So. Farewell then, Sussex lectures and seminars.

A bumbling hack holding a largely ceremonial position entailing little actual work; and Sanjeev Bhaskar.

A bumbling hack holding a largely ceremonial position entailing little actual work; and Sanjeev Bhaskar (left).

I have tearfully struggled through my last ever lecture/seminar at Sussex. And while that’s good news for my personal financial deficit, it’s also a bit of a pity.

I’m not quite done at Sussex yet though; dissertations are due in on 12 May and I’ll be beavering away until then, copying off Wikipedia (but writing it first, because plagiaism is naughty).

Meanwhile, it turns out I need to be careful about what I say. (Which you never find easy. -Ed.) Apparently the done thing in American universities – which means it can hardly be long before some opportunistic profit-motivated administrator with a hive mentality latches on to the idea here – is to trademark really common, ordinary words and phrases and then threaten legal action against anyone who uses them.

John Duffy’s cooler cousin Paul Greatrix, registrar at Nottingham, observes that terms such as fast track MBA, first-year experience and even student life are now off-limits in the States, having been commercialised by Eastern, Washington and South Carolina universities respectively.

Also taken out of the language, although somewhat more mercifully in my view, is East Carolina’s (That’s not a place. -Ed.) cringeworthy motto Tomorrow starts here and the University of Virginia’s Imagination beyond measure.

I fully expect that Sussex will presently be eyeing up trademarks on a whole raft of terms with the aim of preventing them from being used by others. Terms such as…

  • Peaceful protest
  • Full consultation
  • Fair pay
  • Financial irregularity
  • You’re a coward, Mike Weatherley
  • Friston

And the slogan…

Anyway, my sadness at moving into the endgame is tempered by the fact that, in the final week, Prof. Hough basically won Sussexballs. So…

sussexballs-finale“Stop pimping out my cat!”

“The politics of the Bernie Ecclestone affair was a car wreck.”

“I argued late into the night with him about Italy’s party funding structures, but then things moved on to football, so the argument was never finished.”

“It was clear from 2008 that Obama had the most attractive package.” (Ladies and gentlemen: we have a winner! -Ed.)



Readers may remember that the Sussex Five were disciplined by hearings which they believed broke the rules. The rules required that cases be heard by the student’s own Head of School, and hearings were in fact conducted by arbitrary Heads of School.

One of said arbitrary Heads of School, Professor Pete Clifton, said in his report: “After carefully reading Regulation 2 [...] I believed that I was in an appropriate position to do so [chair the hearing]“.

So, to be clear, the University’s position was that these Schedule A hearings were properly constituted and completely within the rules.

Legislative amendment by tracked changes: classy

Legislative amendment by tracked changes: classy

One wonders, then, why the Duffmaster-General is proposing an amendment to the regulations, which would allow “another Head of School” to hear Schedule A cases. Seems slightly strange, given that it’s apparently absolutely legitimate as things stand!

Meanwhile, the Sussex 5 are appealing their cautions on the basis that their hearings were, erm, illegally constituted, as John Duffy has basically admitted by proposing his amendment. Technically, said appeals should be processed by a Pro-Vice-Chancellor, all four of whom are clearly biased in favour of “Vice-Chancellor” Michael Farthing, their line manager, and the outsourcing project generally, their baby.

Acknowledging that this would have the potential to make Sussex look [more] like a banana republic, University Council kindly passed an extraordinary resolution (thought to be the first email resolution in Sussex’s history) to waive that requirement just this once, and instead have the appeals handled by an independent, legally-qualified person.

Pity they didn’t think to change the rules and reform the system while they were at it though…

farthing's cliff edgeMeanwhile, the current tensions are taking their toll. A slew of panicked papers tabled for today’s University Senate meeting predict (more) significant drops in this year’s league tables and a massive dip in UCAS applications. The Student Recruitment and Admissions Report from Pro-VC Claire ‘Not My Fault Guv’ Mackie notes, “There is anecdotal evidence that some [...] markets are sensitive to ‘political’ media attention.”

