Austerity and academia

Austerity is hitting lots of people, across pretty much all social classes, except for the top 1 per cent, who are rapidly recouping their losses in the GFC and will soon be pulling even further away from the 99. Just at the moment, academics seem to be in the crosshairs, from Washington to Sydney and beyond. Here’s a post on the subject from my friend and former colleague Rohan Pitchford. To forestall a possible line of criticism, let me observe now that, while academics have it better than plenty of others under attack from austerity policies, anyone who plays on this kind of division is a tool of the 1 per cent, and will be treated as such by me.

Sackings Hit Economics School Hard (Guest post from Rohan Pitchford)

I was surprised and dismayed to hear that that several of my former colleagues at the School of Economics at the University of Sydney have been told to leave their jobs by July. A remarkable aspect is that the sackings happened by edict, several layers of administration above the School level. How is it possible for such a removed group to know the details of people’s work life, their roles and the reasons behind their roles without any form of consultation? (ANU also faces budget cuts, but is taking the enlightened bottom-up approach.)

I know all of those concerned personally, and the group includes both talented researchers, teachers and administrators. They were apparently selected using retrospective publication criteria. We all know that most people experience a ‘bare patch’ in their publications during the life course, whether it be because of a new child, a death in the family, illness (admin duties!) etc. Knowing the people involved, the criteria seem to me unfair and random.

Perhaps the most astounding fact in all of this is that Sydney Economics has been perennially understaffed– as a Professor there, I estimated that they were some 10 academics short of what is required to deliver requisite courses: The average class size is 110, I conjecture larger than any other department. There are not enough staff to cover all the classes taught, let alone to reduce class sizes to educationally appropriate levels. Sydney typically has had to hire part-timers to fill the gap. The department generates some 20 million dollars per year in revenue from its teaching program. I cannot imagine that this will do anything but hurt this important revenue base.

A big question is this: Are the sackings due to productivity, or are they in response to an administration that has grossly over-spent on buildings? I have heard rumours of expenditure of 100m on a new medical centre, and 360m on a new obesity centre preceded these sackings.

Solutions? I discuss a possible way forward for Australia here:

179 thoughts on “Austerity and academia

  1. I am for defending all jobs, including those of free market economists. Otherwise management can pick off some unpopular groups and win support from the rest, before turning on them group by group. And people’s ideas change in struggle. Or can.

  2. @John Passant

    Of course there is a difference between ‘free market economists’ and ‘capitalist economists’. The cutbacks to universities are driven by the problems of capitalism.

    There is also another complication, in that it is hard to protect one segment of jobs at the expense of others. Unfortunately this is what happened in the public service – the entire 4th division was destroyed, and the 3rd division was protected. Similar trends are afoot today, but it is graduates in general who are being secured – and others left behind.

    It is possible to see echos of this in the opportunistic platform of Katter’s Australia party – see his Core Values and Principles 4(i). Two blue collar unions have sent funds to Katter’s Australian Party, probably because they are feeling left-out by those who have taken over the ALP and the Left in general. This is all well presented, from two different points of view, by Michael Thompson and Andrew Scott.

  3. @John Passant

    Yes. It is simply enlightened self interest to support even the most despicable being treated fairly because defending their rights is the best way of preserving your own.

  4. Fran,

    Chris and Freelander are on a blog written by an economist, often about economics (the issues as well as the discipline), and read by economists. In this case, a guest economist (colleague and friend of John’s) writes about wwhat’s happening at U. Sydney from a personal/professional perspective i.e. what’s happening to the (newly constituted) School of Economics.

    Now obviously Rohan’s post is narrowly focussed, but no more than would be expected of a similar discussion on an anthropologist’s blog, or a historian’s. The School of Economics is being hit hard, as is my group, as is Accounting, as is Anthropology (although apparently that’s been reversed through serious pressure, externally applied), and, presumably also Political Economy although I don’t know details. And others.

