Tuesday, 5 October 2010

October Book Group

This is it. We've finally waded through Joyce's Ulysses. We meet on Sunday 10th October at The Known World Bookshop in Sturt Street for a 2pm start on the last section of Ulysses. With any (Irish) luck the coffee machine will be fixed.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Virginia Woolf: The Patterns of Everyday Experience

Staff, students, and interested public are invited to the book launch of Lorraine Sim's Virginia Woolf: The Patterns of Everyday Experience (2010). Published by Ashgate.

Where: Ballarat Books, 15 Armstrong Street
When: 5:30pm on Thursday 9th September 2010

Book cover: "In her timely contribution to revisionist approaches in modernist studies, Lorraine Sim offers a reading of Virginia Woolf's conception of ordinary experience as revealed in her fiction and nonfiction. Contending that Woolf's representations of everyday life both acknowledge and provide a challenge to characterizations of daily life as mundane, Sim shows how Woolf explores the potential of everyday experience as a site of personal meaning, social understanding, and ethical value. Sim's argument develops through readings of Woolf's literary representations of a subject's engagement with ordinary things like a mark on the wall, a table, or colour; Woolf's accounts of experiences that are both common and extraordinary such as physical pain or epiphanic 'moments of being'; and Woolf's analysis of the effect of new technologies, for example, motor-cars and the cinema, on contemporary understandings of the external world. Throughout, Sim places Woolf's views in the context of the philosophical and lay accounts of ordinary experience that dominated the cultural thought of her time. These include British Empiricism, Romanticism, Platonic thought and Post-Impressionism.

In addition to drawing on the major novels, particularly The Voyage Out, Mrs. Dalloway, and To the Lighthouse, Sim focuses close attention on short stories such as 'The Mark on the Wall', 'Solid Objects', and 'Blue & Green'; nonfiction works, including 'On Being Ill', 'Evening over Sussex: Reflections in a Motor-car', and 'A Sketch of the Past'; and Woolf's diaries. Sim concludes with an account of Woolf's ontology of the ordinary, which illuminates the role of the everyday in Woolf's ethics."

Lorraine Sim is a Lecturer in Literature and Film at the University of Ballarat.

September Book Group

The book group will meet at our usual haunt, The Known World Bookshop in Sturt Street, for another session on James Joyce's Ulysses. We're almost there folks! Just another session or two and we'll be able to move on to lighter readings (The Brothers Karamazov :-) ?). We commence at 2:00pm so nip in early for your pot of tea.

David Suzuki returns to Ballarat to give a public talk on his new book The Legacy and his Legacy Project. I was lucky enough to catch him at UB a couple of years ago and found him to be both inspiring and sobering with regards to environmental ethics and activism. I think Ballarat is most fortunate to have another such opportunity.

From the promo: "Based on the premise - 'If I had one last lecture to give, what would I say?' -The Legacy presents a critical and candid exploration of a period of human history which includes David Suzuki's own life journey - an era which has overlapped and converged with many of the most important social, scientific, cultural and political developments of the past seventy years. His focus also acknowledges the wisdom of his grandparents and moves forward through to the promise held in the birth of his new grandson."

Held at the Wendouree Performing Arts Theatre
Sunday 17 October 2010
Please book following the link here.

Here is the link to the David Suzuki Legacy Project

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Open Day 2010

Yes its that time of year again when staff spruik their courses for the public on Open Day. The School of Behavioural and Social Sciences and Humanities (BSSH) information booths will be located on level 2 of the T building (above glam ITMS with their cool VR lab).

Chipper staff will be on hand to answer all manner of questions including the ever popular "what job can my kid get with philosophy?", "why should my [insert name here] know stuff about other cultures and ways of doing things?", even the oddball, "No, you can't do philosophy [bleated at young adult within earshot of a number of people], the priest at school said not to!".

Here's a link to the Program of Events across the University's campuses. Please do come along and have a chat about the possibility of studying what we think are a range of interesting, informative and frankly, life-changing courses. Our School offers a wide variety of programs and courses and can a number of entry paths into university study (be sure to ask about the FAST Program).

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Thinking Philosophically with Plato

Session four in the Thinking Philosophically with Plato series was concerned with the ideas of 'Citizenship and Disobedience' and focused on Plao's 'Crito'. As this was the last session in this particular series run by Jane Mummery for the U3A Hepburn Shire, we finished up with dinner at Franco's in Vincent Street, Daylesford. Vying for position next to the pizza oven (it was 2 degrees outside), it was a great way to end this short jaunt with the gadfly.

Wednesday, 2 June 2010

What is a philosopher?

