Tuesday, September 30, 2014

From Buzzfeed. This Meme Teacher Has 16 Things to Say.

Marc Checks In With an Update on the Perverted Serial Sexual Harasser (Well, Probably...) Job Candidate.

Suddenly the candidate's
glass is half full.
Thanks for the feedback over the weekend. I took my question to a friendly Dean - we have another type as well.

It was suggested I call the candidate up and simply say, "We'd like to carry on in the process, but it's been brought to our attention that you've moved a good deal in your career, and we're committed to finding someone who's in it for the long term."

Even the committee thought this was okay.

Called him up. He's a trailing spouse. His wife works in bio-tech, and has jumped around a bit herself because of grants. But she's just taken a longer term position at a large lab near us and since it's more administrative, there's less reason to move. And, here's the clincher. They have a new grandbaby about 30 miles away.

We're going to interview him.

Should he have told us in his letter? What kind of stuff should we tell committees in letter? This personal? Grandbabies?

I'm suddenly reading every job packet differently.

Thanks again,
Marc (Go Wolverines, I guess...)

Posting Rights.

If you're a member of the CM readership and would like posting rights, just email us and we'll send you an invite. Posting rights allow you to post your own material on your own schedule.

Norm in North Dakota With an Early Thirsty.

I confess I'm a sucker. I take all kinds of excuses. I'm on the verge of bending on some policies already semester, and I know the floodgates will open.

One student's excuse leads to another. Then I'm delaying due dates. Then I'm accepting essays written in high school. They look at me with such sadness and tell me such sad stories.

I'm a people pleaser. I want the students to like me.

My question is simple:

Q: If I want to get out of this trap, what assurance do you have that students respecting me and my tough but fair approach is "better" for my career than simply having them be my pals?

Monday, September 29, 2014

Big Doings in Utah.

Sure, we're no longer residents, but Google Alert still lets us know when college misery strikes in the Beehive State.

Some Flava.

A group of Brigham Young University students is protesting the Mormon church-owned school's ban on something its namesake once sported: a beard.
About 50 students, some donning paper beards, biked, skateboarded or rollerbladed their way from the Provo City Library to campus during the "Bike for Beards" protest on Friday night.
"I love BYU. I love being a student here," protest organizer Shane Pittson said. "But the rule on beards I find particularly outdated."
The 23-year-old international studies major and other students have launched a petition drive to get the school to lift the ban.

Some More.

Rex in Riverside Sends in the First Snowflake Email. "Brian Wakes Me Up!"

Sunday night, 11:40 pm. I have been sleeping peacefully for at least an hour or so. My idiotic new phone has its notifications turned on, and I'm too much of a technological dullard to know this.

So the fucker beeps at me. Doesn't beep. Plays a merry tune.

I think, "Mother has broken a hip; daughter is in the hoosegow."

I race out of bed in pitch darkness. I stub two toes on a dresser I've always hated - and now hate even more. I get to the phone and look down. I have an email. Oh, good. I love email. I must figure out these notification beeps and bonks.

I press the screen and up it pops:

Hi professor. 
I decided to stay at home after the weekend. I am so burned out. Could you tell Kevin to take notes for me and maybe you can meet with him after class to tell him so I know what to do for next class. I'll definitely be there Wednesday. Have a good night!

So, I can't wait to see Kevin in the morning to tell him what a shit his buddy is. Oh, and the free instruction he wants passed along. Fuck it.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

A Sunday Thirsty.

Dear God, whose name I do not know, 
why do my snowflakes sin against 
me and the college?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Is There a Job Committee Thirsty? Marc in Michigan Fucks Up the Sacrosanct Rules in Ways Nobody at the (Old) Compound Will Ever Forgive Me For.

I'm running a job search committee for the first time with a couple of vets and a couple of newbies like myself. We're a teaching institution seeking an asst/assoc level professor to teach and do 50% administration. We're very middle of the road, but a fine place to teach. Nobody is extraordinarily ambitious, but we do a good job in the classroom.

Somehow I got asked to cull the big stack and bring about 20-30 top candidates to our first meeting next month.

And I'm stunned. The wealth of applicants is defeating my will. Lots of great people, lots of interesting cases.

I have one guy - and this is all HEAVILY anonymized - who I think looks great, but there are elements that scare me. Could you readers tell me what their impression would be of a candidate like this:

  • He's 55.
  • He's got 6 books, but only one in our particular field. He has virtually no other publications or research in journals.
  • He's had tenure twice and left after 3 and 5 years.
  • He's taught at 10 different institutions, including one of the top ten research universities in the country, hell, any country.
  • For the past 5 years he's taught part time at a community college on the other side of the country from us. There's no explanation of why he left a tenured job for that one.
  • He's taught longer than anyone else in our department.
  • He has relevant experience in administration - he was even a department chair for 5 years.
  • His letter is extraordinarily well done and he shows real knowledge of our university and our department.
Q: And he scares me. Why would anyone give up tenure? Twice? Has he been run out of town? Will my committee colleagues think I'm crazy? Have I discovered a diamond in the rough, or is it just all rough?

Friday, September 26, 2014

Totally Unnecessary News. "7 Ways To Alienate Your College Professor." From Motley Fool.

The flava.

1. Skip one or more classes, then return, expecting the instructor to fill you in on what you missed. This behavior, by far, seems the most irksome for college professors, who expect that you are responsible enough to make up for your absence – preferably, ahead of time. Arrange to obtain notes or handouts from someone in your class, or, if possible, alert your instructor that you will be absent, and ask if you can get the materials directly from him.

The rest.

More Presentation Misery from Conan the Grammarian.

This is not my first bout of Presentation misery. But it's even worse than the last one. So I'm in my Hamster Management "Capstone" course and we're essentially in work groups for the entire semester, culminating in a large group presentation. But we started out with miniature presentations, presumably to prepare us for the big presentation or... whatever.

