NPF: SECOND CLASS CITIZENS

I couldn't decide which one of these would be more fun. In fact, I hate making decisions. You will accept both and like it.

1. Whether your experience on a college campus is as a student, faculty, or professional staff it's hard not to notice the, uh, social pecking order on campus. The business school always seems brand new. The hard sciences are often (although certainly not always) ensconced in a glimmering brand new academic megaplex that becomes the focal point of marketing materials and tours for prospective students (not to mention Mom and Dad). And then there are the humanities and social sciences, tucked away in buildings rich in "charm" and often described as "quaint." They might even be covered in ivy!

The ivy, of course, makes it harder to see all the cracks and water damage.

There's an ascetic mindset among people in fields like English, as if they're not really learning or doing justice to the intellectual tradition if their surroundings are not sufficiently dilapidated. Personally, I find this type of charm overrated. I prefer bathrooms that do not smell like a rendering plant and ceilings that don't leak to ivy and hallowed-looking halls.

The site is not very far along yet – I'm hoping it picks up steam – but Classrooms of Shame highlights user-submitted pictures of some of the dingier environs to which the Not Economically Viable subjects are confined on most campuses. I have done the three-temps-in-one-office thing, but honestly I feel fortunate that I haven't experienced anything on the scale of these photos. Sound off in the comments if you have a good story about a terrible workspace you've been given; I know of one adjunct instructor who claimed to hold office hours in his parked car. He would have used the university library…except they wouldn't even give him a parking pass on the car-unfriendly campus. So he met students in the car and fed the meter a quarter every 30 minutes.

2. It's Burning Man once again, which means that for those of us whose heads are not completely buried up our own asses it's time to make fun of people at Burning Man again. This tumblr is doing an outstanding job. The stupid pictures are what we have come to expect, but the person behind this site is killing it with the captions:

Theodore Buckingsworth, a.k.a. “Slambucha,” describes himself as “the greenest playa on the playa.” When Teddy isn’t working as an installation specialist for Time Warner Cable or “turnin’ out fair-trade hoes,” he’s most likely in his “laboratory” crafting his debut album, aptly entitled “Fig Pimpin’.” Promising “the rhythmical intensity of Insane Clown Posse mixed with the philosophical lyrical prowess of Counting Crows,” he’ll be performing some of his original material in the United Western Juggalos tent at this year’s Burning Man festival. If you need a phat beat, some whip-its, or a frumpy, yet earthy escort for your adventures in Black Rock City, Teddy is your go-to guy.

Whenever I see pictures of Burning Man I feel like Kurtz leaving a note for his killer in Apocalypse Now – "Drop the bomb; exterminate them all." The world isn't going to miss 10,000 graphic designers and an equal number of the permastoned and marginally employable white kids with dreads.

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31 Responses to “NPF: SECOND CLASS CITIZENS”

  1. wetcasenents Says:

    Ed, I'd love to hear your take on Thomas Frank's latest:

    http://thebaffler.com/past/academy_fight_song#.Uh34buzMit8.facebook

    As for dingy English departments, well, as a product of two of them I can only tell you that if you were for one micro-second to declaim how you're holding up one aspect of the artistic grandeur of capital-C Civilization they'd call security, pronto.

    And no, I'm not the second coming of Harold Bloom by any means. I actually liked reading all that grungy critical theory that pretty much identified the Western Canon as the racist hogwash much of it tends to be.

    But no, you don't get to throw the baby out with the bathwater, i.e., bitch about how the Law and Business schools have the nicest shit on campus.

  2. wetcasenents Says:

    . . . once you've basically theorized away your whole reason for existence, let alone departmental funding.

  3. Elle Says:

    That Burning Man tumblr is the best thing ever, without fear of hyperbole.

    At my university, the business school and medical school and other such things were reasonably new and shiny. The humanities were studied in the part of the buildings that looked like Hogwarts. I had one English literature tutorial halfway up a turret, sitting round a large wooden dining table that was always furnished with several large teapots and a couple of ashtrays.

    The only downside was when you had a meeting with a junior member of staff and had to climb up seven sets of stone stairs to their office under the eaves.

  4. c u n d gulag Says:

    I'm pretty sure it's only me, but every time I've seen photo's from Burning Man over the years, for some reason or other, I'm reminded of Pat Boone.

    Burning Man is kind of like the white cover version of the greatest hits of the 60's – a Pat Boone-ization of an entire era.

    But I'm old, so wtf do I know?

  5. sluggo Says:

    Guess what is on the top of my list for today. Going to a circa 1890s building to look for asbestos. Ivy and asbestos are the only things holding it together. The building was originally a horse carriage house, has tons of mold, creaky steps and smells of horse waste and penicillin. Good luck finding a parking space.

    There is a rehabbed classroom in the basement that would be a great candidate for that website, if that website had smell-a-vision.

    They don't build them like they used to….thank God!

  6. Jay Says:

    Normally love this blog, but hate this rant about burning man. 'Oh look, a group of people who have different interests than me. Aren't they stupid?' Usually this blog is above this sort of ethnoculturism (Is that a word? Well you get the idea). Point is you're not being very open-minded.

