Your university has just informed you that even though it is 36 degrees outside, the air system will not be switched over from air conditioning to heat for two more weeks. Since the administration has banned space heaters in offices but has no regulations against starting bonfires in offices, here are suggestions for what to burn for warmth:

  • Old student assignments: An obvious, tempting choice. But since your university is pushing you to do everything through their newly redesigned and now bug-free course management software (currently only accessible through Ask Jeeves), these are probably going to be old and brittle. Good for kindling, but won’t burn long enough to make a difference.
  • Handouts, information statements, policy changes, or “draft” budget proposals that “tentatively” include “raises” that you might have received from your administration: I would avoid burning these at all costs because printer ink is toxic. Chances are, your cheap university is locked into a vendor contract that restricts them to exclusively buying toxic ink. And given that you make marginally more money than a newly hired professor would, it’s not impossible that your administration would try to poison you on purpose by keeping your heat off and giving you toxic materials to burn.
  • Textbooks: Now we are getting somewhere. These are big and thick, they can serve as the logs of your fire. You may love a certain textbook, but the publisher is going to come out with a new edition next month anyway and you are going to have to buy it if you want to use their digital learning tool (and your administration has decided that you want to use it. It’s optional of course, but also completely mandatory). Plus, your bookstore needs you to submit your course material adoptions for 2035 by noon today. Might as well burn the ones you have now.
  • Academic journals: Just as journal publications are the foundation of your vita, the years of journal back issues on your bookcase are the foundation of your office bonfire for warmth. They are made from good quality materials (thanks to your excessively high society/association membership fees), are thick enough to burn at a consistent rate, and mostly available online (meaning you can stalk the authors and request their articles on ResearchGate, since your university’s library may no longer be able to afford the journal subscription membership since the library Starbucks needed that renovation). Besides, all of your rivals published in them, and this way you can get them back for that time they ripped your work in public while asking a “question” at your conference panel talk.
  • The university’s policy handbook: Do not burn this. This is the document that has your official “rights” that the university conveniently forgets to mention whenever they ask/tell you to do something. Yes, it is available online, except the link on the website is conveniently broken and you have to access the backup server through the dark web to find it.
  • The carpet in your office: Absolutely not. That carpet dates back to 1972 and hasn’t been deep cleaned since. If your building was built in the 1960s or ’70s your carpet contains chemicals that keep hippies from protesting, if you are in an old historic building then it likely contains ghosts. These ghosts will want to meet with you outside your regular office hours.

You could also wait until the heat comes on, but there is no guarantee that it will actually warm your office. And remember, the thermostat on your wall doesn’t really control the temperature — it’s the equivalent of the big plastic keys you give a baby so they stop trying to put your car keys in their mouth.

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NOTE: This is obviously satire. Do not start a fire in your office. The only sprinkler that works is the one directly above your computer and electronics.