Saturday, August 31, 2013

For most college professors, money made from own textbooks provides little. From the Daily Illini.

Bruce Levine was taken aback.

The award-winning history professor and author of five books assigned his students at the University of Cincinnati to buy his book “Half Slave & Half Free: The Roots of Civil War.”

When one of his students objected that he was taking advantage of the class, Levine, who was making 10 cents a copy for the 30 copies in the class, couldn’t believe the student’s outrage.

In the last 10 years, textbook prices have risen by 57 percent and, with the rising prices, Levine and professors at George Mason University, University of Kansas and countless other institutions have been accused of profiting off of books.

Nationally, the American Association of University Professors addressed this problem in a 2004 report saying professors should be able to select the materials for their own courses.

“Professors should assign readings that best meet the instructional goals of their courses, and they may well conclude that what they themselves have written on a subject best realizes that purpose,” the report read.


Friday, August 30, 2013

Stuck In Front of a Blackboard With Some Email Fun!

Student email:
hello, my name is lea haines, i am in Mr. Rosales' Physics 50 class. I was wondering if you would be willing to proctor a retake test for me this friday the 30th? i am unable to take my test in class and my teacher has said if i can find another professor to proctor it i can retake it. I can come anytime on friday. Please let me know if you would be willing to do so. thank you!
The response I sent in my head:
I have never met you, I don't teach Physics, I have no idea who Mr. Rosales is, and I have better things to do than try and chase down your professor and proctor a test for you.

RYS Flashback. 4 Years Ago Today.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Balls? Balls! One Proffie's Terrible Paycheck Realization.

At the state uni where I teach, part-timers and work study student get paychecks in distinctive colored envelopes. I don't know when or why this started this way, but they get generated in some massive office somewhere and distributed through campus mail. It's an imperfect system, of course, and in the three years I've been a part-timer here, I've gotten the wrong envelope a couple of times. I see the wrong name, stick it back in the mail, and wait for mine to come back around to me.

Well this semester I have a student with the same last name, someone who I actually see once a week or so at one of our fitness rooms. I won't tell you what our real names are, but let's say her name is Cindy Monahan, and my name is Celia Monahan. As a Fitness Room "assistant," Cindy sits behind a counter, plays Sudoku and Farm Town on the computer, hands out those giant fitness balls to the braver exercisers, scoops up towels occasionally. Mostly she seems to talk on her phone and watch one of the giant TVs hanging from the ceiling.

I teach 2 classes a semester here because there's a huge pool of available PhDs and many of them have a lot more seniority than I do. Of course full timers here teach 2-2, just like me, but that's another story.

So I get my first semester paycheck, and I open it up and the first thing I see is the SS# is wrong. And of course I see the first name is Cindy and not Celia. I've got my student's paycheck. Not a big deal, right?

Anyway, on a hunch I take her paycheck to class and ask her if she maybe got mine by mistake. She pulls the envelope out of her backpack and walks up to the front of the room. I see it's torn open and when we switch envelopes she says (too loudly), "Dr.'s so weird. I make almost the same amount as you!"

I look at hers, which she's holding up: $510.00 gross for the first two weeks, $12.75 an hour! I look down at mine: two classes at $2100 a class over 8 pay periods = $525 gross.

I make $7.50 more a week than my student, who spends 20 hours a week handing out BALLS! She spends her time with her feet up in a fitness room (with free fruit juice, Internet, cable, phone, and extremely limited duties). And meanwhile I'm prepping and reading and grading and lecturing, and I have a kid and a student loan, and a Ph.D.

Do you think the college would have a problem with me applying for that fitness room job next year?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

A Lecturer Quits

Courtesy of Historiann (whose post has generated some good discussion), here's an account by Kelly J. Baker of why she quit her lecturer job.  The part that resonated most for me was this:  
Something broke, and it seemed irreparable.This was compounded by my increasing frustration with my job as a lecturer. I liked my students, I enjoyed teaching, and I despised the undervaluing of teaching by my department head. I disliked the hierarchy of talents, in which tenure track and tenured faculty were valued more than those of us who just taught. Being a lecturer meant that my publications could be brushed aside, and that my experience and opinions mattered less. Frustrating doesn’t quite cover it.

The undervaluing of teaching (in word, deed, job structure, and salary), and of faculty who are primarily teachers, really bothers me, too. In my case, it's not so much a question of people ignoring my research, such as it is (it's nowhere near as impressive as Baker's), as not being able to do service, and so have a full voice in curricular and other departmental matters.    At the same time, I realize why more research-oriented faculty, especially in the humanities, feel embattled, too, and why they may resist calls to dedicate more of their energies to teaching (which often amount to suggesting that they teach two or three times as many students per course, effectively doubling or tripling their teaching load without any concomitant reduction in other responsibilities).

Agnes of Dog Wants to Talk Parking...

Nothing pleases Cal more than finding
an excuse to re-use an old,
blurry graphic.
I have taught at Northern Borders University for 12 years now. The first week of school is always a fustercluck when it comes to parking. Things are bad for a few weeks and then it seems to resolve itself.

This year, however, is a banner year. Since we are in a "growing" metro area, the powers that be have commenced multiple, simultaneous building projects, displacing hundreds (it seems) of parking spots meant for faculty and staff.

There is no remedy except to driving around in vain, only to either park illegally somewhere or stalk anyone going near a parked vehicle and hope to get their spot.

This Week's Big Thirsty on Envy.

Q: Who is it? Who's that colleague who has the better teaching schedule? Who's the grad school pal who got the better job? Who wrote that piece of shit article that's no better than yours who's in the best journal? Why is it that the universe rewarded them and fucked you?

If It's Thursday, I Must Be Tingling.

60 of my students cannot find
the necessary text.

My colleagues have similar
stories for our large intro classes.

It shouldn't be a 
scavenger hunt.

Somewhere there's a number,
the number of spaces in our sections.

Somewhere a gleaming machine
contains this number. It's not a secret.

They make the book still, right?
Somewhere there are boxes of them.

Just not here.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

How NOT To Treat the Freshmen (1495)

"Statute Forbidding Any One to Annoy or Unduly Injure the Freshmen. Each and every one attached to this university is forbidden to offend with insult, torment, harass, drench with water or urine, throw on or defile with dust or any filth, mock by whistling, cry at them with a terrifying voice, or dare to molest in any way whatsoever physically or severely, any, who are called freshmen, in the market, streets, courts, colleges and living houses, or any place whatsoever, and particularly in the present college, when they have entered in order to matriculate or are leaving after matriculation."Leipzig University Statute (1495)

Found at

In which students are not the only irritants

The university system in the UK is based at most institutions on a model where students on a programme form a single cohort and complete each year of study in sequence rather than accumulating at least some credits in an order of their choice.  This makes for relatively easy advising, at least!  This also means that if a student messes up one year, they can have problems progressing to the next year (e.g. if they failed a pre-requisite, or haven't got enough credits from Level x to be allowed to start Level x+1).

My university partly deals with this by having a summer exam period, when students who failed part or all of a module or who missed exams/coursework deadlines in May/June due to 'Good Reasons' and got formal extensions, can submit coursework and take resit exams.  This happens in late August.  An extra exam board is then held in early September to process the marks properly and allow students to move on with their group, without incompletes hanging over them.

RYS Flashback. 6 Years Ago Today.

We Fear It's Going to Be a Long Semester For This Longtime RYSer. Too Soon For Such Agony. Yet, We Relish the Chance to Listen In.

Despite the plethora of tuition-and-tax-dollar-sucking programs deigned to ease tomorrow’s leaders into the monolithic horror that is their first semester of college, a more economical and instructive orientation might begin with some of the following:
  1. This is a state university with well over 20,000 students. No, the grownups do not in fact all know each other, so don’t buttonhole me in the quad with your crumpled schedule and ask “Where do I find Mr. X?” High school is over. FOREVER. Live with it or get to the Student Counseling Center, pronto. It’s described in that batch of flyers that you tossed out.

