by Professor John Evans Evans-John
Harvard School of Harvard Faculty Asshole Studies
When I first learned of the arrest of my colleague Professor Henry Louis "Skip" Gates after he stood up to the fascist jackboots of a declasse, ill-educated Cambridge police officer, I was of course angered -- but scarcely shocked. L'Affaire Gates simply aired, in public, the dirty 100-thread-count table linen of an American culture where Harvard faculty assholes still face a daily struggle against profiling, abuse, and insolence.
It will come as no surprise that Skip's arrest was the talk of the Douchebag Room at the Harvard Faculty Club last Friday. I and a group of colleagues had assembled for our weekly lunch; I opted for their competently-prepared Ahi Tuna Tartare and an amusing glass of '05 Hospices de Beaune Premier Cru Cuvee Cyrot-Chaudron. I had noticed that the Frantz Fanon Memorial Booth -- Skip's long-reserved lunch spot -- was uncharacteristically empty, and asked our waiter Sergio for an explanation.
"Professor Skeep, he no is come today," said Sergio. "I tink he is in the jail."
Our table exchanged knowing glances, for we knew immediately that Skip was only the latest victim of a system that singles out the Harvard faculty asshole for stigmatization and unequal justice. It is a system that all of us knew too well, and provided an opportunity for an open conversation about our shared experiences as Harvard faculty assholes in America while waiting for Sergio to bring the dessert cart.
One after one came the cascade of stark stories: the rolled eyes of our department secretaries. The Spanish language mockery of our office janitors. The foul gestures of drunken strap-hanging Red Sox lumpenproles aboard the Red Line. The frequent police stops on the highway to Cape Ann and Martha's Vineyard for "Volvoing While Asshole." And then there are the insulting media stereotypes, where we are routinely caricatured as pompous, effete, self-important, irrelevant elitists. All, I might add, by a motley collection of lowbrow inferiors, few of whom have ever published in a peer-reviewed journal. Let alone edit one.
Sometimes it even comes at the hand of self-styled "peers" from D-list state ampersand institutions. One colleague recounted the tale of his restroom confrontation with a Texas A&M professor at a national academic conference last year. After relieving themselves at adjacent urinals, my colleague noticed the oaf leaving hastily for the plenary session and decided to gently point out his hygienic forgetfulness. "A Harvard man washes his hands after urinating," he said. "And an Aggie don't piss all over his hands, asshole," came the reply.
A female colleague from the English department recalled a recent incident along the Charles River jogging path during her regular morning run. A confused passer-by rudely interrupted her progress and requested directions, as if my colleague were some sort of lowly campus guide or untenured adjunct. "Where is the library at?" she demanded. Naturally, my colleague took the opportunity to correct her, noting that "at Harvard we do not end our sentences in prepositions."
"Okay, where is the library at, asshole?" barked the interloper. Needless to say, my colleague's daily morning runs have since been replaced with tear-filled visits to the Faculty Asshole Self Esteem Counseling Center.
For untold hundreds of Harvard faculty assholes such indignities are, sadly, still part and parcel of being "The Other." As Associate Director of the School of Harvard Faculty Asshole Studies, I have worked to institute policies to insure that Harvard maintains a nurturing environment for all assholes in our community, be they faculty, students, or alumni. Some progress has been made, such as Harvard's mandatory sensitivity and deference training program for all incoming freshassholes. But such internal programs do little to address the impertinence and discrimination we still face outside campus. Some have suggested that we involve the Cambridge Police Department in an educational outreach program, but in my experience the CPD is among the worst offenders.
Case in point: last winter I was slated to deliver the keynote address for an intradepartmental asshole colloquium at Lowell House. Running late, I temporarily parked along Plympton. As I emerged from my Audi, I discovered that I had captured the unwelcome attention of a CPD officer. "Hey Buddy, is that your car?" he barked.
"Why? Because I'm a Harvard faculty asshole in America?" I cleverly retorted.
"No asshole, because this is a snow route and you can't double park here," he sneered, concocting a flimsy excuse for his continued harassment. "You have to move it now."
"That's Professor Asshole to you, you fascist townie," I explained, tossing him the Audi's remote-start key. "Need a valet? Call your mother at the brothel."
It doesn't take an experienced asshole rights activist to tell you what happened next: my Audi was on its way to impound while I rode to the Cambridge Police Station in the unheated vinyl rear seat of Bull Conner's squad car. To add insult to injury, the desk officer refused my request for a dignified background bookshelf for my booking photos.
Thankfully the Constitution still allows even Harvard Assholes a bare modicum of human rights, so I used my allotted phone call to alert the Dean and the Faculty Grievance Committee to my plight. In those 35 excruciating minutes I wasted away waiting in that stark cell, I wrote the opening chapter of "Letters From a Cambridge Jail," my forthcoming scholarly magnum opus on the grim legacy of Asshole oppression in America.
Eventually my arrest record was expunged and I agreed to meet the loathsome arresting officer at President Faust's office for a conciliatory off-record "beer chat." As the University Counsel had predicted, the lure of free limitless alcohol proved irresistible to the simpleminded Irishman, and he was soon happily signing confessions of guilt and abject apologies. Still, even after he was fired, I was left to pick up the pieces of my shattered psyche.
As I recounted the details of that unpleasant encounter to my colleagues, a few wondered aloud if we were not better served by changing the system gradually. Then our eyes turned to the stately historic portraits of the Harvard faculty assholes who came before us, hanging in silent judgment on the Douchebag Room walls; Schlessinger, Galbraith, Leary, Cornel West, Alan Dershowitz, Theodore Kaczynski. Would these great assholes have accepted complicit silence in the face of crude police insolence? How will we be remembered by future generations of Harvard faculty assholes who will battle future generations of Cambridge police and parking enforcement officials? Where is Sergio with the damned dessert cart?
Some suggest that the election of President Obama proves that America's prejudice against Harvard assholes is a quaint relic of the past. But for those of us who live with it every day, the evidence shows the opposite. And it isn't just Harvard assholes suffering the cold, rude hand of uppity townie privilege. Other, if less endowed, asshole faculties suffer similar oppression; in the southern Lacrosse fields of Duke, in the west coast arugula farms of Stanford, at Northwestern, where ever Northwestern is.
No, we must not be silent. That is why I have used a portion of my class action windfall against the Cambridge Police department to produce a shocking new documentary film, "Asshole Like Me," detailing the courageous plight of the tenured Sphincter-American community. It premiers this Friday at the Science Center. Get your tickets now -- with free beer on tap, demand will be high!