Academia frontstage - backstage
In five days I went twice to Oslo and had two totally different academic experiences.
The first trip was the frontstage.
Ragnhild Tronstad defended her thesis Friday 11th of June. She did a good lecture, clear, but her point where she addressed the topic came a little late. I was worried there for a few minutes, if she would actually get to the point within her given time. The suspense kept me awake though, so I was alert as Ragnhild concluded authoratively.
Then came the defense, with two lovely and skilled opponents. I tended to agree more with Cynthia Haynes, which of course would make her the harder opponent to oppose, and disagree more with Niels Lehman, which I think Ragnhild did too, as that is when she got into the discussion. Afterwards: reception with the Institute of Media and Communication in Oslo, and Ragnhild's party.
I am starting to really appreciate the pomp and circumstance of academic rituals. The Dean proceeding was a masters' student in Bergen when I started the media studies, and I have known and admired her for.. hmm.. 19 years. She looked like a gothic priestess in the velvet robe, and her stately nod was only slightly marred by the giggle that was bubbling behind her eyes as she saw her old friends leap back up in order to wait for the signal to be seated from the Dean.
Tuesday was academic backstage.
As a member of the board of the local group of the researcher's union, I was invited to a conference on the upcoming negotiations about wages for academics. It was complicated, and not really very uplifting. I was very far from the showpiece of the public defense, where academic achievement is celebrated. When it comes to paying for the same achievement in something more substantial than pretty words, it's a different story.
Scholars have long expensive educations that we pay for through loans, and then have to pay back out of wages that are as low and lower than those of blue-collar workers in the industry. Now, I don't want to start working on an oil platform, because I happen to like my work. Still, it sounds kind of wrong to pay the most educated people, the ones who are supposed to educate others and develop the base of knowledge in Norway, less than the rest.
(For spesielt interesserte: En prosent av lønnsmassen skal deles mellom medlemmene i lokale oppgjør. Det er halvparten av 2002-oppgjøret, som jo var eksepsjonelt godt. Alle forhandlingene må i år være ferdig før 30 september. Det er to måneder tidligere enn vanlig.)
These two experiences were both interesting. Together, they demonstrated the span of the concerns of an academic in the Norwegian system of higher education.