“Gratuitous Mischief:” Tenured Faculty

I came across an article in The Symptom (over at lacan.com) entitled “Towards a Theory of the Tenured Class,” and there were some passages that just made me giggle out loud (I’m not sure because it rings true or because it’s just plain silly-I’m going with a combination of both!). For one:

To professors with a taste not just for jargon incomprehensible to common people but also for otherwise unacceptable contradictions, tenure offers authoritarian leverage in mind-fucking.

And this one:

Predisposed to pontificate, if not to bluster and bluff, they develop a resistance to doing first-hand research as beneath them, something strictly for the lower academic classes, much as those who become bosses become incapable of doing menial work. Indeed, especially if trained in philosophy, literature, and sociology, rather than history or economics, tenured profs are in my observation prone to making stuff up, often outrageously. When George Orwell once quipped that only intellectuals with a taste for peculiar ideas could be so stupid it was obvious that he didn’t know tenured profs, some of whom can be yet stupider at no cost to themselves, who are, in effect, a licensed jerks. The inspiration for this critique was a sociologist who seems to take particular glee in demonstrating how sociologically dumb an academic sociologist can be. A Victim of Tenure I rank him to be. Outrageous Stupidity becomes for the tenured the analogue of Conspicuous Consumption-an inexpensive privilege that Thorstein Veblen attributed to the “leisure class.”

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Dear Prof. Clueless, or, How To Impress Epistolarily!

It is about that time of the semester when I start getting emails from my students who are trying to present their cases of absence as cases of “excused absence,” i.e. to persuade me that it was absolutely impossible to be in class – partly it happens because I require students to either attend the class or inform me of their absence, partly because of the general attempts to get on the good side of the professor Thick-Russian-Accent and get a good grade in the end. Any of you who are blessed with receiving student communication will agree with me that it is very annoying and very entertaining (sometimes both at the same time) – so I am going to go out of my way and compose a short but clear post about what I personally like about emails from students: Continue reading