Punishing leakers at Bolton University

As a general principle I support all whistleblowers and freedom of speech – and my instinct is to believe that any institution that cannot cope with criticism and the rough and tumble of even personal acrimony has pretty wet leadership.

However, it is not my role here to support or condemn the sacking of Damien and Jenny Markey for allegedly leaking embarrassing stories about the University of Bolton’s vice chancellor Professor George Holmes.

I was drawn to this story by the statement issued by the university after the two people were dismissed – I gather they are appealing against the decision.

A University spokesman is quoted as saying: “The University is comfortable that procedures have been followed and as yet no appeal has been followed. The process is not connected with a staff member being a Trade Union official.”

Rarely can 20 or so words have broken so many of my rules on deceit, rules which are designed to spot occasions where there may be an attempt to evade stating the whole truth – the use of words that are technically accurate but taken as whole are evasive.

Look at some of the specific words.

The University – means the speaker is declining to say who in the university is comfortable – it clearly has to be one individual or a group of individuals.

Comfortable – what on earth does this word mean in this context. “Comfortable” can mean anything from full support to just about toleraying – it covers such as raange as to be totally meaningless.

Procedures have been followed – note the use of the passive which means the spokesperson doesn’t need to say who exactly is following procedures. And the word “procedure” is so vaccuous anyway as to carry no useful meaning.

The process is not connected – I suspect that it is impossible for a process to be connected with anything. At the very least this sentence is constructed with utter cotempt for the structures of the English language.

One final thought. We rightly expect our universities and those who represent them, to adhere to the most rigorous standards of intellectual argument and the way that argument is presented. Don’t those 20 words say everything you need to need to know about the values of the University of Bolton?

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