It was one of those awkward moments early on in semester, where everybody had overzealously arrived at the lecture ten minutes early.
A few small cliques—most of which contained uber-social college kids—were abuzz with gossip. Yet for the most part, the hundred or so premature students had scattered themselves in a perfectly anti-social formation, whereby each individual was separated from the next by an equidistant radius.
I scanned the lobby for likely types, the sort of people I thought could be prospective allies. But everybody in my direct vicinity failed to offer me a unique selling point. To my left was a lost first-year, undoubtedly waiting around in the wrong Arts building. To my right was a homogenous mass of international arrivals. Behind them sat a blood-thirsty mature age student, whose eyes bounced around the room in search of a potential protégé.
I found this whole scene rather amusing until a Socialist stormed down the stairs. Upon his arrival, I raced toward the rest room, escaping before chaos ensued. It was here that I experienced a rare glimpse of my lecturer. Not in a perverted, voyeuristic sense, but I was captivated all the same.
Like a thespian preparing for an opening night performance, my lecturer paced around the toilets, reciting a soliloquy. Every now and then, he would pause and mumble something to himself, before regaining his poise and diction. At all times, he remained conscious of the time, aware of his impending stage performance.
I looked on with bemusement. It’s just a lecture, I mused.
Indeed it is just a lecture. Yet each lecture comes at a price. At the beginning of last semester, one lecturer kicked off the course by informing us that his weekly spiels were each worth $68. That figure was quadrupled for the international students. At the time, I suspected that this may have been a shock tactic to persuade us all to keep up our attendances. Then I checked myHECS bill and was dealt a brutal reality check.
$68 may not sound like much for some affluent Melbourne folk. But that’s double the cost of a comedy festival performance, or three times as much as a Union House theatre production. We’d be kicking ourselves if we didn’t get our money’s worth for one of the latter performances. We nevertheless approach each lecture with such a laissez-faire attitude.
What we fail to acknowledge is that lectures are the academic equivalent of Broadway musicals. Summary dot points are the overture. Lengthy Freud quotes are the vocal solo. Question and answer time at the close is the encore. I’m sure Nick Sharman would agree.
Yet not every lecturer demands our attention. Despite spending 2/3rds of their life at University, some have yet to learn the rules of human interaction. They drone on for hours without pause, naive to the impotence of their subtle tweaks of inflexion. By week four, their lectures theatres are almost empty; all that’s left is a tute-sized audience, most of whom have fallen into the academic equivalent of a coma.
Then there are those who draw blanks in their attempts to operate a computer. It matter not whether the day’s topic is new media, cyber-engineering, or information processing. Our aged educators do not seem capable of beginning a Powerpoint slideshow within ten minutes of the lecture’s intended starting time. Perhaps they need to be reminded that “the show must go on”.
Having been raised in the age of overhead projectors, black-boards, and cave paintings, there are even those that refuse to learn. Such teachers do not wish to be corrupted by the cult of Computer Sciencetechnology. They don’tbelieve in Lectopia.
Even the best find themselves puzzled by the University’s evolving media. And by the best, I refer to none other than Jeff Borland. Borland is effectively the Chuck Norris of Economics. His Facebook fan page is home to 833 members, most of whom have used the site to express their deep-seated affection for the seasoned economist. Some claim to have re-orientated their entire course structure around the legend. Others have speculated that Borland is the invisible hand of the market.
Behind the myth lies a man, who harbours no elaborate secrets. He is not your flashiest rhetorician; nor does he have the voice of an angel. Rather, Borland’s cult following is based on his unwavering passion for his craft; students love him because he teaches them how to love economics.
During his years of education, Borland was fostered by similarly influential academics. At the time, he of course had no intention of following in their footsteps. Their tricks merely trickled down into Borland’s subconscious, and are now filtering into the minds of today’s youthful crop.
This all happens against our knowledge. We may think we’re progressing up the professional food chain, collecting Ps in order to qualify for our industry of choice. Yet in reality, we’re pawns of the University’s elites. Lesson by lesson, we are being indoctrinated by the lures of research and professional unemployment, slowly drawing closer to becoming an academic.
At their age, lecturers can’t distinguish between this UniDiversity’s array of tall and short; black and white; Socialist and Christian. To them, we’re all the same. Each one of us is a legitimate Mini-me target.
No wonder the toilet lecturer was so intent on perfecting his performance.