Saturday, 30 June 2007

Who's who

At first a single event is straightforward. But soon it unfolds into a myriad of plots and subplots, making wider and wider circles.
Take lies. A single lie is easily told, but let it move through one situation after another and the strands grow until they strangle the teller.
The phenomenon can be seen anywhere. It happens with children, with adults, amongst groups, within societies and even between societies. When the whole thing comes crashing down sooner or later it isn't so much a matter of ethics or morals, but what we observe is a system unable to sustain itself any longer. To maintain sustainability is only possible if the system's elements function harmoniously, but will lead to destruction if they do not.
It applies to resources, to infrastructure, and to ideas and actions.
Here's a stock take of the players in the Griffith affair. What has been just said applies to all of them.
There is Griffith University's Academic Registrar, Richard Armour. He was satisfied with the feedback from his colleagues after a cursory glance at my letter. His assessment will not stand up to a proper examination, but that doesn't matter to him right now.
The University's Vice Chancellor Ian O'Connor may have been one of his contacts. Favouring his clique over the claims by an outsider, none of the details were ever analysed and the case is closed as far as he is concerned. On the other hand, how much did he really come to know and to what extent was his dismissive response the well-worn ruse to save face?
Next comes the Deputy Head of the School, Peter Bernus. Surely he must have had some inkling about the selection of the examiners, the problems it had caused and the nature of the resultant complaints. He must have known these complaints contained items quite beyond the official stance that attempted to portray the affair as a case of some misinformed and incapable student. Yet emails are met with silence.
Now to Terry Dartnall. This is the lecturer who was supposed to mark the thesis - but did he? See the open letter. Who then did mark it eventually and what kind of politics accompanied the selection process at that stage? Were there other factors involved, such as his desire to solve the problem of mind himself; maybe I should have accepted the invitation to his drinking sessions. Like everyone else, he won't talk.
Of course there is Grigoris Antoniou, my supervisor. No mention at the time of thesis formats, misunderstood or otherwise; no mention of computer programs that are not supposed to work (but do anyway); nothing of any looming disaster on the scale implied by the examiners in their reports. He has left our shores by now, but certainly he would have something to contribute.
And so we come to the examiners, two at first, the third brought in after the appeal. I have no idea who they are since it is against the policy for students to know their identity. Therefore I have equally no idea about their qualifications, their relevance to the field of artificial intelligence, and their political and religious affiliations. What caused them to imagine passages that simply do not exist and use this phantasy in order to criticise my work? What caused them to neglect passages to suit their description just so that a reader would agree with their negative assessment? What was so annoying about the profile of Queensland society at that time with its mention of parochialism, fundamentalist religious attitudes, and a paucity of educational standards, to have it particularly highlighted to serve their condemnation of me? Why did they have a problem with evolution? What is it they can't stand about the interdisciplinary approach? Did they simply select the sections by poking a knife blade anywhere into those 150+ pages and read what they found there; or did they disguise their ignorance of artificial intelligence matters by ridiculing its finer points; or did their political and religious convictions compel them to destroy a work that is based on something more than the narrow-minded convulsions so familiar from similar demographics around the world. All of that suggests itself when reading their evaluation and comparing it with the thesis.
Finally we have Griffith University, the institution. During discussions with various individuals in the course of my contacts mention has been made of certain practices, not necessarily welcome. A pressure on staff to be silent, a not entirely savory reputation amongst the legal fraternity, all making their rounds. One would think it is in the interest of those who still are of a high standard to address the rot.
Events grow and spread their circles. And comfort zones, like any system, can implode.

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