Friday, November 25, 2011

The Personalities of Academic Disciplines

I am persuaded, having occupied a perspective on academe from what might be characterized as the nosebleed seats, to tell what I know about academic departments on a typical modern university.  But I really learned from that unlikely place common to many of our experiences: the environment of the teen girls and where one gets to sit in the cafeteria.

Let's face it, there are some departments that are more established and carry more gravitas than others. The English and History departments are like the girls from the Old Families: sure of their position and prone to guard it jealously.  But Philosophy is, by far, the field regarded as the wisest.  Don't mess with her.  She has clout with the assistant principals (deans) and is the subject of much fawning.  These hang our at Cool Girls' Table #1.

Art, music, and theatre are all arty and eccentric.  Well, not always music.  Piano or clarinet skill gives entree into the ranks of the polite, but trombones are to be frowned upon.  Artists can be a source of anxiety: as long as they're nicely tossing pots or painting watercolors, there's no problem; but this is a field in which no nudes are good news, as least from the administration's perspective.  They are allowed with the previously-mentioned cool girls on occasion but often taken with sufferance.

 Geography and Psychology would like to sit with the cool girls in the Sciences, but are rarely allowed by the others lest the others feel tarnished by association and lose coolness. Geography and Psychology are nerd disciplines; though some sorority or cheerleader types go into psych.

Sociology?  Cast Tori Spelling as her.  She sits by herself, or maybe with the mullet crowd.

 What can we say about some of the others?   Think of the Engineering disciplines as leading towards the Sapphic side, or at least preferring their dress.  No, that's not fair.  These are the smart, homely girls without fashion sense. Nursing is in another world: maybe some Sailor Senshi will visit and report on them.  The fact that they wear uniforms in clinical settings makes them immune to stereotypes.

The Sciences, of course, constitute a clique, together with Mathematics, and sit at the other popular kids' table. there Physics constitutes the bitch queen, setting the standards of dress and conduct much like a pledge trainer does with the group.  Cast Shannon Dothery in that role if you cast some actress to personify an academic department.  Chemistry is also established; maybe not as exalted but very secure.  Biology is a little less so, but she has a studly older brother named Darwin that evokes teen fantasies of which the nuns would not approve.  Geology and Astronomy are quiet, polite members of this clique: knowing that as long as they don't call attention to themselves they will be accepted.  Mathematics is definitely in with this group, but doesn't always go along.  Cast Sandra Bullock as Mathematics.

Public Relations and Communications are easy to type.  Think Paris Hilton.


Big Sky Heidi said...

Absolutely right, as far as faculty members in universities are concerned. The liberal arts ones consider only their own as real intellectuals.

Bilbo said...

Are we who are cunning linguists lumped together with the "English and History" types, or do we rate our own personality and Hollywood representative? I could see someone like Alec Guiness or Sean Connery playing the role of yours truly...

eViL pOp TaRt said...

You might be right, Heidi.

Bilbo I could not come up with a specific instance of someone with those social skills.