Our beloved VC – the kind of Blairite everyman you’d feel more than comfortable allowing around small pets as well as children and expensive shrubbery; you know, the kind of man you’d trust handling the reassuring nodding role in a coming out confession; no doubt an owner of a hideously over-priced floral shirt; has African prints on the home office wall; definitely would stick out like a sore thumb at an English Defence League fancy dress and buffet ball – repeated his line, his mantra, his early morning Cairo skyline, call to prayer, in a recent edition of Times Higher Education, a statement of such Papal infallibility that it sends a chill down the collective backbones of those of us who believe that when you wake up in the morning you make a difference, even if it is just deciding to smile at supermarket staff or make sure that this time you purloin lycra-reinforced underwear in M&S:
It is in nobody’s interest that Universities UK falls out with the government,” he said.
“Being at the table, talking to the government, influencing policy and trying to develop that policy with them is the position that UUK must be in. For us to have an all-out fight with the government and find that our communications are very much less is not a victory for the members I represent.”
This is an excellent example of the supine nature of the executive cult in Universities today. While one shouldn’t be so sceptical to suspect that this toadying is perhaps because VCs, their entourages and fellow Senior Management lickspittles are worried about missing the odd dinner party on the way to the House of Lords, (or that they are, in fact, not a separate entity from the government and civil servant class they suck up to, and are, rather, an element in the same booted-and-suited bureaucracy that brought us Private Finance Initiative and the Millennium Dome), one could be tempted, at the very least, to suggest that it is what Bob Brecher calls the “Eichmann position” at work. 
This argument, the VC’s argument, and the same as the legalistic Nuremberg defence goes a wee bit like this: common sense dictates that only fitting in, following the practical, pragmatic and realist set of possibilities of the here and now equals the only course of action and the only way of achieving something.
One thing ought to be made crystal clear here: the allusions to the Nuremburg defence and the Eichmann position are not the equivalating of the subject matter of this piece with the demonic goose-steeping morons of Indiana Jones films, or concentration camp building monsters, or the state socialists of Glenn Beck’s mythology. Rather, the principle of loyalty to the status quo, the treatment of the man-made as apodictic, is the comparison I’d like to impress.
The excuse of joining in when something is manifestly wrong is certainly understandable, very common-place, but never justifiable. Resistance is not manning the barricades, some Jacobin sugar-rush; it’s doing what you know to be right. The ‘banality’ of our ruling clique at this University is to be found in its delusional belief that they are doing what needs to be done, taking part in the only game in town. I suggest the VC consults Sophie Scholl’s words at her trial in 1943: “Somebody, after all, had to make a start. What we wrote and said is also believed by many others. They just do not dare express themselves as we did.”
I remember once the VC’s Mini-Me or Deputy VC, David ‘David’ Clarke, proclaiming the iron law ‘No one will ever vote for higher taxes to fund Universities’ i.e. ‘Turkeys will never vote for Xmas’. Erm, yes they do. I wonder why, in the case of our mini-VC friend, he bothers getting out of bed of a morning; it’s all pre-destined for you matey, isn’t it? As Super Hans pointed out in Peep Show in response to lager and nuts and their popularity: “People like Coldplay and voted for the Nazis.” What Supers Hans and many other men and women are getting and have got at is that mice and men have no natural state; they try to and can change, and many times do change, sometimes desirously, the odd time joyfully, often hideously. Remember how the world was once flat? How Celine Dion was No. 1? When Whitney Houston had a voice that could cause some serious bathroom echo?
You see, trying to change something because we want a new mode is not idealism, but a course of practical hard graft that can be effected. In a year that News International’s political ‘truth’ – don’t do anything to annoy The Sun and The News of the World/go against their editorial line – crumbled, how can the VC and his posse collude in hiding their active choice not to oppose the destruction of public comprehensive Higher Education? By maintaining that there are objective conditions that they can do nothing to influence – we are only lumps of flotsam caught in the flow of Con-Lib reform – they are not setting us straight; they’re spoon feeding us sleeping tablets.
Anyway, to end, in the best traditions of last letters in The Times, a translation guide to Thomas’s afore mentioned passage. (BTW you wouldn’t want to have been alongside the VC in the rough-and-tumble of the school playground, would you? One can imagine his less than helpful counsel at the sight of incoming bullies: “I want to help, and if it was a perfect world, I would indeed ban profound and hideous beatings. However, due to the reality that my peer group will probably call me names, and bearing in mind, too, that whilst applying the hockey stick to your rather nice forehead I will ask then to do it gently and in proportion, I cannot really tell this collection of bullies to stop battering you to a pulp. And, not that I want to blow my own trumpet, but if you do look at my past record re bog water-boarding, I did play a role in reducinge flushes on heads down the toilet from 5 to 4.”)
“Influencing policy”= agreeing with and lobbying for policy, ignoring people who disagree with policy, and then implementing policy.
“Being at the table” = nodding when David Willets or (deep breaths, remember the rhythm method) David *CAMERON* or (disappointed sigh) Nick Clegg speaks. Hopefully being invited into the drawing room, with the other white male courtesans, for a glass of port and a complementary stroke of the house parrot.
“Developing policy” = nodding (again) when David Willets speaks
“All-out fight”= opposing something when it’s wrong. I suspect Chief Thomas would not have been a fan of Galileo’s “all out fight” against the 17th century Catholic Church. Or my cousin Edith’s conviction for shoplifting at Penge Tesco despite the fact she was working at Lewisham Super Bowl at the time. And she doesn’t even like After-Eight or tinned ravioli
“Members”= me and a few others who want a knighthood or something a little better than Deputy Lieutenant of Bristol
“Or communications are very much less”= David Willets has stopped invited me to his bunker. Or, to put another way: “I was against something very bad. Very bad. The person who was doing the bad thing stopped talking to me. So, to recap, because I helped/fought to stop a bad thing, the bad thing’s main advocate has been less than nice to me. It is my fault for opposing the bad thing.”
“Not a victory”= victory