When Moved by Spirits Faculty Take to the Streets


Last summer Professor of Cities and Society Stephen Graham of the University of Newcastle took a midnight stroll around his neighborhood. A respected scholar whose books include Cities Under Siege: The New Military Urbanism, nominated for the Orwell prize for political writing, and Splintering Urbanism, Graham spends a lot of his time checking out the highways and byways of densely populated areas.  So his nocturnal perambulation was business as usual for the academic.

Except that on this summer’s eve, Professor took a wrong turn and found himself, lost and alone, at the notorious intersection of Beer Road and Gin Lane.

armed only with his trusty screwdriver, Professor Graham did not know which way to turn.

Armed only with his trusty screwdriver, Professor Graham did not know which way to turn.

What to do, what to do?

The good professor blazed a trail so that he could find his way back home, or at least to back to the corner of Beer and Gin, should his wanderings lead him even further astray. And unfortunately they did.  Professor Graham (as told to the Daily Mail) picks up the story from here:

He told police that he had…drunk three quarters of a bottle of gin and, having been unable to sleep, must have gone out.

Then, “dressed in just underpants and a dress jacket” and “a sleeping mask on his forehead,” Graham

scratched graffiti on vehicles in his upmarket neighbourhood….us[ing] a screwdriver to write words such as ‘arbitrary’, ‘wrong’ and ‘very silly’ on the paintwork while dressed in only underpants and a jacket. His night-time vandalism…left 27 cars damaged and has landed the professor with a £28,000 compensation bill. Police were called after a resident heard scratching outside and spotted a figure crouching on the ground.

There were mitigating factors, of course:

Graham blamed the bizarre bank holiday rampage last August on his reaction to a combination of gin and medication. [He] had taken antibiotics for an infection after he had a tooth removed, and was also taking medication for a depressive illness.

The professor, who specialises in teaching about ‘cities and society’, was said to dislike people living in urban areas who drive ‘Chelsea tractors’ or 4x4s. Prosecutor Stuart Michie told the court: ‘He said he had a problem with 4×4 vehicles, he thinks they are too large for a town.’

Although Professor Graham told the court that “he had a vague memory of walking down the street in a dream-like state and damaging one or two cars by scratching words,” he does not explain how the screwdriver just happened to be in his underpants. What we do know, indisputably, is that he was glad to see it.

After paying hefty restitution, Graham resumed his teaching duties at the university.  I hope his toothache is better.

I am left wondering, however, if Gabriel Fenteany, Professor of Chemistry at the University of Connecticut, will use the same fell-into-a-dreamlike-state-after consuming-a-fifth-of-gin defense. Or if he will continue to emulate Professor Tihomir Petrov, late, I believe, of Cal State Northridge. Earlier this week, according to Eyewitness News, Fenteany, in Greenwich (CT, USA)

was visiting a local resident and became intoxicated. Then after leaving that friend, police said Fenteany walked through the parking lots and began to urinate, spit and kick vehicles. He’s also accused of ripping the side view mirrors off of a BMW, two Audis, two Lexuses and a Honda Civic.

Like Graham, Fenteany preferred victims who drove fancy cars. Unlike Graham, Fenteany is not in the classroom. From the University of Connecticut:

UConn has placed Mr. Fenteany on administrative leave and has prohibited him from campus until University and/or criminal investigations of the allegations have been concluded.

Arrangements are being made to cover his teaching duties and other professional responsibilities.

Mr. Fenteany was taken into custody Monday by UConn police on the Storrs campus and turned over to Greenwich police, which held the warrant for his arrest and would be the best source of information about the allegations on which it is based.

Those Huskies don’t fool around.  Note that Fenteany has been stripped of his “professor” title in this press statement. Where’s his due process? The unfairness of it all.  You gets a little drunk and you lands in jail.

Well, not exactly. What the university statement curiously omits is that Fenteany was already on leave, facing even more serious allegations. In February of this year he was charged with two felonies—1) violation of a protective order and 2) risk of injury to a child–and seven misdemeanors: breach of peace, criminal mischief, interfering with an emergency call, resisting an officer on two accounts and third-degree assault. The Connecticut State Police give the sad details of Fenteany’s alleged involvement in a “domestic dispute in which Fenteany was reported to have thrown things, hit a female victim and punched a male victim in the face, breaking his glasses. Fenteany was released on a promise to appear in court.” Continues The Daily Campus, UConn’s newspaper,

the investigation report noted that police had already been called to Fenteany’s house twice in the last year when they were called to settle the dispute in June. He was sent to the hospital the first time for drinking and was arrested the second time.

At least he didn’t have a toothache. But you can rest assured he is giving the dean and the provost at UConn plenty of headaches.

Professor Fenteany is on a slippery slope.

Professor Fenteany is on a slippery slope.

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4 thoughts on “When Moved by Spirits Faculty Take to the Streets

    • No, no, no…Professor Graham. I believe Professor Kennedy was at the Martha’s Vineyard satellite campus of Cape Cod Community College.

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