Professors Gone Wild!
September 26, 2007 9:27 PM   Subscribe

Count me as a friend of Deirdre.

What’s lame is when intellectuals (or anyone else) aspire to be “hip” and “edgy” — notions that are, rightly, wholly owned subsidiaries of the Coca Cola corporation. If algebraic geometers want to skydive nude into South American war zones on the weekends, that’s fine with me, but let’s not make it compulsory. Ninety-nine percent of worthwhile intellectual achievements are made by people who had the courage to swim against the tide of adolescent conformity that gave us fans of Hunter S. Thompson. Instead of trying to make academics fashionably interesting, it would be infinitely preferable to encourage and celebrate the independence of mind of those who don’t give a shit what anyone thinks is cool.

Greg Egan, you're my new hero.
posted by nasreddin at 9:32 PM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Has the 'shock doctrine' sunk this low?
posted by Curry at 9:39 PM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

I thought "hip" and "edgy" were owned by Pepsi, not Coke. Coke is people holding hands and singing.
posted by yeolcoatl at 9:42 PM on September 26, 2007

Stay calm, be brave, wait for the signs.
posted by furtive at 9:44 PM on September 26, 2007

I thought coeds were the guilty secret of college professors. But maybe they aren't such a secret anymore, as a weekly ration of nubile coeds now comes with tenure.
posted by Astro Zombie at 9:45 PM on September 26, 2007

Thank you for making my life sound so much more exciting, academia.

(Although, if some of them get bored, I've got a lawn and a planter than need work...)

(And the local nubile coeds aren't a perk in my town..)
posted by Samizdata at 9:48 PM on September 26, 2007

I thought coeds were the guilty secret of college professors. But maybe they aren't such a secret anymore, as a weekly ration of nubile coeds
glory hole with a grad student on the other end now comes with tenure.
posted by nasreddin at 9:50 PM on September 26, 2007 [1 favorite]

Now THAT'S something to make me consider teaching again...
posted by Samizdata at 9:56 PM on September 26, 2007

I thought coeds were the guilty secret of college professors. But maybe they aren't such a secret anymore, as a weekly ration of nubile coeds now comes with tenure.

I have never heard of a substantiated case of any professor at my institution having sexual relations with a student, and I've been here since 2000. Perhaps I'm naive (or blind), but I think hot professor on co-ed action is far more common in movies than in real life. Graduate assistants get all the co-ed lovin'.
posted by Crotalus at 10:05 PM on September 26, 2007

Please forgive me for not having weird secret pleasures I'm willing to post on the net. I don't know what i was thinking. I should have revealed that
posted by cccorlew at 10:08 PM on September 26, 2007

Does semi-lurking on Metafilter for years give you any hip/edgy cred?

And the free high-quality all-the-coffee-you-want sure counted as a major perk while I was inside the Swedish uni system. Mm, professional espresso machine made capuccinos. How I miss thee, machine.
posted by Iosephus at 10:57 PM on September 26, 2007

Crotalus, where do you teach, Deep Springs? How many of your male senior colleagues are married to former students? If the answer isn't "most of them," then you're in a very special place. I'm the only (openly) gay man in my department and I'd have to say that I'm, by far, the most "moral" among us. I'd never have drinks with my students, never mind have sex with them, but for the old timers especially, sex with students was a perquisite, and nobody ever lost his job for it.

Anyway, if you want to be scandalised, sex with students isn't the way to do it. Admit to eating at, and enjoying, McDonald's. Liking Elmore Leonard novels or poker or smoking cigars or even going to strip clubs are all acceptable, "hey I'm down with the working class" sorts of "guilty pleasures." But when you actually act like the Lumpenproles REALLY act, by eating fast food, watching Maury and shopping at Wal-Mart, then you cross a line.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:50 PM on September 26, 2007 [5 favorites]

Liking Elmore Leonard novels

posted by Wolof at 12:09 AM on September 27, 2007

I'm not a college professor, but I stayed at a Holiday Inn Express last night.
posted by Poolio at 12:12 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Nobody admits to their true guilty pleasures in a trade pub. These are their very very minor not likely to affect employment opportunities guilty pleasures. If you really want to see the wild side of academics go to a conference and pay close attention to the mating rituals where tenured faculty troll the grad students at poster sessions. I'm pretty sure fucking is the whole reason poster sessions exist.
posted by srboisvert at 12:50 AM on September 27, 2007

Needs more strippers and bongos.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:04 AM on September 27, 2007

Ethno, it's not clear what you mean by 'acceptable.' Do you mean 'OK things for professors to do,' or 'things you can do to be scandalized?' What I really want to know is where Elmore Leonard novels fit in.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:33 AM on September 27, 2007

I think hot professor on co-ed action is far more common in movies than in real life.

I have to say, having grown up in a town where the college was the town, more than even your typical "college town, I had many a friend who's new step mom was formerly dad's protege.
posted by Pollomacho at 5:24 AM on September 27, 2007

How many of your male senior colleagues are married to former students?

