Baker Academic

Monday, September 1, 2014

The Latest at Sheffield—Chris Keith

[UPDATED Sept 2, 2014, see below]

I was very sorry today to read of the latest at Sheffield in the midst of the official death of its once-great Department of Biblical Studies.  As The Dunedin School and Jim West report, apparently the school's PR team had taken quotations from eminent scholars--written in letters opposing the closing the department--and used them as statements of endorsement.  This includes a quotation from Maurice Casey, who is now passed and was as bitterly opposed to the closing of the Department of Biblical Studies as anyone.  As far as I can tell, the quotations are no longer on Sheffield's pages, though the blogs named above have screen shots of the earlier pages.

Sheffield has always functioned as something of a myth for me, associated in my mind with names like Bruce, Alexander, Clines, and Moore.  One of the very influential professors I had in undergraduate received his PhD from Sheffield during Stephen Moore's short time there, and I was really impressed with that professor and thus with Sheffield.  I considered it a real honor to deliver a lecture there last year in the famed Biblical Studies Seminar at the invitation of Minna Shkul and James Crossley. 

*UPDATE Sept 2, 2014

In the comments section of The Dunedin School post noted above, someone (signed in as "someone who used to edit the bibs website") has left the following message, indicating that the scholars quoted had given their permission to be used in the context of promoting Biblical Studies at Sheffield, including Maurice Casey.  Perhaps we should take a deep breath.  I quote from The Dunedin School comments (HT Mark Goodacre):

Someone who used to edit the bibs website said:
I have in my possession written consent from all of these scholars, including the late Maurice Casey (see below), for the use of their words in the fresh context of marketing the department. These permissions date back to December 2009 when I had personal responsibility for an overhaul of the site. While I understand people’s distaste, it did not seem distasteful to use these for the department in 2009 and one should not be too quick to throw stones at marketing people who were trying to serve the Department’s future.
I quote first from my email to Maurice:
Following the success of the campaign to preserve the Biblical Studies
department here in Sheffield, we are now looking at the information provided to
potential students on the department’s web site.
We’d like to use the following quotation extracted from your letter to the
Vice-Chancellor (and published on
“…the exceptional combination of creativity and independence of mind shown by
members of staff in their publications and at academic conferences.”
“I’d be grateful if you can confirm that we are okay to go ahead and use this.
The quotation would be attributed to you, and you should feel free to amend it
first if desired.”
And from his response to me (also 16/12/2009):
“Thank-you for your e-mail. You are very welcome to quote this comment, and please attribute it to me, I do not wish to amend a single word.
“I hope you are successful in attracting new students, and that management will provide new staff on the scale that you need, in accordance with the quality traditional in the Department and found in the few staff left.”
This was not “The University” acting but someone affiliated with the department keen to preserve it and doing so with what was, however distastefully one may now view it, some extremely good marketing material. I would never have dreamt of using any of it without permission, and one ought not to be too hasty to judge whoever it was within the university that made the decision to go on using it. It is in any case quite possible that I wrote the page you are referring to and these quotes will have been on the site since January 2010. Staff in the department would have been aware of this use of material at the time, even if there’s been enough water under the bridge to lose track.

No comments:

Post a Comment