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The Disinformation Exam


By John Rosenthal

THERE IS A little-known test that all professors must go through before gaining tenure at Harvard. The test is called the Disinformation Exam.

Upon gaining tenure, a scholar must be prepared to unlearn everything he has ever known about teaching a course. He must become completely ignorant of when study cards are due; this way, he can hold a course lottery the day before the registrar's deadline.

Question 3 of the Disinformation Exam insures that professors are completely useless in helping students get into the right section:

A student comes up to you after class to ask if she can switch sections. You should:

a) run away as fast as possible, claiming an important meeting at the Brookings Institute is taking up your time;

b) ignore her;

c) say no;

d) say, "What do I look like, a head section leader?

e) all of the above.

A professor must also disinform himself of when and where sections meet and must be sure never to attend them. Most of all, however, he must be utterly incapable of running any mechanical equpiment. Question 7 of the Disinformation Exam reads as follows:

You are using a slide projector to illustrate a brilliant point in one of your fabulous lectures. When it comes time to turn down the lights and put the slide on the screen high above the lecture hall, you should:

a) turn off all the lights so that nobody can see anything;

b) turn off the main power switch in the lecture hall and accidently kill all the electricity.

c) move the black boards up and down;

d) yell, "How the hell does this thing work," as you fiddle with the projector until the head teaching fellow comes over and fixes it for you;

e) all of the above.

The exam awards bonus points for fine arts and VES professors who can abuse the projectionist by yelling "focus" every time a new slide comes up on the screen.

AS PROFESSORS get older and more set in their tenured ways, this attitude begins to extend to their home life. Upon waking up in the morning, Professor John Harvardicus hears his daughter asking him where her new stockings are.

"How should I know," he says in a gruff yet jocular manner. "What do I look like, a head teaching fellow?"

After proceeding to get dressed in colors and fabrics that bear no relation to one another, he heads downstairs to the kitchen. It is Saturday; his wife is still in bed; he must eat quickly to get to Emerson 105 for his 10 a.m. lecture. He takes out a frying pan and two eggs. He cannot, however, figure out how to turn on the stove. He flicks the garbage disposal on and off, and turns the dishwasher dials around, but to no avail. Finally, he yells, "Honey, how the hell does the stove work," and gets his wife out of bed to fix him breakfast.

She kisses him goodbye and informs him that--unlike the last Saturday--he should have no trouble getting to work because she has filled the car with gas, changed the oil, changed the points and plugs and cleaned the interior...all before picking him up at the train station last night.

On his way to work, Harvardicus is stopped by a woman asking directions to Allsred. "How should I know," he says. "What do I look like, a head section leader?" and continues along his gruff yet jocular course.

He arrives in class and greets his groggy students. He makes jokes about rousing them for a 10 a.m. Saturday class. "If you don't like it, don't come," he says, and is greeted with a chorus of erudite hisses and scholarly boos.

He puts the microphone around his neck and bumps it on tables, chairs and the podium, causing a horrible noise and lots of feedback to erupt over the loudspeakers in the lecture hall. He turns the volume up, then down and then finally takes the mike off. He decides to talk loudly instead of using the microphone and asks if people in the back can hear. They say no, but he can't hear them and therefore keeps on lecturing without missing a beat.

At the end of lecture, he announces that there will be a mandatory movie for everybody on Sunday at 8 a.m. After class, a student comes up and asks him where the movie will be. "How should I know," he says in a gruff, yet jocular manner. "What do I look like, a head section leader?"

Professor Harvardicus returns home after spending the rest of the day at the Faculty Club. When he arrives home, he opens the door and sets off the burglar alarm. He tries slamming the door and turning the porch lights on and off quickly, but to no avail. Finally, he screams, "Honey, how the hell do you work the burglar alarm," and his wife, roused by the noise, comes over and fixes it for him.

Devoid of all irrelevant information, he can now go to sleep so as to be rested for another day of scholarly pursuits.

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