Ain’t No Skin and Bones

Are my academic experiences just totally idiosyncratic or does shit like this happen to anyone else?

I’m walking back from class into the building that houses my office. Through the glass of the front door, I see some students–three young women–walking toward me. So like the gentleman that I am, I open the door for them, and the first two file through, thanking me in turn. The third, whom I don’t know and have never met, thanks me as well, then conspicuously looks me up and down and says: “Wow, you have lost some serious weight! You look good! Keep it up!” Then insouciantly walks away.

What do you do with fulsome flattery when it’s transparently false? (I haven’t lost a pound in months.) Do you accept it and hope that others are deceived by it as well? Or do you suspect that you’re subtly being made fun of? Or do you just walk away in bemused consternation and wait for the next thing?

Nervous Shakedown: Scenes from a Police Detention (1)

On the morning of November 29, 2017, I taught my 8:15 am ethics class in Kirby Hall at Felician University’s Lodi campus. Having taught class, I returned to my third-floor office in Kirby around 9:30. At a little after 10 am, I received a call from Dr. Edward Ogle, the University’s Vice President for Academic Affairs (hereafter, “VPAA”). The VPAA asked me to come to his office immediately, as something “urgent” had come up, offering no further elaboration. I told him I was on my way. I put on my coat and took my wallet, leaving my phone in my desk. As I left the building, I was met by the VPAA in the company of two uniformed officers of the Lodi Police Department. The VPAA asked me to accompany him to his office in the company of the officers, and I did.

On reaching his office, we encountered a third uniformed officer, apparently a sergeant, who said: “You’re not under arrest, but you’re being held.” He then read me my rights. I remember his mentioning my right to remain silent, but don’t remember whether he informed me of a right to have an attorney present. He then asked whether I understood my rights. I said I did. He asked me whether I was willing to discuss the matter at hand. “No,” I said. “Well,” he said, “that makes things easier,” walking into a nearby hallway to make a phone call. I heard only one sentence from the sergeant’s end of the call: “Nothing. He hasn’t said anything.” Which was true enough, and stayed that way all afternoon. Continue reading

A Memo to Friends and Colleagues

I wanted to take a moment to thank the many friends and colleagues, especially those at Felician University, who have expressed their support for me following my police detention of Wednesday, November 29th. I deeply appreciate the support you’ve sent my way. Indeed, my gratitude extends to the many jokes–some of them pretty funny–that have been made at my expense, my personal favorite being someone’s description of my detention as “something out a sitcom co-written by Michel Foucault and Flavor Flav.”

My brother’s idea of “moral support”

For now, suffice it to say that I was involuntarily detained on that date for several hours by the Lodi Police Department and Bergen County Prosecutor’s Office, involuntarily transported to the Lodi police station, held and questioned there, and asked to give consent to search my car and “premises.” Continue reading

Free Speech for the Mum

Consider the following scenario, a commonplace of academic life. A professor decides to devote part of his ethics class to the ethics and economics of higher education, with readings on the value of the BA degree, and on the place of athletics in higher education. To focus the conversation, the professor cites examples drawn from the students’ experience at their home institution. In the course of doing so, the students give voice to complaints about the institution. The professor acknowledges the complaints, not necessarily agreeing or disagreeing with them.

Taking the acknowledgement as agreement, students give voice to their grievances against the university on social media, citing what they take to be their professor’s support for those grievances. The university’s administration, sensitive to PR issues, catches wind of the student’s claims, and notes the apparent support for those claims offered by members of the faculty. The faculty member is then called before the Dean and a witness to give an accounting of the affair. Continue reading

Breaking Wind with Victoria’s Secret

An episode from my Phil 100 Critical Thinking class:

David Kelley, The Art of Reasoning, 4th ed., Exercise 2.2C (p. 35):

For each of the following definitions, identify which rule (or rules) of definition it violates:

19. A jacket is an outer garment designed to protect the wearer from cold, wind, and rain.

Student response:

Rule 2: Too narrow, because Victoria’s Secret Windbreaker be a jacket, but it don’t break no wind.

Hard to argue with that one. Sidney Morgenbesser would be pleased.

Welcome to The New Normal (“You Gotta Keep ‘Em Separated”) [Updated]

Readers of this blog know that I’ve been running a series of events on law enforcement issues at Felician. Here’s an event I didn’t run:

12:28 pm: Due to the receipt of an alleged, anonymous threat of a shooting on the Rutherford Campus Residence Halls have been secured. -more

12:29 pm: Police and extra security in place. Classes continue, buses run. We’ll keep you apprised. Carry your ID.

2:28 pm:  If you receive any calls from media sources, please refer them to me at my extension that is  listed below.  If you have additional questions or concerns please contact your dean or Vice President.

9:07 pm: Felician took immediate action in consultation with law enforcement. Classes are in session, campus is open.

Oh, but if we were all toting our Glocks to class, this would have worked out perfectly.

What’s that phrase again? “A hostile work environment”? And I thought I left that behind in Abu Dis! Continue reading

God, Poetry, Universities: A Selective Recounting of a Faculty Meeting

My institution, Felician University, is a Franciscan-Catholic institution–in fact, it’s The Franciscan University of New Jersey (pre-eminent among all of the others here). In deference to that fact, our faculty meetings usually begin with a prayer, euphemistically called a “reflection,” but almost always oriented toward worship of the Judeo-Christian God. Having heard eight years of God talk, I decided to do something different for yesterday’s meeting of the faculty of Arts and Sciences. I decided to subject my colleagues to some good old-fashioned paganism, opening the meeting with the straightforwardly idolatrous seventh stanza of Shelley’s “Hymn to Intellectual Beauty.” (The Dean was away.)  Continue reading

Si Fallor, Sum

I covered Harry Frankfurt’s famous paper, “On Bullshit” in my ethics class this semester–ironically, at just the time when the Trump controversy over the celebration rumors broke out. Here was one of the quiz questions, in True/False format. The quiz was just intended to ensure that they’d done the reading.

  1. Near the end of the article, Frankfurt discusses the views of St. Augustine. According to Frankfurt, St. Augustine was the person who first coined the term “bullshit.” True or false?

Thirty percent of the class answered “true.”

Interestingly, this is one of those questions that didn’t really require having done the reading; a bit of E.D. Hirsch level cultural literacy would have done the trick. But when reading comprehension and cultural literacy fail….

The future of America, folks.

Supererogatory Bluffing

You know you’re in trouble when you encounter a sentence like this in a paper for an ethics class:

After reading both Powell’s and Zwolinski’s articles, there are definitely pros and cons of sweatshops.

The hyper-conscientiousness of having read “both articles” is laudable. Trouble is, Powell and Zwolinski are the co-authors of a single article.

P.S. Harry Frankfurt’s “On Bullshit” is the last reading of the course.