Professor Guy Halsall has apologised for an announcement posted on the VLE which offended second year history students.
In the post, Halsall describes himself as “probably the most significant historian of early medieval Europe under the age of 60 anywhere in the world”.
The faculty member then went on to state; “that’s not (just) me being cocky, but a pretty sober assessment of the range and quality of my work”. The History Department assured students that Halsall “sincerely and deeply regrets any offence his comments may have caused.”
The post was uploaded in response to approximately “only 60%” turning up to his lecture enrolled on the ‘End of the Roman World’ module.
Students were told: “Given that, for your money, you get the chance to hear (probably) the most significant historian of early medieval Europe under the age of 60 anywhere in the world give 16 lectures on his current research, and given that people pay said lecturer large sums of money and fly him around the world to talk to their students, or to give key-note lectures at conferences.”
The historian then implied students are failing to appreciate an education which “Mummy and Daddy” are compelled to pay “obscene amounts of money” for.
One second year History student told Nouse: “I think Guy’s message was both quite offensive and completely undermined the point he was making.
“He had every right to be annoyed about lecture attendance, but to criticise us by saying how he was the world authority on his subject and that we were there by the grace of “mummy and daddy’s money” is absurd and appalling. I actually find his seminars to be engaging and interesting, but he has utterly destroyed his reputation in my mind by presenting himself so smugly.”
Halsall responded: “the comments made by the student you quote are entirely fair and justified. S/he is quite right that my comments undermined my general point; I should not have made the comment in the way I did. It was indeed unprofessional and offensive. I unreservedly apologise to my students and to my departmental colleagues, who take their teaching extremely seriously and should by no means be tarred with the same brush as me. I am very sorry to have lost their respect.”
He went on to explain the cause of the outburst, stating it was “born of frustration. I care deeply about my courses and I care deeply that my students learn something important from them that they can take away from the course into their later life. I also care about the students getting value for their money – as I too clumsily said in my message.”
“I think it is obscene that students have to pay fees for higher education and I have published my view on this many times. That was what I meant be ‘obscene sums’; it was not intended as a comment on students’ wealth or otherwise.”
An anonymous student commented, “his apology on the VLE posted last night has gone an enormous way to restoring my faith in him.
“I certainly hope he doesn’t face any kind of disciplinary action for what he wrote.”
In a joint statement, Stuart Carroll, History’s Head of Department and Simon Ditchfield, Chair of the Board of Studies, described the lecturer as “among the most highly rated” lecturers according to student feedback forms.
Carroll and Ditchfield then went on to explain that “In this context, Guy’s strength of feeling should be seen perhaps as frustration directed at the unfamiliar predicament he found himself in – as a world-leading scholar and excellent lecturer faced with a noticeable degree of non-attendance – rather than anger directed personally at students.”