Friday, January 20, 2006


Lectern Lojack

Where do lecterns go?

Every semester, I get multiple exasperated calls from faculty, asking where the lecterns have gone. They seem to think that I keep a secret stash in my office. (It’s probably in the secret vault they think I have, where I apparently keep all the secret money for my secret nefarious projects. That’s also where I store my secret plans for world domination. But I digress.)

Is there a black market in lecterns? Do people fence them for drugs? Can you get high by inhaling the smoke from a burning lectern? Are there gray-market stores in Nearby Big City offering lecterns that fell off the backs of trucks? Do students take lecterns home to make art out of them? I’m perplexed.

This happens every semester.

I’m thinking of springing for lojack for the lecterns. I want to know where they’re going, and some sort of electronic tracing device seems the best way. Your tax dollars at work!

These aren’t even especially attractive lecterns. They’re basically beige or black sheet metal, some foldable but most not. They rest on the tables in the front of classrooms. We’re not talking about mahogany here.

Maybe lecterns go to chop shops, where they’re disassembled and resold as, uh, new lecterns? Maybe lecterns that have been through too many classes commit suicide, walking to a nearby hill and jumping off (though, strangely, we’ve never found their carcasses)? Maybe gang members make off with them and use them as weapons; that would account for all of those lectern-related fatalities you hear so much about.

Does this happen anywhere else? Has anyone solved the mystery of the vanishing lecterns?

They migrate to the math building by mistake. We find them to be annoying clutter taking up valuable table space and put them in the hallway. Then maintenence disposes of them. :)
I love it! LOVE IT! I can't wait to follow your trials and tribulations of what ticks you off from a Dean's perspective as I'm focusing on what ticks me off (from a faculty perspective). I hope you don't mind if I link to your website. You have idiot faculty and we get idiot students. It's nice to know that it travels up the food chain. Beautiful!!! :)
Just a hunch:
People who might lust after lecterns in the Levenger catalogue, but who can't afford them, find the desk-top models irresistable and portable?

At my U., the lecturns are built in to our front desks and fold down into them when not in use. Hard to make off with a 300 pound arborite desk.

Just sayin'...

Maybe your school should purchase more cumbersome models.
We had this problem until I got the Carpentry class to make one for each classroom. Now, the faculty can't lust for someone else's lecturn because every classroom has one...just like the one next door....just like the ones in the business nauseum.
This is ENTIRELY a problem at my university. Even more frustrating was that when I first started I actually believed that if I requested a lecturn that one would be put in my classroom and it would stay there. oh, they brought me one alright. It was gone the next week. At that point, I gave up and started participating in the madness that is "I'll steal a lecturn from that room down the hall before I teach this class three times a week" game. It's a lot like musical chairs, only without music and without a prize at the end. I totally think that the lojack would be a worthwhile investment :)
There are two extras sitting on the floor of my classroom.
This cracked me up!

I've been wondering where the plans for world domination were hidden. Did you find my lost set, by chance?

I always put them down under whatever table contraption is at the front of the room; you might check down there.

Dr. Crazy, please please, feel free to take them out from my classes. But leave the rolling dictionary stand and dictionary!!

Now, where are all the white board pens and chalk erasers?
Yes, this has been a problem everywhere I've ever taught, but I just assumed it was Dr. Crazy coming in and stealing the lecterns from my rooms, or her counterpart at each institution. I had no idea they actually disappeared--thought they just rotated through the rooms.
God, I wish someone would steal the lecterns from my classrooms. I'm constantly moving them off the desk, so I can spread everything out. I HATE LECTERNS.

(Oops. My secret is out. I'm stealing them and burning them in a ritual attended by other crazed lectern haters. We dance and sing around the bonfire.)
There's a lectern in the room where I teach. You want it? I have to move it at the beginning of every class and then, because I need every inch of the blackboard, I wind up baning my shins against it.
You know what pisses me off? People who think lecterns are called podiums. I think more people think that than don't think that.
We've gone to the so-called "smart" classrooms with "smart" podiums (in the airline idiom; these things look like they could be used to check passengers in and issue denied boarding vouchers.) These things are as permanent as church pulpits and as conducive as those to scaring the congregation ... er, the students to the back rows.

