Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Please, can I play too?

I just discovered today that the new semester beginning this week was entirely a figment of my overly caffeinated imagination. This week is merely "Bush Week" (the origin of which term is lost in the mists of too many late night drinking sessions). Classes don't actually start until the 20th, and I'm not teaching until the week after that. So I have found myself with an entire student-free week that I didn't know I had (which I am therefore proceeding to waste as only someone with unexpected extra research time can do).

I'm not the only one confused about semester dates, however.

Rumours abound, in an aboundy sort of way, that our Vice Chancellor is campaigning to move the university onto approximately the same annual schedule as the USA and Europe so successfully run on. Presumably he is planning to persuade the powers that be to rearrange the seasons to suit. Because, you know, our students paying clientele are going to be more than a little bit snarky if they end up with weeks of freedom in the middle of the winter when it's too cold to leave the house, and classes all through the sleepy summer months when they want to be lazing around with their friends down by the lake.

The obvious advantage to this schedule change, on the other hand, is that those who are required to teach might actually be able to attend conferences and summer schools in the Northern Hemisphere, which currently almost always fall during our teaching periods.

But a corresponding disadvantage that just about no one mentions is that faculty here will no longer be able to attend conferences in the Southern Hemisphere. Yes, on the whole, these are the smaller, less important ones. But given the meagre amount of funding available to staff who wish to attend conferences ($250 per year), most can afford to go to one or two local meetings per year, while trips to the Northern Hemisphere are paid for out of their own pockets and are correspondingly infrequent.

But what really slacks me off here is that I suspect that a major motivation behind this desire to match our Northern colleagues' schedules is not practical at all, but simply the optimistic hope that copying the external characteristics of the top overseas universities will mean that we're allowed to play in the big boys' league (hence also our current reorganisation from departmental lines to a "college" structure à la Oxford or Cambridge).

Somebody needs to have a chat with our VC. Something about clothes and maketh and man. And the inadvisability of putting too much faith in clichés.

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