“You Say Tomato, I Say……”

In the aftermath of the notorious event that took place at the U. S. Capitol Building on January 6, 2021, the most crucial question facing our nation is what to call the event.  

To the surprise of virtually no one, Harvard University has taken the lead in addressing this challenge.  The school’s Department of Government is sponsoring a 4-day conference this week (January 13 — 16) in which scholars from across the country are debating the most appropriate word or phrase to characterize what happened in Washington, D. C. on January 6th.  According to Department Chairperson Jeffry Frieden, “once we name the problem, we can do something about it.”

The conference is exploring arguments for and against various labels, with participants voting for their favorites on Saturday.  Among the candidates being considered:

—  “Incident”:  Favored by economists and mathematicians; a neutral, non-partisan descriptor

—  “Insurrection”:  Currently trending; not to be confused with “Resurrection,” the first choice of a splinter group of Bible College faculty in Arkansas

—  “Erectile Dysfunction”:  Preferred by psychologists who see the event as a cry for help on the part of working-class white males experiencing “endowment issues”

—  “The Riot to End All Riots”:  Proposed by historians who study the Victorian era; these scholars become exceedingly nervous when observing couples arguing in a restaurant

—  “Mutiny”:  The choice of Oceanography professors who don’t understand what “mutiny” means

—  “Act of Sedition”:  Fans of the 1980s punk-Rastafarian band bearing this name claim the January 6th event closely resembles a raucous performance given by the group at the Sweat Stain Lounge in Brooklyn, NY in June 1987; police intervention was required

—  “Uprising”:  Many soil scientists believe this term best captures the miasma of the January 6th participants clawing their way out of the primordial ooze

—  “Political Flesh Performance Art”:  The choice of  nearly all postmodernists, many anthropologists, and Taylor Swift

—  “Devil Dance of the Deplorables”:  Hillary Clinton offered this suggestion during her keynote speech opening the conference; the phrase has been officially deemed “hurtful” by the Feelings Caucus of the American Sociological Association

The results of the conference vote will be announced at halftime of the Browns/Chiefs NFL playoff game on Sunday, January 17th on CBS.  President-elect Biden has promised to use the winning term or phrase in all of his public statements regarding the event in question. 




Tough Love

Least Surprising True Fact in North America:  The scandal-ridden University of Michigan has hired a consulting firm to help the school “change the culture of sexual misconduct surrounding numerous accused faculty members,” according to The Detroit News.  

What is raising eyebrows, however, is the no-nonsense approach taken by this firm, an approach signaled by the company’s name: Keep It in Your Pants, Inc.  

University Life reporter Skip Wardlow recently interviewed the firm’s founder and CEO, retired U. S. Army Brigadier General Ted “Titanium Butt” Stent.  Here is a transcript of the conversation:

UL:  “What’s the key message you try to communicate in your consulting and training?”

Stent:  “Just ‘keep it in your pants’.  It’s as simple as that, son.”

UL:  “And how exactly do you communicate that message?”

Stent:  “We get people together in a classroom, in groups of 20 or so, and give them a brief PowerPoint presentation.  The first slide contains a single sentence in bold and all CAPS: ‘KEEP IT IN YOUR PANTS’.” 

UL:  “And then what?”

Stent:  “Well, since we never use the P-word in our work, we present a second slide that shows four numbered photos: a baseball cap (#1), an avocado (#2), a chipmunk (#3), and a penis (#4).  We ask people to write down the number that corresponds to the ‘it’ that was mentioned in the first slide.  We do this because we want to make sure that folks know what the ‘it’ is that men are supposed to keep in their pants.”

UL:  “Why don’t you just use the word ‘penis’ when you present the first slide?”

Stent:  “That word can be a trauma trigger for some people, and cause them to hyperventilate.”

UL:  “But can’t photo #4 produce the same reaction?”

Stent:  “You would think so, but it almost never does.  It’s the damnedest thing.  In any event, just to be safe, at every training session we have in attendance a nurse, a paramedic, an aromatherapist, and a certified Reiki specialist.”

UL:  “I see.  So what happens after you determine that everyone knows what ‘it’ refers to?”

