Latest campus craze? Humans v Zombies

And some have tried to stop this innocent fun…


According to The Chronicle of Higher Education , the craze that is the Humans versus Zombies game does continue on campuses, despite the efforts of “killjoys” to prevent it:

Napa Valley College officials are the latest to interfere with a popular campus-based game of tag called Humans vs. Zombies. More than 600 campuses in the United States play some version of the game, which originated at Goucher College.

To win, zombie players try to “infect” or tag the humans, thereby turning them into zombies, and the humans must protect one another from being tagged. Sometimes the teams also have missions to complete. In some iterations, the tags are tracked with person-specific ID cards, and then uploaded to a Web site. In others, as soon as you get hit with a Nerf dart, you’re dead. Well, undead. A game can last days or weeks, or merely until there are no “humans” left.

Must say it all sounds very exciting indeed. It also offers an entertaining analogy for the state of higher education more generally.

More bonkers degrees?

Are they bonkers? Or just very well targeted?

With apologies for repetition. But it is August. And in the context of A-level results day, we all need to reflect on the real value of some of the finest HE provision around. Previous posts have covered similar ground including a zombie course at the University of Baltimore and a course covering Lady Gaga. Also previously looked here at the launch of an MA in Beatles Studies and the offer of a degree in Northern Studies as well as offering a podcast on “bonkers or niche” degrees. Most recently there was, shockingly, an MA in horror and transgression at Derby.

The Chronicle of Higher Education has new update on some of these:

Pop quiz: What is the difference between a tangerine and a clementine? If you’re stumped, then you probably did not get a degree from Florida Southern College in citrus studies, an interdisciplinary major that introduces students to the ins and outs of producing and marketing—you guessed it—citrus fruits. Courses include CIT 3301: “Introduction to Citrus” and a for-credit internship in Florida’s citrus industry. If that experience doesn’t result in a full-time job, at least graduates know they’ll have a leg up in the produce aisle on all those chumps who majored in history.

It also highlights a number of other exciting degrees:

Carnegie Mellon U.

Major: Bagpipes – Notable courses: One-on-one bagpipe studio courses with Andrew Carlisle, a master piper

Bowdoin College

Major: Arctic studies – Notable courses: “Arctic Peoples,” “Arctic Explorations,” “Arctic Politics”

Harrisburg Area Community College

Major: Auctioneering – Notable courses: The program requires two semesters of “Procurement and Appraisal of Merchandise” as well as a semester of AUCT 106: “The Auction.”

Kansas State U.

Major: Bakery science – Notable courses: “Cereal Science,” “Fundamentals of Food Processing,” “Principles of Milling”

There are more…

Meanwhile, back in the UK, the Telegraph has published a list of “unusual university courses”. A remarkable list on two counts. First, few of the courses listed are that unusual (Aerospace Engineering is pretty big in quite a few universities) and secondly (as @TriBen pointed out to me, for which many thanks), it fails to cite Surf Science at Plymouth, which is usually a banker for such lists (there is a picture of a surfer though). The horse pic below relates to Equine Studies, of course.

It is August. And there is a need to fill some space before all those pictures of happy students on A level results day can be published.

Preparing for a zombie attack: the tyranny of FOI

So should every public authority be preparing for this?

Entertaining story on BBC News about Leicester City Council where a worried member of the public has forced the Council to admit it is unprepared for a zombie invasion:

The authority received a Freedom of Information request which said provisions to deal with an attack, often seen in horror films, were poor. The “concerned citizen” said the possibility of such an event was one that councils should be aware of.

“We’ve had a few wacky ones before but this one did make us laugh,” said Lynn Wyeth, head of information governance. The Freedom of Information Act allows a right of access to recorded information held by public authorities. Ms Wyeth said she was unaware of any specific reference to a zombie attack in the council’s emergency plan, however some elements of it could be applied if the situation arose.

So far, so funny. But this highlights one of the fundamental problems with the Freedom of Information Act: there is no sanity test. The City Council had to respond to this as if it were any other ‘normal’ FOI request, regardless of the waste of public money in so doing. Universities up and down the country get the same kind of nonsense on a daily basis, requiring staff in all parts of the institution to waste their time searching for documentation to satisfy the requirements of the Act. Usually the request is from a lazy journalist, a conspiracy theorist, a person with a grudge or someone seeking information for commercial gain. Universities should not be subject to this Act, it serves no public interest in our context and simply wastes public money.

And, to save you asking, no, there isn’t specific provision for dealing with zombie attacks in the University of Nottingham’s incident response plan.

Zombie class begins at University of Baltimore

Yet more zombie nonsense

Entertainment news courtesy of LA Times – zombie class begins at the University of Baltimore:

Zombies are everywhere these days. Last year they hit the best-seller list in a bizarre mash-up with Jane Austen called “Pride and Prejudice and Zombies.” They have inspired math professors to devise statistical models for surviving a “zombie apocalypse.” This fall, they’ll star in the AMC TV series “The Walking Dead.”

And now, they’re the subject of a new course, otherwise known as English 333, at the University of Baltimore.

“Zombies are one of the most potent, direct reflections of what we’re thinking moment to moment in our culture,” Blumberg tells the class in explaining why they’re all here.

Students will watch 16 classic zombie films (including “Zombi 2,” in which a zombie fights a shark), read zombie comics and, as an alternative to a final research paper, have the chance to write scripts or draw storyboards for their ideal zombie flicks.

Jonathan Shorr, chair of the university’s school of communications design, wanted a rotation of “interesting, off-the-wall” courses for a new minor in pop culture. But when Blumberg pitched him a course about the walking dead, he says, “I hit the side of my monitor a couple times thinking, ‘Do I have this right? Did he say zombies?’ ”

The more he thought about it, however, the more intrigued Shorr became. Zombies have shown great resilience as a storytelling device and in this era of gloom and dread, their popularity is cresting. Maybe they would be a perfect hook to get students talking about sociology, literature and a bevy of other disciplines that can sound stuffy.

Yep, you’ve got to make these subjects accessible and relevant or no-one will want to study them.

Further previous discussion of what some, but certainly not me, have described as ‘Mickey Mouse’ courses can be found here.

The Independent also highlights 10 strange courses, including a Harry Potter course on offer at Durham University, and this, perhaps the best of the lot:

Trekkies everywhere will be beaming at the news that Georgetown University offers a course in ‘Philosophy and Star Trek’. Students can attempt to get their most pressing questions answered such as ‘Is time travel possible?’ and ‘Could we go back and kill our grandmothers?’.

Top drawer.