I’ve been putting off writing about what’s been on my mind for the past few days, partly because the matter was not (for a while) public knowledge, partly because I just didn’t know what to say, and partly because I don’t relish thinking hard about what’s to come. But since that was what I was thinking about, it was hard to come up with anything else to write about online.
So, here we go: as of January, Rich King, Yvonne Sherwood, and Ward Blanton are leaving Glasgow and relocating to the University of Kent. I’m very sad to see them go. Rich has been one of our very closest friends in Glasgow; right from his arrival, he and I have gotten along splendidly, and he and Margaret took to one another when she crossed the ocean. They’ve worked together on manuscripts and job applications,and Rich and Margaret and I have lots of congruent ideas about teaching, scholarship, popular culture, academic labour, politics, and films. He’s an outstanding scholar of Religious Studies — cheers to Kent for recognising him. And everyone loves Rich’s daughter Lila.
Yvonne and Ward have been supportive, welcoming, encouraging, and quite brilliant colleagues. Yvonne urged me to apply for this position, and firmly stood up for redressing my situation here vis-a-vis qualifications and academic rank. Ward, whom I didn’t know before I got here, has been a great neighbour, friend, and colleague as well. It’s a profound relief to work among colleagues who don’t think I’m daft, or dangerous, or dull-witted, and even though Yvonne and Ward take our congruent understandings of the BIble and hermeneutics in very different directions from those I do (at a recent meeting, Yvonne asked ‘Biblical theology — who does that anymore?’), I have tons of respect for the intellectual acuity of their research, and likewise I’ve never known them to question the soundness of my work.
And losing two professors and a senior lecturer all at once, just months before the REF rosters are finalised, after having already lost two other professors, and not knowing whether anybody else is on the verge of leaving — all of that makes for a disorienting week or so.
The good news about the aftermath (‘Our American Cousin really was a very good play, apart from the assassination’) is that it seems likely that we will be permitted at least two hires within the REF window, and probably one of them will be in biblical studies. The senior management has not made any gestures toward breaking up Theology/Religious Studies, and this will provide an occasion for stopping to regroup, reassess, and draw together based on the strengths that we have and that we aim to build toward. We who remain expressed determination to push ahead at our emergency meeting last week, and the school should save enough on salaries in the second half of the year that short-term staffing for course coverage shouldn’t be a problem — though we have yet to get that sorted in detail.
Rich and Yvonne and Ward certainly deserve the welcome that Kent wants to show them. I wish them every blessing in their new institutional home.
Meanwhile, I have work to do — not just processing the news and figuring out how it affects our students in biblical studies, but writing work, and editing, and planning for my own courses, admin and advising responsibilities, and super-snazzy grant proposals relative to my broad hermeneutical project. Letting go of this news may help loose the energies I need to take in hand all the responsibilities of the next few months, so that when the dust clears we can look around with new colleagues and see more clearly where we’re headed.
As the song says, ‘There’s no excuses, my friend — let’s push things forward’.