Beard Developments

One of the interesting new initiatives here at Sussex University is Sussex Research a new programme for promoting and facilitating interdisciplinary research. The announcement of this new scheme made me think of possibilities of implementing such approaches more widely.

One of the problems facing Sussex University these days is clearly the shortage of beards among academic staff. Since its hirsute heydays in the sixties and seventies the proportion of clean shaven lecturers has increased alarmingly, with corresponding consequences for our position in the international league tables. Only one Head of School has a beard, and not a single member of the Senior Management has any significant facial hair. This is a scandal of major proportions, tantamount to institutional pogonophobia.

Recognizing that in order to return to its former glory the University needs to turn this situation around rapidly, it has decided to introduce a new Beard Development Fund from which funds may be sought to promote the growth of facial hair across all sectors of the University. Such funds might support workshops at which staff can share good practice and form networks with other beard wearers, or to provide training for inexperienced staff and students who are have yet to acquire their first beard, Discussions are also under way with the Beard Liberation Front to provide beard awareness training.

In addition to  the Beard Development Fund there are a range of other initiatives to provide incentives for staff to develop their own portfolio of facial hair. Having previously focussed almost exclusively on teaching and research, promotion panels will now explicitly take hirsuteness into consideration. Moreover, in consideration of borderline candidates, examination boards will be allowed to consider the quality of a student’s beard in deciding the final degree classification.

Female staff and students will be exempt from the new procedures. For the time being.

One a personal level, acknowledging the fundamental importance of beards in the history of Physics, I have produced a detailed three-point guide on Beard Growth for members of my own School, and we shall shortly be running the first ever competition to find MPS Beard of the Year, in which all staff and students in the School will be invited to vote for the winner, i.e. me.

cropped_beardIncidentally, I discovered the other day that Royal Navy Regulations still permit the wearing of beards, as long as they are a “full set” (i.e. beard and moustache joined, not separate). That perhaps explains why someone I met recently described mine (left) as being a “Navy Beard”, and why some have suggested that I resemble Captain Haddock. I’ll do a look-alike as soon as I can procure a sailor’s hat and a pipe…

14 Responses to “Beard Developments”

  1. While I appreciate the hard work that goes into beard development, I am still concerned about the gender issues here. Have you thought it all through? For example, how will the “exempt” procedure be implemented in the case of two equal candidates, one female (lets assume beardless) and one male with a fulsome beard? Could I perhaps suggest that volume and length of curly locks be taken into consideration?

    • Monica Grady Says:

      I too am very concerned about the gender issue. Given the amount of work going into Athena Swan compliance, are you sure that promoting incentives such as Beard Development is within the spirit of the scheme? Admittedly, beard development is a more recognized characteristic of older members of a Faculty (both male and female), but you are then in danger of promoting an ageist agenda, where less mature staff may be unable to compete on equal terms. Perhaps you could adapt the guidelines for facial hair to include consideration of eyebrows, whilst losing points for ear-hair?

    • telescoper Says:

      Perhaps in order to avoid gender bias, female candidates should be permitted to wear false beards at interview?

    • “Could I perhaps suggest that volume and length of curly locks be taken into consideration?”

      Until recently, I would have beat anyone, male or female, on that count.

  2. “Since its hirsute heydays in the sixties and seventies the proportion of clean shaven lecturers has increased alarmingly”

    “Female staff and students will be exempt from the new procedures. For the time being.”

    Actually, I suspect that the number of women who shave has increased much more since those times than the number of men who shave. 🙂

  3. Incidentally, I discovered the other day that Royal Navy Regulations still permit the wearing of beards, as long as they are a “full set”

    I’ve always wondered about this, since the military often requires shaving so that gas masks fit tightly. Surely, this should allow a moustache but not any growth on the cheeks.

    In some countries, what is known as a “seaman’s beard” (though for a non-military seaman, such as a fisherman) is an otherwise full beard but with no moustache. Best astronomical example: Bengt Gustafsson.

  4. “I resemble Captain Haddock”

    My ultimate goal is the Brahe beard.

  5. I once heard that bearded chemists get higher yields in the lab ‘cos the shedding protein fragments serve to nucleate their reaction mixtures. Never worked for me, though….

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