Recipe for an Asst. Professor



Take from a hundred collected dossiers of aspiring PhD. candidates (and graduate school has more than it can remember) and pick out one, it doesn't matter which, they are all the same:

High verbal quotient, low index of ideas, some experience but not much of the world, as it is in academe, neatly dressed without a trace of style, but very clean, especially under the fingernails. First degut the sample, since there won't be much need or that where he's going. Some debone but we advise against it, he's got to stand somehow before a class when lecturing. They say he can sit, but I think a lot of them lie. Marination in freshman courses which no one wants softens tissue, makes one better able to yield to forking at the table. More the labor, the better since we shouldn't make this Jack into a dull boy....

Passing reviews and yearly intervals he learns the academic password: YES and says it seriously whenever some silly business needs a good supporting voice. The YEA's have it. And they really do. Too bad! Not worth having. Nor wanting. Especially not suffering for.

Now it's time for tea and tenure, what do you say? Yes? Then out the door with him, we don't want yes-men here. But No-Men die early, I suppose that's true. We want yes-men who can say no, but convincingly to those who made it through it's a long set of NO's From this point on to retirement or imbecility whichever comes first. "Young Bratsworth's coming up for tenure you know. Brilliant chap, list of books long as your arm, and the students think he's great. NO!

Wormsley would make a good chairman, he has a flair That reminds me a bit of leadership. Volunteer fireman too. NO! I know you hate Funk's guts, let's transfer him out let him come down in Drama, unnoticed. What say?" NO CHANCE ! "Rodney, you've been slipping a lot, we think Retirement might give you time for your own needs.." No need even to wait for an answer, duck and scuttle for the door.

Our innocent, clear-eyed, lively Assistant Prof. has been changed by some hidden alchemy into a tough old bird, which no cooking now, even with the oven thermometer in the appropriate hole, will ever make palatable. Strange that he of the interminable potboilers can't be boiled. Nor stuffed, this lecture stuffer. No fryer he, despite churchly tendencies. Thank God for bacteria or he'd be there for all time crammed into the Dean's chair where they stuck him far upstairs fossilized with liquid dripping apathy. He has what he always said he had: Consistency.

If you've got a taste for exotic dishes, friend, try at least to avoid the dangers of Academic Cookery.



Students always ask about the difference between poetry and prose, of which this is an example. It was written some years ago as a mild kind of verse (below) but all these years later I was editing these short stories, and I thought about trying it out as prose (above). Yes, the prose version is a little sharper verbally, owes that to the freedom you can take with verse. But this answers the old student question: Depending on subject and style, there is no difference at all. If still not sure, take a look at a translation of Horace's Latin Satires, usually done in prose. . . . but from a sophisticated prosy kind of verse which the Romans loved. And when Macbeth is read aloud in a play, isn't it really read as prose?

Recipe for an Asst. Professor

Take from a hundred collected dossiers of
Aspiring PhD. candidates (and graduate school has more
Than it can remember) and pick out one....
It doesn't matter which, they are all the same:
High verbal quotient, low index of ideas, some
Experience but not much of the world, as it is.
In academe, neatly dressed without a trace of style,
But very clean, especially under the fingernails.
First degut the sample, since there won't be much need
For that where he's going. Some debone
But we advise against it, he's got to stand
Somehow before a class when lecturing.
They say he can sit, but I think a lot of them lie.
Marination in Freshman courses which no one wants
Softens tissue, makes one better able to yield
To forking at the table. More the labor, the better,
Since we shouldn't make this Jack into a dull boy....

Passing reviews and yearly intervals he learns
The academic password: YES and says it seriously
Whenever some silly business needs a good supporting voice.
The YEA's have it. And they really do. Too bad!
Not worth having. Nor wanting. Especially not suffering for.

Now it's time for tea and tenure, what do you say? Yes?
Then out the door with him, we don't want yes-men here.
But no-men die early, I suppose that's true.
We want yes-men who can say no. But convincingly.
To those who make it through it's a long set of NO's
From this point on to retirement or imbecility,
Whichever comes first. "Young Bratsworth's coming up
For tenure you know. Brilliant chap, list of books
Long as your arm, and the students think he's great. NO!
Wormsley would make a good chairman, he has a flair
That reminds me a bit of leadership. Volunteer fireman too."
NO! "I know you hate Funk's guts, let's transfer him out
Let him come down in Drama, unnoticed. What say?" NO
CHANCE! "Rodney, you've been slipping a lot, we think
Retirement might give you time for your own needs.." No
Need even to wait for an answer, duck and scuttle for the door.

Our innocent, clear-eyed, lively Assistant Prof.
Has been changed by some hidden alchemy
Into a tough old bird, which no cooking now,
Even with the oven thermometer in the appropriate hole,
Will ever make palatable. Strange that he of the
Interminable potboilers can't be boiled. Nor stuffed,
This lecture stuffer. No fryer he, despite churchly tendencies.
Thank God for bacteria or he'd be there for all time
Crammed into his Dean's chair where they stuck him far upstairs
Fossilized with liquid dripping apathy. He has what he always
Said he had: Consistency.

If you've got a taste for exotic dishes, friend,
Try at least to avoid Academic Cookery.



William Harris
Prof. Em. Middlebury College
www.middlebury.edu/~harris