Graduation 5

The Blog fell silent these last four days because I have been at Dundee University for graduation, in my capacity as Rector. Graduation is done very pleasantly at Dundee, with each new graduate walking up individually to be touched on the head by the Chancellor with a ceremonial bonnet, to general applause plus whoops from their family and friends. Even though I haven’t been in office long enough to get to know many of this year’s graduates, I have to say it brought a lump to my throat on several occasions.

The University is now so large that this takes six ceremonies, each for about seven hundred new graduates. We finished five last week, the new doctors graduating next month, and I must confess I felt a bit weary after applauding three and a half thousand individuals over three days. With two ceremonies per day, interspersed by a formal lunch, and followed by a garden party then a formal dinner, I hope you will understand why I didn’t find time to blog.

I return to find a letter from the Council of the University of Lancaster offering me an appointment as an Honorary Research Fellow in their School of Law, which is most kind of them. They have one of the UK’s three leading Human Rights Centres. I need to give some thought to how I might fit this in, in a way which would make a useful contribution to the University. Then at lunchtime I have to leave to give a lecture in Geneva tomorrow.

I feel increasingly “in from the cold”, I suspect because those who think now almost universally acknowledge that the War in Iraq and the so-called War on Terror are indeed both a disaster, and I was telling the truth back in 2002 about torture. Now all I have to do is work out how to make a living!

5 thoughts on “Graduation

  • Esquilinian

    Your dedication is appreciated, I'm sure. I've just come across this blog and it's a very welcome addition from this student's perspective, particularly as the university doesn't really have a serious newspaper any longer (I've heard a few legends that it was once a bit of a hotbed of radical journalism). I won't pretend to agree with some of your politics, but it's nice to have an active rector again.

    I believe it's tradition in the rectorial address to say something nice about the previous office holder… I imagine that might present quite a challenge considering…

  • nextus

    I attended a graduation event, and I have to say Craig looks dapper in a ceremonial kilt.

    I second Esquilinian's sentiments. Craig's appointment is a welcome boost for student democracy. Recent celebrity rectors considered themselves PR figureheads whose allegiances were primarily to the university's corporate image, eclipsing the rector's actual job of representing the interests of the students. Thankfully, I think Craig may start to redress the balance.

    The reputation for radical student journalism at Dundee Uni was established by David Shayler, one-time editor of the student publication 'Annasach' (Gaelic for "unconventional"). In 1988, he caused a scandal by publishing extracts from Peter Wright's 'Spycatcher', a book banned in the UK under the Official Secrets Act for revealing details of M15 operations. Shayler later became an MI5 agent himself and was prosecuted for whistleblowing under the same act. (Incidentally, Shayler stood for the post of rector in 2004, but lost to Lorraine Kelly.) Over the next few years, Annasach was progressively muffled by the DUSA publications board, who later assimilated the more subversive Year Zero fanzine and financially strangled the independent rival MacDougall. As the cartoonist for each, I witnessed the inexorable pressure that was being applied to stifle the independent student voice. This was only one facet of the progressive institutionalisation of DUSA in the 1990s. Annasach was later rebranded the 'Student Times', which by that stage consisted mostly of announcements from the Exec, together with stories and in-jokes for their small circle of friends. If there was still an independent student press, maybe there would be a chance to expose it. If students can build up interest and support, maybe there is still hope – but you must stay independent of the DUSA pubs board. Maybe Craig can lobby DUSA to establish an independent campus press: it's a cornerstone of student democracy.

  • Craig

    Esquilinian –

    I have given some very careful thought about what I will say about my predecessor. Actually both Lorraine Kelly and Fred Macaulay issued endorsements of my opponent Andy Nicol on election day. I think that peculiar departure from protocol relieves me of the need to be nice about them in discussing their merits at Installation – could be fun.

    I do hope we will get Dundee students joinig n on the blog – if they don't agree with my politics, that's even better!

    As someone who wrote for Annasach over seven years (under the pseudonym J S Mill) I agree entirely about the great loss of its demise. A student paper must be lively, scurrilous and free to be critical of whoever it wants, including DUSA.

    What has happened to DUSA is beyond comprehemsion. It no longer represents a students union at all, and is under the control of a board of management of local businessmen. Political campaigning – leaflets, posters, etc – are banned. Really very, very, strange.

    But we can change all that.

    Although his politics are different again, I actually have quite high hopes of the new DUSA President, Milan Bogunovic, (sorry, probably spelt that wrong) who is an instinctive activist with his own mind.

  • Craig


    I would just add that David Shayler was continuing a radical journalistic tradition on Annasach dating back to the 60's – and David would be the first to say that. Annasach had many journalistic scoops, and bred a good many future national journalists.

  • blues

    Hi Craig, I happen to be graduating from Dundee this year, with a Politics/ International Relations degree of arguable worth! On the topic of DUSA, I don't have any previous experiences to compare its current composition, but I can say that most students probably don't feel connected to it in any way, nevertheless, all is well enough! See you at graduation!

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