Dear David Edmonds CBE, Chairman of the Board of Governors
We hope you are sitting comfortably at home, [address withheld] London SW20. (Your address? Steven Spier’s office is leakier than an NHS urine bottle these days.) You may not read this blog, but Steven Spier does, and uses it to fire staff. So perhaps you will read it now? Introductions, then business. You are a public man with many achievements. We are the student customers and staff of your University in business, healthcare, education, sciences at Kingston Hill, Penrhyn Road, Roehampton Vale. We have come together because there is a major problem around the corner. Please help us. Read this letter. Google the contents before you file it away.
Now to business. You know business is about growth. Your work with
the NHS and in property development will tell you this. So why is
Kingston University shrinking? You know business means profit. Your
University is bleeding cash. Students are walking away faster than
courses can be closed. Staff payoffs are leaching money at every level.
Vacant offices throughout buildings like Kenry House are eating up
Yes, Kingston is your University. Fast becoming your embarrassment
too. Do you remember that quiet chat when Steven Spier told you Julius
Weinberg was a ‘car crash’. That must have been about the same time as
you were getting into trouble over the Olympic Stadium. Real public
Now Steven is leading you that way again. Steven likes to offload people causing him problems. He likes to hire people to do his dirty work for him. Steven is about to fool you too in taking the blame for his failings. Look what he did to Colin Rhodes at the art school. Made up some fake news about misconduct just to get him out. Another pay off. At least Rhodes was interviewed for the job. Now we see there is some non-interviewed person who says on her official KU profile and the internet ‘in my paintings there is an ABSURD INVESTMENT, a COMMITTED DOUBT…EXPRESSIONLESS DECLARATION…they FLUCTUATE between a SIMULATION OF MEANINGFUL ACTIVITY and alternate space of understanding.’ She leads something called the ‘Centre for Useless Splendour.’ Do you want Steven to make this absurd investment? Is he too simulating meaningful activity? Whoever employed that acting dean no hoper artist at Knights Park should shift her quick before she breaks another bit of your University. We hear this new acting dean is a relentless bully. Clumsy too. Do you really want to be accountable for someone believing this kind of vacuous rubbish while they do Steven’s bidding? Will Steven’s latest ‘car crash’ summary appointment become your ABSURD INVESTMENT? Or is it time to park Steven, along with his arty exponents of MEANINGFUL ACTIVITY. Steven Spier is not well known, whatever he tells you. Unless you are retiring soon, unless you want to tell Bonnie Greer about your vice-chancellor’s real reasons for recruiting BAME students (they pay fees with no knowledge of University standards), save yourself the infamy of another Olympic Stadium. We will go on to work in the NHS, legal services, business, schools, sciences. Give us a chance. You know news travels fast. Please remove Steven Spier and his no-hoper artist crony from OUR University. Or you will be another of Steven’s car crashes instead of the person who fixes KU. OUR reputations and YOURS rely on it. Can we rely on you?
You always know when an organisation has already decided to change something – when it announces a staff ‘consultation’. It sounds democratic, of course: ‘look at us – we are consulting our staff – aren’t we kind’. As business lecturers in FBSS will tell you, though, the meaning of the word consultation has been seriously watered down in recent times by a whole host of organisations in business, banking, retail and now – depressingly – the HE sector.
Its got to the point where it has become meaningless, a mere mask to cover real decisions that have already been made. The loss of the KU Nursery underlined this. The recent rolling out of a so-called 46-day consultation on a proposed ‘redesign’ of professional and support services across KU can only mean one thing: more job cuts and further service decline.
Professional and support services have already been chopped right down to the bone in previous ‘redesigns’, which saw a collapse in morale and the departure of really experienced and dedicated staff. Now here we go again – to shave off another £2.6m from KU’s grossly mismanaged budgets.
Here’s some quick first suggestions for the latest ‘consultation’ – the VC should return his recent pay-rise; he should stop making ultra-bland videos which nobody watches; all SLT members should have a pay freeze; no more money should be wasted on regular SLT away-days (with overnight accommodation) at their fave hotel in Great Windsor Park; an immediate freeze on trips by SLT members to Kong Kong and elsewhere should be implemented; no more subsidies to the bottomless pit of the Rose; no more slap-up meals for the Board of Governors at top eating spots; no more dosh put aside to buy up houses in Pen Road. Just these modest proposals should save a huge sum.
Do staff have their own suggestions? Post them here, or send ’em direct to Spiersey. Go on – make his day.
Two bits of hot gossip direct from the crisis frontline.
Longtime admin staff who have become completely fed up say SLT managers spend too much time slagging each other off outside meetings, sometimes even within earshot of more junior staff. SLT members will also do anything to protect their own necks, and the word is Spiersy is only too happy to let this happen and watch them fight it out. All he really cares about is bowing down to the Board of Governors, especially its Chair.
