The Letter

                                                                                    Flat 1

                                                                                    111 Upper Tulse Hill

                                                                                    London SW2 2RD

                                                                                    1st July 2006.

Dear X and Y,

                                    Thank you both for taking the time to speak with me yesterday. I can only see one way forward from here and therefore it is with regret that I resign my Lectureship. So as to minimise the disruption to the Department I suggest that this resignation is effective from 30th December 2006. In the meantime I ask that I be relieved of my duties as Senior Tutor and Admissions Tutor effective 30th September 2006. To my thinking it is essential that someone is seen to be “in post” for these important Departmental functions for the new term. I will of course act as support for these during the Autumn term. It would seem sensible that I do not have any research project students, nor give a lecture course Chemical Kinetics that would be examined in January. It is a moot point as to whether I should continue with my tutor group. In the meantime I suggest that I continue to function as I have been doing. However, I need a holiday and I need it badly. I propose that I take one months annual leave week commencing 17th July.

There are of course a number of other major responsibilities not least of these is S the joint Ph.D. student of Z and I. I will have to think carefully about how best to deal with this. Also pendant is the unspoken assumption that I will direct a Joint Doctoral Centres Training course March / April next year. If I am no longer employed at College I would need financial recompense for work towards such a course. Until one has organised and managed such an event it is difficult to imagine just how much work goes into these. On Monday I travel to Scotland with B, to scout venues for a DTC course for the Scottish DTCs  and there is the pending Decision Making Course in collaboration with GSK. This course has not proceeded beyond the initial genesis of ideas and would probably require a good few week’s work. It is possible that UK GRAD would fund some of this work subject to transfer of IP to them.

Please don’t get me wrong. I am very grateful for what the Department has done for me and I can count very good working relationships with a number of people as highlights of my time at College. I have a great deal of respect for the both of you and have thoroughly enjoyed working with you. Also it has been a very real pleasure working with P and Q.

I feel that I need to offer some explanation of my processes as to how I got to here, so that you don’t feel that I am being rash.

I don’t know if you remember but in the late nineties I had what is termed, by those in the trade, a breakdown or depressive illness. I doubt whether anyone was aware of the severity of this as I am not prone to telling people my business, suffice it to say this episode was severe and lasted a number of years. Whilst still quite ill I helped found Powerlase. I personally see it as a major achievement to have raised £5milion when to all intents and purposes I was unwell. This type of illness/episode can be discussed and categorised in many ways. Personally I see them as a deep seated desire to change, a process of grieving as a way of living or being, ceases to be tenable and there is a sort of death of the old personality. When people return from a breakdown they are never the same. Needless to say I am now very wary and watch myself like a hawk. It is not an experience that I wish to repeat.

           At a deep philosophical level I have very deep reservations about the academic process, more specifically about how science and research infrastructure is. This is typified by the measures of esteem required by the RAE. Viewed from one angle esteem can be seen as measure of networking skill and ability in what is essentially a political power play. It is not necessarily what you do; rather how effective you are at making connections. That in itself is not bad, yet inherent in it are a number of very real systemic weaknesses. The system encourages self advancement and self centred behaviour. It plays directly into peoples insecurities, which for many, were the initial drivers for entry into a research profession. My own deep philosophical problems stem further back and into the nature of what is held to be science itself. Viewed from one angle physical science can be seen as a cold and austere practise. Where thought processes or models are developed to account for and describe phenomena in the material world. These models are then adapted, defended and extended. This representation of information and knowledge becomes the “truth”. It remains rather ironic that nature does not care what models we try to fit to it. Scientific models if spoken or written down frequently then pass via various means into the collective consciousness of the planet. They are then defended with all the religious zeal of a born again Christian. There is comfort in knowing that a given interpretation of the world is widely held and supported by the group mind.  I am confident that this process has benefited humanity to a very large extent. There have also been some rather noticeable failures in this area. Viewed from yet another angle science as we know it today is really technology. Despite how much we try to pretend otherwise, the frontier of human knowledge of matter remains close to tomorrow’s products. Our political Lords and masters who set the science agenda whilst talking of Blue Skies, encourage sequential-ism, if I can coin such a strange phrase. In a nut shell science is about creating mental constructs that describe matter. These mental constructs (models) are the bread and butter of a scientist and are advanced through experimentation to check both their veracity and the universality of their application.

To me this is cold and clinical, yet possesses its own austere beauty. It is not warm and alive, it has no veins pumping full with the blood of life. There needs to be jam too.

