Sunday, June 30, 2013

Sabbatical Sweetness

Hi y'all!

No, I haven't forgotten you, out there in the trenches. But I've been avoiding even reading about your misery, because I'm on sabbatical! Oooooh, it's running out fast, department head and dean and what not have been bugging me about teaching duties and service and stuff for the Fall.

But I've been holed up in libraries, attended conferences in foreign countries, made it to the dentist (ok, am losing a tooth tomorrow, that's what I get for ignoring this for so long), been writing a book and mucking around with some research and SLEEPING IN MORNINGS (bwah-ha-ha, oh, I really had to say that).

And I don't have to prep on Sundays. I could get used to this.

I believe that I am finally getting my sanity back. I actually look forward to seeing the flakes again. Meetings: I could do without them. They coaxed me in for a Very Important Meeting About The Future of The University As We Know It. It ended up being about quality assurance numbers. I left after 2 hours. I had an important meeting. In a cafe. With some coffee and cake.

Have a great summer, peeps!



Trayvon Martin case: How Rachel Jeantel went from star witness to 'train wreck'

Rachel Jeantel, the
prosecution’s star witness
in the murder case of
George Zimmerman,
sparked a torrent of
commentary from both
whites and blacks,
much of it negative.
Will criticism of her
demeanor override her
crucial testimony?
By Patrik Jonsson
Christian Science Monitor 

Nineteen-year-old Rachel Jeantel holds some of the most critical information about the Trayvon Martin murder case. Yet her delivery on the stand in Seminole County this week drew widespread criticism.

She was hard to understand, mumbled, acted impertinent, annoyed, rude, and came across, as one cable TV news host said, as a “train wreck.”

While some have rushed to defend Jeantel’s multi-lingual background, others leaned hard into her personally, letting fly on social media a swirl of epithets that roughly amounted to dismissal of her as “ghetto trash,” as one commenter said. That reaction has steered the trial into a new phase, reflecting, some commentators argue, more on America’s privileged classes, including blacks, than Jeantel’s trustworthiness as a star witness.

Reaction to Rachel Jeantel on the stand “has been in terms of aesthetics, of disregarding a witness on the basis of how she talks, how good she is at reading and writing,” says George Ciccariello-Maher, a history and politics professor at Drexel University, in Philadelphia. “These are subtle things that echo literacy testing at the polls, echo the question of whether black Americans can testify against white people, of being always suspect in their testimony. It’s the same old dynamics emerging in a very different guise.”

Read the full article here.

This article strikes me because it illustrates exactly what I want to save some of my more hard core students from. Rachel Jeantel is not a unique case------there are many people like her who cannot relate important information, cannot be taken seriously, cannot communicate effectively at all with people they often find themselves needing to communicate with. The fact that they cannot read, cannot write and cannot speak at anywhere near effective levels to participate in the parts of American culture that will help them emerge from poverty is a tragedy, but one from which lots of people are trying to help them dig out. The article implies this is about privilege----that she does not communicate the way the privileged classes do. True enough, but I work at a place which funnels government money by the bucket loads to try to get people like Rachel the skills they need to succeed.

This article gets me fired up to help more people escape, but I am also very sad because so many of them just squander their opportunity, choosing to argue with our attempts to help them improve their communication skills, and to spend their energy fighting the very people who are trying to help them.

Friday, June 28, 2013

My Adventures on the Job Market, Expressed by the Onion

'I Would Be Absolutely Perfect For This,' Report 1,400 People Looking At Same Job Posting

from The Onion

SAN FRANCISCO—Upon coming across the same job posting Monday for a full-time position at a local startup company, an estimated 1,400 people reportedly described the opening as “a perfect fit” for their qualifications, saying it was exactly the opportunity they’ve been waiting for. “I have all the skills they want, my experience matches up—I honestly don’t know if there’s anyone out there better suited for this job than me,” said unemployed man Charles Duncan, echoing the sentiments of 1,400 others, 900 of whom believe their facility with social media and knowledge of web design will definitely make their application “stand out from the rest of the pack.” “This position just makes so much sense for me. My résumé and cover letter might not get me the job outright, but once I go in for the interview they’ll see why I’m ideal for it.” Sources later confirmed a family friend of a top executive at the company had already accepted the position, which had been unofficially promised to him long before the job was even posted.


So many times I thought exactly this and never got a callback, no word at all. 
And now that I'm in the position to recommend people for positions, I feel myself completely at a loss for how to find the perfect fit. How does one write a job description hinting that "humility" "collaboration" and "team-first, me-second" are more important to our organization than the specific research you did for your dissertation? I want people-oriented rather than the aggressive academic type. Is there a code word for this? ("Student-Centered"?)

They should teach us more about administration in grad school. Before you know it, I'll be making the same mistakes I bitched about when I was on the market.

CM Sccchhhhhhwaaaaaaaaaaag.

Read the @!$% Directions!

When I first went in the army, many moons ago, I regularly heard a phrase that went something like "read the fucking directions."

I am persuaded that most of my students don't.

I feel like a fool in class, going over the details of the assignment in excruciating detail, insulting the few who actually DO read the directions.

How far do you go in protecting them from themselves in this matter?

Thursday, June 27, 2013

In which Bella wants her students to stop whining about the requirements

"Look, here's a cool
source on Twatter!"
Okay, so I am teaching comp two, online.  Overall, I have some pretty smart, well prepared students.  Yay for them. 

