Tuesday 8 June 2010
The campaign to save our philosophy programmes has just won a partial but significant victory: Kingston University in south-west London announced today that it will re-establish our Centre for Research in Modern European Philosophy (CRMEP) at Kingston, by employing the four senior staff in Philosophy at Middlesex (Eric Alliez, Peter Hallward, Peter Osborne and Stella Sandford). Our MA and PhD programmes (full-time and part-time) will be re-launched at Kingston this September, and all current post-graduate students will be invited to move along with the staff. Institutions in France and Germany have also made significant new proposals for collaboration with the CRMEP, which may allow it to expand the European dimensions of its work considerably in the near future.
This remarkable turn of events would never been possible without the extraordinary local and international campaign that began six weeks ago, to save our philosophy programmes.
Like Middlesex, Kingston is a post-1992 university, with a commitment to widening participation in education. Unlike Middlesex, Kingston is expanding rather than cutting back its provision in humanities subjects, and it is investing in research in these areas. In addition to taking on CRMEP staff, Kingston will be making a number of other high-level appointments over the coming months, and is launching its own London Graduate School in conjunction with colleagues from several other Universities internationally. We believe that Kingston will provide an enthusiastic and supportive base for the activities of the CRMEP.
Although we have not won all the demands made by our campaign, the move to Kingston is a major achievement. We have found a way to keep all of our postgraduate programmes open, and to keep most of the CRMEP staff together in a single unit. We have preserved a place in London for the unique academic community that has built up around the Centre and its distinctive research interests, and this will continue to be a place where the criteria for entry and participation remain as open as possible. The campaign has directly refuted the line that Middlesex managers have repeated for many years now – a variation of the line that ‘there is no alternative’ but to follow the neoliberal way of the world, and to close down small academic departments in favour of large vocational ones. The campaign hasn’t merely proved that ‘another way is possible’: it has helped to indicate what needs to be done to make such a way a reality, and shown that there are universities in the UK and in Europe that are willing to embrace it.
We hope that the campaign will continue, evolving to become one of several contributions from a range of institutions across London and the region to a broader and deeper struggle in support of philosophy, the humanities and public education more generally. Some of the protestors who made the biggest impact in our campaign came from supportive universities such as Sussex, KCL, SOAS, Westminster and Goldsmiths. This emerging network of education activists isn’t going to disperse, and is likely to play an important role in the struggles that will soon affect the entire sector. Although the closure of Philosophy at Middlesex is yet another indication of the ongoing commercialisation of education in the UK, our campaign, along with other recent mobilisations at universities up and down the country, has helped change the balance of power across higher education. The campaign to save philosophy at Middlesex has already made a powerful intervention in the fight for public education in general and for endangered humanities programmes in particular. The future looks challenging but there is now much to build on, at Middlesex, at Kingston and across the UK.
Eric Alliez, Peter Hallward, Peter Osborne and Stella Sandford
* * * * *
The decision to leave Middlesex University was very difficult. Recently it became clear that some of the steps taken by Middlesex management to shut down Philosophy would be irreversible in the short term. Management have already written to all our current undergraduate applicants, informing them that our BA programme is closed. No new PhD applicants have been able to apply since early March. Belying some apparent suggestions of last-minute compromise from his deputies, on Friday 28 May Middlesex Vice-Chancellor Michael Driscoll reiterated his determination to end Philosophy recruitment and to phase out all Philosophy teaching. Management ignored a UCU motion calling for staff suspensions to be lifted by noon on Wednesday 2 June, and we know that effective UCU action to oppose the closure and suspensions will now take several months to prepare. The national political context is also significant. A first round of severe cuts to the Higher Education budget will be announced on 22 June, with more drastic measures to follow in the autumn. Given the financial pressures that will soon apply to every university in the country, if the door is shut at Middlesex then the time for a group move may be now or never. If programmes are to be validated and new students admitted in good time for the start of the new academic year in September then we need begin the transition immediately.
We are acutely aware of the fact that such a move is only an incomplete victory for the campaign. Despite relentless local and international pressure the central demand of the campaign, to save philosophy at Middlesex itself, has fallen on deaf ears. Vice-chancellor Michael Driscoll and those managers who support his vision of a university purged of critical thinking, research and humanities teaching have amply demonstrated their contempt for the passionately argued priorities of their own students, and for the academic judgement of many highly respected scholars in and around our field, in the UK and the world over.
Kingston University, meanwhile, doesn’t yet have an undergraduate programme in Philosophy, and in order to make this move possible it will have to provide a substantial sum of transitional funding, through to the end of the current research funding cycle (i.e. for a minimum of three years). Given these constraints, Kingston is only able to take four of the six members of staff in Philosophy at Middlesex. We very much regret that we haven’t managed to find a secure base for the CRMEP that includes all Middlesex Philosophy programmes and staff. We hope that Middlesex will now honour its commitment to teach out its under-graduate programmes and that it will retain our colleagues Christian Kerslake and Mark Kelly (if they so choose) to teach them. In the longer term, we hope that Middlesex will offer to retain Christian and Mark to teach philosophy courses for programmes in other areas. In addition to providing a place for current Middlesex undergraduates to pursue an eventual MA or PhD, we hope that Kingston will launch its own undergraduate provision in due course, enabling new appointments in Philosophy.
We know that in leaving Middlesex we are leaving many courageous and embattled colleagues who have supported the campaign and whose own programmes remain vulnerable. We know as well that several of the most urgent issues of the campaign remain unresolved: students and staff are still suspended, our undergraduate programme is slated for termination, the situation of our current undergraduate students is uncertain, the criteria for further ‘sustainability’ decisions remain unclear, and the future of humanities provision is as precarious as ever. Middlesex managers have not changed their position and the union remains in dispute over the staff suspensions and the way in which closure decisions are taken. The mobilisation of Middlesex staff in and beyond our UCU branch is proof of their readiness to fight not only for a radical transformation of these procedures but also for the general principles that have animated this campaign: the defence of universal access to education and the opportunity to pursue independent critical thinking; the defence of teaching and research in terms that challenge the prevailing divisive and hierarchical criteria used to assess ‘performance’ and ‘excellence’; the defence of academic freedom and the right to protest; the defence of collective action by students and staff alike.
We will continue to do everything we can to support our colleagues and our suspended students, and to resist any further intimidation of campaign activists. Christian Kerslake, Peter Osborne, and Peter Hallward have suspension hearings scheduled for this coming week, and we will fight not just to overturn these suspensions but to discourage any future use of such punitive and inappropriate sanctions in the face of peaceful protest and dissent.
Today our campaign enters into a new phase. It has succeeded in showing that there is indeed an alternative to the narrow corporate priorities championed by Middlesex managers, and that in closing their Philosophy programmes and then persecuting their students and staff, Middlesex management have violated their own procedures, damaged the reputation of the University and lost the confidence of many students and members of academic staff. These students and members of staff will no longer tolerate management incompetence, bullying and unaccountability. Middlesex can no longer be managed in the same old way. As it changes to become part of the broader struggle for public education, our campaign will continue to emphasise collective action and direct confrontation with the forces that are driving the neoliberal assault on our education system.
One phase of this campaign is over; the struggle continues.
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That’s amazing. Well done.
Awful news. A complete capitulation to the Middlesex management, and a clear instance of playing a corporatist game (selling out principles to the highest bidder).
What about the remaining two staff? How could the 4 academic ‘stars’ of the department be seeking new posts, while their ‘comrades’ – especially Christian Kerslake – are engaging in protests which expose them to punitive measures? Their complete disregard for solidarity with their fellows is truly shameful, and undermines the ethical stance they have assumed throughout. It seems that any sense of a collective completely vanishes when an opportunity to feather one’s own nest is presented.
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Such good news, today. I am sure that I’m not the only one who has been quietly praying for this shift and I still hope that the remaining phil. staff and any students will find more humanly trustworthy centres of learning in which they will be welcomed.
I think that it had become clear several days ago that the Middlesex management’s disinterest in any or every response to its own decision-making was and would remain fundamental. From the outset, however, the issues have been legal ones, and it is good that some (though not all) of these have been taken up by the union. The issue of the university management’s unsubstantiated claims that peaceful protesters were guilty of assault and other illegal actions still needs to be addressed – I would have thought – in the public arena.
I wonder why anyone would want to study – or to teach – in this university from now on.
Three cheers for Kingston! Those of us in the U.S. following your story are very happy!
It is good that CRMEP has been saved from the philistine management at Middlesex University, to continue at Kingston University. But it is not a victory for the two lecturers left behind. I hope that the campaign continues to ensure their futures as philosophy lecturers.
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I have to agree with Michael, what will become of the ‘junior’ lecturers and the other suspended member of staff who is not a philosopher: Christian Kerslake? Has the campaign anything to say about them? Have any provisions been made for these other members of the campaign by the ‘senior’ staff ?
