Question Kari

Dear Kari-

I teach Geology 102 in Jordan Lecture Hall. While there has always been the occasional notebook left in the lecture hall, this semester the amount of stuff left in the room by students has been staggering. I have collected cell phones, car keys, eyeglasses, shirts, jackets, boots; even a pair of purple high heels. When a student left an expensive jacket and I returned it at the next class, she had no idea it was missing. A colleague of mine thinks that I am doing such a good job of inspiring students to connect with nature that they are shedding all trappings of civilization as they leave the room. What do you think?

– Steven Emerman

The first thing to cross my mind is that if you inspire students to shed all trappings of civilization, you would make a great cult leader. First they shed all trappings of society and then they shed all their money into your bank account. The group suicide part is really a personal choice. My suggestion would be to skip the group suicide part, find your niche market and stick with it. Look how well it’s worked for Scientology, and they expect women to be silent while giving birth!

Also try to avoid any altercations with the law. Especially, if fire is involved. Learn from Waco, fire safety is important. If you’re going to start or join a cult, it would probably be best if fire was avoided all together. You know how cults are, they get so inside-the-box that they can’t see the big picture. It’s really a shame.

There are other perks to this that don’t involve starting a cult. You have physical proof that students are learning from your classes and applying it to their own life. This would definitely give you the edge in the tenure process. Who’s going to deny tenure to someone who inspired someone to leave behind their purple pumps or their shirt? Sure, another professor could demonstrate student learning through something lame like a paper, but you have car keys. People don’t give those things up for just anything. Except on thirsty Thursdays.

What is interesting is that it’s not just regular items students are forgetting, like cell phones and car keys. Otherwise there could be no hidden meaning, but purple high heels and random shirts? You’d think a student would notice if they were walking around topless. Are you using hypnosis on your students? Though it could be another tool in starting a cult, it could also explain why students leave class without essential clothing.

Did you ever think of building some sort of scarecrow out of the items? Granted it would be sans pants, but if “The Wizard of Oz” taught me anything – and it didn’t – it’s that scarecrows can’t think unless told they can. So, if you avoid talking to your scarecrow clad in random shirts, purple high heel shoes, glasses and boots with cell phone in hand, you should be safe. Because if scarecrows start thinking for themselves they might want rights and stuff and then where would we be? In the middle of a scarecrow revolution, that’s where.