Thursday, June 30, 2011

Where Are They Now? A Big Thirsty on Grad School Pals.

Got a call from an old grad school pal, not a close one, who I've not spoken to in 15 years. Somehow - I could not ever guess why - he's been looking up all of my classmates. He found me through a Google search, and in keeping with my low grad school profile, I was one of the last people he found.

We had a pleasant enough chat and he filled me in on a number of folks who I've lost touch with over the years:

First String Frank: He was the king of grad school. He got a t-t job after the PhD, got denied tenure at his first school, never got another t-t spot. Works in editing now.

Lothario Larry: Banged nearly every other grad student in our class. Is married with kids, teaching at a juco in Florida.

Serene Sandy: She was briefly someone I dated. She was above my station. She had a zen thing going which always turned me on. She taught part-time, co-edited a textbook/anthology. Stopped teaching about 10 years ago. Is a divorced mom who works at a library.

Druggie Dean: A harmless pothead when I knew him, Dean died of cancer, and did a couple of stints in prison according to his brother.

Missy Mousey: I swear I didn't remember her, but I was sort of a wallflower, too. She's the chair of a department at a rising R2 in Georgia.

Katherine the Kook: Is a franchise owner (Chick Fil A) in New Mexico. Got tenure 6 years after grad school, but got divorced (was married to a Dean), and checked out of the academic world.

Mitch Moneybags: On the faculty at our grad school. He was an annoying jerkface when I knew him. That's a trait I find is hard for folks to lose.

Peggy Pekignese: Great dog lover who brought "Slider" to the shared grad student office in a giant Hansel and Gretel style picnic basket. I remember we also smuggled wine into the building in the basket. I loved Peggy back then. She's now happily married and a co-owner of her husbands landscaping business in Topeka, Kansas.

Wise Ol' Wilson: The one grad school buddy I still know. Wilson was 10 years our senior. He came to grad school after a failed business career. Now he does non-profit fundraising for a national organization. He lives in my town and we're still pals.


Q: What ever happened to your grad school pals? Did they "make it," "flake it," or just fade away? How many of them are you still in touch with?


Blogger issues seem to be resolved.


PS: I deleted some comments last night from an earlier post. Two community members had forgotten these rules:

  • Do not marginalize the experiences of other members. 
  • Comments and posts that seem designed purely to attack others and/or drive away readers will be deleted.

Cost v Price, in National Rankings

The US Government came out this week with a new database for families, businesses and communities who deal with (or are searching for) institutions of higher education. The website allows visitors to see a list of the most expensive institutions in six categories. For comparison, visitors may also elect to view the most expensive cost of operation across the country. Alternatively, you can also seek the least expensive in both categories.

The information is overwhelming at first, but it's fun to play with. I found my safety school ranked really high in the tuition list and I'm pleased I chose to go elsewhere. I recognize the most expensive schools as the places where people go to polish themselves off before getting into a pre-arranged job in the family business. You know, Bates, Middlebury, Trinity, etc.

Meanwhile, the biggest for-profit offenders seem to be the Le Cordon Bleu Culinary Institute, whose various state campuses occupy something like 10 of the top slots.

Go ahead, generate some reports. Isn't that fun?

Now: Who will this information benefit? Universities? Families hoping to send their kids to a good school within budget? For-profit online schools? Future parents footing the bill?

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

RTFH. A Quickie from Greg in Greenville.

Okay, so I'm working through the summer like a mule.

On my handout - a glorious (and concise)  instrument full of information of all types of good, useful help - for the first essay, it says:

"Your essay must be documented in MLA style, using in-text citations and a complete works cited page."

Guess which of the questions below got asked during class this morning:

a) Do we have to document our essays?
b) If we do a works cited page can we skip the citations?
c) Can I use APA style instead?
d) What does MLA even mean?
e) If I just include the name of the source in a paragraph can I skip MLA style?
f) All of the above.

Oh, this isn't much fun. You all know the answer, don't you?

And my response to it all: Read the Fucking Handout.

A Team Teaching Early Thirsty from Fiery Frank.

I volunteered for a new team teaching initiative at my middle of the road state university. It was sold as half the work for 66% of the pay, and I jumped in. We were told we'd get paired with someone in another department and then the class was all ours.

When I got my assignment a few months ago, I came face to face with Wallflower Will, a polite and nice - but deadly dull and nearly comatose - proffie from the Humanities.

We struggled to get our syllabus together, to find readings, to arrange schedules.

Suddenly, mid August looms and I have to tread the boards with this guy for a whole semester. I've got a great deal of anxiety about it. I don't want my student evaluations to suffer because half the class will be led by this guy, who, I have to say, is boring. He seems to know his stuff, but we're teaching a room of 80 people.

Plus, neither of us has ever team taught before.

Q: What are your team teaching experiences like? What is your best tip? How important is it that the teachers mesh or get along? Am I wrong for thinking I've got to jazz things up because Will is so washed out? Should I take any of my concerns to Will?

Monday, June 27, 2011

Our Students Explained: Three Mall Observations

After spending the weekend on my back avoiding pain, I finally decided to pop some Target brand Tylenol and head to the mall to walk. Since I'm an academic and all my friends have "regular" jobs I had to brave the masses of kids and moms all alone.

I'll preface this post by saying that I am not now nor have I ever been a parent (unless cats count). I don't wish to offend or insult. I'm just offering three rather funny (to me) observations I made today.

The Bear
Our mall has a play area for little kids with a changing station and comfy seating for the exhausted looking parents. On my second pass, I saw a mom with three kids: toddler boy, school aged girl, and tween boy. The toddler was on one of those backpack leashes. This particular one had a bear shaped backpack designed to trick an intelligent kid into putting the leash on. I'm not a fan of the kid-on-a-leash concept but this was particularly disturbing since it wasn't the mother at the other end of the leash. The tween brother was pulling the kid away from the playground (or the escalator). This willful toddler was dying to go the other way. Arms flailing in a Looney Toons-esque way, the toddler gets yanked by big bro. Is it wrong I chucked when the little kid ended up on his arse?