Second, module leaders in fine art, architecture, etc at KP think the new interim Dean to replace Rhodesy in KSA is a model ‘yes’ woman who will be powerless, will do whatever others on SLT want, and will not be able to defend KSA in the SLT back-stabbing scrum.
The other Deans have allegedly claimed they’ve been ‘subsidising’ KSA for too long (which is a bit rich given all the money being poured by KU into the new Town House and now the Rose again, all approved by the SLT and the Board). Rhodesy was just the first scalp and made it easier for them due to his behaviour. SLT and the Board want more blood. Hence the plan to axe 30 KSA staff.
Good here, isn’t it?
Joseph Heller’s ‘unfilmable’ novel, Catch-22, is being serialised on television at the moment. As you
will probably know, it is a war story about the absurdities imposed on airmen
by deranged commanders. The catch-22 is the cruel inverted logic that deems
airmen fit to fly exactly because they understand the insanity of doing so: to
continue flying is insanity, but to declare oneself unfit is to prove fitness.
Sane or crazy, there is no escape.
Everyone has heard of the story, even if not everyone has
read the book. What fewer people know is that Heller wrote a subsequent novel, Something Happened, about the same
irrationality found in peacetime autocratic corporations. Kingston employees
will recognise this corporate derangement in the behaviour and proclamations of
management over the last few years. The particularly mad ideas — forcing grade
10s to reapply for their jobs, an HR director believing he understands teaching
better than academic staff, amongst others — may not be a threat to life but
they are a threat to livelihoods.
What perhaps is different is that some of these managers
have gone, most recently Colin Rhodes for alleged turpitudinous misconduct, and
further back that financial miscreant McQuillan. The original Kingston
autocrat, Weasel Weinberg, was eventually rumbled. What doesn’t change is that
all these corporate despots are replaced by someone equally tyrannical who
exercises equally demented logic. Katch-22 shifts from one perverse position to
another but is always crazy. K is for Kingston, also for Kafka.
Files mislaid in a meeting room by a Human Resources Manager reveal a conversation from the vice chancellor’s office indicating that Colin Rhodes, head of the art school, may be called in to account for alleged serious misconduct.
This places the vice chancellor in a very embarrassing position. Steven Spier will know that Rhodes’s previous executive assistant insisted she be moved away from him because of his odd personal style. Spier will also know that the newly married woman put in as a replacement is more able to resist Rhodes’s approach. It is widely acknowledged that Rhodes has accommodated a senior manager who openly practised sexual relations with a vulnerable administrator. Has the habit now spread?
Until now Steven Spier has given Rhodes an apparently free hand to manage the art school. With this gross behaviour Spier will have to come into the open to publicly demonstrate that Rhodes is innocent, or be faced with persuading him to leave quietly to protect Spier’s own profile. If not, this serious situation may bring the vice chancellor down just as he is working to cement himself as a success story. Will it be dispensable Rhodes who takes the hit?
In 2018 at the Rose Theatre KU awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Letters to an American billionaire, Vernon Hill, and his dog ‘Duffy’. Uni managers milked a great deal of publicity out of how this innovative ‘banking hero’ was a role model for graduates, blah, blah, blah. A few weeks ago this controversial character, who is the boss of Metro Bank, along with his dog (they seem joined at the hip), gave a rambling talk to bemused Business studies students at Kingston Hill on how his bank has supposedly become a ‘legendary brand’ (his words) and the bank’s customers are not customers but ‘fans’. He also claimed: ‘My dog is the best known dog in Britain’.
Even the Business studies lecturers who attended looked embarrassed at this weird performance and Hill’s big boasts about Metro (‘open seven days a week’, all pets especially welcomed, best bank in Britain, etc, etc). Yet for the past few months Metro’s reputation has tanked. In a survey, its I.T. security system was found to be completely inadequate, making it one of the worst banks in Britain for security of customer accounts. Just a couple of weeks ago the troubled bank also had to negotiate a £375m emergency rescue deal as it admitted customers had been scrambling to withdraw their money amid major concerns about is future. Shares in the bank have plunged since January this year, and in the last few weeks Metro have announced plans to save up to £75m by slashing costs in its branches and head office by cutting jobs. Investors have also been raising questions about Vernon Hill himself, and calls for him to go are likely to intensify.
So the question lecturers at Kingston Hill are asking is, was it really wise for their Dean and other SLT members to hold up Hill as a role model for KU’s students? Even worse for Spier and his mob of bickering senior managers, any hope they might have entertained that being extra nice to Mr. Hill and Duffy might result in a big donation of cash to KU’s threadbare coffers seems to be slipping away very fast. As one senior lecturer at Kingston Hill said loudly in a recent meeting, KU’s loony love affair with Hill can only be described as ‘barking’.