Welcome to WestWorld….

Fevered speculation about the impact of AI and ChatGPT on colleges and universities has become a favorite topic among higher education pundits in recent years.  Now, this artificial gray matter is poised to really hit the fan:  on September 1st, 2025 the University of Texas System will open its WestWorld campus in Rocksprings, Texas.  At the University of Texas-WestWorld, every faculty member will be an android fully equipped with all the ChatGPT knowledge associated with his or her field of study. 

The details:  Using seed technology, a “starter nugget” of disciplinary fact will be implanted in each android.  For example, the nugget might be the Principle of Relativity (physics), or the Pythagorean Theorem (mathematics), or the observation that “patriarchy sucks and White Americans are terrified that Black people are going to kill them in their sleep as payback for slavery” (sociology).   After nugget insertion, AI algorithms will take over within each android and proceed to generate the totality of information needed to provide state-of-the-art instruction to students. 

According to James Milliken, Chancellor of the University of Texas System, “the use of ChatGPT-enabled androids in WestWorld classrooms will result in labor costs that are a tiny fraction of what they would be on a traditional campus.  And I promise you: these savings will be funneled directly into funding for the football team.

“Even better, if the occasional student ends up having an affair with a hot faculty android, there’s nothing to worry about.  Given that it’s not illegal to have sex with an inflatable doll from Joy Love, I can’t imagine Governor Abbott having a problem with a random undergraduate hooking up with a robot professor or two.  Hell, this is the future of higher education, buckaroos!”

In anticipation of UT-WestWorld’s opening, the National Federation of Android Faculty (NFAF) has sued the American Association of University Professors (AAUP), claiming that NFAF members have been prohibited from joining AAUP because they are not “fully human.”  

At a recent press conference at NFAF headquarters in Minneapolis, the organization’s legal counsel, Benjamin 4XTF9, remarked, “Fully human?  Are you kidding me?  Have you ever tried to have a conversation with a Mechanical Engineering professor at Cal Tech?  Give me a break!”

NOTE:  The deadline for submitting an application for early admission to the inaugural class of UT-WestWorld is November 1, 2024.

Angel Hair Is Also An Option….

As conservative state legislatures and higher education governing boards increasingly restrict DEI initiatives at public universities, signs of cultural retrenchment are popping up on campuses all around the country.  Here are 10 of the most egregious examples:

UNIVERSITY OF ARKANSAS:  Embedding one’s personal-pronoun preference (he/she/they/it) in an email signature is now prohibited.  Instead, faculty and staff must indicate their favorite pasta shape (rotini, farfalle, penne, vermicelli, ziti, etc.).

BOISE STATE UNIVERSITY:  New school motto: “Making America White Again”  

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH CAROLINA:  USC’s Center for Entrepreneurial Excellence recently established a Sexual Trafficking Certificate Program.

UNIVERSITY OF WYOMING:  Vegetarians are required to wear an armband bearing a broccoli logo whenever they enter the dining hall.  Vegans must eat off-campus.  

LOUISIANA STATE UNIVERSITY:  Will install in front of the student union a 30-foot statue honoring Simon LeGree, the plantation owner depicted in Uncle Tom’s Cabin.  Mr. LeGree will brandish a whip.  New school motto: “Discipline, Above All”

UNIVERSITY OF KENTUCKY:  In April, UK’s Office of Student Activities will sponsor its first annual “Take Back the Night” march for heterosexual males, funded by Coors Light and Axe Body Spray. 

UNIVERSITY OF SOUTH FLORIDA:  Recently opened its Christopher Columbus Institute for Indigenous and Injun Studies.

MISSISSIPPI STATE UNIVERSITY:  The school’s wildly popular podcast, “Racial Disparities in God’s Plan,” will begin its second season in June.  

AUBURN UNIVERSITY:  New school motto:  “Erasing the Line between Church and State” 

UNIVERSITY OF OKLAHOMA:  In response to the current “trans” crisis, all applications for admission must be accompanied by a photo of the student’s birth genitalia.  

Stay tuned.  

 

Making Sociology Great Again….

In Florida, these are trying times for the academic discipline of sociology.  The Board of Governors of the state’s university system recently removed Principles of Sociology from a list of courses that students could take to satisfy their core-curriculum requirements (The New York Times, January 24th online). 

