The Falmer Gravy Train

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corruption[1]University of Sussex managers (and in two cases their friends/ wives/ significant others) have been wined and dined and enjoyed free gadgetry giveaways dozens of times since September 2012, data released this week shows.

A copy of the University Hospitality Register – which is allegedly compiled “for transparency” but curiously never published – obtained by this blog makes interesting reading.

It shows that Jerry Sinclair of our pride and joy, IT Services, was treated to a day at the rugby in Twickenham by Wherescape, a software company to whom Sussex pays an annual subscription. It’s not recorded why they considered it necessary to offer a staff member responsible for advising on this contract such a lovely treat.

A lucky someone "outside the university" now owns this
A lucky someone “outside the university” now owns this

Professor Colleen McLaughlin, meanwhile, received a Microsoft Surface tablet from Microsoft, who were hoping that she would “identify strengths and weaknesses” in a proposal to use them more in teaching. However, the register records that she “gave the tablet away to someone outside of the university as she did not need it”.

That’s nice for them, but I do wonder why Sussex thought it was a good idea to give away expensive items of computer equipment received by its staff in their official capacity to total strangers when we’re apparently stretched financially.

Dr Ian Carter, who works in Sussex House as director of Research & Enterprise, attended thirteen separate glamorous events at other organisations’ expense – generally commercial organisations, of course – all of the said freebies having been approved by Registrar & Secretary John Duffy.

Meanwhile, further up the Sussex House food chain, Vice-Chancellor Professor Michael Farthing and his wife Penny Alison were treated to dinner and an evening at the opera at Glyndebourne worth £450. Admittedly they could scarcely afford such essential entertainment on Farthing’s own £280,000 salary, so I suppose this is justified.

The V-C’s Office also received a gift in the form of a £50 Marks & Spencer voucher from local firm Streamline Taxis, who are presumably on some sort of contract because it’s difficult to see why they’d bother smarming up to Michael Farthing otherwise. Interestingly, for this entry the Hospitality Register records neither the name of the person who authorised the gift, nor which individual used it.

Senior management clearly expect their staff to be less money-grabbing than they themselves are; at least that’s what was suggested by their response to Monday’s two-hour strike. Although such industrial action is a stupid idea, one would at least expect an enlightened university to react lawfully, right?

imageWrong. HR director Jane ‘bring me sunshine’ Summerville (pictured) emailed all staff to say:

As strike action is a breach of contract, those employees who take part in the strike action will have no legal entitlement to be paid at all for the day of strike action, even where the action is for less than a full day. A full day’s work is the quid pro quo for a day’s pay; anything less than a full day’s work does not entitle the employee to any pay.

So Jane has cleverly (1) angered striking staff further for no good reason, (2) given them an incentive to strike all day, since they wouldn’t get paid for any work they do anyway, and (3) implied that anyone who goes to the dentist or takes a brief personal ’phone call forfeits all of their salary for the entire day.

I wonder how she decided that the minimum unit of pay should be one day? Why not two days? Or one week? Or…

As strike action is a breach of contract, those employees who take part in the strike action will have no legal entitlement to be paid at all for the 7-year period of strike action, even where the action is for less than a 7 years. 7 years’ labour is the quid pro quo for marrying my daughter; anything less than 7 years’ labour does not entitle the employee to any sheep whatsoever. And furthermore, the sin will be visited unto the seventh generation.

Wot no Bible knowledge?

Those who didn’t notice the tale of Jacob, Leah and Rachel creeping into the biting satire above are part of the 30% of people who doesn’t recognise famous Bible stories.

Even my own charming cheder (synagogue Sunday School thing) class have been known to fall into this trap. So allow me to present, for one post only…

biballs“The Burning Bush? Well, in the film…”

“Was Joseph the one who lived in a garden and ate some apples?”

ME: “So Jacob thought he’d just married Rachel, and after the wedding, he lifted up the veil, and there stood…” / “Esau?”

ME: “So what do we have 12 of in Judaism?” / “12 commandments.” / ME: “Are you serious?” / “12 plagues.”

“The Joseph story basically has the same plot as Atlantis, doesn’t it.”

“Unless you change ‘Hagar’ to ‘Hagrid’ I’m not doing this lesson any more.”

ME: “What did Moses do before the Israelites left Egypt?” / “Tell them to go to the toilet before the journey?”

