Two Mails – One Trap – Three Issues

…., or actually it may well be one issue only

I had been made aware of two mails circulating at UCC.

One raising a serious issue: Inequality within UCC, namely concerning the staff at one of the elite units actually in more precarious, undervalued situations than staff in UCC in general. The details are not of importance. Of special interest is, however, that Mr. Murphy, president of UCC and already mentioned earlier on these pages again used the opportunity to drop a brick. To quote the mail:

His response to the situation was to state that rather than the future being one of Tyndall becoming more like UCC – UCC will become more like Tyndall.

If he wanted to make an analytical point with this, he is probably right: the tendency towards precarisation is frightening (and I will discuss this in due time on the occasion of a gathering of some colleagues in Berlin, also launching the book
Precarity – More Than a Challenge of Social Security Or: Cynicism of EU’s Concept of Economic Freedom (edited by Herrmann/Kalaycioglu and available in the book series I am editing.

Now, if Mr Murphy really meant it as analytical statement he should have pointed out explicit steps he is going to take against this.

Another mail is sent ‘On Behalf Of Staff Development and Enhancement Committee’ – again to all staff.
It announces the extension of the deadline for the
[ah, yes, you still can nominate me until the 22nd of June ;-)]

Looking at the winners of the previous years it is noticeable that the overwhelming number of awards goes to people from those arrays that are usually underrepresented – so to say the rank and file, the lower grades at the margins of the ‘fortress of higher education’.
Now, here also quoting from the mail – it is the statement made by a ‘successful nominee from one of the past awards programmes’. Here what had been said:

The evening was really well organised and there was a wonderful atmosphere with string quartet – a real feel good factor. It was a lovely opportunity for family members (who were very chuffed!) to meet UCC colleagues. The presentation of a beautiful, personalised painting specifically related to each recipient’s work is something I will cherish forever.

Sure, I believe this – and I do not want to take the individual satisfaction out of it, and I actually love personalised paintings (though I may be a bit picky there after the recent course). But I have to admit that equal pay, good working conditions and honest recognition of the daily performance of all staff would be more valuable than a scheme of lip-service to some and the factual tendency to dispraise the work of the majority; and nowadays even disguised under the veil of a ‘common agreement’, made against the wage earners under the title of the Croke Park Agreement.
It is following the same lines of sheepishness as mentioned on another occasion.

Coming to the third point then, and with this back to the first mail. I appreciate the concern which is brought forward in the mail: the complain about the increasing inequality, the increasing precarisation, the increasing ‘projectisation’, i.e. work being undertaken within the limits of projects … – and with this not least the emerging mobbing and the fact of a wedge being driven between staff. I find it hugely questionable to argue against inequality by permanently highlighting the ‘outstanding performance’, the many awards received from others …
So what? Why do we need equality – high performance works apparently without it – just by throwing an annual ‘personalised painting’ to some of the folks.
Cherry picking and cherishing, rights can remain outside of the equality calculation. This is at least the message that comes through – nolens volens as we said at the time in the ‘good old time’, enjoying panem et circences.
Just back from the International conference on Antonio Gramsci, it makes much sense: if you want, the reality feeding into writing another set of prison notebooks. And many of us could write them and publish them and read them aloud – as long as we are not in actual fact ending in prisons.

And of course, all this is not least an issue which I looked at a long time ago, in a contribution together with Deirdre Ryan, titled Education – Just Another Commodity. Exposing The Rhetoric Of «Human Capital» In The Light Of Social Quality, published in the book Utopia Between Corrupted Public Responsibility and Contested Modernisation: Globalisation and Social Responsibility which I edited in 2005


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