On Student Morale and the Ritual Humiliation of Astronomy Faculty

In which we dunk and pie our professors...

Much has been written about student morale and the problems of student-faculty relations and the implicit expectations faculty have of the students.

Over the last couple of weeks I have had occasion to test some of the more radical proposals to improve the interactions of our students with the faculty.

It started two weeks ago last wednesday: we were summoned to the coffee room with the promise of sweets.

Instead we were faced with a bizarre array of students and staff dressed in native costumes who, after some tribal dancing and handing out of kudos for bravery and original display, "persuaded" the Heads of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies to undergo ritual humiliation before the crowd.

First they demonstrated their prowess and bravery with select members illustrating technique and speed, and then the faculty were made to kneel before the crowd and their heads were thrust into water.

Dunk!

Deep, ice cold water.
For a remarkably extended period.

That, actually went well.
Remarkably painless.

Emboldened, we escalated, and last week

Faculty Stock

we built a stock.

Over a period of several weeks there was a frenzy of bidding, as students, staff, rival faculty, even visitors and interlopers from other departments bid for the right to have an opportunity to assault our senior faculty, and select student and staff "volunteers".
All in a good cause, of course.

In no time at all the maximum bid was reached, and a graduate student, two members of stuff, the Heads of Undergraduate and Graduate Studies, and the Head of Department Hisself were lined up one sunny friday afternoon...

Pies!

The Pies were made and laid out.
I was told the pies were for eating...

Then, in turn, each victim lined up and drew lots for which of the enthusastic volunteers who had paid for the right to participate got to assault the unsuspecting victim.

Pie!

Laurie lead the way...

No restraints

Some of us refused the restraints.
Notice the classic fling and release from a distance, in contrast with the point blank deliver earlier.
Fine form.

The highlight of the event was the Pieing of the Department Head:

Pie!!

Unfortunately the klutz chosen for the honour flinched and failed to deliver a square hit.
Enraged staff members rushed in immediately after to deliver additional Pie to the defenceless Head at point blank range.

Pie!!!

The event then descended into chaos as Pies were flung randomly at innocent bystanders and defenceless undergraduates, until, finally, we ran out of cream.

Very cathartic.
And we found out just how much people will pay to Pie me.
All in a good cause, natch.

More like this

I'm a card-carrying member of the Wisconsin Alumni Association, and as such receive the glossy production, On Wisconsin, quarterly. Usually, the mag offers light reading and occasional updates on faculty, staff and fellow former classmates. However, an article published in the Summer 2006…
Wheaton has a good academic reputation, but man, it's the little things that make it frightening. I would not want to live in the theocratic world it represents. Hank Fox has a couple of stories about Wheaton. The first is the blog of a recent graduate of Wheaton who determined halfway through his…
I've just come out of a general positive annual review meeting with my departmental chair and it seems like an appropriate time to take stock of the year and think about where I am heading. At the end of my first academic year as a faculty member, I'm way ahead of where I was nine months ago, but I…
This is the same ad I posted for a position in our biology department the other day, with one very significant difference — I had used the copy we'd put together before we got absolute final approval to fill the position, and once it was locked down, we changed the date. Notice: We start screening…