Which side are you on, Portsmouth?

Posted: 01/11/2013 in Miscellaneous, News & Analysis
Tags: , , , ,

Following on from the last post on why workers and students should strike for higher education, I want to give the University of Portsmouth the short shrift it deserves for making its crowdfunding project’s most precarious worker crowdfund their own salary.

Which side are you on?

… or: fuck me, Portsmouth

On the day of the higher education strike, and in the bullshit language of the truly shameless, the University of Portsmouth announced that one lucky future employee would have ‘the chance to practice what they preach by crowd-funding their own salary‘. (They will be employed for two years and, if they can raise most or all of their own wages from public micro-donations, Portsmouth will not end their affiliation to the project for one more year.)

If you can ignore the idiocy of confusing an analyst of the practice of crowdfunding with a crowdfunder, and if you can ignore the idiocy of a funded research centre expecting its subjects to pay (some of) its staff’s wages (which suggests they really do urgently need an expert on crowdfunding), then it becomes a worrying precedent for research in general. After all, the lucky “professional” ‘will effectively be among the first to understand how the research landscape might change in the wake of crowd-funding’. But it is very difficult to get past such idiocy.

The injustice and illogic of the crowdfunded work clause

Universities have advertised ‘non-stipendiary [unwaged]’ lectureships and non-stipendiary junior/senior/etc. research associateships and fellowships before (and continue to do so). However, it has always been on the understanding that, once the lecturer/researcher had “won” the competition for the place, it was irrelevant how they paid for the university to let them work for it.

At Portsmouth, the fellow could do excellent research, and they could support themselves by doing harrowing care work or backbreaking night-shift factory work, but Portsmouth would still withdraw their fellowship.

The principal investigator on the project, economist Dr. Joe Cox (@DrJCox), explained that they ‘want to know more about the sort of research projects that inspire people to open their wallets and donate’. Perhaps not projects that receive £750,000 of public money then ask the public to temporarily extend the contract of their most precarious worker for the sake of proving that it’s possible?

‘Do people tend to give more to imaginative projects or those with greater levels of scientific rigour? If so, what are the implications for a whole range of subjects and projects?’ Would the research fellow’s success or their failure answer either of those questions? As learning technologist Helen Whitehead concluded, ‘lol‘.


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