BUT, for the final research essay, I have some requirements they don't like.  One of them is to use the web, but for the REQUIRED web articles, they must get their information from both a government website, and a university-sponsored website. 

Eat me, kids.  That's what I fucking want from you.  It's what I told you I wanted.  I made myself VERY clear.  You can use your easy to find .orgs up the ass as ADDITIONAL, OPTIONAL web articles, as long as you write a paragraph explanation of what kind of organization runs the site, what their stated purpose is, and where they get their funding.

Diversity (Cont.)

Some interesting comments in an old Dick Tingle post.

A Big Thirsty Follow Up: "How does one go about 'promoting diversity' anyhow?"

This is related to Terry's posting; I was going to raise it in the comments, but thought it should get its own comment thread so as not to hijack his post.

We have the diversity question. It goes like this: "What specific teaching practices do you use to promote diversity in your classroom?"

I was asked that question, once. I was, and still am, floored by it in the context of teaching science. My answer was pretty darned lame: "I try to judge my students on how they perform, not who they are."

But then, where I grew up, "diversity" comprised having kids of Bohemian, Norwegian and Dutch ancestry all on the same football team, and perhaps dating someone from a neighboring town. "High diversity" might mean that someone from the local Wisconsin Synod Lutheran church had unbent enough to allow their kids to participate in a secular organization like FFA.

So my questions are, quite simply, these:

Q. How did you answer this question?


Q. What specific teaching practices should be used to promote diversity in the classroom?

Disclaimer: I'm looking for answers that will help me to understand what the question means, not for screeds. I'm well aware of how much privilege I have, simply by virtue of being a tall white man who is neither excessively stout nor excessively unattractive.

Jesus God, a Big Thirsty on Diversity, or at Least the Diversity We Talk About When We're Hiring Someone.

So, 6 people on the committee. We're big on diversity here, mostly because we're nearly completely white except for a small percentage of African-American students. But the faculty, it's like BYU or something. We're so un-diverse that it's a little scary.

We're hiring, blah blah. We get 6 questions together because we have to ask the same questions to each candidate, etc. Most of you know this. We have the diversity question. It goes like this: "What specific teaching practices do you use to promote diversity in your classroom?"

I don't know. It's a question like any other interview question. It could be a home run or a ground out.

But get this, as we decide which of our disembodied voices will ask the questions, the chair says to Kim Sun, who I must mention was born in Tucson, but whose grandparents were born in, wait for it, New York, "You should ask that question."

Good grief.

Q: How Diverse Is Your Department?
What do you think of that? Has there been a push to change it? Is there a way to talk about diversity without it seeming so odd?

Gosh-darn that Supreme Court!

Suddenly my marriage seems so fragile.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mother, May I?

For a week and a half, a mother-daughter duo has been in my summer Duckling Behavior and Culture course. I've had mother-daughter duos in classes before. This is not new to me. Usually, they get along and seem to enjoy each other's company.

What is new, is that the mother keeps bossing her daughter around. On day one, she told her daughter where to sit. She reminded her not to sprawl in her seat and loudly instructed her to bring her some chips from the vending machine in the hallway during the break. "Don't get any sugary snacks," she remonstrated, "You know you still need to lose a few pounds." We all attempted to ignore the mother and her snide remarks.

Help Is On The Way.

Greetings from Ponte Verda, FL. My name is Taryn, and I'm a rising senior at MIT working at a site called MakingItCount. I've read College Misery in the past and came back to it today only to see that pretty much every post is a flashback. I understand that since I'm still a student I'm not allowed, but I think a student's perspective may be refreshing. Hell, at least it's not a damn flashback.

My post would be about what causes college students the most misery in college--student loans. Half of the post will be about how college loans are so shitty on multiple levels. The other half will be about the student loan app released this morning that enables students and parents to use purely objective data in order to not get screwed by loans down the line. In short, I present a means to an end of students' biggest misery. Can I send you a link of it so that you can check it out yourself?

Some details have been anonymized. But not by much.

Reflections of a Life Mediocrely Lived

TK-421 here reporting from my post in Podunk, Nowhere! Today’s post is brought to you by alcohol! Alcohol: It’s what keeps academics (and administrators) everywhere from tossing themselves off the top of the student union. I should really contact Maker’s Mark and see if they have any interest in adopting that as their new slogan…

But I digress, the summer hiatus appears to be in full swing not only here at CM, but also in my own little slice of hell in this particularly unfashionable arm of the galaxy. The campus is eerily empty of both Jedi faculty and their young Padawan apprentices. So, while I sit in my office overlooking the quad, staring at the tour groups as they go by, I find myself with a bit of time to dwell on some of some of my experiences from the last few months. I have highlighted a few of my favorites…

"When Good Students Go Exceedingly Bad." An Early Thirsty from WTF in Flyover Country.

I don't want to mention much detail for the sake of anonymity (a Thing in the News), but a student at my uni has just been implicated in some truly heinous goings-on; this student was always a great, hardworking and conscientious person-- had gotten As in my classes-- and very polite and quiet and very smart. And I'm having a very hard time wrapping my head around this student being connected with said crimes-- really really doesn't make sense (exactly like when an interviewed neighbor on the news says, "Shucks, he was really nice, but a bit quiet. Kept to himself. We're shocked!" Well, we are! Head is spinning).

