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UProf and the Monday Menace: Faculty Meetings

January 28, 2013

If one is a male, being on the faculty of this department is almost like being in the Girl Scouts. It’s about 75- 85% female. Occasionally, the ratio closes to a 60-40% mix, but that doesn’t last long. A male lecturer will quit and another two or three won’t be given another three-year contract, and their replacements are almost always female. Then, as some of the female faculty members leave for better jobs at better schools, desperation might force the department to hire males.

But that’s not a fast cycle.

I don’t mind working  among women, and I don’t mind working with most of the female faculty in the department. One of the keys to staying out of their cross hairs is understanding which time of the month to make oneself scarce. Women who work and live in close proximity tend to develop synchronized menstrual cycles.

God help you if there’s a faculty meeting that week. Most of the men  who have been teaching for awhile are usually aware of the hen house faculty meeting and stay low. Whether it’s that time of the month or not, most of the men bring something else to do while the female faculty spend the almost two-hour meeting nitpicking and talking a topic to death until there is no more to be said about it.

Before the meeting, most of the male faculty talk sports as they wait for the group to come to order. Years ago, when all references to sports and the use of sports metaphors were banned from use during faculty meetings, switching from normal guyspeak to facultyspeak required quite an effort. The alpha scholar among us would often ratchet up the rhetoric to academyspeak and use terms like paradigm shift when leading discussions about meeting goals. (That word—goals— though sports-related) is still allowed. (The alpha scholar among us is, of course, the-prof-who-thinks-he-invented-language. He has written several textbooks on discourse, none of which are presently in use, and few of which were actually sold on Amazon. When the publisher came around with dozens upon dozens of books for the faculty to consider, nobody touched his textbook. I picked one up because it was free and it made a really nice flat surface to place under the plant I got for a Christmas present  from a student. I noticed that he quit coming around to my office unannounced after he saw the use to which I put his book).

The meetings are usually pointless except when everyone actually shows up and the department chair chastises the ENTIRE group for the lapses of the few who forget to come to the meetings. The only reason I attend all of the meetings is because I forget to be late every morning, and as soon as I’m spotted, I am reminded of the impending meeting.

One topic that arises every semester is how the department can attract more students to become English majors. I haven’t been asked for my input since I suggested that we lower the bar, award more A’s, and lie to the students, and tell them about the many career possibilities that lie ahead for the English major. (We’re already doing this to a large extent. If we didn’t, we wouldn’t have a graduate program. No one will go so far as to them that the department will hire them when they finish grad school. That’s good. I admire honesty).

I think I heard someone remind everyone that curriculum proposals are due at the end of next month. My curriculum proposal that includes The Many Perversions of Lord Byron and Hemingway and the Art of Manliness is always shot down. One year, one of my proposals jokingly included Homoerotic Relationships in Shelly’s Frankenstein, but it was shot down because the fac who teaches Romantic and Victorian literature had already proposed a similar course.

Thank God someone beat me to the punch.

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