Saturday, August 09, 2014

Bobblehead University strikes again

Well, the Board of Regents has generated some REALLY bad publicity by offering UA President Gamble a $320,000 bonus to stay on an extra year at a time when programs, faculty, adjuncts, staff, maintenance, new facilities, and services are being cut. Naturally inspiring? Not so much. President Gamble hasn't yet accepted the money, but he would do well to follow this university president's example and at the very least refuse it. He's not exactly hurting for cash, what with full medical benefits (no copays, by the way), a military pension and a railroad pension.

But things haven't changed much at our university. President Hamilton was given a $210,000 bonus, remember? Same thing: cuts all over, to fund a bonus.

So here's a bit of entertainment for those of you who see the absurdity in UA's long and silly administrative history:

Bobblehead Leadership at Our Swell University

by Richard Seifert
The Ester Republic, Volume 10, Number 3, p. 3

During that bleakest of months, February, one can be forgiven a bit of slouching and moping about, with the fifth straight month of winter woe, and twenty below in the forecast. But even a poetic sensibility can’t mask the utter cornucopia of bad taste splashed across that other paper in Fairbanks on February 18. Bobbleheads? To improve the image of our noble local seat of higher learning? Who knew that our University of Alaska promoters could fall this far? Surely you jest, Herr Professor Seifert! “No,” I wanted to say, “This is not really happening! Please make it stop!” But there it was…

This foray into rear car window cult history was intended to raise the awareness of legislators in Juneau, and they were sent there first I suspect. 1200 of the groovy little wobblers, some looking suspiciously like major UA administrators in their youth, some female, some bespectacled, some with lab coats. It’s just so underwhelmingly cute. How many can I put you down for? That any actual adult could imagine this was a remotely grand scheme escapes me. It’s the “Bay of Pigs” invasion of Juneau’s desperate money race, only not as successful as the first Bay of Pigs. I need some sort of consolation, and right now. So I google “bobble heads”. Immediately I was quizzed, “Do you mean bobbleheads?” Well, yes I suppose I do.

I was directed to, what else, “Bobblehead World”. And what a world it is! UAF either has gotten into the wrong meds, or they discovered that the Republican elephant bobbleheads were sold out (they actually are: and so they went for the ‘demean the student’ concept. There is the Donald Trump bobblehead, blue suit and all, and that “hair”, authentically portrayed. Jesus and the Virgin Mary are bobbing heads too, and they are flanked by Elvis. Any bobblehead can be customized, I see. And there is a Top Ten Bobbleheads list, which is led by Jesus. I just can’t put my arms around what that actually says about modern America, but at least UA isn’t responsible for that market. Here’s the rest of the list from

2. Brett Favre of the Green Bay Packers
3. Homer Simpson
4. Family guy Stewie
5. Virgin Mary (How uncomfortable does this make you?)
6. Darth Vader
7. Beavis and Butthead
8. Ringtail Lemur of Madagascar (No, I am NOT making any of this up!)
9. McDonald’s Hamburglar
10. Mr. T

None of these bobbleheads actually fit the bill for a political coup that would result in the desired University love-fest. They could have chosen some actual political leader bobbleheads for the mission. George H.W. Bush, Theodore Roosevelt, Dwight Eisenhauer, Franklin Roosevelt, and Harry Truman are all available bobblehead emissaries. Although clearly a secular institution, the Virgin Mary bobblehead is available and actually on sale at the moment. Billy Graham’s bobblehead is available too, but both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI are sold out, alas. As for celebrity options, the field is even grimmer, only because of items being sold out. But! James Dean, Sigmund Freud, Anna Nicole Smith, and William Shakespeare are available for your image enhancement needs. Think of it as a plastic lobbying service. A few others are available but send a message that might not go down too well in Juneau. There’s John Gotti, for instance, and Al Capone. These might suggest certain subpoenas and FBI tapes now making the Youtube rounds. Ouch.

So we’re left with the $12,000 worth of fabulously campy and embarrassing Chinese toys. First place to send a set would be the museum, for this is certainly something which should go down in the public record as a unique historical moment in advertising and public relations. Who says the frontier is gone? We have just shown that our university is at the cusp of a new area of imagery and persuasion. I can see a new course in political science for the fall semester: “Bobblehead diplomacy and the legislative mind. A new frontier of plastic body language.” The textbook will be the court transcripts of the Pete Kott and Vic Kohring trials.

The future, it seems, is plastic after all. That iconic movie of the sixties, The Graduate, nailed it forty years ago. Somebody needs to tell our poor administrative publicists that it was a joke then. Unfortunately, some people never got it.

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