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Speaking Out

Faculty Surveillance

SAS will examine "the use of faculty time in such areas as undergraduate and graduate instruction, research and scholarship, and service" (Draft of the SAS Five Year Plan, p. 56).

The scene is the Faculty Records and Surveillance Center in the sub-basement deep under College Hall.  The Duty Officer is showing a visitor around.

—Visitor: "What are those machines over there?"

—D.O.: "Those computers keep a running record of the faculty's personal and professional data, upgraded weekly.  These data are used for many purposes, including salary determination.  The faculty gets so much for each published word, so much for each paper read, according to venue, so much for their standing in the Popularity with Students Index, etc.  Cuts in salary are determined automatically as well."

—Visitor: "Impressive.  And how about these machines on the other wall?  They're certainly active.  All that clicking and blinking!"

—D.O.: "Ah, those are my special babies.  Each faculty member has sensors and scanners surgically implanted throughout their body.  That way, we can tell not only where they are at any given moment, but also, via the brain scanners and other sensors, if they are working, or, at least, using their brains in some active way."

—Visitor: "Is there some way to cheat?  Faculty types can be pretty crafty."

—D.O.: "That's the beauty of our cross-checking system.  There was a guy in some cockamamie department who was putting up some fantastic figures.  All kinds of publications and papers and stuff.  Of course, nobody reads that crap, but the computer automatically flags unusual numbers, so we compared those numbers with the Physiosurveillance data, and found a huge discrepancy."

—Visitor: "Ah, ha! What happened then?"

—D.O.: "Just routine.  We sent a few goons from the Faculty Development Team to enroll in the Voluntary Enforced Early Retirement Plan.  He's in an institution somewhere, trying to knit a stove out of steel wool."

—Visitor: "Serves him right.  But you must have a jumbo staff to take care of the whole faculty."

—D.O.: "Naw.  The faculty has shrunk a lot since our system went into effect.  Same thing with the graduate students.  When they find out what life in the academic profession is like, they go into business.  One told me that she preferred the relative autonomy of Burger King."

—Visitor: "Probably had something to hide."

—D.O.: "Damn right! We may have lost faculty, students, and our academic standing, but we run the tightest surveillance system in the country."

—Visitor: "You must be very proud."

— Clifton Cherpack, Professor, Romance Languages


Originally published in Almanac on March 3, 1987




Cherpack Letters Index: