Friday, August 31, 2012

Harvard Says 125 Students May Have Cheated on a Final Exam. NYTimes.

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. — Harvard University revealed Thursday what could be its largest cheating scandal in memory, saying that about 125 students might have worked in groups on a take-home final exam despite being explicitly required to work alone.

The accusations, related to a single undergraduate class in the spring semester, deal with “academic dishonesty, ranging from inappropriate collaboration to outright plagiarism,” the administration said in a note sent to students.

Officials said that nearly half of the more than 250 students in the class were under investigation by the Harvard College Administrative Board and that if they were found to have cheated, they could be suspended for a year. The students have been notified that they are suspected and will be called to give their accounts in investigative hearings.

“This is unprecedented in its scope and magnitude,” said Jay Harris, the dean of undergraduate education.


In Defense of the Living, Breathing Professor. From The WSJ.

Falk, now the president at Williams College, was my boss for a few years, and a pal since. He's smart, funny, and clear-headed. We could use scores just like him in positions of power everywhere in the academy.


by Adam Falk

As classes resume on our nation's campuses, amid anxiety about high tuition, student debt and other concerns, it's worth examining what we value in college education. The question warrants consideration, in particular, following a recent recommendation by distinguished economists, appointed by the National Academy of Sciences, proposing to define the "output" of higher education as a combination of credit hours awarded and degrees earned.

That reduces the work of colleges to counting how many students they push through the system—a bit like defining a movie studio's output as the number of feet of raw footage shot, with no consideration of whether the resulting movies are any good.

Most of us in higher education take the long view about the value of what we do. Sure, students graduate with plenty of facts in their heads. But the transmission of information is merely the starting point, a critical tool through which we engage the higher faculties of the mind.


Amelia from Abilene Sings the CMS Blues, And Prays to the Great Google Gods.

I spent 12 hours last weekend getting one of my three courses this fall into our shiny! new! course management system (CMS). Why? Because everyone else now has to use it, so the students will expect me to. And "professor uses instructional technology appropriately" is one of our student evaluation criteria. So what they expect is what they think is appropriate. Even if it isn't. Anyway, to be fair, here's how the new system breaks down.

Good things:

  • It's open-source, and therefore, less expensive than the proprietary system we used to use.

Bad things:

  • Other faculty use it, so I feel like I have to, instead of using something that would be easier and make more sense, both for me and for the students.
  • It requires no fewer than 7 clicks to do pretty much anything.
  • Most of those clicks require a round trip to the server. This eats huge amounts of time (nothing like spending 10 hours (!) this weekend just uploading files for one of my 3 courses).

I would like to officially request that Google develop a courseware package that annexes to the Google Apps packages that so many universities (including mine!) already use.

For the love of all that is decent and respectable in the world. And for my sanity.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

This Week's Big Thirsty: "Do you have a Band-Aid?"

The undergrads are back, and more clueless than ever.

One of the profs at my school - call her Bonnie - is a white woman who looks younger than she is (mid-30's). She told me that this morning after her large 100-level class, there was a line of students waiting to ask her questions. Most of the questions, of course, could be answered by some variation on RTFS. Bonnie answered them all politely and efficiently, even though she was in a rush to get across campus to teach her next class (and had thus informed the 100-level class).

The last student, however took things to a new low by asking Bonnie for a Band-Aid. Apparently, the student had stubbed a toe and was looking to the nearest mommy-like figure for help. Bonnie, slightly taken aback, responded simply, "No, sorry, I don't have a Band-Aid." And the student actually seemed disgruntled/put out that she doesn't carry a first-aid kit for student medical emergencies! She's a tenure-track university prof, for crying out loud, not a kindergarten teacher.

When Bonnie was telling me this story, she and I agreed that if she were any one of the many older men who teaches in our department, the student would probably *not* have asked for a Band-Aid. On the other hand, it's not entirely outside of the realm of possibility. Some of the students, especially the incoming freshmen, are just that clueless/helpless.

Q: Do you think any of your students would hold you up to ask for a Band-Aid? If so, how would you respond?

The Yeardley Love Sentencing.

from ABC News.

A Virginia judge today sentenced convicted University of Virginia murderer George Huguely V to 23 years in prison for the beating death of his ex-girlfriend Yeardley Love.

He will serve 23 years, plus one concurrent year for the grand larceny conviction, ruled Judge Edward Hogshire of Charlottesville Circuit Court. He also ordered three years of probation after the 23

Huguely, 24, was convicted of second-degree murder on Feb. 22 for the beating death of Love in 2010.

Before the judge's ruling, Huguely briefly addressed the court.

"To the Loves, I'm sorry for your loss. I hope that you are able to find peace. To my family and friends, thank you for your love and support," Huguely said through tears.

Full article.

Heywood From Henderson Stops By With Some Colleague Misery.

Dr. Useless,
stopping by for a chat.
Hey, there, cats and kittens, Heywood from Henderson here with some colleague misery! You know we have 'em. Here's mine.

Next door to my office is the office of Dr. Useless. Dr. Useless is of a type we all know and love - on campus just long enough to teach her classes and only very occasionally meets with students she likes (these are young men, and she shuts the door for these conversations, or young women, with whom she discusses the young men). She gets involved in committee work only if it's easy, quick, and high-profile, and is golden teflon with the admins but dreck with the colleagues.

Dr. Useless has no inside voice, so all conversations with students are held at jet engine levels. I've taken to either sitting in my office with industrial earplugs, or closing the door with a sign outside during my office hours saying "I'm in, just knock."

