Tuesday, May 31, 2011

EMH lays his down for a desperate silverback

This morning, Tuesday May 31...
6:00am:  My cat wakes me up to inform me that there is a fly in her water bowl.  She has no problem swatting flys and then eating them.  However, seeing one in her water bowl kind of freaked her out for some reason.

6:15am:  Sitting up on bed.

        Computer!  One iced ractagino and two toasted english muffins spread with butter and      blackberry jam.  Also, feline supplement 24.

8:30am:  Computer console beeps. 

      Incoming Message!
      EMH, we are taking away your only summer class.  One of our silverbacks just lost all of his classes due to under-enrollment.  He is, therefore, taking yours.  Have a good summer.  We look forward to seeing you in the fall!

8:40am:  Computer!  One 32oz very strong 211 beer.
                Computer!  Alter EMH clothing to that of character Hawkeye from tv-show MASH.

This is the last week of classes for us (we are on the quarter system). Next week brings the dreaded final exams and grade grubbers will emerge from the woodwork and bowels of hell.

It has been almost four weeks since we had the midterm exam. I woke up to THIS email, with a request I haven't had before:

"Um. I did'nt do well on the midterm and am wondering if it would help my grade at all to provide an explanation of what I meant to write. If I clarified what my answers meant to say, you would be able to provide more points.
Delusional Dan

Getting Frank With Frank.

Hi! I'm new here so please be kind. I'm a proffie at a lovely SLAC. Most of the time I enjoy my job, colleagues, and students. Occasionally, I really need to release a shit storm of venting.

This time, I need to vent about Division III athletics. Sports are important on our campus and most of the time I don't have a problem with that. Recently, I held some snowflakes to the same level of hard work, dedication, and can-do attitude in my class as they routinely give to athletics. The result? Complaints, excuses, and a bad attitude. WTF?!


Saginaw Sid with a Sartorial (& Super Silly) Early Thirsty.

I'm sure this is a stupid question to waste on a Thirsty, but what the hey?

I'm at a state university with fairly relaxed standards, yet, I wear a sort of male uniform during the regular semester, khakis, dress shirt, loafers, maybe a tie when I'm feeling feisty.

I've not taught summer school here before, in fact, not since I was a poor grad student in flip flops - I was like Cash, let's just say.

Ladies, I'm not freezing you out either. Everyone, please chime in with acceptable summer wear.

Q: What do you wear when you teach summer school?

Today's VidShizzle: What Students Actually Hear.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Archie Sez: When it comes to the misery, Voltaire only got it half right.

My Voltairian thought for this holiday weekend:

If teaching the snowflakes is like gardening, then:

You painstakingly time the light in your beds.

You carefully research the right plants for that area.

You meticulously plan the aesthetics and the layout.

You accurately test the soil and plan your amendments.

You prepare all your materials and start digging your hole.

Only to discover that what's really down there is ....

Just a big fucking rock.

From the Washington Post.

College Inc

Study: One-fifth of faculty does most of the work

Twenty percent of faculty at the University of Texas-Austin teach 57 percent of the student credit hours, according to a new study from the Center for College Affordability and Productivity that attempts to build a case for inefficiency and waste in academia.
If the “bottom” 80 percent were as productive as the top 20 percent, the study concludes, the flagship Texas public university could cut its tuition in half. Or, the state could reduce its funding to the university by as much as 75 percent.
The study is likely to provoke outrage among those who suspect that college faculty positions are comparatively cushy, if it gains traction. And it’s likely to irk faculty associations, whose leaders contend that professors are a very hard-working and dedicated group, on the whole.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Shocker! Entitled Silverback Confesses He was a Slacker.

David Rubenstein, who just retired, I BET much to the relief of all his colleagues, writes an article in which he stars himself as a giant asshole who did no work, and now wants to rub everyone's faces in it.

Here's some delishus flava:
Sometimes my teaching began at 9:30 a.m., but this was hardship duty. A night owl, I preferred to start my courses at 11 or 12. With an hour or so in my office to see an occasional student, I was at the (free) gym by 4 p.m. Department heads sometimes pleaded with faculty to alter their schedules to suit departmental needs, but rarely. Because most professors insist on selected hours, to avoid rush hour and to retain days at home, universities must build extra classroom space that stands empty much of the day.
What a guy, right? You're just betting he was a joy on committees:
Committee meetings were tedious but, except for the few good departmental citizens, most of us were able to avoid undue burdens.
And here, he shows what a prince he was to the ladies:
Most faculty attended academic conferences at taxpayer expense. Some of these were serious events, but always allowed ample time for schmoozing and sightseeing. A group of professors who shared my interests applied for a grant to fund a conference at Lake Como. It was denied because we had failed to include any women and so we settled for an all-expenses-paid week at Cambridge, England.
Full text here if you haven't barfed yet.


