Thursday, September 10, 2009

Dummies caught the hiney 

If you're an academic department chair, meetings are part of your life. The Deans Advisory Council (still known to old-timers as "deans and dummies") gathers the chairmen and chairwomen of the college's departments. This is seen more and more these days as an opportunity for various and sundry administrators to make a presentation, which they can report to their supervisors as having "delivered to the faculty", when in fact they just made me into their messenger.

Yesterday's deans and dummies brought forth the local campus health service to discuss the H1N1 virus. Given it hits 5-24 year olds more than the rest of the population, we are a flashpoint for the "hiney flu" (we have lots of pork producers 'round here, so the other popular name for this flu is banned from this blog.) The school has turned its emergency page into a flu info location, asking students to develop a "personal flu plan."

It's actually a serious matter, since 2,500 of Washington State's 18,000 students are suspected to have H1N1. "Suspected" since it's been decided by most health care officials that if you aren't hospitalized you don't get tested for which flu you have. (Also, no sick slips for students to be excused from classes -- we are being told to "let 'em go" even if we think someone is using the flu as a dodge to get out of mandatory attendance.) And the advice is to have them "self-isolate". Most students are more than happy to isolate themselves from a classroom, but from each other is another matter.

I talked about this in class today, about the norms for behavior. Would you call people you were in contact with 24 hours earlier to let them know you have hiney flu? Do students more try to come to school when sick or dodge classes for any old reason? There are norms of behavior, and they differ from school to school.

So imagine my surprise when I discover in the middle of this article:
California's Pomona College has a new mandatory course for freshmen: the proper way to sneeze and cough (the answer: into one's sleeve).

"I share a bathroom with seven other guys," said Alex Efron, a Pomona student. "That's a bit of a concern for me."
Let me remind you that Pomona is a rather elite institution. At which we need to teach students to sneeze? What other element of higher education does this course replace?

If they're like us, they're a university where you have to have hot air blowers in lieu of paper towels in the bathrooms to "save the planet" (and where they put the trash bin just below the blower)? Where part of my deans-and-dummies treat yesterday was a discussion of whether we could use state funds to purchase hand sanitizers? (I kid you not: that was 3.5 minutes.)

Thanks to Charles Johnson and Matt Reynolds for parts of this story.

Labels: , ,