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Bloody late lecturers

October 9, 2009

This caught my eye recently. Earlier this year students in Manchester set up a hotline to contact if lecturers were more than 10 minutes late.

This is a text service provided by the students’ union at Manchester Metropolitan University that allows disgruntled students to snitch on lecturers. President of the university’s students’ union, Nicola Lee, said, “I don’t think its disrespectful for them to say that their lecturer is late, it will just improve relations.”

How will this improve relations? Students already have a number of ways in which to make representations about the quality of their education. Complaining about individual lecturers by text message is nothing short of Orwellian.

The university’s deputy vice-chancellor Kevin Bonnet let the proverbial cat out of the bag when he said, “Students have a voice and it is worth remembering they are adults and that they have the right to speak up. I am resistant to the idea that students are consumers but their families are paying a lot of money.” Kevin Bonnet may be ‘resistant’ to it but students increasingly think of themselves as consumers and the consequences for student/tutor relations, I suspect, will be dire.

I don’t doubt that there are lecturers who are habitually late for lessons, or that have a laissez-faire approach to their work generally. But they’re a minority and the consequences of legislating for this small group of shysters is that you further alienate and harass a profession that is already depressed and stressed.

4 Comments leave one →
  1. October 17, 2009 5:57 am

    ‘I don’t doubt that there are lecturers who are habitually late for lessons, or that have a laissez-faire approach to their work generally. But they’re a minority and the consequences of legislating for this small group of shysters is that you further alienate and harass a profession that is already depressed and stressed.’

    Problem is Rabelais everyone else in just about every other job HAS to turn up on time why not lecturers? At uni I had some great lecturers but also some were appalling. The latter should have been sacked but were kept on by the sort of protective atmosphere you may be alluding to. Nurses, police, McDonald’s workers and just about everyone else has to turn up on time. Are you really unaware of that? Of course academia should be a relaxed atmosphere that encourages freedom of thought. It should never be allowed to become a refuge for the idle.

    • Rabelais permalink*
      October 17, 2009 9:33 am

      Fair point, Paul.

      I’m relatively new to lecturing, having spent most my life as either a shop assistant, working in offices or as van driver’s mate. In all these positions I had to be punctual. It’s a good habit to get into; it shows respect to those you have responsibilities towards and it helps oil the cogs of modern life. I think lecturers should strive to be on time like everybody else. What I object to is sneaky, surreptitious methods of squealing. If you have a lecturer who is habitually late, then report him/her to the Head of School, speak to your student representative who can raise the issue at course committee level or put it in the module evaluation feedback form. Why not even speak to the lecturer themselves about his or her shoddiness. But grassing by text is more becoming of the old Soviet Union than a modern workplace.

      But Paul this is symptomatic, I suspect, of a much larger problem. And that is that the relationship between lecturers and students seem to me to increasingly antagonistic. I’m sure there was always a degree of tension but I get the feeling that we are close to open warfare. Students think of themselves as consumers, a subjectivity that is anathema to most dedicated educationalists, who wouldn’t like to think of education as a mere commodity. Have a look at Rate Your Students (on my Out There – blog-roll), which is surely ‘returning the serve’ to such ‘services’ as Rate My Teacher. At times it makes me laugh but there is a bit of me that is deeply uneasy about what it represents – a symptom of the corroded relations between tutors and students.

      As I said, I’m relative new to lecturing and I get the feeling that as a profession we’re getting fucked because of the sins of our forefather – because of a popular reputation and image acquired as a consequence of Lucky Jim and The History Man. If there were ‘good times’ when lecturers could insulation themselves in ‘ivory towers’ from the vagaries of contemporary life, I’ve never known them. And neither have any of my colleagues of a similar age. It’s a pain in the arse being over-worked and harassed at the best of times, but when everybody thinks your just a lazy wanker it’s worse.

      As soon as I can I’m getting out…

      • October 17, 2009 11:05 am

        Much of what you say could be attributed to the public sector at large and not just lecturers. I agree that complaints by text are abusive. However how many students have officially complained only to find their marks getting worse all of a sudden? We can probably both think of such examples. Overall I fear the introduction into the public sector of private sector ethos has been bad. I work in private, my other half in public. However her job is heavily commercialised. In the private sector it is all about money nothing else of course. However whilst you get f***ed around and work hard in the private, you can generally expect more money, in fact a lot more when things go right. The same incentives are absent from the public and the perks that civil servants and others got years ago are long gone.

  2. Rabelais permalink*
    October 17, 2009 12:21 pm

    I think your right, Paul. I have many friends who work in the public sector and things seem pretty dreadful in their spheres also. One friend’s department has recently brought in a new manager from the private sector to ‘rationalise’ and ‘modernise’ the department’s structures and processes. And of course the first thing to go under the new regime is the standard of service that she and her colleagues can offer the public. Result: they end up in an antagonistic relationship with the people they are meant to serve and to add insult to injury the new management blame the staff.

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