After what seems like a full two years of misery, my Faculty has finally declared an end to the rigours of its "renewal strategy" with the announcement yesterday that we will not be proceeding with a round of involuntary redundancies. You can almost hear the sigh of relief running around the place. Mostly, I'm just delighted for the brilliant young scholars I know who were put in the awful position of having to fight for their jobs, often when they were doing all the things one is supposed to do.
Many of us know the enormous effort it takes to edit a volume of essays, and how important those collections are for the development of our field, but if you do such work in our system, you get only one "point" for this work, and only so long as your introduction is over 4,000 words long. If you co-edit this volume, you get half a point. If you write a major monograph you get only five points. I think many of us could have been caught out not producing enough articles to get over the line; and it was horrid to realise a number of the people targeted were women who were also parents of small children.
It would be wonderful if we were now able truly to start renewing ourselves. We are a great faculty, really, ranked in the top ten, internationally, on a number of indexes. In two years we have been through a major re-structure of departments into schools, a massive university-wide curriculum reform, and a budgetary crisis, all under national and local scrutiny in the press. We have already lost some wonderful colleagues. And some people's careers have been changed for ever, as they move, over the next few months, into pre-retirement plans, or teaching-only positions.
Other changes are less tangible, and will change the way we work. I think we have all now been frightened into producing a regular stream of articles that will appear quickly, as opposed to working on large-scale projects. A "book" in the humanities is a major measure of success and intellectual achievement; but it is rewarded only as if it were a science textbook. Some of us will still go on editing essay collections, refereeing for journals, reviewing, and all those other academic tasks, but some will refuse even that, I think. Many of us will think twice about taking on large administrative portfolios that erode our time for research, since so little quarter has been shown to those whose productivity has been slowed by such service.
Mostly, I'm concerned that others will feel the way I do, that the threads that have bound me tight to this university have been loosened by the trauma of the last few years, that the love I've felt for the university has been betrayed and irreversibly damaged by the imposition of a punitive, rather than a supportive collegiate culture. I hope I'm wrong.