I seldom post a reference to somebody else’s article, but I do strongly recommend John O’Dowd in Bella Caledonia on the “Scottish Democratic Intellect”. Long term readers will know that the changing of universities effectively into corporations, and the destruction of the democratic ethos in their governance, is one of my greatest sorrows. Several of O’Dowd’s themes are mirrored in my own Rectorial Address at the University of Dundee. Do read it. It starts with a good deal of knockabout comedy, but then gets serious, which is precisely how life at University should progress.
The University of Dundee refused to place my Installation Address in the University Library, thus ironically proving my entire point. It still is not there, and nor are Murder in Samarkand, The Catholic Orangemen of Togo, nor Sikunder Burnes – all of which proves precisely the point I was making. Long term readers will also be aware that the University Senate, at the urging of the Administration, refused after a debate to give me the honorary Degree routinely given to all Rectors, on the grounds I was “insufficiently distinguished”. They gave Honorary Degrees to Lorraine Kelly and Fred Macaulay, my immediate predecessors, so the yardstick for “distinguished” is somewhat woolly. I think it must mean “acceptable to the Establishment”. I do not crave honours, having turned down a LVO, OBE and CVO from the Queen. But the snub from the university hurt me deeply as I devoted much of my life to it, having been both Rector and President of the students union (twice). I think it is the only one of dozens of snubs from the Establishment to this whistleblower that actually succeeded in hurting.
Finally, I recommend as still very relevant the paper I helped write with Robin McAlpine, Allyson Pollock and Adam Ramsay for the Jimmy Reid Foundation on The Democratic University. I am in fact very hopeful that there is sufficient understanding among Scottish intellectuals of what needs to be done after Independence to root out the neo-liberal model from our universities. In this as in so much else, Independence will not be enough if we do not use it to institute radical government.