The Ice Cream Truck
Like many other malls, our mall has little riding machines that one pops a couple quarters into. I hate ours since it play musak at you each time you walk by. On my third or fourth lap, I saw a couple kids in the Ice Cream Truck. It was playing annoying music and bopping them around a bit and then I heard a British voice (yes, here in middle America) say, "Remember kids, don't walk out into the road." A few seconds later the same voice told them some other gem. After I got over the don't-we-make-these-in-America-too? thought, it occurred to me that this "educational" voice-over was probably a major selling point in the coin operated ride-on toy catalog. The owner of the "kiosk" probably thought, "The parents will love pumping quarters into this machine since it teaches very important safety lessons."

Isabella and the School Bus
On the lap that made me leave, I overheard Isabella and her mom. Isabella was out for a spin in the yellow school bus ride-on toy. She was smiling ear to ear and wildly spinning the steering wheel every which way. She was having quite the adventure in her own little world (pullin' G's for sure!). I love that imagination! Then mom sternly says, "Isabella, that's not the way we drive." Isabella's smile fades and she commences the apparently more "appropriate" fake steering we all do when we act out driving.

I'm not saying any of these kids are abused or in any other way unfortunate but I saw three things that made me better understand where my students may be coming from. Like the toddler they've led lives of restriction. They've been indoctrinated by television, video games, and toys all in the name of "educational is better". All the creativity has been stomped out of them in the belief that realism has more tangible value. Somehow this just explains a lot.

Real Goddamned Mail? I Gotch Yer Real Goddamned Answers...Right....Here...

Okay, so the mailbag bullshit posted today requires answers. I'm willing to oblige. In my original draft, every answer contained some version of the F-bomb because that single word seemed to embody the gestalt of the start of this week. (Sadly, I'm being metaphorical.) While I giggled about it, the many F-bombs sounded unseemly, so I replaced them with something close to my original intended concept.

I so hope it translates.

  • I think you should figure out how to navigate a tea partying blog. Too many, too few...who the tea party are you? Goldilocks?
  • What the tea party do you mean that CM didn't have any new material this weekend? Did you not see Great Lakes Greta's really bad haiku announcing her tenure? Trust me, pal, that's tea partying new.
  • I wish people would stop ending sentences with question marks, like this? If you don't want to tea partying read the tea partying article, don't click on the tea partying link.
  • Last time I checked, this was MY page, too--and the page of everyone else in this blog community. You're not going to write FOR this page anymore? Oh, boo tea partying hoo. Just take your ball and go home.
  • And the catty bullshit is tired of you, too. Tea party off.
  • I think we should give Beaker Ben a tea partying medal.
  • This is a tea partying blog. If you don't like Beaker Ben's posts, just don't read them. Tea party, people! Have you never met the interwebs before?
  • Honey, it's only a joke if you have a tea partying sense of humor.
  • So, you're finally onto the moderators? Yes, they stockpile blog entries to post when you post, to push you way the tea party down on the page. Thanks, pal. Now they'll have to figure out another strategy.
  • Can you get a faster tea partying connection? Open your tea partying wallet!
  • Who the tea party told you that this was an academic blog? Seriously, is this your first time here?
  • Post of the Week? Really? Call Dr. Phil. He tea partying gives a shit.
  • Yes, yes, yes. We got the memo about our unprofessional response to your question, the one you showed around to your friends. Tea party you.
  • I'm tea partying sorry about the insult, okay? Now get the tea party out of here.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this tea partying blog entry are not those of CM or its moderators. They belong solely to Great Lakes Greta. Get the tea party over it.

This is an article I found about college professors. It also has some stuff about college students. It says we need to remember that NEW THINGS ARE...


It sounds like good advice to me, because I'm a professor, and I have students, and they're scared. And I forget that. I just think, "FUCKING MEATBAGS," when I see them, and forget that they're human.

This article that I'm directing you, too, though, takes a different approach. This lady who wrote it seems nice. She's a professor, too, like you or me. Although since she's at a community college, many of you will think she's probably just a half step above being a beauty salon worker, since at the community college I taught at when I first started teaching, we churned out as many beauticians and air conditioning people as we did transfer students.

But your horrible prejudices aside, I think this article below is something that MANY of you would enjoy, because the lady, I think it's a lady, because the lady is saying nice things about helping students, and shitfire we all could use some of that.

I've not posted the WHOLE article, because that would be absolutely fucking crazy. I mean it must be at least 500 words long. I'm sure Fab pays Blogger by the bits and byte, so I would never presume to waste his money or your time by giving you more FLAVA than is necessary for you to decide if you want to read the article or not.

So, without any further ado, prompting, etc., here's a little taste of this article I was talking about. Should you want to know more about what this lady, I think it's a lady, has to say, you can click the FULL ARTICLE hyperlink and Fab (wherever he is) will connect a big fiber optic pipe to the necessary widget box and you'll be able to peer in through your monitor and see the WHOLE thing. But I won't post the whole thing. That would be absolutely fucking crazy.

And if you don't want to click the link, well, shit, what else do you have to do? But if you don't? If instead you're up in the Beehive state with Yaro, and don't have time for this lady's nice article about how scary college can be, at least I think she's a lady, then skip on by. Angry Archie has got some crazy fucking game going down below, and further down from that Fab Sun has made up a bunch of fake complaint letters, because he's one needy SOB, and more nervous than a bald guy holding a long tailed cat at a rocking chair convention outside one of Donald Trump's casinos.

And then below that is just pages and pages of Google ads.

So, here we go. Here's the article I was talking about. Well, not ALL of it. I mean it's about 500 words long. Posting the whole thing here would be absolutely fucking crazy.