I know that at a lot of CCs the student body tends to be very diverse, at times encompassing people coming from extremely. . . complicated. . . backgrounds, but at the sort of four year school I work at, cops visiting a classroom to pick up a student, for example, is close to unheard of. It's just a bit gobsmacking.

Q: Anyway, has anyone else had a student who got involved in / committed something remarkably horrendous? Any amazing classroom drama of that sort? Share stories!

An Actual Thematic Sorta, Timely FlashBack to 2009. 4 Years Ago Today.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Top 10 Reasons I'm Not Bumping Your Grade.

10) The syllabus specifically states not to ask for a grade bump. But seeing as you're asking, and you had to scan the syllabus for my contact info, you don't care what the syllabus says. To foster a mutually shared experience of ignoring written materials, I'm now going to ignore your email. 

9) Several months after the fact you're now declaring that you were 'not feeling well' during a previous midterm, which affected your academic performance, and you now want an 'adjustment' to your grade that reflects that? Sure thing, as soon as monkeys or pigs, or some other type of animal, magically flies out of my ass holding a valid doctor's note dated the same day as that long-ago midterm. 

8) It's all about the Benjamins, baby. 

7) You want a grade bump from a D to a C+ so that you can make Science one of your 'Teachables' for your teaching degree? If you're getting a D in 1st year Intro to Biology, then I sure as hell don't want you teaching my kids science. 

6) You'll do "ANYTHING" to get a grade bump? Unfortunately, the stress over my upcoming tenure review and the accompanying barrel of Scotch I've been drowning myself in for the last few months means that there's currently no urges nor active nerve endings down there, so that particular carrot on a stick won't work this time. If you'd taken the course last year... 

5) There is no number 5.

4) If I don't give you a grade bump you're going to complain to the Dean? Go ahead, the Dean hates students more than I do, beeyatch. 

3) You want a grade bump from A to A+ so that you've got a decent shot at getting into med school/dentistry/optometry/etc.? I don't want to be operated on by some schmoe who got into med school because of a grade bump. Then again, there is that old joke "What do you call a person who just barely passed every test in med school? - Doctor." 

2) You want a grade bump because "it'll really help your GPA"? I got news for you, a grade bump will help ANYONE's GPA. Getting a higher mark than the one you actually deserve will ALWAYS do wonders to one's GPA. 

1) You're a 4th year student with a major in a different science department, you failed miserably in this 1st year science course that you thought would be an easy elective, and your whole family has already bought plane tickets to come all the way across the country to a graduation ceremony in one month's time that you won't be attending because failure in this course means that you don't have enough credits to graduate. Um, sucks to be you, dude. At least have them check out the museums so the trip isn't a total loss.

Monday, June 24, 2013

early thirsty re: your community, your crew, your comrades, your tribe, your peeps

I'm part of a group that regularly discusses whatever the Christian Science Monitor publishes.  I don't think any of us are Christians or Christian Scientists, but we are hooked on the CSMonitor.  We've all been reading it for decades.  They get me, I get them.

So that's one of my tribes--and one that probably actually matters to me more than the American Association of Hamsterfurology or most of my fellow proffies in my school's Department of

And family matters to me.  For better or for worse, they are my clan.

Some others will go without mention.

Q. What are your most meaningful communities?  Church?  Russian mobsters?  Friends from high school, uni, grad school?  The guys you've been drinking coffee with every morning for years at that cheap restaurant?  Who is your most meaningful community?  Is there one you expect to endure until you die?  Is there one you would recommend to the rest of us lost souls?

A. ____________________________________________
Don't mention the other three of us at CM.  We know how important we are to you.
And don't mention your fellow hamsterfurologists--unless the mere mention of them literally makes your mouth water and your loins lubricate.
Be honest, dammit.

College Misery Welcomes Your Posts to Fill In the Dead Time of Summer Hiatus.


If you are a casual reader of CM and have always thought, "Shit, I can do better than this, especially these old flashbacks!" then we encourage you to send us anything you've got that might fit our readership. We'll do the heavy lifting of providing a blurry graphic and get the thing online within DAYS of it arriving at the compound.

Or not.

A Six Year Old Flashback Thirsty. What Would You Do?

Sunday, June 24, 2007

I had a student this semester--a single mother of two--who was going through a lot of personal problems. She was failing the class and I tried to work with her. She kept telling me how passing this class would allow her to reach her goals on time, especially important because she was on unemployment and had a limited amount of time to make this work.

In the end, she tried to make up much of the work she missed early on, but her answers indicated she didn't quite get it. On the day of the final, she told me she hadn't had time to write her last paper, because she'd devoted all her time to her other classes, but it was very important that she pass my class. I felt bad for her, and I gave her until I left my office that day, about an hour later, to turn it in. As I was getting into my car, she came running up, calling my name. Something had gone wrong with the file and printer, and all she had were some notes. She swore she'd written the paper.

A few days later, she mailed me the paper.I read it, but didn't give her credit. It was not of passing quality. Her final grade was a D. After the grades were posted, she emailed me to tell me that with the D, her GPA had slipped 3/hundredths of a point below what she needed to maintain her financial aid.

Now I feel that if I'd just passed her, I could have made her life that much easier at little cost to me. Was I wrong? Or should I have not even considered her personal situation (single moms always have my sympathy and respect)? What would you have done?

Saturday, June 22, 2013

5 Years Ago on RYS.

You Can't Make This Shit Up.

Professors: be about the students
by Paul Flowers
Southern Illinois Daily Egyptian

Socrates once said that the wisest man admits he knows nothing at all.

