Recently I sent four staggered e-mails and most recently (last week) I sent a written letter by regular post to the Irish Times on the issue of a university for the South East. For some reason, none of my requests to be published in the “Letters to the Editor” section fell on the right desk. Hence, I have decided to bypass the Irish Times and publish my letter here instead, where I don’t charge people to read it. I never thought that my right to reply would be so difficult to attain but after five attempts I can only conclude that my points were not of interest to the editor, nor were my issues with the recent scribblings of her education editor. Anyway, my letter in full for anyone who wishes to read on…
February 21st finally saw the publication of the long awaited Dr. Jim Port analysis of the case put forward by WIT for re-designation to university status. The one, resounding undertone that emanated clearly from Dr. Port’s analysis was that the decision to re-designate WIT to university status, is entirely political in nature.
WIT could have faced many, stern, opposing forces in its pursuit of re-designation with respect to economic factors, the ability to perform at a university level, justifiable academic background, and adverse effect on the Institute of Technology sector, etc. Many of these are somewhat subjective arguments of an academic nature which, would in essence prove difficult to completely counter. However, the Port findings have resolved that WIT stands unique in its capacity to be re-designated without having adverse effect on the Institute of Technology sector; in fact it is highlighted as being to the direct benefit of the region that is currently not served by such an institution within a minimum of a 100km radius.
What was also clear from the report is that Dr. Port was highly constrained by the context of government policy and also the OECD report of 2004. On many occasions he refers to government policy as the limiting factor, not the suitability of the Institute. As a country we must progress: Allowing a region that supports over 460,000 people, to decay economically, tentatively based on 4-year-old analysis and outdated government policy that leans toward centralisation, is unsettling, to say the least. Furthermore, Dr. Port explicitly states that it would be detrimental to the entire higher education sector if this case was ignored or if future Section 9 applications were blocked.
It is within this context that I find exception with the reporting lines of your education editor, Sean Flynn, who twice reported in this paper (Feb 9th and Feb 20th) with a negative slant on WIT’s prospects when clearly he had information to the contrary. The Irish Times is a record of great repute and its job is to chronicle, accurately, the news of our time. Negatively portraying a clearly positive report may harm the chances of a deserved submission for re-designation. It is with “semper veritas” that we must deliver news and not retrospective remorse for “mea culpa” in the case of those supposedly operating behind hidden agendas! Parochial politics and slanted media have adversely affected the potential of many a decision, let us not serve this sentence once more.