Everywhere I attended college and every college I have worked at has certain archetypes. I’m wondering how ubiquitous they are. Did you have any of these professors? ARCHETYPE: The Mono-Manic/Obsessive Research Interest Professor
Two come immediately to mind. One was a political science professor who I honestly am not sure realized there were more countries in the world other than the U.S.A. and Nicaragua. Her research fascination was completely focused on the Sandinista. She’d lived there, she visited there when she could get clearance and funding, was working on a book about it, and worked it into EVERYTHING and assumed everybody was as fascinated by it as she was. This was during the Reagan Admin (but before Oliver North) so the Sandinista were admittedly in the headlines a lot more often, but still: democracy in Athens doesn’t really invite references to Daniel Ortega, most people don’t make connections between constitutional monarchies and Anastasio Somoza, the Contras really aren’t that similar to the Weimar Republic by most people’s accounts, etc., but they were to her. She literally had a Nicaraguan excursion to every single lecture.
Another was the lit professor who was a Melville scholar and whose SURVEY OF AMERICAN LIT I class should have been entitled MOBY DICK: A 12 WEEK REVIEW. William Bradford wrote from Plimoth Plantation probably because he knew that the Pequod would one day sail from Massachusetts, Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography practically foretells the pragmatism of Ishmael, Twain’s LIFE ON THE MISSISSIPPI was really an allegory for whale chasing, and everything written since the Civil War, it goes without saying, was a pale attempt to copy MOBY DICK. We used to joke that he couldn’t read so his entire career was based on the book on tape he’d once heard.
The Hair Shirt Very Loud Vows of Poverty Professor
Not so much an archetype as a really bad and sometimes defining character trait, this is the professor I had variants of many time. Somehow they’d managed to get through 12 years of primary school, 4 years of undergrad, 3 years of grad work, and however many years of doctoral research without EVER learning along the way that Ph.D.s in liberal art subjects don’t earn the same salaries as medical doctors, and man are they pissed off about it. Their paycheck was a constant reference point, places they wanted to go but couldn’t worked themselves in constantly, nicer neighborhoods in town (ones they couldn’t afford) were invariably synonymous with blandness and environment raping soulless yuppiedom, etc… The most infuriating thing was that many honestly seemed to assume that there was no longer any such thing as the starving student and that we were all there spending “Mama and Daddy’s money” (really big thing with them) and having the time of our lives and nobody was working a shitty job driving a car held together by duct tape and black magic but in fact we were all little trustafarians (and, of course, kids from well-to-do-families who really don’t have financial troubles in school are all vapid and of course have no problems whatsoever but skip merrily from sorority/frat party to concert to drug-dealers- the fact that some of the most miserable kids I’ve ever known grew up in wealthy homes is anecdotal).
Has anybody else had these professors or are they unique to my institutions (I can’t imagine they are)? Please share your experiences or other archetypes you encountered.
I didn’t have this particular professor, but a handful of friends I had were in a class with this particular professor. Middle aged white lady who was OBSESSED with a PC existence. In her mind, all white people were to blame for every bad thing that happened to every non-white person on the planet, and, of course, none of us “privileged” white kids had any clue about what was going on and would explain things to us from a denigrating “Oh, you poor little privileged kids didn’t learn anything but how to be privileged!” point of view. The thing is, this was a literature class that had NOTHING to do with race or gender issues, and she took up a good portion of the day on her diatribes that having paler skin than another person meant that you couldn’t possibly be forgiven for what people with similarly pale skin did a whole bunch of years ago. I’m really, really surprised that some of the exams didn’t pertain essay questions such as “In 1000 words of less, describe why, as a white person, you have debts to any non-white person in existence.”
Snort! I have a friend like this but instead of Melville it was Norse Sagas.
