Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Best. Show. Ever.

The Lumpen Prof was here! Last Sunday was an amazing night. The Dave Rawlings Machine from left to right in the video above are John Paul Jones on mandolin (yes, that John Paul Jones, from Led Zeppelin), David Rawlings on his vintage Epiphone guitar, Gillian Welch on guitar, in the back on bass is Paul Kowert of the Punch Brothers, and on the right on guitar is Willie Watson formerly of the Old Crow Medicine Show.

The show began with a gorgeous rendition of "Will the Circle Be Unbroken," and included a medley of "I Hear Them All / This Land is Your Land" (with all the best subversive verses included). The high point of the show for me, though, was a truly mesmerizing version of Neil Young's "Cortez the Killer." A close second was their version of Led Zeppelin's "Going to California" performed in what Rawlings described as a "special Dark Lord tuning." Hearing Gillian Welch sing Zeppelin was a strange and wonderful experience.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Alternative Academic Titles

I just realized that my inaugural post for this blog concerned a list of John Hodgman inspired academic hobo names. The recent post below on academic titles seemed in a similar vein. So in honor of this confluence, I decided I should post a slightly longer list of alternative, unused academic ranks and titles.

  1. Elder Viceroy for Academic Affairs
  2. Grand Vizier of Student Services
  3. Vice Admiral for Institutional Research
  4. Lord High Provost
  5. Temporary Trusted Advisor
  6. Assistant Grand Inquisitor in Residence
  7. Major General of General Studies
  8. Adjutant Affiliate Graduate Dean
  9. Honorary Academician
  10. Eternal Assistant Dean
  11. Associate Vice Khan
  12. Distinguished Interim Emperor
  13. Visiting Dean Regent
  14. Acting Vice Sultan of Instruction
  15. Supreme Exalted Associate Professor
  16. Eminent Illustrious Adjunct Instructor
  17. Serene Associate Vice Provost
  18. Venerable Consulting Scholar
  19. Grand High Instructor
  20. Honored Guest Director
  21. Emeritus Grand Mugwump
Here is an actual list of academic ranks and titles. It is no less strange.

Monday, November 25, 2013

How To Waste a Decade

Here is a brief chronology of my academic life so far at my bizarro university:
  1. Interdisciplinary department with faculty lines, one degree, multiple concentrations.
  2. Department eliminated and programs separated, no faculty lines, multiple degrees. 
  3. Individual programs given some faculty lines, multiple degrees.
  4. New interdisciplinary department formed with faculty lines, multiple degrees.
  5. Interdisciplinary department with faculty lines, one degree, multiple concentrations. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Silent Socrates

A student pitched me an idea for her final class project: a silent film version of Plato's Apology. This makes me happy.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Academic Titles

As a consequence of my interdisciplinary program's perpetual restructuring, I've become unreasonably expert at academic job titles. There is a vast sea of differences among various ranks and titles which make no clear difference except to their office holders, but this does not prevent them from being jealously guarded and doled out only sparingly.

First, there are the mysteries of academic ranks: Assistant, Associate, and Full Professors, Adjuncts, Instructors, Lectures, etc. along with the entire alphabet for our various degrees: PhD, MA, BA, BS, EdD, MFA, etc. These are all used with relative consistency among academic institutions in the US and although often unclear to those outside of academia, those of us on the inside imagine them to be very clear and precise.

Then there are the various administrative job titles: Chairs, Deans, Assistants, Associates, Vice, Interim, Provost, Chancellors, and Presidents. This entire menagerie begins to overlap and interbreed so you get Associate Vice Chancellors and Interim Assistant Chairs. These often have specific local meanings and can be more difficult to translate from one institution to another.

Finally, there are the strange interstitial institutional locations which seem to demand their own names, but which aren't supposed to compete with the more well entrenched ranks and titles. Directors, Advisors, Coordinators, etc. I inhabit one of these institutional borderlands. My current rank is Associate Professor and my current administrative title is Interim Director. There are entire histories of institutional schism and intrigue that can be read within such titles by those intimate with the intricacies of academic power.

Recently, though, I have needed to create new titles to distinguish between various faculty performing useful and necessary, but uncompensated, services within our academic program. I have been leaning towards the bland but unobjectionable honorific of "Advisor" for all of these jobs. But no doubt this will still need more committee meetings to accomplish.

However, I began to think of all the other possible academic titles we could use, but don't. Why just plain "Advisor," why not "Trusted Advisor" instead? But why stop there? There are many possible honorifics which are currently untapped. Military titles: Vice Admiral for Institutional Research. Eastern titles: Grand Vizier of Student Services. The possibilities are endless. Academic Potentates, Captains, Bishops, Grand Dragons, Black Belts, Yahoos, Fuhrers, and Emperors are all possible academic titles just waiting to be claimed. Just think how this could liven up our dull and pedestrian cv's by the judicious use of some of these more colorful and unused options. I wager you would take special note of a colleague who was introduced with the title of Elder Viceroy for Academic Affairs. And given that so many of our academic jobs receive no remuneration beyond a dignified title, perhaps we should begin to insist on the splendid.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Reorganizing Again

I'm back.

My university is once again engaged in its periodic and inscrutable reorganization of my academic life. So once again I find myself in need of a creative outlet. So, blogging it is.