Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Dr. Amelia's suggested annual review

Hi friends - grateful to Kimmie and glad to be back at the old stomping grounds (although it's awfully quiet here in Oilmont - where did everyone go?)

My friends from a past university have to write navel-gazing self reports every calendar here (here, we have a one-page form to the tune of "describe your teaching in 25 words or fewer - it's fab"). But there, it's a 7-10 pager. They are due 1/15, so people are freaking out, and I thought I would help them.

Here is a suggested proffie self report:

Summary: This year, I did a lot of stuff. I taught students. I did some research. I spent enough committee time to have a permanent dent in my tongue from biting it so as to not tell Professor Silverback to STFU. It was a good year and I deserve a raise.

Teaching: I taught 7 classes this year to 348 students. Most of them were happy, as you can see by their happiness score on the end-of-semester reports you make them do. Only 22 of them over the year filled them out (no accountability in the system) and 4 hated my guts and the horse they rode in on, so the averages are lower than the university average. Funny how that mean vs. median thing works, but I get it, it's complicated.

Anyhow, I know my students learned good stuff because:

I got comments like "Dr. A is the Srsly." and "Yo, I actually know how to weave hamster fur now!" Negative comments included "Amelia refused to violate university policy and give me a completely different final 9 days early so I could go on a cruise with my parents when the prices are cheaper. She is a bitch and obviously hates students You should fire her immediately."

Some of the students did work that won a regional award for fur weaving.

Some of the students did work that professional fur weavers gave a thumbs up to. Way up.

To summarize teaching, I am a bitch and should be fired, but the students did learn actual stuff, so there is that.

Scholarship: I wrote some stuff a few years ago and it got published this year. Good for me. It was all super-important, trust me. Here is a list, in MLA style. See, I know MLA style. To summarize scholarship, no one will ever read what I wrote, but some sucker published it, and that's good enough for me, thee and P&T.

Service: OMFG, where do I even start? I was on the departmental committee from Hell all darned year long featuring Dr. Janie, the clueless administrator, who would interrupt every meeting to ask us to define hamster once again. I was on a different committee from Hell also, this one university-wide, that featured not one, but THREE faculty members sufficiently insecure as to use their votes as a way to make sure we were PAYING ATTENTION TO THEIR BRILLIANT, CLEAR THINKING DARN IT even though it wasn't really germane to the policy on library use that we were trying to come up with. I began starting everything I said with "With deference to Dr. PeterPrinciple's obvious expertise in this area, don't you think it might be useful to..." I am not making this up. To summarize service, those people who say it gets a whole lot worse after tenure were completely right and I will never doubt them again.

Summary: This year was just amazeballs. Please give me a raise and/or tenure It has been 4 years now and I am sure the state can cough up $1000 if you really try.

"Grad-School Persistence" from Pissed Pumpkin.

It's the lull between Boxing day and New Years Eve, and the relatives have been put on planes towards their assorted homes, which means that it is time for that most professorial of pursuits: hurriedly banging up some letters of recommendation before the deadline.

It's only one student and only two schools for the nonce, but against my judgment and advice it needs doing.

Not that I think Persistent Pattie is doomed to failure in grad-school. On the contrary I imagine that she'll battle through and emerge triumphant on the other side.

No. The problem is that she has clawed her way up to a solid job offer at a local high tech manufacturer, and she wants to go off to study [documentary-ready, but utterly unemployable sub-discipline] for another five or six year if she's lucky.

In a way I can't fault her. She got an unremarkable education at
the crappy schools around here, failed to make anything of her
first go at community college, got knocked up and ended up
divorced, with two kids and working as a receptionist. Then she
checked out a pop-sci book by [telegenic science guy] from the
local library, fell in love, and conceived a Mission in Life (tm).

That brought her to the doors of my rather dingy ivory tower
where she passed in sequence college algebra; our gen-ed physical
sciences survey and trigonometry; the first semester of our
physics-for-people-who-need-some-physic-background (algebra/trig)
class and calculus; and then the real physics for scientists and
engineers. She changed majors to physics and math and forged on
into the dizzying reaches of the upper division.

Then she landed a (paid) summer internship at the aforementioned
technology firm and turned it into an on-going (paid) internship.

