Wednesday, July 31, 2013

There but for the Grace of God... A rumination on rants

Since we've been revisiting old posts recently, I\ve been mulling over my fascination with the 'Deranged Sorority Rant' from earlier this year.  When I first heard of this, I thought maybe it was some sort of new crossover band - think Insane Clown Posse covers Bananarama (or vice versa).  But (and I'm sure some of you saw this when it first appeared), a Sorority chapter president sent a creatively-profanity-laced email to her charges over their alleged lack of sorority spirit.  The best take is of course the Michael Shannon reading of said email, which I must warn you is so not safe for work as to be in a whole new category.

Cold, hard economics or humanist-Romantic personal development? You decide. From the Magical Realist.

I'm friends with many English students and professors. As happens every few months, articles about the "soft" value of the English major/graduate work (as opposed to the "hard" value of the sciences ... insert your own sexual joke here) get passed around in a kind of self-congratulatory circlejerk. Most of these are accompanied by someone's very original thoughts about how "critical thinking skills" are taught in the humanities (and not anywhere else, natch) and how wonderful and important their job is. As someone who rolls their eyes at the language of self-actualization and fulfillment, it's a special kind of "colleague misery."

The latest culprit is Paige Ambroziak's "No One Promised Us a Job" in the Chronicle. The author analogizes getting a tenure-track university position with playing sports at a professional level:
"Getting drafted by an NHL team, of course, doesn’t promise secure and stable employment with that team. Playing a sport, becoming an expert, living and breathing it, doesn’t guarantee you a professional position playing that sport."
So how does that relate to academe? No field guarantees job placement. Highly skilled and talented athletes, as well as committed and exceptional students, may have better chances than mediocre ones, but they still don’t get guarantees. You may argue that athletes don’t spend money on degrees in their sport and, therefore, aren’t in debt when their training is finished. That simply isn’t true. Organized sports cost an exorbitant amount every year. Sure, for most athletes the expense is over time, but it’s a financial burden nonetheless—one that is rarely, if ever, reimbursed."
What say you, denizens of CM? Fair analogy or not?

To me, I think the analogy works for the most part, but not to justify the current market conditions for wannabe proffies. It just tells me that the sports industry is shitty too.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Letters Never Sent, The Revenge

Dear Dumbass Dinah:

You insist you are an "educated individual," but I checked your transcript and your "education," such as it is, entirely consists of transfer credits from a community college subsequently closed because the students were, and I'm quoting the accrediting board here, "too dim to find their way out of the campus parking lot." Like, seriously stupid.  How stupid?  “They put a blanket over the SGA president's head and he twisted himself into a ball and suffocated” kind of stupid.  “The math teacher used a laser pointer and everyone in the class threw themselves at the screen and died of head trauma” kind of stupid.  Seriously, seriously stupid.   It took you several years but now you have landed here, in the always dubious "education" major.

Nickels and Dimes

Hi, it's been awhile, I know.  Things have been WAY too miserable though, and I need to start getting this shit off my chest.  I'll start with something minor.  Our department hired a hamsterology assistant (HA), to help run our hamster labs.  The Dean's office is giving us crap now, trying to reduce our HA's salary because "the HA won't work during breaks."  All of this while the Dean's office takes off early during the summer.  Wonder what would happen if I suggested THEY have salary reductions for the summer?

Well, it's sunny out, and not too hot.  So I think I need to have one of these:

If It's Tuesday, I Must Be Baffled. No, I Must, Because I'm a Regular.

Oh fuck me. Anyway, summer has dwindled. I'm within 4 weeks or so of having to be back on campus. I sometimes walk in that office and see a fine layer of dust on things. I like it like that. I imagine that's how it will be after I die. They'll leave the office as it is, put Plexiglas over the door and bring new faculty by: "That's where Hiram kicked it. We still don't have his Spring grades. Doesn't it smell like whiskey and iced tea?"

I'm baffled at how quickly the summer goes. It springs, flies, shoots past. It starts with such promise, such languor.

The speed of summer cannot be calculated. It's Einstein-ian. It collapses, folds, triples in mass, whatever.

I literally got an email from a departmental administrator asking for a rough draft of my syllabus for Fall.

A rough draft? Do you think I'm working on several drafts of that thing? I'm changing the classroom number, folks. I'm changing the dates. I'm doing what I did last semester. You can't stop me. You can't make me grow or learn. Oh, I'll do different patter in class, but I'll be goddamned if I'm going to be NEW and fresh.

If you want new and fresh, hire someone else. Oh, wait, you can't. You're stuck with me. And me with you.

Lord save us all.

Orville from Oklahoma, Fresh from an Orgy (Reading), Says Hello.

What a place!

My hat is off to you all. I found you via Twitter 2 days ago, and I can barely believe you've been here all this time.

I've read hundreds of posts (in a sort of reading orgy) in the past 2 days and am amazed at your humor and insight. A colleague told me it was an insular place, too many inside jokes, too much animus. But I disagree. I feel totally acculturated, and I only wish I'd found you sooner. I only wish you'd existed 10 years ago when I was first coming to the profession.

The standard "bits" on here are fantastic, the whole series of myths and heroes and heroines, and the occasional villain.

I know some of you better than I know some of my own colleagues! Bravo for sharing the misery so deliciously.

There are some pieces on here that every faculty member should read, and many which we should share with our snowflakes.

I greet you (wildly and happily) from the blue skies of Oklahoma. I'm a tenure profie in Economics, and I'm happy and miserable all at the same time. I feel as if I'm home!

