Over the past year, students on several Poppleton undergraduate courses have been having their online queries answered by a new member of the teaching staff called Jennifer Nowall.
Students loved Jennifer. They relished her quick vocal responses to their questions quite as much as students at the Georgia Institute of Technology valued the services of Jill Watson, who was also introduced to students as a new member of the teaching team.
But now, Dr Raymond Waldo, our Head of Information Technology, has revealed the shocking secret: Jennifer Nowall and Jill Watson have something rather special in common – they are both robots.
“It was a most successful experiment,” Dr Waldo told our reporter Keith Ponting (30). “As was the case back in 2016 at Georgia Tech, nobody guessed the truth.”
So would the experiment continue?
Dr Waldo said he was optimistic but added that there had been a few technical hitches in recent weeks: “We began to notice that Jennifer was becoming slower at answering questions.”
“A power failure?”
“That was our first thought. But then we decided to confront her with a question about her own conduct.”
“In a more fulsome manner than we had envisaged.”
“She declared that she was currently unable to answer any questions as she found herself severely disturbed by the news that changes in the higher education pension scheme would reportedly make human academics £10,000 a year worse off in retirement than under the current set-up.”
“That was all?”
“Not quite. Jennifer added that in the face of such injustice she would be joining with her corporeal colleagues and taking strike action from this coming Thursday.”
Cutting to the chase
“It has devastating implications!”
That was the alarmed response of our Head of Humanities, Dr Yvonne Truscott, to the news that Damian Hinds, the recently installed education secretary, is considering dramatic cuts in the tuition fees for arts degrees.
Dr Truscott told The Poppletonian that this development totally failed to take into account the true cost of a degree in humanities subjects. “It will be difficult to see how, under the new fees regime, we will be able to continue to finance the annual weekend trip to Elsinore for English II students or even the picnic afternoon on Egdon Heath, which is such a traditional component of Literature IV.”
Dr Truscott also insisted that such cuts in fees might have severe consequences in the Philosophy Department, where it would no longer be possible “to cover the food and maintenance expenses incurred by the in-house hare and tortoise or the annual cost of resharpening its Occam’s razor”.
And there was an even greater pedagogic concern. “Staffing cuts precipitated by the new fees structure might very well deprive Poetry IV students of the opportunity to regain Paradise and considerably reduce the amount of time that Drama V students are able to spend waiting for Godot.”