Dr. Jekyll:  Southern Bubba was kind enough to post about a court ruling that seems to say that FERPA doesn't cover student e-mails.   However, Ohio State seems to think that e-mails regarding students can't be made public.  I am confused.  Where is Utterson when I need him?

Prof. Hyde:  At least the meaning of the "F" in FERPA is clear.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Three Books I Read This Semester...

The first two just scared the shit out of me. The third was one that a student turned me on to just before he dropped.


Who Else Would We Trust the Keys to For the Summer?


The History Lesson

Facebook and PayPal's Peter Thiel Pays College Students to Drop Out

PayPal cofounder Peter Thiel knows a thing or two about finding the next big thing.

Thiel was the first investor in Facebook and predicted the dotcom crash and the housing bubble. Now he believes the next big thing to burst is higher education, and he's willing to put his money on it.

"Learning is good. Credentialing and debt is very bad," he said. "College gives people learning and also takes away future opportunities by loading the next generation down with debt."

The 43-year-old with a net worth of $1.5 billion recently started a $2 million fund to get college students younger than 20 to drop out of school and start a business with $100,000 each.

"We ended up picking 24 people to try to get them to work on very specific projects that would push the frontiers of science and tech in areas ranging from biomedicine to computers to robotics," Thiel told ABC News.

Even though Thiel has a law degree from Stanford, he's still questioning the value of a college education. New York Magazine recently rated the worthlessness of a college degree as "one of the year's most fashionable ideas."


Friday, May 27, 2011

The Way We'd All Like to be Remembered

Today I had the great honor of attending a shindig for a church friend of mine. To call it a shindig might be a little modest. He was actually having a wing of one of the local hospitals named in his honor.

About a year ago my spouse and I found this church after a failed year long quest to find one of our denomination. We somehow ended up at this church and that has had a profound affect on our lives. About a week after joining the church we sat in the “wrong” pew. This elderly couple took us on sort of like we were stray puppies. We went to lunch with them where they grilled us on our lives and faith. We found out that she had been a school teacher and he a surgeon who was a founding member of a local medical school. Next we were invited to be in their small bible study. We’re the type to give anything a try particularly when such a respectable older couple takes time to get to know us. Turns out we are half as young as any member of the group but what a wonderful group it is. One of the group members has made it his personal mission in life to be sure I stay a university professor. Bless his heart some days it’s an uphill battle. This motley crew of 20 grandparents has become my church family. We share our ups and downs but mostly downs lately.

About six months ago my friend, the surgeon, was diagnosed with cancer—serious cancer. We didn’t know if he’d make it. They couldn’t remove all the cancerous tissue and he’s been radiated and chemoed and all manner of drugged these past few months. And physically he’s half the man he used to be. But he still has the warmest, friendliest smile.

Today I attended his shindig. Our entire bible study and both pastors showed up. We sat in a big group toward the front. There were 25 of us and we barely made up one-tenth of the crowd. I knew what kind of surgeon he was—a serious kind, the kind who get lauded for their work for the betterment of humanity, the kind who save the lives of good and moral people, the kind who give little Timmy a chance to see another day—but I had no idea who he really was. Turns out my humble, surgeon friend was a true pioneer in his field. He preformed the first four surgeries of his specialty—ever. He’d written books, had been on boards, had travelled the world receiving awards, had fellowships named in his honor, was written about in numerous news articles, and was talked about in bloody Time Magazine.

As I listened to all the speakers and looked around the packed room, I thought I should be so lucky that toward the end of my life I would be so honored and respected by the colleagues and friends. I’ll never have a building wing named in my honor. Probably none of us will. I’ll never accomplish anything nearly as impressive as what my surgeon friend has. When I am 80 in the shade none of my protégés will come out of retirement to regale 300 of my friends and colleagues with stories of my career and idiosyncrasies.

As I stood nibbling on petit fours, bacon wrapped whats-its, and shrimp from the oft refilled bowl, I thought it would be so nice if anyone in the academe would be thrown such a party after a career well done. As I watched the flutter of young doctors, who were my age, trying to get face time with my apparently very famous friend, I thought about how above and beyond this was to anything I knew. Never would I see this in academia outside of a medical school/hospital.

