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At USF lectures, only happy endings

By JOEL KEVIN THOMPSON
© St. Petersburg Times,
published December 11, 2001


News item: As a consequence of deep cuts in the state education budget, University of South Florida president Judy Genshaft announced that the university will hold classes at the University 16 movie theater complex.

* * *

While this cost-cutting venture has advantages, including "a large screen, tiered seating and cup holders," as noted by Genshaft, it may also have unforeseen effects on academic policies and procedures.

Possible scenarios:

The complex forms completed by students who evaluate faculty teaching will be reduced to a "thumbs up" or "thumbs down" rating system.

Faculty members will come under pressure to dress and appear glamorous and sexy when lecturing on stage. Breast implants, tummy tucks, hair implants and liposuction are likely to become more common among faculty desiring a thumbs-up evaluation. While this will be a financial drain on USF faculty, who make substantially less than colleagues at other state universities and are on nine-month salary contracts, they will have the reward of feeling good about their appearance.

Class decorum will be disrupted even more than usual by undergrads who revert to atavistic cinematic behaviors -- mid lecture trips for refreshments and restroom breaks, talking during the performance and a tendency to "screen hop" from class to class to check out the material. Particularly problematic will be couples in the back of the classroom attempting to get to first base rather than focusing on the "plot" of the day's lecture.

Required course material, of course, will now include coverage of relevant movies, along with frequent video homework assignments. For example:

  • Political Science 101. Required: Being There. Recommended: All the President's Men.
  • Clinical Psychology 101. Required: Me, Myself, and Irene. Recommended: Man in the Moon.
  • Women's Studies 101. Required: Thelma and Louise. Recommended: Pretty Woman.
  • Biological Foundations of Behavior 101. Required: American Pie. Recommended: American Pie 2.
  • Genetics 101. Required: Young Frankenstein. Recommended: Trading Places.

Faculty awards ceremonies, traditionally a minor element of graduation ceremonies, will now be a major social event, occurring in early March of every year at the Ovo Cafein Ybor City. A few of the award categories:

  • Best Teaching Performance by an Untenured Assistant Professor Still Residing in an Apartment off Fletcher Avenue
  • Best Teaching Performance by a Burned-Out Professor Who Still Uses Lecture Notes from the '70s
  • Best Individual Class "Rant" Performance by a Professor Who Gets Most of His/Her Material from Old Dennis Miller HBO Specials
  • Best "Flashback" Performance by Any Professor Who Includes Mention of Campus Activism as a Means to Policy Change. (In the likely event there are no nominees in this category, the award will go to the professor with the best tie-dyed shirt or hip-hugger jeans.)

Finally, the most sought-after commencement speakers for the coming years will include Roger Ebert, Gene Shalit and Rex Reed. It's not too early for the USF speakers bureau to begin the process of contacting these individuals for spring commencement.

-- Joel Kevin Thompson is a professor of psychology at the University of South Florida.

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