She's also found time to hold up one end of a toy research
project I conceived, run down funding for a trip to a big
conference get an abstract on our project approved for the
conference, do some out-reach, bring the Society of Physics
Students back to this place, bring it's associated honor society
here for the first time and got herself elected to said honor
society. All with two kids at home.

This last semester she turned in her application to graduate in
the spring and her boss made her an offer of permanent,
professional employment as a development engineer.

That's the fucking GOLD MINE, girl!

But she wants to go to grad school.

And so, I toil over a letter that will make just the right pitch
(play up her strengths, manage to avoid mentioning her weaknesses
without seeming to avoid them, and so on) to get her what she
wants and ruin her life. She's a little weak in a one important
area, but she has such a fantastic life-story that I fear she'll
get it on the strength of that alone.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

Friday, December 25, 2015

"I have to apologize to you," the chancellor said

I'd had a meeting with the chancellor two weeks ago, mostly to blow off steam. I stepped down as dean four years ago as the result of a nasty fight with our administration. It turns out that I was right back then, the school lost in court, and just recently they had to admit that I had been correct about the administration having grossly mismanaged funds. Of course, with that and $4 I can get a cup of coffee at $tarbucks, but hey, good to know I was right.

Anyway, at the meeting I had bitched at the new chancellor (we also have a new president, a new head of finances, and a new head of HR) that we had doubled the size of the faculty in the past decade (actually hiring some adjuncts) and of course increased the number of students accordingly. But the number of sabbaticals granted were the same as they were ten years ago. Since I was counting on a sabbatical sometime soon, I'd be up against all the new kids wanting their first one, and I wanted to increase my chances.

I was well prepared and had a list of all the excess teaching duties I had taken on over the last few decades here. Seems I'm a pushover and have taken so many extra sections of hamster fur basket weaving that I should be able to take a year off with full pay. Except that the RULEZ don't let you do that.

I shoved my list in his face, and asked why the number of sabbaticals was not keeping pace with the number of proffies. "State rules!" he proclaimed, and my audience was up. Oh well, I was in a bad mood anyway, so I graded some papers and found two plagiarisms. Took my anger out on them.

Then the chancellor's secretary contacted me again. He would like to talk to me. Okaaaaay. He offered me a cup of coffee (not normally supplied to guests) and then came right to the point. "I have to apologize to you," he said. "You were right." Turns out, just like I said, the budget determines how many sabbaticals we have, not the state. More students means more money means more proffies means more sabbaticals. But no one in the past 10 years thought to change the line item with the number of sabbaticals. The budget is already approved for 2016, but from 2017 they will be increasing that number. And they will find a way to deal with my excess teaching hours. And one more thing I had mentioned, turned out I was right on that one too.

People kept asking me all day why I was grinning.

So peeps out there in the trenches: keep at it. Every now and then you can actually win a battle with the administration. Oh, and Merry Holidays or whatever the PC thing to say today is.

Suzy from Square State

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Florida, Right?


What should we do? Water down these greetings with “Happy Holidays”? Doesn’t that defeat the purpose of being culturally sensitive to those who celebrate Christmas? I think so.

Couldn’t “Happy Holidays” be the most inclusive greeting because it is so non-specific? Yes, perhaps, but it is the non-specificity of “Happy Holidays” that makes it inappropriate because it fails to recognize the importance of Christmas to Christians while it also suggests that Chanukah should be more important to Jews than the high holidays and festivals that come at other times during the year.

I would suggest that we take a new approach that observes “the holidays” we all have on our calendars, no matter our religion.

My friends and I wish each other a “Happy Federal Holiday."


The sushi and banh mi at Oberlin's cafeteria aren't authentic enough.


Oberlin, a private college with a $50,000 tuition, has entered once more into this year’s Tedious Campus Culture War Debate. After hearing complaints that its sushi program wasn’t good enough for reasons of racism, the place of learning has issued an apology.


Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Meet the RGM. "Compound Crystal Is Here To Ruin Everything."

I may be caught up in the glamour of it all, but I've loved this page for so long, and I feel fortunate to be a part of it. I'm yet another English proffie, someone who reads and writes (and GRADES reading and writing) for a living. I still love it, but have all the same complaints as many who have strutted their way across the RYS/CM stage over the years.

