“Run, Save Yourselves!!!”

The headline says it all:  “Shelter-in-place lifted at Monmouth University after curling iron mistaken for weapon” (ABC News Online, March 23).

Don’t fret, Monmouth.  You have plenty of company in the mistaken-identity sweepstakes.  Consider these three incidents from just the past 30 days:

March 2nd:  At Oklahoma State University, a ripe avocado left on a tray in the dining commons was mistaken for a live hand grenade by Mildred Urf, a 72-year-old cashier beloved by students.  Yelling “Save yourselves!” Ms. Urf sprinted toward the tray and jumped, smothering the avocado with her stomach.  She suffered a severe navel bruise and was later awarded the school’s Badge of Courage by OSU President Kayse Shrum.  

March 14th:  Three varsity football players at Louisiana State University, unhappy with their limited playing time last season, mistook a manhole cover on a campus street for the transfer portal to Auburn University.  They proceeded to remove the cover and descend into LSU’s extensive sewer system.  They were found six days later, “stinking to high heaven,” according to the school’s police chief.  “There’s not enough AXE Body Spray in the entire universe to get them smelling decent again.”

March 22nd:  An adjunct instructor at the College of William and Mary was mistaken for a tenure-track faculty member and allowed to sit in the “Professorial Section” at a campus-wide meeting.  When the error was discovered, the instructor, a male, resisted being relocated to the block of seats reserved for part-time faculty and women at the rear of the auditorium.  A scuffle ensued and an officer was bitten, but it’s not clear by whom.   The incident is currently under investigation.  

QUICK!!!  Is that thing in the middle of the quad a stray Birkenstock sandal or an Improvised Explosive Device???

You’d Be Scared, Too…

A recent national survey found that 58.5% of college students are reluctant to discuss at least one of the following hot-button topics in class: race, gender, politics, religion, and sexual orientation (Chronicle of Higher Education, March 22nd online). 

58.5% may seem high, but it pales in comparison to 97%, which is the percentage of students who absolutely refuse to talk in class about any of the following: differential calculus, amoebic dysentery, the Code of Hammurabi, the Oxford comma, and Gallium, the 31st element in the Periodic Table.  

Consider the case of Terrance Flish, a sophomore at Florida State University.  He claims that differential calculus is his personal “trauma trigger.”  “Last week my Math professor called on me to explain the difference between differential calculus and integral calculus.  I froze, and then totally lost bowel control right in front of everyone.  The professor made fun of me and joked that my large intestine had emptied so completely that I should go to Walgreens for a free colonoscopy.  I was mortified.  Later, I was even more mortified when I discovered that Walgreens doesn’t perform colonoscopies.”

At Muhlenberg College, an English professor asked Melanie Nulf-Petras what her opinion was of the Oxford comma.  “I passed out,” she reports.  “Now I have nightmares nearly every night about writing sentences that contain lists, and the medication I’m taking for the dreams is causing my eyebrows to grow down the sides of my cheeks.  My life is beyond horrible.” 

An ROTC instructor at Sam Houston State University asked freshman Matthew Capsaicin to recite Law 110 from the Code of Hammurabi.  As Capsaicin recounts the incident, “I panicked and said, ‘Thou shalt not wear white after Labor Day’[The correct answer: ‘If a sister of god opens a tavern, or enters a tavern to drink, then shall this woman be burned to death’.]  The instructor yelled ‘WRONG!’ and proceeded to pull a pistol from his pants pocket and shoot me twice in the left leg, right below the knee.  Two weeks later I was cut from the varsity basketball team and lost my athletic scholarship.  My parents were not happy.”

Yes, college students are afraid to talk in class.

And it looks like they should be.  

“Bring in ‘da Pomp, Bring in ‘da Circumstance….”

In recent months, U.S. News & World Report has been taking more body blows than Michael B. Jordan in Creed III, as one high-profile school after another refuses to participate in the magazine’s annual college and university rankings. 

On Wednesday, however, the Report bounced off the ropes and landed a punch of its own, unveiling a new dimension that will, in the words of company CEO Eric Gertler, “help ensure the validity of our college prestige rankings for decades to come.”

Dubbed G-7, it measures the grandeur of a school’s inauguration ceremony for a new president or chancellor.

A college or university’s G-7 score will incorporate the following components:


100 pts.:  Cathedral (at least 300 years old)

50 pts.:  Cathedral (less than 300 years old)

5 pts.:  Anywhere else


100 pts.:  Monarchs, Potentates, Prime Ministers, Overlords, etc. 

