After the seminar the Lorenzos decamp to the nearest coffee bar, where they sit next to Douglas’ colleague Garrett Slade.
‘The University can stuff this fucking titty teaching course into the Vice Chancellor’s combined vagina, anus and mouth, wherever he keeps that hidden. In his armpit, probably,’ says Ren.
‘Back of his head, under his hair. Feeds straight into the brain,’ says Miles.
‘You said that very quickly,’ says Lily.
‘You find out strange stuff in my field,’ says Miles.
‘Always something new to masturbate over, right?’ says Ren.
‘Children, please,’ says Garrett.
‘The titty. Jesus,’ says Ren. ‘It’s hard enough being a new lecturer having to work up all these new lectures from scratch. I’m writing them on the fly, I’m usually up to the early hours, and I’m still finalising them minutes before the lecture. And all you’re guided by is your fallible sense of how last week’s lecture went. Plus you have all the other rubbish you have to deal with during the week, and students, and of course you somehow have to find time on top of all that to do your research and publish papers to make a contribution to the Department’s REF score.’
‘It takes so much longer than I thought to write a good lecture,’ says Miles.
‘Me too,’ says Lily.
‘It’s almost worse if you know the topic really well,’ says Ren, ‘because then you have so much material that you have to spend so much time hacking it all away. I can’t believe how it takes much time it takes to cut away all that excess material, and re-shape what you have. But usually it’s worse if you don’t know the topic backwards, because then you have to desperately mug up in the week on the topic, and you never really understand it properly in those circumstances.’
‘But that’s just the job,’ says Garrett. ‘It’s tough in those ways to start with, yes, but it gets tougher in other ways later on too. You have to be able to cope with all that, otherwise you can’t be an academic. Academics aren’t ordinary people with ordinary jobs.’
‘Sure, I’m not really complaining about any of that,’ says Ren. ‘That’s just the job we do, it’s a challenge, but an enjoyable one, and if you’re up to scratch you cope with it. Late nights aren’t a problem for me personally anyway. What I am complaining about is having this stupid titty course thrown on top of everything else. I really needed to spend this afternoon working on my lecture for tomorrow, which is still miles from being coherent. Instead I’ve had to waste a valuable afternoon in the charming company of Balderdash, which means I won’t get much sleep tonight.’
‘But isn’t it a good idea to have a course on improving your teaching?’ asks Garrett. ‘You know how many bad lecturers there are out there. I supported the idea when it was mooted.’
‘That’s not it,’ says Ren, starting to realise that the older academics had been sold a bait-and-switch, and they have no idea of what is going on under the guise of a postgraduate teaching qualification. ‘That would be a good idea, and that’s what the titty should be about, improving lecturing. But that’s not what’s happening. In practise it’s just a brainwashing exercise where Continentalists force you to mouth their platitudes. So not only do I have valuable time wasted, I have to spend that time being exposed to them trying to indoctrinate me.’
‘Continentalists?’ asks Garrett.
‘Fans of European bullshit artists like Derrida and Foucault. Progressive politics in the form of word salad, all made deliberately unfalsifiable.’
‘Oh. That sort of thing. Really?’
Garrett looks at his younger colleague for a response.
‘Yes,’ nods Douglas, shuddering. ‘It’s worse than you can imagine.’
‘But they’re doing other things to improve teaching, though, right? It’s not just that sort of thing.’
‘The only thing they’re doing that seems like it might be any good is some video work. Which is going to be for one afternoon only, later on this term,’ says Ren.
‘Yes, otherwise it’s all this awful “critical reflection”,’ says Lily.
‘Can we make some sort of official complaint, Garrett?’ asks Miles. ‘I’m going to ask my Head of Department to do so.’
‘Me too’, says Ren.
‘I suppose so’, says Garrett. ‘But you’d need to get some proper documentation about it. We can’t just complain on the basis of cafe hearsay. And I’m not sure what it would achieve. The SADE are likely to just say that this is their domain, and we should butt out, and they don’t go around trying to tell us how to run our departments.’
‘But we’re experts in our field,’ says Miles. ‘They’re not experts in their field. They know nothing about University teaching or education in general.’
‘Except that now they’ve been given those positions,’ Ren sighs, ‘they are the experts. You’ll never get rid of them without a big fight. Those sort of activists never concede ground voluntarily. And if one has to go they make sure the replacement is another one of them.’
‘I’ve got to go,’ says Miles. ‘I’ll see you all on Friday.’
‘For a Lorenzo work session? Remember?’
‘I’d forgotten,’ says Ren. ‘Another afternoon goes missing thanks to TITE. Forget doing your jobs, just make sure you all turn up for the indoctrination sessions. I think I will get Balderstone the L. Ron hat after all.’