Monday, April 4, 2011

New Gaffer

As and from 1st August I have a new boss. He was elected by his peers on Saturday in a ritual that would rival the Papal election in Rome. At least the TCD one doesn't rely on smoke signals to inform the plebs and this year I found out via Twitter about 10 minutes after the final ballots were counted.

So what to make of the results? Well firstly it shows again how difficult it is for an outsider to make headway with the electorate. While Des Fitzgerald's stint as VP for Research in UCD may not be looked on kindly with TCD academics, he is the sort of person you could see leading a top class university but I guess not one with whom he forged an innovation alliance for 4th level activity.

Secondly, it shows that you have to put in the hard slog to win voters. John Boland's low key campaign didn't connect beyond those who already knew him. On the other hand Colm Kearney's high profile campaign with posters around campus, ads in the college newspapers and lots of public meetings didn't click either. So is there such a thing as over-exposure in a closed ballot where it is possible to meet almost all the electorate?

Thirdly, the results show a pretty clear divide between the East End and West End of campus. With increased pressure on teaching and research funding, and the Arts feeling the squeeze already, will having another Provost from the back of College accelerate the move away from the ideals of liberal education? Or will Paddy Prendergast be able to harness Jane Ohlmeyer's team of supporters across the Arts and deliver the revival that Ohlmeyer was promising?

Finally, on a personal note, it was disappointing to not be eligible to participate in the process. Despite being academic enough to teach, supervise students and vote in the academic constituency for Board, I am not deemed sufficiently academic to elect the Provost. During the recent restatement of the Statutes, there was a lot of debate over extending the franchise further but the Fellows refused to agree. In the election campaign, the candidates all made similar noises on the issue so it will be interesting to see if anything comes of it. If in 10 years I am still disenfranchised then I won't be a happy camper.

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