Or in English: Sussex has had a solid year of appalling publicity – admittedly some of it my fault – and is having trouble attracting serious students. Trebles all round!

Loony lefty corner

The Jewish community is getting into a twist about a rather splendid campaign called Sign on the Green Line, urging communal organisations to commit only to use maps of Israel which include the Green Line.

I think that educating our young with accurate maps sounds like a sensible idea but clearly some disagree. I think this calls for some serious questions to be asked, and who better to ask them than the cast of BBC2′s hit police procedural series…

Line Of Duty


North Korea’s barberism

Kim Jong-il’s son is clearly having a bad heir day because he’s issued a decree that darkness shall reign throughout the whole of the land unless everyone looks exactly like him. Yes, this is the news that Kim Jong-un has ordered all male university students in North Korea to copy his hairstyle.

A similar policy is said to be what cost William Hague the 2001 general election.

Of course, so much Photoshopping goes on in Pyongyang that when barbers show their clients the back of their head, this is likely to happen…

The last post

20130405_083044Gabrielquotes will be taking a break next week while its author is seconded to The Iton, the daily newspaper on LJY-Netzer’s Machaneh Aviv (Spring Camp).

But it will definitely be back in time for Passover the following week… there might even be the traditional Pesach News Bulletin. Who knows…

Five of the best

Saying goodbye to balls were…
In tonight’s episode, the English language was privatised by university administrators. Sussexballs was won by Dan Hough. Green Line of Duty is just a bit of a laugh and shouldn’t be taken too seriously, unlike Sign on the Green Line which is deadly serious and please do it. Claire Mackie isn’t responsible for Sussex’s league table plummet; it’s not like she’s a senior manager or anything. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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Forging a new Britain

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A stamp of approval from Sir GeorgeGeorge Osborne cunningly distracted everyone from the horrors of his latest budget by revealing, the day before, the design for Britain’s new fraud-proof £1 coin, with its 450 sides, CCTV system, surround sound, Bluetooth compatibility and south-facing garden.

It’s so far cost only £2 million to design, and replacing every vending machine and parking meter in the country will cost an additional £15-20 mill. Absolute bloody bargain.

The coin was developed by the Royal Mint, which was founded in the year 886. As the world’s oldest manufacturer of currency, the organisation existed throughout the good old fashioned days when the sun never set on the British Empire without asking permission first; which presumably makes it a Mint Imperial.

It also lived through those dark pre-decimal days when pounds consisted of 20 shillings. The new £1 coin is based on the old thruppenny bit (value: 3p, obviously). Other new coinage based on retro currency includes, of course:

New pound coin…with a value of £280,000.

Of plebs and Pakistan

the_peacock_by_fatimahpantophag-d3ldskj[1]Pakistan has had its own version of the Plebgate incident, and three police officers who were guarding the Prime Minister’s residence have been suspended.

What did these three do wrong? It wasn’t fabricating a lie about a government minister. No, their misdemeanour was to allow a cat to “devour” one of the Prime Minister’s official peacocks.

According to national newspaper The Express Tribune, 21 officers were questioned over the incident. 18 were cleared of all charges but three “admitted they were on duty but did not anticipate a cat eating the peacock at night”. Perhaps it conflicted with the cat’s usual schedule.

Anyway, after the incident was seemingly over, along came a dog that bit the cat: fancy that, to bite a cat.

Blue lights

The Metropolitan Police this week admitted that it costs them £100 a throw to replace lightbulbs. Gilbert and Sullivan were like well unimpressed by this.

Dispatch from Durham

Durham is also home to the north east's only native population of pandas.

Durham is also home to the north east’s only native population of pandas.

An unpublished independent review into the governance of Durham University, conducted by the attorney-general of the Falkland Islands (obviously), has found that there is “a real culture of fear has developed in the university” and that “personal relationships can have undue influence over the outcome or expediency of decision-making processes”.

