Wednesday 18 December 2013

In 1215 the University of Paris published a list of rules for its lecturers:
  • They must be at least 21 years old and have taken courses for six years. If you do the math, you’ll realize that students entered university at the age of 15 or earlier.
  • They must not be stained by infamy. I.e. no criminal record!
  • They shall not lecture on holidays, except on philosophy, rhetoric, grammar, and ethics – subjects that were apparently unimportant.
  • They shall wear a cloak, black and reaching to the ankles, at least while it is new. Not sure: does this last clause allow for shrinkage of the cloth or growth of the lecturer? No one shall wear shoes that are ornamented or with elongated pointed toes. I guess, no stilettos either.
  • If the lecturer died, he had the consolation of knowing that his funeral would be attended by half of his colleagues (the other half had to attend when the next lecturer died). And no one shall leave until the funeral is finished, unless he has reasonable cause. He couldn’t get off by saying he had to lecture because
  • On the day when a professor is buried, no one shall lecture. How sad.
  • The lecturer shall have jurisdiction over his students. This included monitoring their conduct and keeping notes on any misbehaviour. A student with a poor record of behaviour could be denied admission to the final exam.  By 1500, students apparently resented this kind of control.
One professor reported: I recently interrogated a student about his bad behaviour. He immediately turned on me and addressed me with “thou” (i.e. informally, as if the professor was a fellow-student). Then I said “I’ll remember that when you graduate,” hinting that he might be rejected. He answered: “Shit on you and your BA!” The professor blamed the poets, that is, the teachers of courses in the humanities, for this breakdown in student morals. You see what scandals there are, he said. I wish we all joined together and put an end to all those poets and humanists who ruin the universities.
(The quotations are from Lynne Thorndike, University Records and Life in the Middle Ages. The last paragraph comes from The Letters of Obscure Men.)

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