Ahh, the life of a professor - public opinion is often swayed by folks listening to those they would like to believe. When second lady Lynn Cheney releases a report "How Many Ward Churchills?" many shake their heads approvingly with the conclusion that there are Ward Churchills everywhere. David Horowitz, the jerked-over Marxist, has made a second career by pushing his neoconservative academic bill of rights and dogging the "dangerous" left-wing radical elites in academe. Probably bigger than the liberal bogeyman is the public perception that professors really do not work very hard - ten or twelve hours a week in the classroom, summers off, holiday breaks - and once they put in a few years without getting fired, tenure guarantees employment for life. On the other hand, public opinion polls often put university professors ahead of many other professions regarding prestige and confidence. To me this simply demonstrates that most of the public does not really know what a professor does or what goes on in most university classrooms.
And - I am not going to explain what I do or what goes on in my classrooms!! If you really want to know about what professors do, go out to Malibu and spend a few days trying to keep up with my colleagues such as Steve Davis or Jay Brewster just to name a couple out of many exemplary professors. What I am going to write about are the special opportunities that can come your way as a member of the academy. On the lighter side, I am thinking of playing noontime basketball at Pepperdine with the great Lunch Bunch group, which at times would include David Duchovny, Flea, Jefferson Wagner [aka Zuma Jay] and my good friend Scotty Brown. Being able to occassionally play with guys like Robert Turner was special - Robert made us all look good! Although Reggie Miller did not join the Lunch Bunch, I rebounded for him for quite awhile as we talked of 'back home in Indiana." I am also thinking of dozens upon dozens of esteemed colleagues that I also consider friends - Marv Dunphy, renowned mens volleyball coach; Ron Sega, who has flown on two Space Shuttle Missions; Neal Lane, former head of the National Science Foundation and Presidential Science Advisor; Christopher Parkening, preeminent classical guitarst. And, I am also thinking about having the privilege of attending faculty meetings and academic conferences, listening to Jared Diamond share with our science majors, having Ken Starr, Doug Kimec, and Paul Westphal converse with our science faculty, and being able to chat with folks like Chris Matthews, have dinner with the Reverend Dr. John Polkinghorne KBE, and most recently having conversations and, along with three students, going out to dinner with Peter Arnett. These examples are just a few highlights, but they demonstrate one of the blessings of being a university professor.