You know what I really hate ...?

On Facebook, lecturers share gripes about students, peers, managers and more, writes John Gill

January 15, 2009

"Grade-grubbing students" and "awkward departmental cocktail parties" are among dozens of academic bugbears exposed in a revealing list published online.

It may be meant as a bit of fun, but the list by academics on the social networking site Facebook also lays bare the betes noires of long-suffering lecturers.

The targets for their frustration and ridicule include their students, peers, managers and institutions, as well as the world of higher education in general.

Students, unsurprisingly, are given a hard time, from the "annoying, know-it-all grad student" to those who send text messages during classes and those who come to lectures when they are ill. Also on the list are "students with a crush" and "ultra-religious students".

Among the academic colleagues who are lambasted are "idiots" who chair university committees, "dorky medievalists" and "embittered Marxists". Other staff archetypes to be lampooned include the "creepy visiting faculty member", "colleagues who stand too close" and, from across the academic-administrator divide, the "condescending IT guy" and the "overburdened administrative assistant".

The list has been created as a Facebook application that allows users to generate virtual "gifts" to send to each other, with the title "shite gifts for academics".

The website was first designed by and for students, but the application's popularity suggests that it is now widely used by their tutors, too.

Some of the gripes focus on university facilities, such as windowless offices, "crappy" office chairs, obsolete technology and "permanently malfunctioning photocopiers".

The "horrendous conference hotel room" and "shared office space" are also mentioned, as is "another freaking PowerPoint presentation".

Other categories poke fun at academic pomposity, including "outrageous academese", "unnecessary Freud references", "acronym hell" and "big male egos vying at departmental meetings" - a theme illustrated by a pair of rutting stallions.

The Facebook group has almost 60,000 users a month. Many of them hail from North America, but the group has its fans at universities in the UK.

One professor from University College London, whom Times Higher Education has chosen not to name, said: "This travels amazingly well across the Atlantic - the academic experience is clearly highly similar."

Another, from Swansea, suggested several new additions to the list, including "plagiarised passages that take you three days to pin down, appointment freezes, boy students who carve 'MILF' on the back of desks and students who get given a BMW just for sitting their exams".

"Oh, I could go on ad infinitum," she added.

A third, from the University of Liverpool, suggested that "hopeless grant applications" should be put on the list, adding "that's what I'm working on at the moment". A fourth, from Birmingham, said: "Could we add a companion application called 'gifts for shite academics'?"

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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