Go Ahead, Take One…….

Like piranha streaking toward a fleshy human leg in the Amazon River, colleges and universities in 2018 are engaged in a frenzied search for degree programs that will guarantee students a successful financial future.  To be sure, the schools’ torrid romance with the MBA seems to be cooling.  Unless you obtain that credential from an elite institution, pretty much all you’ll get from your MBA these days is the assurance that you’ll be promoted from your daytime cashier job at Taco Bell to the position of drive-thru manager for the midnight-to-6:00-am shift.  It’s hardly worth it. 

But watch out, here comes Chokecherry College.  A small liberal arts institution located outside of Wheeling, West Virginia, it will launch the nation’s first M. A. Program in Shoplifting in the fall of 2018.  According to Chokecherry President Nisbet L. Fwitz, “this is — literally — a hands-on program that will provide students with real-world skills.  It’s not a program for kids born into entitled networks that connect them with the spoiled spawn of their rich brethren.  This is a program for the rest of us, the ones who are just one forged prescription away from opiod addiction.”

The Shoplifting program is interdisciplinary, and will prepare students to enter the fast-growing, multi-billion-dollar field of customer-initiated retail theft.  The curriculum includes:

PHILOSOPHY 604            Situational Ethics

METALLURGY 617          Tin-Foiling Your Tote Bag

ARCHITECTURE 743       Introduction to Retail Floor Plans and Air-Conditioning-Duct Escape Routes

FASHION 532                     The Getaway Sneaker: Current Topics in Pivot Design

FINANCE 511                     Pawn Shop or eBay?  Selling What You Pilfer

THEATER 310                     Interacting with Security Guards: Alibis and the Oral Tradition (cross-listed with the Communications 428)

CRIMINAL JUSTICE 594  Posting Bail: Cash, Check, Money Order, or Barter?

LEGAL STUDIES 424        Securing an Attorney: Evaluating Ads on the Sides of Buses

PSYCHOLOGY 681             Won’t You Be My Neighbor?  Developing Intimate Relationships in Prison (online only)

INTERNSHIP 701                Convenience Stores

INTERNSHIP 702                Shopping Malls and Big-Box Venues

INTERNSHIP 703                High-End Retail Establishments         

“We’re especially proud of our three-semester internship program,” Fwitz notes. “Students will learn the basics of grab-and-go in convenience stores like 7-Eleven, and then move on to low-risk shopping malls.  Finally, they will participate in our Midtown Manhattan program, which includes such prestigious sites as Tiffany’s, Prada, Bulgari, and Hermès.”

All program faculty have at least 10 years of shoplifting experience, and 40% have served time in prison.  “These folks know the field, inside and out,” Fwitz asserts.  “Let other colleges train the next generation of front-desk reception clerks at the Marriott.  At Chokecherry, we’re providing graduates with rewarding careers right from the start.”

The Revenge of the 99% has begun. 

Exit, Stage Right…..

The University of Florida drew some unwanted attention recently when one of its faculty marshals was observed rushing, even pushing, several graduates off the stage after they had received their diplomas at commencement.  The University’s president later apologized and placed the faculty member on administrative leave.

To be sure, it is a challenge to usher a large number of students across a stage, one-by-one, in a timely fashion.  An informal survey of schools across the country reveals a variety of strategies for addressing this task.  Here’s a sampling of the more effective ones:

—  At the University of Miami, graduates wear a swim suit to the ceremony rather than a cap and gown, and exit the stage via a water slide.  According to Commencement Coordinator Todd Flemm, “the kids love it.  They can’t wait to run across the stage and dive, usually head first, onto the slide.  We’ve reduced the length of graduation by nearly 30% since introducing this procedure in 2012.”

— In contrast, a no-nonsense approach is employed at the University of Georgia, where professional bouncers from local biker bars monitor stage traffic.  If a graduate dawdles after being asked to speed up, the offender is immobilized with a taser and tossed into a mosh pit in front of the stage filled with adjunct faculty members.  “The number of injuries we’ve had is surprisingly few,” reports Provost Gretchen Slurv.  “The biggest problem is that the adjuncts sometimes steal the wallets of the graduates and use their health insurance cards.  We’re going to have to figure out a way to deal with that.”

— After consulting with world-renowned animal-behavior expert Temple Grandin, officials at Colorado State University designed a double rail restrainer conveyor system for moving students across the stage, modeled after the device used in many large beef plants for herding and stunning cattle (see illustration above).  According to CSU’s Police Chief, Garrett ‘Big Chew’ Bundy, “the conveyor system keeps students calm as it quickly transports them.  Occasionally a student may make a mooing sound, but it’s no big deal.  Actually, it’s kind of funny when that happens.”