I like presenting. And speaking publicly. I hate to play the "shiny trophy" card, but I have a lot of shiny trophies saying that I'm good at public speaking. I'm just good at this shit. So, for our first presentation we were talking about a fictitious company populated entirely by hamsters. We were supposed to talk about problems that we found with the Hamster Company (Hamster Bros. LLC; Gerbil-integrated since 1951). So I did my research and, basically, was the only one in our group with anything to talk about. But that's fine because, even according to the professor, not everyone has to speak. We were supposed to play to our strengths. And by having me do everything, that's what we were doing.

Now, I won't lie. Another of my group mates was very helpful. She contributed wonderful research and information to my speech, but was just a bit shy herself. So I presented her stuff for her. The other two did basically nothing. Which, again, is fine because (honestly) this work isn't very hard. Now, the last group member (we'll call him Kanye West), did worse than nothing. He interrupted me while I was saying smart people things. I will transcribe the events as I can best remember them:

Me: You see, the reason why Hamsters are leaving the company is for all of the following reasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6. However, reasons 1, 2, and 5 can all be solved by increasing the quality of their feed. Increasing the quality of the Hamster feed you provide will allow you to attract more talented Hamsters and Gerbils in the first place because you'll be commanding a better portion of the Rodent market with your above-average feed-"
Kanye West: *puts his arm around my shoulder* That's great! Now I'm going to say something.
Now. It's acceptable to interrupt people in a presentation. Certainly you wouldn't do it like that, but if you at least have something productive to say, it's fine. He did not. And it became readily apparent very quickly to the rest of the class, all of whom were doing their best to not burst into nervous laughter. We had eaten pizza that day. This is important.
Kanye West (cont.): Another reason why hamsters don't like it is cuz their managers don't treat them real good. You see, it's like they're in a box *grabs a pizza box*, like this box here. You see? *opens the box and pans it around to show the class that it is, in fact, an empty pizza box* because they feel like they can't move. Would you like being in a box? *puts the box on the floor and stands in it* It's not very good, is it? Now, after this short commercial break, back to Conan.


Brothers and Sisters, let us all bow our heads and join together in the Ignorant Fuckwad's Prayer:

O, Lord, make me strong! Give my heart courage and my hands strength, that I may lay them upon this Ignorant Fuckwad with great speed and alacrity! Make me the hammer with which thou shalt beat the ignorance and foolishness out of the moron which in our presence doth reside.

And I ask you, Lord, which of these men serves You better? He who sits idly by while the Fuckwads of the earth ramble on about boxes and other pointless nonsense, or he who doth beat them with righteous furor? Lord, grant that I may be in the latter category. For, though I know that all your creations are valuable, this shithead is really getting on mine nerves. Barack Obama. Amen.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Listen, I'm on sabbatical. I have my hands full putting in 35 minutes of work a day already on this page. Ben is doing a bang up job on his own Tweeter feed. So I'm just going to link to it over there in the sidebar. For all the latest mockery and smackdown, cruise over to Ben's part of the Tweeterverse You'll have a blast.

Posting this from an old-timey hotel bar, heavy tumblers, lots of wood.

Bloody Tongue Offers up a Big Thirsty on Tenure, Kowtowing, and Covering One's Ass.

I'm a non-tenured adjunct teaching a "developmental" writing class, one of dozens I've done over the years. Yesterday, an assignment was due in class, and I made a student mad when I chided him on a format issue. Seeing he was upset, I immediately tried to smooth things over. I told a self-deprecating joke. I apologized. I asked, "Are we good?"

When I moved on to the next whole-class activity, I felt a wave of disgust so powerful I thought I'd drop to the floor. I think students should follow very, very basic instructions, at least out of fairness to the other students who do just that. However, I also want to maintain rapport. The two impulses contradict too often to ignore.

This morning, I do what I always do when I'm work-depressed: head over here, lurk in the CHE forums, look at comments underneath education articles, etc. Especially the last few years, I notice an increasing bluntness on the part of teachers/professors about the importance of burnishing those student evaluations and (flip-side of the same coin) avoiding student complaints. The overwhelming worry seems to go something like this: "I'm scared that if I do the right thing, it will come back to haunt me on the evals."

Here's how I would have handled my angry student yesterday if I had tenure: "I can see you're upset. Why don't you take the rest of the class off and think about whether or not this class is going to be a good fit for you going forward? If you're mad now, you're going to be homicidal come the holidays. Be good to yourself. I'll respect your decision either way."

Instead, I "walked it back." I kowtowed. I kissed ass. I would gladly shine the shoes of my students if I thought for one minute that would help them be better and stronger students, but I know better -- not that knowing better matters. So, disgust and depression, and a question:

Q: How would having tenure change the way you teach? Would you be a better teacher? or Has having having tenure liberated you to do the best (vs. the most expedient, ass-covering) thing?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

On Using Labels.

Sure, a pig in pearls is nice,
but imagine if she had
a nice label!
One of the biggest complaints I get is about finding shit. "I can't find your posts about tenure," or "Where the hell are the posts about knocking boots with students?" That sort of thing.

When I post stuff that comes in through the mail, I always try to remember to select a few relevant "labels." These are categories, markers, that allow easier finding of stuff on the site. We're nearing 5000 posts and Google / Blogger has never indexed blog postings very well or thoroughly. But labels help.

After you enter your text and before you PUBLISH IT, go to the right sidebar and click on the link for "labels." It's right under POST SETTINGS. Type words that might be apropos to your text: margaritas, Beaker Ben is sexy, snowflakes, adminiflakes, etc. After the first couple of letters our team of monkeys in Orange City will SUGGEST labels that you might be looking for.

I always try to err toward the most general of labels. If you see "job search" come up but also "job search is biting my ass this year," choose the former. (Oh, I can't make you. Just by saying it I know that things will go the opposite way.)

You'll thank me the next time you're looking for a super special article from the archives that you only half remember and which you want to take exception with, years after the fact, in order to prove a point. Seriously. This is why labels are used.


