‘Come in,’ says Robot.
‘You asked to see me?’ says Ren.
‘Yes, come in Renford. Take a seat.’
Ren walks over to the chair, disguising the limp in his bruised and battered leg as best he can. The leg is painful, and he still feels pretty bad. He hasn’t managed to catch up on any sleep yet, so he’s in a very cranky mood. This better not be about that fucking Angela Saunders sad-sack.
‘What is it?’ he says.
‘A student has written a letter of complaint about you,’ says Robot, holding up a hand-written letter.
‘Was it Angela Saunders?’
‘I can’t say who it is.’
‘Can I read it?’
‘Well, in that case I’m not going to stay,’ says Ren, getting up. ‘I don’t listen to anonymous complaints, especially when I’m not allowed to see the details.’
‘Sit down,’ says Robot. ‘Student complaints are serious matters.’
‘They are? Because my tutees are always complaining about your teaching. Perhaps someone needs to have a talk to you.’
‘This student writes that she’s not happy with your teaching.’ Ren can see that underneath his worried persona Robot is rather pleased with this development.
‘She? So it is Angela Saunders then.’
‘I didn’t say that.’
‘What’s the actual complaint? Because lots of students complain about teaching. Is this just a generic complaint, or is there a specific charge?’
‘Well, she says that you, er, you haven’t…’ Robot takes a look at the letter. ‘You haven’t explained things well.’
‘That’s not a very specific complaint. And the other students aren’t saying that.’
‘She also says that you haven’t given her sufficient attention when she’s come to see you.’
‘I can hardly answer that if you won’t tell me who it is. I don’t like this trial by anonymous complaint. If it is Angela Saunders then I have given her time. The same is true if it’s anybody else. I spend too much time, too much of my supposed research time, talking to students, giving them individual attention, holding their hand, giving them a slow-motion replay of the lecture that others don’t have the benefit of. It’s rarely the good, or the diligent, students who come to see their tutors. It’s mostly the not-so-good students who are neurotic about getting their 2:1. The ones who need someone else to wipe their bum for them.’
‘That answer doesn’t give me much confidence that you have an appropriate attitude towards the students. Remember that you are still on probation. There is no guarantee that you will get your permanent position, and these are relevant issues in deciding that matter.’
‘I can assure you that no students are getting the brush-off, and I give all who come sufficient time and energy. In fact, I put a lot more time and energy into those students than many of the other lecturers, from what I’ve heard. Including you. I’ve had students complaining that you are impossible to get hold of. And Adelaide, unless you’re one of the sisterhood’s proteges. Is this something we should discuss? Panos is always on the Continent. Derek just ignores the students, unless they’re attractive young ladies.
‘I’ll have to ask you not to fling around irrelevant accusations in this formal context.’
‘A written complaint has been made against you. While this is not an inquiry, I am asking in my official capacity as Head for your view of the matter.’
‘As I have already said, if I am not given the name of this student, or the details of the accusation, then it’s hard for me to answer, but I assure you again that I have performed my duties correctly and diligently. I’m not joking about the students complaining about other lecturers, including you. If student complaints are to be taken seriously, why aren’t they being taken seriously?’
‘All complaints are taken seriously, but written complaints are considered more serious. You have received a written complaint. Anyone else who receives a written complaint is treated in the same way.’
‘But you won’t let me see the letter, and you’ve failed to give me anything concrete, so I don’t see what more I can do other than give you my word that I’m doing a good job. Does the student have a history of making complaints?’
‘I can’t reveal that, and it’s not germane to to the matter at hand.’
‘It may be very germane if she does this a lot. I’m being accused of something vague, by an unknown person, who may or may not be a nuisance complainer with personal issues. What more do you want me to say other than the assurances I’ve given you?’
Robot looks at his watch. He appears to have lost patience.
‘Thank you for those assurances, Dr Christopher. That will be all. For now.’