A recent New York Times (16 May 2010) opinion(ator) piece by English philosopher Simon Critchley of The New School suggests that philosophers are indeed curious creatures of academe. Critchley grazes lovingly over the curious assortment of philosophers such as Thales who fell into a hole whilst gazing at the stars, the gadfly Socrates who reportedly had a face only a mother could love, the philosopher as buffoon or eccentric, as one one who spends years returning to the same topic or moves in and around a topic based on fascination, curiosity or perplexity. These characters and more are set out in this reassessment of an ancient art - the first in a series of writings by contemporary philosophers to be published by The New York Times.

A highly amusing piece, as is Critchley's The Book of Dead Philosophers. Find the rest of the series at The Stone.

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Thinking Philosophically with U3A Hepburn Shire

'Living the Good Life' was the theme of this week's meeting of the Thinking Philosophically with Plato series delivered by Jane Mummery for the U3A Hepburn Shire in Daylesford. Participants read and responded to selections from 'Gorgias' (468e-479e) and The Republic.

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Australia Koala Foundation

The Philosophy programme is honoured to have Rolf Schlagloth present a guest lecture on Wildlife Management at 8:30am on May 21 in T127 for the undergraduate course PHILO1004 Practical Ethics. Rolf is the Victorian liaison officer for the Australia Koala Foundation as well as a member of the University's Animal Ethics Committee (along with Jane Mummery). In addition to his duties at the Foundation, Rolf has studied at the University of Bonn and the University of Ballarat, and is a member of the DPI's Animal & Small Institution AEC, the Bureau of Animal Welfare. Rolf's guest lecture on wildlife management and conservation is not to be missed. All staff and students are invited to attend. Here is a link to the United Nations Official Video for The International Year of Biodiversity 2010.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

Thinking Philosophically with Plato & U3A Hepburn Shire

The second seminar in the Thinking Philosophically with Plato series had the U3A mob engaged with the topic of 'Thinking without Illusions', which was no small feat given the chilliness of the evening's weather. A combination of woolens, coffee, hot chocolate or the pressed grape gave strength to the small group who braved the elements in the beautiful Daylesford Town Hall on May 11. Using selections from Meno and Phaedo (65b-77a), discussion gravitated around the possibility and implications of virtue et al, being taught or innate. We were undecided if Plato's metaphysical doctrine of recollection solved Meno's paradox or whether the Forms really offered a useful way to think about the Ideal and the practical. Jane held the audience captive with classical conundrums whilst Marnie took photos of members in various stages of winter-woolen undress.

Wednesday, 12 May 2010

VC's Mid-Year Report

The VC's Mid Year Report at the Mt Helen campus on May 12 was well attended by staff (to his surprise). However, it comes as no surprise to staff that UB is continuing to experience financial troubles given a range of factors (GFC, significant drop in International Students). In addition to the 54 million dollar deficit of this year, the University can expect to carry a deficit of up to 68 million dollars in the next financial year.

In the wake of the Auditor-General's assessment of the University, the VC has proposed a number of initiatives to combat the current difficulties being experienced, including that staff switch off lights and not using heaters (that went down well!). Of the initiatives proposed, the two stand outs seem to be the establishment of the UB Foundation and voluntary redundancies.

The Foundation, as I understand it, will be set up to strengthen the links between the University and the wider community, and specific individuals. The idea is to garner financial support in the form of establishing benefactors and scholarships. The other initiative that many staff anticipated are voluntary redundancies. While the VC did his best to carefully qualify the voluntary aspect of this new workforce initiative, the immediacy of the timeline for the process really alerted attendees to the importance (desperation?) of this particular initiative to senior management and the well-being of UB.

The Workforce Initiatives page at HR which includes a short video presentation of the VC's address. Only available via UB's intranet.

Recent VC's Blog entries related to this post: 'Hard Times' (April 29); 'Structural Adjustment for UB' (3 May); 'Establishing a Foundation for UB' (24 May). Only available via UB's intranet.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

June Book Group

The June Book Group will meet at The Known World Bookshop on Sturt Street at 2:00pm on June 13 and plough onwards through Joyce's Ulysses. In the older Penguin edition (black cover) we read from pp. 425 -532. In the newer Penguin edition we read from pp. 561-703. As the chilly weather descends why not arrive early and peruse the shelves of the bookshop before ordering a warm beverage?

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Philosophy Series at U3A Hepburn Shire

Jane Mummery is running a series of philosophy seminars for the U3A Hepburn Shire from April through to June. The series is called 'Thinking Philosophically with Plato'. The inaugural seminar was held on April 20 and looked at 'Living the Examined Life'. Aided by her trusty philosophical side-kick Marnie Nolton, a lively discussion of Plato's Apology ensued between the twenty-or-so participants of the evening seminar series.

