Marcus Folch

Take a moment on your last Sunday at Columbia this semester to soak up some knowledge. In this edition of Actual Wisdom, classy Classicist Marcus Folch warns us not to be classist, among other things.

Justify your existence in 30 words or fewer: Existence, least of all my own, needs no justification.  We are, after all, ends in ourselves.

Your claim to fame: I am, to my knowledge, the only Latino Classicist on a tenure or tenure-track position in the US.  I’ve met one Latino classical archaeologist grad student and a single Cuban-American Latinist who’s in a temporary adjunct position somewhere.  But I think that’s it.  Shouldn’t that make me famous?  Or is it merely a very solid claim to obscurity?

What’s your most valuable or unexpected college experience? It’s either that I learned ancient Greek and Latin or lived in a cooperative as an undergraduate.

What’s the craziest student excuse/extension story you’ve heard?
Student: “I’m so sorry I missed class last week.  On Monday I had an interview with Harvard medical school.  On Wednesday I had to fly all the way to Chicago for another interview.”
Me: “On Monday I saw you making out with your boyfriend on the grass below my office window.  On Wednesday I was standing behind you at the coffee shop fifteen minutes before class; once again, it seems, you had bits of dried grass stuck to the back of your sweater.”

Would you rather give up oral sex or cheese? I’m vegan and a Classicist.  Both of which would seem to preclude either option.  That said, there’s no fire without oxygen.

Back in my day… I was an anarchist and I taught CC.  Now, alas, such ways set aside.

Three things you learned at Columbia:
1. Students do not have the luxury of choosing the economy they are born into; or, in other words, the middle class is a historical anomaly.

2. The Social Sciences are to the Humanities as the Renaissance is to the Middle Ages.

3. The ceiling will collapse at every NYC apartment I move into.

What’s your advice to students/academics/the human race in general? Make friends with your classmates. I know it’s hard. I know they’re weird. Some of them may seem unjustifiably elitist or beneath you or otherwise contemptible. They’re not, by the way, even though they may seem so. More importantly, in ten years, no matter where you go or what you have done, you will have more in common with any random person from any random course you took at Columbia than with anyone else you will ever meet.

Pensive gaze via Flickr.