Now It Can Be Told

The University of Glasgow is undergoing a comprehensive academic reorganization; all the departments will be dissolved, and the various [now-called] Subject Areas will regroup into larger Schools. The ostensible rationale for this process mostly involves economies of scale, although some colleagues intimate that more sinister administrative priorities lurk behind that innocuous corporate façade. I regret the process; a few years ago, my appointment would have resided in a School of Divinity, then a Faculty of Divinity, then the Department of Theology and Religious Studies that I now inhabit. After those more glorious designations, a “Subject Area” sounds pretty shabby.
The reorg involved smaller departments such as ours finding larger departments that were willing to take us under their wing. Such negotiations involve politics, finances, personalities, rivalries, and every other sort of complexity, so it was a relief to learn that TRS would end up with the relatively congenial departments of English Literature, English Language and Scottish Literature. Give the strong literary interests of many TRS staff, this seems like a terrific match.
That much was decided a month or two ago; since then, though, we’ve been in a smouldering struggle to select an appropriate name for our newly-unified staff. One might think that “Humanities” would make a fitting label, but the History-based cluster grabbed that one first. “Letters” was mooted as one possibility, “Letters, Language, and Religion” as another, but nothing suited a preponderance of the decision-makers. Today, a final decision was announced: we will be a constituent of the School of Critical Studies, which suits me just fine.
I was talking to my across-the-hall office neighbour, and we decided the whole ludicrous drama should be written up in a David Lodge novel. That would make it easier to just laugh at the Sturm und Drang, rather than feeling vaguely apprehensive about what it all portends.

5 thoughts on “Now It Can Be Told

  1. But if it’s a David Lodge novel there also must be some romance/lust involved, IIRC? 🙂 Though it’s been a while since I did my Lodge-reading/hysterical laughing marathon and they’re all in storage right now, so I may be forgetting some . . .

  2. This sounds like a nice solution for the academics. The only problem is that all the disciplines in this kind of system tend to become rather invisible. If someone visits the university’s website and has a look at the list of Subject Areas, it is unlikely that when s/he sees “Critical Studies” that s/he will say “Ah, I bet they teach theology/religious studies!”

    I speak from personal experience. When my former Department of Classics, History and Religion became a discipline in the new super-School of Humanities (along with Archaeology, Philosophy, Peace Studies, Politics and a few others) a decision was made that the subject codes for all the Classics, History and Religion offerings would begin with HIST. I have no idea who made this decision or on what basis, but I am pleased to see that for 2010, Religous Studies subjects have gone back to having a RELS subject code.

  3. Until recently, I was teaching at Aberdeen, where a similar merger happened a few years ago and resulted in the formation of a School of Divinity, History, Philosophy (and Art History).

    The name’s a mouthful, but it’s a tribute to the outgoing principal at Aberdeen that he allegedly insisted that no super-department including “Divinity” should be re-branded as a School of “Humanities.”

    I’m normally given to bleak pessimism, but in my experience, this merger was largely a positive development. Divinity & RS grew in wisdom, stature and fear of the Lord &c (how much of that was attributable to the merger, I don’t know), but also seemed to be able to maintain a sense of itself within the larger School. It certainly did anything but harm the regard in which Divinity and RS were held externally.

    As a Church Historian, I enjoyed working more closely with the Historians, and I think similar working relationships flourished elsewhere in the School. I also enjoyed the fact that history students were able to take my classes without it becoming a squabble about the poaching of FTEs.

    I’m possibly offering you a pretty Polly-Anna-ish assessment. I had precious little involvement in the practicalities of the merger (which were probably similarly David Lodge-ian). You’d no doubt get varying opinions from others. Still, I’d recommend hitting up your Aberdonian colleagues up for a sense of how this might pan out.

    You may not need to feel apprehensive at all!

  4. The one thing you can be certain about reorganizations is that if you wait long enough another will come along to make the situation ‘even better’.

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