New Things Are Scary

June 27, 2011, 11:05 am
My 5-year-old son will be starting kindergarten in the fall...

A New Angry Archie Game: The Real Mail Mablib

For the doldrums of summer, inspired by the whining about links, a fun mablib game for the CM wits out there.

And by the way, if you think this post is directed at you; mocks you; minimizes you; makes sport of you; insults you; marginalizes you; and/or is intentionally mean-spirited in a highly personalized and individualized way...

you are almost certainly right. Why don't you write Fab an email of complaint.

Dear _(Noun)_,

I don't like the way you _(Verb)_ your favorites and _(verb)_ their posts and comments, while _(Gerund)_ mine. I have a lot of _(adjective)_(noun)_ _(infinitive)_ to his page, and I don't _(verb)_ the way my _(adjective)_ contributions get _(verb)_.

Also, I _verb)_ really, really _(verb)_ the _(plural noun)_ that some people post. Could you _(verb)_ those people _(infinitive)_ so that I can _(verb)_ my _(noun)_.

I was so _(adverb)_ that I showed my _(noun)_ to my friends, and they _(verb)_ that you were _(adverb)_ _(verb)_ me by _(verb)_ my _(noun)_ like that. If you continue _(infinitive)_ then I will _(verb)_ _(gerund)_ the page. Then you will be _(adverb)_ _(verb)_.

_(verb)_ you.

OK kids, go to it...

Real Goddamned Mail: A Potpourri of Pissiness.

  • Sometimes when I log on to the site there are a whole bunch of posts, too many to read, and other times there's just one or two. I think you should standardize how many posts are up each day, like 5 or 6. Too many and it's confusing.
  • You didn't have any new material posted this weekend. If you can't get posts up regularly you might want to highlight that info in the sidebar. Say you post sporadically or something. 
  • I wish people would quit uploading articles from the Chronicle and newspapers like the Philadelphia Inquirer? Why do I want to read that? Can't one of the editors keep a tighter control on what gets on the page.
  • Last time I checked this was MY page, too, and when you let readers lambaste me in comments, it appears to me that my value to the page is being minimized. I won't write anymore FOR you if you don't offer more editorial guidance to the boors who send in ignorant comments.
  • Please remove me from the list immediately. I'm tired of the catty bullshit on the page.
  • I think you should make Beaker Ben a moderator. He's the only one who does anything for the page.
  • Tell Beaker Ben to limit his submissions to once a day at most. If he wants a personal blog, tell him that Beaker Ben is available on wordpress and blogger, and that I'll be sure to never read them.
  • I know it's probably your "style," but titling the page Kollig Mizry sends a message that this page is just a joke, and I can't imagine that's what you want.
  • I don't see any other way around it, but you must store up posts to put on the site whenever I put one on, pushing mine to the bottom. I went back to my last 5-6 posts, and each time, right afterewardsa bunch of videos and articles and so forth are on top of mine. Of course I dont get many comments because you're making it impossible for my readers to see my work.
  • At the request of many people I posted something over the weekend and one of your "favorites" more or less called me a liar. Please take down my post and remove me from your files. I will post my material somewhere else where it will be valued.
  • I have a slow connection and can't watch the videos. Can you make them smaller or faster and put them somewhere else where I can download them?
  • Whoever has changed the background recently has forgotten we live in a colorful world. It's a depressing page and it might be the worst looking academic blog I've ever seen. If you aren't going to take it seriously, I know that I and other readers won't either.
  • I sent in a request two weeks ago that "Xxxxxxxxxxxxxx," my post from last week should be considered for Post of the Week. But you didn't reply and then I don't think ANY post was Post of the Week. What's the point of having that feature if you're not going to use it. And my post had more comments than any others that day. That should tell you something.
  • You "featured" a question I asked on your Real Goddamn Mail bit a couple of months ago. You took it on of context to make fun of me. I showed the original to a few friends and they all believe that I had a valid point and that you guys are assholes for not responding more professionally.
  • I posted something last week and Xxxxxx insulted me quite ruefully. I don't think it's right that you protect the in crowd and allow someone like me - who has much more to do than just write for your 'Blog' - to get abused. Apply all the rules or shut the place down. I know what I'd prefer.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Linked Article Misery.

Hi everyone. A little "back channel" email has been taking place, with some more (in a series) of complaints about linked articles.

I don't want to tell CM community members what they can and can't post, and it's clear to me that some of our group like to share interesting college-related news bits they find. Others clearly don't like it.

I got an email from Terry P. earlier who said he posted and then took down a linked article because a well-meaning reader asked him to provide context for why he linked the article about a college professor who had taken up body-building."

"I posted it for 2 reasons. Most of my proffie friends are kind of frumpy. To think that proffies our age can remake their bodies and thrive in professional body building - and still do our sedentary job! - amazed me. I also posted it because nothing had been posted all day. I thought something new to read would be useful, but if the majority of the readers just want a completely empty day with no material, then so be it. Am I fighting this fight alone?"

I didn't see the piece or the comment when they were up, but can see the comment through my own administrator login. It was polite, and the community member who complained certainly has others on the site who agree.

But I like linked articles. I don't scour national news for stories on college proffies, and I probably get 2-3 articles from community members every single day. I try to judiciously choose one every once in a while, and - like Terry - post them on especially slow days when there are no other posts to read.

I hate to think of this as a moratorium on posting linked articles, because in the end I'd like community members to post what they want, but you can offer your point of view below in the comments.


PS: Hey, and I accomplished getting a Sunday post up.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Ninja Warrior

Due to an injury I've spent the better part of the summer on my back. Kind of a bummer. But I'm OK. There isn't much to do when you are flat on the sofa or bed. So I've been watching quite a bit of TV (as you might have guessed from some of my recent posts).

