mayflies and junebugs

Or: May has flown by, and I have had my first insect-bites of the year. Students seem to be learning French, and still coming to class despite the rival attractions of the nice weather outside. Draft posts are still a-coming up: on libraries, contin.; The Old Talks series; assorted notes on applied medievalism as translated to teaching and learning and other scholarly work, especially the fashionably-hot thing that is online education. All that mookery and mookishness. On which, before we go any further, I need to get this off my chest: Urban Dictionary > “mook” (n.)

But I interrupt such regular broadcasting—or rather, non-broadcasting—for three news items. They might or might not be connected to one another. There is no genetic connection: the three came into being separately and independently. There may be some topical and poetic connections, depending on the reader and their reading. And of course, like any set collection of three items (of whatever degree of randomness), under an extreme / good old-fashioned eschatological reading The Three are symptomatic of End Times Being Upon Us.


ne nos inducas in tentationem sed libera nos a Malo


(not actually news proper)

I learned some cool facts today that were new to me, and therefore sort of constitute “news.”

When one first does a Google image search for “medieval junebug“, this sort of thing happens:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.01.09 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.01.38 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.02.04 AM

Now, that’s already very interesting and telling, and like many a Google image search it’s a highly informative social, cultural, and historical snapshot. Eventually, some medieval hits mix themselves into the surrealist-ist collage. For every Google image search will invariably lead to the medieval, the medievalist (stabby grannies), and the medievalising (from phantom anaesthetists to second life avatars). Medievalism is everywhere, and it’s spreading:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.03.22 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.04.14 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.05.03 AM

And, as ever, at a certain point the inevitable happens as The First Rule of the Internet must be preserved or the world would end. Every search must culminate in a lolcat. Here, then, the doubly-inevitable combined-rule medieval lolcat:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.05.35 AM

In investigating junebugs further (that is, the 10-second Wikipedia search), one finds that there are several species that are referred to as “junebugs.” Of these, almost all are New World. There is good news, though, and hope for some medieval images: one “junebug” is an Old World beetle:

  • The European chafer (Rhizotrogus majalis, classified as Amphimallon majalis until 1978) is a beetle of the Scarabaeidae family. Formerly found only in continental Europe, this invasive species is now found at temperate latitudes in North America, where they are commonly called June bugs. The large, white grubs of R. majalis feed on the roots of most cool-latitude grasses, both wild and cultivated. This has made the European chafer an enemy of North American lawns.

Invasion, conquest, and colonialism: so pervasive.

The first few results of the next Google image search for “medieval european chafer”?

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.49.48 AM


  • Plus ça change : l’impérialisme anglais continue comme toujours…
  • Medievalism and its meta- and meta-meta- relatives are all around. They may sneak up on you at any moment and take you unawares. No-one is immune. This is a success-“story” for brilliant marketing.


(a proper item)

A triumph for common sense, and for good old guilds, and for universities in the proper, true, good, strong, medieval sense.

You may recall this comic episode back in March:

Well, there’s been progress: on 23 April our union (UBC Faculty Association) issued a blanket opt-out letter on behalf of all its members. The operative bit:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 9.59.03 AMSome synopsis of what happened, why this is serious (and not just locally or nationally but with further repercussions), and where we’re at now:

  • FA President’s email to President Toope (03 February 2014)
    The Board of Governors was scheduled to meet on February 4th to review and potentially pass Policy 81. In an effort to make sure that President Toope was aware of the Faculty Association’s strong opposition to the policy as crafted, the President of the Faculty Association wrote an email to President Toope urging him to reflect on the fact that what the University was proposing by this policy was in contravention of the Copyright Act, the University’s Copyright Policy, and the longstanding practice of the University.