Dr. Useless frequently is late to her few classes, and sometimes, her students have to come to her office and remind her that they are waiting in their classroom. FOR HER. She giggles when this happens.

Her exams are open-book, open-note, multiple choice, and group work is allowed. She leaves the classroom for these, so that she can go wander up and down the halls, looking for colleagues to annoy with multi-hour (literally) rambling monologues.

This week, though, Dr. Useless hit a high note of wtf with us, her hapless fellow faculty. See, we're required to have CMS pages for all classes, and are required to at least post a syllabus and keep the gradebook updated. This requirement has been in place for a couple of years now. We request blank pages/shells from our Distance Learning department at the end of every semester for the following semester. We get multiple email reminders about these requests and the requirements.

What Children Really Need for ‘Back to School.' From the NYTimes.


Looking over summer homework assignments, last-minute shopping for clothes and supplies, and checking classroom placements — these are among the things parents do in the final weeks before their children start school.

We don’t want to add too many new items to the list. In fact, we’d suggest that if anything, many parents are doing too much. The price is children who aren’t really ready — not for school, and not for life.

While writing our book about the struggles of college students to adapt to independence, we saw clearly that it’s never too early for parents to start being careful about not being too careful with their children. If they don’t, their kids may have a greater chance of turning out like many of today’s college students: sheltered, dependent and unprepared for adult life.

Our national surveys of campus officials and students and our site visits to 31 campuses paint a picture of what one Midwestern regional university official calls “the You Generation,” because the students have been told since infancy: “You are great. You are wonderful.” The result is students who grow up feeling a sense of entitlement and looking to others to make them whole and address their challenges.


"...less than 72 hours into the term." Snowflake Email!

Dear Miserable Adjunct:

(in sotto voice: this snowflake got my gender wrong...even though a picture of my masculine and oh so bald head is clearly visible in the LMS content):

"I was not aware that a textbook was needed for this course. I bought my textbooks for my other classes 2 weeks ago and when I searched for this class nothing even came up. I was just wondering if you could clarify if something changed or why there was no book listed before. Just a little confused."

In the nicest possible way possible, I re-capped the 4 ways this student might have become more "aware" that a textbook was needed:

(1) the email I sent a week ago that included the full info on the textbook, including both flavors of ISBN and some sites that might sell it at a less usurious price than our bookstore.

(2) The syllabus posted in our LMS.

(3) The utterly redundant "Course Materials" section of our LMS

(4) the email I sent less than 12 hours ago with a link to the student store's textbook purchase function.

(5) The "search and purchase" area of the school bookstore's website.

I added a screenshot from (5) to prove I wasn't making that part up in my response.

I wonder if students like this could in fact pour piss out of a boot if the instructions were printed on the bottom.

It's week 1. Can December get here soon enough ?

There...I feel better now.

Just When We Were Used to the Tunnel...

Face in the Crowd

Vignette 1

The class is over. I'm packing up my things, and the students are filing out. As I put my notes and other materials into my bag, I see out of the corner of my eye a hovering, expectant figure in short shorts and a tank top, clasping her bag over her chest.

I give her a smile and say, "Hi, what can I do for you?"

"I'm the one who sent you the email."

Honey, I have 300 students, and I've received almost 30 emails just today. I'm going to need a little more information than that.

Vignette 2

I spent a good 15 minutes in the first class talking about the required text. I held it up for them to see, more than once; I explained why I had chosen it, and why I thought it was a good fit for this class; I told them that it was available in the campus bookstore; I told them that it would appear under our course number on the shelf; and I told them that the author, title, and ISBN were listed on the course website.

Six hours later, I got the following email from a student who was sitting in the second row for the whole time:
Dear Professor,

Hi, I want to know what books should I need to buy for your HAM 100 class. Thanks!

On a positive note, the first week is almost over.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


A minor troll occurrence has led to us deleting about 40 comments over the past few minutes. It was not a very clean job, and we apologize if we zapped any by mistake. We've had a little bit of an email deluge today and a few odd requests from unfamiliar email accounts asking us for "reserved rights" to the page. And no, we don't know what the fuck that means either.

If it looks too good to be true .... important life lessons

I took a new adjunct job far away to finally stop having a long-distance academic relationship with my Other Half. I would like to share with you all the lessons I learned.

1) The number of classes I was promised went from two every quarter after a probationary quarter to "Well, we never had the budget to have you teach anything more than Swamps 1 and Swamps 2. We haven't offered Bogs 1 in over a decade."  
Lesson learned: Get everything in writing.

2) The person who hired me left the institution. I found this out two weeks before I was slated to move across the country. So, all the assurances and things I were told mean absolutely nothing. 
Lesson learned: People leave institutions all the time and the promises they made to you have absolutely no meaning when they are no longer at the institution.

3) New Chair knows very little about technology. When I asked how to use Shiny, Expensive Room Technology, New Chair giggled and said, "Oh, even I don't know how to use it! We have training on that after the Fall term." That's right, I can learn how to use Shiny after my entire first quarter. Thanks New Chair.  
Lesson learned: Find someone else to teach you.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"I just wanted to serve my country" -- and you still can, bucko

Seems there's a kid who wants to be an ossifer, who was caught on video helping tip over a news van during the Penn State riots over the firing of JoPa the coverup artist. He didn't contest his school suspension -- he says "I had my hand on the van, I didn't push" -- because anything he said during a hearing could have been used against him in a criminal court, and as a result he lost his Army ROTC scholarship. "But it's not fair! I didn't DO anything! I don't deserve this! All I ever wanted to do was to serve my country!"

