Correspondence from left field

One of the joys of my job is that I get a fair amount of odd correspondence, both in letters and in emails. People who are anxious to lift their campaigns to a more public level often include university presidents in the list of those they want to engage. Sometimes it is not easy to know what to do in response – give them some support; decline to get involved, politely; suggest they seek help; just ignore them? I try not to do the latter: if someone has taken the trouble to write to me, I should show them the courtesy of a response.

Occasionally of course, the letters or emails are spoofs, designed to get me to say something stupid in reply. One gentleman wanted me to accredit his planned ‘University of Life’, to the great benefit of DCU. He attempted to get me to do this in several letters. Another has been regularly urging me to support his campaign for the restoration for the ‘Thymn coins‘ of the early Middle Ages as the Irish currency (OK, I was quite tempted to go along with that, as they say, for the craic). And then there is the anonymous correspondent who has a wide range of esoteric interests, but with the common theme that he has views on all of them that he can only express with strong anger and resentment; and his reasons for addressing me on them are always obscure.

But in another way I really enjoy getting such messages – as the newspaper advertisement used to say, all human life is there. We need the obsessives and eccentrics to provide us with some colour and distraction – and who knows, maybe some of them are simply geniuses ahead of their time. In fact, in a few years time when I am retired, maybe I’ll be writing such letters myself. In any case, universities need to be welcoming homes for unusual and unexpected and even unreasonable opinions, which not only make them more human, but also just might be the basis for real academic insights and innovations.

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4 Comments on “Correspondence from left field”

  1. Vincent Says:

    “In any case, universities need to be welcoming homes for unusual and unexpected opinions,”….. if not those downright insane, sometimes.

  2. Jilly Says:

    Goodness, I had no idea that a University President’s postbag and email inbox contained such fun! I wish I got correspondence like that (although it has to be said that some undergraduate emails are nearly as batty). I especially like the idea of someone dedicating themselves to a campaign for the reintroduction of the Thymn coins. I would be very, very tempted indeed to support that…


  3. Surely this is exactly why we all read your blog in the first place!


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