Wednesday 22 November 2017

Ruth Dudley Edwards: A university must never be a factory

Academics may be difficult or eccentric but good ones must be cherished, says Ruth Dudley Edwards

LAST week, it emerged that Dr Frederic Royall, 53, -- who during a University of Limerick friendly soccer match had punched electronics engineer Dr Hooman Reyhani, 43, in the face, causing him to fall and fracture his leg -- had paid €100,000 in a civil settlement. Legal costs were €45,000 and medical expenses €30,000; the crippled Reyhani is left with only €25,000 and says he'd rather have had €100 and a proper apology.

Sorry though I am for the unfortunate Reyhani, I laughed when I saw the assailant who hadn't known how to apologise was the head of UL's School of Languages, Literature, Culture and Communication. No surprises there: however cultivated, the generality of academics are poor communicators -- especially with each other. (This, of course, doesn't apply to those academics who are among my best friends.)

I grew up in an academic household: my father was a history professor in University College Dublin. Over the kitchen table, I learned of rows, plots and conspiracies not just in UCD, but in every other Irish university. As a student, I cared passionately about who would get the chair of this and that, and I became a post-graduate in Cambridge to ready myself for an academic career. It was when I found the dons there made the shenanigans in UCD seem as innocent as Winnie the Pooh and Piglet playing in the Hundred Acre Wood that I fled to the real world.

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