Cry me a river, snowflake. Ever heard of "conduct unbecoming an officer"? If I'd done something like that while I was under Uncle Sam, I'd have lost a stripe or two. Somebody with judgement that poor, I really don't want leading my comrades in combat; I'm with the Army on this one.

Methinks the family tradition of being in the officer corps has something to do with this: he's entitled to a commission, dammit! Why should his actions have consequences?

Besides, "I had my hand on the van, I didn't push" -- really? That's all you got?

Here's a reality check, you immature shithead: you don't even have a misdemeanor conviction, just a school suspension and a loss of your ROTC ride. You can still enlist after paying for your own damn degree. If you keep your nose clean for a year or two, maybe they'll pass you for OCS. But I'd keep quiet to the recruiter about "I had my hand on the van, but I didn't push." S/he might laugh you out of hir office.

Here's the article.

An Early Thirsty on The Savage Nuisances Known as Book Reps. (Sent in by Wombat!)

God I hate them. Maybe it's because I may or may not have Asperger's syndrome, maybe it's because I may or may not have burned out the people-skills part of my brain when I was a raging wino in my 20's, or maybe it's just because textbook reps are assholes, but I hate their fucking "Welcome back!" e-mails.

First of all, I'm an adjunct, you're wasting your breath, I don't have the authority to pick your painfully unoriginal book that costs too much and has uselessly complicated electronic supplements. Secondly, the semester literally started before you sent me this e-mail, who the fuck hasn't picked their books yet? And if you can find them, do you really want to have to provide them with customer service? Believe me, people who are still picking their books will be more annoying to you than you are to me. And lastly, you don't have the authority to "officially" welcome me back. You work for Wiley. I work for the state. So I forget where we left off with the days of the week and the thirsties versus the sippies, but if there can be a Monday Night Sippy:

Has anyone ever chosen a textbook because a textbook rep. sent some transparent inane message to their e-mail?

Q: What's the deal with the god damned textbook reps? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Surly + Meetings = Rage

Dear Division Head, Please note that the start-of-year divisional meeting is not a venue for your personal comedy routine. Since you are only in your second year, you do not know any of your faculty members well enough to engage in jocular, ad hominem humor at their expense. Also, you seem to believe that the phrase “ex-wife” universally conjures bitterness, anger, and cartoonish visions of shrill harpies screeching across the sky. Does it not occur to you that those of us who are ex- and current wives or just, you know, female, might find your dark little asides just a wee bit insulting? We don’t care how funny and clever you think you are. We just want you to run meetings efficiently and keep a modicum of higher-level bullshit out of our corn flakes. We want you to complete an occasional sentence that isn’t so littered with “clever” puns and asides that its meaning is completely obscured. When we raise serious issues, we want thoughtful answers, not irrelevant quips. And for God’s sake, man, when your fucking lame attempts at humor waste so much time that we don't get through our agenda and have to come in the next day (a day of rest, a day of planning, a day of hangover recovery, a day that we have never before had to use for meetings), we want to string you up by your clever, clever tongue and scream at you to SHUT THE FUCK UP FOREVER. Surly out.

Grounding the Helicopter Parent. WashPost.

by Barry Glassner & Morton Schapiro

When the presidents of colleges and universities talk privately at this time of year, a popular topic is how to handle “helicopter parents.” We muse over what to say during new-student orientation sessions to dissuade parents from hovering over their children for the next four years — interfering with the maturation their children need, while driving us a bit crazy in the process.

The usual plan of attack is to lecture parents on the importance of letting go. “Help your children unpack,” parents are told. “Kiss them goodbye, and ask them to text you a couple of times per week.”

Having found that approach both unrealistic and ineffective, the two of us have come to take quite a different tack. We encourage the parents of freshmen to stay closely connected with their children.

The Rest.

Barry Glassner is president of Lewis & 
Clark College in Oregon, where he also teaches 
sociology. Morton Schapiro is president of 
Northwestern University in Illinois, 
where he also teaches economics.

Tips for the First Day of Teaching

Many of us have just started classes, or just about to. To ease the transition into teaching, here is a collection of ten tips for professors on the first day of class.

1. Dress the part.  You have not worn pants for three months, so make sure they still fit. Just a tip: they don't. That's okay. Having a belly hang over your belt is a sign that students should take you seriously. Tell them it means you sit and read erudite philosophy all day, not that you have been watching old sitcoms on Netflix while eating Chunky Monkey in your underwear.

2. On the first day of class, make sure that you have an ice breaker.  I find it best to break the ice into a glass, and then pour the scotch directly over the broken ice. Some people add water, but hell, ice is made of water, yes? I'm not sure: I'm in the Humanities.

3. Start memorizing names. To remember student names, associate each name with a student you had in the past. This will help you realize that you are on a treadmill of repetitious action, accomplishing nothing and going nowhere, facing the same faces, the same names, over and over until you retire or die. You're welcome.

4. Come to class prepared. Print out your class roster and syllabus so you can call people's names in a monotone and whisper the entire syllabus from beginning to end. This will hopefully get some students to drop, which is fewer papers to grade later.

5. Be yourself. If you're a perverted manic-depressive with delusions of grandeur, by all means begin the class by insisting that you are able to fly because you are, in fact, the Prince of Siam, and hence the students should all sleep with you.