    The fact that the impact on economists is highlighted here is that that is John’s main academic community, and so naturally one would expect it to be the particular impact focused on here. But the ISSUE is the bypassing of an established and agreed performance management process under the guise of financial exigency. And this issue is having issues across the university, in ways that will be detrimental to students and to colleagues who remain. And it calls into question the nature of work at a university, and how performance standards are assessed. (Someone who is quite reasonably “perfomance managed” by a professional mentor to publish fewer papers in better journals could suddenly find themselves in peril at the whim of a decision of the higher-ups to focus purely on numbers of papers, as has happened now.)

    Chris and Freelander are using this post and this situation as some reason — on an economics blog! — to go on and on (and f@#$ing on!) about how the economists’ affected by this are somehow reaping what they’ve sown. I mean, Freelander said (March 31st, 2012 at 19:34 | #28): “Some of those free marketers are being hoist.”

    Note the declarative confidence of this statement. This means Freelander knows (i) who the free marketeers are, (ii) who is being hoist, and thus presumably (iii) the set of the intersection of (i) and (ii). I call him out on this, and he and Chris Warren just squirm and dodge and harrumph about how names of individuals should not be bandied about.

    Oh please. Freelander’s just talking crap, and probably has no real notion of who is in Sydney’s School of Economics, what their political leanings are, nor who is being affected by this process. And Chris is giving him cover.

    It’s shabby stuff. Spectacularly off-topic, and extraordinarily ungracious.

    “Yes, YES, Mrs Lincoln, yes indeed. But seriously, what DID you think of the play?”

  5. “And this issue is having [issues] across the university…” — should be “impacts”.

  6. @Michael Harris

    I understand that you may be feeling a little stressed given the ax hovering over your institution.

    However, attempting to read the minds of others who post here may not be a worthwhile endeavour. You might be better rewarded devoting the time to more careful read what they have actually written.

    Besides the attempt at mind reading might result in others thinking that you are just beginning to be a little bit silly.

  7. @Michael Harris

    I am not going to list all the flaws in your reasoning . However,I note, as a strict matter of logic it is sometimes possible to know that a set is non-empty while at the same time being unable to name or otherwise point to any of that set’s elements.

  8. @Freelander

    Are you trying to say the empty set is always a subset of a set? Are you trying to say that if the empty set is the only subset then we call it an empty set and, since this is not always the case, we only sometimes call it an empty set?

    I have to agree with Michael Harris. He is raising important questions regarding performance management and about the nature of univesities.

    Performance management does not belong to the economic theory of competitive private ownership economies with complete markets – the closest theoretical model to ‘free markets’ we have, IMHO – and about the nature of a university.

    Performance management in practice is something that is more closely associated with new public sector management and corporate management and financial control.

    To the best of my knowledge, it is the theory of mechanism design, sometimes referred to as implementation (an application of game theory) that is relevant for performance management from the perspective of economics. In this framework, Michael Harris is making the important point that an introduction of retrospective research performance criteria is inconsistent with the knowledge available at the University on incentive compatible (non-manipulable) performance schemes.

    This naturally leads to the question: What is the nature of a university these days. This is the question Michael Harris has put and it is a crucial one.

    I happen to know one person at Sydney Uni who, at least at one stage of hisher career, talked like a ‘free marketeer’ – in the sense of neoliberalism. His academic background is in accounting, law and management. This person is neither in the School of Economics nor in the ‘discipline’ of Accounting.

  9. “– and about the nature of a university. ”

    Sorry, I forgot to edit the above out of paragraph 3.

  10. Freelander:

    Precisely how many academics who aren’t neoliberal economists could one (or more specifically: you) argue are worth firing in order to fire a neoliberal economist?

    Here’s the kicker: an economist can get other gigs, many of them better remunerated than academia. A sociologist, on the other hand…

    And I also really don’t think you’ve demonstrated that any neoliberal economists are in the firing line at all. You’ve chortled that it would be satisfying for you if they were, leaving out the ‘if’.

    I for one am crossing my fingers for the political economy department.

  11. @Michael Harris

    You have to accept that people have different views and your ploys re “squirm and dodge and harrumph” are not appropriate.

    Presumably you are looking at the cutbacks merely as an emerging injustice caused by (in John Quiggin’s view)

    managerialism

    or similar, which can be rectified by arguing and campaigning. >Here.

