Five Lives, Forever Changed

In a recent Chronicle of Higher Education essay critiquing the “Productivity Syndrome” in academia, Mitchell Aboulafia suggested that professors concerned about this problem should “stop publishing scholarship for an extended period of time.  Announce this decision to colleagues.  Be willing to say that this is for your good and for the good of your field.” 

Three days ago, at Duke University, Assistant Professor of English Elston Brillo stood up at a lunchtime department meeting and proclaimed that he was going to follow Dr. Aboulafia’s advice.  He encouraged his colleagues to join him in “stepping to the sidelines of this soul-killing publication rat race.”

The conference room’s audio-equipped surveillance camera, now in the possession of Durham, North Carolina police, recorded what happened next:

Professor Harold Frazley-Quint, age 72, screamed “Are you insane?”, grabbed his chest, and had a heart attack.  Eyes and mouth wide open, he died on the spot. 

Assistant Professor Penelope Kelso, seven months pregnant, gasped and immediately went into labor.  Thirty-five minutes later she delivered Gherkin, her first-born, in the hallway.  Gherkin is now in the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Duke University Hospital, while Penelope resides in the psychiatric ward.  The only words she has spoken since the incident are “Where are the page proofs for Chapter 4?  I need to return them to the publisher by Monday!  Get that baby away from me!

Associate Professor Kevin Gumrap began choking on his ham sandwich.  Professor Brillo applied the Heimlich maneuver to Gumrap in time to save his life, but not quickly enough to prevent the significant brain damage caused by oxygen deprivation.  As a result, Gumrap, a Melville scholar, will be teaching four online sections of E112 (Introduction to Verbs) in Fall 2018. 

Gretchen Stent, Assistant Professor, fainted and suffered a severe gash when her forehead struck the edge of the conference table.  Extensive plastic surgery will be required, and her upcoming TED talk on “Adjectival Patriarchy: Why ‘Many’ and not ‘Womany’?” has been cancelled due to photogenic impairment.  She is suing Brillo for $3.6 million.

Associate Professor Clive Taylor-Riesling lept across the conference table and grabbed Brillo by the throat while the latter was Heimliching Gumrap, yelling “What the _____ are you talkin’ about, you pissant?  I’m in the middle of researching volume 4 of my 12-volume authorized biography of Tupac Shakur!  Are you tellin’ me that I just spent the last 5 months of my life transcribing his dental records for nuthin’?”

Life Lesson: Announce whatever you wish to your colleagues, but anticipate their reactions.