Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Last Thursday, the annual Peaslee Bathtub Debate featured three professors arguing for the survival of their respective academic divisions in the face of sweeping hypothetical budget cuts by the Putin/Trump regime.
Carol Nackenoff of the Political Science department began by arguing that the social sciences served as the most effective way to challenge the current regime. Nackenoff questioned “Who needs classicists to tell us how we got here?” and referenced Andres Serrano’s “Piss Christ” as a pitfall to the National Endowment for the Arts (already under siege from the Trump budget cuts).
Next on the panel was Professor K. Elizabeth Stevens of the Theater Department, who emphasized that inquiry and introspection was rooted within the humanities academic division. The onset of the Trump/Putin regime was begotten of human cause, so where better than the humanities to devise the solution? Amidst an artfully contrived speech on the roots of civil disobedience in the humanities pitted with well-placed expletives, Stevens argued that her division would be the one to save us.
Finishing off the opening statements was Biology Professor Liz Nichols. She prefaced her argument with semi-rhetorical questions towards the alcohol and cannabis consumption habits of the audience, and much to her chagrin, few elected to respond. This quickly provided the connection to her division that would relate well with the audience. She proceeded with a simple equation: “Natural Science + the Humanities + Social Sciences = Natural Sciences.” In essence, Natural Sciences encompasses all the other academic divisions and thus under threat of budget cuts would serve the purpose of toppling the regime as effectively as possible.
Questions ensued from the student audiences, and the division representatives further argued their cases….
An audience member asked Professor Nichols: “Where’s the funding coming from?”
Nichols mentioned that three unnamed countries were providing her with funding and that defense funding currently enumerated that climate change research was earmarked and labeled important in the budget.
A controversial question from an audience member was directed at all three division heads:
“Which major would you cut?”
Humanities provided a quick counter, saying that the division is a cheap one, and thus departmental cuts are unnecessary. Professor Nichols quickly said “Chemistry” in order to elicit a response and outing those who didn’t like chemistry, but corrected and declared Biochem would be eliminated for efficiency’s sake. Professor Nackenoff was loathe to cut any department but rather, shed the dead weight from each department itself.
One question appealed to the ethos of the divisions…
“How would your division be the one to overthrow the regime with lowest human cost”?
Anderson referenced the study of ethics taking root in the humanities, so the avoidance of human cost would be well kept by the humanities. Nackenoff referenced the social sciences’ expertise of the human psyche and how it could infiltrate from within and take down the regime without violent intervention. Naturally, Professor Nichols’ division possesses the mathematical, statistical, and programming finesse in order to pinpoint its targets accurately.
With the cessation of questions came the closing statements.
Professor Nichols appealed to our childlike sense of wonder, and how curiosity and inquiry all are hallmarks of the Natural Sciences. Turning on a dime, she stated that the complete vanquishing of our enemy would be best executed by the Natural Sciences.
Professor Stevens declared humanities as the coolest division there is, so why not vote it in? As she put it, “We all might go up in flames anyways.”
Professor Nackenoff quickly referenced the breadth of her division, and that in order to take down Putin, one must understand him. This end is best achieved via the disciplines contained within the social sciences.
Using applause as a ballot, Professor Nackenoff of the Social Sciences won. Their prize? the non-functioning bath duck.