— Finally, there’s Middlebury College in Vermont, which is attempting to re-frame the way schools think about commencement-stage logistics.  At Middlebury, graduates whose parents have paid full, undiscounted tuition for all four years are invited to remain on the stage after receiving their diploma and lounge in a salon-like space furnished with plush leather armchairs and a wine bar staffed by tuxedoed underclassmen who are on financial aid.  Cigars are available upon request.  “These are the folks who keep us in business,” notes College President Laurie Patton.  “It’s the least we can do.”

Absolutely.  As they say at Pepperidge Farm, “the one who butters your bread deserves the best toast.”


Be Careful What You Wish For

As recently reported in The Chronicle of Higher Education, financially troubled Catholic University of America in Washington, DC is embroiled in controversy over a proposed cost-cutting plan that could lay off tenured professors. 

In the past, steadfast prayer has been the typical response of CU faculty to disagreeable actions taken by the school’s administration.  And, on occasion, they have appealed to the University’s Board of Trustees. 

This time, however, faculty took the bold step of bypassing the Board, and chose to meet with God face-to-face.  Reliable sources indicate that on May 16th a group of three tenured CU professors (from biology, mathematics, and theology) traveled to Martinique to converse with The Almighty at his summer home.  They argued that, as an institution representing Catholicism — the “one true church of Christ” — Catholic University should be directly funded by the Supreme Being from his infinite resources.  (In 2017, Forbes magazine ranked God the Father as the wealthiest of all the major deities.)

Unfortunately, God disagreed with the professors, claiming that it was not his style to interject himself so straightforwardly into humanity’s everyday affairs.  As he put it, “Heck, look at what I let happen in Puerto Rico after the hurricane.  Some of those poor souls still don’t have power, and most of them are Catholic.”

He recommended that Catholic U. consider merging with Brigham Young University, a school associated with yet another religious denomination (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints) that claims to be the one true church.  “Let’s face it, BYU is much better managed financially than CU, and the Mormon belief system isn’t that much crazier than the Baltimore Catechism.  It’s worth a shot.”

Stay tuned.  This could get interesting.

On Edge?

From the Department of Unwanted Publicity: Yale University made the news (and Saturday Night Live) last week when a skittish white female graduate student (in this case, “skittish” = “wingnut”) called police after seeing a black female graduate student napping in the common room of the Yale building where they both lived.  No weapons were found at the scene, though the “sleepy seeds” discovered in the corners of the black student’s eyes are being tested for CAD (Cornea-Activated Dynamite).

There must be something in the water at Ivy League schools these days, given that the Yale incident was the fourth recent case of white overreaction among their ranks.  The others:

April 20th:  At Princeton, Mathematics Professor Dascom Frick notified campus police when he saw a black student remove a sharp object from his jacket during an in-class calculus exam on derivatives.  The object turned out to be a freshly sharpened No. 2 pencil.

“I could have sworn it was a switchblade,” Frick said when questioned by police.  “There was a shaft of sunlight coming through the window, and the way it reflected off the pencil point…….well, I just didn’t want anybody to die that day.  My bad.”

May 1st:  A black female was jogging across The Green at Dartmouth in the mid-afternoon when she was spotted by 82-year-old Letitia Foucault-Peignoir, who was walking her Pomeranian.  Concerned that the jogger might have stolen her running shorts, sneakers, tank top, sports bra, and headband from the local Foot Locker, Ms. Foucault-Peignoir blew her alarm whistle, summoning police.  The jogger was apprehended, and identified as a Dartmouth sophomore on the track team who was training for an upcoming race.

“I’m so sorry for the misunderstanding,” said Foucoult-Peignoir  “but I’d never seen anyone run that fast who wasn’t trying to leave the scene of a crime.”

May 3rd:  A visiting Nigerian Linguistics professor in a 3-piece suit was sitting on a bench in Harvard Yard, engaged in his daily routine of meditating for 15 minutes with his eyes closed and hands resting, palms down, on his knees.  A sharp-eyed pigeon perched on the nearby statue of John Harvard notified authorities, and within 90 seconds the professor was surrounded by an armed SWAT team accompanied by a National Guard helicopter. 

No shots were fired and the episode ended peacefully.  The pigeon, who had been passing through Cambridge on his way to the Cape, explained that he had never observed an individual sitting that still for that long “who wasn’t some sort of schizo-psycho nutcase with explosives wrapped around his waist.  Better safe than sorry!  Umm….anybody got any bread crumbs?”

Be careful out there.

