Professor Joseph K is the pseudonym of a professor I worked with when I was in graduate school. The name, of course, is borrowed from Franz Kafka’s protagonist of The Trial. This professor, author of small tomes, and armchair anarchist is the nemesis in much of my previous posts about him. Here, he finds himself in the midst of something I really wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. He’s definitely in that category
It’s funny that Professor Joseph K would find himself in the midst of a Kafkaesque nightmare at one point in his career. Some time after I ended my academic and professional association with him, he found himself the subject of a University investigation. I only have second-hand information on this subject. Given that I had been a student and employee of his for two years and that the investigation occurred while I was still in the MFA program, I’m surprised I was never interviewed as a witness. Getting back to the subject at hand, the reason why the University was looking closely into Professor K’s affairs was that a student felt their grade was at stake after she objected to attending Professor K’s class when there was a sexually explicit presentation.
When I first heard the news, I was attending a birthday party for Rosalyn, my friend who essentially replaced me as Joe’s secretary. Somehow we remained friends despite that drama. However, when Rosalyn mentioned that Professor K was facing an investigation, I bluntly said he had it coming.
I’m clearly not the professor’s biggest fan. I definitely did not have any sympathy for him when I heard about. However, the investigation took a strange turn.
From what I understand, especially from what this grad school classmate told me, was that her complaint was about feeling forced to attend a class session where she was not comfortable with the subject matter. Joseph’s guest speaker was a member of the fetish community who did a presentation on S&M. She also felt how Professor K responded to her request not to attend put her grade in jeopardy. So when the University’s offices responded to the complaint, it seems logical that they would look into if this complaint had merit or not. The investigation, however, went much further.
This is what Rosalyn told me about this process: the University’s investigators interviewed Joesph’s students, about the event. They must have been keeping a dossier on Professor K, for they went after things not relevant to the case at hand, such as allegations of favoritism, unprofessional behavior towards other students, and substance abuse. Joe’s students, including Rosalyn, were asked about these things. And the character issue would become much bigger than the original complaint about a student being subjected to explicit sexual content.
The charges regarding the original complaint were dropped. However, the investigation uncovered Professor K drinking hard liquor in the office. This is something I can definitely verify. When I worked for Joe, he did keep things such as Central American firewater in his office. During my first semester of grad school, I even helped myself to some firewater when I was working in his office. In fact, I helped myself to most of that bottle. One night, when I was the student who administered the class evaluation, where we all filled scantrons about the professor’s performance, I was wasted. Somehow, I thought it would be funny if I hammed up reading the evaluation instructions to the class. Looking back, I must have been grating. There was also the time when I house-sat for Joe that I found his “special” cookies and ate them all. If I were asked about these things, I’d have to tell the truth. So it was a good thing for both me and Professor K that I wasn’t interviewed.
Even without my testimony, the evidence regarding Joe’s drinking in his office must have strong. From what I heard from Rosalyn, the University placed a reprimand on Professor K’s records about the drinking despite dropping charges.
As for the student who complained about the inappropriate class session, she was ostracized for a while because of the loud backlash from Professor K’s acolytes. Then a friend of mine in the program found herself in the midst of this drama even though she had nothing to do with the compaint. Her only crime was that she shared the same first name.
Shortly after I resigned from working for Professor K, I prayed for some kind of justice. I’m sure some of my predecessors who also have their own fall-out stories did the same thing. I hoped enough people would see Joe for the arse he is, especially the sub-literate acolytes who think he’s brilliant because they don’t read. I might as well hope that George W. Bush repent of all the horrors of his presidency. It’s possible Professor K’s the victim of an over-zealous investigator who wanted to make the case stick against him at any cost. Knowing that they did go beyond investigating the original complaint makes me a little more sympathetic to him, though it doesn’t endear him to me. Whether Joe evolved personally from this experience or not, I don’t know. Perhaps the investigation and the reprimand were more than punishment enough.