WTF Hiring Committees

As an adjunct I am always on the hunt for a new, better paying, more consistent gig. One thing I have always wondered is why universities make adjuncts jump through so many damn hoops. For example:

  1. Many universities I work for actually don't provide performance reviews. If you don't get a class the next term THERE is your performance review.
  2. The applications are mind numbing, why are you making my transcribe all the information from my CV to your online system?
  3. Also why the hell do so many universities want me to send my official transcripts before they have even looked at my application? That shit gets expensive after awhile.
  4. Also the three letters of recommendation, from who? The Dean who never has the time to talk to me and only calls me three days before a class starts? I could probably get the secretary to tell you I am a nice polite lady who always says please and thank you.

Yet I toil away in the hope to get enough cash scraped together to pay my heating bill this winter.

A Stream From Katherine.

In the grand tradition of Myra and Yaro, a stream:

  • I have a student who wants to bump fists with me (pound me) after every class.
  • I have never parked in a faculty parking lot.
  • My textbooks have not arrived yet. It is week 4.
  • A student wants to take next week off because her sister is getting married. I told her she could. "Really," she said. "You can do whatever you want," I said. "Is it okay if we carry on without you?"
  • I have $75 credit on Zappos, and I'm just waiting for a nice, slow afternoon to spend it.
  • There is something caught between my two front teeth. It's a rice grain, I think. Soft rice. Now it's hard. That's weird, isn't it?
  • My colleagues have a softball team. They never ask me to play. I played fast pitch in the Midwest in high school. I'm the shit.
  • The president of our college publishes his travel schedule. He's hardly ever here. I think I'm the only one who reads it and wonders: "What is he going to Muncie for?"
  • When I grow up I want to be like my dad, happy.
  • I schedule office hours around my schedule, not those of the students.
  • I think Words With Friends is stupid only because I discovered my brother cheats when he plays me.
  • I love Ricola throat lozenges and gobble them even though my throat is fine.
  • My students are dumber this year than last, and the year before. I could plot it on a graph if I could figure out how to use Microsoft Draw.
  • My colleague across the hallway calls me Kathy. I don't like it.
  • I am teaching because I fell in love with a teacher.
  • I married someone practical.
  • I make $46,500.
  • I know I could run this department better than the chair. I don't believe I'll ever find out. I'm okay with that.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Meetings to Plan Meetings

I'm excited to be back here, but not so much excited to be back in school (today was our first day of classes). Not much has changed since I last posted on AWC and on here, except that I have been pulled in to a spin-cycle of committee meetings that baffle me (to use a Hiram-ism). On the committee meeting schedule, I noticed that we were set to meet every other week, and on the non-meeting weeks, we had something called "planning meetings." So it was as follows:

Week 1: planning meeting
Week 2: meeting
Week 3: planning meeting
Week 4: meeting... etc.

When I asked the chair of the committee what this meant, he informed me that we meet every other week to plan what we need to discuss in our next meeting. So essentially, we are meeting to talk about what we'll be meeting to talk about. Then we will talk about it a week later. Then we'll meet to talk about what we'll be meeting to talk about. Then we will talk about it a week later... and the bear will continue to climb over the mountain...

So I'm going to meetings to plan meetings. Got it. This is the best example of a committee that I have ever had the misfortune to be sucked into. My sole goal in this committee has changed from wanting to die before our next planning meeting to wanting to become the chair of such a brilliant vehicle for academic inefficiency. Imagine the havoc we can NOT wreak in our planning meetings. Viva la vortex!

Wherein Dr. Amelia sees the future, and maybe it's not as happy and shiny as she was promised.

Dr. Amelia, she of the overwhelming lack of tenure, had coffee with a colleague. This colleague caught the brass ring. Won the lottery. Had everything come up roses. Was tenured and promoted last year.

And yet, rather than the ebullient expressions of accomplishment and satisfaction, said colleague was a little bummed out. "Is this all there is?" she wondered. And Dr. Amelia didn't have a great answer, both because it is something that Dr. Amelia lacks and because Dr. Amelia has seen a similar effect on other proffies who cross the line.

It is as if achieving tenure makes the student pleading and the reviewer fussing more intense and irritating somehow.

She realizes that for those of you who labor in adjunctive purgatory (for whom she has great sympathy and respect!), this is a meaningless and perhaps somewhat off-putting question.

Q: But for those of you who have hit pay dirt, as it were, is this, in fact all there is? And if so, how do you counter the post-tenure blues?

Monday, September 22, 2014

bad haiku for the last day of summer

today, i explained
the word maple to my class:
may. pull. two little

syllables, mapel
in old english, mapulder
in old saxon, sweet

in any old tongue.
september flashed some color
today, and someone

asked, "what is that?" and
pointed to the reddening
leaves just outside

the window. "just a
maple," i said, dismissing
the tree with a wave.

the student waved back.
"professor, what's a maple?"
i stopped just short of

crashing. eyeing the
tree, i thought about the way
the maple turns first

annually, first
to open the colorwheel
dance, providing the

tempo for the fall
of every subsequent leaf.
i thought about the

sun dancing on the
iced january branches,
and the sap that runs

in march, the welcome
shade in august, and the dance
that begins again

just about now.  that's
what i thought, anyway.  i
said, "it's the acer

saccharum, or the
sugar maple. it gives us
maple syrup." that

was all that student
wanted, a quick answer to
a straight question.  she

smiled.  "it's a pretty
tree," she said.  we all agreed
and went back to the

discussion about
essays ... because that's what we
do every autumn,

we essay to do
some small bit.  we essay to
commune.  are we not

grieved? if we could but
be what ashbery says the
trees try to tell us

we are.  the trees are
here.  so are we.  this counts, this
matters. the maple

turns and pulls us in
toward winter, where we will
still matter, even

when thick, still icy
branches guard against the spring
that brings with it the

slow, sweet sugar it
gives up one drip at a time,
before warmth can bud. 

The Return of Hiram. "Am I The Last To Know?"

So everyone had a party and I wasn't invited? Damn you Miserians!