  7. Doctor Rock Says:

    Oh no! Ed's not being open minded!

    Who cares. It's just music. This type of piddly shit is what makes liberals such easy jokes for conservatives.

  8. Robert Says:

    When I attended UC Berkeley in the early 1980s, Czeslaw Milosz was on the faculty (Slavic Languages). In recognition of his Nobel Prize for literature, he got – his own parking space.
    Also, regarding Burning Man, as a lifelong Bay Area resident, the only person I know personally who's attending this year – is a dentist. I'm somewhat surprised that Ed, living as he does in one of the big square states, has even heard of it.

  9. Major Kong Says:

    Burning Man to me looks like a bunch of people that are upset that they missed Woodstock, plus a handful that maybe actually were at Woodstock and could never let go of it.

  10. Leo Artunian Says:

    I wonder to what extent the facilities allotted to those of us in the humanities are based on common perceptions of what we need to do our jobs properly. Natural scientists need laboratory space, drama departments need theaters (or at least performance space), musicians need practice space, but all we in the humanities need is some books, a rudimentary desk, maybe a computer, and the power of our naked minds.

    On the other hand, my father — who taught psychology at more than one major university in the later forties and early fifties — always claimed that if you wanted to find the psychology department, all you had to do was look for the highest floor in the worst building on campus. So maybe assignment of buildings has always had something to do with perceived worth of the work of the department involved.

  11. zenciadam Says:

    None of those photos compare to the horrors in Drexel University's older buildings.

    Worst was when the concrete canoe team would be using plasticizers indoors without any ventilation. My IQ probably dropped about a dozen points from that shit. I felt like I was in some third world plastics factory; the kind of place where they decided to not add any ventilation or give the workers masks because that would eat up their profit margins to the point where it would be cheaper to have HIV+, amputee orphans in Liberia do the same work.

  12. doug Says:

    'Burning Man to me looks like a bunch of people that are upset that they missed Woodstock, plus a handful that maybe actually were at Woodstock and could never let go of it.'

    Major, is there anything wrong with that?

    Whatever blows their skirts/kilts up is fine with me, as long as I don't have to participate. I think the pictures show people having fun, and non of them looked 'upset'. I'm with Jay on this one….

  13. doug Says:

    'none' for 'non'. Where is my edit feature???

  14. erase Says:

    the burning man hate tumblr would have been humorous a decade ago (although the tumblr author would only have been ~12 then). but all the hate burning man jokes have been played and it's pretty boring seeing them recycled, not to mention the yawn-inducing nature of bagging on the lowest of the low hanging fruit. there are still opportunities for jokes about bm, but this sf hipster isn't hitting them.

    prediction: tumblr author gets a job and a girlfriend, goes to bm in a couple years, comes back raving about how it changed his life.

  15. erase Says:

    oops. he's not an sf hipster. misread his bio to mean he worked at tumblr, which he does not.

    he seems to have removed the link from that bm tumblr back to his personal one, but here it is for posterity: http://georgedunkley.tumblr.com/

  16. Major Kong Says:

    Since when am I not allowed to poke fun at hipsters?

    Now get off my lawn!

  17. DocAmazing Says:

    Yeah, Burning Man, nuke it and improve the world, right? I mean, it's not like there are areas where the wealthy and destructive gather, or even Ted Nugent concerts?

    Sub-South Park laffs. Stir in the photos of unsightly overweight people at WalMart and you've really got humor!

  18. Bill McB Says:

    Lucky for you, they're streaming Burning Man live!!:

    http://www.ustream.tv/burningman

    Happy Holidays!

  19. jon Says:

    I went to Burning Man a few years ago. Had a wonderful time.

    But if you think I'm going to get my knickers twisted because someone makes fun of the most self-indulgent vacation I've pretty much ever had, you'd be wrong. It's a parade of hypocrisy, insanity, conformist nonconformity, nudity, oddities, weirdness, artistry, goofiness, frivolity, and it's insane after driving out to the middle of nowhere to harp on sustainability and self-sufficiency.

    I was working in a prison at the time. It was the best vacation from a prison I can imagine. I needed it. But for those who think Burning Man would be the worst thing ever, that's almost certainly true for them. But is it any more self-indulgent than Vegas or Disneyland or Comic-Con? Is it any worse than a honeymoon in the Bahamas? Only if you don't want to be there.

    And yeah, all the talk about community? Fuck that shit. I hated plenty of people there. But I had earplugs for the dubsteb, could look away from the unpleasant naked people, and pretty much managed to have a good time in spite of a shared space with 45,000 fellow idiots. More room to get around than at any beach or downtown, that's for sure.

  20. Tom Says:

    Yeah, every room on campus should contain at least one Steinway.

    – Sorry, our 30 billion dollar endowment can not accommodate that request.
    – Am I living in Boston or am I living in Nairobi? Outrage!

  21. Andrew Says:

    The most immature middle-aged guy in my office goes every year. You couldn't pay me to go.

