Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Extreme faculty

There are a lot of stereotypes of university faculty (many of which are even contradictory). But I'm wondering if I could solicit help from y'all about some of the more amusing extreme faculty "morphs". Most of these are not limited to academia-- you may encounter these in completely different settings. This list is something I'd like to incorporate into a comic that'll be part of the book I'm working on, but I'm happy to acknowledge you for good ideas. (Also looking for a good artist, if you are or know one.) Here are a few morphs I came up with, many from long-past experiences. I should emphasize that the descriptions are hyperbole, and NOT necessarily even remotely based on anyone I know at Duke. Further, I carry elements of many of these traits myself. If you add or comment, please try to be nice/ tactful, even if teasing.

HALL-TALKER: Prof you never see actually doing work, but seems to be always standing in the hall (or worse, in your office) talking. Seems to even roam the halls trying to find the next person with whom to talk.

ABSENTEE: Prof who is either traveling or works from home so much that most of their colleagues forget that they even work there. Their students may have forgotten them, too. Everyone looks startled when they walk into their laboratory or into a faculty meeting-- "Who is that?" someone asks.

CONSPIRACY THEORIST: Prof who always questions your motivation when you ask even the simplest questions, and always suspects that the administration is out to mess with them (often also believing in pots of gold that the administration is hiding via leprechaun enchantment). "Why are you asking about my day? Did the dean put you up to that?"

ATTENTION GRABBER: Prof who always seems to be the one rambling to the media about every topic, irrespective of whether it's remotely within their specific area of expertise. Rather than 15-minutes of fame, they seem to have months of it. They're very often quoted in press releases, and may keep a blog that is periodically seen by the public (ahem...).

COMMITTEE MEETING LOVER: Prof who always suggests creating a subcommittee to discuss topics in more depth-- also talks ad nauseum in every meeting without adding insights. Often circles a single point for 20 minutes that could be made in 3 sentences, and still never hits the point directly.

INEFFICIENT COMPLAINER: Prof who will spend hours writing exaggerated complaint letters and e-mails about problems that would take minutes for them to avoid or fix themselves. "Dear Mr/Ms University President: Yet again, when I came to the parking lot, I saw a discarded piece of paper, not properly recycled. I think this is another demonstration of your incompetence as our leader (see page 6, appendix C)..."

RECLUSE: Prof who looks awkwardly at you when you pass them in the hall, arrives late and/ or misses/ skips most meetings, and is always eager to get back to their office/ laboratory to their seemingly very private obsession with their study topic.

SPACE CADET: Energetic, sometimes rambly, prof who has the long-term memory of... can't think of a good example, and I think that happened last week, too, and ... wait, what was I talking about again?

DEER-IN-HEADLIGHTS: "What??? Did you say something??? Aaaaaaack-- I missed it! Again!" (OK, this may be just about all faculty, especially new ones.)


  1. I found this posted in my lab earlier this week and I thought it fit well with the stereotype theme (http://sotak.info/sci.jpg). Dan

  2. Rock Star - the one professor who thinks he's a star. Usually has a couple of grad students hanging on his/her every word. Dresses to the nines to give a lecture. Prefers meetings with industry leaders than subject conferences. Lab (or office) looks perfectly sterile... as if nothing actually takes place there.

  3. I can't believe I'm just now reading this .... And I can't tell the others about it in the forums!!! I missed this one by six hours. It's too good. What was it Justin said about your test questions? "100% Noor... Uncut"

    Just when you thought the "ever-enthusiastic" was gone... He he he... ;)