19 May 2013


It was possibly around September or October of 1987 that we were told that something called the "Auckland Business School" was to be created.

Some weeks passed before I understood (to the extent that I ever have) what this meant - how, I mean, this was different from "The Faculty of Commerce," one department of which (Accountancy) was where I worked.  I thought it was just a name change; perhaps it was nothing more than that.  I am not sure that I know to this day.

The change may have amounted to no more than a difference in name; the practical reality was to be of rather greater significance.

The Faculty of Commerce, in 1985, when I started, and in 1987, when the announcement was made, comprised two academic departments: Accountancy (where I worked) and Management Studies.  All told there were three computer support persons in the faculty: me (Accountancy), Michael Ford (Management Studies), and Paul Brown (who managed the computer lab - 20 terminals connecting to one Xenix Z8000 machine with 1MB of RAM and a full 200MB of hard disc).  The new School was to have six academic departments:

  1. Accounting and Finance
  2. Commercial Law
  3. Management and Employment Relations
  4. Marketing and International Business
  5. Management Studies and Information Systems
  6. Economics
Numbers 1. and 2. were the original Accountancy Department split into two; 3. through 5. were similarly Management Studies fissiparating into three.  Economics - which had been rather in a no-man's land theretofore (since it was sort of part of Commerce; sort of part of Science; and sort of part of Arts).

What was clear was that the five departments from the original Faculty of Commerce was not likely to expand from three computer support persons (Economics already had - and still has - its own) to five.  Paul, Michael, and I met.  What did we propose?

In the event, Michael wanted no part of the thing.  He resigned and went to work for an Auckland market research company.  Paul and I talked and decided:
  • there should be formed a Computer Services Unit to serve the computing needs of the new School
  • initially it should have three members - someone (Lorri O'Brien, from Geography, it turned out to be) would have to be hired to take Michael's place
  • a member of the new group must be its manager.  Each of us had been under managers who knew nothing of the work itself.  This, we were sure, was a very bad idea (it was because of that that I had, just a few months before, considered leaving for my friend's company)
And I put forward a fourth point:
  • Paul should be the manager
"Why?" Paul asked.  Didn't I want the job?  I was older than he and had been there longer.

Absolutely not.  I believed (and believe) that I would be a disastrous manager; Paul had actually managed his father's construction business for a couple of years.  Paul's degree was in Computer Science; mine in linguistics (at this time I was just finishing the second of six years towards a Diploma in Computer Science).  And I felt that any sort of beginning of our group with a manger who had competed with another member for the job would be an unpropitious beginning.

We put our proposal to the School.  It was accepted.  The School was launched (with the name "University of Auckland School of Business and Economics" - the Economics department wanted to make sure their name was in the title) on, I think, 1 February, 1988.

New school seemed to imply the need for new equipment.

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