Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Snowflake Mail.

Hi Dr. Academic,

I've been dealing with a case of galumphing galumphitis these past several weeks and as a result I haven't been able to make it to very many classes.

Which class of mine is it you're in?  The one with 250 students or the one with only 60?  It would be helpful to know, though it probably won't make any difference to my response.

In light of this, I was wondering if it would be possible for you to send me the notes from the past five or six classes.

 The notes I have made clear at the beginning of class that I never give out? The notes that would do you no good anyway because they're only in my head?  Those notes? No.

I realize that might be a bit much to ask


 but it would be extremely helpful. If this isn't possible, if you could perhaps give me the email of someone who would be willing to do this in the class

I suspect you're in the class of 250.  I don't know any of the rest of them either.

 or maybe a teacher's assistant. 

I wish, I really wish, we had the kind of budget that innocent request implies you think we have.

Thanks in advance for your help.

You needn't.  No, really.

Isis eats humble pie

I've had a cold for a week. Sucks, but life goes on. This morning I woke up with no voice. None. Not even pubescent boy squeaks. If I push I can manage a whisper.

No time to arrange help for the 8 and 9 am sections, so I trudge in expecting it to be a fiasco, and having to end class early when I can't cope anymore.

My students were golden. Respectful, quiet so they could hear, explaining things to each other, patient with me and all the accommodations I tried to make on the fly to get me out of talking.


I'm sure they'll be back to being little shits next week, but this morning, when I most needed it, they were awesome.

Kunstnick: Between a rant and a thirsty.

College Misery has saved my sanity. I read it when it was RYS. Days pass at my college when I see no one but students. So, for me, this site is a nice reality check.

Today, I am not sure if I have a thirsty or a rant.

The situation: I am teaching a class of 7. An early morning class. A class that was added late in the term to ensure that I have the required course load. Oh, yes, I had 2 wonderful classes that teetered on the verge of filling but they were cancelled. I knew these students; I was prepared. I was looking forward to working with them. They were cancelled several hours before they began. Now, I have a class that started several weeks after the official start of the term. It is an early morning class. So, I assumed that a student who signs up for an 8:00 am class will turn up.

It is a disaster.

I have one student who turns up for each class. The rest float in and out. They might show for the exam, or not. I have one who has appeared for 1/ 2 the classes. Each class period, I see confused faces. Each class period features a different configuration of students. I keep going with the material, no matter who is there. I give quizzes and keep track of attendance. I envision myself teaching to an empty room. Practice, I guess.

It is an elective course. A course that some might call the history of basket weaving.

Perhaps, it is the state of the parking lot after a long day that should tell me something. Instead of walking a few feet to the garbage can, or waiting to go home, students carefully set down fast food cups, boxes, empty cigarette packs, and soda cans next to their cars. Then, they drive off. They do this in the stairwells, too. I find crushed coffee cups stuck between rail and wall, discarded candy wrappers carefully placed at the foot of the stairs.

It is an open door college. Students tell me that the courses here don't matter because they are so cheap. They have no value to them. We professors, who are trained, learned, and hard workers, are of no value. The students treat classes like they treat the campus. The few who care, who try, who want to learn are outnumbered.

Coming Tomorrow: The Day I Met Yaro.

Read this space tomorrow morning,
4 am Pacific Time.

From Minding The Campus.

Professors Should Dress Like Professionals
By Robert Weissberg

Judged by the recent avalanche of autopsy-like books, American higher education appears troubled. Alleged evil-doers abound, but one culprit escapes unnoticed—the horrific sartorial habits of many of today’s professors. Don’t laugh. As Oscar Wilde brilliantly observed, only shallow people do not judge by appearances. Indeed, I would argue that much of what plagues today’s academy can be traced to an almost total collapse of sartorial standards. When I began my professorial career in 1969 the tweed sport coat and tie was more or less standard. Today, with all too few exceptions, “academic casual,” even jeans and tee-shirts is de rigueur. This slide has not been kind to life of the mind.

Many of the academy’s ills are traceable to diminished professorial authority. We often feel like “I don’t get any respect” Rodney Dangerfield: students day dream, ignore assignments, barely show up, cheat, gossip during class, and send text messages among other contemptuous behaviors. And not even entertaining lectures, grade inflation and dumbed-down syllabi seem able to restore the loss of respect.


Tuesday, February 28, 2012

AWP, Anyone?

Anyone here going to AWP in Chicago this year? Look for me. I'll be the one at the bar.

Seriously? For Real?

Yesterday we read Chapter 11 in class. I lectured on Chapter 11. I showed video clips to illustrate the concepts in Chapter 11. There was a quiz and an activity in class over Chapter 11's content.

Today, we started Chapter 12 (which is VERY different from Chapter 11). A student (who attended class yesterdayand actively participated by commenting and providing an example from her own experience) raised her hand to ask why we had skipped Chapter 11. I replied: "We didn't. We did that yesterday." Her response: "Seriously? For Real? Where was I?"

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is my question. Where are they? If their minds are not in our classes (although their bodies are present), where are their minds?

Point of Clarification: I didn't call them "Chapter 11 and Chapter 12" in class. I actually mentioned the chapter titles.

I Think I've Made A Terrible Mistake

Oh Holy Shit. I’m losing it. 

For extra money this semester my Dept. Head hired me to be her PA and do his bidding. He’s rude and passive aggressive and yells at me and makes me sit through utterly inane meetings where he yells at someone else and nothing can get done. Like, I can’t move forward until he makes up his mind on things and that is always at the last minute. I definitely DO NOT work that way. 

This week I told him that I would not be around MWF because I am teaching at another school, because I need the money. That also means I won’t be around to answer emails and get things done now now now. Last night when I got home there were literally 15 emails, back and forth, some were forwards, some were cc’s about things I needed to get done…at 7 pm for tomorrow morning. Most of them concern Hamster Cage Design, but I’m a hamster scientist, so anything with the HCD takes me a loooooong time. 