Well, it is obvious that Socrates has never had a conversation with a person wielding a doctorate - especially a college professor.

I have had my fair share of instructors at SIUC, but none as interesting to learn from than those that call themselves "Dr. Xyz." Some of them are almost a different breed. I'm not alone in my thoughts. There are even professors that think the same way and have began to do something about it.

Have you ever had a professor that is too smart for his or her own good?

They write their syllabi using more jargon and three-dollar words than the medical profession. Yes, those professors. You know them. The ones that have tenure from Toronto to Texas and may bite your head off if you address them as "Mr." or "Ms." instead of "Dr. "

They teach their courses as if they are having informal discussions with their colleagues.

It may have not occurred to them that they are teaching undergraduate courses, or maybe it is that they enjoy torturing incoming and rising level students.

What they seem to have forgotten is that they were once in those positions.

They forgot what it was like to sit in those classrooms with tens or hundreds of other students they don't know, listening to a professor that they cannot understand and trying to grasp information that they have never seen.

So what now?

The problem is, when a person gets to a certain level of education they begin to think they know everything.

Big mistake.

One solution to is one presented to me from a teacher from my social justice and leadership class. In her syllabus she listed herself as the "instructor/learner" as opposed to just "professor/Dr. Xyz."

I understand that this particular scenario is not feasible in every subject setting. However, there is a way that even a top biochemical professor can learn something from students, if they take themselves out of the way and open up to the idea.

This may stir up some coffee cups in the lounge but that is to be expected. It is nothing to take offense to, just something to learn from.

My parting thought on this is simply for the professors to remember, there was a time when they were in those very same seats.

There was a time that they too knew nothing and had to spend extraordinary amounts of time trying to grasp the simplest concepts. If the professors of our prestigious university would take the time to get back to these memories and think about those times, we, as students, may not be so afraid to come to their office hours. It wouldn't seem like a door with "Warning: may try and lose you in conversational jargon," but it would have more the appearance of a traffic light that's always on green with a yellow-brick road leading up to it.

This is student-based teaching.

This is how the student/professor relationship prospers.

Think about it.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Hector from Hagerstown Poses a Friday Thirsty on Words.

Q: Are there really words "we" cannot or should not say?

My French From High School Is So Bad I Had to Get The Damn Google To Translate This Story Of a Caring French Mom Taking a Test for Her 19 Year Old Daughter!

Laetitia is 19. D. Caroline, his mother, in thirty-three more. Yesterday, the fifties was made in the examination room of a Parisian school for his daughter to replace English test tray. Converse sneakers foot, low cut jeans and look out for a very worked up, the mother was probably convinced that the age difference does not jump in the eyes of supervisors.

Guests to inflate the oral notes French teachers Quack distribution of subjects tray The attempt backfired and the wrong candidate has completed its test ... the police tenth district where she was taken in mid-afternoon. Two hours earlier, the mother had arrived without any problems until one of the rooms of the private school Bossuet-Notre-Dame, where his daughter (not educated in the school) passed the tray free candidate.

"We have candidates of all ages. Nobody is surprised that adult enters the school in the mid-teens. Checks of identity documents and notices will take place once the candidates took place in the exam room, "says a member of the school abused.

At 14 o'clock, Caroline D. is installed so naturally to an examination table, took out his pen and began the English test LV1, written composition provided on three hours. But a few minutes later, the supervisor who checked the identities of the candidates (who had controlled the daughter of the usurper in the test philosophy Monday morning) immediately discovered the deception.

More (in French!)

ChrryBlstr, Like, Gets an Email.

So here's an e-mail that I received from Spacy Stacey:

hey prof,
i like failed the essay, and would like to tak to u about some of the comments made on it...
hence.. can we meet up...
like friday any time or next week any day, time... up to u ...

My response:

Hey SS!
I am not entirely sure what you are talking about since you received a B- (72 percent) on your essay. This is definitely not a failing mark! Further, I am no longer arranging office hours and meeting with students about their essays since the course is over. I strongly suggest that you review your paper and your subsequent request to discuss it.


What I desperately wanted to say:
trust do not want to hang with me right now....let alone ask for me to reconsider your mark. enjoy your summer instead.
peace out!

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Professor Peterson from Phoenix Gets His Interview at the Worst Community College In America.

So, I've been at "Lost Hope in the Desert Community College," the worst community college in America for 3 years as a part-timer. I never had luck getting a tenure track job anywhere, and I've bounced around for the past 10 years - since the PhD - doing one year posts and the such.

But I hunkered down for the past three years and taught 2-3 classes every semester at one place. I went to optional meetings, I acted on committees. I got to know the few full timers (80% of our classes are taught by folks like me.) I've been a good soldier. But I didn't expect special treatment.

I had forgotten I applied to this job, actually. One is always open on the regular stream, and in September I dutifully do my paperwork. I've never gotten an interview before, and 3 people have been hired in past years, none with PhDs, all from the BIG local university. (That's not me.)

Anyway, yesterday my phone rings at home and here's the conversation:

"Is this Pettermell?"

"Uh, what?"

"Is there a Mr. Peppermen there?"

Retirement? We Don't Need No Stinkin' Retirement. The Big Thirsty.

Nearly three-quarters of baby boomer professors, or 74 percent, plan to work past 65, and a subset said they plan to never retire at all,  many said they plan to continue to work for professional reasons --- 64 percent said they love their work too much to give it up.