Jane Mummery describes the structured series of classes as a sequence that examines some of the most fundamental philosophical teachings of Plato, one of the founders of the western philosophical tradition. In consultation with U3A Hepburn Shire, the series specifically examines Plato's relationship with his predecessor and chosen protagonist of his dialogues, Socrates, via an investigation of philosophical thinking, and what it means to live well in the world.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010

Fighting Proposed Programme Closure(s)

We are under the general impression that the closing down of programmes of study in universities is a consequence of drastic budget cuts. Typically, we hear of smaller programmes being cut or pressured into performing in a particular strategic way. You know the story, it hovers over us here in BBSH in various incarnations. Try this programme cut for size: Middlesex University is trying to cut its philosophy programme. Let me try that again for anyone not involved in the humanities and social sciences. Middlesex is trying to drop its highly successful and internationally renown philosophy programme even though undergraduate and postgraduate enrollments are high and research output by both postgraduate and tenured staff is also high.

Such a cut has little to do with some of the positions that are usually forwarded for the threatened closure of programmes of study. Ordinarily it falls to reduced enrollments, lack of industry partner financial support, or the like. But like false reductive arguments everywhere, there are always more options than what are presented by senior management. Indeed, we often box ourselves into false dichotomies when we face pressures from 'strategic enhancing mechanisms designed to align our school priorities with university/sector-wide optimisation delivery systems to value-add to our customer base and play nice with the ARC mob'. Yes, I made that stuff up, just like any other good exponent of weasel words would.

The logic inherent in cutting a small program is just as faulty as the logic seeking to cut out a large and prestigious one. Perhaps a closer look is needed at the skills fostered by the discipline itself rather than the generation of dollars. I fail to see how a programme should be cut because of numbers. I'm not sure who lost that memo about quality vs quantity but if you look a little more closely at both school and university policies on graduate attributes and the obligations we have as a HE institution, then the argument from quantity is a weak one, even under our current business model approach to HE.

But back to the shenanigans at Middlesex. Management at Middlesex are closing down all programmes in philosophy including the internationally renown MA and PhD degrees. This will also mean the closure of the Centre for Research in European Philosophy which is the highest ranking RAE department at the university. If you would like to find out more about this proposed closure and lend a pen to put an end to the proposal for closure of philosophy at Middlesex, please follow the links below. Scroll down the Save Middlesex Philosophy link to 'Write to protest against the closure decision'. Close to 12,000 have signed the petition and they have a Facebook page too, with members numbering at 9,500 as of this posting.

This is no time to be complacent or to think that Middlesex UK has little to do with Ballarat Australia. Signing online petitions and demonstrating in an articulate and respectful manner can effect changes. Just two years ago I was involved in the petitioning to save the biblical studies programme at the University of Sheffield - a department at the forefront of progressive and critical engagements in biblical studies, with strong undergraduate and postgraduate programmes of study, big-name draw card academics and stellar research outputs. The petitioning saved the department. Whilst it is not always appropriate to comment on these matters in a public forum (re matters of policy and confidentiality), it is always prudent to be aware of changes in HE overseas, and to respond to them. Here's hoping others might come to our aid and lift their pens when we rally against the closure of programmes of study, large or small.

Times Higher Education article on the proposed Middlesex closure May 1, and the student protest on May 5. Find out more about the Save Middlesex Philosophy project here.

Friday, 30 April 2010

Ballarat title has noses out of joint

The University of Ballarat featured in the Higher Education section of The Australian on April 21, 2010 over a current hot potato, academic titles. Assoc. Prof. Jeremy Smith (from our School and champion of the NTEU), is concerned that gifting TAFE heads with the academic title of Assoc. Pro dimishes the pursuit of the academic pathway. VC Prof. David Battersby responded by stating that "it is unclear to me how any of these actions diminishes the the importance of the associate professor title".

Prof. Battersby has also responded to this issue in his VC's Blog. The entry is titled 'The Role of the Head of School' (April 21, 2010). It's certainly worth reading in conjunction with the Higher Ed story, as Battersby takes the time to unpack Senior Management's rationale for such a move - an opportunity he doesn't get in the Higher Ed. Having said that, Jeremy Smith's points amount to little but a soundbite and I wonder if this issue will be followed up by the Higher Ed community.

I've tried to link in with the VC's Blog previously, but as it is strictly an internal access blog, I am unable to place it in the right hand coloumn of Noteworthy Blogs in BSSH Bloggers (which is an external blogger site). I suggest people book mark it in their favourites to keep abreat of developments at UB. Meanwhile, here's the link to the piece in the Higher Ed: