Laurie Taylor Column

October 22, 2004

A conference in London next week devoted to "The Changing Role of the Professor" will address "negative professorial images".

Welcome to this afternoon's session on the popular image of the professoriate. Let me hand over to Jake Thingy from Simulacra Plc, the image consultants.

Thank you, Professor Dobson. As you can see (PowerPoint 1), we asked a random sample of the public to evaluate a number of occupational positions (PP2). Professors scored poorly on the Integrity Index (PP3), where they were rated as less trustworthy than used-car salesmen, more inclined to betray their colleagues than supergrasses and slightly more likely to change their mind for financial gain than brothel-keepers (PP4).

Somewhat depressing.

Matters don't improve on the Managerial Index (PP5). Professors were thought incapable of managing anything more complex than a hot-dog stand and were less innovative than speak-your-weight machines. Neither is there much positive evidence in the Physical Profile Index (PP6), where respondents thought nearly all professors were elderly grey-haired males with a developing prostate problem (PP7).

Pretty devastating.

The bad news continues with the Intelligence Index (PP8).

Professors were regarded as less likely to be able to talk about matters outside their own discipline than Alan Titchmarsh and less culturally sophisticated than Homer Simpson (PP9).

Homer who?

Simpson. A cartoon figure.

Well, thank you, Mr Thingy. A depressing but valuable contribution. I'm sure we will all leave today with your findings still ringing in our ears.

Not necessarily. The Memory Index (PP10) indicates that 100 per cent of the sample thought professors were pathologically absent-minded.

Well, thank you again. And now I'm delighted to say it's time for morning coffee.

You mean afternoon tea?

Wasn't that what I said?

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