6. Do something productive on the first day, to set the tone for the rest of the semester. That's why I let class out early and wash the car on the way home. At least that's done.

7. Remember, students are often scared, so put them at ease. I find it helps to gently stroke the back of their necks while making a chuff-chuff sound very softly, but make sure you let them sniff your hand before you touch them. Or is that puppies? Whatever.

8. Be ready for common concerns from individual students, and have your answers prepared. For example, students often ask questions like: "Do I have to buy the book?" or "Can I have extra test time for my ADD?" or "Is it okay if I come a few minutes late?" I find the best and simplest solution is to have one answer for all questions: suddenly yowling like a wolf while ripping open my shirt.

9. Establish yourself as a professional. Wait until after the drop date before you start slapping students, and try not to come to class drunk until at least the third class period.

10. Decide how you want students to address you. Some people prefer Dr. So-and-so, some prefer first names, and some prefer titles like His Most Holy Divine Majesty of Carnal Love, Professor Sex-Monster the Tremulous.   

Saturday, August 25, 2012


I must confide.

About a week ago, I discovered that one of my favorite authors had been hired on as a proffie here at my school. He wasn't here four years ago. He's here now. I don't know when he started.

It's been twenty years since I first read one of his books. Then I read another. And so on (although, until a few days ago, I hadn't picked up one of his books in years). Let's say one of the books was Old Yeller. Only a heartless bastard could read that book without shedding a tear. Moreover, as it turns out, I had figuratively adopted a similar dog when I was younger and had had to "put her to sleep" myself. There are other reasons I feel connected to this author, too.

So he is a real human being, a good writer, someone with whom I feel connected in various ways, and he even has the office that for a long time was occupied by a friend of mine.

I want to drop by the author's office and introduce myself without seeming to admire him too much. I don't want to come across as a stalker. I don't want to blush and gush and drool.

But I also want to go tell this author, "Hey, do you know that you're occupying the former office of a legend? Do you appreciate that his books were on those shelves, that his son's photo was in a frame right there, that his strange old lamp was there, and that he didn't smell as funny as you do? Are you even capable of knowing how many people adored him? Are you going to have the decency to invite me over for dinner like he did?"

Ten days ago, this author was an abstraction. Probably lived in New York, for all I knew. Now, I realize I've been walking by his building for years. I probably have walked right by him without even knowing it.

I just don't want to meet him and have him turn out to be an asshole in real life. He's not a hamster furologist. And I'm not as big a name as he is. Frankly, I don't know if he's that big himself--and perhaps that's why I hadn't become aware that he was here.

But I admire his work and I so desperately want for him to be a decent person.

I feel like I'm in high school. I don't know what to do. Should I avoid him and simply continue to know him through his books? That way, I could continue to think of him as a really swell human being. I haven't made a new friend in a while; I trust the old ones. I'm so exhausted with the beginning of the semester. I can't even write about this without being confused and sounding inept. I wonder if I should drop by his office. I wonder if I'll be disillusioned. I wonder if he'll fail to hold me in esteem.

I wonder if he's a kind person.

From the HuffPo. Thoughts on The Old Same Sex Roommate Thing.

by Josh A. Goodman

This year's college freshmen start soon, and those living away from home will receive roommate assignments shortly if they haven't already. While first-years may have a roommate of a different race or religion, from a different socioeconomic background, or from another part of the country, their roommate will almost universally be someone of the same sex.

Though separating students by gender and sex sounds benign enough, same-gender only housing policies perpetuate problematic gender and sex norms and cause discomfort for some students. A handful of colleges, such as U.C. Berkeley and Penn, offer gender- and sex-neutral housing to incoming students, and over 50 offer it to upperclass students. Students at other schools would benefit if their colleges followed suit; here's why:

1. Same-gender only housing is heteronormative
2. Gender-neutral housing offers a safe option to students outside traditional gender and sex boxes
3. Gender-neutral housing makes gender less significant

More HuffPo.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Registrar's Office

I may have ranted about this in the past. If I have, I apologize in advance.
On the other hand, a new event happened today, so I feel self-righteous enough to rant again.
Am I the only one who has trouble with the staff weenies in the registrar’s office? Why do we have to do what they say about timing for submitting grades, completing mindless paperwork for changing classes, advising, etc.? WTF do they do except dump their work on us?

We have the staff tail wagging the faculty dog, once again.

I had a snowflake in the office wanting to drop and add in order to get out of doing real work in a chemistry class. (He was, to his credit, honest enough to admit this, even if he didn’t put it in those words). I tried to accommodate him during “late” registration today, and I put him in the class he requested. When he took his paperwork to the registrar’s office, I got a snooty call from a clerk who informed me that I couldn’t put him in the biology class because it required a lab. I asked how I was supposed to know this, and she informed me that it was listed as a four hour course. (Indeed, it was, but so what?)

So I asked her what the student wanted to do, and her response was “Well, since you don’t want to help him, I guess I’ll just do it myself.” My response was, “OK, suit yourself,” and I hung up.

Why do I let these people get to me?

Bless you, all of you, for letting me rant. May your term start off better than mine has so far.

It begins.

The semester is looming. I can hear it breathing right over my shoulder, and I am just not ready. Too many classes, too many students, not enough summer, not enough money. I just can't seem to dredge up any enthusiasm this year. And then today, I received THREE emails from Joe Student*. Apparently he is a student in my course. I know this because, at 11:31 I received this email:

Subject: books
"Hi this is Joe Student and i was just wondering what book(s) i will need for your course. thank you!"

