor Hanham, crept round to his home and
delivered his early retirement terms by pushing them under the door and
slipping away unannounced.
It is safe to assume that George was profoundly unhappy at the
decision to squander our last remaining reserves by paying cash for the
George Fox building. This meant, for example, that at various times in
the year we would henceforth be obliged to borrow money. Presumably he
could also see that planning for the debenture, the graduate college,
the Tower avenue shops and the Library extension were all flawed, even
without allowing for slippages. Worse, they were being driven on
regardless of cogent misgivings by the determination of the VC and his
Those were strange and surreal times. Senate was a jokey place, full
of laughs, some even coming from people who remarked afterwards on how
badly run it was. Euphoria over our lofty RAE placing drowned doubts
about our finances. The commonest cliche used to describe the editor
and his sardonic prognostications was 'Cassandra'.
Some people found that funny. The joke lasted 2 years. One did not
wish to dissent - merely to point out that Cassandra was of course
doomed to be correct in all her predictions, and to know that she would
not be believed. So it was. Haven't heard the term much these past 5
Like so much rumour and legend about the early Inkytexts, accusations
of gloom were wholly unfounded. On the contrary and ab initio it has
been an optimistic, life-affirming, constructive journal that loves to
laugh, not least at itself, and to generate laughter in others. Most of
those who said otherwise had either never read it or had guilty secrets
they feared might be divulged.
Inkytext has always had something of the mythical about it. Most of
the things said or believed or simply assumed about its early years are
completely mistaken. Were early issues full of leaked information,
purloined papers, confidential documents? Not at all, not one. Though
the former secretary did once, wrongly and perhaps feeling embarrased
lest the magnitude of a settlement leak out, accuse me of this with a
threatening letter and a copy of it to Personnel for my file. Alas he
had overlooked the entirely unrestricted minute whence my innocent
Did they deal in untruths or exaggeration? Nope. Did they flirt with
libel, and risk exposing distinguished individuals to hatred, ridicule
or contempt? Absolutely not. Never once.
Did they peddle gossip? Lots of whimsical trivia perhaps, but
malicious gossip never. No mention of dismissals or court convictions.
Never a single allusion to staff adultery or drunkenness, although,
goodness knows, there is always enough of both around in universities.
(Professor Geary indeed has gone so far as to claim (jokingly one
hopes) that the Editor, an extreme sceptic, doesn't really believe
adultery happens because so rarely is there an independent
Was it 'scurrilous', a word used almost exclusively by people who
don't know its meaning? Don't be ridiculous and look the word up in
your online Webster's. It has never been "given to coarse language" or
contained "obscenities, abuse, or slander".
Did it even 'wash dirty linen in public'? My response to that frequent
observation has always been two-fold. Firstly, that universities, of
all places, ought to set an example by keeping their underwear spotless
and smelling of one's favourite fragrance. i.e. there simply should not
be any unmentionable dirty linen, and if such exists it ought to be
known about. Secondly, you have to rely on my judgment as 'loyal
opposition' and recognize that the really filthy stuff whose display
serves no purpose I have simply suppressed. (And don't you even think
What then caused so much awed reaction and, in some quarters, angry
hostility to those early issues? The most that can be said is that they
were irreverent and mocking, disrespectful of patent stupidity,
especially the collective kind characterised by 'pluralistic
ignorance'. And quirky and unpredictable, which gave some the feeling
that here was a potentially dangerous maverick insider.
In fact of course published contributions were less maverick than some
imagined, the more pointed remarks usually cryptic and tucked away
unobtrusively, sometimes being addressed to the one person who might
have reason to feel embarrassed by them or who could do something about
the matters at issue. This led Professor Clayton to remark that
Inkytext's real merit was in perhaps stopping some people behaving as
badly as they otherwise might.
Also of course early issues were invariably and buoyantly humorous.
Much more so than now. They had to be. Never, never underestimate the
potency of humour as a force for behaviour modification. It upsets the
mighty more than anything else. For the humble it is at once an
escape-valve and a weapon which can win over minds that would never
even read a flawlessly logical critique.