Anyway, I had the first major essay due this morning in my 8 am class. The paper has been in progress for 2 full weeks. I beg students to let me see rough drafts, this being the first college paper for most of these traditional freshmen.

This morning, because I have this aching back from a new bed, I got up at 4 am to stretch. Of course I couldn't stop myself from checking email.

Two students, Tweedle-Dum and Tweedle-Dumber-Yet, had sent me rough drafts at 11:30 pm last night and 1:30 this morning!!!!

One email said, "Doc, I know you wanted to edit my paper. Here it is!"

I am baffled. (See what I did there? I remembered my old schtick.)

Oh boy, what a day. Ooooooh my head.

"Oooh My Head." A Speedy Rant From Jeff in (Not That) Jamaica.

I have two sisters in class who sit at the back of the room. They are Irish twins, but act as if they share a brain (a small one). But they have their own phones and are doing that selfie thing before and after class, sometimes with me and the whiteboard in the background. (I had to ask them to stop posting to Instatweet during class on the first day.)

They are Internet celebrities. I mean it. There's an article on our college's newspaper about them. They murder cover versions of bad songs, talk styling, shopping, etc. They are annoying about 100X more than what annoying used to be.

In class last week I was doing (if I may say so) a terrific job of leading us all through some important new concepts for our next set of unit readings and projects. I was writing on the board, walking among them, getting some hard-won responses from some students who were willing to play along.

As I returned to the front, I spied the sisters in the back row, both with their phones to their faces.

"Marissa," I said, although I still don't know which is Marissa and which is Marisol, "what do you think of all of that?"

She put her phone down, looked at me, looked at her sister, did the eyeroll, and then said, "Ooooh my head."

Finally, a Good Idea.

If I win the lottery, I'm buying one of these for everyone on CM.

Annie Oakley

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Alton from Apollo Beach Updates Us On The World of Journal Publishing.

OK. I’m pissed.

I mean I am highly pissed.

Can someone explain to me what in the name of all that is unholy is going on over in academic journal land? Who is running the fucking show out there on the other side of Manuscript-MuthaFuckin-Central and the other submission applications these days? Some of us poor bastards are on the tenure-track, and don’t have time to wait for years and years for our shit to be reviewed. Or to be “in press” for sixteen months.

I have six pieces out under review right now. Here’s the status of each:

1. A co-authored piece on a character from a famous TV show that was written an initially submitted in July of 2013. Never heard from the journal. Pulled it in May of this year and submitted it to another journal. We wait.

2. Submitted a piece on how information technology employees push back against their managers. First submitted in May 2013. Never heard back after many inquiries. Pulled it at the one year mark year. Sent it to another journal in June of 2014. I wait.

3. A submission on the closing of a once popular social networking site. Sent October 2013. Pulled after 10 months of no action. Sent to another journal. I wait.

4. A piece on why IT pros quit their jobs. Been in revise and resubmit for over 16 months.

5. A analysis of the development of serial narratives in supernatural dramas on television. Submitted April 2014. No word yet.

6. Ethnographic research done at DragonCon. Submitted January of 14. Still waiting.

What’s making me really lose my everloving mind over this is that I just finished up editing a special issue of a journal. It took about a year from the time the call went out, to when it came out. It was my first time, and I really had no idea what the fresh hell I was doing, but I did it. It’s done. I got the hard copy in the mail today.

Sure, dealing with the authors was sometimes very painful - akin to pulling a hair out of my scrotum. But you deal. And you stay in contact, and you maintain contact, and you send out reminders, and you tell them you got their submissions, and you send the things out for review, and you maintain contact with your reviewers, and you do all of that shit. And you rant and rave and gripe and lose your shit in your office about all of it.

BUT you get the damn job done, because you know for a fact that there are people out there who need publications, who have to have pubs so they can keep their jobs, whose livelihoods are dependent on you.


We've had 2 requests now to host Beaker Ben's Twitter feed on this page.

I ran the CM Twitter feed and received a great deal of flak when I re-tweeted nutty, indecent, revealing, horrifying tweets from students, and so as the page started up again last week I decided not to mess with Twitter.

One of the most common complaints was that by re-tweeting items that college students had posted publicly, we were "mock[ing] specific, publicly recognizable, individual students."

Here are two ( 1  |  2 ) examples.

I got private mail about it, the former RGM did, and there were a fair amount of complaints about it in the comments. (There were even posts from correspondents decrying it.)

So I'm leaning toward not doing it again. If there's been a sea change in how the CM readership views this, please let me know. Email thingie is in the sidebar. It's orange.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Who Wants To Use Some Of This Shit We Know For Good Instead of Evil.

Got a nice note from Kevin Stein (a Comm proffie) that says this:
Hello, I'm developing a study that analyzes rhetorical strategies used by students in their excuses to professors. I've collected about 100 or so myself, but I was looking online for perhaps some kind of archive of a few I could examine. Do you by chance have a collection of these that you might be able to share with me? Obviously, the final research project will not use anyone's name and will completely protect their anonymity.
You can contact him directly at this address.

We're back! Hallelujah!

This is me.  This is EXACTLY what I look like.
That's my teaching jacket, too.
I missed us!  I had no appreciative audience to tell that after all these years, a student finally sent me THE classic email:

"Dear Prof. Academic,

I just signed up for your class (ed. note: 2 weeks or 1/6 of the term after it began). Can you send me the syllabus? Did I miss anything important?"

If there were fewer than 300 students in the class already I would not have responded,

"Dear Student,

The syllabus is on the class website.   re: what you missed, please see this link.. See you Monday."

I have no idea if I actually did see her Monday, since, 300 people in that class.  But I have never been so perfectly set up before.  Made my day.

Glad to see y'all again.

Teaching Mistake Number One: Inquire As To What The Precious Snowflakes Are Thinking. Meet Doc Slash!