Q: Given reasonable health for you and your family and a stable economy, at what age do you think you might retire?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cheating for the Lord

You'd think Jesus would
have helped Chris find
a more obscure source to
cheat from!
Chris Chen (not her real name, ethnicity, or possibly even gender), was one of those sit-in-the front, make-smarmy-small-talk lackeys in my "basic skills in the sciences" course.  The class is designed to bring low-performing students up to speed with the level of memorized detail and application to problems required to pass the introductory science classes required for any degree.

Well, Chris handed in an assignment in which she was supposed to list three main points from a previous lecture -- any lecture at all. Instead, she presented details I don't cover in class, using perfect grammar and spelling. A simple web search found the content at (get this) the textbook web site.

In a summary of this activity and others, she was supposed to say which (if any) of the note-taking exercises was the most useful and why. Chris said, in a paragraph exhibiting the same degree of literacy as the pleas quoted here recently, that all the exercises were useful because they would help her achieve her goal of spreading the word of Jesus to other students.

I don't care a whit, or give a rhyme, about my students' spiritual beliefs. But it does amuse me when people proselytize values they don't live up to. And while the gospels don't quote Jesus specifically about plagiarism, it does seem to me that this student didn't treat her neighbor (me) as she'd wish others to treat her (i.e., honestly), or render unto Caesar (publicly funded remedial education) what was Caesar's (actual work).


"Professor I really Have a hard time understanding the assignement please professor can I have until Friday to complete evrything I beg you professor to give me that chance i have 12 credits this summer so much work Understand me can we meet so we can talk I really need that chance please Professor"

The above missive arrived in my inbox the morning that the assignment was due. This is the third such plea I have received from this student. Three appointments to explain to her ; one meeting for which hir was 30 minutes late.

Hir has had many tragedies this term, including two relatives suddenly admitted to the ER the night before an assignment is due. But hir doesn't seem too upset in class, even smiling and giggling at hir book bag. No wait, that is a prohibited cell phone in the bag, so casually placed on the chair next to hir.

Summer school doesn't melt snowflakes.

- Tina from Timbuktu

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

More on the Secret Life of the Duck

Back in January, I was offered a position at a California college for Fall 2013 (yeah, this place likes to get their scheduling done way early).  I have since moved in with my mother.  The town here has a wonderful Norman Romwell-like environment.

No more 130 degree heat during the summer.  No more drunks.  No gangs, except for the wannabees who do more tagging than anything else.  The people in this town are more down to earth and SANE!

This town has been blessed with a beautiful park along the river, home to all sorts of wildlife:  squirrels, birds, fish, turtles, lizards, ducks, beavers...  There are also many beaches and grassy knolls along the river where one can go swimming.

Delayed retirement and the lost generation. From Amelia from Abilene.

I'm staying
next year, too!
I found this article on proffie's plans to delay retirement (from InsideHigherEd) both interesting and encouraging, particularly towards the bottom, where they talk about the effect on universities as a whole and on creating a lost generation of academics who languish in adjunct positions because no one moves out at the top.

It seems to me that it would be useful to have the the over 65 proffies take the adjunct work, while the early/mid-career folks get the full-time gigs?

Of course, I am part of the problem. Complaining aside, I love what I do, and I don't really see myself wanting to retire. Maybe I'll feel differently in 25 years. But if I could teach maybe two classes one term a year as an adjunct and have the rest of the year to travel, enjoy hypothetical grandchildren, etc., that would be appealing, especially if adjuncts were included in some elements of campus life like graduation, campus events, etc.


Some 74 percent of professors aged 49-67 plan to delay retirement past age 65 or never retire at all, according to a new Fidelity Investments study of higher education faculty. While 69 percent of those surveyed cited financial concerns, an even higher percentage of professors said love of their careers factored into their decision.
“While many would assume that delayed retirement would be solely due to economic reasons, surprisingly 8 in 10 -- 81 percent -- cited personal or professional reasons for delayed retirement,” said John Rangoni, vice president of tax exempt services at Fidelity. “Higher education employees, especially faculty, are deeply committed to their students, education and the institutions they serve.”


Monday, June 17, 2013

Spam Filter Reminder.

If you post a comment that does not show up, it was probably caught by the finicky Blogger spam filter. Just send me an email and I'll kick it back into play. The filter is famously inscrutable. Nobody is "censoring" you!

In Which Bella Berates Herself for Taking on This Summer Class

Please send pizza.
And gin.
I knew I did not want to teach over the summer.  I knew I hated correcting like I hate nearly nothing else, and that I NEEDED a break from it.

But, I admit it, I wanted the money.  I could have lived without it, but we have no back porch.  And teaching this course puts that just in reach.  And I said, sure, fuck it, I'll just suck it up and teach a COMP COURSE over five weeks.  It will be over before I know it.

My students are not really that bad.  They are hard working.  They are amazing me really.  But I want to kill myself.  I really do.  I don't think I can take it.  My procrastination skills have gone off the hizzy.  I am truly out of my mind, blowing off the correcting until it cannot wait and pulling all nighters and drinking like a college student, ferchristsakes. 

I will never do this again.  Never never never never never.

Five Years Ago on RYS.

June 17, 2008

The YMGTC Problem.

