Thursday, January 27, 2005

And on that bombshell.....

A torrid week. The cold war is over and hostilities have resumed. First the announcement from our HOD that he was going to step down. Since this left our small department somewhat vulnerable in the shark-infested university pool, he also announced that we would be merging with another larger department. This was announced at our weekly departmental meeting and was greeted with an eerie silence (watch "Shooting Stars" to see the effect). During the day, it was the main topic of conversation, with biscuits coming in a close second. Little huddles of people formed spontaneously throughout the day and little work was done.

I had been told in person a few days before. I was expecting it; our HOD had looked increasingly weary, had complained about academic politics and had spoken about a sabbatical. I have not always agreed with his leadership but he has been a honest man doing a thankless job. He had reached the end of his tether and personally I am glad for him.

In the main, the senior staff were supportive. Predictably MC was extremely angry about this decision and has let it be known that does not want to be part of a merger. Where this would leave him is not entirely clear. He called me into his office and ranted at me for a full 40 minutes. His main complaint was not about what would happen to the department but how he would be "screwed over" by the new HOD. In essence, "me,me,me,me". My philosphy in dealing with these people (I shared an office with a similar ranter) is to say little, nod and then try and find an escape route. Unfortunately it became clear that he wanted my support and I had to make it known that while I appreciated some of his arguments (not!), I would not be joining the rebel force. He who runs away lives to fight another day.

It seems that I will not be a millionaire after all. After avoiding me all week, the Technology Transfer Officer told me that my moneyspinning idea had been turned down. Despite impressing the "suits" (they told the TTO that we gave the best presentation on the day), it was rejected by another panel of experts. Clearly they had different criteria to the "suits" but without any feedback it is hard to learn anything from the exercise, except that it wasn't worth the effort. I discussed this bad news with my research assistant. If none of my remaining grant applications get approved, she will be unemployed. Kinda puts the childish tantrums of tenured academics into perspective!


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