I was so stressed. I may have even cried a little. Into my wine. But I finished. To get here this morning to find more emails about more things that were supposed to be done yesterday. And that because he doesn’t like to get up early (rolls in about 11 – but it’s ok because he stays late), the schedule for the lab is screwy and my lab is always scheduled during the hour when there are no classes…and there are activities for students, or seminars, or in this case a fucking evacuation. So I have to just cancel the goddamned lab. 

But you know what, I’m going to the bar during that time. Especially because I have to be on campus for 12 hours that day doing the bidding of the Dept. Head. Shoot me!

Melissa from Merced with Today's Early Thirsty.

Q: Ladies, has your dress changed over the past few years? I'm 50, and I've noticed younger female faculty dress far more casually than in the past. Does it change how students perceive us? Does it change how administrators perceive us? My university is still pretty traditional, and too many of our new female faculty look like sloppy grad students. I want to tell them to be sharper with their choices, but don't want to be an old fogy (fogette?) Is there any way I can help my sisters?

Monday, February 27, 2012

The Adjunct Project

Saw in the Crampicle: the article about an adjunct who started collecting data about adjuncts and their working conditions. There's now a dedicated Wordpress site: The Adjunct Project

Fill in your school, and any other data you'd like to share. According to the article, 786 people have done so (as of Feb 19, the date the article was posted).

I'm no longer an adjunct, but I have plenty of friends on this treadmill. Share widely.

Here's Something For Us to Do Today. Find Out if Your Campus Has One of These. And then Go Support It. I Was Stunned to Know My School Did. One of My Fave Students Met Me at the Door and Took Three Sad Cans of Things I Probably Would Have Thrown Out.

Campus food banks help students through tough times

Ela Martinez-Moreno says she felt it was her fault, as if she had failed to follow some rule. She had grown up in a middle-class family, earned Latin American studies and culinary degrees and gotten a job working with at-risk youth at a non-profit.

Then, after Martinez-Moreno left her job to study food science at Oregon State University in Corvallis, her boyfriend unexpectedly lost his job. She realized they needed help.

She found part of the answer to their problem at Oregon State's food pantry, though she was hesitant at first to use it. "It's a really humbling experience," Martinez-Moreno says, but once she was in the door, the pantry became "a relief" and "a nice added bonus" to help her along. It was a positive experience that she now aims to help share as the pantry's paid outreach coordinator.


Double Flake!

It's finally happened! I asked the kiddies to double-space their paper, and one put two spaces between each word. I *knew* this would happen sooner or later!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

Yes, Because It's So Easy to Make College Students Do Things We Want them To.

Obama wants college to ‘indoctrinate’ — Santorum

President Obama wants America’s young people to go to college in order to “indoctrinate” students and “remake” them in his image, Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum argue on the campaign trail in recent days.

“That’s why he wants you to go to college. He wants to remake in his image. I want to create jobs so people can remake their child into their image, not his.”

Santorum has talked about higher education, and its alleged influence on young minds, over the past two days. He was on Glenn Beck’s radio show Friday, and alleged that Obama wants to “indoctrinate” students.

Huff Post Article.

Please, Professor, Go Easy On Me!

For those of you who teach writing courses, which do you dread more:
  • the student who says, "I'm really not so good in writing. English is my worst subject, or 
  • the student who says, "I love English.  I love to write. I got A's in it all through school"?
Of course, they both want the same thing:  a high grade with minimal work.

While we're on the topic, I wonder whether those of you who are teaching intro or remedial courses in other subjects are faced with those students who say, "it's not my best subject" or "it's my favorite subject". (I can just imagine the look on my undergraduate Calculus prof's face if I'd said, "I'm not really good with math.")

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Put down your monocles, chaps, and answer me this.

You've probably all seen the Santorum issuing forth from the weekend about how Obama is a snob for wanting everyone to go to college.

And while I generally don't want to enquire too deeply into Santorum's contents, there was this one poser, which is how Santorum is stuck on this idea that professors are all trying to "indoctrinate" their students.

Personally, I find myself in a constant battle to do the opposite. None of my students have been taught to think. I want them to be able to do that, to question what they read, hopefully in a mildly intelligent manner. The problem with them is too little intellectual curiosity, not that they are all rabid freethinkers who need to be curtailed.
Did I miss a memo?

Dispatch from Across the Seas

Hi. I’m Edna Expat, new correspondent from Across the Seas.

I’m a native squeaker of Hamster, fluent squeaker of Gerbil, with a humanities degree in Gerbil Studies. During my graduate work I met and married Dr. Hubs, a foreigner and STEM fielder who landed a T/T job in his native country. While ABD I joined Dr. Hubs Across the Seas, and since my defense I have been teaching Rodent Communications, in Hamster, to native squeakers of Capybara.

For Dr. Hubs this place has proven a pretty good fit, but for me it has been a twisted and bumpy ride that has left me at quite a remove from the Gerbil Studies generalist position in which I envisioned myself as a gradflake.

The Crampicle et. al occasionally tout a stint abroad as a way to keep the shitstorm of the North American job market at bay while girding one’s loins in preparation for another shot at the Big Time. In my revolving circle of expat friends, I have seen this strategy work, and I have also seen it fail, sometimes very badly.

Certainly Dr. Hubs and I are lucky to be employed, reasonably happily, at the same institution, wherever in the world it happens to be. We don’t have immediate plans to pull anchor and sail to parts unknown. But still, many miseries known to CM readers remain constant here Across the Seas. Others, too, are unique, or at least more common, among expat proffies.

What I aim to offer to the intrepid readers of CM is a candid take on expat misery from my post at the frontier of global academe. I’m excited and honored to join you.

Sometimes You Can Will It Into Being. A Breakthrough for Dr. Bug Eye.

My wife calls me Bug Eye, at least when she's in the mood for that sort of joshing.

And so my students might think of me that way as well, given the extraordinarily large and thick glasses I wear. It's because of an eye condition that is slowly (quite slowly, actually, I'm lucky) robbing me of my vision.

Because of that I require students print their projects and essays in larger than normal fonts, with larger than normal margins. I ask for this formally each time I make an assignment. But, invariably (and are any of you surprised), more than half fail to do it. So I take the tiny print back to my office, and it makes my grading harder than it has to be.

