This evening over dinner, my friend and housemate shared a news story from a month ago about a university student in Montreal who was surprised to discover that his current art history professor had, in fact, already been deceased for two years.
Aaron Ansuini had been following an online course through Concordia University when he Googled the professor to find his email address but instead found his obituary.
The university says the prerecorded material was in no way meant to be deceptive. Nevertheless, the student’s Twitter thread recounting his surprise amassed hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets.
HI EXCUSE ME, I just found out the the prof for this online course I’m taking *died in 2019* and he’s technically still giving classes since he’s *literally my prof for this course* and I’m learning from lectures recorded before his passing ……….it’s a great class but WHAT
IDK SOMETHING ABOUT IT IS WEIRD
I mean, I guess I technically read texts written by people who’ve passed all the time, but it’s the fact that I looked up his email to send him a question and PULLED UP HIS MEMORIAM INSTEAD that just THREW ME OFF A LITTLE
…that feeling when a tenured professor is still giving classes from beyond the grave There’s job security, then there’s this lmfao.
Also like, all dystopian “you can retire when you’re dead” jabs @ the institution aside—this is actually really sad and somebody should have realized that.
This prof is this sweet old French guy who’s just absolutely thrilled to talk paintings of snow and horses, and somehow he always manages to make it interesting, making you care about something you truly thought could not possibly be that interesting. It’s fucking sad man wtf
Why would you not tell someone that? Do you think students just don’t give a shit about the people they spend months learning from?
And like, it’s shitty that won’t get to thank him for making all of this information so engaging and accessible I tend to you know…actually talk to my teachers a lot? Idk man it’s just a weird thing to find out when you’re looking for an email address.
This raises questions (and perhaps reveals answers) not only about certain trends in contemporary education but also concerning the emerging philosophical anthropology of our day.
Early on in the pandemic, I wrote this brief post reflecting on Martin Buber’s quotation, “All real living is meeting.” Reflecting on “learning” from holograms rather than real, living persons, I wrote that it is the uniqueness and unrepeatability of encountering a particular person on a particular day that makes the experience precious and the relationship real.
As John Paul II said, “Every human being is somebody unique and unrepeatable. If our human statistics, human categories, human political, economic and social systems, and mere human possibilities fail to ensure that man can be born, live and act as one who is unique and unrepeatable, then all this is ensured by God. For God and before God, the human being is always unique and unrepeatable, somebody thought of and chosen from eternity, some called and identified by his own name.”
We want and need to experience others in all of their uniqueness and unrepeatability in order to be truly experiencing one another as persons.