Monday, April 1, 2013

Random Observations on Academia

Now that I'm safely retired, and no longer subject to the social and fiscal pressures of academic life, I'd like to weigh in with a few observations.  If you're going to fell a chinaball tree, let the chips fall where they may.

When I first started teaching at an institution in another state, I had to sign a loyalty oath.  As if I even thought of overthrowing the United States or the State of Louisiana!  Naive and unpolitical as I was, I signed this as well as a bunch of other things.

My hair was a bit long from grad school days, and I was told to get a haircut.  I did.

Colleges and universities back then operated under the in loco parentis, with various rules, some quite arbitrary.  For some reason, the Dean of Women would smash Hurricane glasses in girls' dorm rooms. 

Curiously, some faculty members who were higher-ranked officers in the military used their military titles instead of plain old 'Mister.'  It was 'Colonel This' or 'Captain That.'  No one went by 'Sergeant Whomever' or 'Lieutenant Diddle.'

I got another job, this one in northern Alabama.  The previous president required all of his faculty to be members of the A.E.A.  Yeah!  The new President ended that.  We don't need no stinkin' union membership!

A former President jumped out of a cake.  He was wearing shorts.

When I was about 12 or so, I was amazed to find myself thinking for myself.  By the time I was an Associate Professor, I had learned to keep a lot of it private.  That is a useful skill for college faculty members.

I've repeatedly encountered seagull administration in a number of settings.  Basically put, this is the management strategy where the person flies in, shits, and squawks.

There is also the management by slogan strategy.  It's like they channeled Chairman Mao Zedong and parody some of his quotes.

College teaching requires a sense of humor.  Actually, college students are wonderful to teach, even the freshmen!  I remember an old prof from grad school who pitched a fit because he had to teach a large freshman class.  I thought at the time that I hoped that attitude is not too prevalent.

Sadly, it is.  One strength of UNA is that real professors taught classes, not overworked and underpaid graduate students.


  1. "Seagull administration" in academia is similar to "seagull management" in government and corporate America ... the managers fly in, make lots of noise, crap all over everything, and then fly away to make room for the next one. And "management by slogan" is equally transferable. I remember once, many years ago, when my Service was enamored of a program whose slogan was "Zero Defects." The base commander had a large sign erected on the parade ground which spelled out "ZERO DEFECTS" in huge letter painted on 4x8 foot plywood panels. One morning, the sun rose on the sign which now - courtesy of some vile miscreant - read "ZERO DEFCETS." I wish I'd taken a picture...

  2. The phone company was all about "management by slogan". Every couple of years they would hire a new motivational speaker that would go around to all the locations talking about the "new" way to do things.

  3. You were remembered with fondness for your irreverence and kindness. Hope you're doing well, Doc!