“Professor, Diagnose Thyself….”

The cover story of the January 7th issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education claims that “academic burnout is real — but difficult to diagnose” (p. 13).

Fortunately, this difficulty has been overcome.  On February 1st, a research team at Northwestern University will publish a 10-item survey instrument, validated in multiple pilot studies, that measures Faculty Emotional Exhaustion and Disengagement (FEED).  University Life has obtained a copy of the inventory, and we are pleased to share it now as a service to our readers.

FEED Inventory

Instructions:  Using a 5-point scale, indicate how likely it is that you would display each of the following behaviors (1 = not likely at all, 5 = extremely likely).

— In a department meeting, a discussion of whether to change the prefix for all History courses from “HIS” to “HST” is now entering its fourth hour.  Some of your colleagues maintain that “HIS” is sexist.  You take a live grenade out of your briefcase, pull the pin, and place it in the middle of the conference table.  You calmly announce that a decision must be made in the next 30 seconds. 

—  At the beginning of your lecture to a Zoom-based class right after lunch, you notice that there is a conspicuous piece of mustard-covered pastrami dangling from your chin.  You choose to leave it there.

—  During an in-person session of your Political Institutions course, a puzzled student remarks that she’s having a hard time distinguishing between oligarchy, autocracy, and totalitarianism.  You respond that “it doesn’t matter.  Death claims us all in the end.”

—  In a faculty workshop on how to deal with cheating, you defend plagiarism as a legitimate strategy for students to employ when they’re facing multiple pressing deadlines. 

—  When the Provost makes a surprise announcement at a campus-wide meeting that all faculty and staff will receive a full cost-of-living salary increase for the coming year, you stand up and scream, “you call this ‘LIVING’?”

—  In a faculty symposium devoted to the late bell hooks, you are asked to comment on the cultural and ideological implications of her decision not to capitalize her first or last name.  You respond “whatever” and walk off the stage.  

—  You propose an undergraduate Honors Seminar (Closeted Comics) devoted to overlooked humor in the writings of Friedrich Nietzsche, Jean-Paul Sartre, Frantz Fanon, and Max Weber.

—  You notice that a student has repeatedly confused “it’s” and “its” in her term paper.  You circle the incorrect words in red and indicate that the correct spelling is ‘itz’.

— Your son, a high school junior, approaches you after dinner to ask for advice on choosing a college.  You hand him a recruiting brochure for the U. S. Army and leave the house to take the dog for a walk.  

—  You instruct your doctoral-student advisee to cite only Wikipedia references in her dissertation. 

A total score of 11 or above indicates clinical depression.  Self-medication is recommended.