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For the Record

There’s an xtranormal video making the rounds in which an English professor has a rather brutal conversation with an undergraduate student. In it, the student requests a letter of recommendation from the professor with the kind of wide-eyed naivete usually reserved for characters in musical comedies, while the battle-weary prof tells her, in so many words, that she’s an idiot.

At one point, the professor wearily forecasts an academic future in “Nowhere, Nebraska.” And that seems to have gotten a few of my friends thinking: “Hmm. An English professor with a fondness for xtranormal, short expository films, digital things, and snark creates a video highly critical of the current system that mentions Nebraska. This is totally Steve.”

For the record, no. It isn’t. And I don’t know who did it.

I’ll admit it’s the kind of thing I might do (though I draw the line at making students–even fictional ones–look ridiculous), but it wasn’t me. And there are two ways you can tell:

  1. Nebraska is hardly “nowhere.” And any professor who thinks an appointment at a major midwestern research university is some kind failure, probably needs their head examined.

  2. I do not ever release work without my name on it. Ever. If a professor did create that video, I would encourage them to consider whether it’s appropriate for someone who is paid to be a teacher and an intellectual to behave like an Anonymous Coward on Slashdot, and to ask themselves what kind of precedent that sets for students. If these are ideas that need to be a part of our public discourse, then we need to know to whom we can direct our disagreements. And no, you are not a political dissident fearing reprisals from a hostile government.

I rather like the video, as I like most things that try to make us examine our practices in the academy. But this one isn’t mine.

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