May 30, 2019, by criticalmoment

Third Speaker in the Toxic Positivity Series: Liz Morrish

On Tuesday 21st May, the third speaker in our Toxic Positivity series was Liz Morrish. She is an independent scholar and activist for resistance to managerial appropriation of the university who spoke out about mental health in the university three years ago. It resulted in her resignation from an academic post, but did not end her research into the stress that staff face in the current neoliberal academy. Her talk ‘Pressure Vessels: the Epidemic of Poor Mental Health in the University’ was based upon recent research conducted by Liz for HEPI (the HE Policy Institute) which has been published as a report.
The research found that academic staff referrals to occupational health and counselling services are increasing. Freedom of information requests revealed that that between 2009 and 2015, counselling referrals rose by an average of 77%, while staff referrals to occupational health services during the same period rose by 64%. One of the reasons given for this is workload management models that are designed to make workloads equitable, but are a source of stress, burnout and anxiety because allocated hours are usually unrealistic underestimates of what work is actually being done. It is contended by the research that management driven measurements are forcing academics into stress positions and turning universities into ‘anxiety machines’.
In her talk, Liz provided much needed alternatives centred around time, autonomy and trust. Time to do the tasks that need to be done, including the time for scholarly reflection and contemplation; autonomy to get on with the task without being monitored every moment; and trust that academics will get the work done.
You can listen to all of Liz’s talk here.
She is completing a co-authored book on managerial discourse in the neoliberal academy, entitled Academic Irregularities (Routledge forthcoming) and she also writes a blog of the same name. A couple of days after her talk for us, her research was also the subject of a Guardian article.
Our series will end with a Toxic Positivity Summit that will feature a number of active anti-precarity groups from Cardiff University, the University of Kent and Birkbeck, University of London. It takes place on June 6, 2019 from 10am-3pm in A21 in the Trent Building, University of Nottingham. All are welcome! To register visit here.
Posted in Centre for Critical TheoryMA in Critical Theory and Cultural StudiesNeoliberalismUncategorized