Announcing NAS's Summer 2009 "If I Ran the Zoo" Series

Peter Wood

In 1950, Dr. Seuss published If I Ran the Zoo.  It tells the tale of Gerald McGrew, who imagines he could improve on the dull choices offered by his hometown menagerie.  He is not wholly critical.  “It’s a pretty good zoo, and the fellow who runs it seems proud of it too.”  But McGrew imagines he could do better.  He would release the current animals and acquire creatures such as a ten-footed lion and a family of Lunks in a bucket from the wilds of Nantucket. He dreams of zookeeper glory, when “the whole world will say, ‘Young McGrews’s made his mark. / He’s built a zoo better than Noah’s whole Ark!’”

Last summer we posted a series of reflections—some rhymed, some in stately prose, a few sputtered—on the theme of “What would you do if you ran the academic zoo?” This was accompanied by a phil-o-soff-i-cal introduction. NAS hopes to make the pretty good academical zoo better.   We welcome constructive suggestions. This summer we will reprint some of the best of last year’s entries along with new ones, and we are adding YouTube videos to the mix. 

To start us off, here is my effort to channel Dr. Seuss—and zombies


2009 If I Ran the Zoo #1: Zombies
by Peter Wood

If I ran the zoo, 
I’d appoint the undead,
A zombie or two,
To ensure a diverse
Multicultural stew. 
And if they failed to apply,
I’d build a contraption
To entice the averse 
With a fermenting action. 

If I ran the zoo,

I wouldn’t deny

Admission to ghouls:

Ghoulish culture is rich

And we shouldn’t sit by

When the differently loathsome

Are left in the ditch. 

That a ghoul is both glum

And inclined to grave robbery

Is stereotypical

Anti-ghoul demagoguery. 


If I ran the zoo,

I’d appoint to the deanery

Gelatinous goo

That devours human beings

But spares all the scenery.

O the prizes we’d glean—

Most Sustainable Quad!

Best New Shade of Green!

Top Academical Sod!—

But credit must go where credit is due,

And with Dean Blob on the job

We’ll be first in the queue.


If I ran the zoo,

I’d make sure every course

Has a small residue

Of Western civ—in Old Norse—

To appease NAS and throw a sop to the trolls;

The rest of the time we’ll serve course casseroles

Made of minced classic texts and whatever is trendy

And served by life forms with many appendi.

If I ran the zoo,
We’d serve students whole
That’s the latest haut-goût
In res life’s fumarole, 
Where midst smoke and distress
And brow-beat confession,
Students learn to say, “Yes,
We’ve oppressed,
We’re oppressing.
We deserve to be cooked,
Stuffed with whole person dressing.”

If I ran the zoo,

I’d hike all the fees,

And while that’s nothing new

I have a new way to squeeze.

We’re offer discounts for those who donate

A kidney (or two), or a lung, or a heart.

We believe each student owes us a part,

And our doctors, though mad, are still pretty smart.

When we’ve used up a student,

Till he’s nothing, he’s spent—

We’ll swap in a robot.

They’re more competent.


If I ran the zoo—

What’s that that you say?

That I haven’t a clue:

It’s already that way?

The zombies, the ghouls,


The Blob, trolls, and Cthulhu

Are already in charge?


Is it so? Is it true?

Well I’m heartened to hear

And I won’t have to sob.

I’ll just stick to my current half-scholastical job.


If I did run the zoo,
I’d miss what I do:
I’m the pres, I preside
At the National Scowlers,
A group of gainsayers,
And grumblers, and growlers
Who are dissatisfied
No matter the players.



If I ran the zoo,
I have to depart,
Say goodbye to the crew,
And I haven’t the heart.
There’s scowling that’s needed
And scowling to do.
So let the zombies be speeded.
They’re in charge; it’s their zoo.

* * *

To submit your ideas of how you would run the higher education zoo, send your text or video submission to [email protected] 

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