“This was the noblest Roman of them all,” pronounced Mark Antony, in the final act of Shakespeare’s tragedy Julius Caesar. At the time, Antony was mourning the death of Brutus, history’s most famous traitor and backstabber.
Vice-Chancellor Ian Young was not history’s most famous traitor and backstabber. But there are some bitter, ironic parallels between Young (a man whose greatest acts include slashing the arts at the ANU) and the fictional dramatization of Brutus. Both were men who stood by their principles, however misguided and ultimately destructive they may have been. Both were men who were backed by far more intelligent counterparts (Cassius, Marnie Hughes-Warrington). Both struggled to be taken seriously, crippled by inherently humorous facial hair (actually, that one was just Young).
The thing about Professor Young, was that in many ways, he should have been the underdog. Completing his PhD at James Cook University in Northern Queensland, the younger Ian began his career as a humble researcher, specializing in the peaceful tranquility of “Coastal and Ocean Engineering and Physical Oceanography.” Soon, however, it became apparent that fishy friends were insufficient for Professor Young’s ambition: from 2003 to 2011, he found himself Vice-Chancellor of Swinburne University of Technology. There his Roman tendencies first began to flare, as he began a brutal series of cuts to the Swinburne Student Union: from 2009 to 2011, there was literally no Union presence in the university’s Union Building, a sure sign of Young’s success in his violent military conquest.
But it was in 2011 where Young finally sailed his ships to the ANU, and there his conquest reached its highest – and lowest – points. In 2012, he announced a series of cuts to the School of Music, gaining the school enormous media controversy, a hollowed-out staff list, and somewhat confusingly, the presence of The Wig & Pen. He subsequently championed fee deregulation, leading to yet another media clusterfuck for the ANU, as well as a clear source of attention for ANUSA Education Officer Laura Wey. His legacy will remain for years, either in the form of drunk students wandering out of the School of Music, or in student debt; it, and his policies, were multifaceted and complex, much like the colouring of his moustache.
Above all, however, Ian Young was a man of the people: we may disagree with his policies, but it is impossible to hate somebody humble enough to regularly jog in short-shorts around campus, somebody with enough of a sense of humour to judge the Woroni’s 2013 “Ian Young Colouring-in Contest.” It is with a heavy heart then that Woroni says goodbye to the Vice-Chancellor, and wishes him well in his next position (and presumably, act of extreme bloodletting).