I don't know why I've just shrugged about this. But I have, and it's bugged me.

So this semester I uttered this line at the initial discussion of the first paper. "Your paper has to be formatted exactly as I've assigned, or I won't grade it."

One student said, "What do you mean, you won't grade it? Like until we fix it?"

"No," I said. "No grade at all. Zero. F."

There was a grumbling, some harumphing, and so on. And I was nervous. What would I do when tested? Would I soldier on? Maybe I'd get fewer unreadable texts, and that would be an improvement.

And then the question came again the day before.

"You really won't grade our essays if they don't have 16 font? And those margins? And nothing but sans serif fonts? Really?"

"Yes, I said. Zeroes for all of that. Do you know how to make 16 font? Can you make margins that big? I can show you."

And then the first set came in. I could read every one of them. They were ALL done properly. They ALL matched a format I'd been requiring for years, but never getting.

You can get what you want, sometimes; this is my lesson for today.

- Dr. Bug Eye

Friday, February 24, 2012

More Nausea - Special High Intensity Training edition.

This little nugget of nausea appeared in faculty inboxes the other day.

From: Human Resources: Where "people"'s just another word for something we can use.
Subject: Upcoming workshop - Creating Customer Experience

Everyone working at the University of Tuktoyaktuk is a representative of the university and helps to promote Tuk U.  Every interaction reflects on both the individual and the values of Tuk U.  In this way, we can "make or break" a customer's experience.  Help ensure your influence on others makes a positive difference by attending this day of exploration and action planning.

In this program, you will learn:

-       The 5 steps to creating a positive client experience;
-       How to personalize the client experience;
-       Ways to customize the concepts for implementation in your department; and
-       Ways to energize your work to be more client-focused.

Instructor: Some Assistant Supervisory Staff, Helping Our Loyal Employees

Date : Coming soon
Register online: or we'll find you.

Crank Colleague.

He is objectionable
in a mesmerizing variety
of ways.

He owns no car.
I can live with that.

Yet, he always snags rides,
and often, I don't know how,
from me.

Then he complains.
Gas prices. Traffic.
He tsks and folds his hands.

He burns a smudge pot in his office,
although it has another name
which I can't recall.

He threw a fit
at one faculty meeting
over too-casual recycling habits.

I want to like him.
His heart is in the right place.
But he's dense.

You can't tell him anything
that he doesn't have
a topper for.

Your worst student -
he must tell you -
is "nothing" compared to his.

And he's never in class.
He cancels for religious reasons
which nobody has the nerve to ask about.

He's often ill,
and then another ride
is needed.

He thinks education
is a scam,
but can argue the opposite too.

He sneers at drinkers,
because they are weak.

He coughs loudly,
wide eyed,
when we pass smokers outside.

He refuses to kick in to
the coffee club,
but fills a 16 oz glazed mug each morning.

He tells me he has dreams
of buying a boat
and sailing away.

I bite my tongue.
"Whatever it takes," I want to say.
"It needn't be a boat."

A Silverback Flashback.

The current discussion about silverbacks has prompted some readers to ask us to share this golden oldie from 09.

One reader called "Totally Todd" says: "Soren is the kind of silverback we get when we're lucky. We're not lucky very often."


Silverback Soren Learns to Love a Newbie.

I have a confession. I'm an old silverback who has been bitching about the young'uns for years and years. I've regaled my colleagues with horror stories, bitched about the new generation, and generally paid not one ball of snot's worth of attention to the endless parade of freshly minted PhuDs who come through here on their way to a BETTER job somewhere else.

And, you know what? I think I've been wrong.

I've got tenure, and have had it for a decade. I still like teaching, and I like the folks I work with. But I've not published a book in 12 years, and I certainly am not in the right space in my life to start a new one.

Hector from Halifax got hired here last year, and he's one of those dynamos. He teaches loudly, always has students in his office, and is generally a big smiling guy who always greets me warmly. I always thought he was a glad-handing doofus.

I was across the hall from him in a classroom last week and since my class had gotten done early, I could hear him through an open door teaching the same class I'd just finished - a sophomore seminar in my field, a class I've taught for eons.

Even though we use the same book, I was amazed at the insight he had into a chapter I'd covered the week before. I could hear him talking about some new studies that shone a light on the accepted research, and when his students asked questions they were good ones. And he had great answers. And I sat there sullenly for a while thinking of my own class, a group of 20 year old dunderheads who I couldn't move unless I had a stick of TNT to put up their asses.

Yesterday I strolled into Hector's office and he gave me a funny salute and we started to talk. I asked him about his dissertation, and asked him about what he was working on. It was fascinating. He asked me about a problem student and something about campus politics. It felt great.

I felt as though I'd maybe missed some stuff in the past by turning my back on the precious new PhuD snowflakes. Maybe it's just Hector, but I think not.

I don't know what I'm going to do next, or how this realization is going to change me. But I wanted to say "Huzzah" to all the young Hectors (and Juanitas) out there, the new blood that pumps into our departments each year.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Just Retire Already

Lots of link posts lately, so I'm going to stir the pot a bit.

This past weekend, I caught a Star Trek: TNG episode titled 'Half a Life'.  Long story short, Counselor Troi's mother Lwaxana falls in love with Alien Scientist, Ph.D., who is conducting some research on the Enterprise that will hopefully save his planet's dying star.  Unfortunately, that scientist is only a few days from turning 60, upon which he must throw a big party and then take his own life so as not be a burden to his society.

The episode sparked two conflicting thoughts for me.  The first being that Lwaxana Troi was right, there is still a lot of life to be lived after 60.  Personally, I'd like about 30 more years past that.  Plus, the scientist was still conducting useful research on how to save his planet, so it really was a waste for him to off himself.  But my second thought was darker, more selfish.  My second thought was about how many open jobs there would be if our society had the same practice.  You turn 60, we throw a party,  you reflect on your successful career, have some drinks and some laughs.  Then you head home, do what you have to do, and never have to worry about inane colleagues,  faculty meeting fights,  pampered undergrads or ever teaching that intro class again.  A new faculty line opens and the cycle repeats. 

