In a bitter twist to the short reign of Charles Hymas (he was hired last April), UCL’s now former Head of Media Relations leaves the university in a blaze of terrible PR.

On Valentines Day, Hymas sent an email to all staff in the Communications Department detailing the infamous town hall set-up by academics that we wrote about last month (in which academics voted “no confidence” in UCL’s governance).  Also apparently The Financial Times wrote about it, and Hymas seems a lot more aggrieved about that.

The email leaked earlier this week.

We have taken some bits of the over-long diatribe and made some jokes, all prefaced on the fact that this is the genuine desperate battle currently going on at campus- between those in management, and the likes of “Professor I’m a True Intellectual”.

But also it’s just a really bizarre email…

  1. Professor I’m a True Intellectual stood up to plead the case for the brow-beaten academic who had been hauled before his head of department because his boss wanted him to earn some money from his research. Money? It was as if he had uttered the F-word in polite society

    Who above the age of eight calls it the F-word?

  2. He then proceeded to stick the knife into the Provost and the chair of council Dame DeAnne Julius for their autocratic, bullying rule which had left the entire intellectual powerhouse that is the UCL academic community cowed in a blithering jelly of fear such that the only way they could get their voice heard was to have clandestine meetings like this one in the basement of something called the Cruciform

    “Something called the Cruciform” ?! UNFORGIVABLE

  3. He was supported by someone called Saladdin, the Iago to the Othello of I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man. Saladdin proceeded to trash an opponent who had had the audacity to write a blog challenging the Financial Times account and who had described the critics as a cabal.

    I do a science degree and even I know Iago and Othello are not on the same team.

  4. As one wag noted, only in the most corrupt parliaments in deepest eastern Europe do you get 94% majorities (it would have been higher if I hadn’t managed to press six or seven buttons in a bid to reduce the size of the victory for the Financial Times).

    You can’t say the man isn’t dedicated.

  5. 11.20pm and I got an email from Rex calling me to an emergency meeting with the Provost at 8am. This is the first.

    Of course Rex Knight (UCL’s Vice Provost) sends emergency meeting emails at 11:20pm!

  6. Another option (and this was the one the Provost had favoured the night before after having a couple of drinks following Tottenham’s two nil victory) would be to go for the jugular with his sharpened medical scalpel and take out a sensitive part of Professor I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man’s anatomy without an anaesthetic.

    Lads! Lads! Lads! UPDATE: Tottenham got knocked out of the Champions League last night.

  7. Only to be hit by FT Man [a journalist for The Financial Times] dredging up some financial dirt on Dame De Anne and Andrew Gould, another council member, to which he had been tipped off, we guess, by Professor I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man or one of his cronies. It was regurgitated dirt as well because someone had also previously passed it to the Times and we had successfully blasted it into the long grass.

    This isn’t that funny. What financial dirt? Both DeAnne Julius (Chair of UCL Council) and Gould (External Member of Council) are very senior members of staff at UCL, and responsible for much of UCL’s planned expansion. Is Hymas alleging The Times (where Hymas was previously Managing Editor) covered some compromising information up?

 

In a statement the university said:  UCL dealt with the internal issue by apologising to all those affected and sees the matter as closed. It was not sanctioned by UCL and the person who wrote the piece has left to pursue other opportunities.

If you would like, you can read the letter in all its glory below:

Sent: 14 February 2018 21:50
Charles Hymas
Director of Media Relations

How do you clean out the contagion of the week? Go for a bracing 13k run at dawn on a Saturday morning round south London, followed by a swim. I feel better for that. It has cleared my mind after a week when we locked horns, again, with the Financial Times. It requires all your intellectual muscle to deal with an attack on the very essence of what UCL is trying to do. How do you mitigate it without appearing to shoot the nasty messenger who claims he is not on a vendetta mission to destroy the provost but which everyone knows he is? There was an initial reluctance to take the fight to the FT, and instead for us to take the moral high ground in the interests of not alienating the Visitor (aka the Master of the Rolls who will consider the complaint about governance submitted by Professor I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man) which I thought wasn’t a great idea. It was agreed to compromise with a factual presentation of our case to the FT, which they used in part. So round 1 was definitely a victory for the FT and Professor I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man, with a little pyrrhic defence from us.

Round 2 was also not great for us. For a start, the FT man got into the town hall meeting organised by Professor I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man. It was a classic as academic meetings go. First it was opened by Mr Know It All Man (former cabinet minister and ex UCL council chair Lord Young) who had that smug patrician air of a multi-millionaire Tory businessman who believes that he can’t ever be accused of having done anything wrong even if he had been trying to make peace with Hitler, Saddam Hussein or President Assad. Of course, when he was council chair, he declared, nothing like this town hall meeting would ever have happened. Academics loved him because he always consulted them and he never did anything that wasn’t supported by the academic board. Bollocks, I later discovered. He appointed one crap provost, followed by a temporary one who hatched a plan to merge UCL with Imperial. Guess what happened. There was a revolution by the academics who hadn’t been consulted. So much for Mr Know It All Man’s claims that he listened to the academics. Next up was I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man, who told the meeting that he was not pursuing a vendetta. He then proceeded to stick the knife into the Provost and the chair of council Dame DeAnne Julius for their autocratic, bullying rule which had left the entire intellectual powerhouse that is the UCL academic community cowed in a blithering jelly of fear such that the only way they could get their voice heard was to have clandestine meetings like this one in the basement of something called the Cruciform.

