Thursday, 24 September 2009

Terence Kealey - dirty old man

Kate and Demented beat me to the punch in the comments section of my previous post - but it's still worth mentioning the story that so horrified them.

In this article from the Times Higher Education Supplement, Terence Kealey, vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, opines that lecturers lusting after youthful female knowledge-seekers is 'a perk of the job', and indeed should give a fillip to said lecturer's uxorial sex life.

Amongst the oh so hilariously provocative pearls of wisdom are a couple of assumptions which reveal Kealey's utter conservatism. To him, lecturers are male, and students are female. All, of course, are heterosexual. Female students are recipients, passive vessels, moths gathering around the flame of masculine enlightenment. Worse than this, 'normal girls' (not women, you may notice), are dim, shallow creatures

Normal girls – more interested in abs than in labs, more interested in pecs than specs, more interested in triceps than tripos – will abjure their lecturers for the company of their peers, but nonetheless, most male lecturers know that, most years, there will be a girl in class who flashes her admiration and who asks for advice on her essays.
These abnormal freaks (in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries, they were disparagingly called 'bluestockings') are essentially meat for the enjoyment of the lecturer in Kealey's slimy weltanschauang - heaven forfend that they might actually want to talk about their essays. To Kealey, young women are incapable of intellectual curiosity.

What to do?

"Enjoy her! She's a perk."

"She doesn't yet know that you are only Casaubon to her Dorothea, Howard Kirk to her Felicity Phee, and she will flaunt you her curves. Which you should admire daily to spice up your sex, nightly, with the wife."

"As in Stringfellows, you should look but not touch."

Kealey, who has been vice-chancellor at Buckingham, the country's only independent university, for eight years, said it was a myth that an affair between student and lecturer was an abuse of power, saying accountability has meant that "the days are gone when a scholar could trade sex for upgrades".

But he added that some female students still fantasised about their lecturers.

Clearly Kealey thinks he's a bit of a card, and his literary references are meant to show that he's more than just a lad - Demented thinks that he's traduced old Casaubon, but Kealey's sort of got him right: in Middlemarch Dorothea marries Casaubon out of misplaced respect for a great man's intellectual labour. However, the marriage is cold and the 'great work' is tedious and will never be finished - Dorothea's the rounded human being. Howard Kirk is the swinging 60s lecturer who dabbles in revolution, drugs, rock and roll and students, a fake guru in an age of fake gurus. Felicity is the student who becomes entangled with her.

I've moaned about staff-student relationships before - I think Kealey's wrong. There is an inevitable power imbalance in these relationships. I doubt that anything so crude as 'marks for sex' goes on any more, but it's surely an uncomfortable situation - for the lecturer, the student and everybody's colleagues. Perhaps there are some students who might flirt for a bit more attention, and who could blame them in a place where classes are so big and staffing numbers so low that you're lucky to learn the names of a third of your students. That said, it's never happened to me. There was a rumour, several years ago, that a student found me attractive, and was so horrified that she promptly took herself off for psychiatric counselling, which speaks volumes for her good sense… I can't help feeling that Kealey's claim that female students fantasise about lecturers is the product of too much time on outré websites, or a personal fantasy of his own.

In any case, such freakish opinions are to be expected of Buckingham University's v-c: it's the only private university in the country: essentially a none-too-challenging extension of a minor public (i.e. fee-paying - sorry Americans, the English usage is bizarre) school, populated by drawling rich kids wearing Jack Wills from top to toe… hell on earth.

For a rather grubbier version of staff/student sex, read the opening chapter of Howard Jacobson's Coming from Behind. It's a bitter novel set in thinly-disguised Wolverhampton Polytechnic, and starts with a mature student on graduation day 'thanking' her lecturer in a particularly physical fashion: all sound effects delivered in full Wolverhampton dialect. Jacobson had worked at Wolverhampton for a year or two after a glittering student career at Oxford (or Cambridge), and clearly thought he was too good for the place, taking his revenge by caricaturing his colleagues most cruelly.

1 comment:

The Plashing Vole said...

Feminists don't tend to believe that it's acceptable to view female students as eye-candy.

I see that Buckingham Uni doesn't encourage the correct use of grammar, punctuation and standard syntax.

Still, as long as Kealey's amusing, that's OK.