ME: “Does anyone know what the Seven Species of Israel are?” / “Is one of them a shark?” / ME: [withering look] / […] ME: “OK, we’ve got five of them. The other two are grains; what grains do you know?” / “Aramanth! Quinoa! Millet!” [no Brighton stereotypes here!]

ME: “So who can remember what we did last week?” / “Nativity plays.”

“I must not meddle in things that don’t concern me”

just goveEducation secretary Michael Gove has brought his considerable experience of teaching to bear (Is this right? -Ed.) by laying down new guidelines on school discipline, encouraging the use of ‘traditional’ punishments such as cleaning whiteboards, picking up litter and “weeding the grounds” [of the headteacher’s estate].

Because obviously, the way to deal with ill-disciplined schoolchildren is to teach them that clearing up after themselves is a punishment. And as we all know from our own lives, the more essential jobs are denigrated, the more people want to do them voluntarily.

Being so busy visiting non-existent schools, though, Gove really hasn’t thought through the consequences at all. Fortunately, Richmal Crompton has (read by Martin Jarvis):


The Pitcairn Papers

681x454[1]Pitcairn Island is many things: the world’s smallest democracy, Britain’s last remaining colony in the Pacific, the only place inhabited primarily by people descended from pirates (it was founded by the Bounty mutineers).

It cropped up in a seminar and since then, I’ve found a huge stash of documents online about its exciting history, which has been peppered with bizarre incidents.

For example, there was the 1930s ‘Coffin double murder case’, in which a married couple appropriately called Mr and Mrs Coffin were both charged with, coincidentally, attempting to murder each other: her with poison, him by shooting.

Then there was the case of Moris ‘Mento’ Christian. In 1941, while the rest of the British government was busy dealing with the Nazi menace (OK, you can have that one. -Ed.), the colonial official resident on Pitcairn wrote a long complaint to the Foreign Office stating: “A large part of the trouble on this island [population around 70] is being caused by a half-witted kleptomaniac named Morris Christian, invariably called ‘Mento’.”

A copy of Mento’s criminal record was included in an annex. His offences included theft, fighting, theft, theft, killing a cat, interfering (!), theft, theft, threatening to shoot two women and “violating law no.12” (what a bastard!). “What did you do during the War, granddaddy?” “I enforced Law No.12!”

Nobody could accuse the historic Pitcairners of not having adequate social welfare provision. One letter from the island’s Magistrate to the Foreign Office was unusually personal in nature for a diplomatic message: “Sir— with regret I must state to you that Mel Warren is on family way again. She will be before the Court tomorrow.”

The ghost of Pitcairn Past
The ghost of Pitcairn Past

Court transcripts show that the hearing took place with customary formality: “Mel, it came to my notice you is on family way again. Who do you charge with being the father? [silence] Who do you lay the charge on? [silence] Who do you lay the charge on? [silence] Who do you lay the charge on?”

Following Mel’s refusal to answer this perfectly reasonable question, the Magistrate sent another letter to the Foreign Office asking for advice on how to make her talk.

The Foreign Office replied: “I note the words in your letter ‘to punish the girl for being on the family way’. Your attention is called to the fact that this is not a punishable offence.”

Other official guidance given by the British to the island’s judicial system came in a 1940 document entitled Hints and instructions to the Chief Magistrate. This notes that “women should be excluded if their presence would be undesirable. If the case is of a filthy nature proceedings may be conducted in private.”

Despite being pirates, there was no mention of the islanders being terrified of ticking noises. Strange.

All in the same vote

voting-ballot-box[1]Sussex elections are coming up again soon, so I draw readers’ attention to the fact that I am impartial.

Five of the best

Just for transparency…
In tonight’s episode, Billy Budd was attended by Professor Michael Farthing. Colleen McLaughlin’s friends got a pleasant surprise. And Jane Summerville kept a tight hold on Sussex’s money. The supporting cast included Michael Gove, William Brown, Richmal Crompton and Martin Jarvis. Security was provided by Mr & Mrs Coffin. This was an Gabrielquotes production!


  1. Ha ha really love the Bible Balls and the William story!

    {But what did you want the lady who received the free laptop to do with it? I wasn’t sure of your recommended policy on her}

    1. Keep it in the department? I’m sure the University could make use of a free tablet somewhere, they buy them for some staff! It wasn’t given as a personal gift to her, she received it on behalf of the uni.

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