First Outraged Oscar ... now Unqualified Ursula

Bella recently brought us details of her deck and the story of Outraged Oscar. While I have certainly encountered my share of Oscars, Unqualified Ursula is a new (and growing) demographic.

From my recent experience being force-fed the recipe for the compliment sandwich, I was predictably panicked when I started getting Ursula's work. Not so many spelling errors, but deep, structural flaws in sentences and paragraphs. Big words in places they didn't belong. Homonyms flying this way and that. You could feel the effort being expended, but the outcome was incomprehensible.

I tried to be encouraging. Early grades were heavy on "A for effort, but D for execution" manipulation of the rubric. Still, Ursula pressed on and the repetition of many of the easily correctable errors began the queasy feeling in my gullet. At one point, in response to an EMail where I expressed concern and offered assistance, Ursula attempted to argue that this was a matter of cultural dissimilarity and I shouldn't be penalizing her because she knew she understood the material even if she shouldn't actually convey that understanding in an assignment.

Dr. Amelia on the New Folks.

We did a round of hiring here, and have some new folks coming on board. If their experience is anything like mine, or that of anyone else I have known throughout my career, it will be, um, disappointing. So here is some advice for various people in the "welcoming" department:

New people?
Administrative staff: It's actually really important to people who will be teaching that they have access to an office and to needed electronic resources as soon as possible before they arrive. Work backwards. If it will require re-painting or moving a phone or Internet line to get an office ready, put in a work order early. For pete's sake, go ahead and order keys (a friend actually had to borrow the Dean's master key to get into her own office THE WEEK BEFORE CLASSES STARTED before moving in books). Alert HR to process contracts and IT to process access. Then e-mail the newbie to tell them when all of these things will be done. It's summer. It's quiet. Don't wait.

Bozo the Clown, Jimmy the Greek, Conan the Destroyer, Oscar the Grouch, and Fuck the Duck

I took this photo a few hours ago.  The other four ducks are actually nicknamed Larry, Curly, Moe, and Shemp.  Fuck the Duck was having a good time.  He's the one on the far right... obviously.

Monday, July 29, 2013

The Miseries of Summer from Lucy from Leadville.

I'm teaching a summer section of online hamster writing for freshman. It has its tolerable moments, and overall the extra money is worth the occasional hassles, but it also has its fair share of minor miseries. And now, a compilation:

Overtime Othello
I received this email a full three weeks before the class started, right after the course became "available" online but before I'd posted the final syllabus: "Im in your online comp class this summer and I cant seem to open the syllabus. Also id like to know if the first discussion needs to be posted by last friday 24 or tomorrow friday the 31st. Im also working this summer so if you could send me that syllabus i will be able to more accurately allocate my time in the workplace." I let him know that the course hadn't begun yet, so there were no deadlines for him to worry about.

The Purge.

Don't be alarmed, but we're deleting inactive accounts. Folks who have been fairly active this year will be left in the system, but honestly, most of the registered correspondents have not posted more than 1-2 times in the calendar year. Their needs are easily met by continuing our policy of posting material that comes in through email.

If we purge you by accident, please just let us know you'd like to have active correspondent rights and we'll send you a new invite. (As one reader noted to us this morning, it also allows you to update your email address since some folks are still using addresses from ages ago.)

We're not cleaning house! We're just cleaning up. We would love nothing more than to have a full complement of 100 correspondents.

Everyone who has been commenting can still do that the same way, whether you're a correspondent or not.

Still, it's not an exact science. It's just me and and the delete key. So if I fuck up, just let me know.

Leslie K

PS: I've already made colossal errors. People I did not intend to purge got purged anyway. If it's any consolation - and I know it's not - I burned by corn while I was trying to fix what I had done.

Suggestion from "The Others"

There have always been "the others," a large group of folks who are in contact quite regularly with the mods. Cal tells us this was fairly common back in RYS days. We encourage folks to have a bit more faith that they can remain anonymous on here, but we respect your decisions not to fly a flag if you're not comfortable. 

Many correspondents are completely unknown to us. They use dedicated Gmail accounts to submit material and correspond. We only know whose folks real identities are if they log in to our page with their own email address, or if they tell us. We love knowing all of you, and have a terrific record of keeping things on the downlow!

A recent post has energized some of our readers, and we've collected a sampling of their notes below:

    Not entirely silent.
  • Leslie, don't forget us "others!" Just because we don't comment or post doesn't mean we don't read and that we don't have a stake in things. It does feel as if there are only 4 people (maybe a dozen) active on the site, but you don't get 6 million hits in 3 years with just those people! I loved the "regulars" features on the old site. Get some folks to sign up for 1 month stints where they post once a week. Hiram did this splendidly this year already. [Fluids, Inc.]
  • I would bet that my wife and I have the only two RTFS-College Misery bumper stickers at Xxxxxxx College. We both love the page and want it to continue pretty much as is. More posts, of course, more voices, of course, if possible. [Tweedle-Dick and Tweedle-Darlene]
  • I like it when the page acts as a news aggregator, at least once a week? [Janice P.]
  • Is there a way to vote for post of the week in a more formal way? [Trey from Tucson]
  • I'm typing this in Yaro please don't let the slow summer kill the page. I like the vidshizzles, just so I don't have to search them myself. I think more polls would be cool, as long as you used a program that didn't collect or save IP addresses or identifying information on the participants. [The Foodie]
  • Can't you just report on Katie once a week? I mean, she says she's not Katie, so who are you reporting on? Nobody, right? No copyright infringement. Did you see she broke up with the love of her life, the guy she calls "Dude" and who lived in another city? My heart broke, a little bit, and then I threw up in my mouth. [Yazoo Pittz]
  • I love it all the way it is. Summer is quiet. Got it. It'll rev up in the fall. Are there any incentives for people to post more? What about a prize - from your ad coffers - for the most popular post of the month? [Gallumph in Galveston]
  • Cut the ads! Didn't someone already pay the domain fees this year? Put me down for 2014 if you need be and I'll do a PayPal. The ads make us look too corporate. Also, why can't you report on where people go when they leave, Angry Archie or Darla? And how can we get Walter to be a regular again? Are his meds working this month? [Jeremiah Trotter & the Pasture Boys]
  • I will write some for the page. I have not in the past because of the fear of being outed. This is my tenure year, though, and I'm cutting loose of all of the shackles soon! [Wilhemina from, Well, I can't tell you quite yet.]

