A Short Compendium of Academic Humor

    A mathematician, a biologist, and a physicist are sitting in a street-side cafe watching people going in and coming out of a house on the other side of the street. First they see two people going into the house.
    Time passes. After a while they notice three persons coming out of the house.
    The physicist says, "The initial measurement wasn't accurate".
    The biologist says: "They have reproduced".
    The mathematician says, "If exactly 1 person enters the house, then it will be empty again."

(That's a sample from The Faculty of Computer Science and Automation at the University of Bucharest.)

    Jesus took his disciples up on the mountain and gathered them around him. And he taught them, saying "Blessed are the poor in spirit. Blessed are the meek. Blessed are those who are persecuted. Blessed are those who suffer. When these things happen, rejoice, for your reward will be great in heaven."

    And Simon Peter said, "Do we have to write this down?"
    And Phillip said "Is this going to be on the test?"
    And John said, "Would you repeat that, slower?"
    And Andrew said, "John the Baptist's disciples don't have to learn this stuff."
    And Matthew said, "Huh?"
    And Judas said, "What's this got to do with real life?"

    And then one of the Pharisees said, an expert in law, said, "I don't see any of this in your syllabus. Do you have a lesson plan? Where's the student guide? Will there be a follow-up assignment?"

    And Thomas, who had missed the sermon, came to Jesus privately and said, "Did we do anything important today?"

    And Jesus wept.

    There were two sophomores at Duke University who were taking Organic Chemistry and who did well enough on all of the quizzes and the midterms and labs, etc., such that they had solid 'A's going into the final exam. These two friends were so confident going into the final that they decided to go up to University of Virginia and party with some friends on the weekend before finals week, even though the Chem final was on Monday.
    They did this and had a great time. However, with their hangovers and everything, they overslept all day Sunday and they didn't make it back to Duke until early Monday morning. Rather than taking the final then, they went Professor Aldric after the final and explained to him why they missed the final. They told him that they went up to UVA for the weekend, and they had planned to come back in time to study, but that theyhad a flat tire on the way back and didn't have a spare and couldn't get help for a long time and so were late getting back to campus.
    Aldric thought this over and then agreed that they could make up the final on the following day. The two guys were elated and relieved. They studied that night and went in the next day at the time that Aldric had told them. He placed them in separate rooms and handed each of them a test booklet and told them to begin. They looked at the first problem, which was something simple about free radical formation and was worth 5 points. "Cool" they thought, "this is going to be easy." They did that problem and then turned the page. They were unprepared, however, for what they saw on the next page.
    It said, "(95 points) Which tire?"

(That's a sample from Ganymede .)

When Henry Kissinger left Harvard and went to Washington to serve in the Nixon administration, he was asked by one his new colleagues about the poltical infighting in academia. "In Washington we're famous for political intrigue - it's our job," someone asked, "but we're pikers compared to the backstabbing and dirty politics at universities. Why do you people fight like that?"

Kissinger is said to have responded in his low gravelly voice, "It's because the stakes are so low".

Reasons why Socrates wouldn't be hired as a Philosophy professor:

1. No Ph.D.
2. No publications.
3. Freely admits that he doesn't know anything.
4. Spends too much time at parties.
5. Wears a bedsheet and no shoes.
6. No set curriculum, no exams.
7. Will let anybody into his classes and doesn't charge for instruction.
8. Thinks teachers who take money for their instruction are immoral sophists.
9. No teaching experience.
10. Past retirment age.
11. Probably a deviant - says he likes young boys.
12. Suicidal tendency and a criminal record.

50 Fun Things for Professors to Do on the First Day of Class

1. Wear a hood with one eyehole. Periodically make strange gurgling noises.
2. After confirming everyone's names on the roll, thank the class for attending "Advanced Astrodynamics 690" and mention that yesterday was the last day to drop.
3. After turning on the overhead projector, clutch your chest and scream "MY PACEMAKER!"
4. Wear a pointed Kaiser helmet and a monocle and carry a riding crop.
5. Gradually speak softer and softer and then suddenly point to a student and scream "YOU! WHAT DID I JUST SAY?"
6. Deliver your lecture through a hand puppet. If a student asks you a question directly, say in a high-pitched voice, "The Professor can't hear you, you'll have to ask *me*, Winky Willy".
7. If someone asks a question, walk silently over to their seat, hand them your piece of chalk, and ask, "Would YOU like to give the lecture, Mr. Smartypants?"
8. Pick out random students, ask them questions, and time their responses with a stop watch. Record their times in your grade book while muttering "tsk, tsk".
9. Ask students to call you "Tinkerbell" or "Surfin' Bird".
10. Stop in mid-lecture, frown for a moment, and then ask the class whether your butt looks fat.
11. Play "Kumbaya" on the banjo.
12. Show a video on medieval torture implements to your calculus class. Giggle throughout it.
13. Announce "you'll need this", and write the suicide prevention hotline number on the board.
14. Wear mirrored sunglasses and speak only in Turkish. Ignore all questions.
15. Start the lecture by dancing and lip-syncing to James Brown's "Sex Machine."
16. Ask occassional questions, but mutter "as if you gibbering simps would know" and move on before anyone can answer.
17. Ask the class to read Jenkins through Johnson of the local phonebook by the next lecture. Vaguely imply that there will be a quiz.
18. Have one of your graduate students sprinkle flower petals ahead of you as you pace back and forth.
19. Address students as "worm".
20. Announce to students that their entire grades will be based on a single-question oral final exam. Imply that this could happen at any moment.
21. Turn off the lights, play a tape of crickets chirping, and begin singing spirituals.
22. Ask for a volunteer for a demonstration. Ask them to fill out a waiver as you put on a lead apron and light a blowtorch.
23. Point the overhead projector at the class. Demand each student's name, rank, and serial number.
24. Begin class by smashing the neck off a bottle of vodka, and announce that the lecture's over when the bottle's done.
25. Have a band waiting in the corner of the room. When anyone asks a question, have the band start playing and sing an Elvis song.
26. Every so often, freeze in mid sentence and stare off into space for several minutes. After a long, awkward silence, resume your sentence and proceed normally.
27. Wear a "virtual reality" helmet and strange gloves. When someone asks a question, turn in their direction and make throttling motions with your hands.
28. Mention in passing that you're wearing rubber underwear.
29. Growl constantly and address students as "matey".
30. Devote your math lecture to free verse about your favorite numbers and ask students to "sit back and groove".
31. Announce that last year's students have almost finished their class projects.
32. Inform your English class that they need to know Fortran and code all their essays. Deliver a lecture on output format statements.
33. Bring a small dog to class. Tell the class he's named "Boogers McGee" and is your "mascot". Whenever someone asks a question, walk over to the dog and ask it, "What'll be, McGee?"
34. Wear a feather boa and ask students to call you "Snuggles".
35. Tell your math students that they must do all their work in a base 11 number system. Use a complicated symbol you've named after yourself in place of the number 10 and threaten to fail students who don't use it.
36. Claim to be a chicken. Squat, cluck, and produce eggs at irregular intervals.
37. Bring a CPR dummy to class and announce that it will be the teaching assistant for the semester. Assign it an office and office hours.
38. Have a grad student in a black beret pluck at a bass while you lecture.
39. Sprint from the room in a panic if you hear sirens outside.
40. Give an opening monologue. Take two minute "commercial breaks" every ten minutes.
41. Tell students that you'll fail them if they cheat on exams or "fake the funk".
42. Announce that you need to deliver two lectures that day, and deliver them in rapid-fire auctioneer style.
43. Pass out dental floss to students and devote the lecture to oral hygiene.
44. Announce that the entire 32-volume Encyclopedia Britannica will be required reading for your class. Assign a report on Volume 1, Aardvark through Armenia, for next class.
45. Ask students to list their favorite showtunes on a signup sheet. Criticize their choices and make notes in your grade book.
46. Sneeze on students in the front row and wipe your nose on your tie.
47. Warn students that they should bring a sack lunch to exams.
48. Refer frequently to students who died while taking your class.
49. Show up to lecture in a ventilated clean suit. Advise students to keep their distance for their own safety and mutter something about "that bug I picked up in the field".
50. Jog into class, rip the textbook in half, and scream, "Are you pumped? ARE YOU PUMPED? I CAN'T HEEEEEEAR YOU!"

(That's a sample from Brighten Godfrey's extensive humor page.)

    An engineer, a physicist, and a mathematician are shown a pasture with a herd of sheep. They are told to put the sheep inside the smallest possible amount of fence.
    The engineer is first. He herds the sheep into a circle and then puts the fence around them, declaring, "A circle will use the least fence for a given area, so this is the best solution."
     The physicist is next. She creates a circular fence of infinite radius around the sheep, and then draws the fence tight around the herd, declaring, "This will give the smallest circular fence around the herd."
     The mathematician is last. After giving the problem a little thought, he puts a small fence around himself and declares, "I define myself to be on the outside!"

(That's a sample from The Faculty of Computer Science and Automation at the University of Bucharest.)

An economist is someone who liked numbers as a kid but didn't have enough charisma to be an accountant.

(From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution vent 2/15/1999)

Why God would never get tenure:

He only had one publication.
It was in Hebrew.
It had no references.
It wasn't published in a refereed journal.
Some even doubt he wrote it himself.
The scientific community has a hard time replicating his results.
He never applied to an ethics board for permission to use human subjects.
When one experiment went awry, he covered it up by drowning the subjects.
When subjects didn't behave as desired, he deleted them from the sample.
He rarely came to class, and instead told students to read the book.
Some say he had his son teach the class.
He expelled his first two students for learning.
Although there were only 10 requirements, most students failed his tests.
Failing students were treated harshly.
It may be true that he created the world, but what has he done recently?

Course Evaluation Comments (allegedly collected over several years at MIT).

"This class was a religious experience for me... I had to take it all on faith."

"Text makes a satisfying 'thud' when dropped on the floor."

"The class is worthwhile because I need it for the degree."

"His blackboard technique puts Rembrandt to shame."

"Textbook is confusing... Someone with a knowledge of English should proofread it."

"Have you ever fell asleep in class and awoke in another? That's the way I felt all term."

"In class I learn I can fudge answers and get away with it."

"Keep lecturer or tenure board will be shot."

"The recitation instructor would make a good parking lot attendant. Tries to tell you where to go, but you can never understand him."

"Text is useless. I use it to kill roaches in my room."

"In class the syllabus is more important than you are."

"I am convinced that you can learn by osmosis by just sitting in his class."

"Help! I've fallen asleep and I can't wake up!"

"Problem sets are a decoy to lure you away from potential exam material."

"Recitation was great. It was so confusing that I forgot who I was, where I was, and what I was doing -- it's a great stress reliever."

"He is one of the best teachers I have had... He is well-organized, presents good lectures, and creates interest in the subject. I hope my comments don't hurt his chances of getting tenure."

"I would sit in class and stare out the window at the squirrels. They've got a cool nest in the tree."

"He teaches like Speedy Gonzalez on a caffeine high."

"This course kept me out of trouble from 2-4:30 on Tuesdays and Thursdays."

"Most of us spent the 1st 3 weeks terrified of the class. Then solidarity kicked in."

Bogus number crunching. My HP is exhausted."

"The absolute value of the TA was less than epsilon."

"TA steadily improved throughout the course... I think he started drinking and it really loosened him up."

"Information was presented like a ruptured fire hose -- spraying in all directions -- no way to stop it."

(That's a sample from Brighten Godfrey's extensive humor page.)

    A genetics professor was explaining to one of her colleagues from the humanities why her research focused on fruit flies. "Sure, we would rather use an organism closer to humans," she explained, "but fruit flies are great because they reproduce quickly to give lots of subjects, they don't cause much harm if they get loose, and nobody cares what we do to them."

Her colleague pondered this for a moment and than asked, "Well, if you want something with a human-like physiology but that's superabundant, ineffectual, and unloved, why don't you use associate deans?"

How many full professors does it take to screw in a light bulb?

     Just one - he or she holds the bulb up to the socket and waits for the world to revolve around them.

(Told at a UNO-Innsbruck faculty meeting)

In the beginning was the Plan, and then the Program; And the Plan was without form, and the Program was void;

And Darkness was upon the faces of the professors;

And they spake unto the Associate Dean, saying "It is a Crock of Shit, and it stinks";

And the Associate Dean went unto the Dean, and he spake unto him saying, "It is a Crock of Feces, and non may abide the Odor thereof;

And the Dean went unto the Vice President, and he spake unto him saying, "It is a Container of Excrement, and it is very strong, such that none may abide before it;

And the Vice President went unto the President, and he spake unto him saying, "It is a Vessel of Fertilizer, and none may abide its strength;

And the President went unto the Vice Chancellor, and he spake unto him saying, "It containeth that which aids Plant Growth, and it is very strong;

And the Vice Chancellor went unto the Chancellor, and he spake unto him saying, "It promoteth growth, and it is very powerful;

And the Chancellor went unto the Board of Regents, and he spake unto them saying, "This potent and vigorous Plan will promote the Growth of the University;

And the Board looked upon the Plan, and saw that it was good, and ordered its Implementation forthwith.


    Success in academia is hypothesized to require specific phenotypes. In order to understand how such unusual traits arise, we used human clones to identify the molecular events that occur during the transition from a graduate student to professor.
    A pool of graduate student clones was subjected to several rounds of random mutagenesis followed by selection on minimal money media in the absence of dental insurance. Students surviving this selection were further screened for the ability to work long hours with vending machine snacks as a sole carbon source; clones satisfying these requirements were dubbed "post-docs". In order to identify assistant professors from amongst the post-docs, this pool was further mutagenized, and screened for the ability to turn esoteric results into a 50 minute seminar. Finally, these assistant professors were evaluated for their potential to become full professors in two ways: first, they were screened for overproduction and surface display of stress proteins such as Hsp70. Assistant professors that displayed such proteins (so-called "stressed-out" mutants) were then fused to the M13 coat protein, displayed on phages and passed over a friend and family members column, to identify those that were incapable of functional interactions. These were called full professors.
    Although these mutants arose independently, they shared striking phenotypes. These included the propensity to talk incessantly about their own research, the inability to accurately judge the time required to complete bench work, and the belief that all their ideas constituted good thesis projects. The linkage of all these traits suggests that these phenotypes are coordinately regulated. Preliminary experiments have identified a putative global regulator. Studies are currently being conducted to determine if overexpression of this gene product in post-docs and grad students can speed up the grad student-full professor evolutionary process.

Once upon a time, the Administration and the Faculty had a boat race on the river. Both teams practiced hard and long to reach their peak performance. The faculty won by a mile.

Afterwards, the Administration became very discouraged, and morale sagged. The Administration decided that the reason for their crushing defeat had to be found, so an Administration Management Tean was formed. They would revisit their rowing policies and recommend appropriate remediation.

Their finding was that the Faculty had eight people rowing and one person steering, whereas the Administration had one person rowing and eight people steering. To solve this, the Administration hired an efficiency consultant and paid him huge amounts of money to recommend solutions. After careful study, the consultant recommended that too many people were steering and not enough people were rowing.

To prevent another loss to the Faculty, the Administration hired another consulting company to provide training in "team-building skills". The Administration's team was completely reorganized to include four Steering Deans, two Area Steering Associate Deans, and one Assistant Dean for Steering Management. They also implemented a new performance systen that would give the staff member rowing the boat greater incentive to work harder. It was called the "Second to None" program, with meetings and team training exercises for the rower. "We will give the rower empowerment and enrichement through this quality-first program," they said.

The next year, the faculty won by two miles. Humiliated, the Administration fired their rower for poor performance, halted development of their new boat, sold the oars, and cancelled all investments for maintainance and upgrading of facilities. They then gave a Distinguished Service Award to all the Steering Deans, and they distributed the money saved by their tough and fiscally sound actions as bonuses to the rest of the Deans.

Dear Journal Editor,

I regret to inform you that I cannot accept your rejection of my manuscript at this time. As someone struggling to publish in a very competitve field, I have high standards for accepting refusals from editors. Although your letter certainly has merit, and although it may in fact apply to some other submission to your journal, it does not meet my standards as a junior faculty member.

Even if you were to make revisions of your present letter, I am afraid it would not suit my needs. In addition, I at present have a surplus of letters like yours and could not justify accepting it. Given the large number of letters of rejection that I receive, I must be very selective as to which letters I do indeed accept, as I am sure you can understand.

Friends of mine who read your letter gave reviews that were at best mixed. One friend said, "I cannot believe he wrote this letter to you." Another wrote, "This make sense. He just wants to publish work by his buddies." Given the mixed reactions of my friends and my own negative assessment, I would be remiss to accept a letter like yours in its present state. However, should you be willing to send a letter that is more accepting, more open, and more encouraging to publication, I would seriously reconsider my present rejection of your letter.

Best of luck in rejecting future manuscripts.

     . . . . . . . . .

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