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Your independent source for Harvard news since 1898

The College Pump

Door Speak

January-February 2002

"Your wooden arm you hold outstretched to shake with passers-by."
Historian and dean for undergraduate education Susan Pedersen displays on the door of her Busch Hall 417 office a fortune-cookie fortune. It advises, "Many possibilities are open to you--work a little harder." She thinks this "a particularly sick recommendation to give an untenured faculty member here," as she was at the time she crumbled the cookie. Her favorite door-display item was a newspaper article sent by a friend just after Pedersen had her first baby. The headline read: "Women's Brains Shrink During Pregnancy, Experts Find." Pedersen's admiration of doors as a communication medium sent Primus on a reconnaissance, first to William James Hall, tallest of faculty-office towers and a babble of door speak.

Psychologist Jerome Kagan, William James 1518. Cartoon. Ascetically clad sage in cave on mountain addressing visitor: "If I knew the meaning of life, would I be sitting in a cave in my underpants?"

Psychologist Pamela Keel, WJ 1570. Baby pictures, including an image of the baby in utero.

Sociologist Peter Marsden, WJ 630. Statement by Dave Barry: "If you had to identify, in one word, the reasons why the human race has not achieved, and never will achieve, its full potential, that word would be 'meetings.'"

Sociologist Libby Schweber, WJ 640. Excerpt from the diary of Georg Simmel: "We think we actually understand things only when we have traced them back to what we do not understand and cannot understand--to causality, to axioms, to God, to character."

Sociologist Jason Kaufman, WJ 648. Cartoon. Psychoanalyst says to king on couch, "Enemies, yes, but doesn't your moat also keep out love?"

Sociologist Barbara Reskin, WJ 570. Lewis Hine photograph of a 12-year-old girl spinner and a 1915 poem by Sarah Cleghorn: "The golf links lie so near the mill/That almost every day/The laboring children can look out/And watch the men at play." Also, a cartoon. Man speaking on telephone says, "No, Thursday's out. How about never--is never good for you?"

Unidentified anthropologists, WJ 407. Map entitled "The World According to Graduate Students." It shows bodies of water named "Exhilaration Bay" and "Delusions of Grandeur Sound" and such land masses as "Sexual Deprivation" and "Avoiding Thinking about Vomiting in the Middle of Your Oral Exam."

Historian of science Everett Mendelsohn, Science Center 223. Cartoon. A man with a briefcase returns to his office. His secretary says, "Sir, the following paradigm shifts occurred while you were out."

Professor of Jewish studies Jon Levenson, Divinity Hall 321. Cartoon. Three prisoners in wrist irons hang from a dungeon wall. A jailer bearing food asks, "Okay, who gets the kosher meal?"

Economist Gregory Mankiw, Littauer 223. Original drawing of "My Daddy," by Catherine.

Economic historian Jeffrey Williamson, Littauer Hall 216. Cartoon. One down-and-outer on a street corner to another, "There it is again--the invisible hand of the marketplace giving us the finger."

Professor of international health economics Christopher Murray, M.D., Center for Population and Development Studies. Poster from Mauritius: "Le droit de fumer ne donne pas celui d'intoxiquer son voisin."

Secretary (at the School of Education's Programs in Administration, Planning, and Social Policy) Kathleen George, Gutman Library 455. Cartoon. Boss to secretary: "I was planning to reward you with a huge bonus and a diamond and emerald brooch, but you ruined everything by joining that union." Secretary: "Oh drat!"

Philosopher Alison Simmons, Emerson Hall 313. Cartoon. A tree, having fallen in the forest, thinks, "I suppose it should be enough that I heard it."

Unidentified occupants of Emerson 006, a basement office. Park Service sign: "Warning. Many Visitors Have Been Gored by Buffalo. Buffalo can weigh 2,000 pounds and can sprint at 30 m.p.h., three times faster than you can run. These animals may appear tame but are wild, unpredictable, and dangerous."

Unidentified occupants of Maxwell-Dworkin Laboratory 209. Sign: "Please Do NOT Feed the Graduate Students! Do NOT Tap the Glass."

Landscape ecologist Robert France, Gund Hall 407. Excerpt from "Thoreau in the Harvard Classbook of 1837": "Suffice it to say, that though bodily I have been a member of Harvard University, heart and soul I have been far away among the scenes of my boyhood...."

Linguist Calvert Watkins, Boylston Hall 314. Cartoon. One cave dweller to another as they watch a dinosaur devour a comrade: "He was just a year away from retirement."