Fortunately, our society has settled on something called "retirement" and not ritual suicide.  Yet for some (not all) faculty members, it may has well be the same thing.  There are several incredibly ancient faculty members that totter about at my doctoral R1. They last published decades ago, their salaries are six figures, and their teaching evals are absolute shit.  I know this because I was occasionally their TA.

Take Dr. Ancient Silverback.  Dr. Ancient had been in the department longer than anyone else.  He was a full professor before I was born.  Don't get me wrong, I liked Dr. Ancient, he had some great stories, and was a generally decent human being.  The problem was that Dr. Ancient liked to use the class lecture time to talk about whatever he thought was interesting, and usually this wasn't relevant to the course topic or the textbook. In fact, it was more like story hour for the undergrads who were forced to show up due to the mandatory attendance policy. So it was up to us lab TAs to actually cover the book content AND the hands-on activities, once a week, in the labs. Generally, students would spend more time on the lab evals complaining about Dr. Ancient's aimless lectures than commenting on the labs.  Still, it was a paycheck and decent teaching experience.  Yet some of the undergrads had the audacity to complain about the course to the chair.  The chair's response was predictable: "Oh, that's just  how Dr. Ancient does things.  We're just trying to run out the clock until he decides to retire." Last I checked, Dr. Ancient is still tottering onto campus, teaching that class.  Us TAs actually had a bet going as to who would knock on the office door and find Dr. Ancient dead.

Personally, I believed Dr. Ancient avoided retirement because the university was his only social outlet.  He taught that one class, was paid handsomely for it, and hardly had to do anything else. From his perspective, it is probably as close to an ideal 'retirement' as one can get, without actually doing so.

For everyone else in the department, it's a faculty line that could be productive again, if he'd just retire already.

*edited - I actually wrote this long before Calico's post on Ralph, but we posted them at almost the same time. I think they compliment each other nicely. I'm glad that Ralph got to spend some quality time enjoying retirement and reflecting on a successful career.

A Note From The Wife of Ralph from Rutabaga Ranch.

Last night I received this note:


Dear Rate Your Students and College Misery:

I found your address in my husband's email account. I knew he was a voracious reader of your two weblogs, and I know that they had a profound impact on his life after retirement. You were so kind to publish an essay of his in 2007, and he never stopped talking about the things he learned, the things that he was worried about that appeared first on your weblog.

What I don't believe he ever let you know is that that essay and his own strong feelings about academia led him back to part-time work two years ago. Although he had taught most of his life in New York City, in retirement we settled in the country near a large junior college. He began to inquire of the administration there if he could help out with teaching or mentoring. And for almost two years he did that, teaching one night class each semester and taking on a training role for new faculty.

I know that he did it partly out of boredom, but also partly because the ideas on your websites so interested him.

"I have to do it," he would say to me, when he begged off a routine chore around the house. He always said it was like a burden, but the happiness he felt going "back to school" was so evident.

Four months ago now, however, he was diagnosed with cancer, and two months ago he passed away peacefully after a palliative stay at a local hospice.

I've been hearing from former colleagues and students, of course, but as I was sorting through old electronic files on his computer, I kept seeing page after page that he had copied from your website, and he had a folder of email exchanges that he had made with Calico, who I hope I'm reaching directly with this note.

I taught for twenty-five years in a public school system, but once I retired I put it all behind me. My "Ralph," though, never did. And it gave him such pleasure. I believe I have you and your weblogs to thank for some of that. And I wanted you to know.

All good things,
Mrs. "Ralph from Rutabaga Ranch"


Ralph from Rutabaga Ranch Revels in Retirement. Recommends Against Restless Reaching.


I dare say I'm one of the older readers here, retired for 5 years now after 37 years as a professor, the last 25 at a large research university in NYC. I've left that behind now, and live on what you might call a "gentleman's farm" in upstate NY where I raise tomatoes, potatoes, rutabagas, and occasionally the finest squash in the colonies. I've not written to you before, but after having read this site and many other academic blogs, I couldn't help myself.

I believe I reached the top of my profession, articles, books, awards, and a certain notoriety in my field. I published 12 books during my academic career, 8 of them solo. The last one, the one we call the "BIG" one, was nominated for a national award. I only mention it so I can reveal this. It sold 412 copies over 5 years, and I daresay that many of those rest in libraries uncracked to this day.

Sometimes at conferences people would recognize me. Maybe one person would. My work was important in my own life, but hardly at all in anyone else's. I was ambitious, sought tenure and promotion, and found that there was no reward for either. I wanted to make a mark, but I discovered that a scholar has so little value in our culture, that my ambition was mostly wasted. I lived in an expensive and wonderful city for most of those years, and while my salary was large compared to the AAUP averages nationwide, I could barely afford to insure and park my car and get a dozen or so bottles of good port a month.

When I look back on the charging I did all those years, I just chuckle now. There's nothing up there, darlings, at the top of the ladder. Not if you're looking for acclaim or respect from without. It's true, what I did rewarded me personally, but that was not something I realized until I was nearly gone from the academy.
I read these academic blogs where the young scholars are looking for respect, notice, for their work to mean something. And I am wowed at their professionalism and achievement. In my day, one never heard of graduate students with publications and awards. Now it's commonplace. Even before I left the university I would sit in junior faculty offices and marvel at the tremendous new insight they brought to my tired old field. I think they should pursue their scholarship with vigor.

But I must tell you, unless you're studying celebrity culture or high finance, your work better fill you with pride, because nobody will ever care about it, not even one dram.

I don't say this to draw your wind, but to let you know that it makes sense to focus on the elements of the job that bring you personal happiness. Don't worry about what others think. The truth is that almost nobody will ever think of you, not even if you publish widely. Do it for yourself, and quit thinking about being ahead or behind of your peers - or even long-gone scholars like me.

