Students are lining the halls and sidewalks of Bea Wood, like squatters on Black Friday outside a Best Buy, to register for the language department’s newest course: Parseltongue. The line of more than 90 students formed at 5 a.m. the day after the fall 2017 class schedule was posted. Because of its high demand, Jeffrey Oxford, chair of foreign languages, is giving each student the opportunity to interview for a spot in the course, which maxes out at 35 students.
“Each student is given 10 minutes to tell me why I should give them a seat in my course,” Oxford said, as he swung his green and silver striped scarf over his shoulder. “If a student can convince me that they are prepared and are ready to accept the responsibility that comes with knowing and speaking the language of the serpents, then I will allow them unto phase two of my interview.”
Oxford’s two-phase interview process is comprised of the general interview followed by an introduction to to his pet: Mexican black king snake, Truffles.
“If ol’ Truffles finds them worthy to possess such a powerful gift, then I put a green check mark next to their name. The 35 students I pick will be notified via email and given a secret CRN number the Monday morning of early registration week.”
Some students barely make it one minute into Oxford’s interview, but some students stay a little longer. Jessica Mowrer, social work junior, spent nearly 20 minutes in his office.
“I’ve always thought I could hear snakes talking to me, but now I know I’m not crazy like they [the voices] said,” Mowrer said. “You never know when it will come in handy. French? Overrated. German? Too harsh. Spanish? Too many conjungations. Parseltounge? Speaks for itself. I’ve yet to be bitten by a rattler.”
Mowrer also believes she could use her skills for self defense and revenge.
“My real passion in life is releasing snakes onto my unsuspecting friends and family,” Mowrer said.
Trevor Knabue, biology senior, said he wants to learn the language to better connect with his future monther-in-law.
“She’s a bit of a snake herself I’ll tell you,” Knabue said. “My fiancé, Katie, said this would be a good way to attempt to bond with her. Here’s to hoping I got into the class or I’ll never connect with that woman.”
Parseltongue is not a course for those with a fear of the slithery and venomous. Students who want to learn the language will be required to become comfortable with scales rubbing against their skin.
Oxford has teamed up with William Cook, biology chair, who has agreed to house the 35 snakes Oxford will be transporting from around the world for the class.
“We don’t normally house animals for other departments, much less animals longer than eight or nine meters,” Cook said. “I’m not even allowed to keep a squirrel after what happened to Jeremy, but after a lot of proposal writing, we managed to get the funds for the reptiles’ new homes.”
Oxford is excited to teach students the language and art form that, he says, will “open more doors for them than they can imagine.”
Caleb Martin is a mass communication sophomore.