Middlesex Saved?


UPDATE: Peter Hallward posted an extended explanation of the decision making process behind the move. I’m not sure how much it clarifies the situation, but it’s something.

This has been going around, but I find the news of “salvation” of Middlesex a bit strange – what exactly was saved? Senior staff? I’m sure they would have found jobs without the move to Kingston. Graduate students? They weren’t kicked out, they would still finish their degrees. The program? It’s still going to be closed. How is that a “victory” again? I tend to agree with this commenter:

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.

52 thoughts on “Middlesex Saved?

  1. I prefer this comment from Barry Rogers:

    “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.”

    • Thanks, John. I suppose the imagery of “saved” was a bit confusing here. Clearly, if the opportunity to relocate comes along, one should at least contemplate taking it. It sounded as “fight is over, we won” instead of “certain elements of Middlesex will be preserved elsewhere, but the fight is far from over” – in this sense to celebrate the transfer as a win is to give in to the idea that the management of Middlesex is Middlesex which it, of course, is not. Not that one should hold some illusory view that the university is a corporation of professors and students, but we should remember that the discourse of “we are the university, we make decisions” coming from the managers is something that was contested in this situation and it would be sad if parties involved just went home thinking they won.

      Again, I also think it’s important to remember that these senior staff members were not fired, and even if they were, does anyone seriously doubt that they would be able to find employment immediately? I’m sure they already had offers. The program was being phased out, so they could have still continued to work at Middlesex and continue the fight (including legal options).

      But I agree with the commenter’s final sentiment – there’s no reason to forget the real “enemy” here. It’s just a number of smaller less prestigious school were probably following this hoping it would be one of those fights that turns the way things are around a bit. Will it?

      • Maybe I misunderstood the situation then. I thought that the elimination of the program was an eventual result of phasing it out. So if an MA or a PhD student were already in the program, they would be allowed to finish – so I was thinking that everyone involved had at least 2-3 years to figure out their employment options. Am I completely off here?

  2. So if the senior staff members were being phased out with the eventual closing of the program, does it mean they will all have to quit now to go over to Kingston? Why was having a job at Middlesex until the termination (if that did take place) not a better platform for a fight? This way it looks at the very least disingenuous, so I can understand the negative comments.

    Imagine if you were threatened with termination over something you think does not deserve termination, how is it making your case better if you voluntarily leave your job and then fight the school that did not actually fire you but only promised to do so in the future and that was precisely the decision you were contesting (among other things, of course)? Is it “you can’t fire me, I quit” defense?

    What about the hierarchy of “senior” vs “the rest” – I’m sure these senior faculty members are all nice people, and I’m sure that the preservation of the Center, in whatever form, was their priority, still it looks bad from a perspective of a labor dispute – imagine you’re negotiating your contract (as many do) and then go on strike, at the same time, your top employee negotiate a separate deal that guarantees them employment and you’re left without a contract – will you be happy to see them back at the picquet line? I doubt it.

  3. Mark, don’t you think the Middlesex people have thought long and hard about all the points you have raised and many more besides? And why are you so sure that Kerslake and Kelly weren’t involved in the negotiations and decision?

  4. I’m sure they did. I don’t know the details besides what everyone else knows. I was just expressing my view of the situation based on the information available.

  5. I’m with John on this one. we need to remember this was a relatively small department, with – correct me if I’m wrong – 6 teaching staff, 4 of whom have now had their jobs secured together elsewhere, and have got themselves out of the straightjacket of suspension where they were unable legally to do much to fight for their colleagues or the department. The programme has also been secured by this move, that’s all the current students and future students who are now guaranteed an education of Middlesex-quality philosophy at a nearby university, a programme which otherwise it looked in all likelihood would be scrapped. The legal area which the struggle looked to be entering into could have taken months to resolve and in the meantime there would be no teaching because the staff are suspended. And I agree with John that the decision would undoubtedly have been taken with debate amongst all staff and would have been agonised over. It’s true that the original aims of the stuggles seem not to have been met, but the struggle is – through the support gained – already opening out into a global fight for the place of philosophy and the humanities in the curriculum, which is not diluted by the transfer (and hence secure continuation of the life) of this particular department. Sometimes you need to know when to cut and run from a particular skirmish so as to win the war.