I asked the little darlings in my remedial comp class at Hip Urban Community College to outline the arguments for and against an issue that they were passionate about, stressing the importance of being able to understand points of view that may contradict their personal beliefs. Many performed admirably. One wrote down reasons for and against the enjoyment of pizza (oh, how I wish that was a witty quip instead of an actual response that I received). And one turned in...this. I present it to you uncut, original spelling and punctuation as is. The combination of ignorance, pride in one's own ignorance, determination to preserve said ignorance, and smug 18-year old self-righteousness (I especially liked the 'If they can come to me...' part) was too delicious to keep to myself:

"One belief I strongly disagree with is that we came from monkeys or that monkey are our relatives. I do not look like a monkey nor do I sound like a monkey. I do believe that we came from a God and I do believe that Jesus died on the cross. When others are so sure that we are descendants of monkey's by only proving through pictures and 'science.' I like to argue back and disagree. I do not believe that 'science' can prove who we really are. If they can come to me and prove to me that we come from monkeys with something other than science, then I could possibly consider a different change of mind.

[Doc Slash's note: as near as I can tell, this second paragraph is the student's attempt to lay out the opposing viewpoint]

"I do understand why our generation thinks the way they do because ever since we were in elementary school they have put it in our heads that we descend from monkey's. It is hard for others to believe we come from a God because no one can physically prove it. As children, we believed anything we saw. We wanted to believe whatever they told us because it was right there in our faces. It is understandable why others choose to believe we we come from monkeys because no one taught them + us different"

Take heart, STEM faculty--since this student has thoughtfully taken the time out of their busy schedule to disprove several millennia's worth of so-called "science" (why do they keep putting that in quotation marks? A mystery for the ages), you still have plenty of time to seek some more useful purpose for your lives...

Friday, September 19, 2014

RGM Report.

Hi all. It's been a week since the re-birth. Is it too soon for a hiatus?

2500 hits a day, roughly. Great to reconnect with many old Misery colleagues. Be sure to hit the email with ideas, posts you'd like us to put up for you. Let us know if you want correspondent status so you can control your own posting.

Next time somebody complains that academics don't do useful research...

tell them to fuck off.  Then key their car.  I'm so sick of that bullshit.

Now, if somebody asks you, "What's the latest, most recent thing that professors have done in the lab that's even better than the rest of their awesome research?" then you can point them to this:

ISU professor develops 'world's purest' vodka

Based on tests conducted on other vodkas for van Leeuwen’s research, Titos was found to have the highest number of impurities with 49, Ciroc with 39 and Absolut with 16. A list of the impurities in 14 top vodka brands is attached to each bottle of IngeniOz.

Van Leeuwen said that the significance of this new purification process extends beyond supplying the “prudent vodka drinker” with a vodka that is as pure as possible. Along with the scientific reasons for decreasing hangover effects, IngeniOz also creates another opportunity for an additional byproduct of the corn in Iowa.

That right there is what we call advancing some science.

In all seriousness, the impurities do contribute to a hangover but they also provide taste.  I wonder how it changes the flavor.  Grab some shot glasses and a lab coat!  It's research time!

The Monkey is Back!

Hello CM!

It is wonderfully amazing to be back. Losing College Misery was a personal challenge to me. It coincided with a series of events that almost forced my center to close entirely. Imagine the misery with no outlet for the pain! It was a pretty chaotic time but my institution was saved by a series of financial miracles (including an enormous non-profit granting us an endowment) and a huge re-staffing. I am one of perhaps 30% who survived the whole process. And that makes me almost immediately one of the "olds" of the school -- not so much in age but in tenure.

(I work for a research center in a larger institution but it is funded separately from most of the university. Will say no more for anonymity.)

My status has meant a promotion of sorts, into Administration. And suddenly I am faced with a series of requests from faculty that are just about impossible. They want to be in the same classroom for every single class, and I can only do that realistically for about 50% of them before overlap starts making it impossible. Then all the leftovers begin to complain about favoritism. "Privilege," that dirty word, is thrown at me often. There are tech requests and I have to choose which ones to honor and which ones to chuck in order to get in under budget.

Finally, there is a ton of resentment. As a result, I am almost constantly having to push my own teaching needs aside so that others will stop bitching and bitching. The faculty are sneaky and manipulative. They plan ahead with each other to say similar things and try to force me to spend money I do not have. They all accuse me of favoritism, but then request favoritism as well. I never before realized how much administration can be a choice between doing what is easy but costs all of your good will and doing something difficult that others will not recognize as a sacrifice.

I teach at 8am and a 3:30pm four days a week. It makes for a long day most days.

I do not have any of the same classrooms. One of my classrooms has no meaningful technology. Itried to give it to the new English teacher, and she traded in all of her "new faculty status" good will during the tantrum that followed.

My textbook order was one of the last one to be approved so we could prioritize the bastard complainers.

I suppose in the end it will be worth it: I have a raise and more authority, in theory, even as I am making these sacrifices. Ultimately, I think that this is going to be a year of major transition, as I figure out how to manage whether I care that my faculty hate me or not. I am sure I will step into pitfalls, and I will need your help to figure out which fights are worth my time!!

And in the meantime? I have two senior classes that are among the most delightful I've ever taught. My teaching has a gorgeous flow to it. My chancellor and I are becoming very good friends. So that's nice! Once I get past the complainers, this might all just work out.

It feels so great to be back!!

RYS Flashback. 8 Years Ago Today.

You may have noted that under the header each morning we've been linking to some old RYS and CM flashbacks, favorite old pieces that celebrate their anniversaries on that particular day. But today we found this one and thought it was good enough for some space on the main page. Please, as they once said, in olden times, in the "goon" old days, to enjoy.


Tuesday, September 19, 2006

We Recommend the Margarita. Actually A Couple of Them. Step Away From the Computer, And Go Get Something to Drink Right Now.

I'm wondering what to do with my life now that I don't think I can stand teaching any longer. My complaints, however, have less to do with the students themselves. I like them, in general. Sure, there are some who are lazy and some who are not ready (intellectually or emotionally) to be in college, but, for the most part, they are fairly enthusiastic when approached with my own enthusiasm.