    However there is a wider context:

    – managerialism is a symptom. It is caused by underlying forces.

    – The cuts have been occurring to others for a long time – teachers, nurses, public servants, blue collar workers.

    – The cuts are caused by false economic theory.

    And these issues will intrude as each new example emerges. It is correct that, in this case, capitalist economists are reaping what they have sown, but they are not being targeted, they are simply being included. The root cause of the cutbacks is “economics”.

    Do you have any evidence for any attack on Sydney academic departments that has not been visited on either other academic departments (eg Romance Languages at ANU) or other workers? The has been a long debate over the corporatisation of higher education, and this outcome is part of that issue.

  12. Just to provide the real context. The current APS cuts include –

    Department of Education, 500
    Treasury, 150
    Dept of resources, 100
    Veteran’s Affairs, 90
    Bureau of Statistics, 75
    FairWork Ombudsman 70
    ComSuper 50
    Health (unspecified number)
    Department of Climate Change (“massive hit”).

    This is not ‘managerialism’.

  13. @Michael Harris

    You have to accept that people have different views and your ploys re “squirm and dodge and harrumph” are not appropriate.

    Presumably you are looking at the cutbacks merely as an emerging injustice caused by (in John Quiggin’s view)

    managerialism

    or similar, which can be rectified by arguing and campaigning.

    However there is a wider context:

    – managerialism is a symptom. It is caused by underlying forces.

    – The cuts have been occurring to others for a long time – teachers, nurses, public servants, blue collar workers.

    – The cuts are caused by false economic theory.

    And these issues will intrude as each new example emerges. It is correct that, in this case, capitalist economists are reaping what they have sown, but they are not being targeted, they are simply being included. The root cause of the cutbacks is “economics”.

    Do you have any evidence for any attack on Sydney academic departments that has not been visited on either other academic departments (eg Romance Languages at ANU) or other workers? The has been a long debate over the corporatisation of higher education, and this outcome is part of that issue.

  14. @Chris Warren

    How many of those are not voluntary redundancies? And, in the interim, how many positions have been created?

    In terms of conditions and job security, I’d much rather be in the APS than academia any day. It was not always thus.

  15. No Ernestine, I am referring to sets that are not empty. I am sure if you thought about it for a couple of moments you could think of examples.

    Dan,I have already answered that.

  16. John Passant :I am for defending all jobs, including those of free market economists. Otherwise management can pick off some unpopular groups and win support from the rest, before turning on them group by group. And people’s ideas change in struggle. Or can.

    I agree with John Passant – apologies if my earlier comments were too schadenfreudey.

  17. Nowadays everyone is an economist. And knowing something about the subject is a positive disadvantage when making the claim.

    As noted ‘free marketers’ hardly need to have any formal training in economics. The qualification (to be a free marketrr) after allow is faith based.

  18. @Chris Warren

    Enough is enough, Chris Warren.

    The other day I asked you for a reference as to the economists you have in mind. You provided the name of an American author from the 19th century and another one from a time where your discourse seems to be stuck: The 1940s! Socialism vs Capitalism. Wake up Chris Warren. If you want to do something for your union movement then first of all get the rotten apples out of your patch, including the slime bags that misuse there personal links to the union movement and personal links with individual union staffers for their own managerialist career path at tertiary education institutions. Don’t hesitate to look in the mirror and analyse the image with respect to some aspects of unionism.

    You don’t even know that there is no contemporary economic theory which underpins the staff cuts you are talking about. There is a reason for JQ and others talking about ‘neoliberalism’ instead of contemporary economic theory and empirical evidence.

    The other day, a commenter mentioned that you are the left wing match to Terje P’s libertarian stance , except Terje P is civil. I’d like to add that in my experience Terje P is also more honest. I asked him for references to the theory underlying his beliefs. Terje P had the intellectual honesty of saying he has none.

  19. Most APS cuts are flagged as VR’s or natural attrition.

    However there are also ‘tap-on-the-shoulder’ events. Alternatively staff are moved to new jobs with uselss roles (so-called ‘departure lounges). Others are moved to unsuitable jobs and then forced out.