    • One of the commentators on the Save MDX blog notes (correctly, I assume) that one of the non-senior faculty was on a year-long contract, so in reality 4 of the 5 full-time positions were saved, and saved as a unit. I have to agree with John and Graham Harman on this one. This not only represents a “closure” of CRMEP at Middlesex, but also an “opening” of CRMEP and Philosophy more broadly at Kingston — glass half-empty, glass half-full. In one of their updates the campaign wrote something to the effect of “new links are being established between CRMEP and other universities,” which led me to expect that if an opportunity such as this presented itself it would be pursued. I see this as a minor strategic victory in a larger and ongoing struggle.

      • From what I gather from “negative comments” it is certainly a victory, but not for “Save Middlesex Philosophy” since the department is going to close anyway (that is to say, regardless of the fact that the people who worked there go on to work together somewhere else). What if 2 of the 4, for example, decide to accept some other offers in 5 years, does that mean that “CRMEP” is then over, since it doesn’t have the “original members”? Is CRMEP an institution that exists solely because of the 4 senior members?

        I still have a feeling (please, don’t yell at me, everyone’s so charged up about this) that Mark and others are not completely (and insanely) off here – if there’s any victory, it’s the victory of “See, others want us even if you don’t – some people out there are actually willing to hire all of us, see? We are awesome!” – I’m sure Middlesex managers are not going to lose sleep over it, especially since if things in UK are in any way similar to the things in the US, these are probably transitional figures anyway who will go on to other administrative jobs elsewhere, and someone might hire them precisely for this “toughness” and ability to close even the most popular departments…

  6. And the point that “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” (Commenter on the SaveMDXPhil page) ignores the fact that different strategies can and should be used in different situations. If there’s no escape route for a particular department then those fighting against cuts need to choose maximalist demands. But maximalism in every situation can get you nowhere, it’s just the politics of the beautiful soul.

    • Maximalism of the beautiful soul – well said, it’s so… beautiful.

      I wonder if this raises a larger issue (even though I still don’t understand how you fight to save the department at a university A by moving it to a university B, so I guess I see some of Mark’s points and some of John’s points as well) – would a prestigious department, say from some super cool school like Yale, be the same if it moved to a smaller State school (for example)? Will all of its faculty and students and logistics? Is it essentially the same department?

      • I think I can see both sides. Did it end in the most ideal way? Probably not. However, given that Kingston decided to step in and “save” the CRMEP one could only hope that the program/the center will grow. One thing that is kind of irksome is, as far as I understand it, the non-senior (or in American parlance, non-tenured faculty) members that basically lost their jobs. Though, I don’t know the intricacies of the system in the UK, so perhaps I’m getting pissy for no reason and those non-senior people will secure funding from somewhere else or more optimistically, find better jobs, I don’t know. I think, surprisingly, that I’ve found myself taking the more pragmatic side on this. I hear what Mark and Mikhail are saying, but overall, I think it’s a “win.”

        If we take a step back for a moment, I think an important, or interesting, question is what effect, if any, will the Save Mdx campaign have on institutions in the UK and more brodly, globally.

  7. I’m surprised that Harman of all people is pushing for this “four senior staff + students = CRMEP” – an institution is surely more than just people who constitute it? Middlesex CRMEP does not equal CRMEP at Kingston, even if all four senior faculty members move there – what about all sort of non-human elements? or does Harman’s “object-orientation” only work on the speculative level?

  8. “or does Harman’s “object-orientation” only work on the speculative level?”

    Probably. See his comment on the thread at SaveMDX:

    “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.”

    In other words, struggling to save your program by protesting, occupation and other means is all great, but as long as it does not threaten your livelihood – down with the man, but as long as no one gets seriously hurt financially! I can’t imagine any of the people fighting to reverse the decision would be in agreement with this rather clear petit-bourgeois sentiment.