Herein lies the rub; I cannot stand the crap that goes along with teaching. I hate the meetings about how many pens we need to buy (who cares?). I hate the meetings where colleague A has to ask a question that clearly ONLY pertains to her and about which I have to listen for an extra 20 minutes when I could be grading / reading / writing / running / sleeping / drinking a margarita / doing any other damned thing I please.

I hate the paperwork and the not-even-thinly-disguised "students as customers with a return policy" thing that allows my students to drop my class during the LAST week of classes!!!! Why the hell should Joe Student be able to "return" 14 weeks of my time and effort? That's time and effort I could have been spending on Jane Student, or again, on myself. The school's desire to rope that sucker student into having to pay for my class again is unethical on so many levels that it makes me want to tell all of my students up front on day one that retaking the class simply because you didn't like your grade is playing right into their hands. And sometimes I even DO say that.

My thoughts are, that when I actually calculate how many hours I spend in administrative meetings etc., and work that into the salary, I really am getting bilked myself. And hell, if I'm going to have to sit in meetings and listen to marketing plans (thinly described as retention management), I might as well get a 9-5 job that PAYS a lot more.

But the sad part is, I love the teaching part and I'd really, really miss my students. There's no real way out of my cage; is there?

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Of Course There's New Prodo. How Do You Think We Afford the Ether?

The Big Thirsty: "In-Service Blues" from Annie Oakley.

I envy those of you on the semester system; you're three weeks closer to winter break.

In-service starts tomorrow at my little college not on the prairie. It's this introvert's worst nightmare: happy, shiny people, forced icebreakers, hijinks and hilarity. And PowerPoints. Oh, the humanity.

I'm dusting off my Buzzword Bingo cards, but I'm looking for some new games.

Q: What do you do to survive in-service without hurting someone?

"Our Business Model." From the Tuba Playing Prof.

Several years ago we started hearing from newer members of the Board of Trustees that we had “to run things like a business.” And now it's business as usual here.

After it ran off the former president, the board of trustees simply crowned the then provost the president in two steps: interim president then president. It did so after it spent thousands of dollars on a flawed, awkward, slanted, and quick search. The campus had no choice but to turn to the interim president and persuade him to take the job. Looking for his replacement, the president selected as his interim provost the associate vice provost—who quickly went from interim provost to provost—without having to be interviewed by anyone at any time—because the now provost was “just the type of leader the campus needs to take us to the next level.”

Here's the next level: The new provost has started creating more and more administrative positions—for every imaginable task on campus. Yet to fill these positions, the provost only “promotes” current faculty members away from teaching departments. Not one has been staffed by someone coming from some other institution.

These new administrators have this in common: most never really cared for the day-to-day duties of teaching, the grunt work of trying to arouse the interest of a freshman,the stack of essays, the lab reports, etc. Most are “done” with publishing, and all never achieved the type of status in their fields that might attract a “better”school from hiring them away. So I guess being the Associate Vice President of Assessment Rubrics and Parking is something to report to one's major professor back at Big Time U.

Leaving their departments, they all say the same things: “as much as I hate leaving the classroom, I feel that...” and “my research projects will absolutely continue as planned.....”

Yet, because the new admins do not technically leave their departments--although they NEVER return to their departments--because they might, the departments “hold the line” and cannot replace them with new, actual members of the department. The departments can and must hire adjuncts to “cover” their classes, of course. We overwork our adjuncts and we pay them less than minimum wage, so rightly we never ask them to do anything but “cover classes.” Everyone agrees to that. But covering classes is only one part of the duties. Hiring adjuncts to cover the classes that “members” of the department cannot teach because of administrative duties does not account for the department work of serving on committees, advising students, mentoring the few junior faculty members that we do have, etc. And with each new office, we have more to do: more committees, more reports, more duties, etc.

The new admins have little incentive to return. The provost sweetens these new positions with twelve-month pay and flex time, especially vacation time not tied to teaching assignments; he finds office space with regulated climate in the newest buildings, good lighting, cherry wood desks, new computers, laptops, and tablets, and for the special select the most prized perk of all, a parking spot.
I'll not say that the new admins don't work; they are always busy. Yet too often the new admins mostly seem to argue for the existence and necessity of the offices they hold. And I am amazed how quickly these former colleagues have turned, ever ready to point out that the provost is a good guy, such a smart guy, who deeply cares about the students and their education, a natural born leader, etc. To a person they all seem to repeat the emerging idea that “teaching is a small part of what we do here, our responsibilities to the community, and the state....”

How we do business here: staff every administrative positions with weary, bored, disenchanted, and/or embarrassed tenured faculty members. By doing so, one cuts the largest “drain” on any campus—fair salaries. Hire tenured professors beholden to you but have them to do administrative duties without paying them administrative salaries; then hire adjuncts and pay them an offensive “salary” to “cover” classes. Then leave the department work to those “who just teach.”

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Caption this!

A fine, Iowan afternoon to all of you.

Do you have a caption for this?

Give it in the comments.

Conan the Grammarian Goes All Out With a Story About a Staple!

This was my first summer in a while without College Misery. I want to tell you a story about some of the nonsense I encountered in my summer internship!

My single biggest contribution to the company I interned at over the Summer was not cold-calling potential applicants, it was not helping to revamp their succession planning. It was First Aid-related. I administered triage after a work-related incident. They gave me a fifty dollar WaWa gift card! Yes!

The long story short is that I was in a meeting and, upon hearing a succession of loud and unpleasant noises, everyone rushed out to see what was going on at reception. The first thing we saw was blood in various places. One person fainted (hitting her head in the process, because we needed more things to deal with, obviously), another person had third degree burns, and yet another person had a staple in their forehead. There was also a person whose arm was gashed pretty badly.

My immediate contribution to the scene was to tell the person trying to remove the staple "Oh my God, stop, what the fuck do you think you're doing, Jesus Christ, stop that, don't take it out, don't touch it, get away, Oh my God."

