These are excerpts from a regular column in The Vector an informal, unofficial, and unheralded publication I edited during my years teaching at Lock Haven University. In response to overwhelming demand (a couple of people at least) these are being archived here for those strange people who enjoy wallowing in nostalgia. Some of the references to then-current events may be puzzling, but feel free to skip them, or relate them to more recent events of similar nature (which can always be found). References to internal politics at Lock Haven University may be easily transferred to situations at other academic institutions. A few explanatory comments have been added in square brackets.

    —Donald E. Simanek

Vol. 1 No. 1. Dec. 1976


You are holding in your hands the premiere issue of a new campus publication, THE VECTOR, surely destined to become a collector's item...

The name VECTOR has multiple significances. Vectors are, of course, mathematical entities which every engineer and physicist must learn to love. But the hame has more subtle implications. THE VECTOR could serve as a force on campus, providing students with direction; and it might skewer some sacred cows, prick some sensibilities, and puncture some egos.


A professor recently received an official-looking memo in the morning mail. Discovering it was not addressed to him, he initialed it and sent it on to the administrative office for which it was intended.

The next day he got it back with this note attached: "This document did not concern you. Please erase your initials and initial your erasure."


  • President Hamblin has just announced that in honor of the many achievements of Sir Isaac Newton in the field of Physics, all classes at Lock Haven State College will be cancelled this year on Newton's birthday.
  • Dr. Zaharis has just been appointed director of the campus fund-raising drive for Planned Parenthood. Several of his nine children will assist him in this worthy effort.
  • Word has just come through that several Polish exchange students will be on our campus next year. It is suggested that we do two things to make them feel welcome: (1) Be sure that all calculators in science labs have reverse Polish notation, and provide a mirror to read them with, and (2) declare a moratorium on all Polish jokes.


Junior Year:

Our college has introduced a degree in General Studies (which some have been unkind enough to call "a degree in Nothing.") The degree is innovative, but doesn't go far enough. We therefore propose a new degree program in the same spirit, but further liberalizing the old-fashioned curricula: a degree in Trivial Studies.

In the past, traditional degrees have been criticized for producing specialists who "know more and more about less and less." Our Trivial Studies degree will turn this trend around 180° and produce generalists who "know a little about everything and not much about anything." While there will be no required courses, special courses will be developed in the spirit of the program. A typical four-year program might look something like this:

Freshman Year:

Math 0.001 Introduction to Elementary Addition
Biol 22 How to tell the Birds from the Flowers
Phys Ed. 3 Philosophy of Sports in Ancient Greece
Eng 10 How to Tell Jokes (Clean)
Sophomore Year:

Math 0.002 Elementary Addition
Mus 88 Listening to Rock Music
Anthro 77 Sex Practices in Remote Cultures
HIST 42 The Lighter Side of the Spanish Inquisition
Eng 11 How to Tell Jokes (Dirty)
Junior Year:

Math 0.003 Intermediate Addition
Aero Eng 41 Aerospace Workshop
	    (Bring sufficient paper for five planes.)
Ed 400 Advanced Methods of Blackboard Use
Psych 350 Novel Ways to Torture Rats
Senior Year:

Math 0.004 Advanced Addition 
Phys 500 Quantum Mechanics Without Math 
Chem 99 Chemistry of Illegal Drugs
Soc Sci4O Human Sexuality Practicum (lab science credit)
          Students shall be expected to supply their own lab equipment.
We are assured this proposal will easily pass the curriculum committee (on the basis of past practice.) But first, several problems must be solved. Which college department shall have jurisdiction over the program? The School of Health and Recreation is making a strong case that it should be in their domain, since they already offer the greatest number of courses appropriate to the program. But as we wish to avoid specialization in any one area, we propose it be put under the direct control of a person most experienced in dealing in triviality. Surely one of our administrators will qualify; applications will be accepted immediately upon program approval.

And finally, the rules demand that all proposed new courses be supported with complete syllabi, prepared in the approved format, with catalog descriptions. Our readers are invited to submit catalog descriptions of courses in the spirit of this program. The best will be printed in future issues.

[Update and explanation, 2002. Back in 1976 when this was written, LHU had begun offering a summer aerospace workshop, which still exists. The faculty was considering proposals for curricular reform which would have allowed any depertment to offer courses satisfying broad requirements in any academic field. The Phys Ed Department was already considering a course in history of sport to satisfy the history requirement. Various versions of similar curriculum satires and parodies circulated widely at many schools at that time as the movement to dummy-down courses and curricula gained momentum.]

Return to Uncle Don's Notebook Archives
Return to Donald Simanek's front page.