  2. Your 11:00 am classroom was not created by celestial fiat just for you, but is, has been, and will be utilized by other students and their professors at other times. Do not wander into my course in said room at 10:30, stare open mouthed at the unfamiliar faces and cut me off in mid-lecture demanding to know what’s going on. There is a clock in the foyer—try looking at it.

  3. I don’t care if Thursday has been unofficially designated the new Kegger Night. We have class at 9:00 am Friday morning, drunk or sober. If incapacitated and absent, you’ll be marked as such and it will be reflected in your grade. If present and green in the face, do try to color-coordinate with your wardrobe as best you can (wearing the shirt you’ve already barfed on doesn’t suffice).

  4. You didn’t hear your name called on the roll for a reason: This is not your introductory Psych class. You’re in the wrong building. PULL YOUR HEAD OUT OF YOUR ASS.

  5. For such a media-savvy bunch, you all seem oddly out of your element when it comes to the campus e-mail system, which is painstakingly installed and maintained to expedite your routine. With this in mind, the syllabus is prepared and sent out to the entire class before day one. Few of you even bothered to open your account, let alone print out the “contract” for the course introduction.

  6. Guys: I agree that the texbooks are too expensive, but I cannot help you there. This also means that they are heavy, and that bookbag is thus more ungainly than you’re used to. If you must spin around and bellow greetings in public when you spy a member of your former clique, remember that other people (and their coffee) might be vulnerable to its mighty torque.

  7. University libraries are white-hot centers of research for motivated students and faculty, not flophouses for somnolent lazy asses nor study halls for gabfests masquerading as detention. The next one of you who disrupts my work by snoring, farting, wolf-whistling, or cell-phone ringing gets his teeth kicked in.

  8. Occasionally, we faculty feel the need to move A-V equipment from one building to another. Yes. Kindly step aside when we wheel one of our antiquated contraptions into your path instead of giving us the hairy eyeball, pushing us out of the way, or guffawing at the spectacle.

  9. The dappled trees surrounding the campus are indeed beautiful, just like in the catalogue photos. That’s why we call it “fall” semester.” Bathe, put on some long pants, jettison the open-toed shoes, and cover your midriff while you have a chance. Nature can be terribly unforgiving of summer fetishists in these parts.

  10. Finally, the next time you’re nodding off in your Intro to World History course and internally whining about why there’s so much more reading, problem-solving, lab hours, 8:00 am classes, and teachers spouting big words than you expected, pause long enough to consider the sentiments of a martyred world leader whom some of us took quite seriously when we heard his signature image of a torch being passed to a new generation: As per JFK’s instructions, many of us hoary academics still endeavor to make our respective contributions to the improvement of society—“not because they are easy, but because they are hard.” I for one am holding onto my torch for the time being.

Gussy from Galveston Checks In!

My first Grad class is on Thursday. I am nervous. I was admitted on "Double Secret Probation." I bombed my GRE AND failed my last undergrad class (No habla Espanol). But I'm in. And I'm going to make the most of it. I have no funding, I'm paying cash for my classes and working full time AND commuting about 45 miles one way. My advisor wants to meet once a week (to keep my ass in line).

Thanks CM.

Of course it's all going down the shitter but I didn't think it would flush this fast

Each fall, I grace my students with a little unsolicited advice.  Nothing profound, just a caution against the latest manifestation of poor behavior by last year’s students.  As you might guess, my advice has (d)evolved to reflect the decreasing quality of my students.  “Take good notes in class” now seems so quaint but that was my first message to them oh so many years ago.  I recently told students, “Buy your books when classes start, not when the first exam comes.”  (Wouldn’t you be insulted if your professor thought you were so dumb as to deserve that warning?  Some later told me that they appreciated that bit of wisdom because they were on eht fence about whether to buy the book at all.)  Even that statement is eclipsed by today’s message.

“Don’t miss the first week of class.”

I'm paid to talk for 50 minutes at a time and I don't know what to say. I just don’t know.  How could it get worse? 

I guess I’ll find out next year.

(Bonus: Can we arrange for the students who skip the first week of class to be taught by the faculty who skip the first week of class?  They deserve each other.)

