With apologies to Stanley Kubrick, I initially wanted to title these thoughts Dr. Pandemic or: How I Learned to Start Worrying and Effectively Advise My Ph.D. Students. For those unfamiliar with the reference, in 1964, Kubrick directed and produced a gallows-humor comedy, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, that satirized the Cold War fears and possibilities of nuclear conflict between the then Soviet Union and the United States. Many people consider the film to be one of the greatest comedies ever written, and it is one of the highest-rated movies on Rotten Tomatoes.
To be clear, I don’t think anything about this pandemic is funny. Nor am I attempting to make connections between nuclear annihilation and the entire globe dealing with COVID-19. Instead, on a much more basic level, I am struck by how simply viewing Dr. Strangelove in 1964 and decades later influenced audience perceptions of the rationality and viability of war. It made people rethink what they thought they knew about conflict, conflict escalation and nuclear anxiety. I can’t help but find parallels in how COVID-19 is making me rethink everything I thought I knew about our work environment, processes, tasks and responsibilities.
Although the scope and depth with which COVID-19 has affected us and the work we do is still unfolding, I do know right now that it is making me deeply rethink everything, including our roles and responsibilities as faculty members.
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