Friday, April 20, 2012

Email to Richard Sanders. Unanswered.

Dear Professor Sanders,

As a mature student at Northampton preparing for a dissertation on postcolonial studies, I was most interested to read about the work that the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Enterprise and Governance has done with the Chinese Government.

I'm not sure if it's something I will be able to use in my dissertation yet, but I am particularly keen to find out what sort of ethical considerations a body like yours brings to bear on its dealings with a government colonising another country, as China is colonising Tibet.

As you will know hundreds of thousands of people have died as a result of the Chinese occupation of Tibet, including those who've taken the tragic decision to self-immolate - the exact number of these is not known, but most calculations put it at around 30 since 2008.

Does your centre address these issues with its Chinese partners? Are concerns passed to the appropriate bodies before British expertise is shared? Or are these issues considered outside of the remit of the CEEG?

I'd also be interested to know if money is made for the CEEG or for Northampton University as a result of its partnership with the Chinese.

I hope you will be able to give these questions your attention as I think they are genuinely important in our understanding of how colonialism takes root and perpetuates itself, especially in the absence of a stratum of the indigenous population co-operating with the occupying force, which is normally the case in these situations but appears to be largely absent in Tibet.

Thank you for your time.


Bruce Hodder.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

For Those Who Need To See It


Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Help That Never Came

Since the lecturers' union rep completely ignored my appeal to them for help re: the University stonewalling me on China, here's a slightly edited version of the email I sent him.

Dear       ,

I am a mature student (no. 10341251) at Northampton in the second year of an English degree. I have been advised to contact you about some concerns I have with regard to the university and its involvement with the Chinese Government.

In Tibet, approximately 30 people have self-immolated since 2009 to protest the continuing Chinese presence there; arrests and disappearances are commonplace; dissenters are sent for "re-education"; monks are made to denounce the Dalai Lama; the diminishing number of monasteries is subject to Government monitoring; Chinese citizens (Tibet is used as a population overspill for China) are paid to report on the activities of Tibetans; Chinese language textbooks are replacing Tibetan books in schoolrooms; and the rich natural resources are being scavenged by Chinese companies, ruining the livelihoods of indigenous people.There were unconfirmed reports of forced sterilization of young women too, when China was still attempting to establish a dominant population in the country.

Watching the situation deteriorate in Tibet has grieved me as a Buddhist and a human being for a long time. And one thing that gave me hope in the past year was the participation of the Borough Council in the "Shine a Light" ceremony in early March, when the Mayor attended a gathering of supporters of the Tibetan cause and helped raise the Tibetan flag at the Guildhall. I was present at that ceremony; and as the organizer correctly said, raising a Tibetan flag in Tibet would have got us all arrested.

The Chinese Embassy had tried to stop the ceremony from going ahead. When it did go ahead, with messages of support from the Dalai Lama and Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the Embassy formally complained about the presence of the Mayor.

A week later Minister Counsellor Zhou Xiaoming from the very same Embassy appeared by invitation at Northampton University to speak as part of "Engineering Week". Given the situation in Tibet, not to mention the dreadful abuses of human rights in China - which have been the subject of recent reports by the United Nations and the American Government, among others - I thought it was incredibly inappropriate, and morally rather repugnant, to invite Mr. Xiaoming to Northampton. So acting on the advice of the Student Union, I wrote to the Vice-Chancellor to express my serious concerns. If he didn't mind the Chinese Embassy trying to interfere with local democracy, I thought, he wouldn't object to one of his students using local democracy to raise objections about a visit by a Chinese Embassy representative to the uni.

Disappointingly, the Vice-Chancellor ignored my email completely. I wrote twice to the University's Facebook page after that, which was probably a rather impotent gesture, and I heard nothing at all from them either. In fact, my only recent communication from the university was an email inviting me to come and meet people from Graduates2China next week, which was so annoying I can't even begin to explain it.