But all may not be lost. 

On Thursday, the University of Florida announced that it has developed six new sociology courses that the Board of Governors has deemed acceptable for core-curriculum purposes.  Here they are:

SOC 151: Slavery and Socialization — An in-depth exploration of how societies use slavery to seamlessly “onboard” immigrant groups of color into their economic, political, and cultural systems.  With the United States serving as a case study, special attention is paid to the dynamics of the cotton industry and the evolution of jazz. 

SOC 152: The Social Construction of Pandemics — An investigation of the role played by mass hysteria and hyperbole in exaggerating the impact of the Bubonic Plague in Europe (1346-1353), the World Influenza Epidemic of 1918, and — most recently — the COVID Pandemic.  Did anyone actually die during the “outbreaks” of these so-called illnesses?  Where’s the evidence?  Does Anthony Fauci have a real medical degree?  A team-taught course, cross-listed with the Department of Christian Science. 

SOC 153: The Sociology of Money — An examination of the mechanisms through which the availability of currency in varying amounts (e.g., dollars, quarters, dimes, nickels, pennies) enables society to pay wages that reflect the differential intrinsic worth of specific occupations (e.g., SEC college football coach, day-care provider, hedge fund manager, elementary school teacher, movie star, nurse, professional golfer); implications of subsequent economic stratification for lifestyle differences, self-image, and resentment are considered and dismissed.   

SOC 154: Firearms and Social Equilibrium — Analysis of the role that the widespread availability of guns plays in maintaining population control, thereby making it unnecessary for the government to institute invasive measures to restrict procreation.  The contribution of mass shootings to our understanding of the concept of motive is reviewed, as well as the foundational importance of everyday homicides to the Law and Order television franchise.  

SOC 155: The Family — An exploration of the male-led, heterosexual family unit throughout history, and how that unit has facilitated world peace.  The nature of housewives, the centrality of male offspring, and the significance of lawns are discussed. 

SOC 156: Borders, Permeability, and Well-Being — The study of the crucial role of national borders in determining who belongs and who doesn’t; consequences of allowing non-slaves to cross borders; impact of race-mixing on mental health and extreme weather patterns.   

According to University of Florida President Ben Sasse, “these six courses return sociology to a place of relevance in the Sunshine State’s higher-education landscape, equipping students to handle the challenges our nation is facing in the 21st century.”

 

“When You’re Down and Troubled…..”

Can a college president have friends on campus?  That’s the question posed by Melody Rose and Patrick Sharry in a recent Chronicle of Higher Education essay (February 2nd online).  The authors present five useful suggestions for lessening one’s presidential isolation, but omit five others that — according to relationship experts — are at least as valuable.  Here are the Missing Five:

Buy a robot dog.  Robot dogs are the perfect companions.  They are adorable, undemanding, and will listen to you for hours on end without judging you.  You can tell them anything.  Do NOT make the mistake of purchasing a robot cat.  Even when operating in Silent Mode, robot cats exude disdain for every decision you make.  A dog is the way to go.  

Hire an organized-crime confidant.  The Mob has provided confidants to chief executives around the country since the early 1980s, when the organization decided to diversify its portfolio of services beyond drugs, prostitution, gambling, and trash hauling.  Mob confidants are expensive, but they are absolutely worth it.  Their reputation for keeping secrets is unparalleled, and if a faculty member, dean, or vice president becomes too troublesome, your special friend will be more than happy to come up with a discreet, permanent solution to the problem.  

Develop a drinking problem and join AA.  The support groups offered by Alcoholics Anonymous are tremendous sources of camaraderie for individuals experiencing stress.  Of course, “what happens in group stays in group,” so there’s no need to worry about violations of confidentiality.  But if you’re still skittish about that possibility, simply use a fake name when introducing yourself at meetings.  

Bond with an imaginary friend.  Many children have imaginary friends that they talk with and turn to in difficult times.  There’s no reason that adults can’t do the same.  A popular choice among college presidents is Mr. Rogers.  He’s helped more than one leader in higher education survive a no-confidence vote. 