I had a wonderful career, but too much of it was wasted worrying. While I was at a top drawer university, I always wondered if I should go somewhere else, to the west coast, or maybe the Midwest. I was wooed several times at a large school in Texas. The questions were with me my whole career. Will I get a good job. Will I impress my mentors. Will I publish the dissertation. Will I rise. Will I get tenure. Am I good enough. What about another book. Am I better than So-N-So.
It was for nothing. So-N-So had his own worries. Leave him and them to it. Do it for you, and quit frantically reaching for the top rungs of the ladder. What's waiting up there is not what you're chasing.

Changing Perceptions. A Big Thirsty from "Living in Exile."

I wasn't the best student when I began university. I can come up with many snowflake excuses, but the bottom line is that I wasn't mature enough to study at a college level and I eventually dropped out. Shortly after, I decided to enroll at my local community college (after working at a gas station and realizing how much that sucked), and it took me a bit, but I finally got it and started to succeed in college. I transferred to a small state school and graduated with a pretty respectable GPA and an honors degree. Not terrible for someone who completely flaked out for two years. In any case, I made a decision that I wanted to apply for graduate programs and pursue a Ph.D in order to become a professor, like ones that I admired at my state school. The first time around, I was rejected by every school I applied to. I wanted to be honest on my applications, so I sent in all of my transcripts, including the first one which flaunted my 1.6 GPA in one year of study. Maybe it was naïve of me, but I tried to rationalize that the 1.6 from the first school and the 3.8 from the state university are both part of who I am. Whatever.

Two years after graduating, I received my first letter of acceptance from a well-known state university with a respected program in my field. Excellent. I was happy because I proved to myself that I could turn my life around from the bottom that I had reached 7 years ago. I feel like I have finally done something good or reached some goal in my life. Also, I was pleased because I can say a big “suck it” to all the schools who rejected me in the past. Now, maybe that's immature, but it doesn't bother me too much. I think we can all be a little immature sometimes.

To the point of this post: I started reading College Misery about 3 months ago, and it has really opened my eyes. I had one professor who wrote a recommendation advise me that I shouldn't try to enter this career because of the uncertainty of job prospects for new Ph.D's, and that he even gave the same advice to his own daughter. Ok, I believe it. But, the turning point in my mind is when I started reading this website. I never thought about how soul-crushing this line of work could be. I imagine exciting research, engaged students (like I was during my second tour), a good salary, and other benefits. The reality is much more jarring – boredom, apathy, and in extreme cases, alcoholism and severe depression. Is this the life that I want? Certainly not. I started to consider other options. What can one do with a history specialization? Good question. I've lived abroad for the last two years and have acquired one language fluently and another at  B1 level (in a bilingual country). This, combined with a knowledge of world history has persuaded me to apply for a job in the State Department after I finish an MA. I considered the government my enemy up until now, but maybe it wouldn't be so bad if I were working and living abroad, something which I already feel comfortable doing.

However, this all is mainly for advice. 

Q: Can you all give me some of your thoughts? I feel like someone with my checkered education history already has little chance of finding a dream job in academia. If I do get a job, will it be worth it? Should I do what my instincts are telling me at the moment and look for something else?

- Living in Exile

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Public Statement From the Parents of Yeardley Love.

The family of Yeardley Love released the following statement after the jury recommended George Huguely receive a total of 26 years in prison for second degree murder and grand larceny conviction. 

"We dread looking back on the events of May 3, 2010 and pray for the strength to get through each day.

Time has not made us miss Yeardley any less, in fact quite the opposite.

It is truly devastating to wake up each day and realize that she is no longer here. Yeardley's contagious smile, kind spirit and gentle touch have left this world but we know that heaven has an angel like no other.

We will continue to keep her spirit alive by performing works of kindness in her name.

We would like to thank the Commonwealth and particularly Dave Chapman for his tireless efforts on our behalf.

Our hearts burst with pride when we think of Yeardley's accomplishments but our hearts melt when we remember her kindness and grace.

We have received letters from so many people telling us stories of her many acts of kindness. Intelligence and athletic ability are God given talents.

Kindness and compassion are choices...choices that Yeardley made every day without a second thought. We'd like to thank everyone for their kindness and respect of our privacy during such a difficult time."

Sharon & Lexie Love

Early thirsty: Hot or NOT ?

Spending Grant Money (A Triple Early Thirsty )

Q1:  Why is it so damned difficult to get approval by a Title III grant coordinator to approve spending on anything.  Those of you who have read my earlier posts know that it often takes 2 semesters to get supplies for our tutoring center.  Our new Lead Tutor is shelling out money out of his own pocket to get necessary supplies.  If Title III funds are not getting spent, then where are they going?

Q2:  Is it legal/ethical/kosher/whatever to use left over Title III funds to purchase a swimming pool for your own home?  Word is out that it's not.  However word is also out that the Title III coordinator can give him/herself a raise, in which case he could buy the pool with "his own" money. 

Q3:  Am I the only one in the world who contemplates these things?

As a Freshman I Had No Car. Sophomore, a Ten Speed. Junior and Senior Year, a 1975 Dodge Dart.

These Are The Insanely Expensive Cars That GWU Students Drive

Students at George Washington University in Washington, D.C. don't just complain about easy grades, they also drive cars so nice you'd think their campus was the parking lot of the Mall of the Emirates in Dubai. In the photo composite above is about $1.2 million worth of automobiles allegedly belonging to college students.
Do your best not to hate them.
There will always be haves and have-nots at any college, but the selection of cars cataloged by the new Tumblr account The Cars Of The George Washington University is slightly ridiculous.
The five cars collected above include a Mercedes SLS AMG ($183,000), a McLaren SLR McLaren 722 S Roadster ($548,000), a Ferrari 575 Superamerica ($320,000), an Audi R8 V10 Spyder ($165,000) and a BMW X5 M in the background ($87,250). And all that's assuming the buyers didn't pay a lot of money for extras.
Flaunting your exotic car is all part of the scene at GWU according to BroBible

The biggest day to show off your ride at GWU is on Thursday. There are no parties on campus, so the student body hits the three nearby night clubs: Josephine, Shadowroom, and Opera, "where these kids go every week and each spend between $200-$5,000 a night three days a week on table service and bottles." Acccording to our tipster, these clubs boast the campus's craziest car line up, "where they pay $40 to valet the cars in front."

From the LA Times.

A very rough road for community college students
Many graduated from low-performing high schools that ill-prepared them for college, making them unlikely to get a degree. L.A.'s. community college district is responding with special programs, but one social scientist says it's not enough.

By Carla Rivera, Los Angeles Times

Foster Washington knows the odds are against him. The Los Angeles Southwest College student is a 20-year-old from a tough neighborhood in Watts where, he says, there was little encouragement or preparation for college.

Recent studies suggest that students such as Washington are the least likely to stay in school, get a degree or transfer to a four-year university, hampering their future job prospects.

But Washington is determined to be the first college graduate in his family of 12 siblings. Southwest, part of the nine-campus Los Angeles Community College District, is trying to fulfill his goal through new programs focused on intensive tutoring, faculty training and helping students adjust to college life.

"I have no time to hang out on the street with my homies; I want to be at school every day," Washington said after a recent English class that he said is his favorite. "Coming here gives me a sense of worth."

He is eager and engaged, particularly when discussing the writings of Malcolm X and Frederick Douglass in the all-male class. It is a remedial class aimed at students who need additional preparation before enrolling in college-level English; two tutors are on hand to supplement the instruction of the professor.

The class is part of a program geared to young men of color, but nearly all of the 8,000 students at Southwest have unmet social and academic needs, said Patrick Jefferson, dean of student services. About 96% need remedial math and English, and many are the first in their family to attend college. They grew up amid crime and poverty and graduated from local high schools that are among the lowest-performing in the state, he added.

Full Article.

From ASU's State Press.

Bill to address political, religious discrimination
By Danielle Grobmeier

Rep. Tom Forese, R-Gilbert, introduced a bill to the legislature Feb. 7 to address intellectual and religious discrimination of college and university professors.

House Bill 2770 would ensure faculty members cannot be discriminated against by their employers based on religious or political views.

Forese said he decided to write the bill after being approached several times by faculty members of colleges and community colleges.

“Instructors would have a religious or political point of view that was drastically different from that of their colleagues,” he said. “They kept their opinions to themselves for fear of not getting a promotion or not getting tenure.”

Forese said HB 2770 is intended to ensure both liberal and conservative opinions are protected.

“We should foster discussion and we should foster difference of opinion in higher institutions of learning,” he said. “I think it’s more important to appreciate the best in everyone rather than pinning someone in a corner.”


RYS Flashback: Good & Bad Eggs. Five Years Ago Today.

On Eggs

I teach a 3-3 load with 400 undergraduates a semester plus graduate students, and am expected to have at least a book, 3-4 articles, and significant progress on the next book for tenure. Teaching counts as 30% of my job. Some of the courses I teach are undergraduate general education requirements, which means that the majority of the students enrolled in the class do not want to be there. That said, most of them are good eggs about the requirement.

The problem is the bad eggs. One told me last week that he wouldn't take the reading quiz because he didn't get an email from me reminding him of the quiz. The quiz was posted on the syllabus and I had reminded the class verbally of the quiz twice. The 174 other students in the class came in expecting the quiz and took it. The student then followed me back to my office saying that "didn't I think my class has too much reading" (no), and that it wasn't "fair" that I only test on the whole book. He thought I should give a test for each chapter (I pointed out that this would take a lot of class time). He said "all of his other faculty" send him quiz reminder emails.

He also said that he has never read a 100-page book and it was "unfair" of me to assign so much reading. Part of what is truly frightening here is that this student is a sophomore – which means he managed to pass his classes his freshman year.

I found myself smiling at the student and patiently explaining course rules and procedures for over ½ hour – rules I had already gone over twice the first week of classes. I can't keep spending this much time with bad eggs when I have to publish, get grants, and would much prefer to save my student time for the good eggs.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Real Goddamned Mail - Homer Simpson Edition.

Got these emails today from one guy:

  • Hey, is your new moderator a prof at Xxxxxxx College in Xxxxxxx?
  • I just met a guy at my college who says he's one of the moderators at CM. His name is Xxxxxx Xxx. Is that right? I think he's pulling my leg.
  • Xxxxxx, are you reading my emails? If this is really you, put up a Homer Simpson cartoon on the blog so I know. I believe you man, but I gots to have my Homer!
  • Hi, I've written a number of emails this morning and haven't gotten a reply. Could you get back to me?
  • Xxxxx, I call bullshit on you, man. If you're the majordomo of the majordojo, then prove it to me. I'm going to be in my office until 2.
  • Hi, I think some guy is pulling my leg. What's the name of the current moderator? I want to confirm that he's not this guy I work with. Or you can just put up a picture of Homer Simpson. 
  • Dear College Misery, My name is Xxxxxx Xxxxxx. Can you tell me if Xxxxxxx Xxx is affiliated with your blog? I'm trying to confirm something.
  • FUCKER! I bet it's not even you. 
  • Hello, I've sent a number of emails since 9 am and I still haven't heard back. Could someone contact me right away?
  • Xxxxx, I just saw you leave the building, you little shit.

bad tuesday morning haiku

sunday morning: soft
yet cold, bright. winter's chilly
disposition begs

coffee, begs sweatshirt,
and the birds beg at feeders,
and these essays beg

less forgiveness than
any shame demands. instead,
they shriek like hungry

birds, hungering for
grades unearned, validation
for simply breathing.

it could be simple,
really; i could acquiesce,
ignoring ethics

and ignorance, pour
into them the acceptance
they seek but not the

learning. besides, they
already know -- right? -- like those
baby birds with beaks

open, that someone
will give them everything
they want, without their

lifting their wings. no
resistance, no flight -- physics
another class they

fail, but they don't care.
passive receptacles -- are
they more than that? mouths

open, more effort
a worthless waste of time? these
essays, motionless

on the table, less
like work than slow suicide,
deserve more than what

they have received, more
than what they will this cold, bright
sunday morning. so

do i, mourning the
language tortured, the lack of
snow, the empty mug

beside the essays
too lazy to beg for, well,
anything. the birds

know: everything
works when the feeder's full. i
toast some bread, fill my

mug, toast the sun, quit
chirping, find less savory
offerings, and grade.


* The RGM modified this post's date since it originally was posted at the day and time Greta started composing the post, and not when she actually posted it.

How Hopeful. How Naive.

As I was deleting tons of old documents off an old hard drive this morning, I found this short piece I wrote for a student newspaper where I was teaching in the 90s. It appears to be from late 93 or early 94.


E-mail and its Usefulness in Education
This duck is sure
to make everything better!

We are all somewhere along the learning curve as it relates to electronic mail, computer networking, computer-aided instruction, and the Internet, but recently I’ve been encouraged to put some of these concepts to test as they relate to the teaching of writing and literature.

I became interested in the idea last semester when Barbara Bookshelves at the library took me for a quick spin on the university's Internet hook up. (Our Uni has access to the vast information computer network - known as the Internet - via a connection through Other  Nearby Uni.)

Barbara showed me how I could send instant electronic mail (or e-mail)
to colleagues and students on campus, at other campuses, or indeed
anyone in the world with a computer and a modem. I was convinced there
was a way to use the technology to help me teach. Then when Dean Diddley
began the Internet Utilization Committee, I thought it was time to become actively
involved. I began talking to students about e-mail and was surprised
at how many (roughly 30% of my classes) knew substantial amounts about
Internet technology.

I made a joke one day in class early this semester to a student who
was going to miss a class. ‘‘You can still turn in your assignment
by electronic mail, though, right?’’ And she did.

So many of our writers and students are working on computer already,
the idea of me seeing their document on my own screen just makes my
job of helping them revise their work easier and faster. They type
it on a computer. They send it over phone lines to my computer. I
edit it and make suggestions and send it back. It doesn’t take a week
or a day. It takes five minutes.

This concept is a perfect fit for education, especially in the humanities.
I’m giving out my address to all my students now. I hope to be able
to deal with essays in this way, take-home tests, assignments, and
even final exams, eventually. There are flaws in any new development,
and we will find them and deal with them. It’s impossible, however,
to ignore the benefits that will come by embracing what e-mail can
do for teachers and students.

In addition to my experiments with e-mail, I’m considering doing some
tests with the real-time chat function on the Internet (known as IRC)
or with any of the chat channels on the commercial servers (America
Online, CompuServe, Prodigy and Delphi, for example). This chat capability
enables you to conference and/or workshop with students and writers
in virtually the same way as in class. By letting students know when
I’m online, I can make myself available to them over a much wider
space of time. Oftentimes we can’t all be in the same place, but if
I’m at home or on my computer at school, and they are with their own
hookup (either campus, work or home), we can connect and deal with
whatever concerns need addressing. It’s a vast and convenient extension
of office hours, making me far more accessible to my students than
I’ve ever been in ten years of teaching.

All of this is just an experiment for me right now, because I can’t
assure that each of my students can have his/her own access. But once
the school gets completely wired (like many colleges and universities
nationwide), our students are going to have the most immediate access
to professors possible. We have to be prepared for the exciting onslaught
of new challenges and new discoveries. I’m very excited about being
a part of this new cyber-education. It can’t do anything but help.

Signs of (Dis)Engagement

I seem to be getting a lot more "I don't understand what I'm supposed to be doing; please explain" emails from the students in my two traditionally-scheduled sections than in my two hybrid ones.  While a substantial number of students in each set of sections are paying less attention than I'd like (really, things are explained quite clearly in multiple places, and the majority of students seem to be following the detailed directions with no problem at all, expressing confusion only about substantive matters), I can't figure out which students are paying less attention: the ones who (usually) sit in class for 75 minutes twice a week, or the ones who (sometimes) show up for 75 minutes once a week, and (theoretically) accomplish the rest of their work online.  

P.S.  This conundrum strikes me as pointing to the possible truth of the statement in the current CM banner, which I love.  Since most of the readers here are presumably proffies, it probably isn't true that we have "3 million pageviews. . .and still nobody reading." But if our main audience were the current generation of students, I'm not so sure.  If our LMS's tracking software is any guide, some students seem to log on to the site, discover that they can't figure everything out within 5 seconds of loading the entry page, and default to emailing me for instructions.

Monday, February 20, 2012

New CM Prodo - The Yellow "Priorities" T-Shirt.

Jobs and Relationships

Last year, I mentioned that my partner got an enormous opportunity: a T/T at an Ivy, after years of struggle. We both applied for the job (which was broadly described and interdisciplinary) and he won it, well-deserved and fair/square. I bit back my jealousy and got excited about the move. When they showered him with gifts and computers and expense accounts, I bought champagne and cheered. I strung together jobs at a local State school with a great reputation, a CC with a good value of adjuncts (and decent pay), and some online teaching. I have a shitty schedule and no job security, but I keep my head down and work hard so new opportunities will pay off.

In the past two months, a few jobs in the area have opened up. T/T, good places. I think I have a good chance. I'm a better candidate now and I know people on the hiring committees. But my partner is struggling at his new job. His faculty environment is terrible. I have mentioned here before about the open hostility among faculty at this Ivy. There are tears at faculty meetings and people who slam the door as they leave. They sabotage each other's classes. They use students as weapons. It's disgraceful. And secretly I'm glad I didn't get that job even as I distress at his pain, stress, and increasing alcoholism.

So now, Partner wants to leave his crappy work environment at a snappy Ivy and apply for these nearby jobs too. And it leaves me at a loss.

He has the dream job: well-paying and all. The faculty sucks, but all jobs have some suck. He at least has T/T, benefits, and good pay. Argh, but I hate seeing him so miserable.

My work life really sucks. I'm not allowed in faculty meetings since I'm just an adjunct. I have no benefits. I'm traveling about 8 hours a week to get to my various places of work. But I suppose I have a little bit of freedom from administrative red tape. I feel completely torn about this job situation.

I want him to be supportive of my attempts to solidify my career in this region. His application may not be the one that knocks me out of the running, and this isn't about both of us going for it and one of us getting it, but about him looking at me and hoping I get something more than this constant commute and thankless string of jobs.

Not to mention, if it weren't for my relentless pursuit of job pages, he would never even know of these hiring opportunities.

Now we are struggling between our careers and remembering that we still love each other. It's growing very tense. I thought readers who have been there might have some advice. I'm not really sure how to keep going, especially if he does not apply for this job and then I fail to get it -- after all, I'm sure every job going gets at least 100 applications.

Feeling a little alone right now. All advice, anecdotes, or off-topic jokes much appreciated.

Rescinded Contract Blues

As an adjunct I scrounge from term to term trying to eek a living out. Things weren't so bad in the last year but this term I have had two recinded contracts. I am trying not to take it personally, but thoughts of "do they suddenly hate my teaching" are floating through my mind. I am starting to feel the pinch and frankly a little nausea about how I am going to pay the bills. I am told from several unis that enrollment is down. Anyone else experiencing this?

Morris from Minnesota On Human Proffies.

I am one of those students, full of questions, yet asking only 2 out of 15. My professors are the type who walk in the classroom and start lecturing, without notes, with maps for props, and give me the history of the world from the seemingly infinite recesses of their minds. They remember small anecdotes pertaining to certain events, they make me laugh, and every day I walk out of their class smarter than when I walked in. You can ask them about books on a certain topic on a certain century and they fire back with a dozen titles, academic and historical and beneficial, while the only historical fiction I read would be, say, Asterix. They are on a pedestal, having achieved the type of glorious knowledge and scholarliness that seems forever out of my grasp. It is hard to believe they are human.

Yet sometimes, when we happen to be walking outside together, when the wind blows their hair, when the all-imposing powerpoint is removed, when the notebook is shut and the discussion panders to weather and time constraints, it’s almost a jolt of realization. Hey, they’re human. They don’t move around campus asking philosophical questions, or wander in parks in Londonesque trench coats, lost in the Renaissance. And you know what? It frightens me. Because when we both are human, I am more aware of the vast amount of knowledge they possess that I don’t, that I sometimes fear I never will. Their ability to see the past, present, and future, all in one go, while I frantically memorize dates and events and hope that’s enough. When we both are human, I am keenly aware of the amount of time, work, and effort one needs to understand even an iota of the past. I am confronted with the fact that I am nothing in the grand scale of things, that despite my bravado and sense of accomplishment, I’m nowhere near done.

I prefer them on pedestals.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Death Death Kill

I am probably cancelling class tomorrow. I don't really particularly care how much that throws us off schedule, I can catch up some other time.

One of my students in that class got me sick. I knew it was coming last Thursday, but starting yesterday I've just completely felt like death. My sinuses are so swollen shut that I cannot sleep for more than an hour at a time, and I am literally in the worst mood I've been in since I started working here. Oh yes, and sometimes? When I sneeze? I pass finger sized blot clots from my nostrils. I'm pretty sure my students will pass on having to see that.

The doctor says this is a virus and offered me a decongestant. The "good" decongestant unfortunately makes me vomit so I'm on a cut rate one that I could probably buy over the counter. A week from now I should be okay.


I am cancelling not because I can't teach through this crud, but because if I have to sit next to that student I may strangle him. It's a strange classroom set up where if I want to demonstrate something on the computer I sit between two students in a circle of computers. In a pinch, it works, but it's a really really strange place to lecture from.

So this student came in with this cold. During class he proceeded to turn away from the student on his other side and sneeze, cough, etc. ALL OVER ME. Even after I asked him to stop. If I hadn't asked him to go home I have no doubt he would have continued.

Repeat for two more class periods.

"Oh I'm feeling much better!" And then he'd turn to be polite and cough directly on me.

I have to meet with the Dean this week. I have a major assignment to grade. I have a meeting to run tonight. I am not prepared for any of it because my sinuses are trying to eat my face.

And so, for his safety, there is probably no class tomorrow. Bastard. He's actually one of the best students at the course material, so his actual death would do me no real favors. *sigh*

Saturday, February 18, 2012

1991. NYTimes.

Campus Life: Dartmouth; Policy Requires Undergraduates To Own Computers

Dartmouth has become the first Ivy League college and one of a handful in the nation to require all undergraduates to own a personal computer.
While almost 90 percent of Dartmouth's 4,200 undergraduates already have personal computers, making computers mandatory will mean Federal student aid can cover their purchase.
The college, whose faculty voted for the proposal last month, said it had instituted the policy primarily in response to last year's change in the Federal student-aid handbook, which says computers may be included in a financial-aid package only if all students are required to own them.
The Federal policy has meant students with limited resources could not buy computers, said Deborah Nichols, a professor of anthropology and a member of the faculty executive committee at Dartmouth. 'Case for Discrimination'
The survey conducted by the college last year showed that computer purchases dropped from 77 to 64 percent among minority students after the change in the Federal aid rules, while purchases by nonminority students remained about 88 percent.
"It seems like the Federal ruling has created a case for discrimination," said Dean Wilcox, a professor of chemistry and chairman of the committee on the freshman year at Dartmouth.
In the college's survey, 69 percent of the incoming freshmen agreed that the purchase of computers should be mandatory.
"To me the most important reason for implementing this proposal is for academic reasons," said Jessica Levine, a junior history major from Kingston, Mass.
Dartmouth's academic programs rely heavily on an extensive campus computer network. Almost 7,000 computers from residence hall rooms, public computer areas, academic buildings and most administrative buildings are linked in the network. The computers supply access to course material, library catalogues and electronic mail, among other services. Loan Assistance
"I am encouraged that the faculty initiated and voted to accept this requirement," said Lawrence Levine, Dartmouth's director of computing. "This acknowledges the importance of computing and network services to the academic life of all students."
Incoming financial-aid recipients will now be offered access to the system with loan assistance up to the cost of Dartmouth's standard computer package, which costs about $350 a year over four years.
The institutions that have previously made computers mandatory are Drexel University in Philadelphia and Clarkson University in Potsdam, N.Y.