Archive for Saturday, October 26, 1996


October 26, 1996


It was bound to happen. You start writing about higher education, and the next thing you know, people are sending you letters, asking all sorts of questions. I suppose it comes with the territory. So, with the permission of my correspondents and the usual warning that following this advice may be dangerous to your health, on occasion I thought I would share these heartfelt pleas for assistance.

Dear Professor,

I keep trying to convince the dean and the vice chancellors that we need new offices for the new assistant professors we are hiring. They don't actually say no. Instead, they reflect on the exponential increases in space requirements combined with shortfalls in funding for labor-intensive units of the institution. I'm pretty sure that's no. But I notice they have expanded their administrative suites, and one of our vacant offices (the sad demise of Professor Emeritus Gleethorne) has been commandeered for the College Croquet team. Any suggestions?

-- Bronson Maplecorn,

Head of Department of Economics

Dear Maplecorn,

One has to wonder how you ever got to be head of the department. Real heads don't ask: They send borderline graduate students to occupy the offices they covet. And no real head would allow an administrator to learn of Gleethorne's death. Many professors have been known to occupy their offices and indeed to stand in front of classes long after their deaths. Shame, Maplecorn, shame! The only possibility I can recommend at this juncture is for you to offer courses in the area of croquet: e.g., Malthus and Mallets, Laffer Curves and Wicked Wickets, or even MacCroquet (catchy titles build enrollments, Maplecorn).

-- The Professor

Dear Professor,

I'm pretty mad, and I don't know who to blame! As a father of a college sophomore, I'm paying good money to get my boy an education. Now, I hear the universities are going back to a policy of loco parents. I know I'm nuts to be shelling out $9,000 a semester, but where do they come off insulting me?

-- Cletus Shantie

Dear Mr. Shantie,

Calm down. If your blood pressure gets too high, who's going to pay junior's fees? And besides, somebody has been feeding you Pig Latin. The term is loco parentis, and all it means is that the school acts in the role of a parent. So pax vobiscum.

-- The Professor

Hey Prof!

Pox on you too! If they want to act like a parent, then let them cough up the $9,000 a semester.

-- Cletus Shantie

Dear Professor,

As a secretary in a large social science department, I need to know how to get the faculty to turn in their typing, dittoing and photocopying requests a day in advance. Some of these turkeys wait until class time.

-- Barbara Traske

Dear Ms. Traske,

Last-minute requests can be a pain. Try slipping a few typos in: something like "Remember to pick up Hustler on way home." Or: "Wednesday, 5 p.m., Cynthia at Happytime Motel." They won't have time to look it over, and when they do come in to complain, apologize sweetly and say it must have slipped in because you were trying so hard to finish it on time. You may not reform all the turkeys, but you'll certainly enjoy stuffing a few.

-- The Professor

These exchanges, thank goodness, seem to be relatively short. I can only assume that my correspondents find the advice so helpful that they see no need to write me again. I can see a new career option here: the Dear Abby of Academe. I'm also beginning to understand where Dr. Ruth gets her kicks.

-- Joel J. Gold is a professor of English at Kansas University. His book, "The

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