the Irish for rights

University Reform would set a Dangerous Precedent!

Cambridge sunset, via Cambridge University websiteOn the process by which decisions are taken in the University, Intersecting Sets has this quote from Cornford’s sardonic Microcosmographia Academica (html | pdf):

No one can tell the difference between a Liberal Conservative Caucus and a Conservative Liberal one. There is nothing in the world more innocent than either. The most dare-devil action they ever take is to move for the appointment of a Syndicate ‘to consider what means, if any, can be discovered to prevent the Public Washing of Linen, and to report, if they can see straight, to the Non-placets.’ The result is the formation of an invertebrate body, which sits for two years, with growing discomfort, on the clothes-basket containing the linen. When the Syndicate is so stupefied that it has quite forgotten what it is sitting on, it issues three minority reports, of enormous bulk, on some different subject. The reports are referred by the Council to the Non-placets, and by the Non-placets to the wastepaper basket. This is called ‘reforming the University from within.’ (pp 6-7)

In a similar vein:

The Principle of the Dangerous Precedent is that you should not now do an admittedly right action for fear you, or your equally timid successors, should not have the courage to do right in some future case, which, ex hypothesi, is essentially different, but superficially resembles the present one. Every public action which is not customary, either is wrong, or, if it is right, is a dangerous precedent. It follows that nothing should ever be done for the first time. (pp 14-15)

That being the case, I wonder how Associate Degree’s 25 Predictions for the University of the Future are ever going to happen?

One Response to “University Reform would set a Dangerous Precedent!”

  1. Yes, I blogged on Cornford as well, about a year ago…:


    There’s still plenty in there that we can learn from today!

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Me in a hatHi there! Thanks for dropping by. I’m Eoin O’Dell, and this is my blog: Cearta.ie – the Irish for rights.

“Cearta” really is the Irish word for rights, so the title provides a good sense of the scope of this blog.

In general, I write here about private law, free speech, and cyber law; and, in particular, I write about Irish law and education policy.

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