  • President Toope informed the Faculty Association’s President on February 5th that the policy had been removed from the Board of Governor’s agenda, for further discussion.
  • The Faculty Association’s President offered to be involved in those discussions, and assumed that the revised policy might be put on the Board of Governor’s agenda for the next regularly scheduled meeting (April 2014).
  • University Counsel Hubert Lai offered to meet with the Faculty Association on February 24 to discuss ongoing concerns of the Faculty Association. At that meeting, much to the surprise of the Association, Mr. Lai announced that the policy had been passed on February 20 without any further consultation with us.
  • FA President’s email to FA members re: passing of Policy 81 (25 February 2014)
    The Faculty Association President informs Faculty Association members of the passage of Policy 81, and advises members to protect all of their teaching material to make sure that they do not inadvertently “share” material, as this will grant irrevocable use and revision rights to UBC.
  • CAUT letter to President Toope (28 February 2014)
    CAUT (the Canadian Association of University Teachers) responded strongly to the passage of Policy 81, and advised UBC that if it does not withdraw the policy, CAUT will begin to implement a process toward censure of the University.
  • UBC broadcast email re: Policy 81 (06 March 2014)
    Despite the threat of censure by CAUT, UBC released a broadcast message asserting that Policy 81 is simply a mechanism to encode a common practice of sharing teaching materials at the University: “Our community of scholars has a tradition of sharing previously developed materials … However, this community tradition has not previously been supported by formal policy.” The University also misstates its consultation with the Faculty Association about the policy. Not once did the University mention that the Faculty Association objected, at every juncture, to the implementation of an “opt out” policy for sharing teaching materials.
  • President Toope’s response to CAUT (12 March 2014)
    President Toope responded to CAUT that he did not agree with CAUT’s view of the situation on Policy 81, and indicated that arbitration between the University and the Faculty Association was the mechanism for a resolution of this dispute. The Association is deeply disturbed that the President of this University would find arbitration rather than dialogue and real consultation an appropriate mechanism for dispute resolution in this matter.
  • The Faculty Association files a grievance with the University regarding Policy 81 (17 March 2014)
    The grievance letter outlines the key disputes the Association has with the Policy. The Association alleges that the University has contravened Part 1: Articles 13, 14, 16, and 17 and Part 4 and all other applicable and/or relevant parts and articles of the Collective Agreement and applicable law, including the CopyrightAct, RSC 1985, c C-42.
  • FA President’s email to FA members re: the commodification of teaching materials through Policy 81 (17 March 2014)
    The Faculty Association President informs Faculty Association members of the legitimate concern that Policy 81 was passed so that the University could grant rights to itself to faculty members’ teaching materials so that the materials could be commodified to serve the purposes of the Flexible Learning Initiative.
  • FA President’s email to FA members re: CAUT’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee vote (20 March 2014)
    The Faculty Association President informs Faculty Association members that the CAUT’s Academic Freedom and Tenure Committee voted unanimously during its March 14 & 15 meeting to recommend to the CAUT Executive that it put forward a motion at the May Council meeting to begin the process of censure of UBC unless it ends Policy 81 as currently written.
  • The Ubyssey publishes “Policy on sharing teaching materials opposed by Faculty Association,” highlighting some of the issues surrounding Policy 81 (9 April 2014)In the article, Hugh Brock (Associate Provost of Academic Innovation) made clear why the University created Policy 81 with an opt-out provision, rather than an opt-in provision:

    [A database of teaching materials is] “only good if it’s up to date, it’s searchable and compliance is high,” said Brock. “Most professors are updating their courses every year. The likelihood that we could keep, curate and get people to send to arepository is zero.” [emphasis added]

  • The University denies the Association’s grievance (15 April 2014).
    On April 17, the University agreed to provide more fulsome response to the grievance. We will post this when it is available.
  • Jim Turk informs Stephen Toope that CAUT will begin a censure process against UBC (5 May 2014)
    CAUT Council unanimously passed a motion on May 3 that it will censure UBC at its November 2014 meeting unless the University withdraws the provision in Policy 81 that allows the University to appropriate and modify faculty members’ teaching materials unless expressively forbidden by the creator of the materials.
  • The University’s fulsome response to the Association’s grievance (23 May 2014).
  • Flexible Learning Initiative Report (January 2013)
    On page 2 of the rationale for Policy 81 dated February 4, 2014, the Board of Governors was informed that “The proposed Policy is intended to support the Student Learning Commitment by enabling curricula and pedagogy to be developed and revised to foster an effective and efficient student learning environment and to support UBC’s commitment to outstanding teaching and its Flexible Learning Initiative.” If you read through the report on the Flexible Learning Initiative, it becomes obvious that the University sees this initiative as a potential revenue generator. Just one example of this can be found on page 5 under the bullet “Growth Learners” which reads “Accordingly one of the challenges for UBC is to explore how it might be able to re-purpose for this segment some of the content developed for the credit and certification markets.”  In order to support its strategic initiative to generate revenue, the University, through Policy 81, has granted to itself the right to use and revise faculty members’ teaching and learning materials. Unlike the statement in the UBC broadcast email of March 6, 2014 (referenced above), Policy 81 is not simply intended to formally support in policy the rich tradition of collegial sharing for the purposes of pedagogical innovation. The policy is meant to turn the intellectual products of faculty over to the University for its own commercial gains as documented in the Flexible Learning Initiative.