I am asking because, like so many others, I have supported the campaign and signed all the petitions, but the statement above doesn’t answer these questions.
I can not see how this latest development could be considered a ‘victory.’
There are some who have come out of it well, namely the high-salaried senior staff. But their sense of victory must certainly be dampened by a deeper feeling that they have thrown away far more than they have gained.
Given the strength of the campaign and the support from far afield throughout, I can’t see how this is a moment for celebration. The support that has come from philosophers worldwide is for the campaign to save philosophy at Middlesex, it was not intended to be diverted and used to save the jobs of just a few members of the department. It is shameful. The claim in this statement that the new development at Kingtson might offer ‘hope’ to other humanities departments facing cuts is empty. A gesture to fan away the smell of bad conscience. Anyone can see through it.
How do the ‘saved’ senior members of staff expect to be able to defend their own writings in public again? Particularly two of them who have always claimed a Left stance.
Rather than cheering, this leaves me uncomfortable, depressed and deflated. Some of those involved may have a new career to celebrate but I would not want to be in their position for all the money at Kingston.
I definitely understand the discomfort, but still, the Centre is managing to move with all of its MA and PhD students, as well as 4 of 5 permanent staff (the 6th is on a year-long contract). There are also still 2 years of undergraduate courses to teach out at MDX, which is a substantial amount of time for the Centre to get used to their new home at Kingston and potentially make room for more staff there.
Actually, I’m not on a year-long contract – I’m on a 10.5-month extension of a year long contract. But this is completely irrelevant, since being on a year-long contract makes almost no practical difference to my position: it’s not as if my contract automatically expires if nothing happens – rather, it automatically continues if I do my job properly, which I do. Like permanent members of staff, I can in practice only be made redundant if my work programme ceases to exist.
This is a pragmatic solution, and it is a good one. What matters is that this particular assemblage lives on, doing what it is supposed to be doing, i.e. philosophy. There is no reason why those junior colleagues could not benefit from this arrangement somehow later on, directly or indirectly. There is no point banging your head against the wall, if suddenly a door opens in the wall. The campaign won, Middlesex lost. Now Middlesex can concentrate on doing something about their horrendous teaching quality, as measured by today’s The Guardian’s University Guide which ranks Middlesex the bottom 112th out of 118.
Having signed all the relevant petitions, e-mailed the letters of protest, and attended several of the meetings organized by the staff and students affected by the decision to end all philosophy programmes at Middlesex, I am truly disappointed by this news. There is, of course, nothing wrong with people trying their hardest to save their jobs, especially given the times we’re living in. Neither is there anything inherently wrong with pointing out that the situation at Middlesex is symptomatic, both in terms of what the university has come to stand for and in terms of budget cuts to come, across the disciplines I might add, not just the humanities. However, and I believe that this is why so many people rallied around the Middlesex campaign, the struggle was supposed to be about much more than the jobs at stake and I cannot help but feel that Osborne, Hallward, Alliez and Sandford could have gotten themselves new jobs without the spectacle that ensued. Because it is more than clear now that it was just a spectacle. The biggest irony is that Christian Kerslake was/is suspended whereas Sandford isn’t and Alliez has been abroad throughout this affair judging from his rather frequent contributions on the campaign’s facebook page.
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I read the news too quickly
It is quite in inspiring situation
I hope you find the means to get an even wider influence un Kingston
Now the world sees what this campaign was really all about: saving jobs for the elites, who shamefully harnessed the language and methods of resistance that are so needed by those facing real abuses of human rights, in order that they could walk away with their salaries intact. This was never a ‘save Middlesex philosophy’ campaign, but rather a ‘save my sweeties’ campaign because as an elite having an infantile temper tantrum I am accustomed and expect to have what I want when I want it and to ditching anybody I have used in the process when I get it back – how neoliberal is that?!
Just a request for clarification. Is ‘Rocks’ the commentator formerly known as ‘Middlesex Rocks’?
It’s hard to imagine such a resolution coming so quickly in the United States. So, I’m am relieved for 2/3 of the Philosophy teaching faculty and for all of the graduate students. And it IS a victory: a repudiation of the nostrum that there’s no need for philosophy in the trades. Middlesex management might be having some seller’s remorse.
Since when is saving jobs part of the “neoliberal hegemony”? Would it be better that the programme was still being closed down and all concerned were still being made redundant?
I take it that a lot of the negative posts on here are from people who have never had to deal with the alienating process of redundancy.
Of course, this does not mean that campaigning should stop.
As an Undergraduate student in Middlesex who have been a part of this campaign since the beginning I also share these mixed feelings about the outcome of the centre, but I do in fact find a few of these comments quite unfair to the campaign and the professors who are leaving.
During the campaign we have had great international and national support in the form of letters, well wishes, petition signing and other ways to put pressure on the management. Unfortunately the management does not care about their reputation which is forever weakened, nor do they not care about the outcry both from within and outside of the university. They have closed their eyes to the world and in order to get them to change their position it eventually became clear that we would have had to keep on escalating in order to force them to back down.
This being said the people who have been continually acting and pushing the management as best as we can to continue to escalate was diminishing in number. Being one small department at the end of term we have done absolutely everything we could, and kept on throwing whatever we had at them, but reality does catch up. Even though you have the moral high ground (and I do not think we have lost that) and know how unjust the decision is, it does not mean that we could simply continue our studies on well wishes and good feelings.
I have, as I said mixed feelings about the move to Kingston, but I do not think it undermines everything we have been and continue to fight for. We are not leaving the field of battle, we will continue to fight management in Middlesex, we are not going away. The campaign has been a success, and will continue to be a success in a new shape even though the CRMEP is no longer at Middlesex, – it was in my view, an (unfortunate?) but inevitable decision that was made.
I have to admit a feeling of deflation from reading this news.
Whilst it’s heartening to know the centre is not completely lost, this was one of the most powerful campaigns in higher education in recent years, with both a strong presence at the university and in the media. It appeared that the third, essential aspect, the local UCU branch was on the verge of kicking into action as well, with other branches ready to act and an assesment boycott already underway.
This campaign (to save MDX philosophy) was truly winnable, and the victory meant more than just saving one department, it could have set the parameters for resistance to cuts in HE and smashed the impossiblism being peddled by politicians and managers. Wider struggles will be undermined by this move, which does nothing to break the market logic – not all departments will be as lucky as the CRMEP. This is certainly a victory for middlesex management, how are being allowed to push through with their proposed cuts. It’s naive to assume mdx management give a shit whether philosophy is taught elsewhere or not, they’re just trying to do what all such managers do, cut costs and raise profits.
Its truly saddening to see a campaign on the cusp of something powerful suddenly acquiesce like this, rather than have the balls to push on to victory. I also doubt very much that the students who have formed the core of this amazing campaign were consulted about this decision, but rather that a unilateral decision was made by the 4 staff who stand to protect themselves.
@ MDX Rocks.
No, if the Middlesex management hadn’t made such a stupid decision in the first place this outcome would not have been necessary. As a mouth piece for the Middlesex management you really demonstrate why it is the pits as a place to work.
I am very glad not to have to work in a UK University at the moment having moved to a University overseas. I did so to avoid ridiculous managerial practices such as these. The expenditure on bureaucracy, overpaid administrators and so called ‘consultants’ is the sign of the egregious managerial practices employed by crass university managers of your ilk. I suggest you scuttle off back to your office and hide under the desk with Eschce and Driscoll you worm.
Yes, there is a feeling of deflation. But, after such an active campaign any level of resolution short of a complete retraction on all points by Middlesex managers would constitute a deflation. For such a retraction to happen, those managers would have to be forced to resign and new individuals to take their place – their stubborn-headed self-harm tactics indicate as much. This would take time. To gain a complete victory, the pressure would have to be maintained at no less than the level it was at when the campaign was at its height, for a sustained period of time – which would in most likelihood include the summer holidays. That’s a big ask, from students and lecturers alike. The campaign was winnable, but I don’t know if it would have been won – bearing in mind that a contributing factor to the deflation of the ’68 moment was the onset of the summer holidays and the dispersal of people and attention that involved. This week the media attention has slow down significantly. Of the permutations of partial success, the Kingston move is not so bad – but of course it all depends on what happens next. I think the move to Kingston is a harder decision to have made than that to keep fighting, and there are many grey areas. Symbolically, yes, it is disappointing, but I think CRMEP has much more to offer the academic community than the symbolism that a complete win or a complete defeat would have provided. To win the campaign, as it stood 2 days ago, would have involved compromises of some sort anyway, and if it was to have been a defeat, I’m concerned it would have been a two-year deflation of an end.