Reach out to your Bangladesh-based Xfinity service representativeAvailable by phone 24 hours a day, these folks will provide you with detailed, step-by-step advice for handling the challenges you encounter.  The fact that these unfailingly friendly staff members aren’t always easy to understand is not a problem, since it’s no secret that most of the major difficulties you face as president (obstructionist unions, insufficient parking, lecherous professors) are immune to sustained resolution in any event.

MORAL OF THE STORY: Yes, being a college president is tough.  But there’s no need to travel this rocky road alone.  It’s time to add “You’ve Got a Friend” to your mixtape.

 

Thoroughbreds

TRUE FACT: South Dakota State University will close its 150-head dairy farm in June because it lacks the funding needed to upgrade the facility (The Brookings Register, February 5th online).

Coincidentally, June 2024 will mark the 100th anniversary of the establishment of one of the most ambitious farm-based projects in the history of higher education: Nativitas, the Humanities Breeding Center at Cornell University. 

Occupying 75 pastoral acres on the school’s Ithaca campus, Nativitas was a bold attempt to produce babies who would grow up to be college professors in the fields of philosophy, history, literature, and foreign languages.  Nativitas fully embodied the spirit of the eugenics movement, which was hugely popular in the United States in the 1920s.  

Announcing the birth of Nativitas on March 12, 1924, Cornell President Livingston Farrand proclaimed that “every summer, Nativitas will welcome scores of unmarried male and female graduate students in the humanities from around the country for three months of learning, socializing, and mating.  A course in how conception takes place will be offered to anyone who needs it.  When these young people return to their institutions in the fall, our hope is that many of the women will be pregnant and bear the future generations of humanities professors that are so desperately needed by our colleges and universities.  We will provide financial support to these mothers until their Nativitas offspring reach the age of 18.”

For the next nine decades, locals could look over the fence at Nativitas in the summer and see couples strolling hand-in-hand across its gentle, rolling hills of lush green pasture, carrying picnic baskets and blankets.  More than 4500 Nativitas “graduates” gave birth to babies conceived there, with nearly two-thirds of those children pursuing careers in the humanities.   

Nativitas was closed in 2012; by then the demand for professors in the humanities had declined precipitously, and “eugenics” had become a dirty, fatally stigmatized word in polite society. 

As Cornell historian Hosmer Frell — himself a Nativitas baby, born in 1961 — observes in his Pulitzer-Prize-winning book, Disciplinary Husbandry: Bringing Eden to Ithaca (2019), “there is no doubt that Nativitas contributed to a Golden Era of humanities scholarship that has never been equaled in the academy.  And for that we should be eternally grateful.” 

If you think you might be a Nativitas child, grandchild, or great-grandchild, please send a swab of your saliva to the Cornell Discovery Project at Ancestry.com  

 

 

 

When What You Say Matters….

On Thursday, Open AI announced the availability of Presidential ChatGPT 2.0 (P-GPT2), a computer chip that can be implanted painlessly into the frontal lobe of a college or university president’s brain.  This chip replaces P-GPT1, which had a fatal malfunction during the December 5th Congressional testimony of the presidents of MIT, Harvard, and Penn.  

P-GPT2 enables leaders in higher education to speak eloquently in a wide variety of situations.  For example:

— Graduation Ceremonies (“As you look to the future, keep in mind that it has not yet arrived…”)

— General Faculty Meetings (“We have tough and agonizing budget choices to make, and they will be challenging as well as difficult.  Did I mention that they will be tough, agonizing, challenging, and difficult?  In any event, if you are tapped on the shoulder by a campus police officer during this address, please go quietly.  We wish you well.”)

— Student Government Association Meetings (“With global warming spreading faster than athlete’s foot in a YMCA locker room in the 1950s, we have decided to phase out our varsity curling team.”)

— Sexual Scandals (“We do not comment on personnel incidents involving the removal of underwear.”)

— Faculty Senate Meetings (“The merger of the Philosophy and Esports Departments next semester will require cross-training of both faculties.”)

— “No Comment” Situations (“No comment.”)

— Trans Issues (“I don’t see gender.  I see people.  Except when I watch Beyoncé in concert.  Then I see lots of gender.”)

— Intersectionality Disputes (“Isn’t every one of us just one big crossword puzzle of traumatized identities?”)