It was sent to me and three other instructors from fatty32008@[emailaccount].com.

Then, at 11:53, I received this email, sent only to me, from fatty32008@[emailaccount].com:

Subject: books
"Hi this is Joe Student and i was just wondering what book(s) i will need for your course. thank you!"

If it bears a strange resemblance to the first one, don't be confused. Because it is EXACTLY the same. Now, if the term still has the same meaning it did when I was in college, perhaps the 32,008 "fatties" made him forget he sent it already. Of course, I could just be really old and no longer hip with the lingo, in which case he is just proud of his girth and happens to be concerned that a single email is not sufficient to get his professors' attention.

THEN, at 1:06 pm, I received this email, from his school email account:

Subject: books
"Hi this is Joe Student and i was just wondering what books i will be needing for your course. if you can please send it to fatty32008@[emailaccount].com. thank you!"

Apparently, Joe Student REALLY wants to know what books he needs. And apparently, I should drop everything, go through my records, find out WHICH of my classes he is in, and email him this information. Because I have nothing better to do. And it's not like the books are, oh, in the bookstore or anything like that.

Now, I appreciate a student who wants to be prepared, but oh, boy. Welcome to the new semester.

And are there REALLY over 32,000 "fatties" on his email server?

*names and numbers have been changed to protect the overzealous

Fox Business. Helping Freshmen Pack.

Tip No. 4 Limit valuables and extras

The experts agree that students are better off leaving family heirlooms and expensive jewelry at home.
“If you have a special piece of jewelry that you do like to wear almost every day, it's ok to bring it, but consider getting it insured before school and keeping it in a non-obvious place in your dorm room,” says Kaplan.

For sentimental items to make a room feel more like home such as family photos, Albright suggests making copies of the originals and stresses students should always keep dorm rooms secure.
“Never leave your dorm room unattended or unlocked--even the smallest most insignificant items can be taken,” she says.


Thursday, August 23, 2012

CrayonEater Breaks CM's Unofficial Policy Of Not Giving a Shit About Politics.

[F]irst there are programs I would eliminate. Obamacare being one of them but also various subsidy programs — the Amtrak subsidy, the PBS subsidy, the subsidy for the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities. 

Some of these things, like those endowment efforts and PBS I very much appreciate and like what they do in many cases, but I just think they have to stand on their own rather than receiving money borrowed from other countries, as our government does on their behalf.

Click for more. 

The Road to Hell Is Paved with Good Intentions

So, the post is dated a few weeks ago, but I just got turned on to it today by a colleague.

Flava from the Crampicle:

At New Online University, Advertisers Will Underwrite Free Degrees

August 2, 2012, 7:57 pm
By Angela Chen

An online degree-granting institution called World Education University, set to open this fall, plans to try an advertiser-driven model to support its free content.

“Any Silicon Valley start-up will tell you that if you can drive enough eyeballs to your Web site, you can find ways to leverage that and monetize it,” said Scott Hines, the university’s chief executive. “We’re very transparent to students. They understand that their education is being underwritten generally through advertisers.”

Advertisers will pay for students to answer survey questions related to their products. For example, students may be asked a question like “Are you a runner?” when they log into the learning-management system. If a student checks “yes,” he or she will thereafter see ads for a certain brand of running shoes on the home page.

Full Post

Because I was bored and my prep for the first few weeks of the term is done, I decided to check out the WEU (pronounced We-You) website. In my perusal, one page stood out. Please, for the love of Perry the Platypus, click here and let fly in the comments.

Each Year, This List from Beloit College Makes My Balls Ache.

The Beloit Mindset List:

This year’s entering college class of 2016 was born into cyberspace and they have therefore measured their output in the fundamental particles of life: bits, bytes, and bauds. They have come to political consciousness during a time of increasing doubts about America’s future, and are entering college bombarded by questions about jobs and the value of a college degree. They have never needed an actual airline “ticket,” a set of bound encyclopedias, or Romper Room. Members of this year’s freshman class, most of them born in 1994, are probably the most tribal generation in history and they despise being separated from contact with friends. They prefer to watch television everywhere except on a television, have seen a woman lead the U.S. State Department for most of their lives, and can carry school books--those that are not on their e-Readers--in backpacks that roll.

The class of 2016 was born the year of the professional baseball strike and the last year for NFL football in Los Angeles. They have spent much of their lives helping their parents understand that you don’t take pictures on “film” and that CDs and DVDs are not “tapes.” Those parents have been able to review the crime statistics for the colleges their children have applied to and then pop an Aleve as needed. In these students’ lifetimes, with MP3 players and iPods, they seldom listen to the car radio. A quarter of the entering students already have suffered some hearing loss. Since they've been born, the United States has measured progress by a 2 percent jump in unemployment and a 16-cent rise in the price of a first class postage stamp.

The List.

Academic Charlotte Anne Sends in A Playlet / Object Lesson on Making Enrollment Work for Everyone!

Snowy: I would like to get into your Hamster Psychology 101 class.

Me: Which one? I teach four sections.

Snowy: The 8:00-8:50 class.

Me: I don’t teach that section.

Snowy: Okay, when do you teach?

Me: I have Hamster Psychology 101 at 9, 10, 11 and 1, but my 9 and 10 classes are full.

Snowy: Okay, so can I sign up for the 11:00?