  22. John Doheny Says:

    I've never done the office-hours-in-a-car thing, but in my first office-less year as visiting professor at a "top American University" (the self-styled "Harvard of the South") I held office hours in a campus coffee shop. Upon being hired as "professor of practise" (fancy title for lecturer) I was given an "office" that had formerly been a janitorial storage closet. Six feet by twelve feet, no windows, and I shared it with a colleague. It did have a phone (oh frabjous joy) but initially, no computer. I brought my own laptop from home until I finally shamed the department into giving me a desktop one by pointing out that the marching band director's student assistants had better equipment than I did.

    From this rancid little hole I spent six years teaching about double the course load of tenure track faculty, building an entire jazz performance studies program basically from scratch, and acting as program co-ordinator, at no extra salary of course. My "reward" from the university was a boot in the ass and a shove out the door, known in academic circles as not getting your contract renewed. I'm now back working full-time as a professional musician, a tough scuffle but at least no one has tenure and if they act like bullies they get a fist in the face, not key committee appointments.

    All of this is pretty small beer though, compared to the state of inner city PUBLIC schools in america. I guarantee you that the students and faculty of pretty much any public high school in ghetto-America would be delighted to have the luxious digs pictured in "Classrooms of Shame." From the leaking roofs, non-functional A/C and stopped up toilets to the 20 year old textbooks shared one to every three students, the schools in "the other America" put that shit to shame, but nobody gives a fuck or is even aware of it because, for the most part, nobody important (white) is involved.

    When these school shootings happen, it always cracks me up to hear people arguing for or against "turning our schools into armed camps." Ghetto schools have been armed camps for decades, complete with metal detectors and large, in-house security forces.

  23. Nick Says:

    Goodbody Hall on the IUB campus. Historic? check. Ivy-clad? check. Asbestos? check. Ceiling damp? check. No AC in summer? check. Cockroaches? lots.

  24. BruceFromOhio Says:

    "After leaving their respective jobs, they formed a startup that is now fervently developing a highly anticipated app entitled Jewru that

  25. BruceFromOhio Says:

    Gack, it ate my comment. FYWP

    After leaving their respective jobs, they formed a startup that is now fervently developing a highly anticipated app entitled Jewru that connects busy, health-minded Jewish professionals to local yogis that meet their individual needs and ability levels. Collectively, the founding members of Jewru decided that this year’s Burning Man festival would be a great place for team building and thinking outside of the box.

    This is amusing.
    Andrew, you nailed it.

  26. Linda Says:

    I don't work at a university, but I've given presentations a a local one a couple of times, and it seems that hard sciences and business suck on the front teat, and other disciplines suck the hind teat in terms of power and resources. I remember having to walk 3 blocks through snow to go to the sci-tech building, which was the only one with and tech equipment I needed to give an uncomplicated presentation, so the social work school was given permission to "borrow" it for awhile.

  27. Kaleberg Says:

    I've got no beef with Burning Man. I've got friends who go to Star Island which has been around since at least the 20s. I think it was founded by transcendentalists who missed Thoreau when he went mainstream a hundred and something years ago.

    As a prospective freshman, the new science and engineering facilities always looked neat, but the soul of the school always seemed to be in those ivy rotted walls. I had a great chat with the head of the engineering school at Princeton, but got the impression that engineering was too much in "trade" as they used to call it, and I wouldn't really be part of the university. MIT, in contrast, had all sorts of rotten old holes full of high tech garbage, probably half of it radioactive waste. (Hey, you had to put it somewhere.) I got to see some of the original radar gear modling away in one lab and the shielding for some classic muon experiment in another. Building 20, the temporary WWII lab, noted for its flammability and do it yourself architecture, was almost a cult thing before they tore it down in the 80s.

    I'm sure lousy office space can be rather awful, but those sleek new labs just don't have the history and sense of place that define a great place to hack.

  28. NonyNony Says:

    There's an ascetic mindset among people in fields like English, as if they're not really learning or doing justice to the intellectual tradition if their surroundings are not sufficiently dilapidated.

    This is, I believe, called "making lemons out of lemonade".

    The reason why the business school has shiny new buildings all of the time is because rich people who own companies like to have their names on university buildings and ESPECIALLY like to have their names on university buildings in the business school. It's bragging rights among other rich people and it lets them believe that the kids taking classes in the J. R. Stuffypantsrichperson School of Business for the next hundred or so years will associate their name with all of the book learning that they do. (Which is probably true, and is actually a good argument for NOT sticking your name on a business school from what I've seen…)

    The reason why the science and engineering schools have shiny new buildings are related, but typically because some technology company wants to shore up a flagging public image (or dodge some taxes) by making a large charitable donation to the school to build a new building. And they want their donation associated with something related to their company, so that students taking classes there understand that the company is full of "good people" who are really interested in research, rather than just money grubbing bastards.

    The reason why the humanities schools have crappy buildings is because the humanities don't have rich people lining up to give them money. So falling back onto a "sense of tradition" allows some face saving about that fact.

  29. quixote Says:

    I don't know anything about Burning Man except the pics I see in the LATimes and the fact that the most hyperactive prof I know goes there. So maybe my tolerant attitude is based on the fact that I have no clue, but I like the selected pics of the best crazy costumes. Some of them really are works of art. Or madness. Or something. Fun, though.

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