I think the "you must go to college" attitude is contributory to other social ills as well:
  1. The continued extension of adolescence and delay of adulthood. If you're still in school, you're still a kid. Ergo, no need to grow up and take responsibility for yourself. It doesn't take a very keen eye to see this played out on many, probably most, college campuses.
  2. A dismissive and disrespectful attitude toward blue collar work and workers. I'm 38 years old. My father's generation was probably the last to, as a cohort, be raised with the expectation that a good day's work preceded a good day's pay. Most of my generation, and certainly the ones since, does not understand manual labor. It's something to be done by the uneducated and unskilled (they don't even have a proper idea of what skilled manual labor is anymore). Kids now think that hard work is beneath them, and so is anyone who earns their bread by it.
  3. A lack of common sense. Too many kids now have everything handed to them, and the expectation of a college degree is one of them. This most recent crop of freshmen are part of a generation raised with the expectation that everything can be solved by electronics. They have no damned common sense. Do I sound like my grandfather? Read The Last American Man, a biography of Eustace Conway. Kids literally without enough sense to come in out of the rain or run from a dangerous situation.
  4. The ongoing deterioration of high school. High schools no longer teach many basic skills. The expectation is that they shouldn't. Why? I have no idea. You can pick from two dozen AP courses designed to get you into college, but in most schools you can't get basic hands-on time with power tools or engines, can't learn how to balance a checkbook, build a budget, get a mortgage or manage a home.You can take a class requiring detailed discussion of the history of modern Europe, but not one in the basic requirements of informed citizenship. It's disgraceful. High school aren't "high" -- they're low-rent college prep, or a way to mark time on your journey to service-sector job hell.
  5. The YMGTC attitude is also damaging the middle class. I saw a lecture recently by an economist who pointed out that not too many years ago you could be successful and move your family into solid middle class territory with a high-school diploma and a blue-collar manufacturing job that paid decent wages. It was assumed -- and not erroneously -- that almost anyone with that diploma and a willingness to work could support a small family. Now? Leaving aside that most of those jobs are gone, the bar for entry to the middle class is four years and tens of thousands of dollars higher. Until the 1970s, society provided the tools to enter the middle class. Now, Mom and Dad must provide those tools. Over time, this is doing nothing but widening the have/have not gap.
As the saying goes, nothing good can come of this.


Sunday, June 16, 2013

Post Deleted.

The MOOA post was full of malicious code and we had to take it down. Nobody's fault.

You can Google the original under its title: Forget MOOCs--Let's Use MOOA

Leslie K

In which We Can't be Bothered with Reunions

Another Doonesbury flashback for this week's Sunday comic. This will be the last one for a while from Proffie Galore, who starts summer break this week! 


Just in case Cassandra, at least, is still reading this, have you been to any of your college reunions? High school? Grad school?

Saturday, June 15, 2013

dark, bad saturday morning haiku that deviates from the norm

stifling.  this is how
my neighbor describes today's
air, the thick late spring

damp that lately fogs
our mornings and brains, demands
attention to veiled

shapes and thoughts, attends
our gardens, breakfast meetings,
grade norming sessions.

so thick that normal
breathing seems an act of will,
this l'air du temps means

exactly this:  we
are doomed. wisconsin charters,
chicago layoffs,

offhand remarks on
the michigan statehouse floor.
pigs get fat, hogs get

slaughtered, and we get
another reminder that
the center will not

hold, the only truth
a smothering paradigm
engineered by the

same folks who bypass
science to deny that spring
is forever changed--

forever itself
a horizon that now seems
closer than the air

to breathe.

Two Years Ago on CM: Lord, I Hope He's Texting. (From Middle Aged and Morose.)

Dear Student:

I am not blind.

You are sitting 12 feet away from me and you're looking down at your lap - where your hands appear to be extremely busy - and you're grinning like a fool.

If you're texting, stop it.

If you're not texting STOP IT.

Thank you.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Mark the teapartying date

It's happened.

I can't say I'm totally surprised. But it actually happened.

A student cited a television show as a legitimate example of, like, a real phenomenon we are discussing.

Take your favorite ... Law & Order (for law related disciplines), House (for medical), How I Met Your Mother (for, um, social interaction) ... and insert it in this (redacted) flava.

To be fair, Thomas Telly did say it was a fictional example. But then he went on to describe in detail how what was a dramatization of a semi-recent current event was an example of how law/medicine/dating works.

I'll admit, I have occasionally referenced a television show related to our discipline in the context of a better-than-average portrayal of an issue in our area. But I do not hold up The Simpsons as indicative of American family life or Grey's Anatomy as illustrative of the providing of medical care.

Oh, and did I mention, this is a graduate student?

From InsideHigherEd. UK Proffies Get to Be Dancing Bears As Well.

The man behind the Rate Your Lecturer website, which encourages British university students to publicly praise or censure their teachers, has defended the project against a glut of criticism from academics.

Michael Bulman, founder of the site, said he believed it would "help to redress the balance" between teaching and research in British universities, adding that too many institutions held the latter in higher regard than the former -- to the detriment of students.


His site ranks British universities and lecturers on the basis of feedback from users, who give scores out of 10. It also contains a section where students can list teachers' pros and cons.

One of those leading the protests against the site is Bill Cooke, head of the department of organization, work and technology at Lancaster University Management School. His blog post on the issue -- declaring that lecturers are human beings, "not dancing bears" -- has been accessed around 8,000 times.

