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Rock ’n’ roll faculty

Paul Greatrix looks at some more connections between higher education and the music industry.
This article is more than 5 years old

Paul Greatrix is Registrar at The University of Nottingham, author and creator of Registrarism and a Contributing Editor of Wonkhe.

There are many, many connections between higher education and music and I’ve reported on some of them here before.

We’ve looked at the older big names on the HE music scene, I’ve reported here on the lost bands of HE and some of the forgotten ones, as well as which bands to watch out for in 2018. In addition we have had other HE-related music topics including  universities named after bandsVC Desert Island Discs and some books about university gigs.

There are, of course, also some outstanding examples of leading academics who have made it big in the music industry. And I’m not talking about “Professor” Green. Who can forget this appearance by Brian Cox (now media academic star extraordinaire) on Top of the Pops?

And then there is Kingston University’s Professor Will Brooker’s David Bowie tribute – he spent a whole year in character as the thin white duke.

A recent story in the Chronicle covered a number of faculty bands at US universities including the entertainingly named Credit/No Credit

For years, the ensemble performed at the annual dean’s dance, armed with an original song that satirised whatever hot gossip had circulated that semester.
One year, the biology department was awash in new students, so it expanded, provoking bruised feelings from faculty who sacrificed space. Credit/No Credit wrote and performed a song called “Go Bio.” The lead singer, a psychology professor, crooned: “Lookin’ out for some space to grab / Gotta find out where to put a new lab / The [environmental science] space will be our prey / They aren’t real scientists anyway.”

Another band at a different university formed as part of a protest against course closures:

When the University of Wisconsin at Stevens Point announced plans to drop 13 majors in the humanities and social sciences, a feminist music collective fought back. The group, AcaSheMia, shot a video for a track they call “Oh Dean: Please Don’t Cut Them Even Though You Can.”

Naturally, it was to the tune of Dolly Parton’s Jolene:

“Oh dean, oh dean, oh dean, oh dean / Please don’t use this bad strategic plan. … Please don’t cut them just because you can.”

Then, at Michigan State University, a band came together under the name Against School Violence. They’ve been around for over 30 years it seems and have come up with some interesting higher ed themed material over this time, including:

There’s ‘Quantitative Data Gone Wild’ to the tune of Johnny Cash’s ‘Ghost Riders in the Sky’. (The song went over quite well at a statistical conference.) And Billy Joel’s ‘We Didn’t Start the Fire’ became ‘We Didn’t Write the Textbooks’. The chorus goes, ‘We didn’t write the textbooks / They were here before us and they really bore us / Oh, how we’d like to change them / But if we’d actually write them someone might not like them.”

The excitingly named Leucine Zipper and the Zinc Fingers


A rather niche disciplinary take is offered by Leucine Zipper and the Zinc Fingers, a science-themed punk outfit, featuring Michael Evans, a chemistry-lab coordinator at the Georgia Institute of Technology:

Evans, a biologist, an immunologist, and an amphibian ecologist make up the core group. But technically, according to the band’s website, the ensemble is not composed of Georgia Tech faculty and alumni. Rather, the people who take the stage are clones of Georgia Tech faculty and alumni whose genetic makeup was spliced with DNA stolen from iconic rockers like Joan Jett and Alice Cooper to form the world’s first “genetically engineered rock band”.

Edgy stuff.

Closer to home, it’s a particular pleasure to highlight a band based in the School of Veterinary Medicine and Science at the University of Nottingham. Featuring both the dean/head of school and the deputy head, the Mutt’s Nutts have been playing at Vet School social events for many years. You can see them in action here:

Rock on.

3 responses to “Rock ’n’ roll faculty

  1. Thanks for a great article that brings back wonderful memories of my dad. He was Professor of Economics at various universities in South Africa (and spent a year lecturing at the Uni of Glasgow and Penn State Uni, respectively, in the seventies) and played in bands as a drummer throughout his life. When he was a student in the sixties at the Uni of Stellenbosch he played in a rock ‘n roll band called the Ritmos – they’d play at all the uni dances. Then as an academic at the Uni of Rhodes, he played in the Andrew Tracey Steel Band and, later at the Uni of Stellenbosch, he played in various uni rock and jazz bands. I have the fondest memories of academia and music brought together through my dad. For many of his students too, it was a great thrill seeing Prof. Black play the drums till the early hours.

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