Stent:  “We discuss the consequences of NOT keeping it in your pants.”

UL:  “How do you that?”

Stent:  “I place a carrot about six inches long on top of the table at the front of the room.  Then I take a piece of lead pipe out of my briefcase, raise the pipe over my head in my right hand, and come down on that carrot like a vengeful God high on PCP, screaming ‘I will smite thee, O Serpent of Satan!’  When pipe meets carrot, it produces a sound that you wouldn’t believe.  I’ve shattered more than my share of table tops over the past few years.”

UL:  “Holy crap!  How do people respond when they see that?”

Stent:  “A lot of the men throw up, but most of the females either clap or cheer.  Skip, there’s a whole bunch of angry womenfolk out there.”

NOTE:  University of Michigan President Mark Schlissel says that he anticipates “a significant culture change at the school in the coming months.  Listen carefully, and you’ll hear the buzz of zippers being soldered shut all over campus.”



“We Know What You Did….”

The Chronicle of Higher Education recently identified five schools that “you might not know are tied to slaveholders” (Rutgers, University of Cincinnati, Sweet Briar College, Furman, and George Mason).  

Against this background, it’s not surprising that investigators are beginning to shine a harsh light on unsavory associations of colleges and universities that extend far beyond slavery.  Here are three examples recently discovered by University Life:

Johansen-Poulsen Barber College  (Grygla, Minnesota) — Founded in 1824 by Norwegian immigrant Torvil “Wally” Johansen-Poulsen, this is the most prestigious barber college in northwestern Minnesota.  (The first Beatles haircut in the United States was given there in February 1963.) 

It now appears that Mr. Johansen-Poulsen was a cat hoarder, keeping up to 125 felines at a time in his small, one-bedroom home.  According to University of Minnesota cat genealogist Wendy Trilsk-Hammond, Johansen-Poulson named all of his cats “Vincent,” which generated a paralyzing level of confusion whenever he attempted to summon one of them.  The incidence of mental illness in the cats he owned was at least five times higher than the overall rate for domestic felines in Minnesota.  

Trustees are considering a number of new names for the College, with a decision expected by mid-2021.

The University of Arkansas — The Fayetteville school has removed a statue of country legend Johnny Cash from the entrance to its Razorback Horseshoe Pit on the south side of campus.  This action was prompted by a reconsideration of the line, “I shot a man in Reno just to watch him die,” from Cash’s 1968 hit song, Folsom Prison Blues.

“Let’s be clear,” explains Chancellor Joseph Steinmetz.  “In Arkansas we do NOT have a problem with people shooting people.  We do it all the time.  Hell, just last week I filled my 16-year-old nephew’s left buttock with buckshot when I caught him siphoning gas out of my SUV.  But you’ve got to have a good reason for shooting someone.  ‘To watch him die’ is not a good reason.  Not even close.”

University of Southern California — The Sonny and Cher Performing Arts Center will be stripped of the musical duo’s name in July 2021.  According to USC President Carol Folt, there is now a consensus among historians that Sonny and Cher were primarily responsible for the revival of public interest in bell-bottom pants throughout the 1970s.   

“To have USC associated with this unfathomable fashion atrocity is simply not acceptable,” says Folt.  “So many lives and reputations were ruined, not to mention the tragedy of New York City’s Sewer Rat Panic of 1975, when thousands of rabid rodents surreptitiously scurried up the breeze-inflated pant legs of vulnerable Central Park walkers to inflict fatal ankle and calf wounds.  We lost many of our best and brightest that summer.  The time for reckoning has come.”

Amen, Sister Folt.  Amen. 


“In Lane 1, Representing UCLA….”

Yes, the pandemic has wreaked havoc upon college athletics.  Indeed, The Chronicle of Higher Education recently noted that “even universities as rich as Stanford are dropping sports that don’t generate significant ticket sales or television revenue, thereby crushing the dreams of swimmers, fencers, and rowers.”

In this meanest of all seasons, who would have thought that the much maligned NCAA would come to the rescue of higher education?  Well, the organization took a major step in that direction on Monday, when it officially approved the hybrid sport of swencing, in which two low-revenue sports — swimming and fencing — are combined in a single competition.  

