Protector and protected: Suresh Mishra and Marc Edge (Photo: Pacnews-PINA)

The controversy at the University of the South Pacific over Dr Marc Edge was meant to dissipate when he was stood down as the Head of Journalism and the role was assumed by his immediate superior, the oleaginous Professor Sudesh Mishra. But Professor Mishra has made a mistake that is fatal for any academic of standing – misrepresenting the true course of events at USP as the University grappled with what to do with the unfortunate Dr Edge.

Earlier today, Professor Mishra posted the following comment on our previous Grubsheet posting reporting Dr Edge’s demise. It is riddled with non sequiturs  and outright porkies. And the proof of that is the exchange of correspondence seen here publicly for the first time between Professor Mishra and the USP’s Deputy Vice Chancellor, Professor Esther Williams.

First, let’s examine what Professor Mishra claimed in his Grubsheet comment posting earlier today:

Sudesh Mishra
Posted November 15, 2012 at 8:25 AM
I am afraid there are several factual errors in this column.

Dr Edge was never the Head, School of Language, Arts and Media. He was the Coordinator for the Discipline of Media and Journalism which falls under the School of Language, Arts and Media, of which I am the Head. ( Grubsheet didn’t claim this. We said that Dr Edge was Head of Journalism at USP, a fact that has been universally reported and that Dr Edge claims on his own website)

Dr Edge has always been a Senior Lecturer at USP; he remains so. ( Not disputed and clearly not a factual error)

It is the responsibility of the Head of School to mediate between dissenting views and parties; not to take sides. The university has clear guidelines and procedures regarding complaints. ‘Chief protector,’ therefore, is an incorrect description of my role at USP. ( We stand by our claim that Professor Mishra was Dr Edge’s “chief protector”. It is self evident in the correspondence that follows)

Moreover, there was no “request from the USP hierarchy to act against Dr Edge weeks ago:” hence there was no defiance on my part. Defiance would constitute insubordination and there are clear policies regarding that as well. ( An outright misrepresentation, as the following correspondence amply demonstrates)

We teach our pupils to cite evidence when they make claims, large or small. (irrelevant)

You have got one thing right, though: I believe utterly in academic freedom. ( The bleeding obvious judging from the leaked correspondence, even at the expense of the USP’s reputation)

With that, however, comes responsibility (to fact, etc.)–a virtue that appears to be absent from this blog. ( a gratuitous observation if ever there was one from a man whose stock in trade is dissembling, also judging from the following correspondence)

From: Esther Williams
Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2012 2:22 PM
To: Akanisi Kedrayate; Sudesh Mishra
Subject: Marc Edge
Dear Akanisi and Sudesh
Pl can I have an update on Marc Edge and actions taken by the School and Faculty. We have had again complaints from students about his approaches and work; we also have had complaints from Fiji Government about his attacking comments on his website.  The PS Information has submitted a formal complaint. I have read the website as well as the students’ website on the same subject. We cannot allow it to continue as it is placing our whole reputation and our journalism programme at stake. This behaviour and exchange is doing serious damage to the USP.

And Professor Mishra’s response:

From: Sudesh Mishra
Sent: Thursday, October 04, 2012 4:54 PM
To: Esther Williams; Akanisi Kedrayate
Subject: RE: Marc Edge
Dear Esther,
You will need to specify which comments have upset the regime, and why.   As far as I can see, Marc has been under assault from all quarters for several months for having a dissenting view to which he is, surely, entitled.  Graham Davis, for instance, has written several uncomplimentary articles on Marc.  Is USP planning to ask Mr Davis to desist?  What’s good for the goose is good for the gander. Marc may not realize the complexity of our politics, but he is slowly coming to terms with it.  Moreover, I may not agree with his views (and I disagree with him on many fronts), but he certainly has the right to express his opinion: this is called academic freedom.
Student complaints we take very seriously.  In this respect, I have been talking to him about improving his style, attitude and approach to suit our cultural context.  I shall keep mentoring him on this front.
Incidentally, I cannot deal with complaints unless I see them in writing.  If you could forward me the regime’s complaint, I shall take up the matter with Dr Edge and the Dean.  The regime has yet to respond to a complaint lodged by Dr Edge.  The goose-gander principle applies here as well.
Best wishes,

A couple of observations can be drawn from the previous exchange. When the Deputy Vice Chancellor of the University of the South Pacific wants something done to protect the USP’s standing, her subordinates hardly jump to attention. And Professor Mishra is demonstrably protecting Dr Edge, despite his protestations to the contrary. It has been the claim of many internal observers to this unfortunate saga and here’s the proof.

One thing is certain. This saga has a long way to go. And in the meantime, the reputation of the USP and its School of Journalism is being trashed. Don’t take our word for it. The Deputy Vice Chancellor says so herself.