Top Ten

Damn, it's been a long time since I did one of these (no, I'm not talking about undergrads this time).  It's a top ten list!  I was inspired by R and/or G's comment here.  Blame him.

Top Ten Ways that College Misery Could Jump the Shark

10.  We all awaken, realizing that it was only a bad dream!

9.  In a near-seamless transition, moderators replace Hiram with Matt Damon.

8.  Strel joins the Marines.

7. College Misery is rebranded as “CM 84408”.  Blog moderators producers force all regular correspondents to take on the personae of young, hip Mormon college students.

6.  CM gives up on the complaints of old professors and enlists the professors’ children to describe their own minor inconveniences and annoyances in the new CM: The Next Generation.

5.  Beaker Ben is pregnant.  With twins.

4.  Moderators recruit young women to post their sexual fantasies involving Beaker Ben.  (OK, maybe we could try this once.)

3.  With ad revenue sagging, CM bloggers embark on a summer of criticizing the dining hall food at Historically Black Colleges and Universities with funding from Paula Deen.

2.  For one semester, CM doesn’t feature any posts from colleges campuses.  Instead, everybody takes a sabbatical in Hawaii.  (Never mind the sex fantasies, let’s try this.  I’ve never been to Hawaii.)

1.  College Misery in 3D, although it’s still just a text-based blog.

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Okay, if there's anything I know for sure about CollegeMisery readers: they hate our Twitter account.

For a brief period of time the TweetieDomo actually wrote funny remarks back to students who had inane and insane things to say about their professors. These were often signed, "Your Professor." Some of the "kids" actually got a kick out of a proffie calling them on their shit.

When the Domo asked me to feature some of the funnier exchanges on the blog, we got a shitpile of mail saying mostly: "I'm reluctant to okay College Misery tweeting rude things to idiotic students in my name." I'm not making it up.

So we killed that. The Domo now only RETWEETS funny things college students say about college, and occasionally links to one of our blog posts that seems to have a little traction.

But, in today's mail a few folks suggested we bulk the Twit up a bit. Thank you for the comments.

If you want to find us on Twitter, you won't believe it, but our Twitter "handle," name, user name, nickname, whatever, is super hard to divine:

See you there.


PS: Oh, and in news of another tech-thingie I don't understand, we offered our blog up through Feedburner about 12 hours ago, so folks could get their CM info through a tube into their medulla. In the past 12 hours we've had 815 subscribers sign up. We have no idea what that means.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Is There Anything We Could Be Doing to Make the CM Experience Better?

I, like others who have worked on the page, would like the page to have more reach, be more fun, and be more helpful, all of those things.

What could we be doing? This summer has seen the worst hit numbers since the page's inception, oftentimes under 20,000 a week. We're honestly looking for any and all ideas.

Thank you,

College: Is it Worth It? Maybe.

Diploma resting on cashA counterpoint to 8 college degrees with a poor return on investment. According to Dawn Dugan at, the following degrees have a great return on investment:

  • Math
  • Information Technology
  • Economics
  • Human Resources (this is a degree?)
  • Biology
  • Engineering
  • Marketing
and (surprise!) 
  • English

College: Is it Worth It?

In case we missed this last November.
"The Scream" painting with caps and gowns
What's more expensive than going to college? Until recently, the answer was easy: not going to college. Numerous studies over the years have shown that individuals with college degrees significantly out-earn those with high school degrees by $1 million or more over the course of a lifetime.

But as the cost of education increases faster than inflation and the economy remains relatively weak, people are beginning to question how they spend their education dollars. As student loans hit the $1 trillion mark and more and more graduates are faced with years of paying staggering monthly payments, many are starting to ask themselves, "Is it worth it?"

An Old but Good Overview of "Failure" and the PhD

This is making the rounds on various websites today. It's from 2005, but maybe it is gaining traction because it remains so pertinent -- perhaps even more so since the recession and slow recovery among state-funded universities.

Some Flava:

"Failure, says academic culture, is anything other than achieving the ultimate goal of a tenure-track professorship. More specifically, the epitome of success is a tenure-track job at a major research university. You're still successful, albeit to a lesser degree, if that job is at a liberal-arts college, and even less so if it's at a community college. But a nonacademic career, well, that's just unacceptable."

The article goes on to cite a study out of Berkeley about what grad students' and recent PhDs expectations should be by following them for 10 years and reporting on their professional status 10 years later. The study found 58% of English PhDs found tenure track or tenure within 10 years. And this was for people who graduated in the early '90s. (I shudder to think what the numbers are as so many institutions have begun to embrace adjuncting and online learning without possibility of tenure)

Friday, July 26, 2013

Allegheny College profs find new connections with roller derby.