In swencing, pairs of swimmers face each other in adjacent lanes and race (using the sidestroke) while fencing.  According to NCAA Commissioner Mark Emmert, schools that replace swimming and fencing teams with a single swencing squad effectively cut their expenses by 50%.

To be sure, there are a few glitches that need to be overcome.  The major one, Emmert observes, is “blood in the water.  If the competitors are using sharply pointed épées, and one of those babies punctures a vein or artery, you’ve got a mess on your hands.  Of course, you could employ blunted épées, but our TV contract with Fox Sports stipulates that only stiletto-pointed épées are acceptable.  

“Naturally, that raises the question of the occasional fatality occurring during a match, which results in a body sinking to the bottom of the pool while competitors in other lanes continue to duel and race.  We’ve tried deploying strategically placed piranha to keep the bottom clean, but those feisty little predators can’t resist the churning legs of the survivors swimming at the surface.  That only compounds the blood-in-the-water problem.  In any event, we’re optimistic that this obstacle can be surmounted. 

“To be honest, the folks at Fox see the piranha as a ratings booster.  They claim that viewers will enjoy watching the competitors simultaneously battle their opponents and the piranha while attempting to win their races.”

University Life reporters attended a swencing exhibition featuring UCLA and the University of Florida on Monday, and dammit, Fox may have a point.  Piranha-enhanced swencing ROCKS!




“Think Happy Thoughts, Scarlett…..”

True Fact:  The American Historical Association has joined a lawsuit against the Trump administration, claiming that the White House is failing to comply with the Presidential Records Act and is denying historians access to “records documenting a critical part of our nation’s history.”

However, not every scholar is on board with the lawsuit.  A splinter group, the Positive Past Coalition (PPC), has filed an amicus curiae brief in the case, arguing that all records documenting the Trump administration’s actions should be destroyed.  Here’s an excerpt from the PPC’s brief:

“Our society would best be served if all reminders of the uncapped, chunk-filled septic tank known as the Trump administration were expunged.  The stench inside the Beltway since 2017 has been overpowering, devastating both flora and fauna, and no beneficial purpose is accomplished by having a clown car filled with academics diving into this muck in the name of discovering ‘the facts’.

“Let’s be honest.  Does it really matter if one determines that a particular pile of steaming poop in the meadow was deposited by a horse, a cow, or the President’s Chief of Staff?  It’s ALL poop.

“Nothing good comes from dredging up, and rubbing one’s nose in, a sordid past.  Think of how much better off everyone would be if we could simply forget that slavery existed in the United States.  Recalling that noxious chapter in our history only puts people in a bad mood, and — more importantly — makes white folks uncomfortable whenever they just want to relax on their couch on a Friday night and watch Gone with the Wind on Turner Classic Movies without feeling guilty.  Is that too much to ask?

“The historian’s responsibility is NOT to remind people of their unpleasant encounters with food poisoning, but to help them recall the flavor of all those delicious burgers and curly fries they consumed as they strolled down life’s boardwalk.  C’mon, professors, let’s do our job!”

Would someone please pass the ketchup? 


And Who Will YOU Be Today?

TRUE FACT:  On November 17th the University of California system announced that students, employees, alumni, and others will be able to use their “lived name” rather than their legal name when interacting with the system.   A lived name is a “self-chosen personal or preferred professional name.”  The announcement describes this policy as a “milepost in the University’s commitment to equity and inclusion for all.” 

A noble sentiment, to be sure.


……here are a few dispatches from the Department of Unintended Consequences:

—  Latrell W., a junior at UC-Berkeley, took advantage of this policy to rename himself “Usher,” in honor of the R&B heartthrob.  He told reporters that his “luck with the ladies” increased ten-fold in the days that followed.  NOTE:  Late last night Mr. W was shot in the leg by Nicole R., an Applebee’s waitress who claimed “that scrawny son of a bitch lied to me about who he was.  I gave my heart to him, as well as the keys to my 2009 Corolla.  I’m just sorry I didn’t hit an artery.”