I didn't expect the Vice-Chancellor to withdraw the invitation to Zhou Xiaoming on my say-so or for the university to change its apparent policy of engagement with China. I presume there would be financial implications to a decision of that sort. But the uni makes money from my presence here as well - quite a bit - and from the presence of all the other students who would have objected to the hosting of a Chinese minister if the uni had publicised it properly, and if they were made fully aware of what was happening in China and Tibet.

The deafening silence that greeted my efforts to raise this subject sent the unfortunate message that the opinions of students don't matter if they run counter to the policies of the university. It also threw into question the whole purpose of the English department continuing to run its Post-Colonial Literature module. Superb lecturers are telling students every week about the traumatic pan-generational impact of Britain's colonisation of half the world when the university is getting into bed with the world's leading contemporary coloniser.

At the very least if the uni is going to pursue a policy of "constructive engagement" with dictators (I place the term in inverted commas because it is such a misnomer), it should create a parallel space in which human rights can be debated freely and openly. A representative of the Tibetan government-in-exile should be invited to address students the next time someone from the Chinese government visits. Either that or students must be allowed to present ministers with petitions and other documents of objection and grill them on their policies in the Chinese homeland and in Tibet. If something of that sort doesn't happen the university is positioning itself in a very worrying ethical place.

I don't know what you can do with any of the aforementioned ramblings, but as I mentioned, your name was recommended to me as someone on the staff who might be interested in hearing what I had to say. Thank you very much for your patience and feel free to use what I've shared here if it's helpful.


Bruce Hodder.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rude Notes in a Den of Whores: The Truth About Northampton and China

Another week has gone by since I posted about a mysterious 'new lead' in my long quest to have someone at Northampton University engage with me over China and Tibet, and not surprisingly, I haven't heard a thing from him. Clearly, nobody in this place is going to talk to me, not even the lecturers' union - you know, those people who were supposed to care about these things.

In the meantime, on Thursday last week, the local paper - who wouldn't publish a letter from me on the subject either - announced that the University was expected to have the sixth largest fall in the number of enrollments for 2012/ 13 in the whole country. Which works out, apparently, at roughly 350 fewer students.

Of course, this had nothing to do with increased tuition fees, according to someone from the University, and was "in line with their predictions" (they used some management-speak phrase like that). And the Uni wasn't concerned because they were seeing a concomitant rise in students from overseas, who don't register on the same enrollment list. So the edifice wasn't about to fall down around their ears or anything.

Just think about that for a moment, gentle reader. Overseas students. How much do you want to bet a large number of those are from China?

The closeness of the University's relationship with China is truly staggering. I did a little research today and found out that the CEEG, or the Centre for Entrepreneurship, Enterprise and Governance, based at Northampton, has what it calls "international partners" in Shaoguan and Beijing, and a partnership with the Chinese Academy of Sciences, set up in 2010. Since 2011 the centre has included the China, Transitional and Developing Economies Group.

"The work of Professor Richard Sanders," I quote from the university's own website, "has influenced Chinese government policy towards the management and funding of rural business development." All of which is fine and dandy. Shame it hasn't done anything to prevent the thirty+ deaths by self-immolation in Tibet since 2009, not to mention the shootings, beatings,disappearances and persecution of anyone
trying to practise their religion in peace.

Funny how what Mr. Sanders and Nick Petford and Bruce Hodder (just about, although I have no money) enjoy in England - the freedom to live our own lives without undue molestation or the presence of an occupying army on our streets - isn't supposed to matter to other people. Not when it gets in the way of a good profit anyway.

I almost wish I hadn't found these things out because now I feel as if I'm studying in a den of whores. Northampton University should be thoroughly ashamed of itself for associating with those murdering CCP bastards but it won't see anything even vaguely wrong with what it's doing; and if any of the people I've tried to talk to over this spent even sixty seconds thinking about my emails before they pressed the delete button I know I'll be the one who's dismissed as a crank.

Better to be a crank than a realist, I say, if realism is doing business with killers.