Fortunately, the company was loosely involved with health care and there were people nearby who knew first aid better than I. I got to deal with the lovely aftermath, which was just as fun. It wasn't too terrible because, ironically, literally everyone involved and everyone who had witnessed the event swore that it was all just a series of incredibly unfortunate accidents. Here's what happened, from what I can gather.

The Magic Stapler Incident

1: Person A walks into the reception area carrying a cup of coffee that they, conveniently, had just microwaved to McDonald's suing temperatures. This is a result of their not really understanding how things like microwaves, electricity, mugs, heat, and liquids work.

2: Person B stands in reception talking to the recptionist; we'll get back to them in a minute.

3: Person C, while proofreading a document, takes said document from their office to the reception desk to staple it (their stapler was non-functional; this was verified later).

4: ????????????

5: Person C somehow bumped into Person A while in the act of stapling.

6: ????????????

7: The stapler goes... flying... upward? And... hits Person B in the head, stapling him. It then hit the receptionist's army, making the gash. The coffee, meanwhile, is all over Person C's torso. It does what hot liquids are wont to do and burns him.

What "Actually" Happened (In Conan's Mind)

1: "Hey guys, wanna have a stapler-coffee fight?"

"Sure! Let me just go back and make sure the coffee is extra hot!"

2: Havoc ensues.

My Class is More Important than Yours!

Voted "Worst RYS/CM
Graphic Ever."
I know that sometimes the little flakes are lying through their teeth when they say that "the ONLY time" Professor so-and-so will allow them to take a makeup exam, or to attend an absolutely VITAL study session, etc. etc., is JUST when my class is held and so I need to excuse them from MY class and then let them make up the work for ME and so on.

But sometimes they are NOT lying. I have started requiring an email from the other Prof as proof, and so I could gently inquire of my esteemed colleague if there might be a way to have our mutual flake not miss my class too?

SURPRISE! Sometimes my profflake colleagues really don't care, and knowingly put the student in the middle of the bad situation of two profs playing dominance games (with student attendance as the prize). Well, I TRY not play dominance games, but I do go into automatic "Who the fuck do you think you ARE?" mode when told (and yes, I have been told), "I'm sure that [student] will easily be able to make up the missed class with you, but the work/quiz/lab in MY class is REALLY important and no, there's just no other time they can make it up!"

The Program Chair, when informed just shakes hir head and mumbles, "Oh, I'm sure you two can work it out."

I am at a loss for an appropriate response to this colleague. That is, other than the rhetorical and not-very-useful WTFDYTYA!

- Horrible Meanie Prof

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

That Didn't Take Long.


Countdown until censorship and content control begins ... now ... maintain the academic spirit of the original mods by deleting all comments that disagree with the clubhouse on When's the Meltdown?
at 8:19 PM

Infographic: Higher Education Then and Now.

It's Me, It's Leslie K. Yawn.

Oh dear, Terry has oversold my visit. It's hardly an update at all, mostly just a "hi."

What's new? Devil spawn daughter married, happily so far, and suddenly the smartest married person ever. She said the other day, "You know, if Daddy and you just..." and I covered her mouth with my hand and said, "Don't go there. Your daddy and I stumble along just fine." But seriously, the beau, the man, the husband (GAK!) is nice and loving and acts as if he enjoys my husband's football addiction, so all is well.

Still teaching. May share some stories in the future, but I feel blessed with what I have. Still in touch with Darla and Cal (and Mrs. Cal, who is the greatest). Cal's health issues continue, but he's fierce and vigilant and in good spirits. And dear dear Fab, who I love unconditionally. He's got a new book coming out in his field and is happy and well and making his world as wonderful as it can be.

Finally, I got stuck in the elevator again, and once again got scolded for being in the building too early. I did not hold my tongue this time, and once the 22 year old security "captain" rescued me, I laid into him. At one point, and I know it sounds crazy, but I said, "THIS IS MY COLLEGE. JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE KEYS DOESN'T MAKE IT YOURS!" Oh well. I sent him a coffee the next morning because I sense we will meet again.

With Love,
Leslie K

Tina from Texarkana On Schedules.

As the fall begins, the misery has already accumulated like the leaves falling in the forest.

But I will start with the most painful: my schedule. Despite having organized a (as much as possible) reasonable teaching schedule, it all fell apart. The reasons are numerous and, sadly, beyond my control: new registration policies, overall low enrollment, new deans, and some poor decisions by the administrative layer.

My schedule now resembles that of an adjunct, not a tenured professor. I have 5 classes in every possible configuration: super large early morning lecture, followed by mid day lecture, followed by very late night class followed by a small morning lecture, and the week capped by a long practical afternoon course. And 5 separate preparations in 3 different subjects and with 3 new preparations. (The dean, worried about an adjunct's low teaching load, asked me to take on an impossible schedule: late night class followed by early am class. I declined, and was forced to opt for a slightly less impossible schedule. ) My schedule was finally resolved on the Friday before classes start. This in turn made my syllabi writing stressful, and fraught with errors.

As my spouse likes to point out to me, I am no longer 20. That one twenty hour day (due to commute issues) is taking the toll. I forget to copy and distribute important assignments to class. I spent 15 minutes trying to remove a DVD from a laptop that I had actually never inserted. I put the butter in the silverware drawer.

Each day brings a new task via my email box, while I grapple with immediate crisis, such as misbehaving students, and missing textbooks, which the bookstore failed to order.

My list of things I want and need to accomplish (in hopes of avoiding this situation again) is turning yellow on the cork board above my desk. Hopefully, I am also not turning yellow, but my hair is quickly turning white. I am telling myself these white hairs are mere highlights.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Welcome to Northwestern College, Orange City, Iowa.

Nobody asked me. They just moved the whole damn compound. How did you get through those locks? I don't buy cheap shit.

Anyway, I have a GPS. I can find it, I guess. Iowa? Is it next to Idaho, Ohio? Somewhere in there, right. Big rectangular states. Corn, potatoes. Football teams.

Thought your crew might like to see the college orientation film.


Apparently Cash Brought the Duck.