Zero, here or my former places of academic employ. The only person I've known to openly talk about going to Wal-Mart was a sociology grad student specializing in Marxist theory. I grew up in a small town, and have good reasons for not digging Wal-Mart. I went there plenty of times as a child and grew up upper middle class, thanks, not "working class." It was originally identified with small towns, not a class of buyers. (The wealthy people in small towns are more apt to shop at Dollar General. In a suburban area, it's Target, but even then some go to Sam's Club.)
posted by raysmj at 5:53 AM on September 27, 2007

I've spent more time hanging around academe than I like to remember, and my wife has been teaching at the college level for about 7 years. ethnomethodologist nails it AFAICS.

Not to getting moralistic about it, though. Consider the temptations of the power differential: You're continually presented with attractive young people over whom you have some small degree of poewr -- which degree of power often seems much larger than it really is, due to the lack of perspective that most people experience inside of academe. It's not surprising. I agree with ethno that it's quite unethical, but it's also human. (And that it's human is not to say that they all ought to go get down and nasty in the stacks.)
posted by lodurr at 6:02 AM on September 27, 2007

Didja scroll down?

I take a deeply profound pleasure in a large, stoic bowel movement. At least once a month I gorge myself on potatoes, corn, beef of all varieties, and a light garden salad. Before I retire to bed, I drink at least five servings of Metamucil mixed with prune juice. When it comes to my dumps, I do not fuck around.

The next day is a blur of eager anticipation. I keep a tattered copy of
Henry V on my person at all times, just waiting for that glorious tingle that signals imminent release. When it arrives, I rush to the nearest toilet regardless of any care or responsibility. I have fled faculty meetings, meals, and even the attentions of a very expensive prostitute to reach my Promised Land in time.

I am an old at at this. I know my body, its stages of deification, and can time my reading of the Saint Crispen's Day speech such that my brown band of brothers, clad in armor of corn nuggets, charge forth into the swirling breach just as the final echoes of my voice fade from the stall around me.

It is truly a stirring sight, one that I am glad I videotape.
- Harold Bloom, Sterling Professor of the Humanities at Yale University and Berg Professor of English and American Literature at New York University.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 7:13 AM on September 27, 2007 [9 favorites]

My Confession:
I graded English papers last night while watching America's Next Top Model. My students are so not Fierce!

And I like Harold Bloom even less now.
posted by bibliowench at 7:39 AM on September 27, 2007

It depends on where you are, I guess, and maybe what discipline. It's not that affairs with students are exactly unheard of, and with grad students it's more likely, albeit probably outside of a large metropolitan area. But professors do occasionally get hit with sexual harassment suits, just in the business world, and incoming grad students and young faculty at many universities are warned about this at most places now.

I didn't realize, however, that eating fast food gets you all down with the working class. There's hardly a "working class" in American anymore regardless. Again, Wal-Mart (as hostile to unions as any employer in North America) became what it is by growing and identifying itself with small town America. It's gotten away from that, and is identified more with lower-income segments in metro areas. Where I am now, hoevever (New Orleans), academics are likely to be less noticeably anti-Wal Mart than the denizens of predominantly white historic neighborhoods. Yoga instructors, real estate sales people, all of them go around yelling about corporatization, and none of them have PhDs to my knowledge. I have one and just ate doughnuts this morning, so I'm all down with the proles.
posted by raysmj at 7:53 AM on September 27, 2007

Academics complaining about academics who don't eat fast food and shop at Wal-Mart are more than likely the equivalent of hipsters writing about how they hate hipsters.
posted by raysmj at 7:57 AM on September 27, 2007

raysmj, do Walmart's actions after Katrina have any role in local attitudes down there?
posted by lodurr at 8:09 AM on September 27, 2007

No, the denizens of historic neighborhoods in Uptown were anti-Wal Mart before Katrina. Some people were upset by this stance (mostly black, except for residents displaced by the building of a quasi-new urbanist mixed use development with Wal-Mart that replaced a longtime public housing development, but things get complex here; e.g., you denied us the housing now you want to deny us the cheap crap produced by exploited overseas workers). I don't think Wally World has been all that bad after the storm, really. Their store was looted, but they opened back up. Constrast that with Al Copeland, a metro area resident who has yet to reopen any of his restaurants in New Orleans proper. That being said, Wal-Mart in NOLA features a check-cashing service, and no matter how down with the "working class" (as if there are so many factories left in this country) going into such a store could make me ... well, no.
posted by raysmj at 8:20 AM on September 27, 2007

Metafilter: a large, stoic bowel movement
posted by eritain at 8:35 AM on September 27, 2007

Safari users, beware: First link causes terrible swift crash.
posted by eritain at 8:39 AM on September 27, 2007

Stuff like that sets back the cause of academic non-geekiness for centuries!