Yeah, that about summed up my academic career. If it wasn’t for my illustrious wife making nearly double what I took home from the small liberal arts college where I was a psych prof. we wouldn’t have lived in the house we did. I was constantly in battle with myself as to why oh why no one wanted to hire me for my Ph.D work…they cared more for someone who wanted to shove themselves up the bureaucratic ass of the institution than a man who was doing some serious grunt work with the rich kids in the classroom. Fuck them, is my professional opinion. Just because I was not a researcher publishing each year I was just another pee on.
So, I took my Birkenstocks, wool socks, and an environmental attitude and went to work in non-profit - again - I love my job and am making a difference in society, while I puff my pipe on a granite pequot rock and talk philosophy with friends over a fire…
I work in academic medical research, so the definitions need to be adjusted a bit.
Some clarifications: A senior researcher here is a professor of some sort. Also, when I say “hire” I mean let anyone work in the lab, whether they are a student, fellow or employee.
ARCHETYPE: The Mono-Manic/Obsessive Research Interest Professor
Yep, very common species. Its hard to tell your boss that not everyone wants to hear about CD80/86 proteins and the indirect immune response, especially at the department Christmas part.
The Hair Shirt Very Loud Vows of Poverty Professor
The academic medicine version of this can go on and on about how private companies and hospitals do research in areas that makes a profit but neglect other conditions because there’s no money in it. They know that the pay is low and that they could do better else where, but refuse to be assoicated with a corporate enterprize. (Until they come up with a Great Idea, resign, and start their own company.)
The Openly Sexist (or Racist) Professor
Surprisingly, I’ve encountered several of these. One Prof will only hire Asians because he thinks they have a better work ethinic than Americans. Another will *not * hire Asians because he thinks that they cannot think independently. There is a Prof that is notorious for hiring young women who could easily pose for Playboy. Another is just as well known for hiring women whose beauty are not readily apparent, when he has to hire a woman. As I understand it, both profs think that these ladies are “less likely to get pregnant.”
I had a lot of the hypocritical variant of this, the ONLY AGAINST THE MAJORITY racist/sexist/chauvinist. Islam’s a wonderful culture and don’t you dare judge Middle Easterners by the ones who blow themselves up and slash their sister’s throat for being raped, all gays and other minorities are lovely and oppressed people, but whites, southerners, Christians, and most of all White Hetero Southern Christians can be generalized about all you like and there’s relatively little difference between Pat Robertson and a middle-of-the-road Methodist. (I’m a pro-choice gaytheist and I still got irritated with these professors: trust me hon, I grew up among Southern fundamentalists, they’re NOT one-dimensional or necessarily simple or even unthunk in their views.)
Gilbert & Sullivan summed them up nicely in The Mikado:
Academic Archetype: The Professor Who Reads From The Textbook
Freshman year (30-odd years ago), I had a psychology professor who read aloud from the book, nothing more. I sat by the window, gazing out at the world, bored to tears, while he droned away. One day, the professor announced, “If any of you feel you’re sufficiently familiar with this chapter, feel free to leave.” I was at the door in a heartbeat. Looking over my shoulder, I saw that no one else had stirred.
Recently, I shared this story with a dean of students I met on a blind date, who opined. “So, you were a real wise guy back then.”
“What do you mean? I believe he was serious.”
“But had you read the chapter?” he rejoined, skeptically.
“Are you kidding? A college psychology textbook? I read it from cover to cover the same night I brought it home from the bookstore!”
Two interesting asides: the boring psych prof dated my mom and became one of her great loves, but my blind date came to naught (mutual disinterest).
The Rumored Lothario
You know, the good-looking professor who everyone says is sleeping with good-looking students. I had one of these for a Sociology course I took. It was a momumental waste of time, and I was somewhat satisfied when he was denied tenure two years later. He left the school amid a flurry of rumors, some supplied by other professors, that he’d screwed one of his students.