Where All that Google Ad Money Goes.

Okay, which one of us is it?

Last weekend, two bars on Historic 25th Street in downtown Ogden saw a couple of whopping tips offered up for services rendered.

On Friday night, about half-past midnight, a big spender at Brewskis on 25th Street paid for a $214.75 bar tab with his American Express, and included a $5,000 tip. NOT a typo: Five. Thousand. Dollars.

Then, on Saturday night, just down the street at the new bar Alleged, a patron left a $1,000 tip on a $49 bill — paying with an elite American Express Centurion card.

Proprieters of Brewskis have declined comment on the tipping incident there; word on the street is that the windfall may have caused hard feelings among some members of the bar’s staff.

Over at Alleged, the tip was so big that the bar’s computer software for its cash registers wouldn’t permit the transaction.

“It only allows patrons to tip up to 100 percent, and he was wanting to tip, like, 2,000 percent,” said Alleged owner Jared Allen. “So he tipped 100 percent, and then had us list the rest of the tip as a purchase.”

Allen said the tip was definitely “atypical.”


Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Academic Monkey Gives Unsolicited Advice

Note: Some of these problems come from academic forums and need details tweaked to protect the online complainers. Others have been shamelessly stolen from actual, Real Life advice columnists or letters available across the internet. When appropriate, I provide the source.

~Academic Monkey

Problem Posed:
I have three children, my oldest ("Ryan") is incredibly bright and graduating college in a month. My youngest ("Amy") has physical and mental disabilities with the mental age of about 4. When Ryan was home for Easter he talked to my husband and me and requested we get somebody to watch Amy at his college graduation. We said we would think about it and have been unable to make a decision. On one hand, Amy can be very difficult to handle in crowds and has a hard time empathizing with others and giving them the attention they might want or need. There are also only two tickets for handicap accessible seating, which means my family would not be able to sit together during the ceremony. Ryan was 6 when Amy was born and he has always been loving and compassionate toward her, so I think this stems from a desire to have this event be about him, not about all the logistics that surround a handicapped person. On the other hand, I am afraid that this will set a terrible precedent. What other events will Amy be excluded from, weddings, funerals, our 50th wedding anniversary party? How would we explain this to Amy, who is very sensitive? My husband and I would appreciate any guidance you have.**

Unsolicited Advice:

"If I Were an Adjunct..." From Yuri in Youngstown.

I've solved it!
If I were an adjunct, I'd quit.

Full disclosure, I'm tenured. I've never taught more than 3/3, and have been teaching 2/2 for the past 8 years. I publish in the right journals and I'm good at all parts of my job. I've been a chair and a vice-dean.

But if I were an adjunct, I'd quit, and I'd tell all other adjuncts to do the same.

I have a good amount of experience with adjuncts, as I've occasionally mentored one or two. Their stories are ridiculous pitiful. They start out victims, and they sometimes feed their own victimhood. They eat shit, say they like it, and the administrators abuse them.

Occasionally on this page you reveal adjunct "salaries." They're pathetic. Do something else. I would. I have enough real world skills that I'd rather crash the entire system than be a part of what's ruining it.

If enough people did it, just quit, walked out, the institutions would have to reconfigure how they use their football stadium money and start putting it to good use, hiring educated and able full time instructors. You'd all get to come back!

I talk about this with some of the adjuncts here, but their stooped shoulders simply slump some more and run off to their 8 am classes like rats.

Stop it. Don't accept it. Show some courage. You can be the change, my brothers and sisters.

- Yuri in Youngstown

Today's VidShizzle: First Day of College, Fall 2013!

If It's Tuesday, I Must Be Baffled By How Quickly I Had to Get Into It This Semester.

First day of the semester. 19 pleasant looking freshmen.

I do about three minutes of overview about the class and a young man in the front row says out loud, without raising his hand, "Why don't you just give us the syllabus?"

I see a couple of students around him sort of smile. They've got a champion and it's only 8:03 am. "I don't give the syllabus out until the end of the first week."

"You should just give us the syllabus so we know what the class is about."

"Well, I'm telling you what the class is about right now."