Anyway, today I've been watching Ninja Warrior. I've watched it off and on for about 5 years. If you've not seen it, you can find it on G4. I haven't watched it a whole lot recently since I've seen all 20-something seasons of the men's version and four or five of the less frequent women's version. But today it's Ninja Warrior or repeats of crap airing on the other 200 channels of programming Dish Network provides me.

It would have been very surprising to a 10 year younger me that I would actually enjoy such a show. I've never been one for ninjas or Japanese anything. I attribute my fascination with Ninja Warrior to my job actually.

Ninja Warrior is a program which chronicles the failures of 100 contestants on a four stage obstacle course. The obstacle course, I think, is the way my students envision my exams/courses: flippin' impossible. Each stage has 5-10 obstacles including: log rolls, rope ladders, slanted running "walls", lilly pad like jumps spaced 5 feet apart, trampoline assisted 10 foot leaps onto 2 foot wide pillars. They have names like stepping stones, log jam, flying pillar, balance bridge, hop rocket, and angle run. And that's just the first stage for the women. The men have more insane stuff like the jumping spider where two walls are spaced 3 feet apart over water and the competitor must jump over the water and, well, just look at the video yikes. Oh, yeah. And you only have 90 seconds to complete it.

So in stage one you start with 100 competitors. All but three or four will fail in horribly embarrassing ways. The lucky ones only faceplant and fall in the water. The handful who make it to stage two are punished further with even crazier contraptions of torture. I'd say 50% of the time the audience never gets to see stage three since the survivors of stage one all give us more awesome failure.

In the event that someone actually does survive stage two, stage three is ready and waiting for revenge. If swinging balance beams and 2 inch ledges aren't enough to take you out then stage three will probably kill you. Every once in a very great while (perhaps 10 times in the 20-something seasons the show has run) someone makes it to stage four. Stage four, after the exhausting (to watch!) day, is the vertical climb from h-e-double hockey sticks. It's a mere few hundred feet up a pole and swingy rope ladder in a gracious 60 seconds (shorter each time someone beats it). Long story short at the end of the day there are only two outcomes: Ninja Warrior or big fat failure. Very rarely do we ever see a Ninja Warrior.

There is a great amount of pride that these competitors share. It's a pre-requisite. If they fail, they really fail. The competitors understand this. There are no tears of do over (pain and pride -- yes). There are no cries of unfair. You get one chance, if you screw up ... well ... you might be invited back next time. And whether or not someone becomes "Ninja Warrior" you can bet the next course will make this last one look like cuddly, puffy, sleeping kitten begging to be kissed.

I really wish that I could convey this to my students. The idea that there is no first, second, or third. There is only meets expectations or fails. If you don't both learn the material and perform well on the assignments, then you fail regardless (or "irregardless" as many of my students will say) of anyone else's performance. In Ninja Warrior there is no "best" or "top" loser. There are only losers.

The course doesn't care if everyone fails. In some ways, we shouldn't either. If, after repeated practice and guidance, not one student can sloppily perform basic basketweaving tasks 1-5 without help, then they should all fail. But that's not how students understand things. They affirm that if the task was too hard for anyone in the room, then it must have been too hard of a task. It doesn't matter if last year's group could do it or if next year's group won't have a problem doing it. They believe in relativism in which ever epsilon region benefits them the most.

And that, my friends, is why America's degree of suckage increases every year. Watch out Third World! Here we come!

Proffie-Flakes at Conferences

I am attending a small conference in my city. It’s enjoyable so far. Yesterday I participated in a good discussion of hamster-fur weaving in the 1910s. However, in one panel there was a professor..well..I assume it was a proffie. He was about 40 and not rumpled enough to be a grad student. (OT, have you all noticed that proffies seem to be most rumpled in their larval stage as gradflakes, and then again at the end when they retire? There’s at least a MA thesis in there. Anyway, back to the topic at hand.) For the entire panel the proffie-flake typed on his laptop. OK, he was near the back of the room, but it was a small room and there were only 9-10 people in the audience so it was obvious. He wasn’t noisy, but it was clear he was doing something else. At first I thought he was only waiting to hear the final paper, but no, he did it though all three papers, and then through the discussion.

I thought it was very rude and wondered, if I were the panel chair, would I have done something? Would you? I don’t mean say something out loud like “Hey! You! Pay attention!” but something quiet, like making you way over to him to ask him to please be courteous to the panel and pay some attention. Would it be worth the possible distraction? Maybe say something to him afterward? Thoughts?

small (very) bad saturday haiku

one that all?
my grateful soul survived it.
fittingly, tenure.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Welcome to a brief history of Misery Part 4

The best of Misery

Fab sent me a list of the most popular CM posts. They all had more than 40 comments or 1000+ page views.

A few of my favorites didn’t make the list. I still remember these:

1. Square State Suzy puts my career ambitions in check. The Ballad of the Beer Part I and Part II was pretty anti-motivational too.

2. Gotta give props to fellow p-chemist Wombat for a funny post with a really amusing comment thread. Hopefully it helped them get rid of the cat barf stain in the compound.

I had a hard time figuring out how to showcase everybody's favorite posts. I could have done a list (who me?) but, ugh. Too much work. After reading the list again, I noted that none of them were written by the Beaker. You all can go fuck yourselves.

Then I realized that I could build the world’s greatest CM post, simply by combining pieces of everybody else’s. Behold, the ultimate College Misery post is:

A Thirsty seeking comments about Fab’s decision to switch moderators after deleting offensive comments by a troll about a post describing the unfairness of being an attractive, disabled, childless, gay, black, pregnant candidate on a campus interview at a Christian fundamentalist school. The candidate had met with a search committee of science and humanities faculty chaired by Strelnikov who used Blackboard to store all the recommendation letters.

If my post is based on the best of College Misery, then it simply can’t lose, I tell ya.

Happy anniversary to Fab, Leslie and everybody!