There is some bad beautiful soulism going on in these comments…
Try to remember that even though the biggest numbers ever marched against the war in Iraq the authorities still waged war. Protest is important, and this decision at Middlesex should continue to be protested against (and I fully expect Hallward will stand behind Kerslake and Kelly, no reason to doubt that the others will do the same), but the point of the protest was always about continuing a distinctive practice of philosophy. It was always about keeping their jobs, because their job is running CRMEP.
But it wasn’t supposed to be about the continuation of the CRMEP! It was supposed to be about the entire philosophy department! Granted, the CRMEP was an integral part of the philosophy department, but there was more to the department than the CRMEP. Don’t get me wrong, I am pleased that Osborne, Hallward et al. will be continuing to work together, especially since their work reflects my own research interests. However, the entire thrust of the campaign, and the reason why it attracted so much attention and support, was that there was much more at stake than the preservation of the study of continental philosophy in the UK, important as that may be in itself. I can guarantee you that had that been the primary aim of the campaign, it wouldn’t have gotten half as much attention and support. Therefore, to claim that the move to Kingston is in any way a victory, apart from the above mentioned one, seems to be rather ridiculous especially since the Middlesex management have not backed down and show no signs of doing so in the near future.
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I am also an undergraduate at Middlesex. Whilst I am happy for CRMEP and certainly do not blame any of the lecturers for what I am sure was a very difficult decision, I cannot help but feel utterly ripped off by Middlesex. I have made personal and financial sacrifices to be here. I gave up my job, took out student loans, paid my tuition fees and handed over my 8 week old baby to the university creche last September to begin my degree in good faith that I would be taught and supported by an experienced team of academics, who would help me achieve my full potential. Now, with four of the most senior lecturers dissapearing to Kingston, and a question mark over whether the remaining two will wish to stay, (and who could blame them if they didn’t), I am desperate to recieve some reassurance from Middlesex about my future!
Exactly, Middlesex should be accountable to you and your sacrifices. I really think students should consider a lawsuit.
You and other Philosophy students affected by the management actions should consider a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, for compensation from the university. Other students have done this in circumstances where they have been let down by their universities and won compensation.
See this article for some details:
The thought of trying to claim compensation had crossed my mind but I had no idea where to start, or how I would get legal representation. (I know these things tend to be expensive). I will look into it though. If anyone else has any suggestions or advice then I would love to hear it! Thanks!
making a complaint to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education, doesn’t need legal representation. Though it may as a matter of procedure mean making a complaint to your university first. Consult your student union about it.
Also look at this website:
The OIA is meant to replace the need for a lawsuit. However, it is an extemely long process.
Firstly, you have to exhaust all the complaint procedures put in place by the University. Expect the university to close ranks in any complaint, and this to be a necessary but ultimately fruitless procedure. Only then can you make a complaint to the OIA. Expect at least 6 months, if not more, for the OIA to reach a draft decision on the complaint. (This is after the lenghty process of going through internal university procedures).
By some accounts the OIA are overworked and have been unprepared for the amount of complaints they are receiving.
Although I raised a caveat about the Kingston move. I think some of the commentary, particularly on the SaveMdx site has been too cynical.
The move to Kingston has saved CRMEP and its distinctive approach to philosophy, which may have been lost even if the staff involved had found other posts. The saving of the jobs involved is important as well, and should be not judged cynically.
It has also meant the creation of a new Philosophy department at Kingston Univeristy.
The campaign has been unprecedented in its impact and breadth of support. But in the face of management intransigence to close the department, the options to stop this were limited. Unless there was support for a university wide indefinite strike and or indefinite marking boycott then the management can put up with any amount of demonstrations.
Ultimately it is the management who are to blame. I just hope that the campaign can continue to help those staff and students not able to benefit from the move to Kingston.
I am rather confused as to why people are cynical that the senior staff just saved their jobs. Philosophers in the United States feel very similarly about philosophy education here, as in the UK. There are host of challenges facing philosophy in light of a world more prone to favor vocational degrees than the humanities. In light of higher education funding shortfalls, there is a university out there building up and saving philosophy from vanishing. Kingston is like some smaller-end four year liberal arts colleges in the United States that are investing heavily in staff recruitment to build up the reputations of their research profiles and courses they can offer. As a PhD student, I am at a school that is at the short-end of public revenue; Kingston is a blessing. Kingston is staring you cynics blankly in the face and saying that philosophy is relevant for today’s world, and here is a new department for people to benefit from philosophy. It is nothing short of a victory. We need universities in both the US and UK to invest in philosophy. I do agree that much will depend on what follows, but for the moment, I am pretty enthusiastic for my colleagues oversees.
Moreover, we should remember what CRMEP is. In the long haul, it is a place for European philosophy that does not dominate philosophical circles at large. Losing all that energy, resources and expertise would have deprived a precious space for what I think is the most valuable form of philosophy. I gather this is why the fight was so personal for many of us “Continentals”.
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I understand the sentiment of some of the more critical remarks here. But, if viewed soberly, the move of the CRMEP to Kingston can be seen as an opportunity to continue the protest against MDX in a more stable manner, rather than as a defeat of some sort. Yes, the primary ‘aim’ of saving philosophy at MDX has not been achieved, but it seems that this was a very high and unlikely aim, given the sheer pig-headedness of the management at MDX (who are the real ‘enemy’ here). It seems to me that the management were merely stalling, and waiting for the summer so they could push through their cuts in relative peace (relative to the last month or so). If they had any other intention they would have given some substantive indication of that before now.
Transferring the CRMEP to Kingston, however, gives four of the main players in this protest (Hallward et al) a much more stable position from which to continue their campaign, without fear of arbitrary reprisals by their own employers, or indeed fear for their own futures. They have gained a certain distance, in this regard, which can potentially allow them, if they choose, to bring proper legal action against MDX on their own behalf, on behalf of the students (as per Anthony’s point above), or on behalf of the two staff members left at MDX. The MDX management has clearly acted illegally throughout this campaign, and something needs to be done about that; university managers need to know they can’t behave in this way and get away with it. Unfortunately, the only language they are likely to understand is that of the lawsuit. To begin and work through such legal action takes time and resources. Perhaps from this more stable position, the likes of Hallward and Osborne can devote some time to co-ordinating this. And they can, of course, with others continue an offensive against the conduct of MDX through the media. They also need to work to get that remaining research funding transferred over to Kingston, if at all possible.
It would not help anyone, least of all the students and staff left at MDX, to get angry at this ‘transfer’. Rather, it should be seen as an opportunity to regroup and begin a more concerted campaign against MDX that can last much longer and do much long term good.
The managers may have behaved outrageously, unethically, and have no regard for academic values such as the pursuit of knowledge, learning, and excellence for its own sake, but these are not illegal. Neither are closing down whole university departments, and making lecturers redundant, unfortunately. So, I think that he scope for legal action is not really there, and I have not heard of any of the main participants indicating they would pursue this course of action.
The only thing falls within this scope are the completely baseless allegations of injuries to security staff during the first occupation, apart from that what else is there?
I was referring primarily to the management’s conduct re. the suspensions. Numerous previous entries on this blog document how they broke their own employment rules by immediately suspending the relevant staff members without giving any regard whatsoever to proper procedure. They therefore acted illegally. I also agree with Anthony that MDX haven’t acted properly in regard to their own students. That would be harder to prove, but there may be some civil claim in there.
But while it should be explored fully, legal action isn’t the only aspect of any continued campaign, as I said.
I’m referring to especially this re. the legality of management conduct re. the suspensions: http://bit.ly/bNRATf
This potentially constitutes breach of contract (though it would depend), and is potentially a fundamental breach of trust on the part of the employer. Both of these are obviously actionable under UK employment law.
Furthermore, this: http://bit.ly/c66T0E
…suggests proper procedure was not followed re. the closure of the department itself. If BA can get injunction averting strike action due to very technical faults in balloting procedure on the part of the Unite union, surely this kind of blatant disregard for proper procedure when closing an entire academic department is of some significance? Of course, the issues are different (notwithstanding vested interests, also), but the principle is the same. And there is again the case of a wider and more fundamental breach of trust on the part of management here.
Without giving it too much thought, I’m sure there are other areas where action could potentially be brought, if the necessary will was there. This doesn’t even touch on the questionable and possibly malicious suspension of several students, for instance.
I appreciate what you are saying, but the legal threat would be limited. Even if they had been judged ‘unfairly dismissed’ the penalties and compensation are slight under British employment law in most cases. Only in high profile City cases where the employed potentially might earn millions does it make a difference.
In this case those involved were suspended on full pay while an investigation took place. Even where correct internal procedures had not been followed the scope for successful and worthwhile legal procedures are limited.
The scope for students pursuing claims are actually much better. See my other posts regarding complaints to the Office of the Independent Adjudicator for Higher Education.