Me: Yes.

So I sign him up and twenty minutes later he comes back.

Snowy: I have to take Biology at 11:00 so I need to get into the 9:00 or 10:00 class.

Me: Those classes are full

Snowy: But I have to work in the afternoon so I need the 9:00 or 10:00 class.

Me: (WTF? I don’t give a shit about your work schedule.) Those classes are full. I do not over enroll my classes. Furthermore, there are NO SEATS. (Literally, there are not enough seats because in my 9 and 10 o’clock classes which are in the same room, someone stole one of the tables. And what part of NO did you not understand? Oh silly me, I forgot that you are part of the Trophy Generation, no one has ever told you NO. No means it ain't gonna happen, not even with six more stupid, unrelated reasons, and Thank Jebus the class is full because I so don't want you in there.)

What I didn’t tell him is that I don’t over enroll my classes because the administration does not pay me extra to do extra work (though they will gladly reduce my pay if a class is “under-enrolled.") If I over enroll then it is my own stupid fault.

Of course when I was untenured I was “encouraged” to over enroll because as a CC we have a high drop rate, so it all evens out. Except that it doesn’t; I do all the work and the college gets all the money.

The other thing is that I don’t like to enroll students late to class in general. Even though I don’t cover that much on the first day, the college wide data has shown that students who sign up late have a very high drop/fail/withdraw rate. Well, duh. They didn’t have their shit together to register on time, why would they have their shit together for the class. But we are “encouraged” to sign students up late so as "not to impede their academic success" and more likely to get their money.

- Academic Charlotte Anne

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Le French Professeur with an Early Thirsty on Syllabi.

What my syllabus would say if I had a spine.

Common Sense Statement:
This syllabus is not a contract but has certain contract-like qualities. It describes what you are expected to do to succeed in this course, and implies your commitment to do it.

I describes the rules and means I will use to evaluate you, and imply that I will aim to follow them. I can and will make changes to any point in the syllabus if I see it beneficial to you and your education: eg: if the campus were invaded by rabid coyotes during the finals week, I would probably find a way to calculate your grades without you taking your final exam.

I assume that you understand the standards of academic and civic behavior and commit to respect them, yet I do not describe everything you are not supposed to do in this class and which, if you were to do it, would have some effect in your final grade: eg: it does not explicitly forbid you to jump on your chair, remove your clothes and sing 'The Marseillese," nor what would happen if you repeatedly did so. (You cannot, and you would fail the class).

Q: More ideas?

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Charles Negy Letter.

Hello, Cross-Cultural students,

I am writing to express my views on how some of you have conducted yourself in this university course you are taking with me. It is not uncommon for some-to-many American students, who typically, are first-generation college students, to not fully understand, and maybe not even appreciate the purpose of a university. Some students erroneously believe a university is just an extension of high school, where students are spoon-fed “soft” topics and dilemmas to confront, regurgitate the “right” answers on exams (right answers as deemed by the instructor or a textbook), and then move on to the next course.

Not only is this not the purpose of a university (although it may feel like it is in some of your other courses), it clearly is not the purpose of my upper-division course on Cross-Cultural Psychology. The purpose of a university, and my course in particular, is to struggle intellectually with some of life's most difficult topics that may not have one right answer, and try to come to some conclusion about what may be “the better answer” (It typically is not the case that all views are equally valid; some views are more defensible than others). Another purpose of a university, and my course in particular, is to engage in open discussion in order to critically examine beliefs, behaviors, and customs. Finally, another purpose of a university education is to help students who typically are not accustomed to thinking independently or applying a critical analysis to views or beliefs, to start learning how to do so. We are not in class to learn “facts” and simply regurgitate the facts in a mindless way to items on a test. Critical thinking is a skill that develops over time. Independent thinking does not occur overnight. Critical thinkers are open to having their cherished beliefs challenged, and must learn how to “defend” their views based on evidence or logic, rather than simply “pounding their chest” and merely proclaiming that their views are “valid.” One characteristic of the critical, independent thinker is being able to recognize fantasy versus reality; to recognize the difference between personal beliefs which are nothing more than personal beliefs, versus views that are grounded in evidence, or which have no evidence.


Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Rare Sunday Thirsty: What has changed the Most Since You Started Teaching?

Hi. I'm Sarah from Seattle, and at my junior college, I have access to digital copies of all past student newspapers going back to 1974. I teach History, and often dredge up old school news to start conversations in class. I found this clip the other day:

I remember smoking in class. I remember teaching in class when people still smoked. For me, that's the answer. 

But, because it seems there hasn't been a Thirsty around here in ages...

Q: What is the biggest change you've seen in academe since you started college.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Resolutions for a New Academic Year.

This year, I will not get my hopes up.

This year, I will not recall how I behaved as an undergrad and expect all my students to be exactly the same. I will recall that I had idiot classmates, and that their failing performance is what helped me achieve an A.

This year, when they plagiarize, I will not take it personally. That is to say, I won't assume their plagiarism is a dig at me, or an assumption that I wouldn't notice, but a desperate effort from kids who are in over their heads.

This year, I will realize that many of my students are only in class because of dreams cast by their parents. That they need to be drawn in because they are not there of their own accord. That they are amassing debt beyond belief for tiny ideas, and that I should try to make the most out of these unique 4 or 5 years. 

