Archive for July 3rd, 2011

Orwell Watch #12: There is no faculty lounge. Get over it.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2011

Yesterday I read a denunciation of a book that “speaks only to those who spend their lives in coffeehouses in university towns or faculty lounges.”

Where is this place?  I have been a denizen of the great Stanford University, off and on, for over a quarter-century.  I have been a guest or visitor at many other universities, many of them also great.  I have never seen such a place.

“Lounge” has such a 1950s, 1960s resonance – it conjures images of cocktails, cigarettes, and turquoise leatherette chairs.

I did a quick Google search and found these phrases:

  • “Obama’s administration has become more of a faculty lounge than a…”
  • “Yet, contrary to the banal-cliché-loving media and faculty lounge crowd, ‘this tough economy’ is not at the root of our evils…”
  • Swollen with the clichés of the Arab Spring. …. or 1922, because 1967 is, as the faculty lounge left see it, the moment when the Israeli…
  • The reason it is “too important to fail”, to repeat the cliché  work a whole lot better in the faculty lounge than they do in reality,

Was there ever a faculty lounge?  After high school, that is?  It has the feel of high school, where overworked teachers of math, science, art, and English might club together to kvetch during the long, tedious day.  Given specializations in higher ed, I can’t imagine a mechanical engineering prof having the same haven as a James Joyce scholar or a psychology statistician.

In my search, I found this support for my reservations close to home, on Critical Mass, (not the same site as the National Book Critics Circle blog of the same name):

Patriotprof:  … Yet I’m sure there’s one of my Veterans of Foreign War chapters somewhere within reach where you might present yourself and remonstrate with some of my comrades over their adherence to “mindless cliches” and “uncritically held” patriotism. It might be an enlightening, even spiritually enlightening experience for you to desert the academic cloister, classroom, and faculty-lounge wing chair on a lark and bring your evident spirit of opposition to bear in probably unfamiliar territory. …

Eveningsun: As for ad hominems, I was referring to the bit about how it might be a “spiritually enlightening experience for [me] to desert the academic cloister, classroom, and faculty-lounge wing chair.” Before making a statement like that, you really ought to get to know someone well enough to know whether it’s even remotely true. Hell, we don’t even have a faculty lounge. [Emphasis mine]

Please everyone.  Stop talking about faculty lounges.

No one goes there to have a smoke anymore.  No one smokes.

Orwell Watch: Collect the whole set!

Orwell Watch #10:  Literary criticism, or cut-and-paste?

Orwell Watch #9:  “I take full responsibility for…”

Orwell Watch #8: “I know you’re disinterested in this, but…”

Orwell Watch #6: “Like” and the culture of vagueness

Orwell Watch #5: Before we shoot off our mouths again…

Orwell Watch #4: Jared Loughner: Madman, terrorist, or both?

Orwell Watch #3: Please. No “gifting” this Christmas.

Orwell Watch #2: Murder in Yeovil

Orwell Watch #1: Paul Krugman vs. George Orwell. (Hint: Orwell wins.)

Update on 7/5:  The quotable medievalist Jeff Sypeck, as usual, was quick to respond: “Good cliché catch, Cynthia. Considering what a broad, sluggish target university life is, the whole ‘faculty lounge’ quip shows that a writer has no recent, direct knowledge of academia and thus no clue where to aim his fire.”

But he spoke too soon.  Twelve hours later he sent me this Amazon link for Naomi Schaefer Riley‘s The Faculty Lounges: And Other Reasons Why You Won’t Get the College Education You Pay For.  The publishers couldn’t find a turquoise leatherette chair – they should have waited for my post – but they found a genuine leather armchair, another cliché. “Apparently, it’s a stand-in for ‘tenure,'” says Jeff. The faculty lounge lives on in legend, if not reality.