Monday, June 14, 2004

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The door decorations of North American professors

James M. Lang has a droll dissection of why professors decorate their office doors the way they do in the Chronicle of Higher Education. My personal favorite:

A theologian who wears a pious and serious demeanor around campus, but who will occasionally allow colleagues glimpses of a wicked sense of humor, features just two items on his door: a postcard memorializing the martyrs of his religious order, and a cartoon in which a man is ordering dinner for himself and his dining companion, a large fly, in a French restaurant. After he places an elaborate order of gourmet cuisine for himself, the man in the cartoon finishes with: "and bring some shit for my fly."

Alas, the only mention of my discipline is not exactly a favorable one:

Some professors, for example, clearly use their doors to send messages to their colleagues or to the administration about their productivity.

Witness, in this vein, the political scientist whose three postings all concern events at which he served as one of the keynote speakers.

[What about your door?--ed. Compared with most of my colleagues, I have a relatively flamboyant office door. Three Onion headlines (my favorite: "Intensive Five-Year Study Finds Five Years a Long-Ass Time"), two drawings by Sam, two New Yorker cartoons, and one Weekly World News headline.

My favorite door hangings, however, are culled from Vivian Scott Hixson's He Looks Too Happy to Be an Assistant Professor, a must-have collection of cartoons for academics. Front and slightly off-center on my door is a cartoon showing one graduate student whacking another with his briefcase, while two students comment on this in the foreground. The caption reads, "None of that wishy-washy relativism in this seminar!"]

posted by Dan on 06.14.04 at 10:42 AM


My door (was): hand-scribbled note with office hours, postcard with my sister's art (which is funny), and, at various times, the NY Yankees logo with the hand-written slogan "fish food" (relevant last year, at least), un-heeded envelopes for students, and flyers for German movies.

The message: none discernible, but definitely NOT the productivity line. Just thought I'd share.

posted by: Brett on 06.14.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Having just seen "Young Frankenstien" last night, again, I am reminded stangely by your subject line "Door decorations" of the line: "What great knockers!"

(To those never having seen the movie, it's not what you think)

posted by: Bithead on 06.14.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

N. Anand at LBS has a paper, "Office Door Cartoon Displays: The Autoproduction of Visual Humor in an Organization", that is forthcoming in an edited volume.

He found that cartoon posters tended to be junior faculty and to al esser extent female, i.e., not dominant members of the pack. The cartoons signaled communion, crusade, an aspect of persona or provided comic relief. The humor was genteel; there were no ethnic, racist or sexist cartoons.

posted by: Acad Ronin on 06.14.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

I have a cartoon of a dinosaur reading a letter that begins "While this is an impressive manuscript, it does not, at this time, meet our needs." The caption is "Why the dinosaurs perished." And another of a tombstone reading "Published, but perished anyway."

posted by: Donald A. Coffin on 06.14.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Sounds like something Doctor Fun would draw, Donald.

posted by: Bithead on 06.14.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Well, I'm a new assistant professor, and so far, I'm still happy! My door: sign with office hours and a scribble from a student saying "We love Dr. Hamilton!" (I got a big head over that one and left it up). The abstract from my latest conference submission (yes, I admit--still, it's not a keynote). A poster of Chandra X-ray Telescope images (I'm an astrophysicist). Cartoons--"When Astronomers Collide" (Joy of Tech debating whether Sedna is a planet) and Day by Day.

Oh--and excerpts from the "Tea Club" Quote Board from back at Goddard Space Flight Center (I'm the "Tim" there). Very inside humor, but my students sometimes get it and laugh...

posted by: Tim Hamilton on 06.14.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

I teach law, including criminal law and criminal procedure. On my door -- Dilbert cartoon, as follows:

Dogbert (as attorney, addressing jury): I will prove to you that my client is too dumb to embezzle. Failing that, I will prove that you're too dumb to know he did it.

Judge: Mister Dogbert....

Dogbert (rounding angrily on judge): Don't get me started about YOU!

posted by: David Wagner on 06.14.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

Hey, i heard this today ;-)

Two hunters are out in the woods when one of them collapses. He doesn't seem to be breathing and his eyes are glazed.

The other guy takes out his phone and calls the emergency services.
He gasps: "My friend is dead! What can I do?"

The operator says: "Calm down, I can help. First, let's make sure he's dead."

There is a silence, then a gunshot is heard. Back on the phone, the guy says: "OK, now what?"

posted by: Jokes Page! on 06.14.04 at 10:42 AM [permalink]

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