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.