Last modified: May 28, 2014

Source for all the above, copy-pasted directly: UBC Faculty Association: history of the Policy 81 dispute with the University

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sic transit gloria mundi


Some correspondence, of a medievalist nature. One missive follows below; the other was identical and referred to an old site of mine that has been inactive for nearly five (5) years now; its sticky front pages redirects to meta-meta-medieval here.


I am contacting you on behalf of my client AXA UK. We are acting as digital marketing consultants, working closely with their eBusiness team.

You may already be aware that Google recently changed the way it evaluates some links. As a result of this, we are currently reviewing all of the links that point to the AXA UK website.

As such, we would appreciate if you could remove the links that you have pointing to the AXA UK site so that both websites are seen by Google in the best possible light and comply with their Webmaster Guidelines.

Can we ask that the links below are removed?

If you have any questions please feel free to get in touch.

I hope to hear from you soon,

The links from your website,, to the AXA website are located on the following pages:

In accordance with standard online protocol and common courtesy, all individuals have been anonymised; the only active link is to a public (and useful) Google document. I know what you’re going to say next. The art of proper letter-writing is in a sorry state. Even in its lesser expression, legal and commercial correspondence. What I’d like to focus on, though, is the content.

Here are screenshots of the offending item (for there is only one) in question, now defanged:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.15.54 AM Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.16.07 AM

Which referred to:

Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 11.45.07 AM

And my response, anonymised in the same manner as before:

Dear Ms … ,

Thank you for your email. I have duly removed all links pointing to the AXA UK site on my sites; that is, on:

You will find that your other URL references will no longer have an active link too.

I have also made the requisite change on the website of the Forum for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, here:

Some further remarks:

1. As you will be aware if you looked at the websites concerned, they are of an educational and academic nature, about Medieval and Renaissance Studies. I am curious as to why these areas of activity are a matter of concern to an insurance company. After all, academics are human beings too, with all the natural risks associated with human nature; surely we are all equally likely potential customers for AXA? Is this not free publicity?

2. And, as you will also be aware if you read the specific posts concerned, these are about an exhibition at the National Gallery in 2008-2009. The information on these posts was provided directly from press releases from the National Gallery. I assume you have also contacted the National Gallery with your complaint?

3. This exhibition was sponsored by AXA. That is, I am afraid, a matter of fact and of historical record. Corporate patronage of the arts is a long and proud tradition, going back for many centuries in Britain. It benefits everyone:

  • artists, the public, society, the economy via tourism, and a country’s international renown;
  • in the long term: culture, heritage, and history;
  • and of course the corporate sponsors themselves.

Corporate sponsorship of major cultural events is a valuable contribution to Britain: a gift to the British people, and helping make Britain “Great.”

Corporate patrons like AXA gain publicity, public profile, name-recognition, and potential customers. They also gain in the longer term in non-financial terms, a kind of “value” which is priceless–in that a price cannot be put on it, it is beyond price–and in some cases, for some companies, is hard or impossible to buy. Reputation. You see, generosity and public-spiritedness help others’ perception of a company; what is associated with it, what images it conjures up. Matters of image are of course an essential part of branding and brand identity. They also include associations of ethical, social, and political “goods.”

Corporate sponsorship, and sharing and spreading news of it throughout multiple communities, is good.

It is therefore surprising, and perhaps even shocking, that AXA would wish to dissociate themselves from being a patron of the arts in their own country.

Yours etc.,

Dr Juliet O’Brien
Lecturer in French
Department of French, Hispanic and Italian Studies
University of British Columbia
Vancouver, BC V6T 1Z1, Canada


Targeted marketing epic fail. With thanks to Google; from the “medieval junebug” image-search collection.

Targeted marketing epic fail.
With thanks to Google; from the “medieval junebug” image-search collection.



Screen Shot 2014-06-04 at 10.30.46 AM

(image links to #MarketingFAIL)

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