Problem Solved?

 

It’s hard not to feel sorry for the folks at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill as they try to figure out what to do with Silent Sam, the bronze statue honoring a Confederate soldier that occupied a prominent spot on campus until August of this year, when protests resulted in the toppled monument being moved to an undisclosed location (no joke).

Watching UNC officials wrestle with this issue has been painfully hilarious.  Ever go to the circus and see a Volkswagen Beetle arrive at the center ring, disgorging an endless stream of clowns who proceed to run around maniacally, kicking up a sawdust storm of chaos in their oversized shoes?  OK, you’ve got the picture.

University Life has learned that a solution may be at hand.  Through back channels, the President of the United States has contacted UNC and offered to place Silent Sam near the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.  According to a confidential source within the Administration who uses the code name J-Kush, the President’s logic is straightforward:  “Both monuments honor soldiers.  Nobody knows who Silent Sam really was, except that his name was Sam and he didn’t talk much.  Pretty much the same story for the unnamed guys in the Tomb.”

J-Kush maintains that “there is no way we’d let protesters get near any of the monuments at Arlington, so we’ve got that covered.  Of course, the President realizes that using a U.S. soldier to guard Sam might draw criticism, given the whole Confederate thing, so the site would be patrolled by Clarence ‘Hard Tack’ Clussner, a retired security guard who worked for the Winn-Dixie grocery chain for over 35 years.  Clarence is good people.  He doesn’t look for trouble, but he doesn’t walk from it, either.  He once snatched a turkey leg from a shoplifter and then beat him to within an inch of his life with it.  Trust me, that was the last time anybody tried to steal poultry from a Winn-Dixie in Jacksonville, Florida.”

We asked J-Kush if relocating Silent Sam to such a high-profile, sacred location would send the wrong message to the American people about how the President views the role of slavery in U.S. history.

“No, I don’t think so.”

Well, OK then.  Stay tuned.  

 

In Case of Emergency…..

According to The Columbia Daily Spectator, Barnard College will soon install a vending machine outside of its health care center that will dispense emergency contraceptives. 

Nice gesture, Barnard, but you folks are a bit late to the party.  While you’ve been mulling over this decision for God-knows-how-long, here’s what other schools have been doing:

—  On every floor of every dormitory at Syracuse University there is a small cabinet mounted in the hallway that is clearly marked, “Break glass in case of sex.”  The cabinet contains three condoms and a CD by Drake.  According to Dean of Students Lyle Blenz, “we used to have traditional vending machines that stocked condoms, but there’s nothing sadder than seeing a couple of naked sophomores, draped in an afghan knitted by one of their grandmothers, arguing loudly in front of a vending machine at 2:00 a.m. about who forgot to bring quarters.  It’s a whole lot simpler to just give the damn things away.”

— At Colby College in Maine they’ve taken things a step further.  Every Purell Hand Sanitizer Dispenser on campus has been retrofitted so that a swipe of a student’s ID card produces a single, university-strength, steel-belted-radial Trailblazer condom manufactured by Trojan.  Students love the convenience.  As junior Haddon Twenny put it, “You never know who you might connect with in any given class on any given day.  This way, I’m all set for whatever happens.  Having sex after an 8:00 a.m. Stats class rules!”

—  A more holistic approach is taken by the University of Southern California, where its Office of Enhanced Student Life offers a Partner Identification Service (PIDS) to assist students in finding out the names of the individuals they slept with the night before. 

Staffed by retired police detectives, PIDS claims to have an 84% success rate in identifying partners.  According to Senior Investigator Charles “Biff” Cranley, “I’m 72 now, but I was young once.  I understand.  These kids gets all excited and forget to ask for the basics, like the name of the other person.  We help them retrace their steps so they can narrow down the possibilities.  It’s a great feeling when you locate the right individual, and the student smiles at you and says, ‘Yep, that’s the one.  Thanks so much!’  Hell, sometimes the two of them even go out on an old-fashioned date after being reunited.  I worked in Homicide for 35 years, but right now I’m having the time of my life!”

—  Of course, not every school moves at the same speed when it comes to addressing sexuality and young people in the 21st century.  At Bob Jones University in Greenville, South Carolina, for example, the administration is proud of its new “Where Do Christian Babies Come From?” curriculum, featuring instructional videos in which key concepts are demonstrated by kittens, otters, and (for Seniors only) African bush elephants.  In the words of Winifred “Winnie” Frohlstrom, Vice President for Student Chastity, “at Bob Jones we’re committed to graduating students who display a mature attitude toward physical intimacy with the opposite sex while also being wildlife-sensitive.”

Now there’s a goal that University Life hopes we can all endorse.

 

Going…..Going…..Gone?

According to a recent article in The Chronicle of Higher Education, the number of History majors in the U.S. is sinking faster than a ball bearing in a toilet bowl — from 34,642 in 2008 to 24,255 in 2017.  At this pace, the last History major will put down the toilet seat and flush shortly before 2040.

Over the past two months, reporters from University Life have interviewed dozens of undergraduates across the country in an attempt to pinpoint the causes of this precipitous decline.  Here’s a sampling of what students told us:

Melanie Z., Providence College:  “Hey, I’m all about the future, not the past.  There’s nothing I can do about what’s already happened.  I mean, what’s the point?  Geez!”

Gregory B., University of Wyoming:  “Studying history is way too much like talking with my girlfriend.  She always wants to focus on what I said to her last week, and how she felt about what I said, and how she reacted to how she felt, and how I didn’t listen to her when she told me how she felt about what I said, and how my not listening to her has hurt our relationship, and what it all means.  

“For the love of God, would you please shut the ____ up!  Can’t we just have some sex this afternoon and move on?  Do we have to relive every freakin’ moment of our lives?

“Excuse me, what was your question again?”

Barry L., College of Charleston:  “Sorry, but there’s no way I’m going to major in something that requires me to read about dead people I never knew, who lived in countries I’ll never visit and can’t even pronounce. ‘Kyrgyzstan’?  ‘Namibia’?  Are you kidding me?”

Hannah J., Emory University:  “My roommate Gina and I took a U.S. History course last semester and learned all about how there was slavery and stuff way back in the 1800s in the South.  Now Gina won’t talk to me because I’m white, and she’s black.  That class totally screwed up our friendship.  She won’t even let me borrow her sweaters any more, and we’re the same size!  I am so done with History!”

Tim G., University of Rochester:  “You ever try to pick up a girl at a party by saying something witty about the Code of Hammurabi or the Franco-Prussian War?  It’s hopeless.  They just stop drinking and stare at you, neither of which is good.  Psychology courses are way better at giving you material to work with.  My favorite Psych concept is cognitive-behavioral therapy.  Females absolutely love it.  Just make sure to maintain eye contact when talking about the feelings component.  Works every time.  Well, almost every time.”

History professors, the clock is ticking.  Act soon, or your discipline will soon become history.

 

Make Them Stop!

It wasn’t exactly the Battle of the Alamo, but things got a little testy recently at the University of Texas at San Antonio, when a senior lecturer had campus police remove a student from the classroom who had put her feet on the chair in front of her during a previous class session (no joke). 

Although this faculty member’s response to an instance of poor Reebok etiquette may seem a bit extreme, it represents just the tip of the iceberg of what instructors are dealing with in their classrooms these days.  A few examples from across the country:

— At the University of Alabama, Professor Phyllis Grusk was greeted by a raucous tailgate party when she walked into her Chemistry 351 class the day before the annual football game between the Crimson Tide and LSU.  According to Grusk, two students from Phi Gamma Pu, a rogue fraternity, had brought a portable electric grill and a full-sized turkey fryer into the classroom and were “cooking up a storm.”  Unfortunately, they had overfilled the fryer and a violent grease fire erupted, destroying $25,000 worth of laboratory equipment.

Gamma Pu Chapter President Gavin “T-Bone” Skirly was asked to comment on the incident: “Awesome!  Just freakin’ awesome!  Someone told me that when the fryer exploded, a flying turkey leg actually pierced a ceiling tile at warp speed and is still stuck there.  Is that cool or what?  Roll Tide Roll!

—  At Reed College in Oregon, two students taking Deranged Artists of the Renaissance were reprimanded for having sex during class on a yoga mat they had spread out at the back of the room.  The offending students, Tim Skeeve and Marjorie Schneid, claimed that they were simply expressing the physical manifestation of their shared truth, a truth that “should not be constrained by medieval attitudes toward consensual, peaceful, copulatory communication.”

Professor Talmadge Jones, who teaches the course, pointed out that the couple’s “peaceful copulation” was, in fact, quite noisy, and distracted the other students.  As he put it, “Ever try to lecture about Botticelli’s The Birth of Venus when you’ve got a woman in the room screaming ‘My flowers are blooming, Sir Lancelot!’ at the top of her lungs?  It’s no picnic.  We had to throw a tarp over them.”