—  Robin G., a sophomore at UC-Santa Cruz, now goes by the name “Hummus.”  She told University Life: “As a vegan, I can no longer accept being named after a bird, which is a form of meat, and meat is beyond gross.  I hate my parents for giving me this name when I was too young to know what was going on.  I truly despise them.  But I love hummus.”

— Mitch L., a senior at UC-Irvine, has become “Zanzibar.”  Why Zanzibar?  “I did my capstone Political Science paper on the letter Z, and Zanzibar is — by far — the coolest semi-autonomous region in Tanzania!  By the way, have you ever tried snorting dried bird suet laced with cayenne pepper and cinnamon?  Whoa!  Most.  Intense.  Rush.  OF A LIFETIME.”

—  Madeline R., a 52-year-old Professor of Humanities at UCLA, is now “Genitalia.”  She informed her Industrial Poetry seminar on Thursday that “today I am choosing a name that reverences my blossoming and my recent divorce.  My former husband never comprehended the essence of my chakra in the 27 years we were married, not for a moment.  Behold Genitalia!

—  Tyrell P., a UC-Riverside sophomore from Jamaica, has changed his name to “White Privilege.”  His reasoning is straightforward:  “Oh, mon, nutting gives me more pleasure than messing with the minds of white people!”

And nothing should, WP.  Nothing should.    




Core Competency

The November 13th hard-copy edition of The Chronicle of Higher Education includes a full-page, two-sided, construction-paper-quality insert highlighting the rankings of the University of Florida on six dimensions, including Innovation Impact (#1), Best Public University (#6), and Best Value in Public Colleges (#2).

That’s all well and good for the Gators, but what can a school do if it doesn’t fare well on the dimensions that are typically ranked by sources such as U.S. News & World Report?  

Well, hello, McKinsey & Company!  The New-York based consulting behemoth has stepped into the breach.  For a flat fee of $75,000, it will track down a publication that has given your college or university a high rating on a dimension that can be used in advertising and recruiting.  Here is what they’ve come up with for a few of their recent clients:

—  Mississippi State University:  3rd-lowest rate of gonorrhea among undergraduates in the Southeastern Conference (STD Annual Review)

—  University of Tulsa:  The only school in Oklahoma where over 30% of graduating seniors know the difference between it’s and its (Writers’ Quarterly)

—  Gettysburg College:  Offers more flavors of Ben & Jerry’s at the Campus Creamery than any other school in Pennsylvania (Lick Monthly)

—  DePaul University:  Ranked #4 in percentage of deceased alumni who enter the Catholic section of heaven without a forced layover in Purgatory; ranked #6 in percentage of undergraduates whose prayers to God for assistance during final exams are answered directly by a member of the Holy Trinity rather than a low-ranking angel (Vatican Daily)

—  Oberlin College:  Ranked #5 in percentage of philosophy majors who can distinguish between post-modernism, Post Raisin Bran, and the U.S. Postal Service (Foucault Institute Journal)

—  Yale University:  Ranked #1 in “Harvard Envy” among top-tier institutions in the Northeast (Center of the Universe Digest)

NOTE:  McKinsey will refund, with interest, your $5000 deposit if it fails to find, within 30 days, a publication that ranks your school #5 or higher on something.  Seriously, can your institution afford to pass up an offer like this?




Emptying the War Chest

In a dramatic move that has stunned the higher education community, Harvard and Yale will spend ALL of their endowment on campaign ads over the next 72 hours in an attempt to ensure President Trump’s defeat on Election Day.  

Just for the record, that’s $41.9 billion for Harvard, and $31.2 billion for Yale.

The schools will purchase every minute of broadcast time on every TV network and cable channel in the nation, starting at 12:01 am on Saturday and continuing until 11:59 Monday night.  All regular programming will be suspended.  

Each 30-second ad will consist of a different U. S. citizen staring directly into the camera and calmly saying, “Seriously, we REALLY can’t go through four more years of this.  Joe Biden may be as exciting as a lukewarm bowl of Cream of Rice, but at least he won’t contribute to the U-turn that human evolution is currently taking in the United States.”  The ads will be directed by Steven Spielberg, Spike Lee, Martin Scorsese, and Ava DuVernay, with background humming provided by the Vienna Boys’ Choir. 