Well said Barry. I can see perfectly why people feel some reservations about the move to Kingston. But I’m really not sure that there was much room for maneouvre here. Are some of the commentators suggesting here that the likes of Osborne and Hallward should have turned down the Kingston offer for the (albeit very important) sake of solidarity? I fear that would have been cutting off the nose for the sake of the face. There is no way that they have taken this decision lightly. It’s very important – as I thought we all acknowledged? – that CRMEP continues to exist. If it must move to Kingston, so be it. None of this means that all of us – not just the two Petes and others – shouldn’t continue to support the staff left behind. We can and we must. But let’s also celebrate the move to Kingston as a positive step forward. And also a poke in the eye to the Middlesex management.
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CRMEP we have a problem!
Since the announcement (the move from mddx to Kingston) explicitly accepts that there is a link between “save Middx philosophy” campaign and them securing a deal with Kingston, one rightly asks since when this deal has been on the table, before the occupations when people risked a criminal investigation? At what stage? furthermore! It is also a question if every effort was made to take Christian and Mark and all students together? Additionally; from the point of view acting together as a democratic campaign movement, is it not fair to ask; if there should be a discussion if this is the right way to move forward: Was it the best deal that campaign would choose or hope? What could be the other options? Why Kingston is the best deal for the campaign? I believe the people who arranged this deal who also encouraged (and supported) all the efforts of students and staff, need to present an explanation, asap please!
I don’t think any prejudgments are appropriate without knowing the full facts. But given the risks that students and others have taken in support of the campaign, it would only be fair to those involved to give an account of what went on behind the scenes , particularly in relation to the move to Kingston University.
This is, of course, crucial information. Were the senior staff aware that the campaign was over whilst they were still encouraging students to put themselves on the line? Not to mention the other staff who were not in on the negotiations about the move to Kingston? If so, they should answer that allegation publicly and quickly.
This is an issue that should NOT be ignored.
Thank you, Barry Rogers, that was an excellent comment.
The move to Kingston is an interesting development. Whether it is a ‘victory’, and for whom, time will perhaps tell. Certainly, Middlesex is now able to do the cuts they wanted to in the first place. At the same time, the work of CRMEP will now continue largely unchanged at Kingston. The aim of the campaign was to safeguard that goal, first and foremost. Or, so I have understood.
Some commentators here have argued that the campaign could have reversed the decision to shut CRMEP down. There are few precedents, if any, of this kind of ‘direct’ victory in any shutdown struggle. Shutdowns have been sometimes avoided, but in those cases no one has really wanted them negotiations have between the parties have done in good faith. This does not seem to have been the case at Middlesex at any point. The kind of defensive posture adopted by the management there is commonplace, and such cases the shutdown is carried out (unless, usually, government intervenes directly), however ill-adviced it may be.
The fact that there is no clear and undisputed ‘victory’ does not mean that the campaign has failed. The successes of resistance campaigns in shutdowns tend to be more indirect. Among the indirect successes I would count the following: CRMEP’s work will continue, although in a new place; Middlesex University will likely suffer for a long time from the damage the decisions management there has done and the way they were carried out and the management will have to take responsibility for that damage; and the fierce resistance and broad support the campaign was able to arouse, will hopefully make management in other universities to think of other and better ways of dealing with the sometimes very real fiscal challenges.
What this shutdown debate (as well as the form its immediate solution has now taken) has perhaps managed to crystallize in particular is that the models borrowed uncritically from the corporate world, combined with poor implementation, work particularly poorly in the academic context. The owners are not the same, the role of the management is not the same, the means of production are not the same, the product is not the same, and the list goes on.
Thanks to the campaign, the shutdown of philosophy at Middlesex will likely become an example of how such an operation should not be done.
“Thanks to the campaign, the shutdown of philosophy at Middlesex will likely become an example of how such an operation should not be done.”
Unfortunately, I think the lessons management will draw from this are not to place academic values such as the pursuit of knowledge, learning, and excellence first. Rather, they will draw the lesson that other university managements already have, that if you are going to make these decisions to make closures and redundancies public, then do so at the end of the summer term, when most staff and students are not around to make trouble.
Fantastic news. I’m glad someone out there still cares about the Humanities, and recognised the CRMEP’s earning potential. As was mentioned above, I think this places them in a better position to fight the MDX management.
The struggle is not yet over, however. Blame MDX management, not the CRMEP.
Here here. Let’s not be divided by the rulers. Come on folks.
I think the dismay of many people about the move to Kingston is really brought about by the rhetoric of the campaign. If the campaign had avoided inflated and ridiculous associations between itself and wider political ambitions about “creating another world”, then the pragmatism of the four staff who have secured new jobs would not have made anybody feel queasy.
This radical posturing has unfortunately resulted in those who have taken to the boats attempting to describe their flight as an example of what can be achieved by ‘struggle’; the truth is, of course, that the move to Kingston is the product of private negotiations between some of those cast adrift and an institution that sees some benefit for itself in fishing them out of the water.
This is four people saved from redundancy. This is a good outcome for them and their post-graduates, but it would be better for all concerned if they had the good grace to acknowledge this simple fact, rather than engage in windy nonsense about the virtues of struggle, Kingston in particular, and battling for the humanities in general. Their actions have no wider implications at all and it would be helpful for all concerned to come clean about this.
Thank you. Well said.
I completely agree.
“There are some who have come out of it well, namely the high-salaried senior staff. But their sense of victory must certainly be dampened by a deeper feeling that they have thrown away far more than they have gained. Given the strength of the campaign and the support from far afield throughout, I can’t see how this is a moment for celebration. The support that has come from philosophers worldwide is for the campaign to save philosophy at Middlesex, it was not intended to be diverted and used to save the jobs of just a few members of the department.”
First, G. Rogers, you must not have been around academia very long if you think these people are “high-salaried.” The ranks of rich philosophy professors are thin indeed. I would surmise that these four might have been in a bit of trouble if unemployed for long, just like most of us. So let’s not be heroic with other people’s livelihoods, to start with.
Second, I do see this as a substantial victory insofar as the CRMEP was saved. Some have claimed cynically that the entire protest was manipulated to save the jobs of four people. That claim might be more substantial if the four people in question had cut separate deals at four different institutions and made a run for it (and even then, I don’t think we’d be in a position to be harsh about such a decision). It is not four isolated individuals whose jobs were saved, but the existence of a Centre that has done a lot of intellectual good for a lot of people.
The apparent losers of this deal are the two remaining staff at Middlesex plus the undergraduates (the graduate students can move to Kingston with no delay, if I’m understanding correctly, with no penalty but the obvious bit of inconvenience that can’t be avoided). As for the staff members, I think it’s dangerous for outsiders to make assumptions because: (a) for all we know those two may have supported the decision to take the Kingston deal; and (b) we don’t know how stable their contract status at Middlesex was. I do feel for them, but I think it’s a bit cruel to assume as an outsider that they were stabbed in the back by their four colleagues.
Bottom line: the CRMEP would most likely have been non-existent pretty soon. All room for face-saving compromise was gone (following the suspensions and Driscoll’s renewed statement of commitment to the closure). The only way Philosophy at Middlesex could have survived would have been with the resignation of all the Middlesex administrators. That’s not an unthinkable outcome *if* a weightier outside power had intervened, but I’m not on the ground at Middlesex and don’t know what the real array of outside political forces looked like. Perhaps it was pretty meager.
Anyway, I’m glad the CRMEP still exists and that someone cared enough to save it. There will surely be some people up a creek now, but even more people would have been up a creek otherwise.
It seems to me that the main point of contention here is whether this campaign was out to save the CRMEP, philosophy at Middlesex or philosophy (perhaps humanities) in the UK generally, and whether it should now be deemed as a failure since it has arguably settled at the first objective.
In the first sentence of this announcement this moment has been called “a partial but significant victory”. It seems that there is no doubt that not all three objectives have been equally achieved by this present moment, but that this does not constitute a failure of objectives.
CRMEP has been saved, that is a major and undeniable victory. There is a certain strand of argument being made here to claim this as a narcissistic victory for the careers of the the so called “sweeties” or “elites” of CRMEP. To those who make that case I ask: what would the CRMEP be without the under-signers of this letter? CRMEP is not a vacant office like 10 Downing Street, run by whoever sits in its board rooms. It is a group of people, it is at its foundations that group of people. (from what I understand)
The future of philosophy at Middlesex now looks even more uncertain than ever before, as Tracy painfully illustrates. No one at all has claimed that the struggle to preserve what is left has ended, and the commentary following Sandford et al’s announcement explicitly made that clear: “We will continue to do everything we can to support our colleagues and our suspended students, and to resist any further intimidation of campaign activists.” Let it be clear, pig headed Middlesex University management closed the department down, not CRMEP. Middlesex has a long standing reputation of harassing, squeezing and ousting its staff and students, and that this has occurred to its outstanding philosophy department for at least several years should be reason enough to accept that this could not go on. Either CRMEP had to leave or some kind of deep university revolution had to occur.
