It is the week earlier than fall semester begins, and I sit alone in the midst of a big auditorium at a small non-public school that has not too long ago employed me to show English. The remainder of the college is catching up with one another after the summer time break, however I don’t know anybody to meet up with but, so I sit on my own as I watch for the Provost to take the rostrum.
Ninja-like, a senior English professor seems all of a sudden beside me. We’d met at my interview, however I’ve not spoken to him past that. He glances nervously facet to facet and behind himself, twice every, after which swiftly takes the seat subsequent to me. With out introduction, he begins talking to me underneath his breath, however he seems straight forward as he does so, like in a spy film when an informant meets somebody on a park bench.
“Pay attention,” he says. “I’m in your facet. However you must know that there are land mines all over the place on this place. The dean is totally against you. You actually ruffled quite a lot of feathers with that Rick Perry crack. I agree with you, however there are quite a lot of Trumpsters round right here. I’m right here to assist, however simply do not forget that there are some individuals at this college who’re most likely invested in your failure.” And with that, he will get up and walks away.
I nearly snort. I’d recognized an hour into the primary session of the primary day of recent school orientation that taking this job had been an enormous mistake. The “Rick Perry crack” the professor referenced referred to an off-handed remark I’d made earlier in regards to the potential of using the textual content of Perry’s marketing campaign adverts to show college students about logical fallacy. I wasn’t even making an attempt to be controversial. I used to be simply making an attempt to be humorous. And anyway, it was Rick Perry.
Earlier within the day, the Vice Provost had kicked off the session she headed by distributing to the college a Xeroxed article titled “The High 7 Methods to Have interaction with College students.” It was revealed in 1987. Then she instructed us to interrupt up into teams (“break up into teams”!!) and talk about our favourite methods to have interaction college students. I began to snort, as a result of I believed she was joking. Then I believed perhaps it was some kind of experiment. Then I believed perhaps my nightmares had come true and I used to be instructing highschool once more. Then I believed perhaps I used to be on an episode of Punked.
I seemed across the room desperately, silently pleading with my new colleagues to one way or the other tacitly affirm my bewilderment. The man subsequent to me, who was additionally new and who had for some unimaginable purpose come right here from Georgetown, simply shook his head sadly. Weren’t we supposed to speak about publication agendas and the best way to entry our convention presentation budgets? How one can discover campus assets and safe visiting lecturers? The advantages bundle? It turned out we weren’t going to speak about any of that. We have been going to concentrate on “pupil success,” which was, in keeping with the president, not solely our primary precedence, however in truth our ONLY precedence.
It didn’t take lengthy to determine that “pupil success” was a euphemism for “don’t fail anybody, it doesn’t matter what.” The time period “customer support” was invoked a number of instances with out apology or disgrace. The President additionally urged that a technique to make sure pupil success is to permit college students to take a take a look at as many instances because it takes them to get a superb grade. That’s how we may help them succeed. Properly, yeah, I suppose. Kinda relies upon upon the way you outline “success,” however yeah. Previous to the scholar success speech, the President had launched his spouse to the college as “my love, my rib, my every little thing.” His rib??!! At this level I bodily turned to search for hidden cameras. Everybody simply smiled and clapped, although, as The Rib stood and waved to the viewers.
Towards the top of the day’s classes, I look at Georgetown once more. He seems to have fully checked out and is hunched over a authorized pad. He’s writing the alphabet over and over. It appears, to me, an inexpensive response to most of what has occurred right here right this moment.
It’s the Thursday earlier than courses start, and the complete pupil physique is gathered within the subject home. The brand new freshmen are seated within the middle of the cavernous house, with the complete school seated behind them. Each sections are flanked by higher classmen seated diagonally on all sides.
A Catholic priest (Why is there a priest right here? This college has no non secular affiliation) leads us all in a prayer for good issues within the upcoming college yr after which instructions everybody to repeat “Lord assist us” after every little thing he says. At one level he likens the school President main college students and college into the educational yr to Moses main his flock via the wilderness. We then all recite the Lord’s Prayer.
When Moses himself takes the microphone, he delivers a tacky and clichéd pep discuss that includes a number of sports activities metaphors, and wraps it up by having college students say, “Once I get knocked down I’ll get again within the sport. Once I get knocked down I’ll get again within the sport. Once I get knocked down, I’ll get again within the sport.” They chant this maybe eight or ten instances.
Then the Provost takes the stand. She directs college students to face up and switch round to face the college. That is nearly comically awkward. I really feel dangerous for the scholars and attempt to smile at them, encouragingly, however shortly understand that’s even creepier when a few of them begin to desperately avert their eyes. We proceed to stare one another down whereas the Provost tells the scholars (in a deeply bizarre and melodramatic voice) that “These school are right here for YOU. They need you to SUCCEED. They usually’re going to problem you such as you’ve by no means been challenged earlier than. Generally you’ll assume you possibly can’t take it. They’re going to take you locations you’ve by no means been earlier than.” I cringe. No, we’re actually not, I wish to say. We’re simply common lecturers. It’s simply school. We’re not going to make it bizarre like this. However clearly, the appropriate-academic-interaction ship has sailed out of this place someday previous to my arrival. I surrender and look down at my toes. The poor freshmen are lastly permitted to show ahead once more, and so they achieve this shortly and with apparent aid.
However then there’s a “pinning ceremony.” This consists of a number of higher classmen coming over to the brand new freshmen and affixing pins to their shirts whereas a track that both is Christian rock or that simply shares the lame musical attributes of Christian rock performs within the background. All through the track, the Provost leads the freshmen via a pledge that states, “With this pin I decide to graduate in 4 years. I’m now a part of the College household for all times.” You’d be shocked what number of instances it’s attainable to repeat these two sentences over the course of 1 track. The entire thing is made much more absurd by the truth that every freshmen is carrying a brightly-colored t-shirt with a beagle on it, which is the college’s mascot.
The ceremony finishes with the Provost studying (aloud, and in its entirety) Dr. Seuss’s Oh the Locations You’ll Go. “Lord assist us,” I believe.