    When the government changes, most jobs reappear, but now filled with younger graduates willing to do their Lord’s pleasure. Some jobs are lost if the function can be split and added onto others in small increments. So the new-comers work longer than previous staff.

  20. @Ernestine Gross

    No. The problems in economic theory pre-existed both the 19th century and the 1940’s. These are just relatively modern variations. John Locke (17th C) is an example.

    Today’s cuts are driven purely by contradictions in the economic theory of capitalism. Other cuts may have occurred because of other forms of exploitation at different times through history.

  21. Chris Warren :
    When the government changes, most jobs reappear, but now filled with younger graduates willing to do their Lord’s pleasure.

    Like f’rinstance:

    -act with care and diligence in the course of APS employment;
    -comply with any lawful and reasonable direction given by someone in the employee’s Agency who has authority to give the direction.

  22. @Chris Warren

    Your “No” means you want to supplement your earlier advice which I had referred to. That is, you want to go further back in time.

    Now I am telling you, you live in a time warp of some sort because you hold the academic economists at Sydney Uni and elsewhere responsible for what people wrote a few hundred years ago!

    What you call ‘the economic theory’ is a practice that is linked to the legal framework. It is a practice that assists the incomes of the proverbial 1% – as JQ has mentioned.

    Incidentally, where were you many years but not centuries ago when unions and ’employers’ negotiated a trade-off between wages being deposited into bank accounts and a wage increase? Didn’t you notice at the time that this shifted the power over money away from employees? What did you do to stop enterprise agreements? Didn’t you notice that this industrial instrument would shift the basic unit of analysis from the individual within a society to a legal construct – the corporation? This is where we are now.

    I’ve got good news, or rather a good prediction for your predicament with contradictions. To have a society that runs on individual contracts, including union negotiated enterprise agreements ain’t gonna work given the unequal income distribution between employees in non-legal and legal corporations (ie relative prices).

    The proof is simple. Suppose my prediction is false. In this case in a flexible labour market where 1 day work is the minimum contract time, every employee hires a lawyer to ensure that the contract is legally sound. For this system to work, it has to work every day and for all workers. Lets now check the proposition that my prediction is false, using ‘standard neoclassical economic theory’.

    There are 24 hours in each day. The cheapest hourly wage of a lawyer in Sydney is $250.– = $275 after GST. The lowest income earner earns $15 per hour before tax. If he works 8 hrs a day he earns $120.–. He would need to work 18.3 hrs per day just to pay for the legal service to get the 1 day work contract! He or she would have to work for another 40 hrs per day to pay for rent, food, transport and other essentials, and ignoring the PYE tax system. Working at least 58.3 hours per day is physically impossible because there are only 24 hrs in a day (ignoring the physiological constraint of people requiring sleep). A contradiction.

  23. Yes, Ernestine. You are very correct in identifying one of the important turning points on the road to impoverishing the 99 percent, possibly better termed “The Road to Serfdom “.

  24. Thank you Freelander. But I have a numerical error in my argument; it does not destroy the result though.

    Let me correct the error. In line 5 in the last paragraph, I should have written “another 8 hrs per day”( instead of 40 hrs per day). The correction results in “at least 26.3 hrs per day in line 7 of the last paragraph (instead of 58.3 hrs). Since 26.3>24, the results is unaffected.

  25. @Ernestine Gross

    A few excessive tangents here.

    No-one said that academics “are responsible for what was written 100 years ago”. The relationship is different.

    The legal framework is relevant as are various games commercial competitors play. In essence the laws reflect the underlying political economy and the balance of power.

    I do not propose individual contracts.

    I am less interested in the changing form of this or that capitalism than in its ongoing tendency to lead to a GFC. Having good unions is about the best thing workers can do to deal with capitalism on a year-to-year basis.

  26. @Ernestine Gross

    Good unions are headed by economics graduates from Sydney university (eg CFMEU 2000-2010).

    Other good unions (LMMWU, AMWU) are, or have been, headed by honors graduates from the ANU (various fields).