    Look. It’s great that four senior staff will be employed, there’s no reason to dispute that this is a good development for all parties involved. But let’s not be silly about it – Middlesex philosophy was not saved, even if an important (graduate) part of it is now going to be at Kingston.

    It is surprising indeed that Harman’s observations are untouched by his philosophical position – I’m rather disappointed that he couldn’t provide some novel (“object-oriented”) take on the matter. I suppose when it comes to the matter of survival, we are all “human-oriented”.

  9. According to some comments, it looks as though Christian Kerslake has been at the CRMEP longer than some of the four “senior staff” – does that mean he was the original member of the early Center and now he’s not included in the move because he is not senior enough? All of this looks rather strange – I thought, judging by comments, that Kerslake was some sort of year-to-year instructor. Does anyone have a good background and can explain what’s going on?

  10. We obviously don’t have the details, and I won’t begrudge anyone making decisions to secure their position and keep a collection of good people working together.

    Nevertheless, I find myself very queasy at this.

    The sort of arrangement that has been worked out – where one university opportunistically seized on the stupidity of another – is the sort of thing that could have been negotiated privately without political contestation. It involves an appeal to the new university’s self-interest – a market transaction. I’m not perturbed by market transactions. But it should be recognised for what it is.

    There is no sense, however, in which this transaction enables the contestation at Middlesex to proceed from a more stable foundation, as someone said at the campaign website and was reproduced above. The major bargaining chip the campaign had at its disposal – some very senior, very accomplished, internationally respected scholars – is now off the table. No matter what happens, they won’t return to Middlesex. This cedes the fight.

    I agree with the analysis that Middlesex administration showed no signs of actually bargaining. I understand that, from one point of view, this means that nothing is really “lost” with this chip off the table.

    Except that something is.

    This campaign articulated itself in political terms. It mobilised a form of collective effervescence that owed a great deal to political hopes. And more junior people – staff and students, including staff from other departments, and undergraduate students – put themselves on the line, in the service of what was taken to be a common cause shared by those more senior.

    What happens to them? What is the leverage now available to negotiate assistance for the students and staff under threat of suspension? Given that this sort of mobilisation was allowed to happen, a moral obligation was created. How is it being fulfilled?

    I understand that much more may be going on than what we know (and I’ve been very ill and haven’t been following everything closely, so I may have missed the relevant discussions). But it would at least have been reassuring if the decision-making process – and the dilemmas and soul-searching it no doubt involved – had somehow been expressed more publicly, or had been able to be announced in a way that might have disambiguated the question of whether the “junior” staff and the undergraduate students who will not benefit from this new arrangement, were nevertheless also in support of this as a pragmatic solution.

    I can’t help but feel something important was harmed. I say this without any ill-will to those who have new positions – no doubt both the mobilisation and the offer from Kingston took them equally by surprise, and decisions have had to be made quickly and in less than ideal situations. But at the moment, based on what has been said publicly (again with the caveat that I may be behind on the news here), the ones who have benefited here do not overlap the ones who are most at risk from their participation in this mobilisation. I’m sure no one intended this outcome. But I find it very difficult to describe this as a political victory…

    • There is no sense, however, in which this transaction enables the contestation at Middlesex to proceed from a more stable foundation, as someone said at the campaign website and was reproduced above. The major bargaining chip the campaign had at its disposal – some very senior, very accomplished, internationally respected scholars – is now off the table. No matter what happens, they won’t return to Middlesex. This cedes the fight

      I agree with the analysis that Middlesex administration showed no signs of actually bargaining. I understand that, from one point of view, this means that nothing is really “lost” with this chip off the table. Except that something is. This campaign articulated itself in political terms. It mobilised a form of collective effervescence that owed a great deal to political hopes. And more junior people – staff and students, including staff from other departments, and undergraduate students – put themselves on the line, in the service of what was taken to be a common cause shared by those more senior. What happens to them? What is the leverage now available to negotiate assistance for the students and staff under threat of suspension? Given that this sort of mobilisation was allowed to happen, a moral obligation was created. How is it being fulfilled?

