Combat Zone

Large crowds of first-year professors roam the night looking for fun academic events

— Photo courtesy of Free Aussie Stock

A new academic year has begun, and it brings with it a familiar sight: packs of six to 25 professors wandering the campus and surrounding neighborhoods on Friday and Saturday nights, hoping to stumble upon a collegiate event.

“They’re out in droves this year,” local resident Randy Roffinbauer said. “I see them outside my window while I watch my programs, sometimes the same group walking the same block eight times in a night. Often I am woken at 2 a.m. by 10, 12, 20 professors just standing in a circle in an on-campus parking lot, talking amongst themselves. It doesn’t look so fun to me, but they always laugh really loud, so I guess they’re all having a good time.”

As strange as the behavior may seem, it is not at all uncommon among new professors. Thalia Brommon, a long-tenured professor of psychology at University of Puget Sound, remembers doing the same thing herself:

“It’s hard, being a new professor at college,” Brommon said. “When you’re new, no one invites you to the lectures, fundraisers and workshops happening on the weekends. And nobody really has any colleagues yet; you just latch onto the first associate you meet, and they latch onto the first associate they meet, and before you know it, you’re a member of a lonely mob. And since no one has subscribed to a newsletter of scholastic events yet, you essentially form one big, insecure search party combing the night for an opportunity to feel less alone. Fortunately, most people are too drunk to be bothered.”

Chemistry professor Hank Ludbachen also recalled his first-year days: “Oh, yeah. Every weekend. Many Tuesdays,” Ludbachen said, turning his chair around and straddling it backwards. “Yeah, we mostly just walked around until we gave up and went and bought cake from the Met at 2 a.m., and yeah, we were often asked to leave, and yeah, I’m not colleagues with any of those guys now, but … it was fun in its way. A rite of passage.”

Current first-year professors seem to interpret the behavior with more optimism: “Every weekend, we’re out there,” assistant humanities professor Dean Doublacker said. “I’ve got like a hundred friends. I am in lots of hilarious email chains about professor life. Last Friday, at 3 p.m., I was introducing myself to some other guys in the department, and at 10 p.m., we were being asked to leave a archeology lecture because two of us vomited on some ancient pottery. Awesome.”

New professor Angela Berkinworth shared strategies for having a fun weekend: “Thursday evening, I email everyone in Outlook, ‘wyd tomorrow/Saturday?’ to find some leads on workshops, play talkbacks and forums. Then, on Friday, I invite myself to the office of any first-year professor I know the name of. Once we’re inebriated enough that it’s not awkward, we just wander around and walk into any building that seems like it might contain an academic gathering. If someone at the door says, ‘Who do you know here?’ I just shoulder my way past and say ‘I’m tenured.’”

While it may seem that every new professor is out and about weekend nights, that’s not the case. Plenty of first-year associates have fun without attending academic enrichment activities.

“I don’t need some big crazy lecture to have fun on the weekends,” Assistant Professor of English Albert Poppylink said. “Me and the other English professors just sit in a circle on the floor of Wyatt Hall and play Apples to Apples until it’s time for bed.” Poppylink got a dreamy look on his face and added, “It’s a rip-roarin’ time.”

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