Dear students, your papers are graded by evil geniuses

It's Sunday, which means I've been up since 6 grading, and I have about 6-7 more hours to go just to get ready for this week. Wonder if my students know...

  1. I'm secretly kind of glad when you don't turn something in, since that's something I don't have to grade.
  2. If I give you extra credit on something, it really doesn't matter in the end. I'll just make the next test harder.
  3. That page of careful, individual feedback that makes you feel so special is 85% stock comments I've been building up over the years that I copy and paste in. People always make the same mistakes when they're learning to do this stuff.
  4. I totally judge you by your grammar and spelling. Even if I say it doesn't count, it still affects how I receive your ideas, and thus, your grade.
  5. I can tell you the value of your work in about 90 seconds - maybe 2 minutes on a paper over 8 pages. Most of my grading time is spent justifying that to you in a way that you won't complain. Avoiding whining is a high priority.
  6. If you do a half-assed job, I take it personally.
  7. I order the papers by the pain they are likely to cause me. I know after the first two assignments who does work that ticks me off with its inanity, and I have to spread those throughout the stack so I don't take it out on the other students.
  8. If you do that thing where you fold the corners together instead of stapling your work, I resent you. You don't want me assigning grades when I resent you. You will pay, grasshopper.
  9. If, by some miracle, I let you turn something in late, I'm going to make you wait a long time to get your grade. I'm not going to go out of my way.
  10. I might take particularly inane things you write ("In our world today..." ) and share them with other proffies to make them laugh.

We've Moved.

Listen, you'd be surprised at how little control we had over this. It's not so easy to get some college town to just let us move in, what with the guns, the duck, the other guns, the mescal, Katie.

It takes a huge security deposit and a lot of sweet talk. And sometimes we just have to overpower people with ether.

But we have taken up residence in Orange City, Iowa, on the campus of Northwestern College. We'll update you as we get settled.


Sunday, September 14, 2014

Somebody read his syllabus!

I know!  Amazing, right?  Well, this wouldn't be a College Misery post if that was the whole story.  No, this is the email I just received:
Dear Professor,
I've checked the syllabus but I can't figure out where we meet for lab.  I wish the syllabus was less confusing about this.
Indeed, the lab syllabus does not include the class times of the 57,000 lab sessions that we hold each week.  Pro tip: it's on your schedule.  I'm especially surprised that the student didn't realize this since students got their schedules at the beginning of the semester, FIVE WEEKS AGO.

I'm sending an email to our campus's vice chancellor of orientation.  Preschool teachers handle this problem by inviting parents and the wee ones to the classroom before classes begin so that kids learn their way around.  We can do that too.  I'll have my classroom decorated, a big smile and some of those tiny chairs for everybody to sit in.

Mindless Geographical Note.

So, RYS had its compound in a generic and unnamed desert somewhere. CM started in Oxford Ohio and later relocated to Ogden Utah.

So where are we now? Announcement Monday.

When's the Meltdown?

A reader, who I knows means well, responded to an email I sent about the re-opening of the page:
"What is to keep this from all going down again? I've put my chips in this game a couple of times. If The Professor, Cal, Leslie, Fab, and Beaker Ben have never kept this thing alive, how are you going to avoid the same fate? When is your meltdown coming?"
Well, I'm going to go at it differently than I did when I was a moderator previously. I'm going to spend an hour in the morning making sure things are okay, AND THEN I'M GOING TO GO ABOUT MY DAY!

I'm on sabbatical, so I have the time, but I'm not going to let myself burn out, implode, etc. The psychic energy that the page CAN take from you is legendary among mods, and we've all talked about it.

But I figure, the page has been dead for more than half a year. We don't even have the same domain name. It'll probably give out before I will!

I love the idea of it. It seems a shame for the forum not to exist. Cal sent me an email that Ben sent to him (and others, I assume), and it sounded like that page was slowing down some. So, I always liked CM. I got a charge out of the PEOPLE of CM, especially the folks we all know and love, Greta, Strelly, Cynic, Cassandra, Hiram, Darla, Cal, Ben, Amelia, Maybelle! I could list a dozen more easily.

And I missed them. I think the academy would be better off if their voices were still out there in the ether, searchable on The Google.

But I'm just going to keep the lights on and sweep up occasionally. If you all want to set the place on fire, then that's on you!

(you know, Terry P. Gordon Presto...I have more)

Saturday, September 13, 2014

When to tell a university to "get bent."

I am an adjunct, I teach online classes for several different universities. Some are better than others, some are for profit some are non-profit. I need each and every paycheck and they are never guaranteed term to term.

One university that I work for is the bane of the for profit world, you may have read about them in the media recently. Frankly I am ashamed of them but I work hard to drag my students kicking and screaming towards a working knowledge of the material I teach.

My problem is I need the paycheck but University X is so terrible, and frankly let's be honest, a sinking ship, how do I know when it is time to tell the Dean's and higher ups to get bent when they ask me to do more work, continue with training, and spend countless useless hours with "outreach" to students who will never show up to class? If I knew I would continue to get paid next term I might be more willing to carry on with a happy face however there is nothing but silence from the powers that be.

A Weekend Thirsty On Reliance.

I'm Wilma in Wilmington and I have a problem that I'm a bit embarrassed that I'm complaining about.

I'm glad when my students need me. I like when I can actually offer them help and they seek it out.

But I've got a home-schooler in my class this semester who has already worn me out. She's pleasant as all get out and I enjoyed her fierce inquisitiveness when I first started working with her outside of class.

But only three weeks in she's paralyzed about any activity unless I give her a go-ahead. She's grown overly reliant in that short of time. I want her to work on her own, too, not just wait for approval. But so many of my students over the years have been so disengaged from me and the material that it's sort of nice to have this force of nature around. I don't want to encourage her to learn the wrong way, though, and I'm not entirely sure part of my unease is just how tired she makes me!

Q: Do I try to undo this attachment, make her back off, make her do more thinking for herself, or is an educational partnership like this a modern educational path that I just don't know about yet? Should I just enjoy the whirlwind?