90 pts.:  Nobel Prize winners in STEM fields

85 pts.:  Neil deGrasse Tyson

80 pts.:  George Clooney

75 pts.:  Football coaches from the Southeastern Conference (SEC)

70 pts.:  College and university presidents with a Ph.D. 

65 pts.:  College and university presidents without a Ph.D. 

60 pts.:  Head of the faculty union (not wearing a protest sign)

50 pts.:  Chair of the Core Curriculum Committee

45 pts.:  Emeritus professors (cognitively intact)

40 pts.:  Emeritus professors (not quite cognitively intact)

35 pts.:  Student government presidents with at least a 2.75 GPA

30 pts.:  Adjunct faculty with a minimum of 30 teaching credits

25 pts.:  Live poultry from a neighboring institution’s School of Agriculture (must be wearing ceremonial robes)

15 pts.:  A bucket of KFC donated by a local franchisee

-10 pts.:  Head of the faculty union (wearing a protest sign) 


100 pts.:  Symphony composed by John Williams especially for the event

75 pts.:  Barry Manilow medley performed by the school’s marching band

50 pts.:  Star-Spangled Banner sung by a sophomore Music major with a head cold

20 pts.:  Pre-recorded “Tunes to Twerk By” played by a local DJ


100 pts.:  Jon Stewart

80 pts.:  Patrick Stewart

40 pts.:  Rod Stewart

30 pts.:  Stewie (from “Family Guy”)

10 pts.:  Martha Stewart


100 pts.:  Formal wear featured in the New York Times Style Magazine

70 pts.:  Sweats

30 pts.:  Anything from the “Trailer Park” rack at David’s Bridal


100 pts.:  Shrimp cocktail (with sauce)

90 pts.:  Shrimp cocktail (without sauce)

80 pts.:  Cheese bits (with toothpicks)

70 pts.:  Cheese bits (without toothpicks)

60 pts.:  Hummus (with crackers)

50 pts.:  Hummus (without crackers)

40 pts.:  Turkey jerky

30 pts.:  No-salt Cheez-Its


100 pts.:  Wine

90 pts.:  Beer in wine glasses

80 pts.:  Beer in glass bottles

70 pts.:  Beer in cans

60 pts.:  Beer in 20-ounce stadium cups

50 pts.:  Breast milk

40 pts.:  Tap water

30 pts.:  Pedialyte Grape 

Immediately following the U.S. News & World Report press conference introducing the inauguration factor, Harvard and Yale Law Schools announced that they would resume participating in the ranking process.  As Harvard Law Dean John F. Manning put it, “we’re back in the game, baby, with gold-tasseled loafers on both feet!”  


23 and WHO?

Controversy briefly swirled on social media last month after a Latina was crowned Miss Coppin State University.  Coppin State is an HBCU in Maryland, with only 3% of its student body identifying as Latino or Hispanic (The Baltimore Banner, February 4th online).  

Upon hearing this news, Ron DeSantis, Governor of Florida and champion of no-nonsense higher education, issued an Executive Order designed to prevent such an occurrence from ever happening in the Sunshine State. 

Beginning July 1st, 2023, all Florida HBCU pageant contestants must submit, as part of their application portfolio, a complete DNA profile generated by either 23andMe or Ancestry.com.  They will need to demonstrate at least 90% Black heritage in order to move forward in the competition.  

“It’s the least we can do to protect the integrity of these contests,” says DeSantis.  “Indeed, I look forward to the day when a DNA requirement will apply to anyone who even seeks admission to a Florida HBCU.  Let’s face it, the sooner that every college and university in the nation replaces the SAT and ACT with genetic testing, the better off we’ll all be.  It’s time to sort out, once and for all, who belongs where.

“I’m Ron DeSantis, and I approved this message.”

The Other “G” Word…

On February 17th the Chronicle (p. 60) published a thought-provoking essay on the phenomenon of “ghosting” in academia.  Coincidentally, this article appeared on the 70th anniversary of one of the most notorious instances of the other “G” word — “gaslighting” — in the history of higher education: Dartmouth’s Dark Night.

Read and weep. 

On Monday, February 16, 1953, Gabriel “Gabe” Mussum, a freshly minted Stanford PhD, arrived at the Hanover Inn on the campus of Dartmouth College.  On Tuesday he would begin two days of interviews for an assistant-professor position in the school’s Department of History.  He checked in without incident.  

