Fresh Start

In David Galef's latest dispatch from U of All People, a professor promises to turn over a new leaf in 2016. Skepticism is warranted.

January 7, 2016

Professor Will Knott, English Defaultment, School of Obsolete Practices
Professor Neura Gîme, English Default Chair, U of All People
Date: Monday, Jan 4, 2016, at 10:00 AM
Subject: New Year’s Resolutions

Dear Neura:

Looking back on a tumultuous fall semester, I can see now that I may have made a few missteps. Some were acts of omission, such as such as neglecting to upload my grades from Spring 2015. Others were admittedly more commission, such as my metaphor emailed to the Faculty Senate, noting that, if brains were fuel, they wouldn’t have enough gas to drive an ant’s motorcycle around the inside of a Cheerio. Of course, I can’t take back what’s happened, especially since some of that has gone on the web. But New Year’s is a time for making resolutions, and here are mine:

1. I will try to be more aware of students’ sensitivities concerning classroom “hot” topics. Though I still think that the classroom is no place for figurative hand-holding, issuing a dozen trigger alerts per class, yes, probably does make a mockery of the system. And no one seems to like my attempts at satire.

2. As for open communication with the higher-ups, I suppose there’s really no need for me to air a scheduling grievance from a decade ago, especially with a dean who came to U of All People in 2014.

3. I should stop playing Spider Solitaire on my laptop at faculty meetings, especially since it wakes Arvy Winkle, sitting slumped next to me. I could take up Candy Crush, but it would be kinder to focus on the business at hand, even if it’s just another rigged clicker vote.

4. It’s time for me to show up for my virtual advising hours, though I’m still annoyed at the dozen students who crowdsourced a complaint, as well as that little creep who actually made an appointment and then stood me up when I did pose in front of the webcam. Maybe I also should switch from the current slot of Thursday 9:00-11:00 p.m.

5. I really must vary course material more. My Contemporary American Literature class, which I’ve taught for many years, still stops at Jack Kerouac. Who’s Jonathan Safran Foer? At least revise the Am Lit II survey final exam, which apparently has been posted on Facebook since 2011.

6. Do a little outreach, that stuff the provost keeps pushing to improve the school’s crappy PR. If Earl F. Oxford can teach Shakespeare at the library, I’m sure I could record a podcast on Kerouac to be made available at the local correctional facility.

7. Volunteer for more committee work. The Committee on Digital Media doesn’t really count, since we never received a budget. And the last time the Salary Committee met was in 2007.

8. Do more research and writing. I feel guilty about not getting back to my book about Kerouac’s typewriter, which I started in 2002. Maybe I should just turn it into a longish essay on Kerouac, or maybe just finish up that poem about a typewriter that my wife once said she liked. I could post it on my blog, Knott Kidding.

9. Forget old grudges. That implies saying hello to old Curt Mudgeon, who hasn’t spoken a word to me since our falling-out over some issue that, for the life of me, I can’t recall. Must I also be nice to the department office manager who ratted me out over the photocopy paper?

10. Remember to smile more, especially in class. “Prof Knot look like he take botox lol!” read a Snapchat post that someone forwarded me. Despite all my complaints, I do like my job, and at this stage in my life, I feel eminently suited to be a professor.

After all, who else besides academia would hire me?


David Galef directs the creative writing program at Montclair State University. His latest book is Kanji Poems.


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