It’s a confrontation that’s been brewing since September: the showdown of the semester that finally climaxed into a full-blown passive aggressive argument this past Thursday evening in Professor Chris Lipton’s Philosophy 100 class.
Second-year CIS major Jerry “No Not Seinfeld” Thiessen had been itching for this opportunity ever since Lipton first distributed the syllabus. “How can they call this a place of higher learning,” he opined on a public Facebook post, “with a reading list that completely ignores such critical works by people like Ayn Rand, Ben Shapiro, and Joe Rogan?”
Word of his frustrations eventually reached the sessional professor Lipton, who offered to set aside some regular class time so that they could “meet in the middle,” and “hash it out.” Speaking to The Cascade before Thursday night’s lecture, he also remarked that hopefully this would wake up some of the first-years in the classroom, who seemed disinterested in his 200 slide PowerPoints, and would instead play on their phones, not keep up with readings, and sometimes huddle in the corner of the room for warmth like a colony of penguins.
As class began, Professor Lipton made early use of the limited space by dragging over a chair from one of the empty desks and placing it at the front, facing the whiteboard. He then proceeded to sit on the chair, facing the class. It was devastatingly casual.
Not to be outdone, Jerry at first tried to navigate the early jabs and banter by gaining a height advantage in standing. However — perhaps becoming self-conscious of everyone staring at him — he eventually maneuvered to sit on an empty desk at the back. Unfortunately, his legs weren’t long enough to reach the ground, and would comically swing back and forth for much of the class.
The exchanges in this first round were mild, with both opponents sizing each other up, testing distance and boundaries, and remarking on the line up at Timmies — which received forced chuckles from the audience.
Sensing the direction that the rest of class was going, many students began awkwardly shuffling out of the room, which provided a brief respite for the combatants. Lipton and Thiessen returned to the exchange swinging, however, with the professor name-dropping several important-sounding people that he had worked with in the past, while also offhandedly sharing an anecdote about the one time they were on CTV News.
Not to be outdone, the student dodged the distractions and returned with a blistering critique — reminiscent of a enraged William F. Buckley in his prime — of bloated Marxist academia, a campus culture that had left facts for feelings, and the injustice of professors getting discounted parking.
When pressed in exchange, Jerry reverted to an ingrained combination of low mumbling, followed loudly by the declaration of a fallacy. This would often ruin Lipton’s tempo, as he would then have to search through his PowerPoint for the relevant slide or example of the fallacy to counter the point (and probably to give the remaining students something vaguely resembling an educational lecture).
This round saw the two focus in on the core disagreement that had led to their showdown: the reading list. However, while both came prepared by having at least read the sparknotes of their “essential works,” neither read from the other’s list. The frantic energy of early rounds was gone, but neither side was willing to admit that they didn’t know about the thing the other person was talking about.
Instead they deflected again, with each reaching to drag the conversation onto their preferred topic: the problems of late stage capitalism, political correctness, lazy students, and YouTube demonetization.
By the end of the class, neither the participants or the remaining audience really knew what the fuck anyone was talking about. The professor made an early exit, the students awoke from their daze and sleep, and Jerry began nonchalantly asking if anyone knew how hard it was to switch sections mid-semester.