By midday on Tuesday the 17th it had become clear to both the History Department Chair and the Dean of Arts and Sciences that Mussum was not a good fit.  Most egregiously, he combed his hair straight back in an era when virtually all male faculty members at Dartmouth parted their hair on the right.  

When Gabe returned to the Hanover Inn on Monday evening, he discovered that his room key did not work.  He went downstairs to the front desk, where he was told that no one named “Mussum” was registered at the Inn.  This information came from Bernice, the same woman who had checked him in the night before.  Bernice now claimed that she had never encountered Gabe on Monday. 

Bewildered, Gabe scurried across Dartmouth College Green to the building where the Dean’s office was located, hoping to find him still there despite the late hour.  Indeed, the Dean had not yet left, but he simply stared blankly at Gabe and declared, “I have no idea who you are, young man.”  

Gabe returned to the Inn, only to find out that it was fully booked for the night.  Bernice suggested that he walk to a nearby Motel 6, which was a little over a mile away.  He departed just as it began to snow heavily.  It turned out to be the biggest snowstorm of the season: 26 inches in 4 hours.  

Gabe never arrived at the Motel 6.  On February 22nd a cross-country skier noticed a frozen human leg sticking out of a snowbank on the edge of the Dartmouth campus.  The leg was attached to Gabe Mussum. 

The case remained unsolved until 1997, when the long-retired Dean of Arts and Sciences was receiving last rites on his deathbed from a Catholic priest.  The Dean confessed: “I’ve carried this horrible secret with me for 44 years. We were just trying to save a little money on hotel expenses, that’s all.  Dartmouth’s endowment was a lot smaller back then.  I authorized the entire deception, including the changing of the lock on the door.  Am I going to Hell, Father?”

“I’m afraid so, my son.  I’ll be recommending it.”

Legend has it that the ghost of Gabe Mussum can be seen walking slowly across the Dartmouth College Green every February 17th at midnight.  He wears a tweed jacket and carries a doctoral dissertation.  His hair is parted on the right.  



“You Can’t Always Get What You Wah-aunt…”

Devotees of academic-freedom controversies in higher education have been following with great interest the ongoing saga of Hamline University, the St. Paul, MN school that fired an adjunct faculty member after she displayed an artistic depiction of the Prophet Muhammed in class — and a student complained (Chronicle of Higher Education, January 13th online).  

But now, Ground Zero for Divinity-Related Kerfuffles has shifted to Indiana, where a history professor at Valparaiso University was discharged last week after showing a Mormon painting of Jesus Christ in his senior seminar, “Utah: State, or State of Mind?”  

A male sophomore in the course said he was traumatized by the portrait, which, he claims, makes Jesus resemble “the love child of Kenny Loggins and one of the Beach Boys.  There’s no way the Son of God could look like that.  Everyone knows that the real Jesus bore an uncanny resemblance to a young Mick Jagger, leader of the world’s greatest rock-and-roll band.  Just watch any YouTube video of Jesus delivering the Sermon on the Mount during his legendary Water-into-Wine concert tour in Northern Israel two-thousand years ago; he moves just like Mick does on stage when he’s performing Start Me Up.”

In announcing the termination of the professor in question, Valparaiso President José Padilla commented that “this student makes a legitimate point.  I’ve seen the video.  Jesus was the original Rolling Stone.  We had no choice but to take action.”  



Tabula Rasa, Squared

As Charles Dickens recently observed, it is the “worst of times” in higher education.  College classrooms have become battlegrounds, belittled by conservatives as enclaves of leftist indoctrination and scorned by liberals as political minefields where free speech is threatened even as microaggressions and traumatizing triggers run rampant.  

Is there any way out of this mess?

Florida State University thinks so.

Beginning in the fall of 2023, FSU’s Sociology Department will offer Void 101, a three-credit, Pass-Fail, content-free elective course. 

According to Department Chair Clyde Fliff, “nothing will happen in Void 101.  This in-person course will meet every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from 9:30 am to 10:45 am, but no one will say anything during that time.  Students will sit silently for the entire period, as will the instructor.  This will eliminate the possibility of problematic interactions taking place.  Students who refrain from speaking for the entire semester will receive a final grade of Pass.

“The goal of Void 101 is to cleanse students’ minds of troubling, as well as untroubling, thoughts.  The only required text is a blank Moleskine diary.  If a student has a cognition at any point during a class session, he or she will write that thought down in the diary, tear out the page, and burn it after leaving the room.  In Void 101, an educated mind is one that is clear and free of debris, like a cloudless sky on a summer’s day in Tallahassee.  By the end of the course, high-achieving students should have nothing to write about in their diaries. 