Shouldn't that be nerdiness? I've always had the vague idea that "geek" referred to the social group (Star Wars & Trek, role playing games, comic books etc.) while "nerd" just referred to having an obsessive, social-life-inhibiting interest in something. So you could have "horse nerds" but not "horse geeks," unless there's a sub-class of people who like to put Darth Vader helmets on their horses. Googling for the two terms, there are more usages of "horse nerd" (486) than "horse geek" (357) but not overwhelmingly so. Do other people make that distinction or is it just me?
posted by Kattullus at 10:06 AM on September 27, 2007

I make the distinction the opposite way Kattullus. The geek is the obsessive narrow focus interest while the nerd is definite stigmatized social group that may or may not have some geek qualities. You can be a socially normal person while still being a geek of some sort - music geek, stereo geek, computer geek, sci-fi geek but a nerd is never socially normal.
posted by srboisvert at 11:03 AM on September 27, 2007

ramsj, I was thinking about positive shifts, actually -- I wondered if their "relief shipments" had an impact. I was curious whether you'd seen anything like that on the ground, and maybe you have, but not from where I thought it might come.
posted by lodurr at 11:11 AM on September 27, 2007

One of the posts on the linked stuff mentions Elmore Leonard novels as a guilty pleasure. That's why I mentioned it.

raysmj, why the need to respond three different ways to what I wrote? The fact that a "Marxist sociology grad student" was the only person who "talked about shopping at Wal Mart" is obviously the exception that tests the rule here. S/he visited Wal Mart for those vaunted "research purposes" ("I'm here to witness the culture of consumption! I'm here for THEORY!") and not to actually, literally, SHOP.

There's good slumming and bad slumming. "Slumming" without irony in environments that are actual, popular features of the lives of commoners- forget "working class," we're talking about average non-academic humans here- is unforgiveable, a conversation killer.

I remember telling a colleague that I had to run before a departmental meeting and grab lunch at A&W (at our students' centre), which was bad enough (you could just SEE the anguish on his face trapped in a conversation that didn't entail talking about going to a conference in Prague), and then I said to him, "ya know, A&W makes pretty good poutine." It was a terrifying moment. I could see his opinion of me flushed down the toilet.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 11:23 AM on September 27, 2007

I responded to a question from someone else on the second one, thanks. No, the Marxist shopped at Wal-Mart and loved it (with the justification that everyone is getting exploited at every other store, so you might as well go for the cheap prices). If you can use anecdotal info to support an argument, you shouldn't judge others for doing the same.
posted by raysmj at 11:42 AM on September 27, 2007

I eat with faculty at our student center all the time, and don't spot any wincing.
posted by raysmj at 11:43 AM on September 27, 2007

The irony of what the author obliquely refers to in the second blog post, is that Deirdre McCloskey used to be Donald N. McCloskey (common economist knowledge), so that her current level of dull says nothing about her past. This gives new light on what is going unsaid in that list.
posted by dness2 at 11:56 AM on September 27, 2007 [1 favorite]

Oh I don't know: I think in 2007 we're finally at the point where one can be both dull and a transsexual.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:02 PM on September 27, 2007 [2 favorites]

(lentrohamsanin said what I was thinking, only much more cleverly.)
posted by lodurr at 12:03 PM on September 27, 2007

How many of your male senior colleagues are married to former students?

Here? Zero.
Last job? Zero.
Job before that? Zero, I think.

I'd have to go back to grad school to find a male prof who was married to a former student... and he was an assistant prof at the time, and the student was a grad student, and I'm moderately sure she was never actually his student. I don't know, or know of, anyone else who's married to a former student where he taught.

Is this something that's more common in some disciplines, or a LAC thing, or what?

Greg Egan, you're my new hero.

For what it's worth, that does appear to be the author Greg Egan.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 12:31 PM on September 27, 2007

As regards Greg Egan. Let me go on record as saying that "Quarantine" is the Shit! With a cherry on top.
posted by Megafly at 12:43 PM on September 27, 2007

Is this something that's more common in some disciplines...

I don't know about marriage (I always assumed that was a not very viable outcome for this kind of thing), but I've heard of lots of "affairs" in English or Lit departments.

As I think about it, with one exception I can think of that's pretty much the only type of department where I have more or less certain knowledge of hankying and pankying between faculty and students. There were rumors about certain philosophy profs at my first college back in the '80s, and I knew a geography grad student who was canoodling with her prof at one time, but it was mostly English.
posted by lodurr at 12:43 PM on September 27, 2007

both dull and a transsexual

Her dullness is very hard won, I'm sure -- which is my point. She is an accepted and established part of the tapestry of the economics world, which I think says a lot of good things, but her path getting there was unusual at least. If you had asked her 30 years ago she may have given a different answer. I'm sure the same can be said of most of the other people on the list to at least a less dramatic degree. Early adulthood is the time for scandelous guilty pleasures. With age and experience, out goes the guilt.

And I also do not know of any student/professor relationships. Maybe there's a generation gap.
posted by dness2 at 12:54 PM on September 27, 2007

I eat with faculty at our student center all the time, and don't spot any wincing.

Talk to me when you get to be a professor. And I'm basing my arguments on my experience of 25 years in academia.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:13 PM on September 27, 2007

Whoops, sorry, looks like ray is a prof- sorry.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:15 PM on September 27, 2007

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