Modesty, Thy Name Is Trivers

Rutgers suspends prof whose greatness renders him unable to teach courses that are beneath him

“I don’t want to sound immodest, but I am one of the greatest social theorists in evolutionary biology alive, period,” Trivers told the campus newspaper. “I won the Crafoord Prize, which is considered the Nobel Prize for evolution, [worth] half a million dollars. I’m not an underperformer.”

In a fine act of academic gutlessness, the suspension is with pay. Some people call this “vacation”.

  • Fr. Denis Lemieux

    ‘I don’t want to sound immodest’ – well, I would love to hear what he would say if he were trying to sound immodest. ‘I am like unto a god – kneel before Trivers!’ That would kind of be cool.

  • M Clark

    The professor was assigned to teach a course on Human Aggression, but that is not his field of expertise. He argued with the university to let him teach his regular course on anthro/evolutionary biology, for which he is a world renowned expert. They insisted he teach Human Aggression. On the first day, he told the students this is not my field, I’ll do my best to learn with you as we go along. That is what he was suspended for. The headline does not match the information in the article.

    • Francisco J Castellanos

      He sounds aggressive enough to me (in a veiled, professorial, narcissistic kind-of-way). Me thinks he should go ahead and teach the course anyway.

  • bob

    To a first approximation, an ass working for a herd of other asses? Tuition dollars squandered.

  • Zippy

    “He also made headlines when he reported another professor had used flawed data in a paper they co-authored in the journal Nature. The article was eventually retracted.”

    Sounds like a guy who tells it like it is.

  • john smith

    Aw, I thought this was going to be about the sidekick from Walker Texas Ranger.

    Still you gotta love it. “Not to sound immodest, but f___ modesty. I am the greatest.”

  • Rebecca

    Maybe you know more about this incident than the article says, if so please share it. Based on the article, he did not say that the course they wanted him to teach was in any way beneath him. He said that he did not have the background to teach it. It makes perfect sense not to try to teach a course for which one is not prepared. I wish all my teachers during my school years had been so considerate. As to the other controversy: if he managed to get a paper which used flawed data withdrawn he did everyone a favor. I think you have the wrong take on this one, Mark. Just because the professor expressed in a way that you don’t like that he is very qualified to teach in a different field does not in any way invalidate his position that he was being required to teach a course for which he did not have the appropriate training.

    • BillyT92679

      meh, I don’t know


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