I've done pretty well not to think about work this week. I've been at home, chilling out, attempting to drill some more Chinese into my head, baking, and hanging out with friends. And then two words popped into my head, two words that really make me stressed. They are a rather strange couple of words, and they've been coming for a while - I knew they'd pop up eventually.
The two words? Saudia Arabia. I work for a University helping it to work with other Unviersity's around the world. I'm not entirely comfortable about the human rights, equality of opportunity and democracy records of all the countries we work with. But somehow I manage to rationalise myself out of the problems with most of them: China, India, UAE etc. I argue that they're on a course towards improving the situation in which their populations live, my favourite is China - and despite what you read in the press - visiting and working with Chinese Universities gives me a lot of hope.
Before I headed off on annual leave we had an approach from a Saudia Arabian University, and I had a discussion with a colleague about a scholarship scheme operated by another. I'm not sure everyone thinks that working with Universities from this country is problematic, but I seriously have to think about whether I'm willing to work with them at all. It's an Islamic monarchy. Women's and children's rights are not recognised. There is no democratic involvement whatsoever. I believe that by working with them my employer might breach its duty under the various pieces of equality legislation.
I don't want to be a trouble maker, but I know that this isn't something I'm going to be able to let lie. Obviously nothing has happened yet, but the approach is a genuine one, and they will be visiting. I want to work for a University that is true to itself as a bastion of free thought and academic critique, and I hope that I will be able to raise this issue for debate and have the senior staff engage with the complexity of this issue - rather than being blinded by the glamour of the opportunities that might present themselves. Fingers crossed.