I have to admit I’m a bit green-eyed. I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I realize how tenuous of a grip I really have on my career. Perhaps it’s because academia is so limiting and lacks the personal warmth of doctorin’. Perhaps it’s because I want to know that in the end what I have done matters. Perhaps it’s a little of all of the above.

A Sober Assessment of our Industry... And a Call to Arms?

There is a letter going around my Facebook right now. It is from Tom Lutz, Chair of Creative Writing at Uni California Riverside. Although we may all have misgivings about the size and breadth of a creative writing department -- do they really need 150 creative writing majors in each class? What will these students do with such a degree? Could they stand to become smaller? -- such questions are not really important in the wake of the education-wide observations made by Dr Lutz.

He focuses on the way California's universities have gone from being a shining beacon of public education to mere shells of their former selves. That round after round of budget cuts, lay-offs, reduced pay, furloughs, canceled fellowships and grants, and empty positions that remain unfilled has pushed the California campuses to the brink in a matter of ten years or less. We all see this happening at our own institutions, if not quite to the scale of California.

At CM, we moan that the consumer model of college isn't working. It is not enough to PAY for an education; you have to learn the skills, too. We hold our students to standards that no longer have any meaning. We work hard and forgo raises. Yet what are we doing about this?

We are a blog of professors. It says so on our blog description. We come from across the country and beyond, as far as I can tell. So what are we doing? What can we do? Lobby government? Inform our students how they are getting short shrift?

Should we stick in our present universities and try to make changes from the position of Dean or Provost or Chancellor or President? Should we unionize across universities and galvanize our adjunct nation? Should we leave en masse?

I have included the (rather long) letter below the jump.

Ten Things I Cannot Save You From As the Quarter Ends.

  1. Not having been to class, and therefore not having turned in the various in-class exercises,
  2. Not having done the reading, and therefore knowing nothing prior to the exam.
  3. Not having gotten documentation for your illness, car accident, dead Grandma, etc.
  4. Not having started your final paper.
  5. Not having taken the many opportunities to do the presentation part of your grade.
  6. Not having done well thus far, and not having met with me to discuss how to turn things around.
  7. Not having dropped my class during drop/add.
  8. Having submitted work and therefore being ineligible for a "Withdraw/No Work Submitted" grade.
  9. Not having done 50% of the work and therefore being ineligible for an incomplete.
  10. Yourself. Yourself. Yourself.

- Frog & Toad

Orifice Hour

Boy, did I get grumpy today. The Little Dears have finally figured out that it might be helpful to visit my office hour. With 12 students waiting, Pushy Pete kept interrupting me as I tried to answer his request for help with an assignment.  

Pushy Pete thinks he's a great guy, the life of the classroom, which got old back in February. Today he needed to make an excuse for every suggestion I made. "Oh, I was going to do that, I just didn't get to it before I asked for help." "Oh, I know how to use MLA, I just didn't do it."  

I turned so icy after the third interruption (his last, as it happened) that the other students quieted down and exchanged glances.  

"Good," I thought. "Maybe they'll stay quiet long enough to listen when it's their turn."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Late Post-Rapture Thirsty

(I had to find a way to redeem posting "post-".  That was the best I could come up with.)

Q:  Who else wanted to pretend to be raptured instead of turning in grades? 

Summer is icumen in... about a month's time

I do appreciate how welcome the end of the semester is, but the blogosphere-wide enjoyment of my semesterised north American colleagues is definitely enhancing my grumpiness. I have four full weeks to go before I am 'free' (quotation marks since my summer is almost entirely full of fieldwork, conferences, 'service' in the form of supervising High School kids having a 'science experience' and paperwork, and I just heard this morning that I do NOT have permission to miss the mandatory pre-semester meeting in September even though it falls in the only actual Saturday to Saturday week of the whole summer for which my diary is empty and therefore I had foolishly made actual holiday-like plans (we don't have a not-paid-spell like US academics, so that isn't a good reason not to go sadly). The odds of me calling in sick that day are... well, higher than I'd like to admit. Right now, they're barely statistically distinct from 1:1).

Yeah, I know, come early September I'll still be 'free' and US bloggers will mostly be back at the chalkface (or interactive electronic doohickey face), but that's very little consolation right now!

Summer -- Maybe Not?