“For far too long — indeed, centuries — colleges and universities have been obsessed with trying to fill students’ heads with content in the form of information, ideas, and values.  This needs to stop.  The time has come to empty those precious heads and take higher education to the next level.”

Students will not be allowed to visit the bathroom during meetings of Void 101, since doing so could serve as a trigger for those who might have been bedwetters as children.  

Plans are under way to introduce Void 102 (Advanced Void) in the spring of 2024.  In Void 102 total silence will still be observed in the classroom, but thinking about Division I college football will be encouraged.  

Making the Most of Your Accreditation Site Visit…

A recent Chronicle of Higher Education article offers excellent advice to faculty who are planning campus visits to conduct external program reviews (January 4th online).

On a larger scale, of course, professors often serve on site-visit teams that engage in comprehensive evaluations focused on accreditation of the college or university as a whole.  The stakes are higher here, so it’s crucial that faculty evaluators be at the top of their game.  The best way to do that is to heed the experts who encourage you to keep the following issues in mind:

—  The institution being evaluated will send you a hefty self-study prior to the visit, claiming that it covers “the good, the bad, and the ugly” with respect to the school’s functioning. 

You should read this document with the same degree of skepticism you would apply to self-descriptions on a dating website.  Not many prospects will describe themselves as having low intelligence, bad teeth, and nightmare-inducing acne.  Similarly, it’s the rare university self-study that will admit, “our President is a madman and we are a Goodyear blimp of grade inflation.”

—  There’s a good chance you’ll discover a disgruntled faculty member hiding in your hotel bathroom or under the bed when you arrive in town.  He or she will urgently desire to share with you terrifying accounts of the school’s many transgressions and injustices.  This could take several hours.  Listen carefully to what they have to say, lock them in a closet, and then call hotel security.  

—  Never trust a high-level male administrator wearing a bow tie…..unless he’s discussing wine. 

—  The most knowledgeable people at the institution will invariably be department secretaries.  They know where the bodies are buried, including the ones that are still alive and twitching.  At least 80% of your time should be spent interviewing them. 

—  You will chat with several small groups of bright, personable, enthusiastic students during your visit.  Please be aware that none of these individuals actually attend the institution.  They are all drama students from New York University who are employed part-time by the Rainbow Collective, a Manhattan-based agency that provides demographically balanced teams of drug-free young people for accreditation site visits.  

— Your team will have a “work room” on campus that contains a massive amount of hard-copy and electronic data on the institution that go back to the Code of Hammurabi.   The hard-copy materials will be in binders featuring more brightly colored reference tabs than you have ever seen in your life. 

None of this information will be useful to you.  However, to show your appreciation for all the hard work that went into compiling it, please scatter the documents around the room in a manner that suggests you’ve been reading them.

—  The work room will also contain a cornucopia of snacks and beverages for the visiting team, many of which will be of high quality.  Use a duffel bag to transport all of these treats back to your hotel room at the end of the day.  They will be replenished in the morning.  

—  The main reason for taking on the demanding task of an accreditation site visit is the food.  Typically, the team gathers for dinner every night at a local restaurant.  Go to the finest establishment you can find and pretend to be members of a debauched royal family.  Order a seven-course meal and throw wine glasses against the wall.  Request a suckling pig even if no one on the team eats pork.  Offer leftovers to the adjunct faculty members who are likely to be working as waitstaff.  

—  Most team chairpersons will want a draft of your section of the accreditation report before you leave campus at the end of the visit.  This will probably require you to pull a couple of all-nighters in order to meet the deadline.  It’s a little-known fact that chairpersons carry a large supply of amphetamines in their briefcase for precisely this purpose.  You are entitled to as many pills as you need to power through, but you must take the initiative to ask for them.  Don’t be shy.  

There you have it.  Now go forth and make your next accreditation site visit the best one ever!

What to Watch Out for….

A recent article in the Chronicle of Higher Education explores the questions, “Should You Lead a Department on the Brink?  And How?” (January 13th online) 

Intriguing queries, to be sure.  But they bypass the most crucial issue:  “How can I be certain that my department is indeed the sort of dumpster fire that warrants a description of being ‘on the brink’?”

Fear not.  Here are the Top Ten warning signs that your academic dinghy is sinking:

—  At department meetings, faculty members do not address each other by name; they use the phrase “demon seed” instead.  