By Lisa Byers

Stephanie Martin has lived in a few different places during her life — from Iowa to Minnesota to Colorado to Pennsylvania. But the Allegheny College associate professor of economics admits when moving to Meadville in 2005, she had difficulty adjusting.

Martin has taken the initiative herself to get involved in the community and is now involved with one of Meadville’s more unique nonprofit organizations: Roller derby.

Martin is one of two Allegheny College professors on the Rink Assassins Dolls of Doom derby team, which practices at Canadohta Lake and in Meadville at the Meadville Area Recreation Complex and is in its first year of competition.

More from the Meadville Tribune.

Dr. Amelia With a Little Collegial Smackdown.


I realize that you missed our last two curriculum development meetings for this new program. And I even acknowledge that you bring a valuable perspective we may be missing. We even missed you. Seriously.

But does your attempt to introduce your point of view (which, again, I do actually value) have to include the introductory 5-minute soliloquy on the lameness of the lesson plan I contributed? Because, you see, you ranted about how everything in hamster fur weaving focuses on the aesthetics of the fur, not the technical aspects.

Because, you see, my lesson plan DOES deal with the technical aspects. Right there, in part two. See? With the heading Technical Aspects of This Fur.

I guess it's easier to criticize other people's work than it is to actually read it.

Dr. Amelia

Thursday, July 25, 2013

We're Not Alone (Sadly)

Looks like we're not the only "industry" whose "customers" confuse the feeling of liking someone with being informed and educated by them. Some flava:

"When Doctors Tell Patients What They Don't Want to Hear"
Second opinion? Okay, you're ugly, too.
Though the scene marks a bad day for Mindy, I think it also heralds what could turn out to be a bad era for American medicine. Beyond the comedic exaggerations lies an age-old tension: Will our patients still like us if we tell them things they don’t want to hear? The challenge of communicating unpleasant, possibly profoundly upsetting information to patients is timeless. What has changed, however, is that physicians are now being judged, and compensated, based upon their ability to do it....

Consider, for example, a recent study among patients with chronic kidney disease: the more knowledge patients had about their illness, the less satisfied they were with their doctors’ communication. Another study’s title asks, “How does feeling informed relate to being informed?” The answer: it doesn’t. The investigators surveyed over twenty-five hundred patients about decisions they had made in the previous two years, and found no over-all relationship between how informed patients felt and what they actually knew. ...
But do higher scores on a satisfaction survey translate into better health? So far, the answer seems to be no. A recent study examined patient satisfaction among more than fifty thousand patients over a seven-year period, and two findings were notable. The first was that the most satisfied patients incurred the highest costs. The second was that the most satisfied patients had the highest rates of mortality. While with studies like this one it is always critical to remember that correlation does not equal causation, the data should give us pause. Good medicine, it seems, does not always feel good.

If They Made You College Prezzie for the Day...

Q: If you had 24 hours as your college's president, what would you do?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Coming soon to a college perhaps near you (A CM playlet)

Scene: lobby of 3-year old suites hotel serving as home base during discouraging visit to ailing parents. Your correspondent is using the guest computer to check in for an early flight.

A large, red-faced man (LRFM) is demanding a room switch due to broken air conditioning.  The night clerk apologizes that there are no other rooms available. LRFM announces that he is a special case because his son needs to sleep after traveling 6 hours; the son is visiting schools tomorrow.

Your correspondent pauses at the keyboard.

LRFM is incredulous that there are no vacancies in this (mutter) place on a Wednesday night. Actually, there are five, but all are reserved, and none match the type of suite he reserved.

LRFM:  And you're just going to let the rooms go empty? How long are you going to hold them?

A couple enter the lobby and check in. Now there are four rooms.

LRFM demands the clerk's business card. She doesn't have one; she just works part time. Would he like to speak to the manager? Yes, but she's just gone home and it will be a few minutes before they can reach her. He demands her cell phone number. Desk clerk calmly refuses and offers to get him a reservation at another hotel. He goes ballistic and demands that she give the manager his cell phone number. Manager is reached, speaks to man over hotel phone, and refuses to call him on his cell.

LRFM walks towards your correspondent, muttering about "this shithole hotel" as if he expects agreement.

PG: I've been staying here a few times a year since they opened. It's a nice place, and I'm always grateful when my plane gets in late and they honor my reservation.

LRFM:   Well, I spend almost half a billion dollars a year at Marriotts.

PG: Good for you. Does that give you the right to be an asshole?

CAPTAIN SUBTEXT:  If you're so rich, what are you doing at  a Marriott?

LRFM:  You lead a sad, sad life.

PG:  No, I lead a very happy life.

CAPTAIN SUBTEXT: Particularly right now.

LRFM:  You don't even know what's going on. I happen to not like a hot room. Does that make me an asshole?

PG:  No, that's not the reason. That poor woman at the counter deserves better treatment.

LRFM: The manager won't even take my cell phone number and call me back.

PG:   I don't call students on my cell because then they can get my number through caller ID.

LRFM:   What are you trying to hide?

PG:  My number, from stalkers.  

CAPTAIN SUBTEXT: And from asshole parents like you.

LRFM:   You really are a sad, sad person. Where do you even teach? I feel sorry for your students.  Son, if you encounter people like this woman, just ignore them.

SON OF LRFM: Where do you even teach? I feel sorry for your students. What school is that? I wouldn't take that from a teacher.

PG:  Good night.