I looked briefly at the roster for my summer course before school ended. It was a respite from a mountain of grading and I wanted to know what to expect. The class was nearly full up -- 23, I think? At the time I dismissed it, of course, and went on hurriedly finishing up, and, later, collapsing on the couch to do nothing but watch soaps for the last week.

Yesterday, I looked the class up online. I was interested in what the breakdown would be -- mostly testosterone driven guys? Chatty girls? Turns out ALL girls...but only three of them.

Considering the course must be extremely fast-paced, has a strict attendance policy that's going to get at least one of them in trouble, etc, half of my brain is panicking. What if they all fail for attendance, or they're all friends who read through the syllabus and decide this isn't the easy-peasy class they thought they could coast through? What if they all drop? Will I even get paid or will all this extra work I've been putting into squeezing this 16 week instruction into 4 weeks -- figuring out all their homework assignments and scheduling, setting up more stuff online, winnowing and molding the strongest units I can -- be wasted? And how the fuck am I going to pay my rent until September?

At the same time, having this few students could be AMAZING. Could you imagine the one-on-one time? The feedback? How fast I could grade things? No more weekends from hell for a month. They could all actually learn and grow as writers and I could focus solely on what they needed help with. Jesus, it would be awesome.

I guess I have to be patient. It could turn out either way (or the university could just decide there aren't enough students in the class and drop it, screwing me out of the teaching opportunity and the pay).

Then again, registration can change a lot in a week.

Nate from Norwalk Sends In The Big Thirsty. The Aligning of Grades.

I am in my 4th year teaching at a large state uni in the northeast. My department is gigantic, and we occasionally get treated as if we were runaway slaves or prison escapees. We get department-wide mandates that come sweeping out of the heaven of the department office, and how the mandates get settled or decided is never made clear.

As this semester ended, we were deluged with emails - and one video from our chair - about the need to better "align our grades" to those of the majority of our colleagues.

All sorts of plans are in progress for the coming fall; a portfolio from each faculty member must be submitted. Final grades should fit inside an approved "distribution bell," and our T&P portfolio will now have one additional requirement - a report on the aligning of our grades to the departmental norms.

Q: Is this unusual? Is anyone out there going through something similar? I'm a little alarmed about it all, but feel as if I don't really have a broad enough experience to know if my alarm is warranted. I do know it made me pull up my past grades to see what they looked like - although I don't know yet WHAT they're supposed to align like. Should a department's grades align with each other?

A: Post replies below.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It Is I, Yaro, With Thoughts on Summers and Semestris.

It is I, Yaro, writing to you all from the Beehive state.

Mrs. Yaro has forbidden us the use of electronics for the coming weeks, so while she pulls weeds along the walkway to our summer cabin, I am tapping with tentative fingertips this message to my Miserable colleagues, much as Fabsun had requested in his missive to me.

There was the sweet release as my semester ended many days ago, and as always, my young charges bid their farewells - though many sought to engage me electronically for final grades and such, a practice which I'm loath to undertake, as the grades go out electronically by and by in the manner. Then the marking of the projects and such, and as always they took more energy and time than I had allotted or bargained for. One particular young man had endeavoured to use nearly an entire Wikipedia article to stand for his own efforts, and naturally he has discovered that a summer course retake is certainly in his future.

But I posted the final marks electronically in the manner, made two trips to my car with plants and mugs and personal items, and I've not seen the campus since.

Summer. It is not my favorite season, oddly, though many of my colleagues would likely claim it. I prefer long and bathed Springs and Autumns. But Summer releases me from my academic self, the professorial Yaro, and for that I am gorged in gratefulness. Where I once let my hair down in summer, I now simply stop combing what remains of it. Mrs. Yaro, in fact, is often called upon to trim the ends at this time of year, a practice that started when we were young sprites. We undertake the effort now on our porch, usually near the end of a day, me and her in our bare feet, a towel around my shoulders, and Mrs. Yaro energetically working with a dull but favorite pair of shears that I'm certain she uses more successfully - but not with more happiness - on dresses, tablecloths, and Christmas items for family members.

But I've strayed off the point once again.

Summer Yaro indeed shakes loose of the misery that infects us all - each in the manner - and I look forward to the respite, the hiatus, more each year.

What would I do, I wonder, if I were still a young charger, as once I, Yaro, was, teaching summer classes, writing, fending off the stink of a summer campus, the heavy air of cloistered classrooms? What if there were no Summer breeze to air out my cobwebbed and dusty brain? I am grateful, many times grateful, that my career has earned allowances, security, time, and most of all the opportunity to allow one school year to slip into the recesses, and be replaced with a fresher slate on which to write my path in the new one.

