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Wicked Walter's Wise Words. First in a Series of 30 Presentations.
Some of you may know me by the character I play on RYS, Wicked Walter. Well, that's not really me. In real life I'm a pretty moderate science prof at a large research institution in Texas. We grow everything big here, including our universities. My earlier posts on this website [Editors, please insert links to all of my posts here now.] were mere hyperbole, just a cool prairie cat in the wild howling at the moon. I did it that way because one must get himself heard and recognized before he (or she) can really get his voice out there, to make a difference.
But, the point is, the website moderators came to me (hat in hand, I may add) asking me to be their featured correspondent for the next 4 weeks. Each day I will write a few hundred words on academic topics I think are not being covered properly in the mainstream press. I won't pretend that these are all your concerns, because they probably are not. But I will give myself fully to the experience, and I'll press my many years of experience and service into solving them.
I intend to cover tenure, assessment, student retention, colleague annoyance, stupid-ass junior faculty, better coffee in the cafeteria, library and interlibrary loan, the Deans and how they spend money, and all of the other major areas of interest. I will do this without fear because I have tenure, and in fact RYS has given me a sort of tenure, what with their promise to let me write daily for the next 6 weeks. So, much will be taught and much learned over these next days.
I intend to start slow, with a topic that is clearly one of the most interesting and vexing. How to make the most out of office hours, those otherwise dead hours that we all must keep according to various idiotic faculty manuals. This material is essential for faculty young and old, and has never been covered on this or any other academic blog or website.
I will break my comments down into 4 categories: how to enrich your students' experience, ways in which to personalize your office so it's a home away from home, and what the pecking order of offices all mean to a department.
I will start with the last of these. There are a number of components of office hierarchy. Window, no window. That's pretty clear, right? If you have a window, you're a hot shit. I have a window the size of most stadium-seating movie theaters. If you have no window, I'd recommend getting your vita together because you're not getting tenure, and if you're visiting, you won't be visiting for long. Size of office? Well, again, I can play squash in my office, and I don't even have to move much furniture. If you can touch three walls of your office at one time, you're a BIG FUCKING LOSER. Also, if you're in a multi-story building like me, then your office needs to be high up. I'm on 26, and the only floor above me as some old moldy books from the university before I was born. If you're on the first floor, there's no much hope. If you get an office in some building's basement, then you went to the wrong grad school, girlfriend.
Now, I want to talk about personalizing your office. Your office is a representation of your own peculiar makeup, your personality, your "sense." You owe it to your visitors to let them know what they're getting into. Now, you may be surprised to know that I cover my office door with pictures of kitties. Nah, just kidding. That's just a payoff, a comeback, to show I read the site and have seen all the cat-haters getting their cat-hate on lately. So, forget what I said. You know what people should see when they look at your door? Wood. That's it. Maybe a small piece of paper with your hours and name. Anything else is just jerking off. You morons who think that Dilbert and Cathy cartoons are the way to go, why don't you just knit a little tea cozy for all your students. Nobody gives a shit what cartoons you think are funny. You want your political bullshit up there, too, your union minutes, your Sarah Palin propaganda? Save it for your boring dinner parties with other eggheads like you.
But I do believe in personalizing your office so it's a nice place to hide from the department chairperson, the wife, the kids, the colleagues, etc. I have a fridge, and not one of those tiny mini-fridges. I have a 21 cubic foot Haier, and I wouldn't trade it for a new car. Because I'm in the science building, and because my own research labs are on the same floor, I've been able to hook a water line to it, and I have cube ice and cold water running all day. I keep my various smoked meats and cheeses in the thing, and a few other items which we won't mention. Suffice it to say, during Mardi Gras week, we all hang with Prof. Walt!
I also have personalized my office with some nice soft furniture for catching a few Zzzzs. I just fooled one of the staff flunkies in the warehouse into giving me enough furniture for about 3 junior faculty and had the grad students load it in several years ago. I have as much seating as most small town bus stations, and this shit is nice, because I keep it nice. I have some halogen reading lamps, some artwork, including the requisite crayon and disappointment renderings of my children. I have some spare shirts in a tall teak armoire, some extra boots and shoes and socks and underwear. I figure if everything went south with Mrs. Walt, I could live her pretty much year round.
Finally, how to deal with students. Listen, I like to meet with students. I like to stare into their empty eyes and let them know that they're no longer at the community college down the road. And they're not going to some half-asses university, either. We're the big time. Our football team can beat the crap out of anybody - in fact we about murdered some pale and ineffectual prairie kids yesterday! - and everything we do is big and first rate. My labs are the finest in the nation. My degrees are sturdy and well earned. I have skills so far beyond an academic, and I've turned my back on private industry so many times that they've stopped calling. Can you imagine? I scare the shit out of them.
Back to the students. I wear the lab coat most days, and I'm a little imposing. I stare them down, do you hear me? I stare at them across my gigantic wooden desk and I tell them that a pukey sophomore is not going to ever get a right answer in my class, and they're only going to succeed if they shut their fat faces and let me teach them. And forget the fucking TAs. I have the best on campus, but they're still just a bunch of vegans and alternative lifestyle cretins who think Jeff Tweedy is the height of culture, and that making a million dollars for a biotech company is the be all and end all of an advanced degree.
But an office can be a wonderful place. That's the point.
That's it for today. I have many more items to cover, but since I'll be writing every day this week, let me save it up. You should let the moderators know how much you enjoy hearing my side of things. They've offered to give me a bounty of free items from their collection, and I've asked them to make a Wicked Walter nightshirt that they can put up for sale next week, when most of my posts will focus on how to land a big ass job and keep it without selling out to the motherfucking idiots who always end up in administration.
Wicked Walter from Waxahachie
Say it Loud, Say it Proud
Walt will NOT be writing every day for several weeks. It's once a week for 5 weeks. We also do not have any Wicked Walter items available, nightshirt or otherwise.
The moderators at RYS