Tomorrow I fly across the continent to my home state and leave the father and son to select a school where I don't teach. Did I mention I'm a happy, happy Proffie G?  Is that wrong?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Our Students' Ever-Changing Work Schedules

I hate it as much as the next proffie when my students miss class because they "have to go in to work."  But this story confirms what I've been sensing for some time: I'm increasingly getting this kind of excuse/explanation even from good, responsible students, because it's no longer possible in many jobs to arrange your work schedule more than a week or two, let alone a semester, in advance.

Even if managers (some of whom are my more responsible students, who have worked their way up after 4-6 years in the business) are sympathetic to the difficulties of juggling classes and work, there's very strong pressure from corporate headquarters to hire and retain only workers who are more or less willing to be on call, and to schedule them only when and if they're absolutely sure to be fully occupied.

Add colleges' similar practice of opening up new sections only when and if there are enough students on the wait lists of other sections (not necessarily scheduled at the same time) available to fill them, and I don't blame students for feeling like they're in the middle of a tug of war.

On a related note, several friends' college-age kids have had no luck this summer finding local jobs, because employers want workers who are available year-'round (and, undoubtedly, on-call as well).

Well, at least if they go on to earn Ph.D.s, the adjunct market will feel familiar.

"Hey, I like this page, but I don't have enough to say regularly. What do I do if I want to just send in my own misery?"

Six Years Ago Today on RYS. Not Everyone Was on Board From the Beginning.

Monday, July 23, 2007

We Were Just Starting to Enjoy the Summer

I dare you to publish this on your inconsequential blog!

Ten Reasons To Quit Your Jobs 
(and don't replace my title with your usual glib and unfunny 'attempts' at humor.
  1. Because you think your own 'research' is more important than students. (PS: nobody reads academic books except other academics.)
  2. Because students need guidance not disciplinary punishments and 'rules'.
  3. Because you only work 8 months of the year while many of your students and the rest of the 'real' world work 12 or more.
  4. Because an 'academic' degree means less and less in this world. (Check out to see why.)
  5. Because on this site you all complain so much about hating it. Why wouldn't you choose to be 'happy'?
  6. Because too many of you have taught for too long and are 'burnt out' and have stopped bringing new material into the classroom anyway.
  7. Because too many of you rely on Powerpoint and old notes.
  8. Because I can 'earn' my education through books and the internet without having to pay a dime of your overpriced tuition.
  9. Because I care more about my education than you 'ever' did.
  10. Because you aren't good enough.
I have read most of your entries and am disgusted. I think it's repulsive that an 'authority' figure would stoop to such a low height to make fun of students like you do. I know you'll just delete this, but I think you should have an alternative position on your blog to show what a farce you are.

Monday, July 22, 2013

To Outraged Oscar - YOU SUCK!

I cannot help but write a note here to Outraged Oscar, a note which I cannot actually send:

Oscar,  you were outraged at the unfairness of receiving a C+ in my summer online class.

You are not a C+ kind of guy.  This was unfair, biased, a "sucker punch," humiliating, subjective, and unprofessional on my part.  You know it was biased and subjective and unfair, because you have been a student for a very long time (decades, as your e-mail to my Dean and to the President proclaimed), and also because your wife is a college graduate, and she thinks so too.  She has a bachelor's degree from Coastal College of Georgia. 

In the course of your many e-mails, none to me (but I do, actually, appreciate that you copied me on them), you were very insulting in your descriptions of me.  You detailed your opinion of my teaching ability, my credentials, my performance.  You proclaimed that you WOULD NOT SPEAK OR COMMUNICATE with me at all about your grade, even though this is college policy in a grade dispute, as I was such an extreme incompetent.  Instead, you wrote to the Dean and the President.  I answered your e-mails nonetheless.  I had written very brief comments on all your work---that is true.  You never asked me, not once, for any additional feedback, during the course of the class.  That is also true. 

If This is Boston, I'm Tingling.

I am thoroughly feted,
and I must confess
that I wish I'd gotten more sleep.

A college of fresh faced folks,
and an endowment to choke
most folks dead.

Last night a party,
wine, fine rum,
cheeses, finger foods, cake.

And then some young 'uns
took me out to a club,
where they take, what they call, seminars.

We drank a variety of tequilas,
and they asked me the normal questions
about publishing, teaching, traveling.

These are young people,
still in grad school,
still hopeful.

At one point I said,
"Don't you read the Crampicle?
Don't you know you're doomed?"

But they don't care to hear.
They smile, order another round,
and help me get hotel-bound by 3 am.

Now, I shave, shine, slurp up coffee.
And I think I need to scare them.
They need to know.

"It's a different industry, pups."
That's what I want to say this morning.
Will it break their hearts?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Ribs, anyone?

The summer looked to have so much promise after proving to several Winter term students that the class was not the set of Survivor. By the time they were finished playing the game they came to realize that I had killed the pig long before they walked in the office with grade appeal forms.

All I needed to do was smile during a six week Spring course and then then enjoy that wonderful hot stretch of weather that we part-time faculty like to call unemployment.

And then it happened.

The Spring class was cancelled at the last minute. What the hell? Other classes were also cancelled because enrollment went down. But that's alright because I still can look forward to Fall classes. Or can I?

One fall course is already gone because of, you guessed it, low enrollment. It was replaced with another course which now has 3 students in it.  Yet another class I have is still below 50% and might disappear at the last moment.

So, where are the students? My area has been hit hard by bad government budgeting that resulted in a drastic cut to university funds. New student enrollment was slashed and entire programs disappeared. Students heard the news, looked at their options, and started heading elsewhere as even they could figure out this was not a one time deal and more cuts are coming next year.