Flava from the Cooke post:
My students are great – indeed, I think they are a golden generation, which puts mine to shame. But what I am not is a public performer, a stand-up comedian, a cabaret artist. I have a mum and a dad and a partner and children, and friends and neighbours. If my occupation makes me personally the subject of anonymous, public comments about my day to day performance or appearance that they and anyone else can read then that is not the job I signed up for.

Of Men and Anal Projectiles

Did I say men? I meant frat boys, naturally. Dunning-Kruger Effect, anyone? Natural selection hard at work here. Booze, bottle rockets, and butts do not mix.

Warning: These are your students. At least figuratively speaking.

Case the caboose; join the Keister Kegger: If you dare. (Found via University Diaries.)

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Emergency Thirsty: Boost or Boot?

There is no "Emergency
Thirsty" graphic, mostly
because there's no such thing
as an "Emergency Thirsty."
But, shit, we like P. Galore,
and she deserves a graphic
no matter what.
Quiet Quinn was absent two weeks at a time, twice, and late most other days.

When Quinn was there, Quinn sat in the front row and murmured questions and lengthy comments to me, even when I would say things like, "Could you please speak up? This isn't a private conversation. Please let everyone hear what you're saying."

Quinn failed to submit three assignments, and did steadily worse on exams over the semester.

Quinn chose not to write the optional essay on the final exam.

Quinn is 0.1 percentage point away from a C.

Quinn wants to major in my program.

I am the only instructor for this class.

Q: Do I give Quinn the boost that Quinn so sorely does not deserve, just to avoid a boomerang in my class next fall? Or do I give Quinn the boot in the hope of providing a wake-up call and realistic discouragement from pursuing my field?

Is 8 Hours Too Long To Make a 2 Minute VidShizzle? Sorry, Cal, But Cash's Return to Utah Seems to Involve Bashing You! It's Not Me. It's Cash, Really, Or At Least VidShizzle Cash, and After All, That's How We Know Him. Okay?

Vera in Van Wert Sends In This Week's Big Thirsty On Advising.

I've been doing some summer advising at my SLAC -- undecided freshmen. Some seem stressed out about picking a major (and thus, in their mind, a career). I told them that undecided was fine -- even preferable! Focus on the course work and getting to know our wonderful faculty, I said, by the end of their first year you'll have a much better sense of what you enjoy and where your talents lie. When I tried to probe my new advisees about what fields might interest them, what courses they wanted to try out, all of them responded the same way: "Rodent Management."


I asked them why they were considering rodent management and none had a particularly good answer. They mostly just shrugged and mumbled something about jobs. Now, rodent management is a fine program at my SLAC. But in these cases, the potential RM majors don't seem to have any particularly good reason for choosing RM (or even a good grasp of what an RM degree consists of) except that it perhaps sounds practical, responsible, and achievable. In reality, our SLAC's RM grads don't do any better on the job market than other majors.

I admit, it made my hamster studies heart glum.

Q: How do you advise undecided students? I'm not looking to convert anyone -- if they really want to study rodent management or anything else, that's fine with me. But I don't want them to slouch into it, so to speak.

-- Vera in Van Wert

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

A Wiseacre Sent This In.

I found Compound Cash's other place.

RYS Flashback. 5 Years Ago.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Nursing a Grudge Against A "Student Satisfaction" Dean.

What bugs me the most? Administrators who have forgotten what it's like to teach and the students that they coddle.

A pre-nursing student, Negative Nancy, failed the prerequisite class for nursing school. After whining and wheedling endlessly to no avail, she pursued a grade appeal. After the appeal board reviewed her case, which included copies of her 40/150 scores on exams, she was denied the appeal. In fact, she was recommended to go back and redo the prerequisite to the prerequisite. After she lost her case, her Daddy (who is an adjunct at the school) called to try and convince me that "She tries so hard and will make such a caring nurse!"

When Daddy's pleas fell on deaf ears Nancy and Daddy went to the Dean of Student Affairs.

The Dean then tried to pressure me into changing the F to a C (gasp!) because "they made a compelling case for her passing" and "in the interests of student satisfaction we should make sure she can pursue her dreams." I am the dream quasher. Call me the Simon Cowell of pre-nursing. If you don't have the brains and talent, you don't get to go on. Isn't that what a prerequisite is for? Did the Dean know that she appealed her grade? No. When he found out did he change his tune? No.

So, her grade remains and she'll have to retake the course with a different instructor (for student satisfaction, of course). The Dean, however, believes in Negative Nancy SO MUCH that he wrote a special letter of rec for her so her F would be mitigated. He's also making a call to Admissions of the nursing program. How nice. The Dean thinks that based on his half-hour interaction with Nancy she should be a nurse. Regardless of the fact that she doesn't know her ass from her elbow.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Misery, Part 2

The man stabbed to death with a stiletto heel over the weekend has been identified as a professor at the University of Houston, authorities announced today.

The victim, identified as 59-year-old Alf Stefan Andersson, worked at the University of Houston Center for Nuclear Receptors and Cell Signaling where he focused on women's reproductive health

Read more flava:

Princeton University evacuated after bomb threat

Posted on: 2:53 pm, June 11, 2013, by 
(CNN) — Princeton University on Tuesday morning ordered the evacuation of its campus after “a bomb threat to multiple unspecified campus buildings,” the school said on its website.
Princeton UniversityPrinceton police dispatcher Kenneth Bruvik told CNN that the campus was being evacuated because of an “emergency” but declined to give details.
“Please evacuate the campus and all university offices immediately and go home unless otherwise directed by your supervisor,” the school’s website message said. “Do not return to campus for any reason until advised otherwise.”
Princeton University Spokesperson Martin Mbugua told CNN, “The bomb threat was a phone call made directly to the university.”
He said origin of the call had not been determined, and that the ongoing sweep of buildings on campus would be going on for several hours.

