I’m smoking!

Hallo, my name is Nicola, and I’m a smoker. In fact, I am smoking right now, and when I have finished this column, I will read it back to myself while blowing smoke at the computer screen. With the hubris of the non-smoking brigade reaching hysterical proportions, I thought the whole issue of smoking should…Read more »

Violence against SA academics

So here is the question: why are university academics increasingly becoming targets of student violence? This weekend saw the tragic death by suicide of yet another South African academic, the University of Cape Town’s Dean of Health Sciences, Professor Bongani Mayosi, and UCT Vice Chancellor Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng directly linked student protests to his untimely…Read more »

The joys of academic tourism

Academic tourism is a well-known phenomenon in this world. In brief, it means the short days before and after academic conferences in strange countries around the world, which academics would never be able to afford by any other means. Mine is the fortune of being in Rome for a few days, en route to a…Read more »

Fleshing out free speech

Towards the end of last year, a man walked into a police station in Estcourt and said‚ “I’m tired of eating human flesh.” Arrests and international headlines followed, including allegations that hundreds of folk were engaged in light social cannibalism. The whole furore died down in a week or so, although the trial is still…Read more »

The Dangerous Academy

Not even Jo’Anna could give South African academics much hope at the moment. Four South African professors and colleagues have died within a month of each other already this year. One was gunned down in what appears to be a professional hit outside his home, and three passed away with the whisper of prematurity. The…Read more »

UKZN’s Old Main Building and the importance of the Humanities

Here’s a question: should all university courses that don’t directly guide students into a professional career be abandoned? This came up at an humanities meeting I attended recently, and all academics there, myself included, were suitably horrified. I’ve always believed that practical, career-orientated skills are essential, but if you can’t think critically about what you…Read more »

Thoughts on (private) schoolboy rugby

“You see! I sent you to the right school after all!” No doubt hundreds of parents say this each year, but this comment, heard this weekend, came after a narrow win by a first hockey side. The child to whom the remark was addressed, one assumes, initially wanted to attend our losing school, but the…Read more »

The commodification of education

Today is an auspicious one for my family. My eldest child is graduating with a cum laude Master’s degree. My youngest child has a 14 hour school day. And both these events feed directly into the concept of academic throughput, an issue which is foremost in the mind of nearly everyone involved in the current…Read more »

Spies in the newsroom

This new world – it’s another kind of revolution, I suppose. One damn revolution and another spurious revelation after another: you’d think we’d all be tired of them by now. The Beatles, around the time I was born, had the answer: “Well, you know, we all want to save the world”. Now I come to…Read more »