Welcome to a brief history of Misery Part 3

The moderation of Misery

Or should that be, "The misery of being a moderator"?

Let’s not mince words here. CM and RYS before it go through moderators like Grateful Dead drummers. It’s wasn’t an entirely pleasant experience for us in late 2010 and early 2011 but worth entering into the historical record none the less.

Fab stepped in early on to keep us from running aground on August 1. I've always thought our quest for blog self improvement was admirable but the "Are we doing this right?"-type posts got old quick. Maybe it's just me, but if I want to reflect, I look in a mirror.

We all owe Fab a round of applause for starting this blog off right and trying his best to keep things from going into the shitter. Without CM, I still might be typing this but nobody would understand what I’m saying. It would be like my normal lecture class. Besides all that, he has the happiest damn picture in the blogaworld (or whatever you call it).

The trouble all started one dark and stormy night...

Keeping us knuckleheads in line can be exhausting so Fab handed the reins over to The Lovely and Talented Leslie K. She began a great series of responses from readers here and here and, later, here. The last is my favorite because it reminded me of a great insult: jerkface, my third vocabulary word learned by CM. (Ennui, fucktard, jerkface and shugartits, if you're curious.)

Leslie kicked ass and posted data but it wasn’t all fun and graphs. She had some problems with commenters who got out of line, though I didn’t think it got so bad that we deserved this.

Really, were we that horrible? Well, crap, I guess we were.

Don’t worry folks. This hysterical, historical review won’t end on a down note. I still have to talk about all those awesome articles people keep posting!

Welcome to a brief history of Misery Part 2

bling beaker

The art of Misery

The denizens of College Misery are not just your average bloggers. We, and when I say "we" I mean "you", are artistes! Fall 2010 marked a veritable Renaissance period for blogging creative academic types. Poets, singers, glitterizers and cartoonists were popping up everywhere. Who could forget the hotcake-like sales of CM starving artist berets?

We must acknowledge the most prolific poet within our midst. She has, ... wait. Let me express this in a more proper form. Ahem.

All CM poets
bow down to Great Lakes Greta.
She writes bad haiku.

Hmmm. I probably should have stuck with prose.

Another poet to emerge on the scene around the same time was Richard Tingle, Ph.D.. He always seems so serious. I don’t think I’d have passed his class in college.

The forerunner of this explosion of creativity was College Misery: The Musical. Dr. Snarky’s efforts to bring us to Broadway almost worked out. If the roadies showed up on time and Strelnikov hadn’t borrowed the van to disappear somebody, we all would have made that audition!

Old-timers from RYS remember the vidshizzles of yore, but Cal and Fab actually made one that people liked. It still holds up well, I think.

Other student vlog compilations and lipdubs for seemingly every fricking school with a Department of Viral Videography followed this. For a while, we even made our own cartoons, or at least copied the link from YouTube which is almost as creative.

Last but certainly not least, a tip of the hat to Samantha, author of the best damn faculty-themed cartoons currently not syndicated. How does she do it? She helpfully explains here. There’s more of our very own Samantha Folkchurch’s Cartoon Guide to the Academy.

As somebody who has trouble rounding out a coherent top ten list, I am amazed by your willingness to step into the ring and present your creative work. You all have my admiration. Bravo!

From Compound Cal.

Congratulations everyone, especially to Fab who has steered this mighty ship for most of the year.

As the last moderator of RYS, I had tremendous guilt about the end of the page. When Fab (and others) expressed interest in starting a group blog that would take on the responsibility of providing space for proffie spleen-venting, I hoped that the endeavor would work, that the page would make it - at least for a while.

And of course you have thrived. I can't wait to see what year 2 brings.

A Manly Problem for Manly Men to Solve (Except, Not)

Okay, I've posted here from time to time. I pretty much only show up once everyone's forgotten about me again, so - carrying on that tradition - I have a question for all you CMers.

(Note: Normally, I hate "professional" posts. I prefer Smackdown on Students and venting in general. I embrace my hypocrisy.)

Anyway, I have a problem, and - for whatever reason - I'm seeking your advice. My field is overwhelmingly dominated by men, and while my department is a bit ahead of the curve on gender balance among the faculty, we still have some problems.

(One of the worst is the lack of ethnic diversity, but that's not what we're discussing here. One thing at a time.)

We're lucky enough to have a nice departmental lounge where a good bit of socialization, wool-gathering, and even a little professional discussion gets done. It's a nice place for graduate students and faculty members to hang out and display a little collegiality, and we all appreciate it. It is one of the things that contributes to the friendly, collegial atmosphere in the department, a prized attribute of our program. The problem is this: there are few - sometimes no - gals around. In short, there's still a bit of a "locker-room" feel to the departmental public spaces, as more than one faculty member, grad student, and even undergrad major have noted.

We have female faculty members. Heck, women make up something like a quarter of our permanent faculty, and a woman is perhaps our highest profile and most accomplished faculty member. This is either right at or slightly ahead of the average, depending on what numbers you're looking at, so it's not that as a department, we're unusually tilted in a male-ward direction. It's just that the female faculty members don't usually hang out in the department's public spaces. One of the female grad students is making a game try to spend time in the lounge and be a part of the department's social life, but without any of the female authority figures there to interact with or support her efforts, she seems to be struggling.

Look, I get there are good reasons why that might be the case. In the first place, not all the male faculty members like to hang out in the lounge - some of them just aren't that convivial, you know? And of course, the very "locker-room" atmosphere of the place might be a reason why the females in the department don't want to hang out there - I get that, too. Mind you, I think calling the atmosphere "locker-room" is an exaggeration - a number of the "regulars" are ardently feminist males - but the general point still holds, and I get it. Points are gotten. By me.

The problem is, it's not going to get better unless the women show up and make themselves a part of the life of the department. I have two reasons for thinking this.