Losing Streak

Earlier this week the University of Cincinnati became the latest school to rescind the honorary degree it had bestowed upon disgraced icon Bill Cosby.  But is there any institution of higher education in the country unluckier than tiny Eunora Lutheran Teachers College in Bradfordsville, Kentucky?  Here is the roster of its honorary degree recipients over the past decade:

2017   Eric Schneiderman

2016   Garrison Keillor

2015   Al Franken

2014   Kevin Spacey

2013   Matt Lauer

2012   Charlie Rose

2011   Louis C. K.

2010   Anthony Weiner

2009   Joseph Stalin (posthumously awarded)

2008   Vlad the Impaler (posthumously awarded)

2007   Satan

“Clearly, we need to tighten up our vetting process,” Eunora President Clayton Skink acknowledged in a press conference yesterday.  “But, gosh, who would have thought that Garrison Keillor would turn out to be a perv?  And to our credit, we never did give an honorary degree to Mr. Cosby.  It’s true that our reason for not doing so was racism, but still…..”

Eunora’s 2018 honorary doctorate will be awarded posthumously to Mr. Rogers.  Skink says that “we’re keeping our fingers crossed on this one, and our anxious eyes focused on future New Yorker exposés by Ronan Farrow.”




Open It…..

If you aren’t familiar with Carleton College — a small, selective, liberal arts school located in Northfield, Minnesota — you will be soon.  In April, Carleton became the first college in the nation to ban use of the words “awesome” and “super” on its campus. 

According to Carleton President Steven Poskanzer, “the over-utilization of these two words by our students had gotten to the point where talking with them was like having knitting needles jabbed into your brain stem.  It was that painful.  The term ‘awesome’ should be reserved for things like the Grand Canyon and Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream speech, rather than being hijacked to describe an order of curly fries at Wendy’s or a cell-phone photo of half-price tickets to a Led Zeppelin cover-band concert at a roller rink in Minneapolis.

“And don’t get me started on ‘super’.  Everything these days is ‘super’ this or ‘super’ that.  ‘I’m super-excited to meet you, President Poskanzer!’  Or, ‘The chili dog I had at that awesome Led Zeppelin cover-band concert last night was super-tasty!’

“Whenever I hear sentences like these, all I can think is:  Kill.  Me.  Now.

A $3 fine will be imposed every time a student utters one of the prohibited words, with the amount automatically charged to the student’s account in the Bursar’s Office, a procedure similar to the way that library fines and parking tickets are handled.  Students with outstanding balances will not be allowed to graduate.

“We just had to do something,” the President asserted.  “This is not a case of stifling free speech.  It’s simply our long-overdue attempt to counteract lazy, mind-numbingly unimaginative speech.”

Is Poskanzer afraid that Carleton will be sued by angry student groups?  “Bring it on,” he exclaimed.  “We’re just getting started.  Next year we’re expanding the No-Say List to include annoying phrases, not just individual words.  Take heed, ‘No Problem’ and ‘Lived Experience’.  Your days are numbered.  We’re coming for you.”


That Sports Management MBA Finally Paid Off

“If it’s good enough for the NBA, it’s good enough for us!”

Those were the words of Robert J. Jones, Chancellor of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, when he announced that, beginning in the fall of 2018, the University will become the first school in the country to affix a corporate logo to the blazers of all faculty, administration, and staff. 

“If the Boston Celtics can put a General Electric patch on its players, we can certainly accept Boeing’s offer to wear its logo,” Jones asserted.  “They’re the world’s largest aerospace company, and their headquarters are in Illinois.  Given the devastating budget cuts that our school has experienced in recent years due to the actions of the dipsticks in our state legislature, we are desperate for funds.  Boeing will not only give us $7.2 million annually for wearing the patch, they’ll pay for the navy blue blazers we’ll be purchasing from Men’s Wearhouse (for the guys) and Talbots (for the ladies).  This is a win-win for higher education.  Our classrooms will have the sharpest-dressed faculty in the nation, which is sure to enhance student learning.”

When asked by a reporter if he thought it was a bit tacky to transform professional employees at a top-tier public university into walking sandwich boards for a private company, Jones responded, “We’re not talking here about NASCAR clothing, where ads cover every square inch of the driver’s upper body.  It’s just one tiny patch, and it’s for Boeing, a world-class outfit, not for Condom World in Peoria.”

EDITOR’S NOTE:  Condom World is currently negotiating a logo contract with Illinois Central College, a community college in East Peoria.  Agreement has yet to be reached on the size of the image depicted in the logo.

More Learning, Fewer Hives

The University of Kansas took a bold step this week when it became the first school in the country to adopt a gluten-free core curriculum for its undergraduates. 

At a Wednesday press conference, University Chancellor Douglas Girod proclaimed that “the health of Jayhawk students is our highest priority.”  He announced that “The Psychology of Wheat,” the last remaining core course containing gluten, would be removed from the curriculum by the fall of 2018. 

Several reporters questioned the logic behind the school’s action, noting that there had never been any courses at the University that actually required students to ingest gluten.  However, according to Girod, “research has shown that talking about gluten can be just as dangerous as eating it.  We’re not going to put our students at risk any longer.  Words matter, and discussions of gluten in the classroom can represent micro-aggressions against those with allergies.  Kansas may be the largest wheat-producing state in the nation, but we’re not afraid to take on the grain lobby and do what’s right.  Our goal is to create safe spaces for students who wish to have a gluten-free lived experience on our campus.”

