Tuesday, 14 May 2013

The glamorous life of the academic

Hi everybody. It's late afternoon and I'm only just posting something here. I must have an outrage gland deficiency or something.

The truth is that I've been suffering academic overload. Literally everything I deal with has come up today. There's the marking of course - dissertations first, particularly the discussions with the other marker to agree a grade. Then there's consoling distraught students – postgrads this time, trying to solve completely understandable dilemmas without causing offence or treading on people's toes. I've had several calls for union help, and I've received the readers' reports on two papers I wrote. Oh, and arranging visiting speakers for next year's research sessions. Plus the usual routine of gossip and meetings: last night the deputy head of the Quality Assurance Agency gave a very enlightening lecture. Amongst other things, he said that the posh universities tried to claim that inspection is really only for proletarian hellholes like The Hegemon, and that the Tories are pushing through their education-wrecking plans through quangos rather than face the scrutiny which comes from passing Higher Education legislation. I paraphrase, of course, but it's pretty clear that not having any mandate won't stop them behaving like North Korean Dear Leaders.

If you don't know how the system works, it's like this. You write a paper and submit it to the editors. They send an anonymised copy out to two readers who recommend whether or not to publish it, and if so, whether any revisions need making. Then you do the necessary and send it back, alongside a response detailing whether you ignored or accepted the recommendations.

Luckily, my papers were very well-received, but there's still work to do. The readers made some really useful observations about factual stuff, emphasis and structure: it's exactly how peer review is meant to work. But of course a lot of the alterations are time-consuming. For instance: I thought I'd got the right referencing system. Turns out I haven't. So I've got to go through every quote, footnote and endnote changing them. The guidance is 39 pages long. My eyes are bleeding… and the marking is staring at me balefully.

The soundtrack for the day has been Low - all 14 albums in reverse chronological order. Restful, beautiful but also deeply melancholy. Ideal for grading dissertations and theoretically dictating the course of students' lives. Tomorrow it's an early meeting supporting a colleague through a disciplinary hearing (let's face it: I'll be facing one myself if I keep blogging the way I am, so I need the practice), then more marking and in the evening, at long last, I'll go fencing again. I always find that the antidote to a big pile of marking is to spend an evening viciously attacking people with bladed weapons. Don't you?

Here are some of Low's songs.

and for melancholic fun, Galaxie 500's cover of the Rutles' Beatles parody 'Cheese and Onions'.

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