According to Harvard President Lawrence Bacow, “this is a financial risk we have to take.  What’s the point of being an elite university if you live in a country where the next Secretary of Education might be a graduate of QAnon Community College, a school whose only major is Batshit Crazy?

Harvard and Yale will NOT be joined by Princeton University in this last-minute endeavor.  As Princeton President Christopher Eisgruber put it, “our magnolia-scented institution has historically taken pride in its Confederate ambience.  In my view, the jury is still out on Donald Trump’s presidency, so I think it’s only fair to give him these last few days of the campaign to turn things around in our nation.  As a professional courtesy, however, I’ll be sending Larry Bacow a check for $100 tomorrow, to use as he sees fit.”

“It Seemed Like a Good Idea at the Time….”

Undergraduates at the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor have been ordered by the Washtenaw County Health Department to “stay in place” due to a sharp increase in COVID-19 cases on campus (Chronicle of Higher Education online, October 20).

Behind the scenes, however, University Life has uncovered a more complicated story, both tragic and bittersweet.  

According to an anonymous University of Michigan administrator, three weeks ago the school initiated a new policy for dealing with students who tested positive for the coronavirus after violating safety protocols:  the students were required to perform community service by volunteering at local nursing homes and assisted living facilities. 

As the administrator put it, “our intentions were noble, but in retrospect it’s clear that we didn’t think through the potential consequences of this policy.  For example, the population of the Happy Wrinkles Nursing Home in nearby Barton Hills quickly shrunk from 350 to 22.” 

“Residents were dropping like flies in a horse barn sprayed with Raid,” lamented Happy Wrinkles Executive Director Clyde Gansling III.  “It was a damn shame.  And we only had three ventilators from Family Dollar on hand for the entire facility, which didn’t help matters.”

Amidst all this catastrophic misery and shortness of breath at Happy Wrinkles there were some joyous encounters.  Here is 97-year-old Minnie Cohenstein:  “My late husband Sol was a wonderful man, but for most of our 70-year marriage he was a no-show in the romance department.  And then, at ceramics class one afternoon in the Sun Room, I met Thad, a sophomore poetry major from the University.  Never have I felt more fulfilled as a woman than during the two weeks we spent together.  I’ll just stop there.  I’m a lady, you know.” 

When asked for his comments, Thad simply smiled and said, “Minnie taught me so much.  About life.  About love.  About how a small trampoline and some clam dip can be used to enhance a relationship.  I had no idea that community service could be so meaningful.  I wish her well.”

Liquid Assets?

Well, it’s come to this:  Brigham Young University-Idaho has warned its students not to intentionally expose themselves to COVID-19 in order to get more money for their plasma from local blood centers (East Idaho News online, October 12). 

In response, students at the Mormon school in Rexburg, Idaho are poised to do battle with the administration.   Here is Jason Husker-Du, a junior Political Science major and chair of the undergraduate student government’s Che Guevara Revolutionary Task Force:  “Show me where it says in the Book of Mormon, the Golden Plates, or the United States Constitution that voluntarily contracting an illness in the name of financial profit is forbidden.  You can’t show me, because there’s no mention of that topic, and certainly no mention of COVID-19, in any of those sources.  Ergo, you can’t stop us.  I’m pretty sure that Supreme Court nominee Amy Coney Barrett would agree with me on this, strict constructionist that she is.  

“Simply put, BYU has no right to tell us what we can do with our immune system or our plasma.  It’s bad enough that they require us to remain virginal until marriage.  Have you seen Willow Taffeta-Newsom, my girlfriend who plays on the volleyball team?  Oh.  My.  God.”

Yesterday, the University administration blinked.   School officials announced that they would allow students to embrace the coronavirus, as long as they tithed their plasma earnings to BYU, with the funds being used to buy iPads for the school’s new Esports concentration in its Bachelor’s Pre-Med program. 

Husker-Du’s reply:  “Sure, we’ll consider their offer, as long as they’re also willing to discuss our proposal for premarital-sex vouchers for all undergraduates.  The voucher topic has to be on the table, and really, really soon.  Like, before this Saturday night.  I’m not kidding.”