The Save Midx Philosophy campaign has not created the god sent revolution that could have saved philosophy in the UK generally, nor secured the fate of humanities, from the raptors of the ruling profit motive. Of course not. But it has saved itself, and that is a concrete part of an overall utopian victory. It also generated a cross-university network of students and staff prepared to support each other in mutual aid. It brought serious attention to the need to organise and prepare for the “next round” of university attacks. It gave hope, a hope even that the next victories could be greater and deeper. All of these (and many more, I’m sure) are victories. As Standford et al wrote, “Our campaign, along with others . . . has helped change the balance of power across higher education.” Victory is not a binary event, it is never either achieved or not; it is a qualitative event made up of stages and platforms, hoisted in questionable temporality.
The point at which this campaign would “sell out”, in my opinion, would be when CRMEP negates its experiences over the past few months and loses its focus as an entity immeshed in a wider educational and social struggle. Nothing written in the CRMEP statement gives me this impression. I hope that CRMEP uses its experience to not only continue fighting, but as a philosophy centre, develop an understanding of what the abominable attack on education means, where it comes from, and how it can be combatted.
One last point I’d like to make. From my own experiences, victory is almost always melancholic.
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Extremely sad that Christian Kerslake, one of the most interesting and serious philosophy researchers working in the Anglo-American academy (and in a field so rarely serious as studies on Deleuze), and who in no way can be considered a “junior” member of staff, having been at Middlesex for longer than some of those included in the move, has been left out of it and is referred to in the letter in the same breath as Mark Kelly, a very recent appointment with little research output behind him. You have to wonder if it is something to do with Kerslake’s philosophical inclinations and the evident hostility they awaken in more celebrated members of that quartet.
I have just lost a lot of belief in these people.
On the one hand, I do not share the reservations people are expressing on the thread about the move as such. I always thought that could be a possible solution, and it is good to know that there is still a university in the UK willing to take this on.
On the other hand, however, what completely spoils this for me is that the CRMEP had five full-time members. One of them, Christian Kerslake, has been excluded from the arrangement and continues to be referred to, both in the letter above and in discussion forums, as a “junior” member of staff. The fact is that Christian Kerslake has been at the CRMEP for longer than some of those who will be making the move and both the quantity and the quality of his research are at the very least comparable to those of the other four. His research is in fact both highly original and deeply serious (not always the case with people working in his field of choice). I find his colleagues’ acceptance of an arrangement that does not include him frankly shocking (and even more so the tone with which they speak of him in their letter). I cannot help wondering if the evident hostility that his philosophical choices encounter in some of the more celebrated members of that quartet have not played a part in this outcome. What is certain, in any case, is that the CRMEP has lost one of its most valuable members. For my part, I have lost a lot of belief in these people.
It would be interesting to find out if Kerslake himself was involved in any of the plans to move to Kingston or if he was excluded from the discussions along with the students. If so, why was this? Does anyone know if he supports the move? And ultiimately, why were he and the undergraduates not considered to be worth saving as part of the CRMEP group? There remain many unanswered questions.
On a point of information, I am ‘full time’: the CRMEP has/had six ‘full-time members’. I don’t disagree, of course, that I am much more junior than Christian, in age, scholarship, time at Middlesex, and time in the academy.
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I understand many of the concerns that have been raised in the replies to this announcement, and will try to address some of them in a moment, below,
Are you referring to your post concerning the suspensions just now?
Can you answer some of the other questions such as the one I posed earlier today at 13:32 which was a response to a very valid first point made by Marc yesterday at 19:41.
On 9 June Tunc Blake also asked similar questions, post at 22:11.
I think answers to these questions are very important and can not be skirted around.
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As one of the members of staff who will soon be leaving for Kingston I’d like to address briefly some of responses to the announcement of this move, posted here. Of course I understand why many people who supported the campaign are disappointed by this outcome, which isn’t the unqualified victory we worked for. In my opinion it became clear this past month that such a victory would indeed have required little less than the removal of the whole senior management team, and replacement of the corporate agenda that’s been driving Middlesex for more than a decade with a completely different set of priorities. Only a campaign that can expand dramatically in breadth, depth and power, both within Middlesex and across other universities, has any chance of accomplishing all of what needs to be done. I know that many of the people who have been active in the campaign share a determination to continue with this mobilisation.
In the meantime, before reaching a final judgement on the Kingston move I hope that supporters of the campaign might bear a couple of other points in mind.
Needless to say it isn’t appropriate for me to discuss the situation of other colleagues, who are of course free to speak in their own name. When in early March management informed us that we had several weeks to prepare a case for the survival of Philosophy at Middlesex, they warned us that we might have to envisage a scenario in which staff numbers would be cut from six to three. We refused to draw up any business plan for management that didn’t include every existing member of staff. For years now we have resisted pressure to downsize our programmes, and we refused to prepare a plan that might ‘justify’ the loss of a single post. In late March, Peter Osborne (director of the CRMEP) duly came up with a plan that included all staff and that comfortably exceeded the University’s stringent financial expectations. It is indeed management who then decided to shut us down, without discussion or appeal, and it was management that imposed the immediate prospect of redundancy.
If the subsequent campaign hadn’t been so strong, if management had got its way, then it’s very likely that several members of staff would already be facing redundancy. As things currently stand, there is good reason to expect that Middlesex will retain both Christian Kerslake and Mark Kelly (the two lecturers who won’t be moving to Kingston) for at least a couple of years, and (if Middlesex can be persuaded to continue offering philosophy modules to students on other programmes) perhaps indefinitely. Of course the campaign will continue to do everything possible to pressure Middlesex management on this point. Yesterday management apparently offered to make Mark’s contract permanent, which is an encouraging sign.
If Middlesex couldn’t be persuaded to retain our programmes then the best outcome was obviously to find a new place that could take on all six current members of Philosophy staff and all current Philosophy students and programmes. People familiar with the constraints that currently affect higher education in the UK may understand why, despite our best efforts, we were unable to find such a place. We had discussions with several universities and explored every possible option. In the end, only Kingston was able to commit the substantial amount of money needed for a group transfer, albeit a partial one.
At Middlesex around half of the teaching in Philosophy is undergraduate, and a substantial portion of our salary and operational costs is covered by research (RAE) funds. Unfortunately Kingston has no undergraduate programme, and since Middlesex will now simply pocket our RAE money, the CRMEP no longer has any research funds. Of course we regret that Kingston was only able to take four members of the Centre, but no university was prepared to consider a larger group transfer. For a university to take on new people in a new area without any undergraduate or research income is very expensive, and in this climate of relentless cuts and redundancies there are limits to the number of new positions any university can offer, without running the risk of alienating its own current staff.
The real issue then is whether the four staff should have declined the Kingston offer and remained at Middlesex for another year. Given the constraints of the academic calendar, the campaign had until early June at the latest to secure some sort of meaningful compromise from Middlesex management, before losing the option to move elsewhere by September 2010. I believe that the campaign did everything possible to win the day at Middlesex, and that we tried to do all that we feasibly could to increase the pressure on management, even after their high court injunction ended the Mansion occupation on 15 May. But by the end of May our vice-chancellor once again ruled out any chance of a reprieve, and UCU regulations mean that staff could take no significant collective action before the start of the new academic year.
If we had gone into the new academic year at Middlesex without having gained any sort of assurance about our future then the closures would most definitely have gone ahead as announced, no doubt newly bolstered by a government-imposed mandate for radical budget cuts. I’m afraid that anyone who thinks otherwise doesn’t know how our managers work. Given the circumstances we faced, if we hadn’t accepted the move to Kingston now then individual members of staff in Philosophy would almost certainly have been forced to go their separate ways as best they could over the coming months, and the CRMEP would have ceased to exist.
That was the dilemma: either preserve the Centre now in a reduced but nevertheless secure and resilient form, or allow Middlesex managers to destroy it over the course of next year. The four of us decided to preserve it, and I hope that in due course we will be able to expand it.
Of course the immediate focus of the campaign will shift now to defend the positions of Christian, Mark and the Middlesex undergraduates. Christian’s suspension hearing is scheduled for noon on Monday 14 June at Hendon, and I hope many students and staff will gather outside the hearing (from 11:00) to press for his immediate and unconditional reinstatement. We will continue to do everything we can to urge the university to commit to permanent undergraduate provision in Philosophy, and to retain its current staff to provide it.
I hope that supporters of the campaign might agree that the best way to win this fight is to broaden rather than divide it. The evening of 8 June, following an Education Activists Network meeting at KCL, we had a first organising meeting with members of staff in several other departments to consider how best to expand the campaign to save Middlesex philosophy into a more general fight to save Middlesex from its managers, and to do this in close alliance with students and staff at other universities. Now we are preparing for a UCU/NUS national day of action on 21 June (http://unitedforeducation.org.uk/). The campaign continues.
Peter Hallward, 11 June 2010.
