The first time I went to college I was 18 years old, and I had struggled so hard to be there that I kind of looked upon the professors as Gods. They constituted this great pantheon of pedagoguery and I was eager to soak up whatever knowledge they saw fit to impart. I didn’t question their motives or their philosophies. I just feasted on the crumbs of their wisdom and considered myself lucky for the meal. But at the same time, I considered that meal an automatic golden ticket toward my unquestionable future success. Silly me.
Thirty years later when I decided to return to school, my perspective had changed greatly. I still had respect for the teaching profession. I always will. But the professors had become my contemporaries, and as such I could only view them as flawed human beings. And this time I took the knowledge they imparted greedily, like a person lost in the desert desperate for water. I needed this information to get on with my life. I needed it to change my fate. (Little did I know it would turn out to be a massive waste of time and money, but I’ve already covered that in my blog entry Back to School at 46.)
So when my Physics teacher turned out to be a sexist pig who was stuck in the dark ages, I wasn’t as shocked as I would have been decades previously. I was just massively irritated and felt protective of the younger students who couldn’t see the outrageous behavior for what it was: unacceptable.
Here are just a few of this man’s pearls of wisdom.
- For some reason he got on the subject of the health food store where he shops. He mentioned that the clerk there was so good looking that, “ladies, you’d know just what to do with him.”
- He stated that he wouldn’t sell his used vehicle to a female because if it broke down, a female couldn’t walk, whereas a male could.
- He stated that he felt comfortable letting his girlfriend pilot his boat, because after all, it only has two gears, so a female should be able to handle that. (He was serious!)
- He constantly called female students “Sweetie” or “Sweetheart” or “Honey”.
- When one student apologized for missing class because her car broke down, he said, “You’re good looking, got all the guys around you, they’ll fix it.”
- He told that same girl in a separate incident, “I’ll want an autograph when you’re Miss America in a couple years.”
- Every single class, he would tell at least one female that she was good looking.
The general consensus of the students I talked to seemed to be that he was “creepy” because he was saying things that someone his age should not be saying to people their age. What they were not yet mature enough to understand, I feared, is that “creepy” is unacceptable.
After a great deal of soul searching, I decided that I had to report the guy because I doubted that the 19 year old girls in the class would have the courage or the life experience to do so. This man had been with the school for 20 years. He needed to be made aware that his actions were grossly inappropriate. He should not be allowed to make female students squirm simply because they needed his class and had paid good money to attend it.
Needless to say, my report caused a major uproar. I got called in to the Dean’s office and it wasn’t just the Dean sitting there. It was an entire panel. I told them the story, I answered questions. I gave them details. They asked me what I wanted to happen.
I told them I wasn’t looking to get anyone fired in this economy, and that in fact the man really did know his physics, but his behavior had to change. He needed to be called on the carpet, trained and monitored. They said they would do all of the above.
I honestly doubt it made much difference, but it made me feel better, and it also made me realize that I had come a long way since my first college experience.
And I have to admit I got a bit of a cheap thrill from the fact that the man got to read my written report and therefore learned that he’s considered a creepy old man. If he came away with nothing else, he’ll have that morsel to chew upon whilst he examines his crows feet in the mirror.
The truth hurts, sweetie.