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PROTECTING ROOTS WHILE BREAKING CHAINS: RUNNING AN OXFORD COLLEGE
NOVEMBER 15TH, 2018
6:15 PM - 10:15 PM
PROTECTING ROOTS WHILE BREAKING CHAINS: RUNNING AN OXFORD COLLEGE - NOVEMBER 15TH, 2018

The Talk: Protecting Roots While Breaking Chains: Running an Oxford College

Sir Ivor Creweis the Master of University College Oxford (‘Univ’), the oldest college of the oldest university in the English-speaking world.  Founded in 1249 by Bishop William of Durham as a theological seminary, its two teachers and handful of impoverished pupils studied, ate and lived together in lodgings in Oxenford in the marshy lowlands of the upper Thames. 

Few organizations of any type adapt, survive and prosper across eight centuries. Univ predates, by a matter of centuries, Gutenberg’s printing press, the Inca citadel at Machu Picchu, the Ming Emperor’s Forbidden City and Columbus’s arrival in the Americas. It has survived the Black Plague, the English Civil War, the industrial revolution, the rise and fall of the British Empire, two world wars and should, we trust, cope imaginatively with Brexit, the rise of China and the onward march of robots. 

Adaptability is enabled in part by endowment, which expresses faith in the future. To attract benefactors, a careful balance has to be struck: namely to preserve the roots of what makes Oxford, and that specific College, worth preserving and championing; as well as breaking the chains that may keep it trapped in outdated practices and paradigms that inhibit its efficacy in the modern world. Such endowment also guarantees the College’s financial independence from the central government -- a critical condition for institutional autonomy of thought and speech. 

It also pays for the USP of Oxford, the tutorial system of teaching, in which eminent scholars and scientists patiently teach very bright neophytes in pairs, as the priests did in 1249. 

Competition for a prized undergraduate place at Oxford is fiercer than ever: admissions are based exclusively on academic merit, without the compromise of diversity quotas or legacy places. 

Most graduates progress to leadership positions and many achieve true distinction. Univ’s more celebrated alumni include the poet Shelley, (who was expelled), the physicist Stephen Hawking, whose tutor said “I taught Hawking in his first year and he taught me in his second and third”), President Bill and daughter Chelsea Clinton, two British prime ministers, an Australian prime minister, and Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch among others.

Oxford colleges are self-governing academic communities, with their own legal charters. The Fellowship (‘faculty’) take their sovereignty seriously, resisting management with an upper-case M while calling (sometimes) for leadership. 

Heads of Oxford Colleges have almost no formal powers, so rely on persuading a large governing body to do the right and sensible things. They must forget command and control and embrace herding cats. Strategic influence is certainly the order of the day.

It will also be fascinating, to hear Sir Ivor compare and contrast Oxford and the College system with the way education is structured and presented in the United States. Among, other things, for Oxford it is the Undergraduate experience that is paramount.

Of course, there also things in common. Oxford colleges face the challenges of all elite academies: how to ‘widen access’ without eroding academic standards, how to deal with illiberal political correctness, and how to improve the mental health of students bedeviled by perfectionism, excessive competitiveness and anxieties about self-worth induced by their immersion in the social media. 

We will have a fascinating engagement regarding both the challenges of higher education amidst today’s pressures and realities as well as the real-life stewardship that has to be practiced in safe-guarding and leading this multi-faceted and storied institution.

Our Speaker: Sir Ivor Crew, Master, University College, Oxford

Sir Ivor Martin Crewis the Master of University College, Oxford and President of the Academy of Social Sciences. 

Sir Ivor Crewe was director of the ESRC Data Archive from 1974 to 1982, and co-director of the British Election Study from 1973-81. With Dr David Rose, he established the British Household Panel Study and founded the Institute of Social and Economic Research at Essex in 1990. From 1977-82, Crewe was editor of the British Journal of Political Science.

He undertook extensive research from the early 1970s to the mid-1990s in elections and voting behavior and published his results in Decade of Dealignment (1983, with Bo Sarlvik) and numerous articles, including the influential 'Partisan Dealignment in Britain 1964–74. 

He was a frequent commentator on UK elections for television and the press. He argued that the Labour Party was destined for electoral defeat as the traditional working class contracted unless it appealed to a wider social constituency embracing other classes. He regarded the electoral success of New Labour in the 1997 and 2001 general elections as a vindication of his electoral analysis. 

From 1995 to 1 September 2007, Sir Ivor Crewe was the Vice-Chancellor of the University of Essex and is a former Chair of the 1994 Group and President of Universities UK. As President of UUK from 2003 to 2005, he mobilised university Vice-Chancellors in favour of the Government's proposal to introduce tuition fees. 

He was appointed Knight Bachelor in 2006. In July 2008, Crewe succeeded Lord Butler as Master of University College. 

In 2013, he co-wrote The Blunders of our Governments, a study of major failures of public policy in modern Britain. Peter Preston’s review in The Guardian commented "It should be a deeply distressing account of blunders past, present and pending from two of our most brilliant political analysts, but in fact you have to smile gallantly through many of the disasters that throng 400 or more of these pages".

From 2009 to 2015 he served as a Governor of the School of Oriental and African Studies and of the University of the Arts London.  He is currently Chair of the Higher Education Policy Institute, a governor of the European University Institute in Florence and a member of the international advisory body of the Freie Universitat Berlin (FUB). 

The Tasting: The Lyrical Appeal of Lafleur

Chateau Lafleur glimmers as a legendary Pomerol, shimmers as a testament to terroir and classical wine-making and is distinguished by its devotion to continuing a proud and quite unique patrimony.

Pomerol is often called the “Burgundy of Bordeaux” for its terroir driven artisanal evocation of terroir. And Lafleur produces radiant examples of this. We will have Director Omri Ramwith us from Lafleur to guide our tasting.

For the tasting, we will taste across their superb range of holdings, from Les Champs Libres, to Acte 6, from Grand Village Blanc to Grand Village, from Pensees to the Grand Vin, Chateau Lafleur, itself.

With dinner, we will focus almost exclusively on the Grand Vin, and seek to better understand Lafleur’s marvelous mystique, its Merlot/Cabernet Franc dalliance, its exciting depth, its sensual dark cherry kissed complexity, its hauntingly elegant caress, particularly as it ages and expresses ever more of its latent genius.

This is a remarkable opportunity to taste one of the world’s greatest and rarest wines, with wines from the Chateau, and guided by our friend Omri Ram, who also helps to steward a proud and distinguished legacy.

The Dinner: Numinous Cuisine at NoMad

This is another highlight of our year. Chef Daniel Humm’s extraordinary team at NoMad never fails to astound us with the range of their culinary creativity, and as we enjoy the dazzling roof-top dining room, we will have again a menu created to add additional allure to our dazzling wines. This is certainly an occasion not be missed.