Yesterday afternoon I exited Trinity to see Broad Street unusually busy. At one end were some damp campaigners holding NHS placards, at the other, scores of white vans parked for Benedict Cumberbatch’s filming stint at Exeter – complete with hungry-looking ‘Cumberbitches’ – and in the middle some tourists looking expectant. Something was afoot.

Poking my head into the lodge, I asked one of the porters what was going on.  “The new Vice-Chancellor’s just been elected,” he explained, “they’re parading to Balliol now.” Sure enough, there they were: a slow contingent of dignitaries, mortar-boarded and gowned, led by a mace, steered by a high-visibility jacket, shuffling towards a buffet at Balliol.

Big things had happened that morning. Not only had the Chancellor, Lord Patten – shuffling in super-swanky gown complete with his very own page – made a brave speech against RMF including lots of long words like “intellectually pusillanimous” and “porridge”, but the first female Vice-Chancellor ever, after 272 predecessors, had been installed.


Nice gown, Vice-Chancellor

Professor Richardson, rather like the weather from her recent post at St Andrews, looks fresh, sharp and ever-ready for a trans-Atlantic shakeup after her senior role at Harvard. Given her expertise in security and terrorism, Richardson looks like a force to be reckoned with. Good news for wannabe spies, bad news for bombers. Who knows? Perhaps her planned visits around the colleges are a secret survey for ‘bombproof-ness’. (My bet’s on Trinity winning; Turl Street’s screwed).

Nevertheless, despite her tough exterior, Richardson is liberal and has big plans for our nerdy watering-hole. In her speech, she highlighted the importance of access and balanced inquiry: “engaging with ideas [we] find objectionable” without throwing our toys out of the pram, trying to get others to join our pram, and if necessary, abandoning the pram if we were wrong. She also made some very flattering statements about our potential, talking about “leaders for tomorrow” solving financial crises and potty-training robots, whilst being able to “think critically … act ethically and always question.” Excellent stuff.

In the meantime, if she could change my collections paper to be solely based on ‘Wind in the Willows’, that would be great.

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