First, as I said, I don't think there's much in the way of even unconscious sexism (still less the conscious stuff - that wouldn't be tolerated in these parts), but without someone on hand who has personal insight into suffering from sexism, it can be hard for even the most enlightened of my own gender to know when a line has been crossed. I think we behave pretty well on the whole, but we could certainly do better, and having women more prominently integrated into the life of the department in that way could only, I think, help on the whole consciousness-raising angle.

Second, women entering my field need all the face-time they can get from what few women there are already established. It's hard out there for them - some departments really ARE like high school locker rooms. The horror stories I've heard... heck, the things I've seen and heard myself... it's tough for a lot of the women in the discipline because some of the guys out there aren't that enlightened and will do whatever they can to drive them out or make them feel objectified. As many women already in the game have said, women newly entering the field need to know that it can be done; they need to have contact and get mentoring from women already out there, doing the work.

So here's my problem. What do I say? I'm a guy, and, frankly, I'm not sure it's really my place to go up to the female faculty members and tell them they need to be spending more time in the department's public spaces. Who am I to lecture them on their feminist responsibilities? I'm pretty sure most of them are committed to some form of feminism, by the way, but I've read and accepted the arguments about why the various social revolutions by oppressed groups (women, gays, blacks, etc.) must be led from within - so, again, who am I to tell them how it should be done, what they ought to be doing, no matter how much I think the department as a whole is hurting from their lack of more sustained involvement?

It's a mystery, Shaggy, and a good one. Our department is, overall, very female friendly. The female faculty members are all smart, accomplished, and well-intentioned. I have no doubt that there's no lack of commitment to the general principle - it's just that, you know, life happens. Kids, personal projects, and - in some cases - just a lack of the right kind of extroverted, convivial personality that it takes to be a department-lounge lizard can all conspire to keep certain faculty members at home, in the library, or just cloistered in their offices. Still, there's so much riding on it when it comes to the female faculty members, dig? When half the males in the department would rather be somewhere else, who cares? There's still the other half to loiter around the coffee machine and make stupid jokes and trade YouTube recommendations. But when all the women in the department would rather be somewhere else, even if just for completely personal reasons, unrelated to any assessment of the atmosphere of the department itself? Yeeks.

I'm stumped, y'all. Help a brother (who's trying to do his part to help the sisters) out. 

Welcome to a brief history of Misery Part 1

A few months ago I got the idea that a history of CM would be a fun way to celebrate its one year anniversary. Why not just open some Knob Creek and drink the night away? Good question. I was probably drunk when I made my decision. See, kids. This is the trouble alcohol causes.

I couldn’t bring myself to review all freakin’ 1600+ posts so don’t read too deeply into my selection. OK, let’s get started. I’ve got to go break a red wax seal when this is over.

The Impoliteness of Misery

This blog began as a home for Rate Your Students refugees so its initial two months of posts carried on that tradition. Even when Southern Bubba tried to spread some encouragement on Day 1, a commenter pissed all over it. Welcome to the internet.

July 13 marks our first CM on CM action and it was a beauty. Snark doesn’t kill people, Snark Rifles kill people. In fact, a lot my favorite early stuff is by Dr. Snarky. We all appreciate her expanding our vocabulary with the first mention of "fucktard".

Our unhealthy preoccupation with sex was apparent. My entry from August 15 was the best I’ve written so far but it’s not like I was the only one thinking about hot, sticky ... days of summer. Let me say right now that you people have filthy, filthy minds.

Nobody was spared. For example, some dude who talks funny started posting here and MPE jumps all over him. Thankfully, those days are behind us and nobody would ever say stuff about Yaro like that again.

It’s surprising to realize how much the site has changed. Everybody back then walked around like some kind of bad ass, telling us where to go and what to do. Some people wilted under the pressure.

Don't worry. This is the first of a series that I'll bug you with all day.

Happy Anniversary CMers.

It started with this post, one year ago today...Bubba got to the page first once it got opened, and "anonymous" or "Tim (Not Jim)" was close behind...

Thanks to all of you who have kept the page alive.


PS: Leslie K says hi, too....




Why do all our department meetings seem to last as long as this Wimbledon match?

Sure hope this blog lasts a lot longer!


Terry Franklin said...
it's already dead. nice try losers

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Evening Cocktail Thirsty on Impulse Control

Dear CMers, I have a question for you, arising from a discussion I have just had with a colleague. The discussion is based on the phenomenon (with which I am presuming at least some of you are familiar) of a student writing or typing something utterly inappropriate on a piece of work and then explaining it as a prank by his (I would write "or her," but I think this is an exclusively male phenomenon) roommate.

In my colleague's case the student's essay had "Fuck you" at the end, whereas my student's essay had a racist and sexist epithet appended under his name, next to my name, on the first page. My colleague's response to the student's explanation was "Oh, my, he needs a better roommate." Mine on the other hand, was something along the lines of "I believe in the Douchebag Roommate as a phenomenon rather like the Great Pumpkin."

What say you, learned colleagues? Is Douchebag Roommate really there, lurking in students' rooms, waiting for an opportunity to write "Prof X is a Nazi Whore" on their papers?

Extra credit: Have any of you ever called a student on this by, say, asking to see the roommate? If so, what happened?

Big Thirsty: Who will be next? How high does the prostitution fiasco go? Tricky Dick?

The academic people keep falling like dominoes. Most recently, the former President of the University of New Mexico has been arrested. He "currently holds the titles of visiting professor and distinguished professor emeritus."

Q. What should Garcia's new title be?

A. _______________________

On Tracy Morgan, Political Correctness, and What's Real. A Note from Neil from Nebraska.

I'm old enough to remember the beginning of the political correctness movement, and young enough to remember thinking what enlightened souls we were all going to be. Of course despite the fact that we often say the PC thing, there seems to be exactly the same amount of hate and animus as there ever was in every part of the world that I can see.

