Oh lord. I cringed so hard at this op-ed in Inside Higher Ed I think I might have pile-drived my cervical vertebrae right into the lumbar. Ouch. The author, Kristie Kiser, is giving advice to faculty about how to compose themselves for this new era of Zooming online.
In a world where conversations around us are terrifying, a student who has perceived Dr. Jones as a strong female role model, who is polished and eloquent at all times in the classroom, may be quite alarmed indeed to find Dr. Jones wearing her Pokémon pajamas with disheveled, unwashed hair, lamenting the added workload associated with social distancing. Your piles of unattended laundry are not trophies for the amount of time you are putting into your coursework. They are distractions, signs of disorganization and, quite frankly, unsightly and off-putting. Educators, please rethink your approach to your students. In these trying times, the last thing that they need to see is their adult, professional, highly educated instructor falling apart at the seams.
You see, if we don’t wash our hair, we’re falling apart at the seams. We’ve been driven out of our university offices, but it’s unprofessional if you post video from your bedroom. Don’t be unsightly. So what if your workload has abruptly doubled and you’ve found yourself in completely unfamiliar territory — for the honor of your institution, which is not paying you any extra for extra work, you must also perform all the superficial cosmetic stuff, because you must also look as poised and polished as if you’re appearing in the university’s recruiting brochures.
Heck, I don’t meet those standards under normal conditions. One of the painful realities of these committee meetings in zoom is that I get to see all my younger, better-looking colleagues in the gallery, and my face is also right there, to make the comparison easy to see. Yeah, I’m the homely sludge-beast squatting in the corner of your screen. I’m not brochure-quality at the best of times, and this is the worst of times. I can console myself that students are supposed to be taking in the quality of the information I can deliver, not the quality of my eyeliner nor my lean, muscular physique, but then the Pretty Police show up in the education journals, and the lies I tell myself all crumble.
Oh, well. All I’m seeing around my corner of the web is Kiser getting dunked on. See SkepChick for a complete tear-down, as deserved.
It’s been so thorough that I’m feeling sorry for Kristie Kiser. This is not to say she doesn’t deserve it, but she’s young — a doctoral student — and of an academic rank that requires guidance. Someone should have looked at that article submission, blanched, and said “You can’t possibly be planning to shame your colleagues for their appearance at this difficult time, can you?”, but instead…they published it. They might as well have nailed her up on a wall and provided baskets of stones. Now I’m wondering which would be worse: that an editor accepted it with a vicious smile and the knowledge that they’d be chumming the academic community with her blood, or that the editor actually agreed that their slovenly peers needed to be chastised. Either way, the editors were assholes and should be called out as well.