In the fall of 1834, a 25-year-old high-school graduate, lapsed civil servant and novice writer, Nikolai Gogol, managed to work his way—with the help of active patronage—into a position as an adjunct professor of world history at St. Petersburg University.
In the fall of 1834, a 25-year-old high-school graduate, lapsed civil servant and novice writer, Nikolai Gogol, managed to work his way—with the help of active patronage—into a position as an adjunct professor of world history at St. Petersburg University. He had no qualifications for the job, knew next to nothing about world history, missed two lectures out of three and mumbled incoherently through the ones he managed to deliver. One of his students, Ivan Turgenev—who later wrote the famous novel “Fathers and Sons”—described the final oral exam: Professor Gogol “sat there with a kerchief tied around his head, allegedly because he was suffering from toothache, with an expression of utter despondency on his face, and didn’t open his mouth.” The other professor sat next to the silent Gogol and did all the talking. Literature fans can only be grateful for Gogol’s failure as an academic. Of course, he had to leave the classroom, for he was going to become a great writer! I’d leave too! It’s obvious in retrospect. Still, I sometimes wonder: Was it just a simple matter of “Dead Souls,” “The Inspector General” and “The Overcoat” stewing inside, begging to be written, or might his students have driven him away? You bought your professor. Do you want him or her to stay, or do you want him or her to go away and write the next great novel? It is in your power. An informal, ruthlessly anonymous poll of Duke faculty has yielded the following helpful list of do’s and don’ts. It is presented in the form of a quiz. Draw a happy face next to the “do’s” and an unhappy face next to the “don’ts.” Which is which? It depends on whether you want your professor to stay. Disclaimer: Though the behaviors presented here are factual, any connection to any current or former member of the Duke community is relatively coincidental, and as they say in Russian, “it didn’t happen anyway”:
- Ask your professor: “Are we doing anything important in class on Friday?”
Fall asleep in the front row.
Fall asleep in the back row.
Turn off your cell phone.
- Text in class (“text” here is a verb).
- Email your professor a cool link that relates to the lecture.
- Have the pledges do some funny thing to your professor.
- Flunch and/or Finvite your professor.
- Tell your professor: “Sorry, I didn’t do the reading; I had an Econ/Calculus/Orgo test” or “sorry, I didn’t do the reading; I’m rushing/pledging/tenting.”
- Do the reading.
- Come to office hours and talk about the weather. After an hour, ask your professor: “Hey, wasn’t Ashley going to come to office hours today?”
Come to office hours and talk to your professor about some amazing ideas you had about the reading.
Fail the class, and then ask your professor for a letter of recommendation.
- Cough and sneeze on your professor so he or she will know how sick you are and forgive you for missing the assignment.
Miss five classes without communicating with your professor. After missing the mid-term, email him or her and say that your great-aunt died last week.
Perform personal hygiene in class.
After missing class, ask your professor to go over the lecture for you specially.
Read the first five pages. At the beginning of class, shoot your hand up and make a really intelligent comment about something on page four.
Spend all night cooking something special for your course presentation. Forget that your grade has nothing to do with your cooking skills.
Give your professor your extra Duke basketball tickets.
Ask your professor: “Are we going to have class on LDOC?” (HINT: What do the letters stand for?).
- Crinkle junk-food wrappers in class. and leave them on your desk for the next person.
- Throw recyclable junk-food containers in the trash can (the one next to the recycling bin).
- Bring cupcakes for the whole class because it’s Dostoevsky’s birthday (HINT: November 11).
- Explain to your professor that you need an A in this class. Cry when you get a B+.
- Call your pre-major advisor at 6:30 a.m. on the day your registration window opens. Call your librarian at home at 2:00 a.m. on your research paper’s due date to get some last-minute references.
- Back up your document.
- Email your professor after you graduate to tell him or her you just reread “Crime and Punishment,” even though you didn’t have to.
Got some of your own? Tweet me or enter them in the comment section.
Carol Apollonio is a professor of the practice in Slavic and Eurasian studies. Her column runs every other Tuesday. Send Professor Apollonio a message on Twitter @flath3.