—  Finally, there is the case of Dr. Elwin Gaffner at Tulane University.  Professor Gaffner called campus police last week and accused students in his Econometrics class of staring at him during his lectures.  When police informed him that such behavior is to be expected in a lecture course, Dr. Gaffner noted that many of the students were smirking as they stared, and that the corneas of their eyes were bright crimson.  “And they’re all making strange little throat noises — a soft sound, something in between clucking and growling.  Listen.  Don’t you hear that?”

Professor Gaffner was referred to Tulane’s Teaching and Learning Center for consultation on classroom management, including training in the performance of exorcisms. 

Happy Thanksgiving from University Life.  And remember: Never turn your back on the students in your class.  Safety first.

There’s No Place Like Home?

Have you been feeling ill at ease lately at your college or university, thinking that perhaps it’s not the best place for someone of your background and temperament?  Recently, The Chronicle of Higher Education published “Warning Signs that You and Your Campus Are a Bad Fit,” in order to help professors notice and interpret their square-peg/round-hole experiences.

The article is a valuable guide, but it overlooks several key symptoms of poor personal/institutional alignment.  As a service to University Life readers, we present them here:

—  At a reception for new faculty, the Provost asks about your scholarly interests.  You eagerly respond, “I study the river as a symbol of rebirth in 19th-century British fiction.” The Provost stares at you blankly and says, “You’re joking, right?” 

—  At department meetings you silently scan the conference table around which your colleagues are seated, and contemplate how long it would take to push 11 people, one at a time, off a cliff.

—  Your school’s service-animal policy allows students to bring a flounder to class.

—  The email address assigned to you by the IT department is nullandvoid@dipshit.com.

— Although you have known the cashier in the faculty dining room for three years, she asks to see your university ID every time you pay for lunch, even when you’re using cash.

—  Whenever you request a clean towel at the school’s rec center,  the attendant picks a damp one from the dirty-laundry bin.

—  The department secretary has never called you by your name.

—  The department secretary has never called you, period.

—  When you show a clip from Saving Private Ryan in your course on the Second World War, four students complain that they developed PTSD as a result of seeing Tom Hanks unhappy.  The Dean upholds their grievance, and your travel funds for professional conferences are frozen for a year.

—  The custodian has never emptied the waste basket in your office, but does use the corner of your office to store filled trash bags on days he doesn’t want to carry them to the dumpster in the parking lot. 

—  Your department chair informs you that the final exam you prepared for your Calculus II course does not contain a sufficient number of questions about “feelings.”

—  In response to your query about what steps were being taken by the university to address diversity and inclusion, the Vice President for Student Affairs notes that the cafeteria recently added sweet potato fries to the dinner menu on alternate Wednesdays.

—  You look forward with pleasure to cancelling class next week in order to have a root canal.

Good luck, and may the Novocaine be with you. 

 

 

 

 

Writes of Passage…..or Not

Writing a credible recommendation letter for a student is a time-consuming endeavor, one that can easily suck up the better part of an afternoon that could otherwise be devoted to watching videos of NCAA Division I football coaches trying not to laugh when using the words “student-athlete” in a sentence.   That’s why many professors undoubtedly reacted with a bit of wistful envy when the story broke recently that two University of Michigan faculty members had declined, for political reasons, to write recommendations for students who desired to study in Israel.  “Politics, schmolotics, those two jokers just wanted to reclaim a precious part of their workday!”

The ensuing controversy over the professors’ actions has brought to light a host of reports on strategies that instructors have employed to lighten their letter-writing burden.  Here are three of the more provocative ones:

—  Grayson Orskhp (pronounced “Orskhp”), Associate Professor of Management at the University of Arkansas, refuses to write recommendations for anyone applying to an Ivy League graduate school.  As a high school senior, Orskhp had applied to all 8 Ivy League institutions, and was turned down by every one.  (Harvard’s rejection letter began, “We’re astounded that you actually thought we might accept you.”

Orskhp now carries a grudge. “I’ll be damned if I’m going to send any of my top students there.  Those elitist snoots at ‘Ah-vahd’ and the other status pits can rot….in….hell, because that’s exactly what I’m doing here in Fayetteville.   Have you ever tried to get a decent bagel or slice of pizza in this town?  I’m not even sure they know the difference between the two.”

—  At the University of Wisconsin in Madison, Critical Studies Professor Lynette Haven-Poultice will only write recommendations for direct descendants of postmodernist icon Michel Foucault.  When informed by a University Life reporter that Foucault has no direct descendants, Haven-Poultice responded, “that is not my problem.  Do not try to construct it as my problem….or as Foucault’s problem, for that matter.  It was his decision to reproduce or not, not the state’s.  You disgust me.  Why don’t you move to Fayetteville and marry your cousin?  And there is nothing wrong with doing that, by the way.  In-house intersectionality should not be suppressed.”