I know my campus is still abuzz, and my younger colleagues are chasing the Summer salary, revising chapters, fighting dragons and monsters and insubordinate clauses with fury and fascinating energy.

But what might they accomplish by just turning away occasionally? Of course I know the economics of this make it impossible for so many of our untethered colleagues, the visitors, the adjuncts. And it all for the worse of the academy. The Romans, of course, and forgive me if this is all matter of which you are aware, used the word "semestris," half-yearly, or of six months, because a reasonable and useful level of effort was said not to be sustainable beyond the measure.

And, so it has been my experience as well. The semester ends and teachers retreat, to make new, to refresh, to find nourishment that will allow a fit return.

And that is, of course, where I am now.

Mrs. Yaro has spied me through the screen. But do not worry over my safety. Mrs. Yaro's summer dicta are not so hard and fast. The occasional error on my part rarely results in anything more than a shake of her lovely, lovely head. As an example, I break the multiple frankfurter rule all the time - "the nitrites," she often intones, "dear, Yaro, you must remember what Dr. Sostratos urged!"

But it is a lovely afternoon here, and Mrs. Yaro has finished her weeding. We have the windows open and air rushes through this small and rustic room. It is 17 years since we first took a portion of summer here, and we are blessed to have it, its properties, its role in the give and flow of our yearly journey.

I know of no other medicine that works quite so well as a hiatus from the academy. I hope that you, given the myriad circumstances of the readership here on Fabsun's blog, find some way to shake clear of the semester past, if only to provide clear progress to the one to come.

I am your friend, and I wish you all well,

A Summer Session Stream.

  • Online Pete told everyone in a BB discussion thread that he is enrolled in our class because he failed it at Small Low-Quality College. He heard Snarklepuss University is soooo much easier than SLQC. What a champ. (Or maybe I mean chump. Or chimp?)
  • Whenever I hear Bruno Mars on the radio, I think of Yaro in his clerical collar, rockin' out on his iPod.
  • This year's commencement speaker pronounces "graduating" as "gra-joo-ate-in." Lovely.
  • During finals week, the frozen yogurt machine in the cafeteria was broken. Did you know this may have contributed to Sleepy Sally's poor performance on my final exam, as she NEEDS a fro-yo twice daily during exams week? (I asked her to bring a doctor's note.)
  • On average, what is the salary increase between Assistant Prof and Associate? Associate and Full? Just wondering when I'll catch up with my alums' salaries....
  • Oh, Kanazawa. Anyone familiar with the British system want to weigh in on the odds he and his racist, sexist ass will be on the fall job market?

My Tutor Friend? Today's VidShizzle.

Misery Loves Company

Hello everyone,

When I discovered this blog a few months ago, I felt like I'd stumbled upon a really great small-town pub. Kind of dark, a little rough around the edges. My kind of place.

I'm a full time, tenured proffie at a small community college, located in the rainier nether regions of the Left Coast. I am another one of those damned liberal arts majors who dares to believe her field is as worthwhile to society as oh, Division 1A football or Chemical Engineering.

My school is located in one of the more economically depressed pockets of an economically depressed state. Student numbers have doubled in the past seven years--and full time faculty positions have been reduced by 15% in the past twelve years. We've had revolving doors installed in key administration offices. We're on our sixth president, 8th or 9th sets of VPs, and hell, I've lost count of deans. So the merriment is fairly never-ending.

This week has been eternal. I spent the weekend attempting to assess the small amount of original thought in a particularly frightful collection of research papers. Apparently I need to explain in more detail what plagiarism checking software is looking for.

But there are little twinkling highlights: this morning, one of my flakes had on a shirt that said "This man needs a beer." I said "you and me both, Bucky," as I handed out some papers. After class, there was a knock on my office door. Said flake was at the door, holding out a bottle that looked to be half full of...urine?? "Here," he said, "this is some stuff I had leftover from my camping trip last weekend. It's apple pie flavored; I make it with Everclear. Girls really like it!"

This girl drinks Maker's Mark, bubba. With grown ups.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Ancillary Adjunct Enters the World of Academia

Ancillary Adjunct here….So glad for CM--CM provides a release valve and keeps sanity (and spirits) up. Thank you all!

My trip to academia has a scenic route. A career in the “real world” tanked. So why not earn a master’s degree and become a college professor? Little did I know that it’s like the lottery! Especially since pursuing a—you guessed it—humanities degree! A serving of self-flagellation, anyone?