But now I'm stuck in a University I've lost every ounce of respect for with one year of my degree left to do and a dissertation on postcolonial literature,of all fucking things, to write. Yes, these people teach that invading other countries, brutally suppressing the native population, destroying their culture and stealing all their natural resources is wrong.

I love some of the people I've met since I started at the Uni, but the more I think about the institution itself, the more I have to hold my nose just to get through the door.

Mark Twain:

“A lie can travel halfway around the world while the truth is still putting on its shoes”

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

My "Tibet Thing": The Leads Keep Tumbling

I have a powerful feeling I'm heading for another disappointment with what even I have come to think of as "my Tibet thing" and Northampton University. I've been given another lead. Another chance to make my point. To get my voice heard. But it seems to be going the same way as all the others.

I've been stonewalled by the powers that be here for so long now I wondered for a while if my emails were even getting out. You look for reasons. Rational, if paranoid, explanations that might justify the total lack of engagement by anybody in authority with your complaint.

Here's a simple one: they don't give a shit. There's just too much money involved in the university having a high profile in the business community for it to risk being viewed as (excuse the expression) ethical. And there's too little money being made from my presence as a student here for my dissenting view to matter. Students aren't even supposed to have a dissenting view. People aren't supposed to have a dissenting view. The world that the hierarchy at the university is preparing its students for is one in which we are all obedient cogs in the capitalist machine. As that great philosopher Puff Daddy once said, "It's all about the Benjamins" and university is teaching you how to get more of them than people who didn't have your privileges.

As another great philosopher, Hunter S. Thompson, once said, "Shit on that." (See what a vast storehouse of quotable knowledge I have after two years at university?)

My "lead" is a member of staff. He/ she is supposed to be the go-to person when it comes to disputes. I won't name them here or mention who told me about them. But I did feel a cautious sense that I was making some progress when I was advised to contact them. They, I was assured, would speak out not only for me, but for all the lecturers who didn't know Zhou Xiaoming was coming and would not have been thrilled about it if they'd been informed. They, I was led to believe, would take up the cudgels without hesitation and get things sorted. I had acted alone for long enough.

And they still might, I suppose. I don't want to give up hope too quickly. But I wrote to them nine days ago now and I've been met with the same silence I got twice from Nick Petford. I hope they don't turn out to be another person who cares until it really matters.

Sunday, April 01, 2012

Shouting in an Empty Room: How Northampton Deals with Dissent

My email to the careers officer was, predictably, ignored. It seems to be the way Northampton University deals with dissent. I've just had a whole load more 'meet the employer' emails from the university delivered to my inbox.

I did have what looked like another chance to raise the issue of Tibet last week. Every year at the university - it's probably the same everywhere - they send out 'student satisfaction' surveys and these go back directly to the office of Nick Petford, the Vice-Chancellor. I'd had mine lying in my inbox for a few days and I'd done nothing about it. I don't, for the most part, believe these things are a legitimate exercise in improving the student experience. But when Mr. Petford failed to answer my email and the university's Facebook page also ignored me, I realised the survey might be a golden opportunity to get somebody to acknowledge my concerns. How naive could an old man be.

With all my usual flaming indignation I filled out the survey online, adding a long paragraph in the optional section at the end about how disturbing it was not only to see my university hosting visits from representatives of a brutal dictatorship, but also to be treated with disdain by the university hierarchy because I dared to protest about it.

When I clicked the 'send' button on the computer I felt good. For some reason, despite my scepticism about the student surveys, I felt as if I'd finally made my point. Someone, at least, would read what I'd written, searching the way they probably do for quotable plaudits to go into the next promotional brochure. At the very least I would create that moment of seething annoyance when they realised I hadn't shut up yet.


The next day, opening my email looking for something else, what did I find but an invitation from the university to fill out one of their annual student satisfaction surveys. Receipt of my previous one had been acknowledged by the automated system, but somehow it had vanished into the ether with all my other attempts to raise a lone voice of protest about the university's love affair with China.