Professor I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man was preaching to the converted, who hung on his every word and clapped every twist of the knife. Reckless expansionism. Academic standards in freefall. Business interests sullying the white sepulchre of academia. Brash shiny soulless new buildings miles from the cosy warmth of Bloomsbury. Undemocratic rule by people with experience of the outside world. Outrageous. Professor I’m a True Intellectual stood up to plead the case for the brow-beaten academic who had been hauled before his head of department because his boss wanted him to earn some money from his research. Money? It was as if he had uttered the F-word in polite society. A shiver went through the audience. Surely, said Professor I’m a True Intellectual, producing one brilliant paper a year was what true academia was all about. The shiver turned into a cheer and loud applause. He had struckthe nail on the head. How could it be the case that academics should somehow pay their way rather than count the number of worms in a clod of tropical rainforest (he is a professor from earth sciences, by the way)? He was supported by someone called Saladdin, the Iago to the Othello of I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man. Saladdin proceeded to trash an opponent who had had the audacity to write a blog challenging the FT account and who had described the critics as a cabal. Rex Knight tried to challenge some of the points but by then the meeting had turned into something more akin to a Roman amphitheatre where any slave felt to be worshipping the God Mammon was going to be bayed down by the bloodthirsty crowd. Despite my best efforts to press as many No buttons as I could in order to swing the vote in favour of reason, we went crashing down to a 94% to 6% vote in favour of a motion expressing No Confidence in the governance of the university. As one wag noted, only in the most corrupt parliaments in deepest eastern Europe do you get 94% majorities (it would have been higher if I hadn’t managed to press six or seven buttons in a bid to reduce the size of the victory for the FT). The meeting was also somewhat Monty Pythonesque in that a) they didn’t declare what the motion was until the end when everyone present had been ramped up into such a frenzy of hatred against the evil management of UCL that they would have made a blind, three legged elephant provost of UCL b) they changed the motion at the last minute from leadership to governance. Why? I don’t think anyone was quite sure. I walked away, knowing that, despite the farce, I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man and the FT had won another victory.

11.20pm and I got an email from Rex calling me to an emergency meeting with the Provost at 8am. This is the first. At The Sunday Times, it would have presaged a spanking. Why the f*** did this happen? Couldn’t you have taken them out in some way? Put poison in their porridge? At 8am the provost presented it rationally, at first. One option was to do nothing. In a way, there is an argument for that. For all that we think this is a major crisis, it is actually a storm in a teacup. Very few outside UCL really care about it. To do nothing, however, is to leave a sore that could develop into an infection, that could develop into an amputation. Another option (and this was the one the provost had favoured the night before after having a couple of drinks following Tottenham’s two nil victory) would be to go for the jugular with his sharpened medical scalpel and take out a sensitive part of Professor I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man’s anatomy without an anaesthetic. At The Sunday Times, there were times when we played the man, rather than the ball. Here, now, I discouraged it. We needed to rise above the bear pit and try to get our message out. It was agreed that I should invite the FT Man in for an interview with the Provost. I duly did so, only to be hit by FT Man dredging up some financial dirt on Dame De Anne and Andrew Gould, another council member, to which he had been tipped off, we guess, by Professor I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man or one of his cronies. It was regurgitated dirt as well because someone had also previously passed it to the Times and we had successfully blasted it into the long grass. It is evidence that it genuinely is war with Professor I’m Not Pursuing a Vendetta Man going for the woman and not the ball. Overnight I prepared the defence with the help of some particularly good man marking by Simon Griffiths in legal, and duly sent it to the FT Man. I then gave the provost enough briefing notes to win the World Cup, paid the referee a mint and went into battle with the FT Man in the mortal combat of an interview in the provost’s office. You’ll be glad to hear it went well. The provost put the case well, backed by good evidence, and rationally without taking out his scalpel to slash his enemies. We’ll have to wait and see what comes out in the end, and prepare for round 4, of which I am sure there will be one.

Back in the real world, the team had a great week. Bex was in stonking form with a world exclusive in the face of Cheddar Man, revealed and reconstructed as dark skinned and blue eyed, alongside a clutch of other stories that got picked up. We had a good hit with dementia from Chris, with Jacinta set up a Daily Telegraph/BBC exclusive on Bentham’s tripto New York and saw the culmination of our work on Rachel Whiteread’s forthcoming art work in the ‘evening standard and art mags, had a successful meeting on our ‘China strategy with GEO and OVPD thanks to Rowan and saw Natasha hit the ground running and start to make inroads into social and historical sciences. At least one of our hands was not tied behind our back.

Jason Murugesu