Saturday, October 1, 2011

Probably Incurable

For the last few years, Enema U has been conducting an interesting psychological experiment.  As the university is blessed with an abundance of surplus office and classroom space, the New Mexico State Psychiatric Hospital at Fort Bayard, in cooperation with the campus Psychology Department, has been testing a new form of treatment for the severely mentally ill.

The patients being treated share similar psychotic fantasies, the most notable being an incredible conviction of holding advanced degrees, of having vast amounts of specialized knowledge, and of being employed as professors of obscure yet vitally important arcane trivial subjects.  While generally harmless, these self-proclaimed “professors” are maniacally driven to “teach” the knowledge only they possess.   In most cases, this specialized knowledge actually amounts either to endless repetition of a minute amount of information or total gibberish, complete with an invented vocabulary.
Dr. Potluck from the New Mexico State Psychiatric Hospital at Fort Bayard has devised an innovative treatment situated on the campus of Enema U.  Why not group these patients into an imaginary department of teaching faculty?  Allow them to use some of the empty offices, conduct “research” as they wish, and even allow them to teach classes.  In other words, if the only way these patients could cope with reality was with the gentle fiction of being real academics, then humor them, observe them, and learn from them.

Office space was secured, the patients were assigned offices, and they even selected a department head from among themselves.  In almost every way, the patients behaved and acted as real functioning faculty.  Their habits were unusual, their dress strange, and their interpersonal skills almost nonexistent--In other words, they blended in perfectly with the real faculty.
The charade was so complete that even assigning these pseudo-faculty to teach classes was accomplished.  While some of the students in the classroom were actually attending physicians and nurses, most of the students attending the make-believe classes were actually students majoring in psychology.  According to one of these students, “It is amazing how long this patient can talk about absolutely nothing, almost like a real professor.  Sometimes, the nonsense almost sounds like it makes sense.”

Another student added, “Unless you listen to what they say, they act pretty much like everyone else on campus.  It is amazing--they really believe they are actual professors.  As long as you keep nodding your head and agree with what they say, it is pretty much like being in a real class.  I really feel sorry for them.”
The doctors have had to be creative with some forms of the treatment.  Group therapy sessions are called faculty meetings or committee meetings.  Many of the more severely affected patients are required to attend multiple such meetings each week.  Most of the patients take their arts and crafts projects seriously, even though most of the projects involve nothing more than chalkboards and finger painting.   The patients invariably call their creations “PowerPoint Presentations” and insist they are for their students.  Similarly, medications are often administered at after work drinking sessions.  Occasionally, you will even hear the patients referring to erstwhile Scotch as a “medicinal drink.”

Though generally mild-mannered and timid, occasionally patients suffer a relapses.  While still harmless, the patients are returned to Fort Bayard for treatment—usually shock treatment.  These absences are usually explained as sabbaticals.  Surprisingly, the patient invariably believes in these sabbaticals as well, frequently commenting after their return to the campus as “feeling recharged” or “energized and ready to teach.”
Dr. Potluck firmly believes in the efficacy of these experiments.  While the patients themselves are probably incurable, locked into endless cycles of denial and delusions of grandeur, they may provide the key to unlocking the secret to how these damaged minds function.  Close examination of the inner working of these poorly functioning brains may reveal how real academic minds work.

Dr. Potluck has recently revealed that one of the patients has promoted herself, and has just announced that she is now a Provost.

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