Tactics Borrowed From The Longest Campaign Ever: How To Avoid Being Elected Department Chair

November 3, 2008, 10:35 pm

Since we liberals are all spending this evening unable to do anything but check the polls every five minutes and watch film of people voting early in Ohio, I would like to distract everyone by turning to a pressing concern that occupies us all this time of year. Who will be the next department chair? I bet you are hoping it isn’t you. But cheer up. Here are some strategies for campaigning against yourself.

Launch a court challenge against yourself demanding that you present a valid United States birth certificate to prove you were born in the United States and can legally be elected chair of the department. By the time you have dropped about a dozen subpoenas on yourself demanding extensive discovery, and by the time you get a hearing before a judge, the chair’s election will be over. And I bet your colleagues will be so stunned by your capacity to sue –and defend — yourself at the same time, they won’t even mention it that you don’t have to have to be native born to be department chair!

Refer to yourself in the third person constantly, pretending that your middle name is Hussein. Just drop it into ordinary conversation: “You can’t fool John Hussein Doe! No sirree!” Eventually people will start to wonder if you are an Islamic terrorist. If this doesn’t seem to be working fast enough, put on a full court press: “Y’know, I remember back at the madrassah not so long ago;” and, “As I said to Pops — and let me tell you, its a real pain to get cell reception outside Kandahar…” Remember, all you need to do is plant a seed of doubt in their minds.

Address your colleagues as “My friends!” constantly. As in, “My friends! Was that on the agenda?” This is endlessly irritating, particularly to people who don’t like you much anyway, who don’t feel like your friends, and who would rather eat glass than listen to you address them like that week — after week –after week.

Tell endearing jokes that incorporate your field of specialty. Say you are a Renaissance scholar, for example. Just slide up next to folks who are sorting their department mail and say, “Hey, I heard a good one the other day! What’s the difference between a Renaissance scholar and a pit bull?” And when they say they don’t know, yell “Lipstick!” and walk away laughing maniacally. This is a particularly effective tactic if you are a man and actually wearing lipstick at the time! Think about it, huh?

Spread the rumor that you are a socialist, and the first thing you will do is to redistribute wealth. This only works if there are substantially more senior people than junior people in the department. But associate professors who are suffering from salary compression, or full professors who are resentful of stars hired at twice their salary might react to this in ways you don’t want. So if you see them starting to think of you as department chair material, casually mention some new taxes you want to propose when elected.

Tell people you are a maverick.

Find someone who is coming up for tenure, say tomorrow or next week, nickname that person Joe — or Jo — and drag him or her around with you everywhere to illustrate why your policies are good for the department. It’s really important to also pick an occupation or a description as part of the name that will allow people to remember Jo(e), so that when your colleagues think of you, they think of poor, frightened, lowly Jo(e) too. I’m thinking of a name like “Joe the Oral Historian,” or “Jo the queer.” Something snappy that says “Everyman” to the world.

Practice a robocall voice, and one day when you have nothing else to do, call everyone in your department and leave a message reminding them to come to the meeting and vote for you. Then laugh — maniacally, again — and in your normal voice say, “Didj’a guess it was me? Didj’a? Didj’a?”

Okay, but even with all of these tactics, and despite what the polls say, you might — against all odds — win. So here’s how you seal the deal.

Put a flyer in everyone’s mailbox saying that faculty who filled in their own taxi receipts on their last conference reimbursement form will be arrested if they try to vote in the chair’s election. Then you go the meeting all by yourself and vote for someone else! Perfect, eh?

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