      Well put, N. I think this is exactly right (and it’s precisely what’s been bugging me about the recent MDX events). I don’t know, yesterday when I was in a pragmatic mood I thought it was a win, but as I think about it more, I’m not so sure. Afterall, Mdx accomplished what they set out to do, which is what’s been bothering Mikhail, as I understand him. Moreover, since Mikhail brought up the administrative side, that ‘toughness’ cuts both ways. One administrator will claim he/she made tough decisions and pushed the uni in one direction, while another will claim to have “saved” an internationally reputable philosophy program. Interesting. Another question is if all of this is good for the students…

  11. Very well put indeed. I cringe at the very distinction between “senior” and “junior” staff – And what about the students? Has anyone inquired whether they are willing to abandon their fight and move to Kingston? At least Middlesex promised them that they would be able to finish their degrees there? What are they to do now?

    I think this story also reveals that academic world is perversely hierarchical and selfish, even if this case is different, no one is surprised that job security would be an important negotiation offer.

    This was never about job security, otherwise lawyers and union officials would have quietly gathered with managers for long meetings. This was a spontaneous reaction driven by the sheer stupidity of the decision to close a well-known department. It was about “saving” philosophy in the UK and points were made about saving humanities in general. People joined in and signed petitions because they felt it was about them as well. What now?

  12. Pingback: Roughtheory.org » Middlesex Philosophy

  13. The struggle is not over until Levi Bryant takes down his “Academic Boycott of Middlesex” post from the top of his blog – it’s still there, so there’s still hope!

  14. Kerslake taught before Hallward or Alliez appeared, one year after Kerslake began teaching a Freud module. But I’m not sure how releveant this is. I guess he is subordinate as he is not a professor. Stella is not a professor either, but has been there longer than him and Mark Kelly, who came to the department after Hallward and Alliez.

    I think if there is a sense of failure here, it is a sense of the student protest, which began spontaneously as a result of the Dean standing the students up for a meeting shortly after announcing the closure of the department, failing.

    In terms of some very idealistic demands made early on by this protest, there has been a failure. The department has been saved as a shrewd business move by Kingston. There’s no doubt in that. It’s also a shrewd move on the part of the principle lecturers from the CRMEP. Yet it always seemed bizzare that they wouldn’t have sought some kind of route which allowed for the continuance of the programme (or parts of it) outside Middlesex. To demand that Middlesex, which clearly showed itself to want rid of CRMEP, should keep the department seemed pointless, and undesirable, given the priorities of Middlesex. Appeal to the financial stability (profit making ability) of the department and to its excellent research credentials, whilst hoping that someone would recognise in that potential a means of themsleves capitalising on it, was the most reasonable path to take, aside from the much more radical notion of setting up a private postgraduate-level course aside from the University system. The latter option would have been revolutionary; the option chosen was suprising, though predictable on reflection. The extreme Leftist rhetoric that at points characterised the campaign to save Middlesex Philosophy did not meet with the ambitions of the 4 principle lecturers, who wanted jobs. Now, as this campaign is dissected, will the 4 principal lecturers who are moving to Kingston admit to their pragmatic stance, which has done nothing to further a Leftist cause? I think it unlikely… proclamations regarding their decision to move to Kingston have been shrouded in doublespeak, yet it is clearly the markets – i.e. another business driven University – which have come to the CRMEP’s rescue. Hoops will still have to be jumped through in order to impress inspectors and administrators, and to make profits, whilst the message has been put out… if you get axed go find the highest alternative bidder (or any bidder). That is not a sustainable policy, as there will not be enough bidders left in time.

    Of course, it is good news that ‘Philosophy’ continues, but this bending to educational markets, this lack of insight beyond the cosy keeping of the UK’s bizzare Statist-Capitalist system demonstrates the impotence of institutionalised philosophy. Of course, the CRMEP survives to fight its cause, but it will have to do it honestly. It will have, I feel to jettison simple Left-Right political divide as it characterises the subject of academic politics and funding. Let’s examine why this was specifically NOT 1968. For the good, as for the worse. (my actual leanings here are very anti- Badiou/Zizek, but I am merely asking that a discussion be had, without some fawning quasi-Leftism being bought in via the back door the whole time – justify the existence of philosophy, if it is going to be ‘saved’ in reality).

    I have no problem with the notion that clever business persons – at Kingston, at the CRMEP – saved the department in the end, but it will be interesting to see how this ‘saving’ is conveyed over time. It will be hard for the CRMEP to avoid being remembered as the department who bailed on a fight right at the beginning of the University culls, being that they cannot very well hand out advice contrary to the action they themselves took.

    All of this would have been good and well if the department had made their intentions to negotiate a move clear as they asked the world to fight to save all courses at Middlesex Philosophy department. Support was given, allowing Middlesex to better negotiate with Kingston (and, perhaps, other suitors) for the 4 senior staff members to end up protecting their own interests in what will presumably be a more comfortable position (from a Uni that didn’t want them to a University that does).

  15. “Hoops will still have to be jumped through in order to impress inspectors and administrators,”
    ——
    No doubt, but did anyone really believe the marketisation of UK education would be halted this summer? Were a few thousand signatures on a petition going to ‘save the humanities’? In some of the exaggeratedly negative comments about the relocation of the CRMEP I see an over-investment in one skirmish in the longer war.

    Speculation on the motives of the staff, as if they have ‘left students behind’ and are happily sitting on their laurels now, is not only unkind, it’s just that – speculation. Of course some further statement from the staff concerned would be welcome but prior to that it’s pretty ungenerous to judge them.

    Middlesex’s philosophy programme now has a chance to continue in – as far as anyone can say in today’s precarious education environment – as secure a way as could have been hoped for, and not in a university where – you can guarantee – administrators would seek every opportunity to close it down again. In the UK every university will be forced by the government to make cuts of between 10 and 20% over the next 5 years. You’ll find a philosophy department being saved in one university only for a department of modern languages to be closed down the corridor because their academics are not so vocal. Which calls for a more general movement of academics and students and one which needs to avoid sectarianism and recrimination. And it may need to be smart and flexible in its tactics too if something is to be won and what seems like a growing movement not to dissipate its energies in idealism and its counterpart, disappointment.

  16. I agree with N.Pepperell, and now with Hallward’s “explanation” it’s clear that this campaign was lost as it was originally conceived (no, it was not to “change the world” or anything like that, it was to reverse the decision of MDX managers and save the program).

    If there was anything the people had against the closure – internationally known scholars and international pressure – it is now gone.

    Hallward as much as admits that it didn’t look like managers were going to change their mind (why would they?), so they decided to save the Center by moving it immediately and not face a possibility of a bitter fight next academic year and possibly losing big.

    It was a preventive surrender – congradulations, everyone!

  17. ‘No doubt, but did anyone really believe the marketisation of UK education would be halted this summer? Were a few thousand signatures on a petition going to ‘save the humanities’? In some of the exaggeratedly negative comments about the relocation of the CRMEP I see an over-investment in one skirmish in the longer war.’

    Utisz, I agree, so long as the truth can be told. Manning-the-barricades methods weren’t going to work. Pragmatism was the only way… will we see a political philosophy built around this, or will we see more fawning in the face of Badiouian-Zizekian ego-tripe? I’m not sure. But I know that the symbolic moment that this campaign was supposed to bring, is not of the kind that many grassroots people wanted. I think philosophy needs to be brave enough to address why. I don’t think this is a capitulation to the ‘system’, but it’d be good if we could work out why an outright affront to the system is also not possible, admit it, and look at some other stance. Because philosophy will need to do that to be truly ‘saved’, otherwise it’ll be as hollow as the reified existence it bemoans.

  18. Let’s not lose our head here, gentlemen – whatever happened, happened.

    I did like this statement from a response to Hallward:

    “What is reprehensible is the dichotomy between your thoroughly pragmatic decision-making and your radical posturing.”

