The Chronicle Review

The 2011 Mind-Set of Faculty (Born Before 1980)

Douglas Paulin for The Chronicle Review

August 21, 2011

As an antidote to Beloit College's annual Mindset List (the latest version is being released this week), designed to orient faculty and administrators to the cultural touchstones that have shaped the lives of incoming freshmen, I hereby offer, for the benefit of students and administrators, a similar list of characteristics of faculty members who were born before 1980 and who teach at public institutions. Are faculty members' mind-sets less important than students'? If you prick our mind-sets, do they not bleed?

1. The faculty members freshmen will encounter are likely teaching more and larger classes and doing more "service" than ever before at the same pay or less as faculty were three or four years ago.

2. A growing percentage of faculty members rarely meet in person the students they are teaching, thanks to absentee learning, more commonly known as online education.

3. Freshmen will encounter some faculty members who first used "iPhone" as a noun and a verb, as in "I will phone, I have phoned," etc. 

 4. Faculty members who have been teaching for more than a decade are most likely indifferent to the Kardashians, celebrity-wannabe housewives, desperate or otherwise, from any city or county on either coast, especially the ones from New Jersey.

5. Those same faculty members are regarded by many parents, administrators, and state legislators as lazy, inefficient, and unaccountable. If it were not for all the work the faculty members must do, they would have the time to live down to those expectations.

6. The faculty members freshmen will encounter in the classroom are probably untenured and working part time, with many employed at more than one institution and feeling loyalty to no employer.

7. Faculty members born before 1970—we have to reach back a bit further here—are usually willing to help students learn how to pretend to give a damn about their education, and are involved in less absentee teaching and learning than their younger colleagues. (This issue is addressed here.)

8. Faculty members born before 1980 said "Wii" to express the euphoria they felt as children when sledding down a hill.

9. Faculty members born before 1980 rarely feel a need to respond immediately to anything and have particularly "procrastinaty" reactions to messages that students label "urgent."

10. Faculty members born before 1980 remember a world in which people lived entire days without access to bottled water.

11. Faculty members born before 1980 (and who didn't live in Seattle) remember a world without Starbucks, in which people made their own coffee each morning. In those days, tap water was potable and "barista" was not yet a word typically spoken outside of Italy.

12. Freshmen will encounter some faculty members who used to work at institutions where faculty governance did not require the inclusion of administrators, advisory boards, and regents in academic decisions.

13. Faculty members born before 1980 grew up during a time when "like" represented the beginning of a simile, rather than a piece of verbal confetti.

14. Many faculty members prefer Mae to Kanye West.

15. Faculty members who have been teaching for more than a decade remember when C was an average grade students received in courses, because it represented an ancient concept called "satisfactory."

16. Faculty members who have been teaching for more than a decade do not refer to students as "customers," and to anyone as a "stakeholder" (not even Buffy, if those faculty members even know who Buffy is).

17. Faculty members born before 1980 remember when the word "chancellor" referred to a short German person with a mustache. (In a way, it usually still does.)

18. Freshmen will encounter some faculty members who can recollect a time when sports coaches were other faculty members who were not receiving million-dollar salaries. (See here what the world of student athletes has become.)

19. The same faculty members can recall when stadiums were built without sky boxes for indulged alumni, and when tailgating meant that you were following too closely behind someone while driving on the highway, all the while neither talking on a cellphone nor texting.

20. We (i.e., the "they" the Beloit people use to refer to anyone older who is not "you" freshmen) never used libraries as restaurants or coffee shops. We faced books; we did not facebook.

21. The "you" that is you will eventually become the "they" that is us.

22. "We" never promoted Jonas Brothers-like/Palinesque abstinence campaigns, which is why some of "you" are here, able to read this list. You're welcome.

Bruce Krajewski is a writer and translator. He also works as a professor of English at Texas Woman's University.