This year, I will remember that there are infinite realities. And that my reality is not the only universe, nor is it the best version of the world, and that my reality must be taken in conjunction with the realities of the department secretary, my Dean, my colleagues, and my snowflake students. When I am incredulous at the lying liarsons, I will float into another universe where everything goes my way.

This year, I will eat breakfast every morning. I will work out four times a week. And I will stop working at 8 pm, so as to give me time to relax before before bed. I will volunteer on Saturdays. I will lend a hand to my neighbors and their screaming baby. I will remember to call my far-flung family. I will pay my taxes on time.

This year, I will incorporate interesting online videos to my lecture and accessible projects to my discussion. I will recast my syllabi. I will offer brand new activities. I will give second chances. I will be the best at everything.

This year, I will mock my ridiculous resolutions for 3 weeks, at which point each resolution will become a call for a bourbon-based cocktail.

Happy New Year!

The Real Syllabus

The Real Syllabus
HAM 100 s09

Professor: Dr. S. Chiltepin
Office Hours: Fictional
Phone Number: Ha! Go ahead! Leave a message!

Description: Some crap I cut and pasted from the catalog. Hasn't been accurate for at least the ten years I've been here. Every two or three years, someone revises it, sends it through governance, and then the revision gets passed and never, ever shows up in the catalog.

Books: The same textbook I've been using for a decade. New edition, though: they updated some pictures and changed all the page numbers, so you have to buy a brand new copy. Then, if you do buy it, you probably won't read it anyway.

Assignments: Two papers, which will cause me considerable pain to read and grade. I will offer to go over drafts, and the three of you who submit drafts will probably get A's, because I will literally revise the paper for you. The rest of you will write it the night before it's due. Or just not write them at all. You certainly will not do the reading or research required. At least one person out of all my classes will plagiarize; statistically speaking, closer to 1 1/2.  Do this early, so I can fail you and not have to grade your tests or other papers.  

Tests: Four of them, easy to grade and a pain in the ass to write. You will not study, then take them and complain about every nearly-right answer. I really just give them because I like using my red pen.

Classroom Activities: I will write some bullshit about discussion, which at the time of writing I heartily believe. But in reality, by week three I will just lecture nonstop because it will become clear that you have not read the assignment, or if you have read it you are stuck at an 8th grade reading level.

  • Do I really have to list that you shouldn't cut your toenails in class? Apparently, I really do.
  • The next person who texts in class will have their i-Phone kicked up their nose.
  • Please wear clothing, even if you regard yourself as "hot." I should not see any private hairy bits at all. I do not get paid enough for that.
  • I believe that your electronic music and video devices will steal my soul, so in honor of my primitive religion please don't bring them to class.
  • Don't sleep openly in class. It makes me jealous.
  • Pajamas are not clothes.
  • If you snap your fingers at me when I don't call on you, I will break off your thumbs and make you eat them.  
  • Other than thumbs, there will be no food or drink in class because you disgusting pigs can't apparently clean up after yourselves.
  • The only reason I ask for your theological and political opinions is to systematically attack them; that's called education, and if you don't like it, get out.
I have to put this in because apparently the whole fucking world has gone ape-shit and invaded the ivory tower. In the event of an emergency, we will be notified by honking loud sirens they just installed and test rather more frequently than is strictly necessary, as well as text messages, phone calls, and the sounds of screaming and wailing in the halls. We are instructed to lock the doors and stay away from windows. You will note that the door has no lock, and the entire west wall of the classroom is a window. In the event of a real emergency, I will probably freak out and maybe cry because I'm a professor not a goddamned Navy Seal.

Closing Words:
I've given up my entire life to this topic because I think it is the most fascinating thing in the world, and so full of sublime beauty that I can easily spend hours researching and writing on it and not even notice that time has passed. I also like young people for their passion, creativity, and ingenuity. So when you sit there, dull and bored and boring, and you roll your eyes at this thing that I love . . . It tends to make me a grumpy professor.   And yet, a few of you will get it.  You won't do as I've done and become professors of this subject (God forbid!) but you will get that learning is enjoyable and interesting and worth doing.  I get maybe three to five of you a year, and you few, you happy few, make up for all the rest.  

Friday, August 17, 2012

"Yes, I'm sure this will work."


Dear college students across the U.S.,

Like millions of my colleagues who teach at universities and colleges, I'm working hard this week to put an updated zing into the syllabus for each of my fall classes. Describing the course content and readings for Biological Anthropology and Primate Behavior is the fun, mind-engaging part.

By contrast, the "Policies" (do's and don'ts) section of each syllabus is less than fascinating to compose, but it contains one particularly key passage: Do resist the urge to send email, texts or tweets, check Facebook, read the news, or otherwise engage online via your computer or phone during class!


Faculty Codes of Conduct

We had a nice discussion of repressive dress codes the other day. I'm curious (for a reason I can't really go into here) about faculty codes of conduct. I'm sure you have one, administrations love to set up elaborate ones with lots of process and meetings and decisions and stuff.

I've got some questions for you, gentle readers:

1. What things are covered in your code of conduct? Sexual harassment, plagiarism, forced attendance at football games?

2. Who decides at your school what happens when a violation occurs? The president, a committee, the janitorial board?

3. Does anyone ever get busted? Okay, other than Penn State. You guys are exempt from answering this question, there's been enough coverage of this.

4. Do you do formal ceremonies for new faculty, or just throw the faculty handbook at them?

Thanks ever so much!
Suzy from Square State.

Patty from Pueblo on Guns on Campus.

