How is the Senior Mismanagement Team coping with the change at the top? That is not clear at present, but we do know there are some ructions within that overbearing body. There is of course the friction between Lesley-hyphen-Jane (ER) and Queasy McQuillan, erstwhile terror of FASS, she on the one hand an advocate for teachy stuff, he, the big research professor, an enthusiast for turning Kingston into a top research university (gales of laughter all round). More interesting is the SMT’s growing displeasure in the big bruiser, Raving Ron Tuninga, who is busy careering through his faculty like an escaped bullock. Business and Law is going through some tough times at the moment, even tougher than other parts of the University. The Law School is having a 10-day marking scheme imposed to the considerable consternation of its staff. Things are looking so bad there that two new professors have recently left the School soon after taking up their posts. DadooRonRon is proving incapable of sensible discussion: in meetings he shows little grasp of the important facts. That is surely no surprise to those of us in B&L.
Over at SEC troubles are brewing too. The new dean Mad Mikey, who came to Kingston as something of an unknown quantity, is shaping up to be a short-arsed aggressor like our late unlamented VC. Several staff members have reported his ominous threats about NSS scores at meetings and his total lack of leadership. Perhaps sniffed too many of those chemicals. Should be a good mate for Ron.
So how is the Board of Governors viewing all these manoeuvrings among the mismanagers at Kingston? Well, we don’t know a lot; however, they have let it be known that they are open to suggestions from the staff, that is the staff who do the real work. We do know that Weinberg’s stated intention was to turn Kingston into the equivalent of a redbrick university, or even better. Such delusions were typical of the man’s hubris, even while Kingston staggered in the league tables, failing to move up more than the odd place. A governor was warned that this would surely push Kingston towards becoming a more white middle-class institution, a situation he was happy to accept.
We have still not recovered from the rise in entry tariffs that Ratty imposed for two years when he came here. Now staff are being blamed for the big drop in student applications. What is to be done? Clearly to continue with the course advocated by the previous VC will be a disaster. It is an impossible task to turn Kingston into a redbrick; attempting to do so will surely destroy us. Even most of the SMT have never been serious researchers by those standards. Kingston, far from getting anywhere near becoming a research university, is now short of students, stuck near the bottom of the tables, populated by demoralised staff. The way forward, as Professor Rogers of the Writing School has suggested, is to restore Kingston to its polytechnic roots, offering vocational education and widening participation. This is what we are good at, and, in these days of talk about selection and grammar schools, educational policies that benefit the well off, what the country really needs.
Will the Governors appreciate this? We will have to see. In the meantime the lowered voices in the corridors will continue, staff will still fear for their jobs and their standard of work will consequently suffer bit by bit. Listen to the staff, Governors, before it’s too late.