    I don’t know any of the people involved and I’m sure no one can come out of such a mess looking good, but this statement, I think, describes very well what takes place in the academy (especially Humanities) – there’s always a decent amount of “radical posturing” but somehow nothing ever changes – in fact, this situation makes me think that only the fear of elimination (job loss) moves academics to some kind of action, not principles or radical ideas. I hope I’m wrong, but it sure looks that way…

  19. Man, whoever that commenter after Hallward is, but she’s right on the money – Hallward’s explanation only showed the underlying careerism (worse, a naive and unreflected careerism) of the whole decision-making process.

    The spirit of 1968? Really? He really said that?

  20. Seriously, let’s keep it civil.

    Plus, Levi Bryant already took down his post about Middlesex (that was to stay at the top of the blog until the issue is resolved) – clearly, the problem is solved now. End of story. Everyone get back to your projects.

  21. John Protevi: “And why are you so sure that Kerslake and Kelly weren’t involved in the negotiations and decision?”

    Me: “I was just expressing my view of the situation based on the information available.”

    Apparently I was right, no one even asked Kerslake and Kelly. My observation was based on a hunch, because I know how careerist most academics are, but it looks now that John was wrong. This is ugly, if you ask me. So Hallward and other 3 “senior” members judged the case to be lost and decided to move the Center – it is not only arrogant to speak for the whole campaign, it is also extremely selfish to think of yourself and your work as constituting the essence of the philosophy program at MDX. It only shows how ridiculously weak the professors are when it comes to the actual fight. I found Kerslake’s comment to be refreshingly honest and to the point – it was never about saving jobs for “senior” staff, it was about “philosophy for all” – truly, reputations will be ruined after this affair, especially Hallward’s in light of his now exposed hypocrisy (either intentional or unintentional – people in tough circumstances show their true colors indeed).

  22. The circumstances surrounding the resolution of this are a good reminder of just how sad and impotent the Left has become. I don’t mean this to in any way denigrate the noble efforts of campaigners, students, and staff who obviously put a lot on the line to try to win this battle, but more as a statement about the times we live in. If Kingston’s “market based transaction” (as N Pepperell eloquently put it) of taking CREMP into receivership—with only the so-called “senior faculty”—counts as a victory, it’s a pyrrhic one at best.

    • I don’t know if I’d blame the Left here – careerism does not seem to know political affiliation. I think the problem was the peculiar gap between the radical rhetoric of “this looks like 1968” and the pragmatic “we couldn’t have won anyway, so we might as well” – or so it seems, I wasn’t there, so who know?

      • Maybe I’m wrong here, but it seems like the administrative decision to close Middlesex philosophy in the first place—even if it wasn’t “conscious” or “intentional”—was a pretty blatant and hostile attack on the (academic) Left.

        Obviously careerism does not have a political affiliation, would anyone be silly enough to argue the opposite? I’m not even sure I agree with this somewhat facile distinction between the “left-wing rhetoric” and the actual pragmatic/”careerist” stance taken by the senior staff—it seems incredibly naïve to think that there would be some sort of “pure” alternative that wouldn’t involve back-room double-dealing. The problem is that usually the back-room double-dealing occurs *after* a prolonged struggle ending in a quasi-victorious position. The decision to suspend the Save MDX campaign and accept Kingston’s offer—even if it ultimately “saved” the institution, whatever that means—is totally complicit and compatible with the underlying forces that caused the program to be cut in the first place. In that way, the very means in which the program ultimately came to be “saved” serve to legitimize the initial termination! No victory has actually been won here, only the appearance of victory: instead, an exchange has taken place in which a “name brand” was acquired through market interactions. Maybe that’s good for Middlesex, but what does it mean for future humanities programs that are going to feel the same push, especially with massive budget cuts looming on the UK’s horizon?

        Basically, my point is this: the idea that there was some sort of more authentic or pure alternative to the decision that was actually made is basically a naïve fantasy, but the decision to move CRMEP to Kingston was ultimately made much too hastily, ceded too much to the managerialists and administrators, and only served to create the semblance of a victory.

  23. Mark, I wasn’t wrong to ask why you assumed what you did based on the information at hand. It turns out your hunch was right, but it could just as easily turned out to have been wrong.

    In any case, Kerslake and Kelly still have jobs at Middlesex, and Kerslake says he wouldn’t have gone to Kingston even if asked.