I found your post rather interesting Peter (I hope you do not mind me referring to you by your first name), primarily because it did not really address the more uncomfortable questions posed by a number of people on this site but, instead, raised some more uncomfortable questions.
First of all, you state that in your opinion a full victory would have required the removal of the whole senior management team and the replacement of the corporate agenda that’s been driving Middlesex for quite some time with a completely different set of priorities. I am perfectly willing to believe you on this point. However, I cannot help but feel quite puzzled by the way in which you implicitly portray this assessment of the state of affairs at Middlesex as a revelation of sorts, that is, as an insight that came about during the unfolding of the campaign. If this assessment was indeed a revelation for you, then you and other key figures in the campaign, i.e. Peter Osborne, during your various statements regarding the status of universities in this country and the immense threat posed to the development of critical thought in universities by the managerial class, of which the situation at Middlesex was, rightly, identified as an example, have done a really good job at making the rest of us believe that quite the opposite is true. Surely, especially at the very beginning of the campaign when the UCU was not involved in the proceedings, you must have thought that the chances of the campaign succeeding were rather slim, by which I mean, as you yourself suggest, that nothing short of a radical reshuffling at the managerial level would bring about change.
Secondly, it transpires from your post that facultly members, including yourself, were in talks with other universities in order to negotiate a move during the campaign. You do not, however, explicitly answer a question that has been posed several times in this forum, namely, were Christian Kerslake and Mark Kelly involved in these talks? (I suspect, I hope, that they were. However, it would be welcome if this question was definitively answered.) Neither do you provide the time frame during which these negotiations took place; another point that has been raised repeatedly. But the real question is, why didn’t you or any of the other members of staff involved in the move even hint at the fact that a move was being negotiated, if you were not at liberty to make official statements? Why didn’t you or any of the other members of staff acknowledge that alternative arrangements were being considered, apart from the reinstatement of all the philosophy programmes at Middlesex? Why didn’t you or any of the other members of staff involved acknowledge that you would be prepared to save the CRMEP at the expense of the undergraduate programmes if the choice came down to that? You cannot fail to see why these questions need answering. I will outline the reasons why nevertheless, starting from the last question.
Regarding the preservation of the CRMEP you might argue that it is important to continue doing the kind of work the CRMEP has become renowned for and I agree with that. I have attended numerous events organized by the CRMEP and am quite familiar with the work of one of its members. However, we all know that research work is more important, although not necessarily more rewarding, for the reputation and standing of an academic, though not necessarily for the society at large, than teaching undergraduates which is why the move has been deemed as careerist on your part as well as that of the other members involved in the move. From this point of view, your statement that things are looking up since Kerslake and Kelly might just be able to hang on to their jobs teaching for the next two years and then maybe, just maybe, teach philosophy in other departments, whilst you and the others involved in the move will apparently be supervising PhD and MA students and devoting yourselves to research work since Kingston does not have an undergraduate programme in philosophy, leaves a bitter taste.
Regarding the negotiations of the move. The move to Kingston is coming straight after the UCU finally entered the proceedings. Given that Peter Osborne has stated on a number of occasions that the main impediment for the success of the campaign was the fact that UCU could not get involved, it is more than clear what conclusions one is left to draw from the move to Kingston. Allow me to state them nonetheless: the move to Kingston comes across not as the least preferable option, but as the most preferable option. Indeed, it comes across as the option that had always been deemed to be the most preferable, the goal that had always been sought after, since the belated involvement of the UCU did nothing to stall neither the negotiations, if they were still going on at that point, nor the move itself. Neither the negotiations nor the move are reprehensible in themselves. What is reprehensible is the dichotomy between your thoroughly pragmatic decision-making and your radical posturing. What is reprehensible is the manner in which you declare that the struggle will continue, might even magnify, once the move to Kingston has taken place. I was at a talk that Peter Osborne gave at Birkbeck recently. As you might know, he was not allowed to make any “political” statements at the end of that talk, that is, statements about the campaign. (Although he was allowed to show a section from Eric Alliez’s rather silly video.) You cannot seriously believe that Kingston will be happy for its new and expensive professors running around participating in strikes and occupations at another university.
It is clear that you have made a pragmatic choice here, however, do not be surprised if certain people who wholehartedly supported the campaign, myself included, are now accusing you and the other members of staff involved in the move of hypocrisy. I believe it was you who at the ICA claimed that something of the spirit of 1968 could be felt in your struggle. Let me assure that there is nothing of the spirit of 1968 in your so-called struggle.
So far I have seen you offer nothing constructive here. What is it you hope to get from this conversation? The four members repenting in sackcloth for making a decision you even say is the most preferable? Or is that some kind of ironic comment, since it is preferable within a system we’re all against (and yet, at least for now, have to live in)?
S0, aside from wanting time frames that will tell you, well, I don’t really know what, what is it that you want? Because, from my perspective, it looks a lot like the spirit of 1478 in your desire to drag them all into the confessional.
it is unfair for you to make these accusations in the name of some kind of a rosy revolutionary idealism. It is just common sense not to publicise your private negotiations while they are taking place! The fact that a pragmatic solution has been found does not negate the principles that have been expressed during the campaign. The campaign helped achieve this outcome, and if the details of the private negotiations would have been made public, the opponents could have used it against the campaigners. So let’s stop all this nonsense about hypocrisy. Peter et al. have achieved a fantastic outcome that should be celebrated.
Insensed, before accusing myself and other critics of the move of rosy ideals of revolution, you might want to first drop your utter nonsense about conspiracy theories. Middlesex management, I suppose these are the “opponents” you refer to, did not give a shit if the CRMEP moved elsewhere. Indeed, the sooner they took off, the happier the management would have been.
Just an idea: All four of you accept 75% of the contracts offered at Kingston. From the money freed up Christian an Mark (who are both presumably ‘cheaper’) can also be hired for 75%. And then renegotiate with Middlesex to all stay on to teach the current undergraduates (to make up for the loss of wages at Kingston). This shows solidarity with both your colleagues and the undergrads.
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“That was the dilemma: either preserve the Centre now in a reduced but nevertheless secure and resilient form, or allow Middlesex managers to destroy it over the course of next year. ”
OR, continue to fight using all means available and try to save the program or part of it. It’s clear that your attitude was defeatist – managers didn’t budge, they were intimidating you, so you decided this was not going to be a fight you could win and ran. What other explanation is there? Who gave you the right to make decision for the whole campaign? This was never about saving your jobs, was it? People from all over the globe spoke out against this because they thought you were taking a stand, not negotiating a surrender before the next school year comes. For shame!
This is shameful indeed. I’m with Ida on this one – not just pragmatism vs radical posturing but clearly cowardice in the face of the university managers: all they had to do was shake their fists and there were already secret offer deals being considered. I sincerely hope none of the four “senior” members went as far as saying one thing in public and mulling over which job to take in private.
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What a tragic explanation: it reminds me of the scene in the Office, where David Brent announces that he has some bad news and some good news. The bad news is that everyone’s lost their job. The good news is that he’s kept his. And then he gets miffed when everybody isn’t delighted by the good news.
What wonderful solipsists the mainstay of CRMEP has turned out to be, despite their rhetoric.
And, no Ida, to answer your question, Christian Kerslake and Mark Kelly were not involved at all in the negotiations with Kingston.
And what, Oh Wise Ramanuja, would you have had them do in this situation that would have been constructive? You talk as if a full management reversal was a real possibility, if only these four staff had followed through on their ‘rhetoric’. This, as Hallward notes, would have required the complete removal of the entire MDX management. It was never going to happen. This is not these four staff members fault, but the result of deep, fundamental and structural problems at the heart of the British academic system. The appalling behaviour of management here, as serious as it has been, is a mere symptom.
What, then, would you have had them do: should they have fallen on their swords in some grand gesture? Go down in a blaze of revolutionary glory? Sorry, but this would have been worse than useless given the conditions that we find ourselves in. It may have made a good story, which might have satisfied the itching ears of a few, but it would not have achieved anything remotely concrete, and within a year or two all would have been forgotten, with the CRMEP essentially no more. As I said above, this move, while not perfect, provides a much more stable base from which to continue the campaign, and to continue the vital work of the CRMEP, which is itself challenging the philosophies and ideologies that are the real cause of this whole debacle regarding MDX. This is, despite its imperfection, a very positive outcome. It is not a ‘selling-out’. Your rosy-cheeked idealism, however, might be considered sweet, if it weren’t so dangerous in its naivety.
It is false to claim that it would have required the complete removal of the MDX management, in order to reverse the closure. As Christian points out below:
“Philosophy and theory departments at Liverpool, KCL, and recently Goldsmiths (among others), have succeeded in overturning proposed cuts and closures.” They succeeded in getting these reversals without the complete removal of their managements.
Why have the campaign at all, if it was really aiming for something that “was never going to happen” ?