I do my best to live and let live, I really do. I put up with neighbors who disagree with my worldview, with colleagues who disagree with my scholarship, and students who disagree with my methods.

I hold no ill will for any of them. I battle charitably with a brother-in-law about recycling and politics.

But the new policy setting aside dorms at 2 Colorado campuses for students who have conceal and carry gun permits is not something I can live with.

Have we, as a society, gone right off the fucking deep end?


CU to segregate dorms for students with concealed carry permits
By Ryan Parker

The University of Colorado Boulder and University of Colorado at Colorado Springs are amending their student housing contracts, segregating students who possess a valid concealed weapons carry permit.

The university said Thursday that both campuses will establish a residential area for students over the age of 21 with a permit. In all other dormitories, guns will be banned, the new policy states.

"The main dorms on the main campus will not allow any concealed carry weapons," CU Boulder spokesman Bronson Hilliard said.

The rest.

St. Petersburg (Fl.) Evening Standard. January 1920.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

How the American University was Killed

There's an interesting post up at The Homeless Adjunct, entitled "How the American University was Killed, in Five Easy Steps."   I'm not sure all of the universities are quite dead yet, and I can’t vouch for the accuracy of the numbers, but there are some points that hit home for me: 

As an example:  the average yearly starting salary of a university professor at Temple University in 1975 was just under $10,000 a year, with full benefits – health, retirement, and educational benefits (their family’s[*] could attend college for free.) And guess what? Average pay for Temple’s faculty is STILL about the same — because adjuncts now make up the majority of faculty, and earn between $8,000 to $14,000 a year (depending on how many courses they are assigned each semester – there is NO guarantee of continued employment) — but unlike the full-time professors of 1975, these adjunct jobs come with NO benefits, no health care, no retirement, no educational benefits, no offices. How many other professions report salaries that have remained at 1975 levels
And this: 
If you are old enough to remember when medicine was forever changed by the appearance of the ‘HMO’ model of managed medicine, you will have an idea of what has happened to academia. If you are not old enough – let me tell you that Once Upon a Time, doctors ran hospitals, doctors made decisions on what treatment their patients needed. In the 1970s, during the infamous Nixon Administration, HMOs were an idea sold to the American public, said to help reign in medical costs.   But once Nixon secured passage of the HMO Act in 1973, the organizations went quickly from operating on a non-profit organization model, focused on high quality health care for controlled costs, to being for-profit organizations. . . .Well, during this same time, there was a similar kind of development — something akin to the HMO — let’s call it an “EMO”, Educational Management Organization, began to take hold in American academia. From the 1970s until today, as the number of full-time faculty jobs continued to shrink, the number of full-time administrative jobs began to explode. As faculty was deprofessionalized and casualized, reduced to teaching as migrant contract workers, administrative jobs now offered good, solid salaries, benefits, offices, prestige and power. . . .They  have not saved money by hiring adjuncts — they have reduced faculty salaries, security and power. The money wasn’t saved, because it was simply re-allocated to administrative salaries, coach salaries and outrageous university president salaries. There has been a redistribution of funds away from those who actually teach, the scholars – and therefore away from the students’ education itself — and into these administrative and executive salaries, sports costs — and the expanded use of “consultants”, PR and marketing firms, law firms.
And while I don’t see this as a fait accompli at my university yet, I do see signs that we might be headed in this direction, at least for core classes (and, of course, without strong core classes, students won’t be ready for challenging upper-level ones):

Martin Bell Update.


Poor Quality
Rater Interest5
Who would have known the square root of 2 is rational. Thanks to prof. bell for overturning 2000 years of math.

Good Quality
Rater Interest5
The section on STDs was a bit awkward, but Dr Bell teaches the BEST class on Human Sexuality. Take it!

Good Quality
Rater Interest3
archaeology is cool but why do we need to know alot of details. bell needs to kick rocks really strict about duedates and being on time. take carberry instead heard hes way easier and misses class alot .

Good Quality
Rater Interest4
Professor Bell's personal fitness class taught me to respect myself and others' self. And I love the joke about the tractor!

Tread lightly. Many have lovingly rated Bell sporadically over the years.
Let us not press our luck.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Breaking News to The Entire CM Population: Stay the Fuck Away From High Street.


U.S. Rep. Paul Ryan (R., Wis.) Wednesday makes his Ohio debut as the Republican vice presidential candidate in Oxford where he got his college bachelor’s degree in 1992.

Mr. Ryan, who double-majored in economics and political science, kicks off the first of two days of campaigning in Ohio in an open-air rally behind Miami University’s engineering building.


The university said that Mr. Ryan continues Miami’s legacy of national public service, which includes Benjamin Harrison, Miami class of 1852, who was a U.S. president from 1889-1893, and Whitelaw Reid, who was Harrison’s running mate in his re-election bid, graduated from Miami in 1856.

Good News from HuffPo! "It’s Worth Getting a College Degree But Don’t Expect the World, Okay?"

by Hamilton Nolan

It's well known by now that you can spend outrageous sums to get a college degree only to find yourself jobless, through no real fault of your own. But it's also well known that college degrees are a decent bet, statistically speaking. I guess what the latest report is saying is: We ain't promising you the moon, okay?

Yes, college degrees are worth it, but they're no guarantee you won't wind up screwed. They just lessen your chances of winding up totally screwed. A new study out of Georgetown University is the latest to reconfirm this. Yes, you're mired in student debt and underemployed; but look on the bright side.

The Misery.

The Unreadable Diagram: