Professor “making course fun” can’t sense resentment

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By Ruisi Liu

There are some forces of nature so strong that even a pandemic cannot stop them in their tracks. Chief among these forces are cheesy, dad-joke-making professors.

On my first day of the winter semester, I opened the Zoom link for ENG 305 with Richard Rolls. Fifty people were already there, but nobody had their camera on.

“Rolls didn’t realize he was sharing his screen,” said Jao Saetang, a first-year English student. “He was scrolling through a Yahoo! Answers page called ‘How to get your students to like you.’ He was incredibly focused.” 

“Why did Rolls feel the need to be liked?”

Saetang was right. Professor Rolls, with his rimless glasses and Bob Ross-esque hairdo, seemed lost in his own world. It made me wonder: why did Rolls feel the need to be liked? It wasn’t until somebody unmuted and coughed that the professor was startled to attention. 

“Woah there, hold your horses! Did I just hear a cough? Well, I should say, hold your HOARSES!” professor Rolls said, grinning at the camera. You could’ve heard a pin drop—mostly because all 50 students were on mute.

“I assume some of you don’t have webcams. Back in my day, if COVID-19 were to happen, we’d have to wear hazmat suits from Breaking Bad to go to school. That’s pretty METHED up. Get it? Messed up. Call me Breaking Dad.”

His jokes were followed by a beaming smile and a minute of silence. It was so excruciating that I couldn’t look at his face; instead, I stared at the Homer Simpson clock on his shelf.

Even with cameras off, I could feel 50 bodies collectively cringing as he held his smile. Suddenly, the silence was broken by a shatter. 

“Sorry,” said the student, Mikayla Bronsen. “I spilled my milk.”

“Well MILKayla, you’re not gonna cry about spilled milk, are ya? I wish I could CRACK a better joke than that, but no-way-milky-way! Or we’ll be UDDERly behind schedule.”

After presenting a few slides about  “LIT-erature,” his cellphone rang. His ringtone was the Alvin and the Chipmunks’ cover of “Mistletoe” by Justin Bieber. 

“Sorry class, my Uber Eats is here,” he grumbled in glitched-out words. 

When he came back with his Osmow’s shawarma in-hand, we all listened as he ate it on screen, his lips smacking into his headset microphone.

“That’s pretty methed up. Get it? Messed up. Call me Breaking Dad”

“What? It’s delicious,” Rolls said, nonchalantly. “I heard your generation likes ASMR mukbangs. I had to surf the Urban Dictionary to find out what that means. I ought to make this go viral. Hey, can someone record me? Oh, hold on—” 

Rolls turned on the Zoom’s screen recording option. “Perfect! Let’s begin!” he said. 

After class, I tried to reach out to Rolls for comment, but it went straight to voicemail: “Howdy, can’t reach you at the moment, so leave your message after the song.”

I was left with: “Never gonna give you up, never gonna let you down…” I had been Rickrolled by Rich Rolls. 

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