So, here I am. My goal is to be ready to follow the students when the new job postings appear at whatever unis they're heading towards. Certainly, somebody out there needs a sarcastic bastard who eats too much pork.

5 Years Ago on RYS.

How Much Does Society Pay for Susie Slacker's Education?

I work at a small state university in Florida. At our university, when a student signs up for a full-time load and pays full ("retail price"?) tuition, that student is not even coming close to even covering her fractional share of the university's semester-by-semester operating budget, let alone supplying a little profit -- which is what a consumer model would mean: all costs covered, plus profit. Based on public records, a student at my university is paying for only one tenth her fractional share. The rest of the money comes from the State.

Obviously, this is not a "free market" approach to education. This is a socialized and subsidized approach, in which "society" pays the vast majority of the bill, presumably so that "society" as a whole can benefit from having a certain number of better-educated citizens walking around -- signified by their degrees.

Since "society" doesn't benefit from having slackers and dumbos mixed into that pool of persons, society prefers we fail those who cannot "hack it." This is our job as faculty: we weed out the weak or unwilling so that the BA or BS or MS or MA or what-have-you will signify something useful to "society" -- and it is "society" who pays us for this sorting (or "graduating") that we do.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

RYS Flashback. 4 Years Ago.

4 years ago this week these two posts appeared concerning our students and their mental health.



Last year, one of my favorite students lost her mind.

I had the ideal student: not brilliant, not a straight-A student, but very interested, someone who would ask the questions everybody else was wondering. A young woman like Amanda makes teaching easy; she illuminated for me what is unclear to the hoi polloi.

Therefore, I was a very saddened when, one Monday, her roommate (also a student) told me that Amanda was completely dropping out of school "to become an artist." I was surprised to hear this because Amanda was a Business major, and had not, to my knowledge, ever exhibited any tendencies toward making or appreciating art.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I came to my office the next day to find ten copies of a very long letter underneath my door, with the words "please translate me into anything" written on the back:

Friday, July 19, 2013

Amelia from Abilene Poses a Rarely Allowed "Summer Thirsty."

Following up on the speedy rant:

I sometimes feel sorry for myself when the mountains or the beach or my children are beckoning and I am slogging through making my syllabi for the fall, or learning a new basket technique to teach my students or driving in to work for curriculum or search committee meetings to hire new staff. I feel sorrier when I get wistful comments from relatives or even strangers about how nice it must be to get the "summer off." And I feel sorriest of all when I think about how this work is unpaid.

But apparently I have it easy. I have a friend from the dept who is in South America on a vacation he paid for. And someone got wind of it on campus and asked him to spend 3 days of his vacation HE PAID FOR to travel to a completely different country and, unpaid, look after some students who are going to be there. And he didn't feel like he could say no.

Q: So, is your summer a chance to recharge after the year, or a series of unpaid resented activities and missed opportunities?


MOOC posts always generate a lot of spam. I've taken down 6 comments in the past hour from the  linked article below and I'm sure some more will come. Don't panic. We're swatting them away as quickly as they pop up. Some of them are not quite in English so us doltish one-languagers have to do a little Google Translate on them to make sure we're not taking down something golden!


MOOCs not working out so well in practice?

Some flava:
"By spring, everyone had to start contending with reality. It turns out that San Jose State students were failing Udacity courses at a rate of 56 to 76 percent, according to the San Jose Mercury News.". . .
"Finally, we also discovered that, outside of SJSU, students were completing MOOCs at a rate of only 7.5% on average. With the inconvenient facts piling up, San Jose State suspended the Udacity experiment yesterday."
The experiment at SJSU dealt with intro-level and remedial courses, so that's one factor, but those are exactly the sorts of courses and students who need the most care in the learning process and exactly the types who should not be left waving in the wind.

Not on call? You must be hibernating.

If we're not on call 24/7, then it must be we are locked away in a closet.

I usually send my doppelganger out shopping so I don't have to face the sun.

CM Flashback. 2 Years Ago. How Do We Know if They're Lying? (Yeah, Their Lips Move...)

Hirohito Basketweaver, Ph.D. Needs Input.

I'm teaching a five-week summer class. We meet daily, have quizzes daily, and the first draft of the big essay is due today (Tuesday of week two). Here's an email I just received from a student who has missed five out of the first six classes and done no work:
"Sorry I have not been present to class, my dad has suffered a massive heart attack and is at Vanderbilt hospital in Nashville, I have kept up with the material, its the only thing thats really keeping me sane. I will be there tomorrow, my dad is finally somewhat stable. thank you
Jo Flake"
Here's my immediate response:
Dear Jo Flake,
You've missed way too much class. You've attended one class our of six and earned no points. The syllabus clearly states that I allow no more than two absences. There's no way you can pass at this point. Try again some semester when you don't have this kind of distraction.
Hirohito Basketweaver, Ph.D.
Associate Professor - Department of Basketweaving
Jo Flake wrote back five minutes later:
"I know it does but Ive pretty much written review/essays about these [baskets] since Ive been here at the Hospital which i can send you, I really need this class, my dad said never to give up so could you please help me out? I wont miss anymore class
Jo Flake"
I'm not sure how to respond or if I should at all. I don't appreciate the attempt at manipulation; that's for sure.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

bad haiku for a sweltering summer night

it is hot enough
to melt any resistance.
three weeks into my

break and my weakness
for wine is diminishing.
i breathe easily,

summer's humid breath
notwithstanding. i ignore
the endless stream of

emails and threats, of
pleas and suggested meeting
times, and i am close

to knowing that time
is more than the sum of what
other people say

it is. this other
life, this summer shell, is what
i want and fear both:

the want is easy
to explain, but the fear? i
can't afford to get

too comfortable
here. i feel the life return
to veins and blood, limbs

and core, the colors
of summer blooming in me
as thick air whispers

against skin, sun as
sweet as puppy love coaxing
from me the self that

forgets the ways of
summer--my only defense--
ten long months each year.

