Posted by: captainfalcon | January 28, 2010

Professor Shalom Lappin fired, doesn’t like it

I think that’s what this amounts to. A few thoughts, now that Lappin has lachrymated his personal troubles into the public eye.

1. We live in a wicked Universe. Lappin is being (more or less) unexpectedly fired from a job he’s both good at and, just eight months ago, had the option to leave for only marginally less green pastures. The heart bleeds.

2. It is not clear that King’s College – where Lappin works – is as wicked. It would be if it had assured Lappin, when he was considering taking a job elsewhere, that his position was secure. But, even on Lappin’s telling, it didn’t.

I spoke to my Head of Department, David Papineau, on several occasions, informing him of the offer and asking him if I was secure at Kings, in light of the announced budget cuts. He informed me that as far as he was concerned, my position was safe. I also spoke to Jan Palmorski, inquiring about possible conditions for early retirement in connection. When he indicated what these were likely to be, I told him that they did not meet my financial requirements, and I asked if either I or the Department were in danger of cuts. He said that we were not, although there would be a review of the School’s faculty

Lappin thinks, notwithstanding King’s being appropriately non-committal, it has acted wrongly:

I now find myself threatened with redundancy six years before scheduled retirement, with totally inadequate pension provisions, while at the height of my research career. This is grossly unfair, and violates statements often made by the Principal and other members of the administration to the effect that excellence in research is King’s priority. This threat is also a serious miscarriage of justice, given my level of productivity, and the fact that I was allowed to give up a very attractive offer on the basis of assurances that have turned out to be without foundation.

I imagine King’s College’s rejoinder is that, what with their budgetary problems, they have to get rid of somebody and, all things considered – comparative productivity (which, as a priority, maybe is accorded, not exclusive weight but more weight than), departmental activity, etc. – cutting Lappin is the best of all the (bad) alternatives.

3. No doubt King’s and Lappin could quibble ad nauseam over whether it actually is the best, but I’m sure the college’s position is reasonable enough that no discursive convergence would be forthcoming. (And, if the debate attracted rubberneckers, they would likewise be divided.)

4. So there’s something a little unseemly about Lappin’s open letter. It’s a personal gripe tarted-up to look as if it’s of universal concern (as any “serious miscarriage of justice” is). And the maudlin reactions coming out of what should be one of the more reflective parts of the blogosphere are a reminder that academics – despite their pretenses to impartiality – are not above clannishness.

Update:  The “Save Shalom Lappin” (or whatever) Facebook group is pretty over-the-top.  “A crime has been committed against the KCL Department of Philosophy by KCL big-wigs.” As I go to press, it is not clear whether fat-cats were also among the culprits. Either way, this is further evidence of the irritating impulse to universality among academics (and, to be fair, people generally – it’s just academics are most adept at overplaying the buzzwords). By implicating the “big wigs,” they take it from an in-house administrative fracas to full blown class warfare.  Notch it down, comrades, notch it down.

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Responses

  1. How in the world did you come across this?

  2. […] whined before – in a similar context – about the academician’s impulse to let his rhetoric get […]

  3. […] the Beautiful,” and contrasting it with fascism. We’ve commented on this attitude before; Robert Paul Wolff gives another example in his memoirs: Our second year together, Charlie very […]


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