—  The pair of consultants the department hired to facilitate team building were hospitalized with PTSD following the first session.  They subsequently left the field altogether and now own a yarn boutique in Camden, Maine.  

—  When individuals calling your department are put on hold, Siberian funeral dirges play in the background, accompanying a deeply flawed public service announcement for a suicide hot line (“This could be your last chance…”).   

—  The department’s 2022 end-of-year holiday party featured a Velveeta sculpture, soggy saltines, and tap water.  The miniature Christmas tree sitting on top of the photocopier caught fire.  A BIC pocket lighter was discovered nearby.  

—  When department members were recently asked by your school’s IT office to update their computer passwords, they were instructed to register as “Guest.”

—  Prescriptions for Zoloft and Paxil account for 72% of your department’s budget. 

—  The last time your department sponsored a team-taught course, a knife fight broke out in class between the instructors.  Campus police had to be summoned.  There were minor injuries.  

—  Facilities staff have been showing up at your department in recent weeks, taking measurements in preparation for converting faculty offices into lounge areas for undergraduates majoring in e-sports and recreational cannabis. 

—  Department members routinely key the phrase “demon seed” on the car doors of their colleagues, often leaving their initials. 

—  Although custodial staff empty the office trash baskets of department members three times a week, the refuse they remove is simply dumped in the hallway and covered with lime. 

If three or more of the above conditions characterize your department, it might be wise to think twice before agreeing to serve as chair.  

Have a good semester. 



Yep, It’s a Minefield…

Trigger incidents in college classrooms hit an all-time high in 2022, with over 4700 cases reported to school administrators by traumatized students.  On Friday, the National Association of Higher Education Trauma Professionals (NAHETP) released its list of nominees for Most Bizarre Trigger Incident of 2022.  Here are the finalists:

—  At George Washington University, senior Carson Gramly was taking a midterm exam in American Politics when he looked up and saw the instructor using dental floss to remove a bit of pastrami that had gotten stuck between his teeth at lunch.  Seeing the strand of floss reminded Gramly of a gorgeous female in a string bikini he had walked behind on a Fort Lauderdale beach during spring break of 2019.  When he caught up with her and asked if she would be interested in “hooking up,” the woman howled with laughter and humiliated him in front of his friends.  

For two months following the midterm exam, Gramly suffered from debilitating erectile dysfunction.  His frustrated girlfriend broke up with him. 

—  At the first meeting of a Moravian Poetry seminar on the campus of Kansas State University, the instructor read aloud the name “Norton Tewksbury” from the class roll and looked around the room.  Tewksbury, who was present, had an immediate flashback to a nightmare he experienced at the age of five.  In the dream, a woolly mammoth resembling his grandmother roars his name just before devouring him.

Mr. Tewksbury, screaming “don’t eat me, Grammy, don’t eat me,” jumped up from his seat and attempted to exit the classroom through an open window.  He was subdued and sedated by the NAHETP clinical psychology intern assigned to the course.  

—  When a Fairfield University professor said “Let’s take a close look at the syllabus” on the first day of Accounting Fundamentals, sophomore Melanie Slurv-Gaston mistakenly heard “syphilis” instead of “syllabus.”  Slurv-Gaston, who for years had suffered from excessive ear wax, was instantly assaulted by memories from first grade at her conservative Catholic elementary school in Greenwich.  It was there that Sister Clarice had lectured the class on the ravages of venereal disease, showing gruesome slides of end-stage patients with syphilis.  

Now traumatized — again — in 2022, Ms. Slurv-Gaston passed out, hitting her head on the side of the desk and suffering a concussion.  

—  Minutes before the beginning of a Social Psychology class at Harvey Mudd College, the instructor scrunched up a piece of scrap paper into a ball and shot it, free-throw style, into a wastebasket approximately 10 feet away.  Quentin Tarff, a freshman who observed the shot, was reminded of his unsuccessful 3-point attempt as the buzzer sounded at the end of California’s 2021 high school state championship basketball game.  His team lost, 71-69, and he was shunned by students and faculty for the rest of the academic year.  

Mr. Tarff dropped out of Harvey Mudd two days after that class session.  He is currently unemployed and spends most of his time dribbling a partially deflated beach ball in the parking lot of a deserted shopping mall on the outskirts of Claremont.   

The winner of the Most Bizarre Trigger Incident of 2022 will be announced by NAHETP in mid-February.