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Caveat Emptor

The opinions expressed on this page are mine alone. Any similarities to the views of my employer are completely coincidental.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

The Libyan School of Economics

Spokespersons for the  LSE just can't help making  the institution seem more and more absurd. The Independent is running  a story today quoting Erik Ringmar who was  a few years ago more or less forced out of the School for whistle blowing. I knew him slightly and I can't say we shared a vision of social science, but his only crime was to tell the truth in an organisation that explicitly guaranteed his  right to do so, and then decided that allowing its staff free speech was bad for business. Personally I think he was unwise to do what he did, but he was honest and nobody ever disputed the facts that he drew attention to - which I know, in their essentials, to be true. If universities want second hand car salesmen they should employ them rather than expect academics to prostitute themselves. His experience of the admissions process was not mine, but I have no reason to disbelieve him and the LSE's attempt to discredit him by suggesting that his motivation is disgruntlement is, in my view,  simply shameful.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Howard Davies

If I had had more intelligence I should have titled my last post Howard Davies: my part in his downfall. It's a conjecture, but intelligence is something there may have been a surfeit of in this affair. You should continue to monitor events as they unfold.

Tuesday, 1 March 2011

Saif al-Gaddafi: My part in his downfall

In my last couple of years at the London School of Economics I coordinated admissions into the PhD programme of what at the time was called the Interdisciplinary Institute of Management (IIM). One day I received a phone call telling me that I was about to receive an admissions file containing information that should be treated in confidence. I don't now recall from whom or from where the call came, probably from someone in the admissions bureaucracy. As it  happened I could already guess what  was in the file. A rumour had been circulating for several weeks in Houghton Street that one of Gaddafi's sons had applied to do a doctorate. 
When I opened the file the decision was a no-brainer. Gaddafi Jnr had no relevant qualifications for our programme, no viable research project and there was nobody in the Institute with an interest in supervising him. I ticked the reject box and returned the file to the admissions office. I remember seeing a note to the effect that the next destination of the file was to be the Department of International Relations. There is nothing suspicious about that, it being routine for students to apply to several departments before they find the right home for their project. Nobody at any time tried to twist my arm or suggest that it was in the LSE's  (or the IIM 's) financial interest to accept Gaddafi. It was all very low key, routine , banal. 
It seems to me that the exercise of power in  universities is like that. You rarely have to exert it explicitly. You just set the ball rolling and somebody somewhere will probably follow the line of least resistance without being told to do so. This is very convenient because it makes plausible deniability a piece of cake.