Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Safe Bets of the Semester! From the Tuba-Playing Prof.

Please add yours.

What are the odds that:

  • the colleague generally renowned for being the harshest instructor about students arriving late for class is the one always late for department meetings?
  • the most pedantic colleague sends out weekly emails with several grammatical errors?
  • the four colleagues who vehemently deny that a core faculty exists compose the core faculty?
  • the least effective teachers—in all measures—become the core faculty, thereby determining content, focus, grading standards, etc. for all courses and other teachers?
  • the student awards go to the students who impressed the core faculty only?
  • two months into the year clearly the new chair who promised a “clean slate,” has the same impressions of the department members because the outgoing chair trained him?
  • the “core faculty” in charge who teach only senior-level classes complain in every department meeting about the lack of preparation and “basic knowledge” of the majors? Consequently, what are the odds that they institute more stringent, arbitrary polices and require horribly time-consuming reports and “pedagogical reflections” to burden the over-worked and under-paid adjuncts?
  • the surly, prickly, moody leader of the core faculty goes out of her way to wish every one a cheery “good morning” three days before she officially applies for promotion?
  • the two junior colleagues who are the (current) favorites of the core faculty are “rock-star” teachers with impressive, important scholarly projects while the two junior colleagues who are effective and popular teachers and publishing scholars are “problematic” because of the dangerously vague argument of “fit?”
  • the core faculty—in all seriousness—point out evidence every chance it gets to confirm that it is not guilty of “confirmation bias” in tenure decisions?
  • the student pleading for an override mentions work and/family when an instructor points out the 8:00 sections of the course are wide open?
  • the student who needs to be reminded each week about the class policy on texting announces that she’s missing all of next week for a Disney cruise?
  • the student who knowingly signs up for the two classes out of her major drops both just after the drop/add week, thereby taking two seats away from majors who legitimately needed the classes?
  • the a-hole who inappropriately blunts out whatever is on his mind is the one student offended by an innocent, playful comment (that his classmates agreed wasn’t personal or mocking)?
  • the three students who argued that absences due to homecoming-float building MUST be excused fail to understand that while being a brother in a frat can be a noble, positive part of college, college students must be enrolled in college to be members of campus organizations?
  • a student likely to fail Course One misses class so she can register for next semester’s class, so she can be sure to get into the one section of Course Two “Dr. Popular and Fun” is teaching?
  • the advisee who needed to see an academic advisor to avoid making a huge mistake scheduling prerequisite courses waits until the day after his graduation application has been denied to schedule an appointment?
  • the student who asks for a second chance to “get things right” will need to ask for a third chance?
  • the student who fails to turn in any assignments offers only one comment then entire semester: “my friends taking class with “Dr. Popular and Fun” don’t have to do that?”
  • the student who announces in his 11:00 class that he has never taken a class so early in the day falls asleep every day by 11:15?
  • the two students who have yet to miss a class are the first two to arrive for the 8:00 am class on the Friday after Halloween?
  • the students who ask questions in class and take advantage of office hours to talk about the essay assignments are the students who earn the highest grades?
  • the students/advisees who heeded the advice to couple their majors with minors, who worked hard, who gave up summers and leisure time for internships, and who took a chance wind up with jobs?
  • an email or greeting card with good news and/or kind words from a former student who reminds an instructor of the best parts of the job arrives always—no matter when in the semester and no matter what is happening—just at the right time?


  1. In person, an administrator will demand updates on students throughout the semester so that he knows they are receiving preferential treatment that he requested for them. In an email, he will tell me that he trusts me to treat all students fairly and that he only wants me to contact him if there's an emergency.

  2. The colleague who's research is all computer based will forget how to access the department server the first day of classes and expect you to fix hir problem ten minutes before you have to be in your class?

  3. Sometimes, in a moment of mild inebriation, I feel a twinge of envy for the colleagues who have interactive professional lives. Then I read something like this--a list of over 25 bullet points of interactive misery--and realize how lucky I am to be left alone with my classes, my research and my written rebuttals destined for the admins' circular files.

    Anyway, I quickly found an item I can relate to: two months into the year clearly the new chair who promised a “clean slate,” has the same impressions of the department members because the outgoing chair trained him?

    Well, our new chair didn't promise anything, except for the implicit promise of "business as usual, I won't disturb your peace" for which he was elected. But he does take all his cues (including preexisting impressions about dept members) from the previous chair, who in some sense still appears to run things. Unimaginative paper-pushers, both of them.

  4. The tenured profflake who is the worst, the absolute worst, at not providing any useful feedback whatsoever to her grad students, to the point that students have dropped out, or changed supervisors mid-degree, because they didn't bother to comment on anything whatsoever, including holding up completion by months because they wouldn't send one bloody email giving the OK to proceed to defense (and has had various grievances filed against them by said affected grad students), is the faculty member who sends around an email on the departmental listserv urging all of us to attend a training seminar "How to be an effective graduate supervisor".

  5. ... the colleague most single-handedly responsible for the destruction of the collegial atmosphere of the department will be the one to complain most about lack of department collegiality?

  6. The colleague complaining about inequity in teaching loads is the one with the lightest load this year.