Context 2012:

a)      Separation from my life partner Stephen Gerber of eight years. I get depressed. In spite of the fact that he is psychiatrist from the NHS. He refuses to help. Full blown depression without being medicated.

b)      My mother who is alone in Argentina is diagnosed with colon cancer and has three surgeries

c)      My best friend Jenna Mack has a nervous breakdown, attempts suicide and gets pregnant by one of the workers that are refurbishing her London flat. She decides to go for an abortion. At the point, no one knew. I accompany her through the whole process. She becomes too emotionally dependant and accuses me of not being for her (well, I am gay).

d)      John Mack (former CEO of Morgan Stanley) takes the opportunity to retain against my will Andy Warhol’s Lenin which we had bought together. He stole my savings.

I decide to find shelter in my research and do the best possible dissertation possible. I decided to communicate this to my tutors in the following day:

November 20, 2011: ‘Dear Rose Marie and Joanna…. The last months have been very tough for me at a personal level, I hope you understand. Oddly, it allowed me to see my research afresh. (…) of course, it will be my pleasure to meet you November 27th at the time and place that you decide. As usual I want to thank you for all your help and generosity’.


November 27th, 2011: My mother’s radiology weakens her too much that she cannot stay by herself. She has an accident on the streets. I flew on the spot to Buenos Aires in a 22 hour long flight stopping in Milan. When I arrive to Buenos Aires, I emailed both my tutors to update them on this. Tutorial is postponed to February 2012.

Tears In Public 

February 10, 2012. I meet Joanna Woodall and Rose Marie San Juan (my then tutors)   at the British Library.  Having two (out of four) chapters approved (in need of changes but approved) and having Upgraded to PhD (Sheilla McTighe, as second reader of the Upgrade expressed that she ‘had no doubt that I had to be upgraded to PhD’) my PhD status should not have been questioned at this point. Unaware of Woodalls machinations in front of the RDC lying about a supposed ‘relationship of friendship’ between my donor (Mrs Elena Heinz) and I (see Courtauld Crisis IV in this blog. Click HERE), I met Rose Marie San Juan, who having arrived earlier than Joanna, expressed (also in her name) her ‘anger’ at my not having been in the previous tutorial (see b and the previous paragraph to this one). I burst into tears and not a few…many! This is a man who is turning 40 year olds in five days crying in front of two academic tutors that are supposed to be there for containing him, at least, academically. I told them both that I would communicate the Courtauld the fact that I suffer from depression. They adviced me against this idea saying that ‘the institution’ (to use Foucault’s terminology) would ‘medicalise me’(sic). In other words, I would be hence considered just as ‘a depressive’ (which I believe is a lesser way of being) and treated as such and that ‘that would have a negative impact in my academic career’. I found the comment unprofessional and bizarre.

ImagenDonor Elena Heinz

A Tricky And Not Strictly Accurate Report 

February 11, 2012: Joanna Reports to the Research Degrees Committee: ‘RM San Juan and I met Rodrigo on Friday 10 February to inform him of our concern about his progress (my comment: I never got feedback in writing or at the meeting of why were they concerned). He had missed his previous supervision without contacting us beforehand (see b above. By putting the situation like this she makes me look not as a responsible son but as an irresponsible student. Let me remind the viewer that I was recently upgraded and up to date with my thesis)  and the written work that he submitted for discussion on February 10 was not a PHD level (My comment: It was not supposed to be since the formal submission deadline was 6 months later). During the autumn term, he had informed us of personal difficulties and had presented a paper at the early modern symposium which was not comprehensible (my comment: this is not true, I had issues with my new computer and arrived late. Instead of allowing myself to start presenting without images, she made a fuss about it in public, treated me dismissively and I felt unwell because of my sleeping pill tablet given by my then partner who was a psychiatrist and, apparently, wanted me to fail. In spite of this, as result of that paper, I was invited to present a similar one in Madrid by the Alvar Library and the Complutense). We have asked Rodrigo to consider suspending his registration while he sorts out his personal difficulties (my PhD was a place to shelter myself from my problems and I was asking for their help. It would not be good for me to be waiting in my house without having anything to do) He is due to inform us of his decision by Friday 17 February. We have informed him that if he decides to continue, he will be asked to submit work of an acceptable standard by july 2012’. The wrong tone for saying something obvious but, under any circumstances, July could be a final deadline. It was that manipulation of the institution and its boundaries that alarmed me.  I, then, realised that having tried everything and failed, she wanted me out. She was relentless…