Peter Judge’s report also reported that university managers inappropriately dominate Senate, the main executive body of the organisation, and the Vice-Chancellor tends to act unilaterally as “the only voice” in making senior appointments.

According to Times Higher Education, Durham managers also attempted to dissolve the university Ethics Committee, which was apparently not needed in such a stellar institution.

Thank goodness I’m fortunate enough to attend a university which is nothing like this at all.

Prisoners’ right to read

sized_39846071-5830349[1]Chris Grayling has decided that prisoners don’t need access to books, so should not be allowed to receive them by post at all.

His decision is vaguely reminiscent of the California authorities’ ruling last year that prisoner Andreas Martinez should not be allowed to read the novel The Silver Crown. When that case reached the California Court of Appeals last year, a slightly bemused senior judge ruled:

We cannot simply dismiss the work as nonserious literature because it deals with werewolves and other paranormal creatures and activities. For better or worse, some segment of the population is fascinated by werewolves and other mythical beings. [...] Whether contemporary readers drawn to this genre actually believe in werewolves [or] whether they see in such works a metaphor for some kind of human transformation [...] the fact remains that werewolf literature retains a place in modern American and European society.

[... The book] does not advocate or tend to incite violence. Werewolves attack humans. Werewolf hunters kill werewolves. There is no morbid fixation on violence Most of the violence in the book is committed by or against mythical creatures, not humans.

[...] ‘The Silver Crown’ is a group of 12 elite and especially powerful werewolves, one of which has been killed by Iris. Mistakenly believing he was killed by Alfie, Iris’s werewolf boyfriend, the remaining 11 search for Alfie, ostensibly to put him on trial as a traitor. Witches, meanwhile, have prophesied that Iris will kill the Silver Crown.

Whoever said that reading court judgments is dry and uninteresting? One gets the impression that m’lud had never read a werewolf-related book before but found himself thoroughly enjoying it!

Those banned-from-prison books in full:

  • The Book Thief (obvs!)
  • Diary of a No Body Was Ever Found
  • Bleak Housebreaking
  • An Inspector Calls for Reinforcements
  • Dr Jekyll and Mr Concealment
  • 50 Shades of Grey Stripes
  • The Coded Message of the Woosters by PC Wodehouse
  • Harry Potter and the Chamberpot of Secrets
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Firearms Convictions
  • Robberson Crusoe
  • Charlotte’s Web Access
  • The County Court of Monte Cristo
  • Catch 22 on the Third Window on the Right is Loose
  • DNA: The People’s Princess
  • A Hacker’s Guide to the Samsung Galaxy S5

Prisoners’ right to vote

winnfield louisianaMy dissertation research threw up the astonishing 2002 election dispute of Nugent v Phelps. Benji Phelps was police chief of Winnfield, Louisiana, a city of 6,000 people which elects its senior police officers.

Anyway, Mr Nugent lost the election, and Phelps was re-elected by four votes. Then some interesting details began to come out…

Phelps had set up a $100 tab behind the counter of Winni-Mart, a grocery store, with instructions that anyone who voted for him would be entitled to $5 of free convenience goods.

One lady “said she had planned to vote for Mr. Nugent but instead sold her vote for two packs of cigarettes and voted for Mr. Phelps,” and it’s hard to tell which suffered more, democracy or her cardiovascular system.

katy-bourne-criminalPerhaps more to the point of a police-related election, incumbent police chief Phelps had arranged for three Nugent campaigners to be imprisoned throughout the entire poll, preventing them from voting and going door-to-door canvassing others’ votes.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this before, but I think that directly electing senior leaders in the police service is quite a bad idea.

All I say is… if I’m imprisoned shortly before Katy Bourne stands for re-election in 2016, you know why!

Five of the best

Tonight’s denominations
In tonight’s episode, George Osborne broke Britain. The Met said, “Let there be light!”  Michael Farthing provided management consultancy services to Durham University. Chris Grayling started railing. Benji Phelps ruled Louisiana with an iron fist. And Andrew Mitchell ate the Prime Minister’s cat, or something. This was an Gabrielquotes production!
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