    More than that, ask yourself whether Kerslake would have been there in the first place if not for the senior people. What’s his position there? From 2006-2009 he was AHRC Postdoctoral Research Fellow. The program director of the research was Peter Hallward. http://www.web.mdx.ac.uk/crmep/varia/Cahiers.htm. So he would have been long gone from Middlesex if not for the arrangements made by the “careerists.”

    In any case, I think the most important part of his statement is the following: “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.”

  24. And I may regret this, but I’ve had it with the very easy slinging around of “hypocrisy” with regard to Peter Hallward.

    Here’s a parable: There once was a streeballer who called himself “the bone collector.” And he called out Allen Iverson one day, said he wanted to play him one-on-one. Iverson said, “sure thing, all you got to do to play me one-on-one is become a starter in the NBA and you can play me one-on-one twice a year, guaranteed.”

    So, all you guys got to do to show you’d do something different from Peter Hallward is write several astonishing books, devote thousands of hours to the people of Haiti, work for years building up a philosophy program, have it cut by your university management team, and then see what you’d do. Til then, you keep the “hypocrisy” talk to yourselves, okay?

    • I don’t know about calling Peter Hallward a hypocrite, especially given the dearth of information surrounding the matter & Hallward’s prolific reputation, but how is that conclusion at all logical? If you’re well-regarded and have accomplished a lot, then you can’t be criticized and get a free pass on being a hypocrite? Really…?

    • “And I may regret this…”

      I’m not sure what you meant to communicate with this parable, but I hope it’s not the rather blunt: “You are a bunch of punks and don’t deserve to say anything about Peter Hallward because he’s an academic superstar and you are nobodies, so shut up until you accomplish as much as him”…

      P.S. Is Allen Iverson even around anymore? I mean he’s been missing in action since February (after his “return” to 76ers), rumor is he’s done with basketball, his wife is divorcing him and he’s drinking himself to death – surely, your basketball analogy could have been a bit more contemporary.

      • What I meant was this: it’s easy to call people hypocrites when you don’t have anything at stake and weren’t on the spot. So when people have years and years of work at stake, the decision are difficult. I was pointing to that. Anyway, you can criticize Hallward’s work all you want. I don’t think you should call him a hypocrite until you face a situation as difficult as that he was facing. And you can only do that when you’ve got years of work on the line.

      • John, I wasn’t calling anyone a hypocrite (I think it’s definitely over the top to do so, as I indicated above). I don’t think it’s a matter of persons and their motivations. I can certainly understand how one would react if their work was disregarded by the university and dismissed as unimportant. However, if I understand it correctly, this was never framed as being about persons feeling rejected, it was framed as a movement to confront the general disregard of humanities and so on. Many have supported this precisely because of its wider implications – I know I did, and I don’t know any of the people involved.

  25. I’d join John here against the accusations of hypocrisy – it’s simply a speculation at best. I really don’t care who owes whose job to whom and so on. I’ve expressed my unease with the situation, I certainly don’t think it was the best possible solution or a win for anyone, but I don’t want to go into who was helping whom when and who owes whom their academic life and so on. This is not important.

    I would like to say, however, that Mark has the right to express his opinion of this situation. I wouldn’t try to shut him up, John, with parables about professional basketball players and amateurs – a) it smacks of elitism (Hallward is an all-star, Mark is an idiot) and alarming condescension, b) puts the situation at Middlesex in the wrong light (it seems) of unappreciated geniuses taking their leave because there was not enough admiration of their achievements. I took the struggle to be not that of offended “senior” staff but of those who took the decision of the manager to be an attack on humanities in general. I’m sure all of this is more complex than that, but I think it is fair to discuss it openly, not to educate one another with wise tales.

  26. John, I think your response is unnecessarily confrontational and rather revealing – I’m sorry I suggested Hallward might be hypocritical, I don’t know him and I had no right to suggest that his intentions were not pure. I feel strongly about the matter and I went too far. I apologize.