The Rumored Lothario - We had one in grad school. Thank goodness I wasn’t in his class, because apparently he taught one day wearing white pants and purple undies you could see through them. :eek:
Special Interest - In undergrad we had a guy who was supposed to be teaching us Econometrics. Instead he talked every class about how he had a newsletter that used stats to predict how good various wine vintages would be. The one day I take a break from it and skip, he teaches everything we need to know about Econometrics. :smack:
He grew up on the other side of the iron curtain, and now he’s teaching the children of the supposed enemy. Does not criticise students for being unmotivated, but is greatly amused by the way in which they squander the opportunities afforded to them by growing up in the west. Will make off the wall (or is it over the wall?) jokes that nobody laughs at and occasionally says things like “Students in Leipzig had no problem waking at 7:00” or “My brother in Kiev – he has two wives”. Handouts are full of bizarre language and enigmatic clip art constructions. Don’t expect any sympathy when you fail his insanely difficult exam.
It could be he has some sort of terrible hand deformity, or maybe he just doesn’t care, but even HE can’t read his handwriting. The effect is not complete if he doesn’t also lecture by mumbling at the blackboard while scrawling useless notes and then becomes angry if someone doesn’t understand what he wrote or said.
PSU has one right now, and it’s not rumored. He’s dating a former student (an undergrad). I don’t know if there are any university policies against this, but it comes off skeevy more than anything to me (he’s in his mid 30s-ish but handsome).
Oh, man, I’ve had every one of these. I went to a Big State School, so this just has me cracking up in recognition. Here’s mine:
The Bad Cop
An otherwise normal professor that’s insanely obsessed with “the rules,” which tend to be a mix of accepted rules and their own completely crazy ones. These rules are inflexible under any circumstances (death in the family, deathly illness, wedding, etc.) and are often so pedantic they make High School P.E. teachers look sane by comparison. The Bad Cop spends the first 15 minutes of each class taking attendance, even when it’s a 300+ person lecture that’s only 55 minutes long. The Bad Cop will quite literally dock your grade for having the wrong-spaced margins or for being five minutes tardy to class.
and my personal nemesis,
What do you mean, "101?"
This maniac teaches and handles his -101/entry-level/“survey of ___” class like it’s a fourth-year PhD candidate class. You came in (rightfully) expecting a basic introduction to the subject (or an easy A in the last semester of your senior year), and instead came face-to-face with multiple 30-page research papers, an obscene amount of reading assignments (often assigned an entire book between two class meetings), and incomprehensible lectures that seem to presuppose 4+ years of specialized study in the subject at hand. Quick, drop this class while you can!
Usually found in the depths of some obscure subject, but rarely in more accessible topics. Will usually teach without a book, because there is nothing published under the sun that contains whatever-the-hell it is they are trying to teach. When asked for some sort of reference materials, proceeds to print out just his lecture notes on the topic and pretend they are somehow equivalent.
I managed to get both of these archetypes in one professor for a particular class. Worst class of my entire college career, and over half the class went to the dean to complain about how it was run, lol.
Tends to be teach classes in Women’s Studies, Global Studies, or Interdisciplinary Studies. Not academically rigorous and answers even the most dumb-ass of student answers with “That’s an interesting point…” Incapable of coming to an appointment on time or returning papers promptly. Will not give specific criteria for assignments, but will grade you down if you don’t magically intuit what she wants. Talks about the classroom as “a safe space.” Posts long, rambling, incoherent emails to faculty listservs. Politically very liberal and intolerant of the least hint of conservatism. If a woman, she has long, unstyled hair and wears lots of “ethnic” clothes. If a man, usually bearded, likely pony-tailed. Both sexes wear Birkenstocks.
As an admin person at a college, oh, how I dread working with them.
Yes, I had a tutor like this during property law. All he wanted to talk about was his field of expertise (the inheritance of family farms). The majority of the readings were articles on this topic - the bulk of which he himself had written.
We’re not talking thick accents, we’re talking about a professor that can’t speak functional english. Nobody will complain because they don’t want to be perceived as racist or xenophobic, but nobody understands what the hell he’s saying, ever. Bonus points if he’s teaching a class related to his ethnicity (Japanese man teaching the Films of Kurosawa, Pakistani man teaching Eastern Religion 101).