Edwin Phillips listens in as contentious Pro Vice-Chancellor of controversial Swansea University, Hilary Lappin-Scott (HL-S), returns to Skype a bemused male colleague (C) about her latest travels abroad and the effects of her OBE, after enraging staff with tweets from around the world, being a senior figure at an institution where a convicted fraudster exposed by The Eye was employed on a contract, and which hit the headlines over previous people in charge of its management school.
HL-S: (With certainty) here I am in Leipzig which is in East Germany. I have been on so many trips that I just have not had the time to keep you up to date with developments.
C (on Skype): Um?
HL-S: I am in Leipzig which is in East Germany attending a conference.
C: Er, don’t you just mean Germany?
HL-S: (Laughing) what? Have you not heard about all the soldiers at the Berlin Wall and Checkpoint Charlie?!
C: (Sighing) I am told you know something about microbiology, and that history is not one of your many specialist areas of knowledge, but there are limits to your credibility. You might be interested to know that Germany was reunified in 1990.
HL-S: (Coughs) er, well, that is good news … and it is of course (more brightly) even better news for them that I am here to give one of the presentations.
C: Tell me about that in a moment but first (sarcastically) have you done anything useful in the last couple of months?
HL-S: (Not noticing sarcasm) I have written another blog. It really is path-finding material and reinforces my position as a global academic superstar.
C: (Sarcastically again) so it is about some new life-changing discovery in the world of microbiology is it?
HL-S: No, it is far, far more important than that. (Staring at fingernails) the blog is all about how to get the most out of attending conferences.
It’s business for me. I describe, for instance, how to successfully network and make friends.
I’ll send you the link. I know everybody will want to read it and appreciate how wonderful and insightful it is: http://disruptivesteminist.co.uk/science-conference-season/
C: Call me stupid but might that just be all about meeting people? For example, you approach people, introduce yourself with: “Hello. I am Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University” and then you discuss research topics of mutual interest.
HL-S: How silly you are!
You have made the most basic of mistakes. First, one says “Hello. I am Professor Hilary Lappin-Scott, Holder of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Senior Pro Vice-Chancellor, Swansea University”.
At that point, most people who are lucky enough to meet me will either be overcome by my presence or will bow and shake my hand (but only if, of course, I decide to offer it which was a little tip I picked up from our esteemed Royal family). Second, I only want to meet female senior academics.
HL-S: (Coughing again) because we all know that females are oppressed and are kept back from achieving their rightful place at the very top of their respective organisations. Senior female academics from UK universities will be aware of the problem of ineffectual males holding the position of Vice-Chancellor who are way past their sell by dates.
By meeting my academic sisters (albeit usually those at a less-elevated cerebral level), this networking effectively allows me to canvass my promotion prospects, not forgetting the chance of getting a CBE or something even better.
But I am particularly interested in meeting up with high-level female academics from overseas universities.
C: (Sighing once more) what have they done to deserve that?
HL-S: Everybody knows that I have some recycled PowerPoint slides about gender and equality. Female academics from overseas universities are obviously keen to have somebody as eminent as I am (have I mentioned my OBE?) to come to talk about gender and promotion.
Everybody wins … I get business class flights and a free holiday and present the same seminar a couple of times; and the local female academics bask in the reflected glory of knowing me, and even being able to invite yours truly to their country.
I understand that Australia is still reeling from my pioneering visit. Canada (among other countries) might be fortunate enough to enjoy a visit from me in 2019.
C: What do the other members of Swansea University’s Senior Management Team (SMT) and members of the University Council think about all of these foreign junkets?
HL-S: (Laughing again) do you imagine the members of the SMT have the courage even to raise the issue? And don’t bother worrying about the Council members. I have a cunning plan – they are either lucky enough to be friends with me or are kept totally in the dark.
C: (Sighing repeatedly now) so tell me, what is your Leipzig conference presentation all about?
HL-S: It’s about making the best use of conferences by meeting friends and networking.
C: (Thinking he has switched off Skype) just how does she continue to get away with it? I am giving up the will to live. Either that or I’m signing up for gender-transitioning.
HLS: I HEARD THAT!
Tomorrow – more problems for higher education in Wales with further revelations about the stress for staff.
Also on The Eye – Edwin Phillips reads an internal BBC email about why a former Chief Executive of Plaid Cymru has been appointed to a senior position in the organisation.