Humour of course won readers, even potentially hostile ones. So did
sex, wine and food, which have also been constant sub-themes. I
understand from the publishing world that it is a pity I have no real
interest in, or knowledge of, cats, gardening and golf, which are also
surefire ways of drumming in the readership.
Satirical? Occasionally. Flippant? Often. Ironic? Oh yes, regularly.
Especially perhaps with the variety of irony that most offends one's
superiors: adopting a lofty morally and intellectually superior
position to theirs and damnning with faint praise.
Inkytext was launched via a few upbeat speculative flyers sent out in
May and June 1993 to parties thought likely to be sympathetic. These
e-mail-shots set people talking and caused widespread amusement,
but won instant support from a band of surprisingly senior members of
the university, all of whom still count amongst our loyal readership
A few rather haughtily remonstrated with the editor for deigning to
send them, pointing out that JANET was intended for academic purposes
and not jokes. One of these, a researcher in the Institute, had the
good grace later to admit his error and has since then been a keen
reader even on leaving for Reading. Take a bow Dr Hatcher.
Actually, though, an awful lot of Inkytext has been suppressed - but
then self-denying ordinance is the only good kind of censorship. Some
of it - e.g. the Granada part of a holiday diary, or the more recent
Aquitaine diary - have simply been overtaken by events and no longer
topical by the time there was room for them. Some, after long
investigation, and two-way e-mailing, have ben judged unworthy or
gratuitously hurtful to identifiable individuals.
Of course I rather enjoy delivering acerbic but recognizably fair
end-of-career appraisals or assessments of people I have no reason to
admire. I relished the piece on Kenneth Baker. But sometimes silence is
damning enough. No such assessment appeared, to the surprise of some,
on Professor Hanham. I thought his failure to get a CBE was judgment
enough. I did write a rather negative piece on Sir Christopher, but his
turning down of the honorary degree foolishly offered by Senate
partially redeemed him and invalidated some of my harsher comments.
But then there's The Hanham Years, a symphonic prose in 4 movements
and a cauda. The first two movements, Allegro and Andante cantabile ma
non troppo, were amongst the best ever to appear. These terse examples
of _histoire des mentalites_ were widely admired and agreed with, and
thought astonishingly generous by some. The third and fourth, darker and
angrier, movements have not appeared.
Contrary to some sceptical assumptions, they have been written. In the
first instance Professor Hanham's illness made me judge that their
appearance would not help his cure. Legal advice is also that it would
be unsafe to publish them as they stand within the lifetime of the
certain named individuals.
I have always argued in favour of 'justification', i.e. that the facts
are true as stated, a defence against civil libel. Such frankness can
also be warranted by the belief that these matters are in the public
interest and no malice is intended, defences against accidental
criminal libel. However such arguments lose weight as time goes by.
Perhaps I should tone parts 3 and 4 down a bit. We'll see.
It has been extremely gratifying for an editor who considers himself
an extreme radical to find himself providing compulsive reading for
pillars of establishment, conservatives and catholics and persons not
just straight but rigidly rectilinear. Some have even admitted feeling
guilt at being known to read something so 'alternative'.
An example that caused my genuine astonishment, which survives to this
day, was the illiterate round-robin sent in by 5 eminent social
scientists, at least 4 of them professors, to complain about
speculation on who the candidates for Pro-VC might be. What I had said,
correctly, in a series of one line comments, was that a particular
candidate had critics in their own corridor, a mild and pointless
remark since it prolly applies to most of us. My fairly comprehensive
reply was satisfying and might serve as a manifesto for Inkytext. Think
I'll include it in The Best of Inkytext.
Surprisingly, advertisements did not start appearing until around
issue 84, and even then they were sometimes merely appended to the news
items, or billed as "Events" and later "Subscribers' Announcements".
Although not even sollicited, they soon became the most conspicuous
growth area of all, beating even Readers' Letters.
[TO BE CONTINUED]