—  Blake Crull, a Biology professor at the University of Tulsa, will only write recommendation letters in French.  “It’s the world’s most beautiful language, is it not?  Compare the phrases “Je t’aime, mon amour” and “pigs in a blanket.”  Which one is more inspired, more transcendent?  When riding a Metro train in Paris stuffed with sweating natives at rush hour, which phrase is more likely to help your senses escape the under-deodorized, overly perfumed locked box in which you are trapped?  I rest my case.  Or should I say, ‘Je repose mon cas’?”

Oui! Un millier de fois, oui!

One Step Forward, Two Steps kcaB?

The Chancellor of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Carol Folt, apologized recently for the school’s role in slavery during a speech at an event celebrating UNC’s 225th birthday.  Referring to slavery’s “profound injustices,” she reaffirmed the “university’s commitment to facing squarely and working to right the wrongs of history.”

So far, so good.

But then something happened.

From beneath her ceremonial robes the Chancellor brought forth a basketball and began bouncing it — very slowly — while continuing to talk. 

Thump……thump……thump……

As the audience sat, slack-jawed, she proclaimed:

“And speaking of profound injustices, I want to apologize for the failure of the UNC men’s basketball team to win the NCAA championship in 2018.  We won it all in 2017, and there is no excuse — absolutely none — for not doing the same in 2018.  I understand the hurt and rage felt by everyone in Tar Heel Nation, a community that extends far beyond the boundaries of our state.  Your pain is deep, and for the older alumni who passed away in the weeks following this year’s tournament, the agony will be eternal.

“Today, I pledge to you, in the name of beloved coach Dean Smith and all that is sacred, that UNC will not be denied in 2019.  We shall return to glory and honor our school’s heritage.  Tar Heel Nation will rise again, and the North will quake in fear as we march over scorched Yankee soil toward the NCAA finals in Minneapolis in April.  So help me God.”

Dr. Folt proceeded to snatch the microphone from its stand, hold it parallel to the floor, and then drop it.  She next pulled a flute from her sleeve and began playing an unrecognizable but catchy melody as she walked off the stage and out of the building.  Entranced, a small group of pigeons and squirrels followed the Chancellor back to her office.

The next day, University officials announced that in early September Dr. Folt had started taking a powerful medication, prescribed by her doctor, for an acute sinus condition, and that the dosage level now needed to be adjusted.

On a related note, UNC men’s basketball coach Roy Williams informed  reporters yesterday that the team’s fall practices had been going “really, really well.”

Rush to Judgment

Central Michigan University scored some major-league publicity recently when a geology professor at the school determined that a 22-lb. rock serving as a doorstop on a farm in Edmore, Michigan was actually a meteorite estimated to be worth $100,000 (no joke).

Not to be outdone, Western Michigan University, a fierce rival of CMU, announced less than 48 hours later that a 71lb. meteorite had been found on its campus next to a dumpster outside of the dining hall.  Unfortunately, subsequent analysis revealed that the object in question was not a meteorite; it was Economics Professor Harold J. Clowfeffer.

The 87-year-old faculty member had apparently wandered into the cafeteria’s walk-in fruit locker, an industrial-strength dehydrator that was used to prepared dried strawberries for Buckin’ Bronco Granola, a popular breakfast treat named after the WMU mascot.  Failing to notice that Dr. Clowfeffer had entered the dehydrator, a WMU food-service employee closed the door and turned the dial to “Maximum Shrinkage.”

The next morning, the Professor was mistaken for a freeze-dried eggplant that had gone bad and was placed next to the dumpster.  Later that day, a 1st-year geology graduate student on academic probation stumbled upon Dr. Clowfeffer and excitedly made the incorrect identification. 

Once WMU’s media relations office was notified of the discovery, the University’s PR machine shifted into high gear, eager to displace the trending news story that focused on Central Michigan’s puny “pebble.” 

According to an anonymous source in the WMU Geology Department, the first clue that something was amiss came when “our research team discovered that this supposed meteorite appeared to be frowning, and was wearing eyeglasses.”

WMU President Edward Montgomery has expressed deep regret over the incident, and promised that Buckin’ Bronco Granola will no longer be served at the school.  “It’s the least we can do.”

For her part, the professor’s wife, Blanche, is just happy to know what became of her husband.  “When he didn’t come home on Thursday, I called every strip club in Kalamazoo — he was a regular — but no one had seen him.  Now I take comfort in the fact that he’s in a much better place — his beloved Japanese rock garden in our back yard.”