Human endeavour, being as it is, has extended the knowledge base beyond the capabilities of a single individual understanding everything. The days of the renaissance man have passed. Yet if one looks carefully there is a groundswell of high functioning individuals trying once again to reunite the spheres of human activity. The separativeness of over specialisation is everywhere on the retreat and there is much talk of interfaces. The days of a man in a shed revolutionising human knowledge have now gone. Humans must learn to work together.

My own personal journey is leading me ever more into the science of man. How man can be given the tools to work with each other.

As I mentioned above I was very ill for a while. The result of this is that I now have an over developed sense of empathy for people who are unhappy and unwell. Whilst on the one hand this has enabled me to relate very effectively and quickly with our less well students, it comes at a very high personal cost. I can detach from it but the emotional impact remains very high. As I have discussed with you I have the feeling of cleaning up messes, perhaps created by familial problems, sometimes by colleagues. I am tired of this. What motivates me is to inspire rather than repair. I cannot do this when I am emotionally drained. Q described it very well when she said that the students can suck you dry. Although what I offer is anecdotal as an evidence base, the incoming students have such high levels of performance anxiety these days. I cannot remember my own cohort being anywhere near as edgy. It is as if their whole being depends upon exam success. They can only self value in this way. This is a situation that is not tenable for future generations. I do not want to be a prophet of doom, but watch this space. Do not we as a generation that had things relatively easy, have a duty to change this?

In the context of a large Institution, which has to it elements of theatre, where each cog in the machine is expected to play out a function and a role, I find myself increasingly constrained and at odds with the system. I feel, whether real or imagined, that I have to conform to what is expected of me. As an independent thinker who has entrepreneurial drive, this causes me immense frustration. I feel unable to talk about the things that interest me and excite me because they are at odds with the scientific orthodoxy. Sooner or later I will, in behaving according to my predilection, find myself at very real risk of being hounded by the institution I serve. There are things that I want to do and say that are inconsistent with my perception of my current role. I remember L.

As you may be aware I have been experimenting with poetry and web based publication of same. During the last couple of years I have written some 300 poems. Some of these were published on the internet and the online reviews that I received (~450) were very largely positive. Because of the nature of the subject matter, which is usually about consciousness, spirituality and the deeper aspects of meditative practice I will find myself in conflict with the institutional mission of a Science, Technology and Medicine College. Whilst I remain an employee I will be a potential source of embarrassment for the College and I have no wish to do this. Similarly whilst engaged fully in the minutiae of administration and the day to day drama of student care, I do not have the time, energy and capacity to let the creative process run free. It is difficult to explain, but when one opens oneself up to let things flow out, it takes time to re-ground. I cannot afford to do this if I have to be sensible and “together” for the students.

On a more personal note, I have relatively few responsibilities, I live alone and my daughter is cared for by her mother. Currently I have no paid employment to go into . I do have a mortgage and maintenance payments. The later are on a percentage of income basis. If you are happy to extend the notice period to six months(as above) it will give me a greater chance to sell my flat and materialise some paid work, it will also enable my ex-wife to put in place some sensible financial planning in the anticipation of a low or near zero income early in 2007. As I mentioned I have been in paid full time employment since 1989. I have never had a break, often times having more than one job at a time, viz Powerlase and College. It is difficult to explain, yet whilst there is a great deal of unknown in all this, the idea of just having one or two months to myself, for once in my life, is strangely attractive. I don’t want to do a Reggie Perrin rather to discuss things in an open way, before the need to do a “Reggie” gets very strong.

When I came to College all those years ago there was no big do, no fuss, no palaver. I hope that I can leave in the same way. Just to quietly fade away into the distance. I would ask that you respect my wishes in this as any form of a leaving do would be a great embarrassment to me. As the time comes I will make my own farewells, quietly, discreetly and on a one to one basis.

During my time as Senior Tutor I have tried to offer a bespoke service as befits my surname and it has perhaps been characterised as a person centred approach and as such true to my predilection. Perhaps if I have had a weakness in this it is that I care too much. I need to move on and seek fresh fields where I can express myself more freely.

I hope that I have managed, in this, to convey some of my processes in such a way that you can get a feel of where I am coming from. To be quite honest, there is more than I currently have words for.

And perhaps to end this letter I can share with you a quotation from one of my favourite authors; Kahlil Gibran and in its sharing show a side of me that needs further expressed.

“ Too many fragments of the spirit have I scattered in these streets, and too many are the children of my longing that walk naked  amongst these hills, and I cannot withdraw from them without a burden and an ache. It is not a garment that I cast off this day, but a skin that I tear with my own hands.”

Thank you once again for listening to me.

With my very best wishes,

Alan