The student ordered her own snake, even after I told her not to…
April 23, 2023 7:05 PM   Subscribe

Gretchen McCulloch points out that "...we're in thesis defense season and not everyone has seen the snake fight thesis defense fanfiction." posted by signal (17 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
It's my impression that this wave of fic really broke the ice on nominating McSweeney's stories for Yuletide, which has been nice! They can be very fun to riff on.

As I just said on Twitter, my dissertation defense was pretty smooth but my comp exams DEFINITELY had snake fight fanfiction levels of problems going on. And now I'm a department chair and I hand out snakes of my own.
posted by Tesseractive at 8:02 PM on April 23 [5 favorites]

I worry a great deal that these kinds of pages will pass out of cultural memory. A good portion of my time these days is tracking down barely-remembered websites, usually on the Wayback machine. At least McSweenys still hosts this one, although not at its original URL I notice.

Surely I can't be the only person remaining who cares about Furnitures the Great Brown Oaf, right?
posted by JHarris at 8:12 PM on April 23 [6 favorites]

Nooo that coda. I almost screamed, it's too real.
posted by freethefeet at 8:55 PM on April 23 [12 favorites]

Oh god that story that’s not even funny that is my *life* aaaaaaaah
posted by leahwrenn at 9:31 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]

Why would I read this on a Sunday evening before going to my university admin job in the morning
posted by lefty lucky cat at 9:52 PM on April 23 [5 favorites]

I don't feel strongly about snakes, but even I'd have some reservations about "Mr. Huggy."
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:59 PM on April 23 [1 favorite]

How did I just learn about this it's blowing my mind (I defended on December 2nd, including a last-minute flurry of various departmental approvals and tracking down errant committee members)
posted by deadbilly at 10:21 PM on April 23 [2 favorites]

Gretchen McCulloch is also worth noting as the author of Because Internet, an extremely great book about how language is evolving in the internet era

I feel confident that basically everyone on MetaFilter would enjoy it
posted by DoctorFedora at 10:21 PM on April 23 [10 favorites]

Thanks for being on top of this, Linda.
How do I approve for Richard? I’m not seeing an approve button in the online system. Can you send me a link?

Dr. Linda Petroski is the rock upon which Barnett College built its Department of Psychoceramics.
Dr. Carberry brought an open bag of Doritos to last month's faculty potluck.
posted by Iris Gambol at 11:12 PM on April 23 [8 favorites]

A: Snake-picking is not an exact science. The size of the snake is the main factor. The snake may be very strong, or it may be very weak. It may be of Asian, African, or South American origin. It may constrict its victims and then swallow them whole, or it may use venom to blind and/or paralyze its prey. You shouldn’t read too much into these other characteristics. Although if you get a poisonous snake, it often means that there was a problem with the formatting of your bibliography.
An Australian snake usually means you forget to attach your thesis to the email.
posted by Thella at 2:47 AM on April 24 [10 favorites]

Dr. Petroski,

Hi, this is Bob Marlis over in Facilities Management. I heard that you've now got a snake scheduled for the Robin Kahler defense in BAR 211?

I need to let you know that this is a clear violation of the Campus Use of Facilities policy. That space isn't Snake Fight Safety Approved, and we're going to need to cancel your reservation there.


Linda, bluntly, I have three student groups who have declared that snake defenses are unethical (to the snake), so we need to get external security in place. And two months ago, the new Graduate Student Union has declared the intent to "use senior faculty as a part of the defense", so we now need internal security, too.

The Associate Professor Meeting Group has had the collective giggles over the whole thing, and has started showing up as much as two hours early to take up the seats at the back of the room so the tenured folk are forced to sit up front.

The campus police are on a four-week notice at this point, and after the Peterson Incident, legal will never approve a waiver for BAR 211.

Mary, the building proctor (who is, by the way, swearing like a pirate since M. Kahler swore up and down that there wasn't going to be a snake at all) is desperately trying to find a space somewhere else on campus. But Classrooms still hasn't released most of the rooms a week out from finals.