A newly-minted M.A., I enjoyed my first semester of adjunct teaching. Thanks to CM, various and sundry student ploys failed--thank you for all your "war stories!"

Now the cup of Ph.D. “fruit punch” has been pressed into my hand, beckoning like the Holy Grail. But…there are bills. On the plus side, being a clerk on campus worked out. I only paid a quarter of what others in my cohort had to. Pity I am climbing the walls at that clerical job now.

So, the possible temporary escape route is a grant for writing a book---won’t know for sure until December. Meanwhile, the Ancillary Adjunct is on the prowl looking for another guest spot, hoping to use the old sheepskin for something other than hiding a hole in the wall.

Archie's here, with a new game for old CMers

So I'm still in the Hizzy, in case you were wondering. My sabbatical is winding down. I know this because the dean called me at home today to ask for a favor. Blech. Also, I went down to campus last week to see the stack of mail in my office and count how many books the visiting person who was using it "borrowed" this time (answer, as far as I could tell, only one).

Anyway, as I was walking towards my building, I had the distinct displeasure of overhearing snippets of snowflaky conversation coming from gaggles of students walking the other way. Since I only heard the first half of a bunch of flakery, I thought I'd do a little crowdsourcing to figure out what they were really saying. So, all you have to do is insert the second clause to the following real goddamned flake sentences:

1) "I know I'm not the epitome of hygiene or anything, but ..."

2) OK, sure, I don't spend that much time in the library, but ..."

3) So then I asked for an extension, but ..."

4) Sure, I get that there's a final exam schedule and everything, but ..."

5) I know you're a total moron, but ..."

Special bonus points to anyone who can finish the sentence I spoke to the obnoxious French tourist who actually contradicted me when I politely explained that the attraction he was looking for is in a city a few hundred miles away.

"Je sais que vous n'avez pas besoin d'une guide, mais ... "

Salary Porn.

Just because YOU have to learn 5 chapters in 1 month doesn't mean I assigned 5 chapters in 1 month

Dear Two Whiny Bitches Who Cheated On Exam One:

Each month you bitch to my supervisor that I am making you learn X number of chapters in Y number of weeks.  The problem is your calculation of X always starts from the beginning of the semester.  And while it is true that the two of you do, on each occasion, still need to read everything I've assigned from day one, it does not make it an accurate characterization of the pace I have set.

Your class sucks, so we've gone so slow, that only the two of you assholes can't keep up.  I guess this is why you had only each other to cheat with on exam one.  Exam two is coming and you bitched so convincingly, that even after she caught you 1) in a lie 2) in unwarranted hysterics and 3) in statements that prove you've never opened the textbook, she requested that I post-pone it a week.  And STILL you are fucking bitching about how much work is left for the course.  I don't know what the fuck is wrong with you, but this is college.  You don't get credit for standing still.  That's civil service, baby, not college. 

Stop telling me that 1) you have kids and 2) you are a teacher.  I have kids and what the fuck do you think I am?  An entertainer? 

You have had a month to do a single chapter.  We spent two months on the two previous chapters.  You yourself admit that it takes just 4 (actually, you said "3 or 4") days to read a chapter.  How the fuck are you not going to be able to fit those 4 days in between now and the beginning of June when I want you to fucking have it done?  Oh, right, because YOU don't have a single chapter to read between now and then.  YOU still have to read them ALL!

And lastly, if you want me to abandon the idea of exam three, it's your funeral.  Your classmates got As on exam One and you fucking failed it EVEN THOUGH YOU CHEATED.  Do you REALLY want that to be half of your grade?  I don't know if it's stupidity or laziness, but you must learn one thing:  Once you fuck up as badly as you did on an a major assignment, it's in your best interest for the teacher to assign MORE work to minimize the impact it has, not to cut away future opportunities so that exam comprises half your fucking grade.

It's time to shut your fucking mouth and open your fucking book.

IT Rapture

The Monday after the world was supposed to end I was planning on a few solid hours of getting ready for open house. We have some sort of sports thing being opened and the Powers That Be have decreed that we have to present ourselves as being an academic institution, too, this weekend. Whatever.

It was to be a Photoshop & Copier day. As I walked into my office I was greeted by a secretary: "The Internet isn't working!". A quick glance at my Internet-based telephone showed me that it was in the process of looking for an IP number and would not be of much use for calling IT to ask what's up.