    So I haven’t the foggiest idea where you get your opinions from.

  27. So, a hundred or so comments later and Chris Warren is still doing his Black Knight impersonation in battle against straw economic men.

    One of his latest flights of fantasy is that “Today’s cuts are driven purely by contradictions in the economic theory of capitalism.” Even if we make allowance for some sloppy phrasing, its clear that he’s still attacking a figment of his own imagination. I say that partly because, nothwithstanding several years studying economics and working as an economist, I have never came across this ‘economic theory of capitalism’ he seems to have in mind. I have come across several economic theories about aspects of economic systems involving market exchanges (and, I hasten to add, the limitations of markets), capital formation, labour market dynamics, business cycles, debt, risk limitations and so forth. But not an economic theory of capitalism of the type that could help explain or justify in any meaningful way the cuts at Sydney Uni.

    As it seems that my education has been lacking, perhaps Chris could tell me more about this Theory. Who is the author, Chris? And what are its tenets? What, if anything, does it say about the types of staffing decisions being made at present at the Uni of Sydney. And what are the causative links between this Theory – or the “contradictions” in this Theory – and the cuts at the Uni of Sydney? And can you name or point to any economists at the University of Sydney who actually subscribe to this Theory (and who could thus fairly be charged with inconsistency for complaining about the current cuts).

    To borrow from the other main attacker of straw economic men on this thread, the answer is indeed an empty set.

  28. @Tom N.

    No-one is attacking straw economic people – although I understand why you pretend this is so.

    I think you probably have come across the theory of capitalism – but I understand why you pretend this is not so.

    The economic theory of capitalism does help to explain the cuts to government expenditures – but I understand why you pretend this is not so.

    No particular institution is being targeted – they are being included, but I understand your ploy here too.

    The causative link is between the general instability, headlined today by around $100 trillion of debt, and the measures consequently forced on society in its attempts to counter this instability. Cutting public expenditures is caused by this.

    Trolling for names, is a plea for ignorance, and an act of pure emptiness. You do not have to name the unemployed to know they exist.

  29. Actually Chris, its readily apparrant that you have little understanding of what economists like me think and why. Your argument boils down to little more than “economists support a system that entails [increasing] unemployment, so when economists experience unemployment they are being hoist on their own petard”. Even in its own terms its hardly compelling.

    Moreover, you will in practice find few economists who believe that economists (or anyone else) should be immune from job losses in appropriate economic circumstances. The post, however, was about the specific basis and nature of the layoffs at Sydney Uni. The beliefs about economics you collect under the heading ‘the economic theory of capitalism’ (sic) have little to say about those matters. Indeed, it seems fairly clear that you are not equipped to add anything to those issues. That you run a line (in comment 14) that ‘if its good enough for typists, factory workers, and public servants etc, its good enough for academic economists’ highlights your failure to undertake differentiated, micro-level analysis of such issues. All you seem able to do is mouth banalities about capitalism and the mainstream “nastry narrow minded, New Right, neloiberal” economists who you imagine are responsible for it.

    Of course, on past form, you are sufficiently shameless that none of the above will stop you – the Black Knight never concedes. Equally though, as I’ve pointed out before, no one knowedgable in these matter will take you seriously.

  30. @Tom N.

    You are deliberately reinterpreting matters. I only hold that capitalist economists support a system that entails increasing instability. Unemployment, debt increases, budget deficits, inflation and current account disasters are facets of this general underlying problem.

    This means that, focussing on any particular instance and blaming “managerialism” is false, and focussing on a single case, without looking at the bigger picture, is weak. Once a government cuts a budget – managers do what managers are forced to do.

    When a government cuts expenditures to produce a surplus, ‘differentiated, micro-level analysis’ is not the core driver, it only attracts the easily sidetracked.

    I suppose, at this stage, you can only resort to characterisation and falsification – please show me where I mentioned “nasty narrow minded, New Right, neoliberal” anything. Why not be honest an use my word – “capitalist”. Only journalists and marginal academics use your words.

    All your other comments apply to yourself – rather well.

  31. @Tom N.