Best I can do is the SFSA Pit of Despair over on east campus, but there needs to be a two hour break in the middle so Admissions can run some parent visits through there. I know the Pit is considered an unfair advantage for the grad students (because they spend so much time there), but it's the best I can do right now.

I'll keep you posted if I can find something better.

Bob M.
posted by SunSnork at 2:48 AM on April 24 [9 favorites]

Hi Bob,

Thanks for airing your concerns. In response to these and other issues, we've decided to bow to tradition and consolidate all snake defense activities in a classic Oxford-style snake pit. Can you prepare an 8'x16' trench on the arts quad by next Wednesday? It must be a minimum of nine feet deep AT ALL POINTS. Thanks, Bob.

PS I know this is short notice but can we get bleachers? we've got a few requests from parents for bleachers.
posted by phooky at 5:24 AM on April 24 [8 favorites]

The snake fight is where you discover if your committee likes you or not. If you walk into the arena, and it’s really cold, you know they love you and the snake will be in a state of torpor. You walk in and it’s like entering a sauna? That means you really, REALLY should have listened to their feedback during your last round of dissertation revisions.
posted by caution live frogs at 6:43 AM on April 24 [8 favorites]

As a longtime professional academic, I can absolutely see this happening.

Long ago, just before the turn of the century, I had to defend my own dissertation. I knew it was utter garbage, and that since I was doing something interdisciplinary, the department invited a well-known scholar to be part of the defense committee. So I made sure to schedule it for three in the afternoon. I baked an enormous Black Forest cake—my mother is a chef-level cook and taught me all kinds of desserts—and brought it in to the defense along with ice cream. I cut everyone a huge slab, poured on the ice cream, and gave my presentation as they devoured it. By the time I was done and it was question time, everyone was in a near-coma from midafternoon lull and sugar crash, exactly as I had planned. Nobody could rouse themselves to ask hostile questions, and I passed.

Four or five years later, I ran into the well-known scholar at a conference, and he was like oh get over here and let me congratulate you, because I'd been going to ask you all kinds of hostile questions, but about 3/4 of the way through that slice of cake I sorted out what you'd done and was like game recognizes game, fuck it, you pass, and oh by the way can I have that recipe?

It's like the only one of my stupid schemes that I rolled a 20 on.
posted by outgrown_hobnail at 8:28 AM on April 24 [116 favorites]

Hi Dr. P, it's good to hear from you.

While we can get an Oxford in place in a jiffy, that's a Climate Preservation Activity. Good news: this means we can get it expedited. Bad news: we're going to need to use native species and a gravel bottom, rather than the traditional rushes-and-clay.

Russ, our on-staff Oxford verification specialist (we're so lucky to have him!) says that getting the variance for that is going to take an additional month. And I'm sure M. Kahler doesn't want any doubt cast on the validity of their defense by using an unverified pit, right?

Meanwhile, the chancellor "likes grass", so I'm going to need to loop in her office to make sure the sight lines aren't disturbed by the bleachers.

Have a great morning!
Bob M.
posted by SunSnork at 8:49 AM on April 24 [4 favorites]

Oh god. It's been years since I went through the dissertation defense gauntlet, but just reading that email fanfic surfaces old anxieties. I remember well the struggle to get signatures from committee members (who are, of course, scattered in different time zones and possibly in a cave with no internet), just in time to meet deadlines to appease the Byzantine rules of the graduate school. Too real. I did ultimately get my snakes settled.
posted by qxntpqbbbqxl at 10:53 AM on April 24 [5 favorites]

Somewhere, in a graduate student handbook:

All venomous snakes must have their venom sacs removed or inhibited as per safety regulation 373.CC.42.

Venomoids are prohibited. Furthermore all theses whose margins do not measure 1" with a tolerance of .001cm require a venomous snake.
posted by nat at 11:09 AM on April 24 [7 favorites]

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