Wednesday, December 14, 2011

End of the Term Madness

How many times have you received an email beginning “Dear Sir/Madam…” that then proceeds to lay out some poorly connived story about your need to help them by giving them access to your checking account? In years past I used to respond with a note to the business school boys who sent the note that they should spend more time studying for finals and less on such poorly written attempts at fraud. Inevitably I noted “even business courses have finals, boys.”

This year, I received the following note while I was grading finals.

Dear Sir/Madam,

We are Interested to import your product in bulk quantity. Payment will be through Bank to Bank wire transfer. Interested sources can contact along with all further details. Also want to know about shipment charges.



Clearly the boys at the b-school need to attend to their composition courses a bit more. Operating out of the rubric that humor is often the best way to deal with aggression, the following erupted from my keyboard:

Great, Said. And it is sir, not madam. At least this week.

I am a credit hour facilitator (formerly called professor) of undergraduates at an educational credentials factory (formerly known as a university). Our undergrads produce tons of bullshit every semester. I just got through wading through a major ocean of the same during finals week. And a bumper crop of it will come shortly when we receive the Student Perceptions of Instruction. Catchy name, no?

As for the quality, some of it - like the excuses for submitting exams and papers on time - is pretty creative. Lord knows, we have an absolute genocide of grandparents who die during finals week. And there are rare diseases yet unknown to western medicine which will be diagnosed during this week. Some of the bullshit even sounds like authentic scholarship (often because it actually is someone else's scholarship. We call that plagiarism - a fancy word for cheating - on this side of the pond. Of course, if you're a football coach or player, it won't matter). But most of it's the same, pure, authentic bullshit we come to expect from our undergrads who want all of the grade and all of the credit hours all of the time with none of the work - thus all of the bullshit.

So, how much would you like? Our governor has insured that there will be an ample supply of bullshit from our undergrads and the local football team with a university attached to it has authorized me to sell it to you for very reasonable prices. When can we arrange for you to pack it all up and take delivery?

Professor Over L. DaBullshit

For some reason, Said never got back to me.

I had no sooner posted that email when the following arrived from our departmental secretary:

Good morning,
Is someone taking this Orientation on Saturday? Read message below.

Good Afternoon Everyone,

I wanted to send out a reminder that there is a Transfer Orientation session scheduled for this Saturday, December 10th. In an effort to make this, my first Saturday orientation, run smoothly I am trying to put together a list of who from each department will be present this Saturday to conduct the Department Advising sessions for the students in attendance. I would like you to provide me with the following information for each department:

- Who will be present on campus on Saturday to advise students for your department. Please give me the first and last names of the specific people who will be advising students in your departments on Saturday.

What’s striking about this message from the self-described “Coordinator, Academic Advising Services I, College of Arts and Humanities Student Advising (CAHSA)” is the presumptuousness out of which it arises. Not only is this a Saturday (and surely even advising services coordinators are familiar with the terms of the university contract with its wage slaves regarding the five day workweek) but it’s a Saturday in the middle of final exams at the end of a long term. Usually one must go to the state legislature to encounter such cluelessness.

This time my yetzer tov rose to the occasion. I did not respond to the note on the departmental list where it appeared out of regard for our secretary’s feelings. But I did pen this rather snarky response which I shared with a few colleagues:

Attention UCF Bureaucrats: The work week for which you pay your wage slaves – as poorly as that might be - extends from Monday to Friday. Saturday is a weekend day. Your failure to schedule orientations on work days does not create any obligations for your wage slaves. Please govern yourselves accordingly.

Sometimes, even snarky humor is the better option than the more obvious use of the bazooka.

The Rev. Harry Scott Coverston, J.D., Ph.D.
Member, Florida Bar (inactive status)
Priest, Episcopal Church (Dio. of El Camino Real, CA)
Instructor: Humanities, Religion, Philosophy of Law
University of Central Florida, Orlando

If the unexamined life is not worth living, surely an unexamined belief system, be it religious or political, is not worth holding.
Most things of value do not lend themselves to production in sound bytes.


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