    Since this is frustrating to read, I’ll help out.

    Chris is speaking in terms of a Marxian/institutionalist analysis of inherent and growing instability, associated with increased debt. This point of view is laid out, I think quite convincingly, in David Harvey’s The Enigma of Capital.

    It’s not clear to me how this applies to Sydney Uni specifically, which I agree is an interesting question – just because you find a macro analysis convincing doesn’t mean you’re (Chris!) off the hook in explaining how and why it applies in a specific instance.

  32. @Dan

    It’s not clear to me how this applies to Sydney Uni specifically, which I agree is an interesting question – just because you find a macro analysis convincing doesn’t mean you’re (Chris!) off the hook in explaining how and why it applies in a specific instance.

    Almost (I say almost) none of this makes any sense to me at all, to be frank. If it is the case that USydney is suffering a serious budget crisis, as is being claimed to justify current actions by management, then such a crisis is a combination of factors including potentially “crisis-related” ones involving a drop in investment income, but also less crisis-related ones like a drop in overseas student numbers/income due to the high $A, driven by a booming mining sector.

    It’s worth noting that the claimed budget crisis is being used to shed positions, but NOT warranting a hiring freeze to lock-in those salary savings for a few years. So that does not seem to add up. If a unit (“work group”) suffers a loss of positions through this process, nothing seems to be in place to prevent that group hiring some young-gun researchers who can presumably write more than one paper a year.

    This really has the appearance of being a scorched-earth approach to performance management in research, bypassing agreed and established processes which are more reasonable, but far slower.

    So, any claimed link between systemic instability and this particular episode of institutional gutting is tenuous at best, and Freelander’s and Chris Warren’s unpleasant and unremitting display of self-satisfied ideological schadenfreude really shouldn’t be driving the direction of the conversation.

  33. As horrible as it is to be in the thick of it—either as a victim, or as a shell-shocked survivor—these sorts of whole of dept or whole of business unit cuts are a periodic reality for the employees of corporations everywhere. I’ve worked for three such organisations where toe- and limb-cutting has happened, and no, it isn’t pretty for the exiting employees, or for the remaining ones. Such major dislocative forces are the soup du jour in the modern workplace, sadly.

    Universities entered this world once the notion of a user pays fee system was brought in, as part of the Dawkins Reforms of the late 80s and early 90s: the newly created enterprise universities underwent a tectonic shift in how they thought of their EFTSUs (Effective Full-Time Student Unit, a way of measuring the customer-base). The transformed enterprise university now spends its strategic efforts on seeking/creating opportunities for itself, and since profit is the guiding hand now, the universities can be surprisingly nimble at moving resources from one (perhaps) marginally less profitable unit and across to a newer, potentially more profitable unit. Enterprise universities make bets on what the next big thing might be, and investing accordingly. Necessarily, some bets turn bad, while others put meat and gravy on the plate for years to come. The great overseas student surge was one such meat and gravy meal ticket, albeit with quite apparent structural risks to the income stream. As others have pointed out, macro-level events have precipitated a decline in growth rate, or actual decline, in the number of overseas students attending university in Australia, and in more detail, attending particular courses within particular universities. In time, the circumstances may change again, to a climate which strongly attracts foreign students to Australian shores; however, we are merely part of a global market for those students.

    I don’t know the specific circumstances of the University of Sydney’s alleged financial crisis, so I won’t comment on whether the premise USyd is using as a rationalising factor is correct or not; if however, USyd is applying an actually retrospective criteria for ditching people, then it is a matter of applying to the relevent body to have this investigated. Trouble is, the criteria for ditching people doesn’t necessarily have to relate to existing performance goals as part of the promotions and merit processes. To some degree, whether the university management is behaving reasonably or not is in the eye of the beholder: to an outsider, it isn’t at all clear what is contributing to this, in terms of intentionality; to an insider, it may seem as if the university management is deliberately torching a department in order to “re-stock” it at a cheaper going rate.