I'm a department head of a very large humanities department. I have a spectacularly diverse faculty; we get together pretty regularly, and are a happy, functional group. Yesterday, in one of the most fiery and aggressive bonfires of indignation I've ever seen, a few of my colleagues were discussing the Tracy Morgan story.

Tracy Morgan, a well known comedic actor, recently came under fire for some horrible homophobic comments he made as part of a stand up routine he was doing in Nashville. People left the club, various organizations called for an apology, and then recently he made a series of apologies for what he'd said.

And I kept wondering. Was he really sorry? Was he joking about hating gay people? And now is he showing his true colors with this apology, with this vow to work with gay and lesbian youth?

And I thought, no, probably not.

He probably is afraid of gay people, maybe even has some distrust or hatred for them, and after his jokes fell flat, he probably decided he wanted to keep his cushy job on 30 Rock, and maintain a fan base which - I guess this must be true - includes some gay people.

But then I also wondered why. Why the outcry whenever a rapper uses a gay slur? Why the outcry when some cracker uses the n word. Do we think that people don't think these things? Do we think that by stopping the language that we stop the idea? That's utter bullshit, isn't it?

I know hateful folks, have some in my family. I have an uncle who used to tell the most racist jokes you ever heard. I remember people laughing a lot at them when I was a kid. I remember people telling him to stop. And now he doesn't say those words, and doesn't say those jokes.

What about him? Is he different? Nope. He hates African-Americans, people from Mexico, and the French. (I don't know if he's met any French people, but they are on the list.)

Listen, I hate some people. I hate obnoxious people who text their friends in the middle of lunch. I have a bit of a hate on for people in workout clothes who sneer at my belly. I find it unfathomable that people are Republicans, and I hang out with very few. I hate people who teach their children that evolution is all made up by atheists and communists.

What are the consequences for this? They're little. I don't have much of a public life. I'm not saying it on Channel 5 in Omaha or whatever. I'm not a celeb. I have extremely little influence. It doesn't come up in my teaching, well, because I don't teach as if my moral compass was the textbook. I actually teach the textbook.

As far as I know Tracy Morgan isn't doing a lot of lecturing to young people, or hiring and firing, and as a comic, I hope that not a great deal of people are looking for morality from him.

So I have to say, who gives a shit if Tracy Morgan hates gay people? I think it's an ignorant opinion. He's ignorant for fearing gay people - if he does. But so what? It's not my life. If Tracy were my pal, his homophobia would have consequences in our relationship. I'd say, "Not cool, Tracy," and I'd avoid being around him.

But am I going to get into a tizzy because somewhere in America someone hates gays or Latinos or Quakers or Humanities profs or people with small dogs or fat people or smokers? No, because I accept that all of those things are true. In the vernacular, I'm just being real about this.

So, public pressure and some notion that his actions were seen as wrong by some people drove Morgan to apologize. What has that done? Is anyone thinking that Tracy has helped us turn the corner? Grow the fuck up.

When Kobe Bryant got fined 100,000 bucks for using a gay slur on a referee, does anyone think that the world was made better by his fine and his apology? Bullshit. He's likely not going to say it on camera again. But you can't tell me that the fine and the embarrassment has changed the way he perceives the world.

So he's an asshole. Aren't there a lot of them?

If you don't like me, and judge me as a fatty, a socialist, an unrepetenant eater of beef and ice cream, then I'd rather I knew what you thought of me, and not get misled by some sort of PC whitewash that misleads me while your real feelings remain hidden.

If Tracy Morgan hates gays, well, that's a shame for him. But shaming him into an apology does nothing to change anything.


Dean Suzy managed to beat three more positions out of the chancellor, two of them t-t even. Not wanting to waste any time (someone might realize that the basis of my blackmail was not all that solid) we got on it right away and put an ad in the papers with all three positions. I have some advice for applicants (I may be repeating myself here).
  • We put numbers on the ad so that my clerical help can tell the difference between Oriental Carpetweaving and Horsehair Upholstery. Make it easy to read the number at first glance - my staff can't deduce from the cover letter what field you are going for here.
  • If you are applying for both positions (and I really hate these people who believe they can teach anything) please submit two copies of your application. They are different search committees and they don't share toys with each other nicely.
  • Sending the dean 15 MB of attachments in an email application when we requested paper does not score points.
  • Don't send us copies of your book unless we ask you to. That makes your application not fit in the little boxes we are using to try and organize the stuff.
  • No, it's not cute to use carpet as a cover for your application.
  • Don't use the letterhead of the university you are planning on leaving.
  • Don't call the dean to ask her if we will accept a doctorate in Underwater Basketweaving for the Oriental Rugmaking position. That will be decided by the committee. I hope they say no, because you asked me three times and tried to explain how wonderful Underwater Basketweaving is. I don't understand what it is and I have other things to do.
  • Do check that the telephone number and address are correct - it is frustrating to invite someone for an interview, and they don't respond.
And for those lucky ones invited for a visit:
  • No, you do not look sophisticated keeping one hand in your pocket the entire afternoon.
  • If I show you how to operate the table so you can stand up to lecture, don't put it down so you can sit while speaking.
  • Don't use the Wikipedia as the basis for your talk.
  • If you are requested to stop in 2 more minutes, speak for exactly 1:59 and not one second longer. If the search committee head stands up because you have now spoken for 20 minutes longer than intended, stop right there.
  • Don't use the school logo for your talk. You are not here yet.
  • Bathe. And maybe skip the garlic for breakfast.

A Big Thirsty on Academic Friends from Hugh in Hialeah.

Hugh has asked me to take his story down. He writes: "Thank your readers for me. I was completely unaware of my anger about this situation, and I was being very unfair to my friend."

