Gentle readers, this week I was required to attend "New Faculty Orientation." Generally, I don't mind these kinds of things as they often provide important information that one should know when working at a new place. The content of this orientation session (there are between 4 and 487 more of these that I have to attend) was fairly helpful, but the other participants were...how shall I put this? A study in academic stereotypes. And also incredibly annoying.
I was the second person to arrive about five minutes before the orientation started and I followed directions and signed in and took a seat. Shortly thereafter, one of the new basketball coaches arrived and we discussed one of his players who is also my student. So far, so good, right? Only moments after we were all supposed to be there, everyone else showed up. "Everyone else" included another one of the new coaches and Business Suit Bob, who does something in the business school that apparently forces him to be incredibly self-important. He strides over to the coaches, ignoring everyone else, and begins one of those ridiculous handshaking rituals that some men engage in. Then they all started discussing athletics, making the usual lame jokes about the success (or lack thereof) of this year's team, etc. Ugh. Also, no one seemed to be able to read the "Please sign in" sign in the doorway, so they all had to be reminded repeatedly to do so.
Then it got worse. Slicked Back Hair Steve the Nerdy Scientist Who Thinks He's Hot showed up and began leering at every woman in the room and trying to make awkward conversation. It really isn't that difficult--just introduce yourself, politely inquire about the other person's area of study, and perhaps ask where they went to school.
Right on his heels was Billy the Balding Math Professor, who began making lame math jokes the minute he arrived: "Wow, we've grown exponentially, huh?!" Dude--see my commentary on appropriate initial academic conversation above.
These two were followed by some older gentlemen who were quite nice, but clearly befuddled by the topic, which had to do with the use of technology for teaching purposes.
Next we had a stream of various people wearing stereotypical academic attire (linen is popular, also long vest-like garments, ill fitting pants, items that were fashionable over ten years ago, and my favorite, the big plastic academic glasses trend).
Oh, there was also the woman who is as annoying a "student" in the new faculty orientation as she probably was in grade school. You know--the one who bounced up and down in her seat saying "Me! Me! I know! I know!" about everything.
So, the session got started and we came to the topic of using Blackboard (an online learning system that you can use to make course websites, give exams and assignments to students, etc.) and Business Suit Bob clearly had something to say. Of course, he couldn't just raise his hand or say "could I ask something?" No, he had to sit there making obnoxious facial expressions at the presenter, obviously shift around in his seat, and sigh loudly. Finally the presenter said, "Do you have a question or a comment?" "No, not really. Well, I guess I'm just trying to............. No." She went on and he continued to be a jerk, so she stopped again to ask if he had something to say. Well, actually, he did. He had been sitting there thinking about all of this and he just couldn't understand some of the benefits and how you could preserve any kind of integrity with an online test. He could just see a row of frat boys sitting together on their couch taking a test together and how would we know and what would we do about it and wouldn't it be better to have them take the test in class and on and on and on. While he was droning on and on, Coach Two fell asleep and Coach One looked like he wanted to stab someone (Business Suit Bob, perhaps) in the eye with those curly topped toothpicks. My kind of guy. Maybe we should develop a special handshake.
Then we got to the part of the presentation when it was open to questions. People didn't really have questions, though, they just wanted to tell everyone else about the clever ways they had used Blackboard in the past and how superior their methods were to someone else's. Slicked Back Hair Steve continued to leer when he wasn't explaining the finer points of using Blackboard to assign and grade problem sets for physics and Billy the Balding Math Professor weighed the merits of creating two separate shells for one's two section course versus having both sections use a single Blackboard shell. Coach Two slept on, Coach One looked like he wanted a stiff drink, Business Suit Bob was mad that he didn't have the floor anymore, the older gentlemen looked increasingly confused, and the enthusiastic woman next to me seemed to be able to counter everyone else with an even better Blackboard anecdote.
Finally, over an hour later, we were released. The boys club (Coaches One and Two and Business Suit Bob) had resumed their BS conversation from before as I made a beeline for the door. Slicked Back Hair followed me out of the building, continuing to leer. Unfortunately, I will have to see this same group again several more times (which I will undoubtedly be recapping for the blog). I. Can't. Wait.