Battling the Odds

What do you do with a tenured faculty member who behaves badly?  That’s the question explored in a recent online Chronicle of Higher Education article entitled, “In a World of Tenure and Promotion, Demotion is a Murkier Matter.”  One can almost hear ominous organ music from Phantom of the Opera playing in the background.

And when it comes to murk, there are few challenges as daunting as dealing with professors who are just plain odd.  Consider the following:

—  Two months after suffering a concussion while playing touch football with graduate students, Bucknell University Mathematics Professor Elwood Stanchion began denying the existence of both long division and any number greater than 14.  He also claimed that the “equals” sign (=) was a Satanic symbol associated with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.  Eventually, these beliefs began to interfere with his teaching.  (“He once threw a whiteboard eraser at me when I told him I was 19 years old,” says sophomore Molly Timmons.  “And I am 19, I really am!”) 

Following a semester’s worth of awkward classroom interactions, the Provost created a job for Stanchion: overseeing the library’s card-catalog operations.  Bucknell had not used the card-catalog system since 1993, and had relocated all of its cabinets — filled with hundreds of thousands of brittle, yellowed index cards — to a storage area in the library’s basement.

According to the Provost, “things have worked out a lot better than I thought they would.  Elwood fits in pretty well over there.  I think he’s happy.”

—  When his appeal of a $25 campus parking ticket at Ramapo College of New Jersey was denied in February 2018, Chemistry Professor Rufus Phlox stopped speaking.  He now stands silently at the front of the room for the full 75 minutes of every class session, holding a cardboard sign above his head that says, “Ramapo owes me $25.”  Enrolled students no longer show up for his courses, but the professor’s attendance record remains perfect.

Phlox’s attorney indicates that his client is currently negotiating with the College’s administration over the matter.  “We’ve offered to settle for $15, but Ramapo has been holding fast at $17.50 for the past three weeks.  We have another meeting scheduled for early November, when I hope further progress will be made.  Of course, I’m the one doing all the talking in there.”

—  Finally, there is Gretchen Hedley-Yoof, Professor of History at Auburn University.  Mired in a dispute with the Dean of Arts & Sciences over a classroom re-enactment of the Battle of Hastings that took place in her course, in which five undergraduates suffered severe pole-axe wounds, Hedley-Woof took provocative action last week.  She hijacked a group of high-school seniors and parents who were waiting for a student assistant to escort them on a campus tour.  She led them across the quad to the Dean’s office, where they stood outside his door while Hedley-Yoof repeatedly screamed, “this man sucks, this school sucks, and all y’all should just go to the University of Alabama, not this guano-filled hole!”

The Dean has announced that Hedley-Yoof will not receive a merit-pay increase in 2019, and her full-professor discount at the faculty dining room has been suspended. 

Sometimes, a Dean’s gotta do what a Dean’s gotta do. 

The “Final Days” Have Arrived

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports that next fall the University of Pennsylvania will become the first Ivy League school to offer an online bachelor’s degree. 

Take a minute.  Let that sentence sink in. 

Ivy.  League.

Wait, there’s more.  The program will include a residency requirement that consists of a writing course “designed to be completed over a weekend” (no joke).  According to Penn officials, the compressed weekend format will necessitate that student papers be limited to one-syllable words that begin with letters in the first half of the alphabet (A through M).  Students who wish to develop multi-syllable proficiency, and become familiar with N through Z words, will be eligible to enroll in the school’s online MFA Program in Creative Writing, which will commence in Fall 2020.

The Penn bachelor’s program will provide individualized, online graduation ceremonies for all students, broadcast from an Elvis wedding chapel in Las Vegas, where an Associate Provost will be available 24 hours a day. 

Diplomas, delivered to recipients via drones, will be “Currency Green” in color, signifying the win-win nature of the program:

—  Students will save money because online course tuition is lower than on-campus tuition

—  Penn will make lots of money due to overall growth in the number of students enrolled at the University

How valuable will these online degrees actually be to those who obtain them?  “That remains to be seen,” observes a high-ranking Penn administrator who wishes to remain anonymous.  “But the intrinsic gratification one derives from having an Ivy League credential should never be underestimated, even if that pride doesn’t necessarily translate into enhanced earnings.  You just feel better about yourself.  Showing your Penn diploma to a co-worker at Jiffy Lube who dropped out of high school is certain to provide one with an opioid rush that you can’t put a price tag on.”

Step aside, Philly Cheese Steak, there’s a new taste in town.  The UPenn online bachelor’s program is in the house.