Translation of the Last Department Meeting

What they said, and what they really meant: David Galef channels a faculty gathering.
March 12, 2010

The U of All People psychology faculty comprises an idiosyncratic bunch of individuals, or, as the department chair recently put it, twenty-five different pains in the neck, though neck wasn’t the word used.

Professor Arnold distrusts all cognitive psychologists; Professor Baird won’t speak to Professor Cohn; Professor Handel perceives maternal rejection everywhere; Professor Garrett sits as far from Professor Rand as possible; Professor Llewen speaks only to certain individuals on certain days; Professor Abbott relies solely on reverse psychology; and all suspect each other’s motives.

Not surprisingly, the language in departmental meetings is difficult to read, even for veterans who’ve been teaching at U of All People for decades, and the proceedings really deserve a translation. In return for a modest travel voucher, the psycholinguist Martin Baffle has provided a rough equivalency chart for all future meetings:

Utterance Implication
Let’s come to order. This meeting should’ve started 15 minutes ago.
Who’ll take notes? I’m not doing it two months in a row.
We have five items on the agenda. We’ll be lucky if we get past two.
You have the documents in front of you. I see that none of you downloaded what I sent.
With all due respect ... I’m about to be rude.
I have a question. I have a comment.
I have issues with -- I can’t tell you how much this pisses me off.
Can you repeat that? I need to buy some time.
What’s best for our students ... What works for me ...
I’m a bit puzzled by ... I hate ...
Do I hear a motion? Will someone please save me?
Let’s send this back to the committee. Let’s deep-six this baby.
Can we take this up next time? I don’t have my minions here right now.
I have to leave early for another meeting. I’m more important than you.
I’m sorry, but I have to pick up my son. I have my priorities straight.
Do I see a hand? Stop interrupting.
As a point of procedure ... No other way I can stop this.
If I may make a comment ... Now that everyone else has had a say, I intend to drone on for as long as I like.
Shall we call the question? Can we for Chrissake get on with this?
Paper ballots, please. I see we don’t trust each other.
How about just a show of hands? We’ll smoke ’em out.
Please, this is a private matter. Back-channel all sniping e-mail.
As I recall, we do have a precedent for that ... As the longest-standing faculty member in the room, I can make up anything before 1970.
We can decide this next matter in a hurry. I hope no one’s read beyond page two.
That’s not what I said. I wish I hadn’t said that.
Correct me if I’m wrong. I know I’m right on this one.
Here are our recommendations. Here are our demands.
To speak anecdotally ... I haven’t a shred of evidence to back this up.
The administration may not agree with us on this one. The provost wishes we were dead.
I don’t believe Professor Jones has had a chance to speak. Stop marking papers, Jonesie.
We need to set up a committee. We don’t want to talk about it now.
I’m just the moderator. The buck starts here.
Let me remind you ... I know you know I know you know.
Personally ... I love talking about myself.
The dean has asked for our opinion. He wants a rubber-stamp approval.
You have proxies? But aren’t Professors Winthrop and Leighton dead?
The meeting is now adjourned. Time for a drinkie.


David Galef is happily employed as an English professor at Montclair State University, not, thankfully, at U of All People.


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