Teaching salaries these days are so bad, it seems like you have to sell the shirt off your back just to make ends meet. Or perhaps rent the shirt off your back. And where would you do this? On eBay — where else?
French professor Corry Cropper at BYU is doing just that. From Cropper’s eBay ad:
Want to get your message to the coveted 18-25 year old market? Coaches aren’t the only ones with a marketable presence on campus. I am a well-liked professor at a major university in Provo, Utah and have been here for nearly 10 years.
This semester I am teaching two courses of French literature that meet two days a week. I have a total of 46 students but am seen by many more during the day as I walk between classes and around campus. If you win the auction, I will wear your T-shirt with logo to campus on the days I teach (during class, office hours, lunch, etc.).
If you win the auction, it is your responsibility to mail me the T-shirt in time for classes Feb. 21 & 23, 2006. I cannot wear anything that is offensive in any way and cannot advertise for alcohol or cigarette companies. I reserve the right to refuse to wear the shirt if it is inappropriate but will not charge you if I don’t wear it. If you have questions about the appropriateness of the T-shirt, please email me before bidding.
Wow – it’s that easy, and a cool $40 is in the bank. (I smell a new revenue stream for law professors everywhere!) However, I have to wonder how this development will be viewed by feminist scholars, race scholars, or property-and-personhood scholars like Margaret Radin. It’s all fun and games when you’re auctioning off the right to put a logo on a white male, but the dynamic differs drastically when we begin discussing women or members of racial minorities. For majority-group members, deliberately chosing to blur the line between personhood and property may be viewed as a fun and harmless diversion. For historically disadvantaged groups, however, the stakes are very different. The line between personhood and property is a hard-won right for many groups — members of such groups may have been treated as chattel property in the relatively recent past. This history means that any step towards reconceptualizing these people (again) as property could have negative effects in both perception and reality. (Thus, the classic bachelor auction is easy; the newer bachelorette auction is fraught with tricky fault lines.)
For that reason — uncertainty of effects on historically disadvantaged groups — I think that the sale of professors’ sartorial space (on eBay or elsewhere) is probably a bad idea.