The Chancellor closed the press conference by setting a bowl of Cheerios on fire and promising, “Peanuts, you’re next!” 



Back to Basics

We all knew it was going to happen, the only question was when:

A university in the United States has dropped “critical thinking” from its list of core learning objectives for undergraduates. 

Beginning in the fall of 2018, Marquette University will only attempt to help students develop their ability to “feel.” 

In a press conference on Thursday, Marquette President Michael Lovell announced that getting students to think critically had simply become too difficult.  “Our faculty are exhausted and demoralized, and are desperate to grab some low-hanging fruit from the tree of learning.  Moreover, we don’t want to lose market share to competing schools that might take this action before we do.”

When Lovell was asked to distinguish between “critical thinking” and “feeling,” he responded, “If you assert that a pizza topped with BBQ chicken and pineapple is not really a pizza, that’s critical thinking.  But if you say, ‘I’m hungry’, that’s a feeling.”

Reporters wanted to know if this shift in institutional objectives would make it more likely that, in future Presidential elections, Marquette graduates would vote for candidates who couldn’t tell the difference between parsing a syllogism and using Cheetos to comb their hair. 

Lovell’s reply: “I’m hungry.”


The Final Five

Tear-jerking human interest stories and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament are a match made in media heaven.  Who could resist Sister Jean Dolores-Schmidt, the 98-year-old chaplain of the Loyola-Chicago team?  Of course, broadcasters sweeten these accounts to the point where watching them is a lot like sucking grape-juice concentrate from a tube attached to a fraternity-party keg.  If you’re diabetic, you’ll die. 

So, we should probably all be grateful that Iowa’s Quenvy College didn’t make it past the tournament’s first round this year.  Quenvy’s starting lineup included the following players:

Toby Standingwater — Abandoned by his parents at a trailer park at the age of 2, Toby was raised by the park’s manager, Zeb Banks — a divorced, blind, one-legged war veteran who suffered from PTSD.  When Toby showed an interest in basketball in grade school, the impoverished but nurturing Zeb fashioned him a crude basketball by inflating a proctologist’s discarded rubber glove. 

“Dribbling that damn thing was challenge,” Toby recalls.  “But it taught me skills that made me the team’s go-to guy whenever we were trying to run out the clock.  I can dribble forever!

DeShawn Tyrone Demetrius Jackson — The only white Irish male with this name in human history, DeShawn was taunted mercilessly by both his white and black classmates when he was in elementary school.  He learned to play basketball when his teachers refused to let him do anything else. 

Delft Clog — At 8 feet, 10 inches, Delft is the tallest player in the NCAA.  Born in the Netherlands, he was accidentally injected with Human Growth Hormone when his parents took him for a measles vaccination at age 15 months.  A high school dropout, he was working part-time as a tree in a forest-themed amusement park outside of Amsterdam when a recruiter discovered him.  “Now I am no longer a tree,” Delft says proudly.  “No more dogs and cruel children peeing on my legs all the time.  Basketball saved me.  I am happy.”

Marvin “Mango” Gibson — At the beginning of 2015, Gibson was in the 40th year of 3 consecutive life terms at the Iowa State Penitentiary, having been convicted of robbing and killing 3 patients at the local hospice in Fort Madison.  (“Hell, I figured they were 90% dead anyway,” he claims.)

Then, in 2015, he attended a weekend screening of Space Jam in the prison library.  The inspirational basketball film featuring Michael Jordan “changed my life,” Gibson states.  “I knew I could turn things around if I could only get a chance to play.”  He petitioned the warden to be released on parole if he could gain acceptance at a nearby college, and the warden agreed.  Quenvy admitted him, and now, at age 61, he’s the team’s starting power forward.  “Sometimes my ankle monitor short-circuits the 30-second clock during a fast break, but otherwise it’s all good,” Gibson observes.

When he’s not in the classroom or the gym, Mango volunteers at the same hospice where he committed that heinous crime so many years ago.

The Spirit of Skip Blavens — The team’s captain, Skip lost his life just before the beginning of the 2017-18 school year, when he fell into a 250-foot-high grain silo on his family’s farm (see photo above).  The team voted not to replace Skip on the court.  As Toby Standingwater put it, “Skip was our spiritual leader, and we know his soul is with us out there, even if his body isn’t.  That’s good enough for us.  We call it our 4+1 offense.” 

During games, the team honors Skip by placing an unopened box of shredded wheat in the chair he would have occupied on the bench. 

The Quenvy Harvesters lost 126-52 to Tennessee in the tournament’s opening round this year, but as TV announcer Jim Nantz put it, “We know who the real winners are.”