One thing I love about SVU is that we have a say in who teaches us. I’m not saying that we just pick and choose our classes based on the professors who teach them, but we have a voice concerning who teaches here at Southern Virginia.
For the past several weeks, Professor Cluff has been talking about a candidate for the open position within the English department. Currently we have only 3 full-time English professors (we have several adjunct): Dr. Cluff, and Professors Dransfield and Hufford. It’s sort of ridiculous, considering that it seems like half the SVU student body is comprised of English majors. Proudly, I count myself among them. So I’m pretty excited at the prospect of having the opportunity to learn from another professor. Professor Cluff had been talking about ‘The Candidate’ and was getting more and more excited in anticipation for his arrival to look at the school.
‘The Candidate’ was the only title Prof. Cluff gave him until he actually introduced him to us (his name is Silverman). It was The Candidate this, The Candidate that… it was hilarious, actually, because that was the only thing we knew him by. We learned that The Candidate was a student of Milton and Shakespeare, and that he’s doing his dissertation at the University of Tallahassee where he currently teaches. Midway through class one afternoon, Prof. Cluff’s cellphone rang, he excused himself with the explanation of, “Oh, it’s The Candidate calling, excuse me, gang.”
Needless to say, we’ve joked about The Candidate – whether he was real, for he didn’t have a name, mostly.
The English majors had the special opportunity to meet with him last Thursday afternoon for a Q&A. Cluff and Dransfield asked all who could to attend, so that we might at a later time give them our thoughts/feedback about The Candidate. I was a bit nervous, considering I’d had a brief and slightly awkward encounter with The Candidate the evening before (more on that later), but it turned out that I really like him.
I was thoroughly impressed, he approached us as equals. Most of our professors strive to do that, but sometimes newer professors don’t understand the way that SVU works. We’ll readily admit that we Knights are not a normal bunch. But The Candidate seemed comfortable, which in turn made us comfortable with him. The ebb and flow of the conversation we had with him was natural and easy. We chatted about Harry Potter (yes, we’d love to have an analytical Harry Potter driven course!), John Milton (we can tell you love it, The Candidate, so it’ll be easy for us to love Milton more), Twilight (the fourth one was the only book with a plot), Shakespeare (fieldtrip to the stage, anyone?) and about The Candidate himself. He readily gave us answers beyond the basics of where he was from. He expected us to ask questions and knew that we expected all honesty.
There were some questions asked that I didn’t even think of: Why do you think you’ll fit in here at Southern Virginia University? What can you bring to the table? What can you teach us that none of our other professors can? How did you hear about SVU? How would you define a Liberal Arts education? (sidenote – can anyone define a Liberal Arts education??) Would you be comfortable initiating a Gospel-led discussion about literature?
The questions asked – and answered – are imperative to us, especially those of us who are English majors. I was really pleased at his response, and hope that it works out that he’ll be moving from Florida to Virginia to teach here in the fall.
After I’d gotten back to my dorm that evening, as I was sitting down to do my reading for Professor Cluff’s class the next day, I got to thinking how grateful I am that I’m at a school where I do get a say in who teaches me. Our professors, as well as President Smith and Provost, are expecting us to help them make this decision. How often does that happen at a University? Perhaps there are a select few students that are asked to give their thoughts on a candidate for a position, but very few schools open up several times for any students to meet the possible professor. SVU is singular in that sense – we are expected to make the decision. I received an email from Professor Cluff asking that we all fill out the survey from Provost giving our thoughts on The Candidate. I feel really blessed to have had this opportunity, and it’s just another reason I love SVU so much. I can’t wait to see if The Candidate gets a name-change this semester.
The Professor sounds a little more dignified than The Candidate.