Fun facts: 
  • One of my degrees comes from the university with the best football team in the country.
  • My first book came out two years ago. It sold almost zero copies but got me a promotion. Nobody except my colleagues ask about when my next one is coming out. Truthfully, I teach too many freshmen to be able to have time to write another.
  • I am married to a great guy who is also a college administrator - sorry - and I give him shit in person at least once a week about something I think THEY are not doing. We kiss and make up and we've been together 15 years.
  • I have spectacular kids, spectacular to me, I know they're just average middle schoolers...I'm not crazy. One wants desperately to be a college professor (my sainted daughter), and one wants to drive motorcycles for a living (my exasperating son).
  • I teach at a place where my department is hostile but the division is friendly. I hang downstairs with some great people in Philosophy, History, and Foreign Languages. I know this is cliche, but I have actual colleagues who are vindictive and nasty, and I assume plotting against me.
  • I do not have tenure, but if all goes well...
  • I live in the way, way west.
  • I'm 40 something. 40 something is the new never-get-to-retire-something.
  • I love love love this community.
  • I have been on RYS and CM over the years, more often under a few different names in the wild and wooly RYS days, and I've chosen not to reveal my CM name since I didn't want any overlap in my online existence.
  • I chose my name after reviewing past moderator handles; I always liked the old ones, Compound Cal, of course, Cash, Chronos, Cricket, etc.
  • I'm moving the site's real world location. Oilmont MT has been a bust. It's stinky and cold and if I have to run a blog and can set it down anywhere, well, it's going to be some place warm. I'll reveal it by year end. (You can all ship your shit there in time for Spring.)
Thanks to all for the nice notes of welcome. Let me welcome you, too, to the new world, the new misery. I hope that we can keep it going. I am NOT going to be active on the page - all evidence to the contrary. I just want to make sure the place works and that people who want to have a voice get one.

Finally, here's a look at this page from 10 years ago this week!

In online classes, professors can't tell who's really doing the assignments.

Surprised? Yeah, me neither. 

"Joey" emailed that he needed someone to take a 10-week accelerated course in introductory psychology, and inquired if the company was prepared to handle all aspects of the class. The company would not only take the whole course for Joey, its representative said, but promised to earn him an A.

Hi. I'm Joey.
I'm putting my college degree
to good use.
Throughout the course, the professors used Turnitin and Googled students' work to check for plagiarism. They also monitored the time that students spent completing their tests to see if groups of students were taking exams at the same time.

In the end, the professors caught several students plagiarizing material. But they did not detect that Joey Sanchez was a fraud. Both instructors gave him an A in the class.

"I certainly did not feel that 'Joey' was being 'run' by a cheating company," Mr. Malesky wrote in the paper. "If anything, Joey struck me as a conscientious and motivated student who wanted to get as much out of the course as possible."

"Instructors such as myself," Crow wrote, "may be ignorant to the fact that it is possible for an entire course to be completed covertly by a paid impostor."  

The article is paywalled, but this link should work for a few hours. 


From Adriana in Atlanta.

I want to apologize to my students from fall. I had a bad few months, got separated, miscarried, and stumbled. I know I gave you less than my best and it has eaten at me.

And then yesterday I saw my evaluations: "Prof. Adriana is the greatest. She always makes sure to ask how I am doing getting accustomed to college. She answers emails at 3 am. She makes me think differently. She has shown me what I want to do with my life!"

Oh my dears. I will fight on and do better. 

Monday, December 21, 2015

College kids home for the holidays? 8 ways to make it fun, not frustrating. From And Can We Get Them to Do This AFTER the Holidays As Well?

8. Remember that respect and communication run both ways. Most parents agree that the key to a successful holiday break is mutual communication and respect. College kids who text their parents when they will be late and don't treat their family homes like their dorms (with the erratic hours and mess that entails) are more likely to find their parents willing to treat them as adults.

The Rest

Sunday, December 20, 2015

About Kimmie's Blog.

Kimmie had deleted some abusive comments on AcaMiz and then took a beating for it. She said she was not interested in running the blog if that was the cost.

I thank her for keeping the spirit of this community alive, just as Ben did before.