Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Guinevere from Glendale Explains It.

"You're welcome."
I thought this page was for skewering students, not faculty.

I'm one of those evil professors who cancelled the first week. But I did send the syllabus and the first reading assignment to all of my students at the same time. (I didn't just not show up!)

It's been my experience that students aren't ready for the first week. Some aren't even in the dorms yet. They stumble around a gargantuan campus, have 90 tequila shots at orientation "seminars," and they are of no use to me.

When the second week rolls around they have their bearings. I know what I'm doing and can quite easily get them through my very rigorous schedule in whatever time I choose. (I also cancel the week before finals to afford them extra study time, because my final is a bear.)

So, before you turn your tiny pinpoint of alarm at faculty, get the facts straight.

You're welcome.


  1. Thanks. That explains it very, very clearly.

    (Have you considered that your final might *not* be such a bear if students had six more contact hours of instruction during the semester? You know, 1/8 of the whole class they paid for?)

    1. My strong suspicion is that this professor is more interested in the cachet of the final-as-bear rather than the pedagogical value of the bear itself. i.e., the bigger the bear, the badder the proffie. Thank the universe this person is not my colleague.

  2. Oh my God. Do some new Ph.D. a favor and quit now.

    How do you get away with this? If I were your chair I would have your balls hanging on my rear view mirror.

    The fact that you think your bullshit is even defensible is galling.

    1. That wouldn't smell too good after a few days, Stella, but I'll lend you my staple gun. Watching this will be fun!

  3. Partially, but just, in agreement.
    On the other hand, the basis of capitalism -- and, by extension, of Western Civilization as we know it -- is that you put labor on one end of the machine and get sweet cash from the other. Getting cash without labor is generally frown upon. And, in an academic context, not showing up is going to make hard for you to enforce any attendance policy.
    If, on the other hand, you let know your students on advance that you will "compress" the semester by skipping the first and the last week, and then explain to them how are you going to reallocate the labor for which you are compensated, more power to you.

    1. Unfortunately I get the feeling that Jenny doesn't reallocate; she just hands the work she sloughs off over to the students. "They should be able to understand it all on their own; my job is just to write assessments and grade them."

      I'm all for complaining about students who aren't willing to do the needed work, but our guest (whom we are not particularly happy with) is setting a piss-poor example, as you point out.

  4. "Get the facts straight"?

    Not sure what you mean by this, because there are no facts in your post that would cause me to alter my opinion that it is inappropriate and somewhat unprofessional for a professor to cancel classes for the whole first week of the semester.

    You are, of course, welcome to do it with no consequences from me, and it could well be that your institution also raises no fuss about it. And it's clear from the Twitterverse that it's perfectly fine by the students.

    But, as Prof. Chiltepin suggests, maybe those students of yours would benefit from an extra six hours of face-to-face time with you each semester. And maybe they would also be more professional themselves, if it were made clear to them that those 90 tequila shots did not absolve them of their responsibility to conform to an academic calendar that has (at my institution, at least) been public information for over a year prior to the start of semester.

    I'm not even arguing that you need to deluge them with outside work, or with massively dense lectures during that first week. I tend to use the first class as an introductory meeting, to give them an overview of the requirements of the course, and to lay out my teaching philosophy so they know what they're in for. For my freshman classes, I also use the first meeting to reinforce the important ways in which my expectations and my requirements are different from what they remember from school. Yes, much of this stuff is also spelled out in my syllabus, but a face-to-face discussion allows me to start to get to know them, and to reinforce the things that I feel are most important.

    In the second class of the first week, I begin the content of the course, and also use it as an opportunity for a reading and discussion exercise, to give them a sense of my expectations regarding in-class contributions. I've found that, while such an exercise doesn't magically cause them to do all the reading for the rest of the semester, it does prepare them for the types of discussions we'll be having, and give them a sense of the rigor of the course.