"Do you have a syllabus?"

I reach into my briefcase and hold up copies of the syllabus in the air. The young man stands up and heads over. I put them back in the case before he reaches me.

"Why can't we have the syllabus?" He has to back up to his chair now and sit down again, empty handed.

"Because today I want to talk about the class. I want to share with you all of the information you need to do well."

At this point I notice the class has subtly shifted over to my side. Some people are staring at him open-mouthed.

He puts his earbuds in and folds his arms, places his head on the table in front of him.

I get up and walk over in front of him, wave to get his attention. "Listen, you don't want to listen, maybe it's best if you find yourself another class."

This really surprises him. He ceremoniously pulls one earbud out and looks up at me. He stands up, grabs his bag and as casual as possible walks out of the room. I hear a distant "Fuck" after the door closes.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Delayed Reaction to Sunday Night Flakemail

Fellow CMrs, I’ve been bad. Just how bad, I wonder.

With the first homework set due Monday afternoon, Sunday at 10:00 PM I got the usual flakemail: waaah, waaah, problem 48 isn't like anything we did in class, can you give me a hint? Sure thing, little snowflake, but I don’t have the book here with me. Let me get back to you tomorrow morning, okay? And I did, and sent him a detailed hint (no thank-you email, of course).

I try to be nice, but…it’s not natural. Something inside me is saying `I need to do something about this, today’ as I prepare the notes for the class. Hence the first page they see:

  1. Problems due on a given Monday will be posted by the previous Wednesday.
  2. You may ask HW questions during recitation, or go to your TA’s office hours. E-mailing the TAs is also OK (Monday through Friday only).
  3. Some of the HW problems may deal with material not introduced in class. There will be enough information in the text.
  4. Some of the HW problems may be unlike any examples seen in class, or in the text. If you really understand the material, you should be able to think independently about it.
  5. “Getting help” to solve a problem is second best; avoid it if possible. There is tremendous learning value in figuring things out on your own (and it builds self-confidence.)
That’s it. And even as I gave the this isn’t high school anymore spiel to go with it, I was thinking oops, this is overkill. Some looked stunned, others did the what-a-dick eyeroll, two or three got up and left, right there. It certainly got their attention.

Now, there is nothing wrong with what I said, and it’s something they should hear at some point; apparently it falls on me to say it. But it’ll take a couple of lectures to get the temperature back to normal.

A Tale of Two Classes (Short Version)

And here it is again, like every semester. The phenomenon that is, to me, the biggest mystery of higher education. It's not the matter of why the student lounge has better vending machines than the faculty lounge - that one is easy. And, no, it's not the question of whether admins have souls. It's not even the enigma that is our IT department.

It's the "dead room."

I had two sections of the same class today, back-to-back. This rarely happens to me, but it gave an excellent opportunity to observe just how much responses can vary to the exact same material and presentation from one class to the next. I pretty well gave identical experiences: classroom business, a little "getting to know you" thing, and the set-up lecture for the semester. I kept my energy level high for both classes. Even the little jokes were basically the same.

Real Goddamned Mail. Math Edition.

Email 1: 
I know you're all humanists and mostly concerned with students' feelings, but the recent graphic for a linked article (won't you give up those, BTW), contains a simple math error. 86+24=110, not 100. Sure, it's a small thing, and you're all so busy and all, but whenever we post something on the page it should be as good as it could be. I only write this because I sent in a correction earlier and the item wasn't changed. So ignore me some more if you must, but I wanted this on the record.

The joke may not be very funny, but it only works if the girl in the graphic - and you know she's not real, right, she's just a poorly rendered image of a student - gets the math wrong. The joke - okay, it's not much of a joke, but I did it at 5 in the morning - relies on her being stupid enough to not be able to add - or subtract, I guess - the number properly. If she KNEW it was actually 76 and not 86 that completed the 100%, then she might indeed be smart enough to be ready for college, even some second rate state school. But, I heard you the first time, and didn't "correct" the graphic because I intended the math to be wrong, as part of the joke - and, sure, it's not much of a joke, but how much did you pay to see it, while we're at it.