I opened up my laptop and found our usual WLAN names missing. Instead there was one I had never seen before called "JesuitSeminary". We don't have a school of theology.... I whipped out my mobile phone in order to bitch - and there was no connection. Luckily, one of my assistants had a phone with a different carrier, and we dialed IT.

The line was busy.

I started joking about the IT department probably having been taken in the Rapture over the weekend. I mean, come on, we don't have fundamentalists in the IT department, do we? It's a joke, people, get it?

Anyway, we had 3 Internet-based printers around, a color one, a slow one and a fast one that collates and staples and makes coffee. We started off trying to print the color flyers using a USB stick. The copier replied with an unintelligible error message that I interpreted as meaning "F-you".

We moved on to the B&W flyer on the slow copier. Slow as in it took 10 minutes for it to print 3 pages from the stick. Okay, we now have a version we can use on the fast copier. We sailed over, put the fancy new copier card on the special pad - and realized that this copier needs an Internet connection to decide if I still have copies left.

We returned to the color copier, misused it to make B&W copies that we collated by hand, and stapled them all by hand.

Every now and then the Internet would come back on, my telephone would suddenly come back to life, but the IT "hotline" was always busy. It took most of the day before I got through to them. Yes, they had been "fixing" the Internet over the weekend and it seemed they had overlooked something. But everything was fine now. We only had to reschedule a gazillion IT-based classes and online classes and find more time to get everything ready for this weekend. And my secretaries all have nice looking fingernails for some reason.

Am I being bad for kind of wishing that there had been an IT Rapture at our school? Then we could have hired some new people.

Dean Suzy

Monday, May 23, 2011

EMH Miserable and Reflecting

Allergy Warning:  May contain run-on sentences, and general ranting.

I don't know how much more of this I can take.  Frankly I just can't stand the bullshit anymore.  Having Asperger's and sociophobia doesn't help the situation either.

About a year ago, when I decided to leave California, I thought I would be leaving the educational arena for good.  One place had decided to let me go, and the other place resorted to a series of hostile evaluations until I finally decided to leave.  The institution where I had resigned also invited me to "return in 2013 when the economy is better."  After getting a stellar letter of recommendation from my Dean, I'm still not sure how to interpret things.  And again, I never involved my Star-Trek appreciation at either institution.

But then I landed this other teaching job after I moved.  I guess I just didn't get enough of the punishment the first two times.  Being too depressed and discouraged to search for a real job, I had resorted to selling arts & crafts at the flea-market.  Nobody purchased a thing.  I didn't even bother to search for a non-teaching job.  I mean the only options would have been McDonald's, the grocery store, or Ace Hardware.  Yeah, disaster waiting to happen.  I did McDonald's for a period of my life, but I can tell you that my skin crawls every time I think of having a manager shout at me for being too slow, or every time a customer demands something for free because they forgot to order it, or for ordering the sandwich and getting pissed because they forgot to mention that they wanted the value-meal (the same one's get pissed when you speak-up and ask them if they want the meal...).  And then they plead their case in front of a manager in order to have the manager loudly reprimand the employee in front of the customers.  I remember when I thought our society was civilized.

I do not think I am a nightmare teacher.  I just have eccentric ways of doing things.

I can tell you that when I worked for the golden arches, I thought that our managers were straight-up Looney Toons.  I wanted to believe that it was just the people they picked for the job, but apparently these guys are manufactured in a factory somewhere just specifically for McDonald's.  I can't go back.  I would rather go homeless.  If I had to do fast-food again, the swat team would probably have to be involved.

I never told any of my colleagues or students about my problems with Asperger's and sociophobia.  However, some of them picked up on it.  One student approached me after class with concerns that she felt I had PPD, since her son has it so that makes her an expert.  Another student approached me to tell me that she noticed that the students treat me terribly and that it's because I am "different".  I thought, wtf?!  And then she invited me to her church...  Now, just last month a student of mine approached me to share with me that her son was recently diagnosed with Asperger's and that she was doing a PowerPoint presentation on it for one of her other classes.  This also makes her an expert on it, as she pointed out that I have the symptoms.  Well, our class met again and she starts calling me things like "sport" and "sparky", rather than Prof. EMH.