    I'm not holding myself up as some sort of model, and I'm well aware that some other academics do things very differently in the first week. But simply not holding class strikes me as accepting that their lack of readiness is inevitable, and also as setting a pretty bad example.

    We're supposed to be ready, even if students are not, and while I'm sure you are ready to go at the start of Week 1, cancelling the whole week just seems unprofessional to me. I feel the same about academics who cave in to "Thanksgiving creep" and cancel classes on the Monday and Tuesday of the last week of November.

  5. No, this website is for making fun of all the idiots and assholes in academia who make my job more difficult. That Venn diagram includes many students but some faculty fall into our circle of wrath as well.

    That's where you come in, dipshit. "Dr. Skips-A-Week didn't have class so I assumed I didn't have to come to your class either. Why are you so mean?" That's what I hear from students. It messes up my class schedule when I have to deal with a problem you created. Unfortunately, my sense of professionalism prevents me from explaining the truth to them: you think students are too stupid to handle college without an extra week off.

    That professionalism does not extend to this website, so fuck you.

    Just so you know your facts.

  6. This whole thread is full of COWs, "comments of the week."

  7. In the Department of Omnology here at dear ol' Euphoric State U, our large classes, with many lab sections meeting throughout the week, generally cancel labs in the first week -- as well as the weeks of Labor Day, Fall Break, Thanksgiving, and the last week. Why? The labs take a lot of time and effort to set up and take down, and we can't feasibly run the labs unless they're set up once, at the start of the week, and taken down once at the end of the week. If we held labs the week of Labor Day, the Monday sections would be a week behind, and they'd still be doing lab 2 in the same week when everyone else was doing lab 3. . . and so on. Y'all're smart; y'all get the idear.

    So we do cancel labs -- well, we don't schedule them at all -- in those classes, for those weeks. In this case it is a simple matter of logistics -- if we had double the lab space and triple the support staff, maybe we wouldn't do it, but 'tis what 'tis.

    That said, there are always students who can't read the "NO LAB THE WEEK OF SEPT. 2" signs on the doors, and don't listen to the announcements in lecture or read the syllabus. They're the turkeys who show up and assume that "class is canceled". And, I presume, tweet this to everyone. And sometimes assume that since lab is "canceled", lecture is as well.

    So I would have to agree with Guinevere's larger point that not every student who's tweeting their joy at "canceled class" is the victim of a lazy professor.

    1. I certainly do hear you, because I have the same problem with my labs. Any time a break or special-topics day (no regular classes) is declared, that entire week of labs can't meet. My institution has too damned many.

      But, dzięki Bogu, I have the ability to give them homework during those weeks. And I do. I also tell them I am in my office during regular lab times, so they can find me if they need help.

  8. "Students aren't ready for the first the second week, they know their bearings".

    That's not my experience. Generally speaking, they aren't ready for the first, the second or the tenth week. What happens is that I ease them into a certain routine (those who bother to show up, that is), and if they stick to the routine, going patiently through the motions, once in a while a dim flicker of understanding will flow down an otherwise undisturbed axon. The sooner this process begins, the better. The later it ends, the greater the chance it will happen more than once. I use the full 52 minutes too, and most of the time they don't notice.

  9. Let's not even talk about the insufferable egotism of someone who calls herself "Guinevere." Unless, of course, that's actually her name.

    In which case I'd change it to Marijuana Pepsi.

  10. I don't know. I don't want to judge Guin too hastily, because we don't know what the students are really like on his/her campus. Maybe they really are baboons during the first week and civil during the second.

    That said, if I were one of Guin's students, I wouldn't necessarily be pleased about the cancellation. Mrs. Ruby is currently taking a series of Master's classes at Very Expensive U, and one day her prof cancelled for some simple scheduling thing. If Mrs. Ruby were an undergrad, she might have shrugged off the cancellation as no biggie. But since she's paying for the classes (i.e., I'm paying for the classes), a missed class feels like throwing money away.

    To use some actual numbers: If you divide the tuition by the number of weekly classes, each class day costs us something like $300-400. Thus, a cancellation is like discarding an iPhone.

    I know, I know, tuition pays for more than the actual class. But in the case of a Master's student, it doesn't pay for much more. Access to the library, and that's about it.

    To reuse the "paying tuition is like paying for access to a gym" analogy, it's like paying for access to the gym, but one week the gym is closed, yet they still charge you for that week. I don't like that.

    1. Mr. Kate got very mad on my behalf when my grad proffies cancelled classes.
      "What do you mean they're at a conference? You're paying them for this!"
      "No I'm not, honey, I'm a Ph.D. student."
      "Even more important!"

      A good, non-feckless teacher of grad students, though, does a ton of educating outside normal course hours, commenting on things we're trying to publish, pimping us around at conferences, doing advising and all that other stuff. In the case of undergrads, cancelling class for no good reason really does deny them significant face time.

  11. Guin sounds like a classic enabler of snowflake behavior... among other things.

  12. Hey, nothing helps kids meet expectations like lowering the bar for them!

    Btw, how about *review* sessions prior to the final exam instead of giving them a bunch of free time they obviously can't manage?

    Or, how about providing the number of hours of instruction you're getting paid for? You know, doing your job.

  13. What. The. Fuck.

    How do you even have a job? The first week is when the rest of us are setting standards and expectations, clarifying the syllabus, and getting started on the credit coursework, you fucking dolt!

    Thanks for lowering the bar, Guinevere. Now go shave your head and vow penance for your sins against the rest of your colleagues, who probably do have standards and hold students to them.


  14. "Some aren't even in the dorms yet."

    Yeah, I get that too. It's called taking an extra week of summer vacation because they're self-entitled little fucks. It doesn't mean I start a week late to protect them from their inner shitiness.

  15. Starting off the semester with the assumption that your students are immature babies not ready to begin work is not advisable.

  16. What is up with the lab excuse? I've seen it a couple of times now. Guin isn't talking about a lab.

    If the institution has shit scheduled on the first week, then it is to be attended, students, faculty, whatever. Just unilaterally cancelling shit seems unthinkable to me.

    And the one that kills me are the people who cancel ALL the Fridays for the semester.

  17. As someone who is teaching an overload because of a last minute catastrophe, it is people like you that make my life harder than it already is (but PROFESSOR BLAH FUCKY FACE doesn't event come the first week...blah blah blah). I hope hell for you is a groundhog day cycle of first day of classes in which you do nothing but read the syllabus. Over and over and over and over and over (and over) again.

  18. My first thought was that this couldn't be real, could it? How do you start to prepare students to engage in an activity (a college class) by cancelling it? My *students* would hang me from the yardarm, let alone my colleagues. At our tuition rates, that's about $1,600 I'd be effectively *stealing* from my students. I get that campus cultures and student populations are different, but . . . sheesh.

  19. Nice try, but this doesn't fly with me, either. What everybody else said, especially the suggestion that your students are more ready during the second week because everybody else was at least dragging them through the motions of coming to class and trying to learn the first week.

    It's interesting the subjects we get near-unanimity about here. We may not always agree on exactly how to deal with our students, but this place seems to be populated by people who take seriously the responsibility to actually deal with them.

  20. Cancelling class like that seems very unprofessional...

  21. I would never just cancel the first week of classes. The prof should have gotten a sub if she couldn't go for some reason. That's what I did when my mother's knee replacement surgery was quickly scheduled for the first day of classes. I had people in my dept. cover my classes and I was on the job again the second week. It would have been wrong to leave students in the lurch.

  22. I'll go one further. Not only is Guinevere from Glendale not doing their job, but neither are those professors who only go over the syllabus on the first day. My first class is 65 minutes of straight math, followed by 10 minutes of syllabus. I do the math first to show them I mean business.

    (I also have a quiz and homework due the second class. Again with the business.)

    As my officemate would say: "Do your fucking job."


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