February 15: Two events occurr…

  1)      Joanna Woodall emails the chair of the RDC (Mignon Nixon) of my ‘personal difficulties for at least the past term and that my work is suffering badly’. (I have had not help with my work and only met my tutors once only to be told that my work was suffering badly and that was it. No written feedback, no comments, no suggestions. I needed to be nurtured not to be pushed away. I had been upgraded after all so I needed at least one sentence informing me why ‘it was suffering badly’)


2)      Joanna Woodalls emails me and says: ‘We agreed that you would let us know by Friday 17th whether you would like to suspend your registration whilst you address the issues you are facing. If this is not the best course of action for you, could you submit the text of your presentation of the Postgraduate Symposium by Monday 27th February, so that Rose Marie and I can give you feedback in time for the event. This piece of writing, and the other work that you do during the spring, will be the basis of our annual monitoring report, which will be discussed at the RDC meeting at the beginning of July. We very much hope that this work will be at PhD level, but in case it is not, I should let you know that the RDC may decide in July to ask you to suspend your registration…’.

Special Treatment  

Let me remind the viewer that the RDC had approved my Upgrade to PhD Status in spite of Joanna Woodall’s machinations four months earlier and both my tutors expressed satisfaction for my second chapter. By the way, I was the only one of my colleagues that was supposed to pass the  to the ‘monitoring report exercise in the RDC’. The treatment was clearly different than, lets say, Debbie Babbage working with her on Rembrandt. Did she think that putting me under unnecessary pressure would help me?

February 20: Mignon Nixon, head of RDC emails Joanna Woodall and says: ‘It may be useful to remind Rodrigo that as head of programme I am also his ‘personal tutor’’.

March 2nd, 2012: 7PM I email both Joanna Woodall and Rose Marie San Juan saying: ‘In spite of your suggestion (…) I will communicate my health situation to the Courtauld (…) I got depressed because I decided to help other people instead of just moving on. (…) I guess one in life chooses to love or not to love and, like my friend Marina Abramovic says, love is trust. I am not talking about romantic love here. I am talking about the kind of love you have when you decide to teach and not to earn more money, for example. So again from a Foucaultian perspective, if this ‘weak’ moment compromises my professional future, so be it.’

The Bomb 

March 3rd, 2012. 8.05PM I get an email from Rose Marie San Juan and after that ten unsuccessful attempts to recall it (in order to recall them she should have sent the email from the Courtauld network but, unfortunately for her, she did it from the UCL network). She wanted desperately to prevent me from reading it. I did! It was a part of an ongoing informal conversation where both my tutors were mocking a 40 year old depressed and broken man who had just burst into tears in front of them and in public at the British Library. The content of Rose Marie San Juan email is:

‘WHAT????????????????? Not often that Foucault’s medicalized subject and Abramovic’s love is trust become the choices of Hercules at the Crossroads!!!!!

In the words of your people (the English), I am gobsmacked! (Rose Marie San Juan is Canadian)

But I know that a reader can get lost so let’s summarise the facts:

Feb 10, 2012: Woodall and San Juan unfairly try to make me suspend my registration or speed up the process of my general failure. No written feedback on my work which does not receive even one verbal or written comment.  Until today I don’t know why they thought it was not at PhD level. I burst into tears and ask them and the Courtauld to help me go through this. JW and RSJ advice me against telling the Courtauld that I suffer from depression ‘because it would hurt my career’ and I would be treated as a mentally unhealthy agent.

 Feb 11, 2012: JW sends a confusing report to the RDC (that is behind my back) ‘medicalising me’ and announcing my failure

March 2nd, 2012: I officially tell the Courtauld that I suffer from depression

March 2nd (one hour later): Rose Marie San Juan sends me by mistake and email where she laughs at that. On the other end of the laughing gossip was her best friend and my tutor Joanna Woodall. My tutors are mocking me because I am depressed and have told them that given the options, I decided to do the right thing and help my mother, no matter what.At that point and having tried to recall the email, they are both uncertain whether I had actually read the Email. Trying to cover herself, Joanna Woodall uses the fact that I am depressed to start ‘medicalising’ me (which was exactly the reason what preventing me to suffer if I told the Courtauld a week before)

March 7th at 3PM: Joanna Woodall does not mention San Juan’s email but sends me an email expressing ‘concern that we have not received the text of your talk for the symposium tomorrow’.

