Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Get Well...

Too mean by at least
100%, even on his
best days. Only the GOOD
die young. Celiac disease
is not enough, you
goddamn drama queen?
Our pal Cal is in the ER overnight with pneumonia...

Sending you my thoughts, friend...

But more importantly, quit being such a fucking whiner and bounce back already! 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

More classy college welcome signs. "Get your bean flicked"? I just threw up a little.

http://jezebel.com/honk-if-droping-sic-off-daughter-sad-weird-college-1726715366

Re-Re-Scheduling Misery From Pissed Pumpkin.

Way back in the halcyon days of the Spring Semester, my department head wrote the Fall schedule and told us how it would be. What she had in store for me was not my dream semester, but I could work with it. I mean, it gave me the five-day-a-week Introductory Survey of Quantitative Rodentology for Non-majors that is our biggest service course and money-maker, and it gave me the night version of the Algebra/Trig Hamsterology for Non-hamster Scientists, but it also gave me a upper-division course for majors that agrees with my specialty (albeit, scheduled TBA) and a little, much-needed overload pay.

Getting the night course is the cost of never being asked to teach before ten in the morning, so I won't complain about that.

After a little bit of horse-trading everyone agreed that it was as good and fair a schedule as could be made within the constraints we face and there was at least a little rejoicing.

Then summer was upon us and I started trying to schedule my TBA. Various students sent me various ridiculously constrained schedules and I mailed them back asking for clarification and generally finding the places where they actually could come to class and just didn't want to. And a few students persistently didn't answer their emails, so I looked up their class schedules and assumed that anytime they weren't in someone else's class they could come to mine. Eventually I chose and
published a time and ignored the resulting complaints from people who hadn't communicated with me during earlier rounds of negotiation.

As the summer semester ended (glorious extra pay warring with crammed days for the most notable feature of that period), I turned my attention to writing schedules and preparing assignments for the fall.

Then, with less than a week to go, the email showed up.

The mail telling us how Professor Formal was having trouble getting her visa to return from seeing her relatives in the old country, and we were all facing schedule changes. The chair had to rope in a couple of occasional adjuncts to cover the service sections, but it could be done.

It wasn't too bad for me, I lost that five-day-a-week service class and got Professor Formal's section of Intro Hamsterology for Majors (a course I've been wanting to teach) and consequently another hour of overload pay and a huge headache preping a new course in four days and re-scheduling my TBA.

So Fall was a little rocky at the start, but as week two drew to a close I had gotten my feet under me and all my classes seemed likely to be a little better than average.

Then the visa came through.

Another email. More re-scheduling.

Because our Chair is not an evil person she was determined not to pull any sections out from under adjuncts, but that meant snagging what units she could from full-time faculty. The resulting schedules are strange and I've lost all my overload hours, and will have an awkward hole in my schedule starting week seven (from historical reason our first "for-majors" class is split into a 6- and 10-week sessions).

I had plans for that money, but maybe I can use those hours for a little research. Or am I being an optimist again?

Monday, August 31, 2015

How about someone defer to the proffie first?

The flava:

Multiple professors at Washington State University have explicitly told students their grades will suffer if they use terms such as “illegal alien,” "male," and “female,” or if they fail to “defer” to non-white students.

According to the syllabus for Selena Lester Breikss’ “Women & Popular Culture” class, students risk a failing grade if they use any common descriptors that Breikss considers “oppressive and hateful language.”

"Students will come to recognize how white privilege functions in everyday social structures and institutions.”

The punishment for repeatedly using the banned words, Breikss warns, includes “but [is] not limited to removal from the class without attendance or participation points, failure of the assignment, and— in extreme cases— failure for the semester.”

Breikss is not the only WSU faculty member implementing such policies.

MORE

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“People dancing, people laughing, A man selling ice cream, singing Italian songs.” From the Tuba Playing Prof.

It's Move-In Day, a day that takes three days. I understand that students duped into living on campus are our best customers because on top of the ever-rising tuition they pay (that comes with the ever-rising reliance on “contingency” faculty), they rent living spaces, buy meals, and rent parking spaces. After all, it's more money than the students we now refer to as “just commuters” fork over.

And Move-In Day is the latest “event” planned by the new vice president for.....I forget the title. The “residents” (that group of people we once called students), their parents, siblings, and significant others (many who apparently now stay the entire weekend in the new “conference center,” the latest hotel from a national chain that has “partnered” with the university), enjoy several “start-UP! sessions,” meals, and “funtime” activities. The college president addresses them, a sign of just how important these residents are to our “campus community.” The current president has never attended a department or college meeting, so these residents are clearly important. Across campus, there are welcome banners, “Ask ME! Volunteers,” music playing, free water, information booths, and other festive, joyous, brightly colored, meaningful, freaking awesome, helpful things.

