Do Professors Need Keepers?
This is a serious question and merits objective discussion. One of my brothers is a professor and as he is younger and bigger than I am I have learned to be polite to this particular class of vertebrates. Although some suffering administrators might say yes to the question, particularly those who work in universities, I myself do not think it is necessary to employ a keeper for each professor. Much of the enjoyment of my college days was due to the fact that my professors had no keepers and in consequence followed their natural bents without concern for such things as business methods or administrative efficiency.
"Johnny" was one sucha delightful tiny whiskery Irishman from Trinity College, Dublin who must have had leprechaun ancestry. He was always very polite to students including freshmen and after wishing us good morning would ask what class we were. Freshmen and upper classmen all looked alike to Johnny so he never knew which class we happened to be unless we told him.
He always carried a walking stick, grasping it near the middle and holding it up in front of him. One of his many presents from graduating classes was a two-handled walking stick, a handle at each end. He lived on the other side of a seafront crescent from the college and enjoyed his walks between, invariably smoking a large bent-stem pipe. It was always windy and occasionally his pipe would need relighting. To do this he sometimes needed to turn around and, having succeeded in lighting his pipe, would calmly proceed home if he had been on his way to college or vice versa in the other case.
It would have robbed generations of students of great joy in life if Johnny had been in charge of an alert keeper. I am still definitely against the keeper concept. We had several other professors in the college who preferred to be called absent minded rather than nuts. We appreciated these gentlemen very much although Johnny was our pride and joy.
Superficial changes have occurred among professors during the forty years since Johnny taught us conic sections. Nowadays a professor is quite likely to have a haircut or a bath on his own initiative without being prodded by his wife. Nevertheless this is a superficial change. Absentmindedness, especially concerning administrative matters, is still rife and something can be done to correct this without depriving the students of their innocent fun.
This could be painlessly achieved by appointing a retired officer of the armed services to each university department in the rank of assistant professor. He would soon take care of all the administrative matters which tend to be spread amongst a half dozen or more professors. There is a continuing lament over the shortage of professors in our rapidly expanding universities. Employment of retired officers would ease the strain of recruitment of professors by some 10 to 20% and, besides allowing each professor to work full time as a professor, would substantially improve the efficiency of departmental administration. Many of these officers are in the early fifties or late forties with wide experience in specialist branches as well as in the several aspects of administration.
Frank T. Davies