The ambassador speaks

Back on Monday I gave an interview to a journalist from, well, let’s call it Syldavia; a slightly difficult interview because the journalist only speaks French and my French isn’t particularly fluent, but I did my best to get across my reasoned and carefully thought out criticisms of the Syldavian government and its policies.

The Syldavian ambassador called me personally just now to tell me that my remarks were all over the Syldavian papers this morning. Apparently the interview appeared in yesterday’s edition of the paper my Francophone journalist works for, and has now been picked up by everyone else as “Whyte Speaks Out Against Syldavian Government”. This worries me a bit because I’m not entirely sure what I said, since I said it in French, and I certainly don’t know what the journalist wrote since I don’t read Syldavian.

So when the ambassador called me I thought, oh my god, this is a direct demarche from the Syldavian government to complain about an interview where I have no idea what statements are attributed to me. I said to him, “I hope I haven’t made life difficult for you.” He laughed heartily, so I was somewhat reassured and added “I hope I’ve only made life difficult for people who deserve to have their lives made difficult.” He chortled and said “Exactly!” So I am very relieved, and we fixed a lunch date for next week.

It’s obviously a slow news day in Syldavia.

[later edit] The journalist just called again to say that the Foreign Minister has declared that he will invite me personally to Syldavia. I’m not sure if I should take this so very seriously…

One thought on “The ambassador speaks

  1. sitting on their bottoms and waiting to see what applications rolled in

    The University & Colleges of Cambridge spend substantial sums of money (around £3 million) each year on outreach and Widening Participation events, such as the student union-run Target Schools campaign which trains existing students to go out and talk to schools with low application rates. Over the last few years the application system has been turned from a paper-based separate application form with a £15 administration fee, to an electronic supplementary questionnaire with no additional cost to the applicant, triggered by receipt of the UCAS application. (and those are just the two things I have direct personal experience of – there are many more including College links with schools, summer schools aimed at ethnic minority students etc etc)

    I don’t think the university is complacent and I don’t think the admissions tutors would have asked for the improvements to the application system if they thought all was well. I think the university has to continually look at its admissions processes and keep removing the sources of bias, whether conscious or unconscious. The followup on virtualeconomics raises some interesting additional questions we could ask of the data if we break it down differently.

    You provided an anecdote, so I will in return. I was the first person from my school to apply to Cambridge in the memory of any of my teachers. (They were a bit more familiar with Oxford because one or two people might apply there each year.) The only other person from that school who has got into Cambridge since is one of my brothers, and when I last checked for recent applications I found none. My experience of doing Target Schools is that teachers would limit the people I talked with to a very few carefully chosen people that they thought might give it some consideration.

    So yes, I do lay quite a lot of blame (but certainly not all) with schools and teachers that actively discourage people even aspiring to Cambridge. I think the uncritical publication of Lammy’s spin by the Guardian has just made it harder for the university to convince those teachers to stop blocking their students aspirations.

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