As I jogged by campus today, I was moving faster than a long line of trucks and cars with trailers filled with necessary stuff bought at Best Buy, Target, Bed, Bath, and Beyond, etc, I realized that this particular traffic jam was headed to the Juniors dorms, not the new freshmen dorms across campus and curiously across the street from a collection of dodgy bars. These Juniors dorms are where twenty-year-old college juniors reside. I know that everything is for most of these young people and their parents an event---from graduation from Kindergarten, to school “dances,” to “campus-tour vacations,” to moving into freshmen dorms. Why is moving into one's dorm room for hur junior year an event?

Yet as I jogged on, here's the thing that mostly annoyed me as a “teaching faculty member” (or in words no one will say “just a teacher”): I know that among these students “moving in” at least one will be in one of my MW classes. And as such hur final exam will be scheduled on the very last day of the fall semester, always a Monday (because of Labor Day), the day after mandatory “move out,” the last Sunday of the semester so that the staff can “process” before the semester break—that lasts five weeks.

A few days before December 21st, I will get some form of this email: “Professor, I have to move out by Sunday, and I have no place to stay, so I need to take the final early before my parents come here to move me out.”

Once again I will email the latest newest admin in charge to point out the conflict that residents have between their living spaces and their academic careers; sometime in late January, I'll get once again the terse explanation that the staff needs the time to “process” the dorms for the upcoming Spring Semester.


Sunday, August 30, 2015

Cynicism or reasonable doubt?

I wonder if anyone can help me get a better perspective on a situation that has arisen in my department?

We have a female student who struggled in first year, failing a few modules (gender matters for this story).  Our system allows such students the chance to resit over the summer so they can continue to progress with the rest of their cohort, assuming that they meet certain requirements (they have to have failed by 'honest effort', which means attended classes, handed in work etc. - if they were absent above a certain threshold and/or didn't submit major pieces of work, we expect them to retake the module in their own best interests).  When Stuette attended for her resit exam, it was very obvious that she was quite heavily pregnant, so (after some traditional shuffling and mumbling) someone sat down with her and asked what her plans were.

Stuette, it turns out, thinks a baby will have no effect on her life (this is her first, and she's not yet 20), and has researched her 'rights' according to the university.  The baby is due the first week of the semester.  Stuette states that she will be back as a full-time student attending all classes, laboratory work and field work from week 5 of the semester.  The university states that we must therefore redo all risk assessments to specifically cover the inclusion of a recently post-partum female AND a very young baby, which means everything from weights lifted to chemicals involved to walking distances to breast-feeding and changing facilities (Stuette has signed up for modules which involve multi-day trips to remote nature sites, where the day-time toilet facilities MIGHT include a primitive wooden spider-infested long-drop or a urine-impregnated concrete monstrosity, but often consist of a few rocks or shrubs).  Where the needs of Stuette cannot be met on the original, the university requires that we develop alternative but equivalent activities (perfectly possible, with sufficient notice, but as a certain number of field and laboratory days are required for accreditation in Stuette's programme, pricey in staff time and sometimes resources too).

I wish Stuette all the best, hoping for an easy on-schedule birth, an easy baby, a rapid recovery and cast-iron child-minding arrangements (which we are not allowed to ask her about and which she will not tell us about, which kinda sends up a red flag to me, but maybe I am being unreasonable?) for her.  Perhaps I am showing my own ignorance, as a childless older female who really Needs Her Sleep living in a legislative system which considers up to a year of parental leave to be appropriate to allow new mothers time to recover and adjust. 

But... Stuette is a weak student who did not give us long enough notice to actually make arrangements (according to the stated due date she was 33-34 weeks pregnant when someone asked her what was up, so well past any reasonable time to begin planning, one would think).  We have a 12 week semester, so she will return in week 5 with four weeks of work to make up on top of a full load in classes with relatively high hours (in the UK contact hours vary according to the subject, and science subjects with field and lab classes have the highest hours on the whole).  I therefore anticipate that appropriate accomodations will also include extensions on course-work, at the least, if not deferral of assessment into the SECOND semester, which just puts more pressure on what is widely agreed by staff and students to be the hardest semester of the degree in Stuette's programme.  Effectively, staff are going to be expected to act as private tutors to get her up to speed on those missing four weeks (university guidelines explicitly state that individual tuition is a reasonable accomodation request for such circumstances).  NO there is no money for a TA to help, or anything like that.

I'm really not convinced that this is in the student's best interests.  Or in the interests of the other 50 students in her programme or 175 students in her overall cohort within the department.  And naturally as a member of staff currently redoing risk assessments and attempting to work out how the HECK I can shoehorn in replacements for the field and lab classes in the first four weeks of the semester into the later weeks in a way that gives Stuette a chance of actually being able to successfully take part in the rest of the module without messing up her group's work or putting unmanageable extra pressures on me and my delicately balanced marking schedule, I may be somewhat biased.

Any comments or opinions, Miserians?  Or just some sympathy would be nice right now...