June 16, 2007

Unite against the bean-counters 1

Letter to the Editors, Times Higher Education Supplement, 15 June 2007

So research is being wrecked by "bean-counters", as your front page had it (June 1). Isn't it about time that public-service employees started to fight back against the absurd notion that the so-called reform of the sector is somehow progressive? Doesn't every public service worker now understand exactly how regressive the measures inflicted upon the sector in the name of modernisation are?

Reform is, in reality, a 19th-century Gradgrind utilitarianism married to a vicious Thatcherite backlash against the ideals of public service that have provided institutions such as universities with endless supplies of unpaid overtime in the past.

No more - demoralised staff will work to rule if they are treated as untrustworthy children. Students can expect to be met by increasingly angry and exhausted lecturers. "Reform" has taken some of the worst indignities suffered by the working class and visited them on middle-class public-service employees under cover of an entirely bogus notion of accountability.

To paraphrase the political philosopher Pierre Joseph Proudhon: to be reformed is to be watched, inspected, spied on, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom or the virtue to do so. Or, if you prefer the Orwellian version, as one of my colleagues put it so eloquently: "if you want a vision of the future, imagine a sandal stamping on a human face - for ever!"

Nick Haeffner
, London Metropolitan University

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