each year, each cycle,
comes to this and by its end
i beg it to stay.

it's an old refrain,
song of the unrequited,
a grace note catching

at the heart. i catch
a firefly in my hands, his
tiny beacon a

reminder, a sign
of all that is fleeting. my
challenge is to still

myself enough to
feel this moment, store every
sustaining drop.  the

hummingbird drops by
the fuchsia, extracts nectar,
moves on but returns

each year.  such movement,
such diurnal tendencies--
this is a map i've

yet to master. i
have four weeks left. i wonder
how much i can bloom

and how much i will
diminish. tonight i hold
summer's hand the way

i held the hand of
the boy i loved at fourteen:
trembling, the heat of

the touch washing through
me, melting my will, my poor
heart helpless and fast.

with winter's fast so
close--always--tonight i choose
the season's chicane,

to feel the night on
my face, thick air in my lungs,
heat that leaves too soon.

A Big Thirsty on Regrets.

Q: What's one academic career path mistake you've made that you wish you could undo?

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Leave Me Alone, Damn It

I am on summer vacation.  This isn't a figure of speech.  My contract is nine months long.  This month is not one of the nine.  I am off contract.  Free.  Free to be me.  Free to read trashy genre novels and eat lunch when I damned well feel like it, wake up when I want, get drunk if I want, study stuff that interests me, do my own research without the university breathing down my back.  Free.

So, dear university administrators and colleagues:


I do not want to go in to the office, put on long pants and a jacket in this goddamned heat, and sit and listen to another pointless bitchfest.  If you are lonely for human company, do what I do: get friends.  Or hire an escort.  Talk to your stuffed animals.  Whatever: just leave me out of it.

Either that, or pay me.

Hey, What Ever Happened to Dr. Jimmy?

I have a colleague I'll call Jimmy. He's a ham. He's a card. He's a guy you want to spend 4 minutes with at a party, because he's such a pleaser.

But no more than 4 minutes.

He's that way in his classes. Handslaps, fistbumps, lots of songs blasting before class. Students call him Dr. Jimmy. They're such great pals all of them.

His students end up in my upper level courses. They can't believe their fucking luck. We don't have any movies or funny YouTube videos. I have deadlines that don't float.

I get "shit I'm unhappy" looks from the students for about 4 weeks. Things turn around. I'm not a lousy teacher. We get on target eventually. It's rigorous. They work hard and they get better.

But every semester I have to undo the bullshit expectations Dr. Jimmy builds up in them.

I had a conversation with Jimmy a few days ago about this. Not tangentially, I'm on his tenure review committee. After I laid out some of what I see as challenges for me as someone who takes on his freshmen and sophomores, he said, "I don't get it. They have such a blast in my class."

If I thought I could get away with it, I'd stab Dr. Jimmy in the fucking throat.

Bee From Brooklyn Sees the Misery Up Close.

I have met several special snowflakes during my TAship in Hamsterology, but never anything horrendous. I've also taught a bunch of ESL classes both at home and abroad, and the students I've had were an absolute pleasure. Unfortunately, since returning to my home country after my latest stint abroad, I haven't been able to find any work at all. Pretty much all my friends with Hamsterology PhDs are underemployed adjuncts, so instead of applying to doctoral programs I'm looking at programs in Hamster Therapy. Unfortunately, I have to take a bunch of undergraduate prerequisite courses, including some general education requirements that were not required for my original BA. One of these is a core mathematics course, which I am taking now over the summer session.

The professor is a graduate student who is not a native speaker of English; the room is a furnace without air conditioning. Most of the students sit in their seats, fiddling with their smart phones or staring cow-eyed at the board. I'm sure the students were bad back when I was an undergrad, but I never remembered it being as horrific as it was today.

The poor professor was doing his best in these terrible conditions to coax answers to problems from the class. One student, confused about the meaning of a word that he used, raised his hand and asked for clarification. Before the professor could answer, another student who hadn't said a word all day rolled her eyes at the student and suddenly snapped, 'This is a core Math course, not a tea-partying Philosophy class!" She proceeded to rest her head on the desk for about twenty minutes before storming out of the room a half hour before the class ended. To his credit, the professor kept his cool and answered the question clearly.

I was on the fence about switching to Hamster Therapy as my dream has always been to be a college professor. However, now that I get to see what undergraduates are really like beyond upper division coursework (Hamsterology courses typically don't count as general education requirements) and ESL classes, I'm very glad that I'm not signing on to deal with these f-bombing flakes for the rest of my life.

To all the brave souls in the trenches of Higher Ed, I salute you!

Today's VidShizzle. St. Catherine's College at the University of Western Australia Lipdub!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Summer Misery

Thanks for your assistance!
In the summer times, I do a lot of odd things.

I have a podcast with a group of scholars. I run a website for my teaching that needs to be updated. My research needs writing, polishing, and interpreting. Fall jobs are going and I seek candidates for those jobs. Finally, I teach online so the money keeps coming in while I do these other side projects.

One of my online institutions has just begun a program that gives us a "teaching assistant" that does no teaching and no assisting. It's such a beautiful euphemism for "spy."

This TA watches me interact with my students. She reviews my gradebook and analyzes my feedback. She sends me emails about whether I'm including enough constructive compliments or chasing my students down in a timely manner to remind them that they are not submitting work. She wants all my students to get a perfect score regardless of how hard they work. She suggests to me how I ought to talk to my students, using sentences like "I want you to know that I am committed to your dream of earning a college degree, Susie Student!"

I am sorry, Spy-turned-TA. I am not going to say that.

Every time she emails me, I find that I have to step away from the computer, because all of my interactions -- with students, administrators, blogs, forums, or facebook -- are tinged with sarcasm and snark. She is actively destroying my will to be a good human being. I kind of want to send a virus into the school's system just to get back at the institution for instituting this bull shit system.

But instead, I shut my computer and go do something else until the feeling subsides. Or I come here.

Map Porn.

Those Fucking Summer Reruns. 3 Years Ago on CM.

FRIDAY, JULY 16, 2010

Wedding Woes

Dear Online Ophelia,
Sorry I didn't turn my work in. I had to plan my wedding! Then I got married! Can I turn in all of my work, even though it is a few weeks late and I didn't ask for an extension ahead of time?
--Married Mary

Dear Married Mary,

Congrats! What an exciting time. However, the work cannot be turned in so late. Focus on what is left in this course, and if you have questions, let me know.

And while a wedding can take up a lot of one's time....let me tell you about my wedding. I couldn't get time off from the classroom. So before heading off to the ceremony, I was posting grades. And after the reception, I was answering student questions.

Couldn't get time off for the honeymoon either (well, I could get time off, but that's called, "No class and thus no money for 9 weeks"). So while in the tropics, I duly graded papers, answered questions, &c.

So if you are looking for sympathy, you are barking up the wrong Shakespearean character.

--Online Ophelia

Monday, July 15, 2013

Another Early Thirsty - Because Even Though I Saw We Already Had One Today, I Said, "Ruby, Don't Let That Stop You. Don't Let the World Get In Your Way, You Magnificent Creature." This One Is On Everyone's Favorite Topic, Plagiarism

Have I already
said this?
I wish I had a fun story about a stupid plagiarizing student, but alas, I have a serious question for which I'm seeking thoughtful answers.  Sorry if I came to the wrong blog.

In a few weeks, I need to give advice to a crop of incoming grad students about plagiarism.  It's a talk I've given before, and I feel pretty confident about most of it, but there's one part that's always made me a little uneasy.

I tell them--primarily to shock them with how vigilant one really needs to be--that it's technically possible to plagiarize yourself.  After watching their scared faces for a moment, I explain that this can happen when:

  1. you reuse an assignment for multiple classes without explicit consent from both professors, or
  2. you publish something using material you previously wrote without properly attributing that material, or, most likely,
  3. you write your dissertation using the text of papers you've already published--but you fail to get permission from the journals in which they've been published.

I reassure them that (3) isn't as scary as it sounds--most journals will happily grant permission for you to use your own papers as part of your dissertation, and indeed in some fields a dissertation is barely more than a collection of papers you've already published, strung together nicely and narratively.  But you do need that explicit, written authorization from the journals.

More than any other part of the presentation, though, this is the slide that makes me nervous.  At least half of the questions I tend to get afterwards are about plagiarizing one's own writing, and I never feel equipped to answer them.  Usually I do my best, then say something like, "Uh, if you're unsure about specific things, preemptively ask your professor or adviser what's allowed."  Then I thank them and run out of the auditorium to beat them to the free coffee and bagels, which are the primary reason I give this talk.

Q: This semester, I want to be prepared.  What are the nuances of self-plagiarism that I haven't thought of?  Do you have anecdotes about self-plagiarism?  What valid, tough questions can I expect from first-year grad students, and how would you answer those questions?  Thanks in advance for the help.

Hector from Hagerstown. Am I a Bully? An Early Thirsty.

I've had a student who has struggled all summer. He doesn't listen. Doesn't read assignments. Turns in half legible writing most times. He also is an ESL student, so often tells me he doesn't understand the assignments because he doesn't read well.

We're in an intro class with a writing intensive designation. I sent him several times to our excellent tutoring lab, but there all the tutors do is correct his work.

When he does in class work, it's nearly incomprehensible.

I've told him time and again he simply needs more practice reading and writing English, and he replies, "But I don't even speak it at home."

He revises these essays endlessly, and I don't mind allowing that. But he only ever addresses the notes I make. (I might mark one problem in one paragraph and tell him there are multiple similar errors elsewhere. He returns these so quickly that I'm sure he's not even looking for other errors.)

Last Thursday he sent 2 of his past essays, only mildly revised, for "more comments, Professor." I replied, "It's time we put some final grades on these. No more drafts. Please print them in the format for class and turn them in Monday."

This morning I saw his drop notice in my campus email.

Q: Did I push him out of class?

Our Fake University Home. In the News.

Canned for Speaking Out?

Colleen Flaherty

It's not unheard-of for a college to tell a faculty member partway through a probationary period before tenure that things just aren't working out. And that may well be why Weber State University failed to rehire Jared Lisonbee, a professor of child and family studies. But the timing of his termination – after he and his wife spoke out against plans to name a new family program after a Mormon leader who has expressed controversial views on gays, women and intellectuals – has raised suspicion about what motivated the decision.

“Because there was no discussion or justification given for the decision not to renew my contract, I can only speculate,” said Lisonbee, who recently completed his second year on the tenure track at Weber State. But because his department chair’s behavior became “hostile” following his speaking out against the naming of the center, Lisonbee said the decision was “likely” related to his comments.