    However, your argument is basically that Hallward is a brilliant scholar who wrote brilliant books, therefore only those who are equally brilliant should be allowed to criticize him and his decision. This is utterly ridiculous. Are you suggesting that you, Hallward and other scholars with publications and international prestige are therefore above reproach in anything you do? It doesn’t matter if Kerslake should be thanking Hallward for his academic success – there was a basic failure of decency (and solidarity) here in negotiating a move of 4 members of the department without any consultation with either students or other 2 members of the same department (especially in light of the already existing public movement). Ok, so the move was justified and was the only solution – how do YOU explain that Kerslake and Kelly were never even asked or consulted? As a “senior scholar” yourself, you do really think it was completely okay to do so?

  27. How am I trying to shut Mark up? He wants to be in the kitchen, and call people hypocrites, let him take some heat. He can express his opinion all he wants. As can I about his opinion. Which I think is easy and lazy.

  28. Look, our posts crossed in cyberspace. I’m sorry I lost my temper about “hypocrite.” It’s a serious charge about a personal friend.

    In any case, the list of things that I think people have to consider about Peter also listed his thousands of hours of work on Haiti and his years of work at Middlesex. That was the point, not just that he’s brilliant, but that he works too hard to have people second-guess him too easily.

  29. How about explaining to me why I was wrong? – I already apologized, but your “heat” was not about the matter of my accusation (claiming that it’s spirit of 1968 while negotiating a number of job offers without the decency of consulting others involved is suspicious), it was directed at my person, it was “who are you to say anything?” – I would think that for a philosopher you would be more wise to avoid such obvious ad hominem attacks.

  30. Mark, our posts crossed in cyberspace. I wrote the 9:48 post before your 9:40 post appeared on my screen. Hence my apology at 9:52. Which I don’t think you saw while you were writing your 9:54 post.

  31. I think it’s wise to take a break from this, we are all too close to this to be rational. If it matters, I’m glad Hallward and others acted to save CRMEP, even if it’s not entirely clear how their actions were supposed to help Middlesex (the letter from Kerslake is a good example of possible arguments against the move).

    I’m sorry if I came across as accusatory and mean. I take the word of John Protevi who knows Hallward personally and I don’t think it was fair for me to accuse him so sharply. I do feel bad that such a seemingly successful campaign (international attention, masses of signatures on petitions) is now very likely to die out and come to nothing.

  32. Thank you, Mark, and again, I’m sorry to have lost my temper.

    But I don’t think the campaign will die out and come to nothing. Networks have been formed and awareness has been raised. The MDX management has been exposed for shady dealings (millions of pounds for consultants, asset-stripping of UK campuses in favor of the Dubai and Mauritius expansion, use of injunctions and suspensions), and thousands of people mobilized. Hopefully they can spot similar scams on their own campuses.

  33. This is in reply to Mikhail at 10:10, but it doesn’t seem the thread software allows replies to that comment. In any case, I joined the campaign both for personal and professional reasons. But the latter part, which you share, and for which I thank you for joining the fight, was also mixed: it was about MDX in particular, about continental philosophy more generally, and the humanities even more generally. However, my replies here were mostly personally motivated, though I’m sure we could draw some philosophical lesson about standpoints from which moral judgments are legitimately made and so on.

    • Thanks for your input, John. Yes, comments and “reply” buttons tend to get screwed up in a long thread. I’m not sure how to fix it. I’m sure all of the reactions to the events – negative and positive – are motivated by the general concern over the outrageous actions of Middlesex management. I’m sure this will have a positive outcome in terms of more awareness of the general crisis we seem to be living through.

  34. If I might add something… it is pretty clear that Middlesex CRMEP very publicly sought to speak for philosophy. That is, to speak for the philosophers of the world. So I think anyone with an interest in philosophy has a right to criticise what are clear and now transparent (though originally covert) actions.

    To talk about saving philosophy, only to behave reprehensibly in a way befitting of a typical Liberal administrator tarnishes the name of philosophy. Philosophy has not been saved by the moving of the CRMEP to Kingston. It’ll be saved when it escapes the careerism which so clearly characterises it today – more so for the actions of the ‘big four’.

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