I remain silent waiting for an apology and still giving them the benefit of the doubt. But the worst happens two hours before the symposium where I was supposed to present the outcome of my three year long research.

Far Too Far 

March 7th at 5PM: I receive Rose Marie San Juan’s ‘apology’. She says: ‘Dear Rodrigo, I write to apologise for the message you received from me last Friday. After receiving your message I wrote down a few points for myself, as I always do, and put the message away intending to return to it at another time before sending you a response. Unfortunately, I accidentally sent it instead of storing it. When I realised what I had done, I tried to retrieve it through the UCL system and thought I had till today when I heard from a colleague that we can only retrieve messages within the UCL system itself. Hence I presume you received it. It was certainly not my intention to cause you further distress. Just the opposite’

Basically, she was not apologising for laughing at me and my ‘pathetic’ life and self but she wanted to apologise for bothering me reading an email that was about me but I was not supposed to have read it because they were ‘her notes’ ABOUT ME!!!! Wow! Wow! At that point, I thought is she an idiot or a clinically unwell sociopath? What happens if a sadistic sociopath (two in this case) and a depressive person meet in conditions of lack of transparency and imbalance of power? Well, the depressed one could end up hanging himself. Ergo, these two women are DANGEROUS.

But hold on…do not get ahead of ourselves… Joanna Woodall and Rose Marie San Juan in less than one month did the following to me…Let’s recapitulate:

1)       decided to fail my ‘draft’ (six months before submission deadline) without commenting on it or leaving any written feedback for me to work on and improve

2)      suggest me NOT to inform the Courtauld that I am suffering from depression because of its negative impact on my academic career

3)      made me burst into tears in public at the cafeteria of the British Library where they like to meet

4)       laugh behind my back calling me ‘Hercules in the Crossroads’ and my personal problems are object of not only derision but also shock Miss San Juan.

5)      They do not consider me relevant enough to send me a proper apology. Rose Marie apology is perverse and incendiary. I am concerned, at this point, about their mental health and my future and investment.

March 8th: Due to these events, I cry all day. I cannot even pick up the phone to tell the organisers of the Symposium that I will not attend. I honestly do not know, at that point, what is my relationship with the Courtauld. I was shocked.  I call my co-referee vice-Provost of UCL, Michael Worton and he expresses concern too. He suggests me to send all the emails  to the Director of the Courtauld Deborah Swallow.

Don’t Bother Me. This is a Welfare Issue 

At 9PM: I send her a long email with my issues but I explicitly say: ‘I am sorry to bother you but I felt that I needed to make the following information available to you for taking or not the actions that you feel reasonable. Please be assured that I intend to manage this issue with extreme caution and, hopefully, elegance…While at this stage I feel it unnecessary to any further action to be taken, I would ask you please to bear this incident in mind should any situation in the future requires it. Naturally I shall be happy to discuss this further with you should you have any queries. I hope that this email does not give you the wrong impression because I have enjoyed every single moment of my studying at the Courtauld’

They still do not know whether I read the email or not.

March 9th 7AM: Woodall emails me expressing her ‘extreme concern about what happened yesterday (my absence at the Symposium). Debbie Babbage (colleague and friend of mine) told me that you were at home. I urge you as strongly as I possibly can to make an appointment to see Mignon Nixon, so that the Courtauld can support you in tackling your situation’. Joanna Woodall’s strategy to defend what is indefensible is to ‘medicalise’ me.

C’est Mignon! 

March 9th 2PM: Deborah Swallow answers coldly: ‘May I suggest that you contact the Head of Research Degrees Programme, Professor Mignon Nixon, on this. In our structure, the Head of Programme is the personal tutor for all PhD students and is the first port of call for supervisory issue, as laid out in the research student handbook’.

In other words, the Director of the Courtauld cannot be bothered, does not consider the situation serious enough and officially transforms what you just read into a ‘student welfare issue’.  I could not imagine how astonishingly bad the Courtauld would behave from that moment on but that is the next Courtauld Crisis report.

 Next Courtauld Crisis: Mignon Nixon, my personal ‘tutor’. A shoulder to lean on!