Email 2:
I don't understand the sidebar stats. Are you saying that more than 6 million people have viewed this page? There's no way that's happened. I only see a few people who post or comment, and I'd guess there might be 60 or 600. Or is it because everyone who reads it presses refresh so many times? I suspect all the stats are made up anyway, but you've featured it so I feel comfortable calling you on it. And I don't see 4000 posts. It looks like there are only 90 posts this year. Are you saying you've been posting articles for that many years? You'd have to have been online since 1970 for there to be that many. Oh, and 100 million seconds? Who tells time that way? It's a big number, I guess, but it's useless because it's given without context. Just post the emails and leave the numbers alone. Someone with your math skills are best left to fingerpaint.

Uh, I don't know where to start.

"Dear Doctora Colleague." From Dr. Amelia.

Thank you so much for taking the time to write to me on behalf of Johnny Flake. How nice that Johnny felt comfortable coming to you with his concerns about my class. I think it is probably because he already came to me to ask if he could miss every other Friday because of his job as a campus tour guide. I told him that would, in fact, be a problem.

And let me now say the same to you. It's a problem. Johnny should drop the class in favor of a section that meets at a time more convenient for him and his busy schedule.

I did not know that in Humanish Staticology, your faculty believe that students are too impaired on Fridays to do meaningful work, so you don't plan anything important. Unfortunately, here in Hamsterfurweaving, we feel like each of the the 50 or so hours of class time we get to prepare them to make the coats and blankets that warm our nation and keep it together are each important and needed. So we do important things. Every class. No, I can't just give him "make up work." You kind of have to be there. Feel free to send Johnny back to me and I'll tell him again. Or you can, if you want to keep him comfortable.

Dr. Amelia

It's Annie in Akron's First Day.

Today's my first day.

I taught as a TA in grad school. I even taught at a high school very briefly. I understand what standing in front of a room is.

I'm not afraid I don't know anything. I'm not worried about my clothes or my accent or food in my teeth.

But I am afraid. And I'm sick. I've been up since 3 am throwing up. I didn't sleep a wink the last two nights.

I'm going to be a college professor in about three hours for the first time. And I'm afraid I've made a mistake with my career. My cohort of grad school buddies tell horror stories of ill-mannered students, lecherous colleagues, and a system that doesn't work. I'm afraid a student will challenge my authority, stand up and face me down. I'm afraid I might get flustered, bothered. I'm afraid I might faint.

Why have I done this?

I'm watching the clock and it's racing.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The Future's So Bright....

26% are prepared? 
Well I guess
I'm in the other 84%.
Twenty-six percent of high-school graduates who took the ACT in 2013 met all four of its college-readiness benchmarks, according to a report released on Wednesday by ACT Inc., the organization that administers the test.

The benchmarks were designed by ACT to indicate the minimum scores needed on each subject it tests to signify a 50-percent chance of earning a B or higher, or a 75-percent chance of earning a C or higher, in corresponding first-year college courses.


An Honest To Goodness Spiritually-Demanding Sunday Thirsty: What Are Your New Year's Resolutions?

For many of us, this is another New Year, met not with fireworks and champagne, but gin and meetings and half-written syllabi.  So, in the spirit of this somewhat dismal (and yet, kind of exciting, even still) new year, I offer my new year's resolutions.

1.  I will not cave.  No, you may not submit this paper late.  No, you will not text in class.  No, you will not steal my time from students who need it (or my increasingly arcane research, which I need).  Cry, beg, rage -- I will let it wash over me like a zephyr.

2.  I will not grow more jaded.  I chose this career because it mattered to me once.  I won't let students corrupt what I still find of value in the university: the sharing of ideas, the exploring of complex topics, and the questioning of our preconceived notions.  I don't care that they just want a degree or a job.  Those are stupid, unworthy goals, and I will not bow to them from any pressure they can wield.  I have tenure, damn it.

3.  I will stay out of administration as much as possible.   I will stay out of their building.  I will not volunteer for any committees other than the ones I'm already on.  I will not run for faculty senate.  If asked to serve as chair, I will refuse.