    One organisation I was working for during a culling had the rather bizarre approach of handling potential employee issues with the retrenchment by handing both would-be victim and to-be survivors a copy of the book “Who Moved My Cheese?” Management’s intentions were probably benign, but boy, it didn’t go down very well. Once cynic simply said, “Hard cheese.”

  34. Donald,

    Thanks for a more thoughtful contribution.

    There’s an elephant in the room in this discussion about this particular university — it’s new commitment to invest in a very large and expensive obesity research institute. I gather it is a situation like winning a raffle where the prize is half a Ferrari. Great prize to win, but you have to come up with the other half of the cash for what is going to be a very large and fancy building.

    Apparently some preliminary foundational work ended up concreting up a stormwater drain, which led to serious flooding of an oval and some buildings/offices when the rains hit hard a few weeks back.

    The gift that keeps on giving.

  35. @Michael Harris

    All your false accusations and malicious innuedo’s assist no-one.

    If you really think that whatever is happening at Sydney is unlinked to systemic instability, then please provide evidence.

    Of course, if Abbott gets in, it will be much, much worse, and wouldn’t it be convenient if the affected public sector workers were all misdirected to fire their anger at their managers? Acording to Kenneth Davidson, Abbott plans to cut $47 billion from $350 billion of government spending.

    If you are in the class of workers who receive their income from public revenue you have a common interest with all similar workers, and common vulnerabilities to cuts in jobs, income and working conditions.

    I would hope that most take a deeper view, recognise the underlying forces, and work in common with all those feeling the pinch, irrespective of the organisation.

  36. @Donald Oats
    Quite agree. Individuals go “Who moved my cheese?” But often had failed to wonder prior “Everyone else’s cheese is being moved.What’s going to happen to mine?””

    Too often, when their cheese finally is moved, they sit there, first on stunned silence, only to eventually bleat “Why me?””

    But, “Why not?”

  37. @Chris Warren

    No, Chris. I’m afraid the onus is on you to make the case demonstrating the links between the macro and the micro. If you’re unable to, just man up and say it. It doesn’t even mean you’re wrong; these relationships are never easy to pin down. But my hope would be that you’d think twice before presenting your claims without a coherent argument behind them again.

  38. Michael Harris has raised important issues regarding the nature of universities these days.

    Consider the identified issue of retrospective criteria for the assessment of academic work.

    Would you want your children educated at a university where the lecturer specifies the assessable work after the students have sat the examination?

    The assessment of academics’ work is but an extension of the assessment of students’ work.

    Think about it.

  39. Universities slid toward the toilet with the D.awkins revolution. Since then innovations and other bright ideas have simply contributed to the slide. The latest is not a qualitative different imposition from above. At most simply an incremental worsening.

  40. Wow. Really. Freelander and Chris Warren. You guys are astonishing.

    It’s like you’re competing with each other for some kind of Ugly Human Being competition.

    Let me be clear. This isn’t me bleating “Why me?” I am pretty confident I’ll do OK in the end. I’m going to manage, and I understand many other people are worse off than I am.

    You guys, though. You guys are just terrible people. Really, demonstrably, awful. Like, should-be-ashamed awful.

  41. @Michael Harris

    Clearly you are upset. I’ve been making allowance for that. And for your consequent narrow focus and absence of rationality.

    JQ has had his services dispensed with by the FIN. Too my mind quite unfairly. JQ did not say “Why me “, rather he quite expected it.

    Demonise me and others if that makes you happy.

  42. @Freelander

    Freelander :
    @Michael Harris
    Clearly you are upset. I’ve been making allowance for that.

    You’re so sweet. I’m touched.

    *looks around* Is there an eyeroll emoticon handy?

    Chris, thanks for the apostrophe after innuendo. It wasn’t needed so I have saved it for later. If you post “its” when you mean “it is”, I’ll have the necessary apostrophe handy.

  43. @Dan

    Of course micro and macro are linked. Capitalists can alleviate macro problems by increasing exploitation at the micro level. This may not work in the long run.

    If Australia had low unemployment, a surplus on current account, low external debt, and balanced government budgets, our micro environment would be very different (and less threatening). This may require a modicum of regulation to ensure that the benefits flow from the macro to the micro.

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