Has Anyone Read This (Shit?)?

Cassandra said... "I've always hated the covers to Ken Bain's _What the Best College Teachers Do_ (particularly the one to the right), because they seem to embody the idea of professor as edutainer (male edutainer, at that; I realize the book is written by a man, but it would have been nice to fit an image of a female professor somewhere on the cover, even the back). The book may be a fine one, for all I know (I own it, so I guess the publisher is happy); I have trouble getting past the cover."

If It's Tuesday, Hiram Must Be Baffled By Something That Happened to Frankie.

A former colleague of mine, call him Frankie, called me up the other day to complain about his college. Frankie lives in the northeast and teaches at a decent, mid-sized community college. He doesn't complain much, so when he does I usually take it seriously:


So, Hiram, I've got this kid in my summer section of writing. First year class. He writes the diagnostic and it's barely in English. Every kind of error imaginable, but the overall feel is he's just not familiar with writing in English. In fact as the writing diagnostic was winding down, I said to him, "We need to be out of the classroom by 3 pm," to which he just sort of shrugged and shook his head as if he didn't know what I was saying.

So, I call up the pre-requisite person because I know this kid doesn't belong in the class. Turns out he's taken and passed the two developmental classes we have here. Not only that, he got Bs in both.

Monday, June 10, 2013

Some Thoughts on the Job Market

I have been pretty silent for the past six months. This is mostly because I've been busy, finishing my book while traveling the world to attend 12 different conferences in about 6 months. My f2f adjunct position fell through for the spring term, so I took advantage of that free time to attend as many conferences as possible.

The efforts paid off. I was able to pay my bills through my various online commitments. The freedom allowed me to attend conferences I never would have otherwise. I went to Australasia, to Europe, to the Middle East. I began a podcast. I spent a lot of money. I made a lot of friends. And I went on the job market.

It is a peculiar thing that we spend about 4 months applying, waiting, interviewing, prepping, and delivering job talks before discovering whether or not we are hired. I began drinking a lot more. I struggled to sleep while nervous and anxiety-ridden. The whole thing really is a lottery system. I had 10 phone interviews, no national conference interviews, and four campus visits. All four visits became a "no." One person told my advisor that they were going to offer me the job, and then offered it to someone else. Then an administrator called me out of the blue about a week after I had been passed over. He had been tapped to begin a new research center at an ivy. He wanted me to head up the research center. We have a huge endowment. We have resources and consulting academics. We have our own building on campus.

Two Years Ago on CM.

We Don't Know What To Make of It Either. Alberta from Alberta Sends In This Joke.

Two proffies were taking their summer hiatus together in a cabin in the mountains.

They sat on the front porch, admiring the scenery, drinking margaritas and gnoshing on crudites.

After a time, the first proffie said, "Say, tell me, have you read Marx?"

The other considered the query and then said, "Yes. I think it's from these wicker chairs."

Sunday, June 9, 2013

In Which Coffee is Chosen

Sunday comic!
'The Fallacy of Expecting Me to Just Blindly Agree When You Look Down Your Nose and Tell Me I'm Doing Something Wrong'

Dedicated to those colleagues who, like me, are still buried in both grading and resentment at the CM chatter about sunshine and gardening.

Santa Fe Sid Looks Into the Abyss.

I've been assigned to visit one of our part-time faculty. I do this every so often, and I don't mind.

It's a few days away, but I just received via email a link to his RMP evaluations. Yes, the site that shall not be named.

If these were my evals, I'd blow my brains out.

(They've been anonymized a bit to spare the doofus who's proud of them.)


  • He's the coolest teacher I've ever taken. There is lots of chance to get extra credit.
  • Xxxxxx is so funny and cool. He's layback and chill and you can do bonus work instead of the final.
  • It's like being at a comedy club, but with lots of learning sprinkled in. Xxxxxx gives everyone a good show!
  • I learned so much from Mr. Xxxxxx. He's the greatest. Sprawling Awful Junior College should hire a whole bunch of guys like him.
  • He's great and easy professor. He tells all kinds of great stories.
  • He is so funny and easy. Just print our the powerpoint slides.
  • He goes off on tangents about his friends and TV shows. He's always so funny.
  • He's a great teacher, or edutainer, as he says!

Saturday, June 8, 2013

The Countdown and My Idiot Children

So I didn't get any summer classes. But that's okay - it's only a little humiliating to ask my mother for money with which to buy peanut butter and crackers. The real nerve-wracker is the compulsive way in which I lately keep my eye on the calendar, obsessing about those late-deciding job openings that just maybe might still break my way. I call it the Countdown. The Countdown to Fall, the point of no return and/or the point at which I go completely crazy.

If I'm not there already. How maddening is it that there are still a few jobs ads trickling in? That even as the Ides of June approach I'm still sending out the odd application? Can't we just have done with this, for the sake of my fingernails, at least?

I realize I'm luckier than most, in that I'm likely (though not guaranteed), come Fall, to have some classes at the institution where I taught this past year. They seemed to like me well enough and the students were tolerable. The money's enough, if barely. I'm lucky. I get that.