Then there's the smart-ass colleague who went to graduate school with me and grade-grubbed the entire time.  This guy thinks that just because he carries a Bible around and smacked me with it, that I am the only person in the world who is not allowed to get angry.  He always tried to encourage me to befriend my instructors, take them out for coffee, but could not ever understand why that offended me.  When he was still an undergrad, he scored high on the Putnam Exam.  Consequently, he was loved by everyone and got whatever he wanted on a silver platter.  I remember his comments he made about the Master's Exam:  "Ya know, the Analysis Exam was pretty easy.  But the Abstract Algebra one?  I don't know, I just sorta wrote down a bunch of stuff that seemed true and I'm praying for the best."  He passed both tests the first try.  Then he went on to a Ph.D. program and flunked out of it when he found out that he couldn't make friends with his teachers.  Perhaps he would like to keep the integrity out of his Christianity.  But then that would be like removing all the blood from an organism.

So, here I am, another semester under my belt and wondering if there is even a little hope out there.  I am scheduled to teach for summer and fall, but I don't want to go back.  After having so many bad experiences with working with others, I am hoping for some kind of job that has minimal interaction with people.  A hologram can dream, but hopefully I can get some kind of data-entry job.  Sorry, but so far my experience with people is that they do nothing but nasty things to me and are all-around just not safe to be around.  If they can get you fired for not "hooking them up with fries and soda" (even though you will be fired for stealing) or for not doing their homework (they tell the administrator that their learning style is not compatible with yours), or if you accidentally let the word "Bible" slip out of your mouth in the tutoring-center and then some guy gets up and leaves glaring at you on his way out only to return five minutes later with an administrator who is "concerned about a safe environment" then I say that a safe work environment for MYSELF is long over-due.

General Monday morning grumpiness. Can I get a witness?

Holy cheese curds! I'm teaching a couple of sections of Writing for Scrapbookers in a shortened summer session at LD3C, and I'm doing everything I can to contain my work week to Monday through Friday. This isn't easy, given the enormous amount of feedback LD3C expects mere mortals to provide on drafts of student essays. For those of you who don't know, most English proffies take essays home to comment, and I'm not doing that this semester. I've managed so far to limit my work to very long weekdays, freeing my weekends for other things, like eating and sleeping.

Because of that, I don't read my professional email between Friday afternoon and Monday morning. I just opened my college email, read roughly a dozen messages sent this weekend--some from colleagues being truly flaky, some from students who need help right now--and now I am filled with despair.

I'm so filled with despair that I can't even write anything funny or witty or snarky or remotely amusing about the crap that crowded my inbox. I'm so filled with despair that I cannot craft a really bad 17-syllable ditty to summarize my angst. I'm so filled with despair that I quickly did some calculating in my head to determine whether I could quit academe altogether and make it as a freelance writer. (Sadly, not at this time.)

This isn't a thirsty even though I'm asking for commiseration. Anyone else out there dread the work week, automatically?

And where the hell is Yaro?

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Why liberal arts matter

By Michael S. Roth, Special to CNN
May 21, 2011 12:26 p.m. EDT
  • Michael S. Roth says his parents sent him to a liberal arts school to broaden his world
  • He says postwar America valued well-rounded citizens to create vibrant culture, economy
  • Now many make mistake of narrowing focus to science, engineering for competitive edge
  • Roth: Education helps develop new skills, connections, ability to seize opportunities
Editor's note: Michael S. Roth is president of Wesleyan University. He is a historian, curator and author. His latest book, "Trauma, Memory and History: Essays on Living With the Past" (Columbia University Press), will be published in the fall. A native of Brooklyn, New York, he is in the first generation of his family to attend college. CNN's"Don't Fail Me: Education in America" Video examines the crisis in the public education system. It airs at 8 ET Saturday night.
(CNN) -- When my parents arrived at Wesleyan for my graduation, they were very proud -- of themselves and of me. They hadn't known much about college when they had first sent me off to school. My father (like his father) was a furrier, and my mother had given up big band singing to raise a family. She sold clothes from our suburban basement to help make ends meet.
Sending me to a prominent liberal arts school meant something special to them because it represented access to opportunity. This wasn't only economic opportunity, but the chance to choose work, make friends and participate in a community based on educated interests rather than just social and ethnic origins.
Since I am now president of Wesleyan University, I guess we all got more than we bargained for.
My parents were part of a wave of Americans after World War II whose confidence in the future and belief in education helped create the greatest university sector in the world. Students from all walks of life began to have the chance to acquire a well-rounded education, and it was on this basis that Americans created a vibrant culture, a dynamic economy and a political system that (after many struggles) strove to make equality before the law a fundamental feature of public life.
A well-rounded education gave graduates more tools with which to solve problems, broader perspectives through which to see opportunities and a deeper capacity to build a more humane society.