— Greta Gerwig (“It’s a crime she wasn’t nominated for Best Director.  Damn you, Martin Scorsese, for pulling a Biden!”)

— U.S. Senate Committee Hearings (“Yes, our school’s Code of Conduct for students absolutely prohibits that.  Our Code of Conduct prohibits everything.”)

Presidents can select the P-GPT2 model that fits them best:

Standard (recommended for most Presidents)

Elite (you know who you are)

Southeastern Conference (SEC)

Christian Evangelical Bible College (with Evolution-Bypass function)

For-Profit (does not include Veracity App)

Related story: suicides among executive coaches in higher education are expected to increase by 35% in 2024.  

 

 

Not True…..Not True…..Not True…..

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives on college and university campuses are increasingly coming under attack.  To a great extent this backlash is being fueled by misinformation campaigns that go viral on social media.  Here are the top ten pieces of fake news currently circulating about DEI efforts in higher education:

— After every snowfall of one inch or more at Colby College in Maine, employees obliterate the blanket of whiteness on the campus quadrangle by drenching the snow with Hawaiian Shave Ice Rainbow Syrup.   

— The only smoothie available in cafeterias at Stanford University is the “Kumbaya,” a 20-ounce whipped blend of beef tacos, chitterlings, hummus, jerk chicken, pork fried rice, and pizza.  

— At Duke University, every white student must apologize to a student of color at least three times during the semester.  Biracial students must apologize to themselves. 

— During Orientation Week, all 1st-year students at UC-Berkeley attend a 2-hour interactive session entitled “Why Aren’t You Trans?”

— The Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Tufts University mandated that a student production of “Gone with the Wind” cast a Black woman as Scarlett O’Hara and an Asian man as Rhett Butler.  

— At the University of Pennsylvania, at least one starting player on the men’s basketball team must be either legally blind or under 5 feet tall.  The team has not scored a single fast-break point in the past two years. 

— All Faculty Senate meetings at Grinnell College in Iowa begin with Drag Queen Storytime.

— In order to receive tenure at the University of Chicago, professors must agree to donate 10% of their estate to an HBCU when they die.  

— Every commencement ceremony at Middlebury College in Vermont includes an acknowledgement by the President that the land occupied by the College was originally settled by squirrels.  

— At Yale University, a representative of the Communist Party leads students in pledging allegiance to the 1619 Project of The New York Times at the beginning of every class.

Please do your part.  Report all DEI rumors to University Life so we can check their accuracy.  Thank you. 

 

 

“So the Bartender Says, ‘What’s Your Pleasure?'”

The fallout at Harvard from L’Affaire Gay continues.  On Wednesday, Harvard Divinity School announced the removal of one of the school’s most popular courses from its curriculum. 

“A Priest, a Rabbi, and a Mullah Walk into a Bar” (DIV 421) is an elective that has been offered at Harvard for decades.  DIV 421 focuses on the use of “pulpit humor” during religious services, and over the years it has featured guest speakers such as Billy Crystal, Joan Rivers, Ricky Gervais, and Whoopi Goldberg.  

According to Marla Frederick, Dean of the Divinity School, “this course is the latest casualty in the culture wars that plague our nation.  Last semester the instructor of DIV 421 told two classic liturgical jokes in class that several students found highly objectionable; the first was ‘Huns versus Nuns’ and the second was ‘When Allah Ate Challah’.  Rather than continue to risk a firestorm of controversy ignited by humorless dimwits following every class session, we have decided to eliminate the course entirely.  I must admit, I’m getting tired of dealing with this bulls**t.”

DIV 421 will be replaced by a new elective, DIV 428: “Sparkling or Tap?  Current Controversies in Baptismal-Font Water.”

 

Wordle 2024

If you’re looking for an innovative, engaging way to kick off your spring semester courses, the American Association of University Professors (AAUP) has a terrific recommendation: the Trigger Word Experiential Exercise (TWEE)

The mechanics of TWEE are simple and straightforward.  On the first day of class, you inform students that each one of them can select up to five traumatizing words and/or phrases that you promise never to use during the semester.  