Predictable Epiphanies

Dear Professor Stressor,

I've been at this school for four long years and have never even considered taking one of your courses or any others in your discipline. But now that I need to take my very last option so I can graduate, I suddenly realize how unbelievably interesting, worthwhile, and important your summer course is. Please leapfrog me into this full course ahead of all the students on the wait list. Also, if you could help me find a way to get notes so I don't have to attend class all the time
I got other stuff going onthat would be great. Thanks.

Nate Dunderpate

Scholarship VidShizzle

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Possibly Offensive Student Stereotypes by Grade

If I had to eliminate the variations and just pool all grades together, this is what I get:

My A grades: You are the students who do the assignment. You do it on time; you write a little bit more than the minimum page length. You come to all classes. You aren't brilliant, but you do all the work and you do it satisfactorily. Sometimes you make me think. Usually, you just stay out of my way. I don't have to write extensive corrections on your homework. You make my life slightly easier. And so I give you an A.

High Bs: You come to class most of the time. I have to try harder to get you to keep an eye on basic things, like grammar and content, but it isn't ridiculous. You write exactly 2 sentences more than the minimum page length just to cover yourself. You do the work, you send me the occasional whine, but we don't clash so I give you a high-ish B.

Low Bs: You are on the verge of not caring at all. Some of you really struggle with the reading because you come from a personal place where learning wasn't necessarily a priority. I totally get that you had kids, or your parents didn't read to you, or you spend a lot of your spare time working and dealing with real life. It makes my job harder, but you're getting by. So I give you a lower B.

Cs: You don't read the assignment. Some of you are smart and half-ass it because you can. Others are trying desperately to understand what instructions mean, to no avail. Your margins tend to be at 2 inches, or you add extra spaces between your paragraphs, or the font is at 13 pts. Attendance is not a priority. Some of you C students come to my office hours and try to convince me to give you 2 extra points here even though you are still 30 points away from an A. This very act underscores why you are earning a C: trying for a 1% extra credit grade does nothing compared to writing a full-length, course-material-focused paper in the first place, which would be worth so much more. You take up a ridiculous amount of my time and I probably spend twice as long grading your work than I do the B students. And so I give you a C.

Ds: Most of you sleep through the first half of the semester. You submit papers that are sort of on topic, but clearly not written in response to my actual question. An assignment on the beliefs of Christianity might be answered with a devout personal expression of your relationship to Jesus. Alternatively, you answer the question, but you never pass the halfway point in the required paper length. Late work is common. So is the end-of-term request to redo work, make up "lost" submissions, and perform extra credit or makeup exams. You are the students most likely to challenge my grade or ask for post-semester "help" as though that would change anything. I hate negotiating with you, but still I give you a D.

Fs: You either never show up or you plagiarize. You usually never contact me after I have failed you, because you did not speak to me prior to submitting carefully copied work and are too embarrassed for our first interaction to be lies about cheating. You require less work than my A students, but I get paid exactly the same. For that I rather like you. But still, I give you an F.

Note, if you will, that none of these students are "promising" or "rewarding" or "the lifeline for my teaching career. (#Katiefromkalamazoo) But hey: paycheck!

"Worst Professor Ever" Sounds Like a College Misery Handle, Don't It?

I've been pretty busy as of late. Summer teaching, failed attempts at research, failed attempts to submit comments to this blog--all those things have been keeping me somewhat away from the regular happenings of this humble blogspot. At a quick glance, I haven't noticed anyone up here talking about Amanda Krauss's blog, Worst Professor Ever. Here is a link to it. Discuss. And if people have already been discussing the blog up here and those people just don't have anything else pressing to do, they can feel free to take a bite out of my ass in the comments. I'll ignore you as usual.

This particular posting about why she left academe is the post that (so far) has been most interesting to me. I'm curious to hear what the rest of you think. Frankly, I don't quite know what to do with some of what she says, no matter how much I relish her comments about academic elitism, etc. For starters, it seems to me that, as a headline, "Former Classics Professor Moves to Austin (TX, I'm assuming?) to Reinvent Herself" reads about as radically as, "American Literature Professor Also Teaches American Studies."

Moreover, all the praise that she appears to be getting, and that she quite understandably displays on her ingeniously titled "praise" page, would seem to be the direct result of her position in academe: a disenfranchised humanities prof from an elite institution has come back to tell all, to tell you all about all of the fuckups in academia. She knows because she's been there--and has had the good sense to leave. I wonder if that position allows her to be claimed by both conservative and liberal critics of higher education. Which I guess is just good marketing. So maybe that's why she's been featured in the various esteemed places that she's been featured, and all of us are, well, here.

Do you feel that academia is crushing your soul? Do you cry out for help but nobody listens?

Wow, that sucks. Sorry, all I've got is a top ten list. Hope things get better.

There exists a field of study at universities called Leisure Science. Now, don’t get me wrong. All knowledge has intrinsic value. Knowing more about anything, no matter how mundane or trivial, is good. Having said that, give me a frickin’ break. Leisure science? (I see that it is sometimes called “leisure studies.” I guess that’s for students who don’t like math.) I haven’t taken a moment to look at this in detail, mainly because I might find that it is a legitimate field of study and that would make it less humorous.

This answers a number of questions I was wondering about. Ten of them, to be exact.

Top Ten questions about leisure science

10. When will we know that it won’t be long before “web surfing” becomes a college major?
9. How do you take a break when you are studying leisure science?
8. What do pro athletes major in when they are at college?
7. How can a student get financial aid to pay for a Nerf Super Soaker?
6. Can I get paid to figure out why people like to have fun rather than work hard?
5. Is there a way to take something fun and relaxing and graph it?
4. If laboratory scientists wear a lab coat, do leisure scientists wear a leisure suit?
3. Do we need any more evidence that there is a higher education bubble?
2. Would it be bad if you said that leisure science doesn't attract serious students?
1. How embarrassing is it when somebody asks, “Oh, you’re a scientist. Do you work at NASA?” and you respond, “No, Six Flags.”