@Michael… you could be right. My point in response is that clearly with Liverpool, KCL etc., you had management who were at least willing to consider changing their decision. The question is whether the MDX management are comparable, or whether they were SO pig-headed as to really dismiss any climb-down out of hand. Without knowing the internal dynamics, I cannot say what their stance was. But certain things that have been posted here, and the behaviour of the management re. the suspensions, suggested to me there was no chance whatsoever of a climb-down. Rather, they were digging in their heels. Let’s not forget, in terms of international and public support from very, very high-profile figures (the Chomskys, Zizeks etc., all major philosophical bodies), this campaign seems to have more support than some of the others. I may be wrong, and you may be correct that had the campaign continued, there may have been a change of heart as with Liverpool etc…
Truth is, as Tim suggests below, we will now never know. And what makes this even more murky is that we now have Peter above claiming there was no chance of full success without full removal of that management, and Christian below arguing (as you mention) that this campaign could have succeeded like the others. It is difficult to know who to side with.
**Sorry, I didn’t finish my thought above …. I meant to say that even with all that international support, the MDX management didn’t make much indication they were going to budge. It looked more likely they were waiting for things to quieten down over the summer before carrying on with the cuts.
Some facts appear to be necessary for some aspects of this discussion to continue.
1. Mark Kelly and I both found out about the move to Kingston on the same day as everybody else, and we were not consulted about it at any point.
2. The campaign to save philosophy at Middlesex was explicitly founded not just on the demand for recognition of excellence in research, but also on the department’s historical commitment to widening participation in philosophy education and providing the opportunity to study philosophy at all levels for all people. The rationale given for the Kingston move silently drops all reference to the second basis of the campaign – Philosophy for All. (I think this is probably the real reason for the discomfort around the move).
3. The Kingston move subtracts the Middlesex campaign from the recent narrative of cuts and successful fight-backs in the higher education sector. Philosophy and theory departments at Liverpool, KCL, and recently Goldsmiths (among others), have succeeded in overturning proposed cuts and closures. They fought and remained. In the Middlesex case, the four ‘senior’ members chose to leave the department and take the postgraduate programme to another institution.
4. The by-product of the campaign is a new graduate school for philosophy. The Kingston move sunders the link between the undergraduate and postgraduate levels of philosophy education. The problem is that undergraduate philosophy programmes are the foundation stone on which philosophy departments are built. The undergraduate programme is where the primary and most direct encounter with philosophical ideas takes place. Postgraduate programmes are built on the assumption that knowledge has already been acquired. By making the move to Kingston, the CRMEP is opting to relinquish control of the introductory paths into philosophy that form the basis for philosophy education at undergraduate level. It will have to rely on other institutions to provide this function, and it will have to court the dangers of generating an elite, exclusive ‘postgraduate’ discourse, detached from the real experience and thought of working people. I would not have moved to Kingston even if the opportunity had arisen, because I think the last thing London needs is another postgraduate institution. Encouraging the production of exclusive postgraduate institutions in the current economic climate will help to reinforce class division, shutting those who don’t have money out of the higher education system.
5. I’ve stated the above facts and points in order to help further discussion about what went right and what went wrong in the Middlesex case, a discussion that may prove useful for future struggles against cuts in education. However, despite disagreeing with the logic of the Kingston move, I have no desire to foster any conflict about it. I hope that Middlesex and Kingston will be able to retain strong links, and that members of the Kingston CRMEP will come to Middlesex this Autumn to participate in a new seminar series we hope to establish. Mark Kelly and I are currently negotiating with the management to secure the conditions for the best possible experience for the philosophy undergraduate students. The best aspects of the protest and campaign – the collective processes of deliberation, the free circulation of ideas in real time, the measured acts performed out of principle, and the resolve to put ideas into practice – will remain an inspiration for students and staff at Middlesex, and we must hope that they will galvanize a general struggle to defend humanities subjects across the university and beyond.
Don’t know if you’ll be able or willing to respond to this, but:
Do you think it would have been possible, with enough support, to have overturned the decision to close philosophy at MDX?
That’s a genuine and serious question. In many ways, the justifiability of the CRMEP move to Kingston is based on the answer to this question alone.
If there had been no hope of winning, why begin the protest in the first place?
More pressing a question for me is WHEN did the 4 staff going to Kingston know that they were going. and WHY did they continue to ENCOURAGE (Hallward in particular) students to put their education on the line when they knew that they had already given up on the fight?
I, for one, am extremely relieved and grateful that whatever the rights and wrongs of the situation, Christian and Mark will be staying behind at Middlesex. I chose to study at Middlesex because it’s proximity to my home, my five year old’s school, my baby’s nursery and a supportive family network made it possible to juggle the many demands on my time. Even if Kingston did have an undergraduate programme, it is at least a two hour commute away (more in rush hour), which would have made it impossible. Other undergraduates I have spoken to have also breathed a sigh of relief that we are not being left up the proverbial creek without a paddle!
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You know why the Right walks all over the Left just about time? You know why it has done so for decades? It’s because the Right is able to mobilise, remonstrate, collaborate, even pontificate but it is also able to take small victories without crying over what might have been. Cons, Libs, New Labs, neo-cons, neo-libs, evangelicals — they all know how to get on when it suits them and they all know how to work by increments. They realise that partial victories can be victories nevertheless.
It’s politics; you have to make hard choices. The good(?) thing with never accepting anything less than total success is that you don’t really have to do much. You just complain and complain and make posters.
The Kingston decision has various merits and demerits and these are open for discussion but to just yell ‘splitters!’ and get back to being completely indignant and completely ineffectual is hardly anything to be proud of.
That said, conducting the Kingston negotiations without informing Mark and Christian is disrespectful and was clearly handled very badly.
That’s the million-dollar question isn’t it: how would you describe the politics of the staff who decided to move? Of course, you seem to think that there is such a thing as “just politics”, I do not believe that to be the case. On the other hand, I really do see your point, especially about the need to keep going. A good starting point, as far as I am concerned anyway, would be for the staff involved in the move to publicly accept that they mishandled the campaign and engaged in wilful misrepresentation.
Well, the phrase “just politics” begs the question of what politics is, but that is another point. However, clearly whatever this situation is and is not it is in some part ‘politics’. (That isn’t such a dirty word is it? Would it be disgraceful to be ‘doing politics’ – whatever that means?) “Just politics” of course implies something rather apolitical – disinterested pragmatism in the rather neoliberal sense of institutional/managerial ‘politics’. I hope this politics is more than that; but, equally, I hope it is, in fact, politics. Politics is what is needed!
What I meant by “just politics” is this notion that there is a sort of autonomous or self-regulating realm of the political that one can either participate in or not participate in. That’s what I don’t believe to be the case; on the contrary, it is politics that thoroughly permeates every other realm of our lives, from the bedroom to the office, the university, etc. In the case of Middlesex, one could say that the philosophy department was doing politics long before the camapign started, for instance by making a point of opening up philosophy to people who have traditionally been excluded from its study. There is no question, however, that the campaign, unlike the more quiet work that the department has been doing for years, represented a political event, which is why it was so important that it was handled well. That the tone of the campaign, its aims, the way it was handled, and its achievements would be weighed against what the department has historically stood and worked for was inevitable. This doesn’t strike me as counter-productive either. The outcomes of the campaign so far do not measure up either to the tone of the campaign, or its aims, or what the department has historically stood for. That the CRMEP continues to exist is a good thing, whether this represents a victory in the broader scheme of things is doubtful. You say that it might be useful to accept it as a partial victory of sorts, especially given Peter Hallward’s claim that the campaign will continue. I cannot help but wonder what the aims of this second phase of the campaign are though, apart from the short-term goal of reversing the suspensions. Like yourself, I do hope the campaign continues, and that its aims do not change: to reinstate the undergraduate philosophy programme at Middlesex and thus make Middlesex an example of successful fight backs in HE cuts. I do not think, however, that Hallward, who has so often spoken on behalf of the campaign, or any of the other members of staff involved in the move are the most suitable persons for a leading role in this second phase. If the campaign is to focus on philosophy at Middlesex, then it must be faculty and students at Middlesex, not Kignston, who must take the torch. More politics indeed!
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So glad to get your side of the story Christian. You stayed precisely my concern about the move to Kingston. It does not save the undergraduate component. When I signed the petition I too had in mind recent successful push backs (as you mention). Although Peter may be right that this is was the preferred option I do not think, as one who would like to see an increase in philosophical discourse at the undergraduate level, that this is a cause for celebration and I empathize with those who are disappointed. Keep up the great work Christian!
