When a Dutch friend who had walked the Via Egnatia with me sent me an email in mid-February about a proposal to close or reorganize the Department of Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies at King’s College London, I could not have foreseen what would happen next.
Wim asked me to circulate the message that a petition against this ‘outrage’ had been started by Marc Lauxtermann, of Exeter College Oxford. I complied after a little bit of research. It was clear that the very same Rick Trainor, Principal, King’s College London, who had stood up and enjoyed introducing the 19th Annual Ranchman Lecture just two weeks before was planning the most dastardly attack on enlightened learning since the British Labour Party made it optional for British teenagers to study a foreign language: you can guess the trend.
Following publication of the short article the blog experienced an explosion of activity. Within a period of less than a week we saw a rise in visitors from around 35 per day to a peak of 390 in one day on 23 February. So far over 700 people have visited the blog to access that story and of these most connected with the petition and presumably voted.
This issue has also sparked some significant debate in the comment section. Many readers, and I have to say mostly Greek, seem to think that this is a shame, but some appear to believe that these plans (if true) are a direct attack on Greek culture and society, and in some extreme instances a direct attack on civilization itself!
Conspiracy theories always abound, but it is probably true that as commentator ‘Jesus’ says …
“Could you please save us the drama, guys? King’s did badly at the last research assessment exercise and the UK government is now slashing funding of the university sector. The result is that some jobs have to go; period. Nothing to do with this nonsense here about civilization, history etc etc”
I guess it does come down to money in the end. The UK has a lot of restructuring to do, and the Greeks of all people should now understand that. Some things have to go, but that does not mean it has to be the end. The department will emerge at some later date, perhaps stronger.