In an unsurprising development yesterday, the combined faculty of all United States institutions of higher learning voted to terminate employment of any scholar who had previously uttered the word “b—h.” This sweeping reform applies to utterances in the classroom and outside; to loud statements and to soft, tentative ones alike; and to self-scolding. The intercourse at the First National Epithet Caucus was cool, calm, and collected, the discussion genteel, peppered with academically appropriate expressions such as “gentlemen” and “esteemed colleagues.” Tea was served, with an herbal option available. There were gluten-free muffins, and no one complained about the taste.
The meeting was inspired by an online discussion regarding the famous and little-known “Salaita Affair,” in the course of which a bravely anonymous faculty member advised, “Perhaps a better way to look at this is to rely on George Carlin’s old comedy skit about ‘seven dirty [sic] words.’ In short, don’t use them to maintain civility.” The subtlety of this recommendation was appreciated by all, and there was a unanimous vote to adopt the “Carlin Standard” as a measure of civility on campus, which promised to ensure that all language would remain harmonious for all.
Music faculty from across the country did not mobilize, become heated, or express concern about the proper procedure for citing Miles Davis’s “B——s Brew”: they’d always been puzzled by the title’s grammar anyway, and there are plenty of other Miles albums to work with. Women’s studies professors did not raise questions about assigning B—-s, B—-s and B———–s: The Guerrilla Girls’ Illustrated Guide to Female Stereotypes.
No faculty member asked for special dispensation for a colleague who had called him or her a “b—h”: there was no report that they had later discussed the matter, learned from it, agreed that the term was counterproductive, and had gone on to teach a gender studies seminar together. Indeed, since any remedy and/or rapprochement would require both parties to utter the verbum non gratum, it seemed moot.
No professor who, upon being appointed chair of his or her department, had anointed himself or herself “Head B—h,” mentioned the possibility of reclamation or destabilizing meaning. There was no panel on socialization or Stockholm syndrome.
There was no concern about addressing the reality that coarse and crude language is ubiquitous in the culture at large or that expunging it completely could make it difficult to discuss important matters.
It was agreed that the 🙂 be included in all communications henceforth, which will allow Tweets, blogs, text messages, peer-reviewed articles, tenure statements,—as well as notices of disciplinary action—to remain free of any appearance of antagonism. All applauded demurely at the Smiley Initiative, which promises to ensure a “positive, welcoming, fair and open environment” for all members of the higher-education community. (A subcommittee has been appointed to develop a technology that will enable the Smiley Initiative to be used in face-to-face meetings.)
As the terminations were effected, there was no uproar. Petitions did not circulate. Neither boycotts nor strikes took place.
As classes began this week, students were not ill-served by finding that the vast majority of their courses were unstaffed due to the termination of the “b-worded.” It has been confirmed that there are seven professors in the nation whose records are clear and who retain their positions; they have agreed to increase enrollment in their courses in order to accommodate the students whose mentors are no longer available. It is not yet clear how this reshuffling will affect grading policies or the implementation of new measures aimed to curb sexual assaults, which are being proposed at many universities.
Students’ assigned work this week, in tweet and text-message format, frequently featured the new expression “WTF,” said to be an acronym for “Wow, that’s fabulous.” However, other interpretations have been proposed, among them “Whoa; très freaky,” and “Wonderful! They’re free.”
In response to IAmNotMakingUp’s tweet to all the nation’s faculty asking for comments, the response was a unanimous 🙂
—Guest Post by Rosie Router