It’s hard to imagine why anyone would support the moving party – there’s a clear lack of consideration here. If the “senior” people do not have solidarity with the “junior” people, how can you expect anyone to have solidarity with the whole program? As for all the defeatists here, the campaign was barely several months old and the support was growing by the day. Christian mentions several successful attempts to reverse the managerial decisions – I don’t see any other possible explanation here than careerist concern for their own employment on the part of the “senior” faculty members. This is not really that surprising – academics are often quite careerist, what is surprising is all the rhetoric and, yes, posturing. I don’t care for the move, I do think, however, that presenting it as some sort of victory is disingenious – it was a pragmatic move, without any consideration for the philosophy program, especially its undergraduate part which, as Christian points out, is much more important than graduate part. Sad conclusion to what seemed like an exciting development.
I think Kerslake’s bravery in laying out his view, and in doing so so reasonably should be recognised. Good luck to him.
Christian – Thank you. Your response has cheered me up a bit. When I first heard the news about the closure I was of course depressed at the potential loss of CRMEP (and so am genuinely pleased that it is saved), but what was more upsetting, for sentimental as much as intellectual reasons, was the prospect of Middlesex existing without philosophers. If memory serves, in its earlier incarnation as a polytechnic, Middlesex originally had no philosophy department as such, but nevertheless employed some bloody good philosophers (Jonathan Ree, Peter Dews, to name but two), who instituted and maintained that “historical commitment” to which you refer. If we are now to return to the status quo ante – with technical colleges focused on business-oriented courses and the humanities reserved for elite institutions serving the children of the rich – then the presence, however fragile, of people like yourself in the former institutions is surely going to be more crucial than ever. The fact that you and Mark are now fighting a rearguard struggle to preserve the original spirit of Middlesex philosophy is truly inspiring.
Barry – I imagine a lot of people will want to respond to your question “could MDX have been saved” with a more or less bitter “Well, we’ll never know now, will we?”
I confess, my immediate reaction to the decision was one of disappointment lurching towards cynicism, but thanks in part to your original post (among others – avoiding “bad beautiful soulism”, not “playing heroic with other people’s livelihoods”, and so on), I got over it. My point is simply that it’s probably not going to be possible to justify the CREMP move in any way that will satisfy its more vehement critics. Perhaps, to borrow a formula from PH, the best one can say or hope for is that it “will have been” justified (or not!) by whatever happens next – most immediately by maintaining vociferous support for those left behind, by doing everything possible to bring the MDX management to book, by using Kingston as a base from which to muster support for whichever “space of abstraction” next comes under attack. It seems clear that Peter intends all this and more with his refrain “the campaign continues”.
Yes, I very much agree. Given the criticism they will inevitably continue to come under (even, perhaps, from people left at MDX), it is crucially important that those staff who are moving to Kingston continue on with the campaign, and do so with the utmost energy and commitment. I think you’re absolutely right that the rightness or wrongness of this move, and the ultimate success of the campaign, will in many ways be determined by what happens over the coming months and years, rather than what has happened over the past few weeks.
Sorry, that should have said “originally had no postgraduate philosophy department”. Also want to agree that however far the move itself may be justified, the failure to consult the others over it seems indefensible.
quote: “Perhaps, to borrow a formula from PH, the best one can say or hope for is that it “will have been” justified (or not!) by whatever happens next”
I believe this formula is actually borrowed from T. Blair….
Fair point. For what it’s worth, I had in mind a central tenet of Hallward’s “politics of prescription”, e.g. “A decision will have been right, a project will have held true … prescription must initially be conjugated in that future anterior championed by Robespierre and Fanon”, or in its Sartrean version: “first you commit, then you explore the limits of what this commitment allows you to do”. But yes, you’re right, since the decision in this case was more nakedly pragmatic than rigorously prescriptive, my appeal to the “will have been” defense is arguably more Blairite than Fanonite. I also take your original point that “the wider campaign” may have been “undermined by this move” – i.e. more limited in what it may have otherwise been allowed to do. But again, we shall see. Those who have reacted negatively to the outcome this time may be less inclined to sign up next time; on the other hand, those who have judged it on-balance positive may well intensify their contribution to the next fight, perhaps in part to justify, “in the future anterior”, their judgment on this one.
You’ve made my day, Christian. My sincerest thanks for that.
I find it extraordinary, really, that those shouting out their Leftist values have fled to comfortable well-paid jobs without a word of warning or apology to their two colleagues or the students left behind. Yet Christian, who has not proclaimed his political leanings in half so colourful a manner, is here nobly picking up the pieces.
It just goes to show, as so often in life, do not trust those who shout the loudest. And, as I said before, given the hypocrisy behind their position, it will be hard to support the political writings of two, in particular, of those moving to Kingston.
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I read this discussion with interest in thinking through a piece on academic politics and philosophy, and would make a few comments:
1. Unless you have been involved in a dispute or two and genuinely felt you are vulnerable, it is impossible to imagine the level of stress and the extent to which practicing what you preach becomes difficult. Practicial politics is full of messy compromises and hanging people ideologically is often a comfortable process done by those in less precarious situations. So lets not easily (and I stress easily) condemn by ideological standard.
That said, pragmatism and self-interest, unchecked and disciplined by a sense of ideology and vision, particularly when done by people who formulate and propogate such positions very publically in their intellectual output, seems to say the least disappointing – integrity comes from the balance of pragmatism and ideology in the moment of struggle, and part of that is deciding to sustain the pressure on yourself for the common good – and if you cannot practice quite what you preach, issues of trust and credibility – politically and intellectually – become apparent.
2. Christian Kerslake says ‘Mark Kelly and I both found out about the move to Kingston on the same day as everybody else, and we were not consulted about it at any point.’ If this is the case I would make two points. Whether its Che Guevara or the most ‘gung ho’ US marine – ideology aside – you don’t leave your comrades on the ground. Solidarity, common trust and respect demand you show loyalty, and this will be incredibly important in the politics of universities in the next couple of years, as it is in all trade struggles. Many would argue such a burden sits greater with the more senior and so more potentially more powerful members of a community.
Given what Christian says, I think most of those who supported the Middlesex campaign – acknowledged as being significant – would have had a different and less sympathetic view if they had known there was a ‘lifeboat strategy’ being formulated that involved leaving more junior colleagues on deck. It would be useful to know more about when the discussion of movement began amongst the ‘select group’ and how it was conducted, but there seems no excuse – none – for running a generic save Middlesex/philosophy campaign whilst having an undisclosed ‘exit strategy’ developed and unstated. There are hard words for such activity. No demands of pragmatism adequately compensate for it and one wonders how you reconcile ‘no university would take all of us’ with some of those left behind not knowing that such a case was being made. Its seems, unless factually contradicted, an incredibly sad state of affairs for which conscience and politics seem not to have dictated action (and that is notwithstanding whether, as Christian says, he’d have wanted to move or not).
3. There is a suggestion that the move by the ‘select group’ allows the struggle to be conitnued from the distance. I also note Christian’s discussion points 2 and 3 about the politics of the struggle within Middlesex and the previous record elsewhere of turning back management decisions. I think whether there would have been a successful campaign if all had stayed is deeply questionable and individual merits in every case play a part – Middlesex is not Liverpool. There is, however, one thing I am absolutely sure about. Leaving, splitting solidarity and locating elswhere does not bolster, add or increase the power of support in any way to any campaign or struggle, and it is somewhat naive or unjust to say so. Taking it to the brink at Middlesex may have resulted in losses, but you cannot dress leaving as the politically mature thing to do, even if one of those left behind now appears to have secured temporary security. Speaking to truth involves not spinning everything you have done as the ‘right’ move – sometimes it involves saying ‘we know by doing this we have brought about negative consequences for others and we’re sorry’.
3. Much is made of looking at this in the broader view of saving continental philosophy through preservation of the research centre. Of course, that has its merits, but if the issue of philosophy is raised, I find myself wondering how Derrida would have read this, or Foucault, or how Badiou or Ranciere would read this sort of politics. I am fairly sure how Gramsci would read it. The point is, you don’t save ideas by actions that do not embody the ideas, make them real in human conduct. You make them phantasms, illusions, by breaking with them in the practical political settings. What exactly are we saving? scholarship as measured by the REF or a particular nexus of research outputs? Is that saving philosophy, or its relevance in everyday lives?
My real fear is that such lessons as are coming out from this sort of discussion are not learned. If universities are not to become (if they are not already) ‘skills’ factories run on market grounds, its essential we resist the temptation to embrace the market any more than we have, and important we are honest in the compromises we make. We are only going to do this by solidarity, mutual ethically based respect in our conduct and honesty in speaking truth with each other. I do not think the Middlesex campaign, when its underbelly is exposed, meets those criteria. I do not think the best political strategy is either General Custers or retreat at the first skirmish, but I think we start by acting collectively and in solidarity and with honesty and so trust. If I were Christian Kerslake, suspended with colleagues but not apparently to share their exit – I am not sure I could have written a mail with such reconciliation in it and if were one of those whose statement heads this list of comments, I would be asking whether the triumphalist nature of the statement is quite so appropriate.
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