I don't recall any problem with the old lecterns vanishing at Northern Illinois. But like Doc, I don't use them much. Maybe for dramatizing a reading from Wealth of Nations or Alfred Marshall or something similarly weighty. I'd rather wander around the classroom and have give-and-take, or maybe let the back row know that the crossword puzzle is for later.
This semester I teach in the same classroom at 10 a.m. and at 2.30. The first day there was a lectern on the front desk for both classes: no problem.

I walked in yesterday morning to find that the lectern had disappeared--which pissed me off, but whatever. But by the afternoon, it had returned!

I suspect it was just out getting a coffee, or had a hot brunch date.
Ooh, I hate hate hate lecterns. At MTU, we have stand-alone lecterns in every classroom. My first action at the beginning of every class is moving them to the side of the classroom OUT OF THE DAMN WAY.

I've always wondered who uses them. Especially in the math classrooms.

King Kong always needs juice.
Take my lectern! Please!

I hate the damn things. The first thing I do is move them off the desk.

I'm much more interested in who's stealing the whiteboard markers.
Today I had a senior faculty member walk into the classroom before my second class started and ask me for the tabletop lectern that I had already begun to use.

My kingdom for a lectern!
We have both the "smart" podiums (which are huge) and the old wooden lecturns (which now serve mainly to trip me as I move toward the podium. But what I really want to know is "Where are the globes?" And how about the measuring sticks (useful both for their intended purpose and because there are never any pointers)?
this seems like a terry pratchet theme. herds of lecturns migrating to their dying ground, where they will eventually be devoured by desks and such.

Here is what you do. To the top of each lecturn for each given room, stencil in spraypaint the room number and building it is assigned to.

this way, when you actually discover the lecturn death grounds... you will be able to publish a scholarly paper on the directions of their migrations.
I eat them.


Hannibal Lectern
It's like this: there are only twenty-four lecterns in existence and each night they move on, trying to meet the needs of professors all over the land. And those lecterns underneath the table? They're resting. Leave them alone.
The lectern in my room is actually tethered to the front table. Really. And yeah, I use it -- because I'm too damned old and nearsighted to bend over to try to read my notes or the roster or whatever. Although most of the time I sit on the edge of the table ...
They're on the friggin' floor of my sections' small classrooms, where I trip over them as I try to write on the blackboard. Why there are lecterns in classrooms used primarily for discussion sections I don't know. Is it some kind of training tool to get TAs to teach poorly by reading to their students?
I prefer to think that some educational version of eco-terrorists have made off with them.

Seriously, though, lecturns reinforce poor teaching habits - separating the instructor from the students, gluing him/her to lecture notes, etc.

Like several other commentators I move them aside, and then trip over them.

Out damned lecturn!
Our faculty purchase their own lecterns and lug them to each class, then return them to their offices, where the lecterns are safely locked away until next usage.

I would like to know where to buy a cheap portable lectern

Years from now, archeologists are going to unearth bodies with strange shin indentations--and it will be us--the American Professor, ca 2006.
Here at the Pseudonymous Industrial Engineering Department at Gigantic Midwestern University in Ann Arbor [not getting the hang of that part], we have a mysterious Possible Staff member whose name I do not know, and who never introduces himself, but is Not Faculty. I meet him in the basement hallway where my office is. Next door to my office -- and I am NOT KIDDING I SWEAR is a 6' x 6' safe door. Big gray safe door, with combination lock. I walked by, one day a few weeks back, and Possible Staff member was in the safe/room, and what did I behold?

Overhead projectors, A/V carts, file cabinets, busted old desk lamps, desktop inkjet printers, and other vintage classroom and office material. I realized he was doing an inventory, and these items appeared the next day on the loading dock, broadly labeled "PROPERTY DISPOSITION".

Here at GMU/AA, we have an amazing Property Disposition system. I can go there right now (I was just there yesterday, so I know this) and buy any of: an ultracentrifuge; a 1GHz flatscreen iMac; a seven-foot-tall black and white enlarger; the back seat from a minivan; an aquarium for raising mice; any of an alluring assortment of desk chairs, some with all wheels; a gurney; a salad bar (may need refrigeration repair); a 1965-vintage ten-pound "laser" pointer, with light bulb, wall plug and prominent "HOT" label.

And that's just now. Somme weeks back, my wife and I bought ten (10) rolling library re-shelving carts. You know. Ummm... for home use.

So. I suspect you are infested with a Possible Staff member there, and that the valuable but "old fashioned" or perhaps "worn out" lecterns are being deaccessioned and sent to the backchannel: your equivalent of Property Disposition.
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