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The collected opinions of an august and aristocratic personage who, despite her body having succumbed to the ravages of time, yet retains the keen intellect, mordant wit and utter want of tact for which she was so universally lauded in her younger days. Being of a generation unequal to the mysterious demands of the computing device, Lady Bracknell relies on the good offices of her Editor for assistance with the technological aspects of her journal.

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Location: Bracknell Towers

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

In which Big Brother is watching the editor

Lady Bracknell's editor describes herself as being "freaked out" (really, the woman has a deplorably narrow and emotive vocabulary!) by a letter she has received from the Vice-Chancellor of D____ University, which begins:

"Our staff in the Development and Alumni Relations Office make rigorous efforts to keep abreast of our alumni, and sometimes during the course of their work they come across a former D_____ student who deserves our recognition and commendation."

Although not wishing to pander to the editor's lamentable tendency towards melodramatics, even Lady Bracknell is forced to admit that she would be somewhat discomfited herself were she to receive such concrete proof that her alma mater was scouring the press for mentions of her name more than twenty years after she had graduated from its hallowed portals.

One wonders whether the Vice-Chancellor sends letters of disapprobation to alumni who have strayed from the moral precepts inculcated in them by their tutors during their undergraduate years. It is, perhaps, fortunate that the editor did not choose to apply the reasoning skills she developed during her three years at D_____ to the pursuit of a life of crime.

Far be it from Lady Bracknell to imply by word or deed that institutes of higher education bear even so much as a passing resemblance to ivory towers. Nevertheless, she considers the final paragraph of the Vice-Chancellor's letter to be indicative of a belief in the enduring significance and impact of a D____ degree which borders, let us be frank, on fantasy:

"May I take this opportunity to express my hope that you maintain your links with D____? The success and reputation of the University is dependent on the progress and achievements of our alumni, and in turn this helps our undergraduates to be confident that their degree holds real value in our society."

This particular problem of etiquette has never previously presented itself to Lady Bracknell. Ought the editor to reply to the Vice-Chancellor's letter? If so, and given that she expresses no desire to "maintain her links" with D____ for the purpose of inspiring undergraduates, what should she say?

Readers are invited to submit their opinions on this quandary via the handy comments facility.


Anonymous Anonymous said...


It seems to me that this is little more than just a sophisticated begging letter.
The authorities at D______ wish their once-glorious establishment (which by now is no doubt under funded and forced to admit working-class stoodents) to bask in the reflected glory of the Editor’s honour – even though, with the passage of so much time it is entirely probable that her achievement can not be entirely attributed to their good offices.

And whilst I would like to believe that the Vice-Chancellor is a venereal (or even venerable) and charming old professor motivated entirely by pride in the establishment, I’m guessing he (?) is more likely to be a clean-shaven bespectacled youth of around 28 who is on first-name terms with all the students whom he encourages to call him Vince or Dave or some similar god-awful diminutive of a grown-up name and who is being driven by performance targets.

And I bet he’ll be writing to you again soon asking for money, on a sliding scale according to rank and title. After all a British Empire gong must be worth a couple of hundred a year at least.

Personally I would return the letter with a two-word response imparting advice concerning procreation and travel.

However I imagine that, with your Ladyship’s assistance, it could be sent back to the author with any instances of poor punctuation or grammar (of which there are bound to be several – particularly if it is mass-produced) highlighted in red pen and with a covering note observing that standards have obviously fallen since the editor was a girl and that she would far rather use the gravitas imparted by her new status for the purpose of challenging iniquity and disability discrimination than for bolstering his cloistered credibility in the halls of academe at the next regional VC’s workshop.


2:43 pm  
Blogger Katie said...

Have they ask you for money yet? 'Cos I am an alumnus of one of the richest universities in the country, I graduated 10 years ago, and they have recently started writing long letters asking for money.

The temptation to write back and say, check your records, I am not and member of the Royal family and I did an arts degree, ergo I have no money is almost unbearable.

11:25 pm  
Blogger Lady Bracknell said...

About once a year a poverty-stricken student will phone me up asking me to siphon money out of my own account into the university's coffers.

These students are paid by the university to cold-call alumnae, and appear to have been carefully chosen for their ability to combine great charm with sounding starved and thin.

My response has been carefully honed over the years. I now tell them that I devote a lot of my time to students at the local universities and that I consider that to be of more value to the student population as a whole than any financial donation I might be able to afford to make.

They don't like it. I suspect they are taken out and publicly flogged for their failure to extort money from me.

The Editor.

11:59 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ma'am / Katie

They probably have to contact alumni of a certain vintage, given that the average student nowadays emerges from a bog-standard 3 year degree around £14,000 in debt to the state. Although this morning's news suggests this may not be the case much longer as the introduction of punitive tuition fees is likley to push the debt up to around £23,000.

I am just hopeful that the Dudettes will prefer to follow their aging papa into the chauffeuring and general factotum business - this being one of the few remaining non-graduate professions (apart from TV presenting and running the country, although I trust neither of them will stoop that low!)


11:49 am  
Blogger Clarissa said...

The dude said it far more eloquently than I was going to. I was going to cut to the quick. Two simple words. An alternative, however, might be to send him your obit.

7:21 am  

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