Because of the nature of our work, we don’t often get to do “best of” lists. By definition, almost, we are chronicling professors of questionable scholarship in our often vain search for accuracy in academia.
What we have assembled, then, is something of a bottom 10 list, sort of a reverse U. S. News & World Report ranking. Indeed, it was hard to narrow down such a selection from the more than 100 professors a year whose antics we cover.
Arguably, and we would argue the point, our own roster is perhaps a truer reflection of life in the ivory Tower than most publications offer. Submitted for your consideration, as Twilight Zone creator Rod Serling used to say, is the honor roll, if you could call it that, of the professors you might call “America’s Least Wanted.”
Because we still work in the old inverted pyramid style of reporting, we will take the pedagogue we consider most notable first:
• That would have to be Montclair State University’s Grover C. Furr who is still intent on proving that Joseph Stalin was framed on charges that he committed genocide, no matter what the Russians themselves may say.
• For his part, Lowell “Rusty” Pritchard of Emory is trying to warn the globe that “humans have caused most of the warming” “since 1950” despite temperatures that dropped in the intervening years.
• On the home front, Brigham Young University’s Valerie Hegstrom says “I have to teach my female and male students to think like women” when studying Spanish literature. “When people ask me how I can stand it, I say that I believe in striking out in the heart of the patriarchy,” Dr. Hegstrom explained of her decision to stay at BYU.
• Rachel B. Reinhard of the State University of New York at Cortland vexes over the attitudes of the future teachers she instructs: “My students see themselves as conveyors of knowledge or as coaches or mentors, not activists.”
• The University of Chicago’s Jane Dailey got herself a spot on the honor roll with her thesis on “Sex, Segregation and the Sacred After Brown.”
• The University of California at Riverside’s Jennifer Doyle makes our final cut because of the slide show that she presented at the Modern Language Association’s annual convention which featured a naked artist sitting on a pyramid the hard way. In the next slide, a pyramid was replaced by a baseball bat.
• Lafayette College’s Michael Benitez finished his presentation at a multicultural conference with a rap song and told his student audience: “You’re only an expert on your own experiences.”
• Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College, found an interesting link between labor economics and criminology. “The drug offenders are only hurting themselves,” she said at a conference last summer. “Why don’t we expunge those records and get those people back in the labor pool?”
• Johns Hopkins University professor Richard Halpern found sexual references only an academic could unearth in Norman Rockwell’s paintings.
Finally, in tenth place, we have a trio of honorable mentions:
• Lisa Jane Moore of Purchase College in the State University of New York system for writing the book Sperm Counts: Overcome by Man’s Most Precious Fluid;
• Northwestern University’s Michael S. Sherry for scouring the Watergate tapes in search of Richard Nixon’s views on homosexuality; and
• The University of Washington’s Jessica Burstein for looking for love in all the wrong places, namely the MLA, and writing about it in The Chronicle of Higher Education.
Incidentally, many of these top-of-the-bottom profs work for state universities so they provide a very human answer to the anguished question: “Where would you cut government spending?”