Unless you reside in Texas, where it’s legal — and indeed, one is even encouraged — to carry a live hand grenade on campus, there’s not much you can do to bring to an abrupt close a tedious, dysfunctional faculty meeting. However, there are actions you can take to prevent, at an individual level, the brain death associated with such gatherings. The Chronicle of Higher Education recently took note of a professor who brought her knitting to meetings (no joke), news that prompted us here at University Life to scour the country for other examples of faculty strategies for surviving group deliberations. It quickly became evident that professors are a creative bunch. A sampling:
— At the University of Oregon, Physics professor Marjorie Yesketh-Snaffle uses department meetings as an opportunity to give Freckles, her pet hamster, a bath. “I put a stainless-steel bowl on the conference table, fill it with warm water, add some Palmolive dishwashing liquid, and voila, it’s time to suds up! Freckles loves to be washed, so there’s no violent splashing around that my colleagues might find annoying. In fact, they often take turns drying Freckles off after her tub time. We’re a closer, more cohesive department now, and we have Freckles to thank for that!”
— Craig Fleth, a Civil Engineering professor at Carnegie-Mellon University, builds ships in a bottle during Faculty Senate meetings. “This activity requires intense concentration and attention to detail,” Fleth claims, “so it’s not unusual for a three-hour Senate meeting to fly by without my having the slightest idea of what issues were discussed or what decisions were made, which is fine by me. For the most part, my fellow Senators are flaming a**holes. And they’re always stealing my tweezers.”
— At Brandeis University, Linguistics professor Abe Phlegmstein-O’Leary uses Tenure-and-Promotion deliberations to work on his long-term project of translating the Torah into a document composed entirely of emoticons. “I want to make this sacred text accessible to a 21st-century audience. It has been a challenging labor of love, to put it mildly, but it’s a damn sight better use of my time than discussing the scholarly worth of articles by preening, insufferable assistant professors on the erotic symbolism of alligator-infested swampland in Faulkner’s novels.”
So, what life lesson have we learned here?
If you’re bored at faculty meetings on your campus, you have no one but yourself to blame. For the love of God, buy a hamster.