Strippers and Wives as Helpful Metaphor in Academia

This has just been forwarded to me. It’s from an internal talk at a British university, designed to somehow help staff. I’m still picking my jaw up off the floor.

Wives, strippers, professional services: using experiential
pedagogy, cultural studies, and institutional metaphor.

Placed in a context of pedagogical and educational development and higher education institutional management theory, the film The Full Monty offers a way into understanding the relationship and possible potentials of professional services staff in the university. Using a cultural studies and experiential learning approach, how does the metaphor of strippers and wives help understand the ways in which professional services staff can engage with both academic staff and students? What do professional services staff ‘do’ in universities?

One can as easily begin by asking the question what wives and strippers do? What is the purpose of pursuing this type of inquiry in the first place? Come to the paper, find out the reasoning behind this and give your own opinions. The discussion will focus on typologies and approaches to professionalization of administrative/educational development approaches (rather than focussing on a discussion of gender/sexuality in university hierarchies). This will be placed in the context for academic staff to move away from styles of teaching which transfer knowledge to those which engage with students collaboratively and encourage the learning process; what then is the parallel process and shift for professional services staff?

I’m not sure which is my favourite bit. Maybe the line about not being about gender and sexuality. But overall it’s got to be the general thought that considering what strippers– and wives!– do will help lecturers to develop a new teaching style. And help us to understand what professional services staff do in universities. Wow.

13 thoughts on “Strippers and Wives as Helpful Metaphor in Academia

  1. So somehow academic staff have made a transition to engaging with students and service staff are going to do something comparable??? So is the idea that service staff are going to learn how to see people as human beings possessing their own points of view? You can see why they might want to sugar coat that pill, but somehow invoking strippers and wives might not be the way to do that.

  2. well, to see us as human. In my experience, the secretaries are generally just fine and see us as fellow sufferers. It’s after that …

    but i’m conjecturing here

    Mind you, at more snooty schools, I have experienced secretaries who treated one as trash, but that wasn’t universal. Some get so involved in the status issues that it gets to be too much. And then years ago various bursars, etc, could make one’s life hell just to get their own bit of pleasure.

  3. The problem with JJ’s interpretation is that the notice was sent to academic staff. So I took the message to be that academics can learn what secretaries can do for us by reflecting on the role of strippers and wives. Really perhaps the most stunning thing of all is that someone who writes like this thinks they can help us to communicate and interact more effectively.

  4. Hiya,

    It seems a bit tongue in cheek, which is just as well as it makes little sense. Who is supposed to be the stripper and who the wife in this metaphor? And is the idea that since one lot have started stripping the other lot should as well?

    I would note that it said ‘professional services staff’– which covers more than secretaries. There are a whole bunch of people in a university making sure that grant applications go in on time, costing and pricing both grant and consultancy work, handling the cash when the money comes in, keeping track of students, making sure the university’s books balance, ensuring that university management is aware of relevant legislation and governance requirements, and making sure that the university meets its funders’ governance and audit requirements, not to mention the HR and Publicity departments. Generally these people deal with a lot of tedious stuff so that academics don’t have to.

    Having worked on both sides of this particular division, I’d say that there is a fair amount of ignorance amongst academic staff of just what the professional staff do at the university. I’d also note that the attitude of some (by no means all or even the majority of) academics to these staff and to support staff generally is a disgrace.

  5. This is slightly off point but at my university, women faculty do much of the service work and we have taken to calling it academic “housework” from time to time.

  6. I think it’s undoubtedly right that support staff get treated badly. But analogizing them to strippers and wives is probably not going to help with that!

  7. Jender, I’m not sure textual disputes, delicious though they are, really are going to thrill the reader. So let me say just sketchily that my tentative interpretation was based on the fact that whole message seemed to be about profession service staff, with the exception of one clause, “This will be placed in the context for academic staff to move away from styles of teaching which transfer knowledge to those which engage with students collaboratively and encourage the learning process; what then is the parallel process and shift for professional services staff?” So I added in the fact that the writing was pretty bad, and consequently took the clause to mean that the movement of the academic staff would form the context in which to consider the service staff.

    It is true that professional service staff get treated very badly; I don’t doubt that lots of faculty do that, but in my university the far worse problem has been the treatment by senior staff of the more junior staff. The university also seems to have had the extremely unfortunate tradition of splitting the staff from the faculty. Ouch. I’m getting a headache just thinking about it.

  8. Isn’t “wife” interchangable with “spouse”?
    Am curious as to why that might not be so.

    Anyway, I liked “The full monty”, but I am totally puzzled about the relation with professional service staff, metaphorically or not, particularly because those guys in the full monty are unemployed.

  9. I just think it’s hilarious. It made my day yesterday (but then, it had been otherwise a pretty trying day).

  10. It’s puzzling, and I would go just to see what the heck it’s about, so in that regard, it’s effective advertising. Other comments here encompass the thoughts I have had as to what this might be offering.

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