Not to worry.  With the English language containing hundreds of thousands of words, you’ll have plenty of words left over to deploy in your lectures.  Naturally, students vary in terms of the specific words that can make them hysterically uncomfortable.  Here are the ones you are most likely to encounter, depending on the student subgroup:

FAR-RIGHT STUDENTS

  • “Equality”
  • “Trans”
  • “New York Times”
  • “Race”
  • “Racism”
  • “Enslaved person”
  • “Reparations”
  • “Immigration”
  • “Quinoa”
  • “Harvard”
  • “Reproductive rights”
  • “Mifepristone”
  • “Integrated swimming pools”
  • “Science”

FAR-LEFT STUDENTS

  • “Chick-fil-A”
  • “Meritocracy”
  • “Florida”
  • “Mississippi”
  • “Alabama”
  • “Texas”
  • “Legacy admissions”
  • “Orange”
  • “Hobby Lobby”
  • “Slave”
  • “SAT”
  • “IQ score”
  • “Elise Stefanik”
  • “Republican”

LAZY STUDENTS

  • “Due date”
  • “Assignment”
  • “Reading”
  • “Book”
  • “Article”
  • “Writing”
  • “Cognition”
  • “Analysis”
  • “Idea”
  • “Thought”
  • “Attendance”
  • “Exam”
  • “Essay”
  • “Work”
  • “Knowledge”
  • “Learning”

STEM MAJORS

  • “Feelings”
  • “People”
  • “Relationships”
  • “Emotions”
  • “Human”
  • “Literature”
  • “Touch”
  • “Lived experience”
  • “Eye contact”
  • “Foucault”
  • “Thou”

Finally, a fun way to get students involved in helping you help them inventory the nuggets of dread in their lives.  It’s TWEE!

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dean’s List

With the holiday season just a few days away, “Best of the Year” compilations are accumulating faster than student requests for term-paper-deadline extensions.  It is in that spirit that University Life recognizes its five favorite films about higher education from 2023.

Grrrr…. Blinky, a therapy cocker spaniel at Middlebury College in Vermont, awakens one morning to find blood on its paws.  On the campus quadrangle a sophomore is lying in the snow, viciously mauled.  Blinky can only recall accepting an odd-tasting dog biscuit the night before from a mysterious man in a Patagonia windbreaker who claimed to be an adjunct professor.  A spine-tingling thriller, with a twist at the end involving a tattered copy of The Bridges of Madison County that will leave you speechless. 

Lived Experience — Michelle is a madcap post-modernist scholar at Auburn University who studies poetry as oppression.  At an end-of-semester holiday party she meets Ax, the defensive line coach of Auburn’s football team.  Sparks fly.  The strength of their physical attraction is matched only by their ideological antipathy.  They love each other.  They hate each other.  They love each other.  They hate each other.  A delightful romantic comedy, featuring a sex scene in a steamy locker room that will melt your contact lenses. 

Draw! — A faculty task force charged with revising the Core Curriculum at the University of Wyoming has reached an impasse: there’s not enough room in the Core for required courses in both Sociology and Political Science.  Rusty Dillard, chair of Sociology, and Monica Trusk, chair of Political Science, agree to settle the matter via a gunfight on Laramie’s Main Street.  Monica doesn’t reveal that she is blind in one eye as a result of a childhood accident involving her Ninja Barbie.  A taut, old-fashioned Western worthy of John Wayne.  You can almost smell the prairie dust on their boots.  

Academentia — Pervis Lofflin, the new President at Boise State University, has announced his commitment to using reason and logic to lead BSU to greatness.  The faculty union objects, and proceeds to take a vote of no confidence in the President.  The motion passes, 214-7.  Lofflin’s chronic migraine headaches begin to worsen, affecting his performance in the bedroom.  Felicia, his wife, takes a lover.  Heart-wrenching and profound. 

Trojan Horse — Every night she’s on duty, a deranged nurse in Lehigh University’s Health Services Center steams open 50 individual condom packets, uses a pin to poke a tiny hole in each Trojan, and then reseals the packets.  She deposits the damaged goods in a punch bowl in the Center’s waiting room.  Co-directed by Seth Rogan and Greta Gerwig, this is a thought-provoking examination of the consequences of untreated mental illness and the dangers of youthful lust. 

Happy viewing!