Thursday, January 31, 2013

Marc Edge, ‘international standards’ and the neo-colonial disaster that hit USP journalism

Dr Marc Edge ... "a caricature of colonial attitudes,"
according to some USP staff. Photo: Wansolwara
IN RESPONSE to this blog’s “Vendetta journalism” article and ousted former head of journalism Dr Marc Edge’s attack on David Robie, Café Pacific has received this anonymous feedback from inside sources, including staff and senior students, at the University of the South Pacific's Laucala Campus in Fiji:

No journalism lecturer in USP journalism's 25-year history had racked up as many complaints as Dr Marc Edge did - and in record time. Now, he is desperately looking for scapegoats in an attempt to salvage a tarnished academic reputation and failed USP tenure, and lashing out at his perceived enemies.

After his antics at USP, only a very “brave” university would want to touch Marc Edge, although it seems that normally he is on his best behaviour while working at developed world universities; it is in developing countries that he develops a superior, know it all, colonial attitude, which made him a laughing stock at USP.

Many at USP regarded Marc as a caricature of colonial attitudes.  He made a lot of noise, created a lot of controversies and spent too much time on these. It was taking time away from teaching and affecting the students. This not only carried on for months, it only got worse. It was one of the reasons why he was asked to resign.

Marc was unique as a lecturer at USP in that he tried to ban a student from entering campus, another two from enrolling in journalism courses, and screamed loudly at yet another student. USP received these complaints and was concerned as it exposed the institution to possible litigation.

Marc also made it very clear he did not like his second and third-year students, who had been taught by his predecessors. He often ridiculed these students’ abilities in his first-year class. This often drew nervous laughter.  One of the first year students confided that she found it really distasteful. It led to a major split between first year students and their second and third-year counterparts.

The rift, like other issues at USP journalism, only worsened over time. Marc was seen as being responsible for it. He was also suspected of cultivating the split between students.

He was actually heard commenting that he couldn't wait to “see the back of” second and third year students. He made the comment deliberately within earshot of a third-year student. Students discussed his comments and found it really demoralising. This type of pettiness, childishness, immaturity and unprofessionalism did not inspire confidence in students and fellow staff.  It was another reason for his eventual downfall. 

Certain staff in other departments, including expatriate staff, were angered by Marc’s attitude. They said he would have never dared to do what he did at USP at a Canadian university. Somehow he thought he could get away with it in Fiji, not knowing he was digging his own grave.

His lack of experience in the Pacific was also seen as his downfall. USP staff whispered that Marc never got over his culture shock.

For all his talk about international standards, Marc's tenure was marked by dysfunction, quarrels with staff and students, running down of former USP journalism staff, and humiliating of students who disagreed with him in front of their peers. This was all very litigious, and as the world got to know about what he was doing behind closed USP journalism doors, the concerns grew.

Yet USP was patient and left it to the head of school, Professor Sudesh Mishra, to sort things out, but even he did not prove very effective. He was dealing with Marc Edge after all.

To USP staff, Marc came across as someone inexperienced and insecure, trying too hard to overcompensate and prove himself.

Despite all the talk about international standards, basic things were falling apart in the programme. Overall organisation was poor and tardy, and leadership was badly lacking. Students complained about poorly set and marked assignments, assignments not being handed back on time, too many changes to assignments midway through etc.

International standards aside, under Marc, USP journalism could not even carry out these basic teaching tasks properly.

As one student said, the “best Christmas gift we got was Marc Edge's 'resignation’.”

Dr Edge's demotion notice before he was forced out of USP.

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