4.  I will protect time for myself other than in the shower.  I will not check my email as soon as I get up, nor will I check it after 5:00pm on a weekday.  I will not spend more than 20 minutes per paper (well, maybe thirty).

5.  I will read for fun.  Yes, I am behind in my field.  I have been for the last ten years, and yet, the world does not seem to end.  It won't end if I pick up a Stephen King novel now and then, rather than the International Journal of Hamsterology.

6.  I will learn everyone's name.  Ha!

Q: Those are my resolutions.  What are yours?

CM Flashback. Two Years Ago Today. When We Heard Yaro Was Retiring...


It Is I, Yaro, On Beginnings and Endings.

It is I, Yaro, returned and remedied by a sojourn to our cabin in the Beehive State. We love it there, the long casualness of days and evenings, Mrs. Yaro and I, a stray cat or two, a coyote who howls from a distant mesa.

And I am in my office, a place I've not seen for months. It is suddenly a light shade of green, and I had completely forgotten the work orders and such - in the manner - that helped us all arrive at the color decision.

The desk is clean and tidy, the books back in their rightful spots, yet someone - in haste, no doubt, not out of malice - has dripped tiny droplets of green paint on a row of oft-read and loved books on a top shelf. This is no disaster. The pages turn still, the contents remain unchanged, open, ready for unlocking.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

In Defense of August

Everyone seems down on August this year. I can't fathom why. Oh, I've read the articles. It seems like a whole lot of pissing and moaning. Here are 10 reasons why I love August, all of which you will undoubtedly reject and destroy when you should be out enjoying this august month*:

1) It is the peak of summer**, when the warmth reaches 80 degrees and you're used to it enough to enjoy it. It's less DEATH HEAT of July and more of a gentle warmth.

2) The plants that were scrawny in May and June are in full bloom glory, with bushy green leaves and flowers on every lawn.

3) Most of us are still on "vacation" for August, joined by half of Europe. Sure, we're working, but for most of August we don't have to teach that 8am class yet or crush on the highway/trains/buses for the morning commute.

4) The school year start has either just begun or is just around the corner. You have not yet been shut down by snowflakes, administrators, and colleagues. Search Committees have not yet defeated you. Hell, you might still be doing your "this year, I'll work out 4 times a week, between lectures!!" routine (this will stop well before October). You are excited! Or at least less disillusioned!! You are only drinking for fun and not for desperation.

CM Flashback: 3 Years Ago Today. Angry Archie on Sabbatical.

Top Ten Best Things About Being On Sabbatical

With apologies to The Beaker.

10. Get to sit at the computer in my underpants every day, not just Fridays. And without the harassment suits too.

9. Get to set my autoreply to “I’ll get back to you when I get back to you.”

8. Lots of pencils, lots of books, without the students’ dirty looks.

7. Get to say “not just no, but fuck no” to unsolicited requests for my time.

6. Research!!! Did I mention I get to write up the results in my underpants?

5. And with a beer in my hand.

4. Extra time to plot the destruction of my institution and everyone in it.

3. My calendar for this semester includes a plenary lecture at a Mediterranean resort, a research trip to one of the best wine regions in the world, and not much else.

2. You say that my letter of rec didn’t get there in time? Please see #9.

1. I haven’t interacted with an undergrad since May 2nd and my next interaction with one is still slightly more than a year away.

Compound Cal's New CD is Now on iTunes.

A number of CM readers kicked in money to help Cal finish his band's new CD. Well, the whole thing plus 5 bonus tracks (including the "PhD Blues"!) is now available for download on iTunes. You can get all 19 songs for $10 or download individual tunes for 99¢.

(The physical discs were only available to Kickstarter folks.)

Friday, August 23, 2013

Patronizing Insufferable Know-it-All Colleague

She means well. I'm sure she does. I'm sure she doesn't sit in her office thinking up imbecilic patronizing things to say to me just to test my non-existent filter. 

Last week, she emailed all of us in the department that she had come up with a great new policy this quarter (we don't start school until mid-September) and wanted to share this with us so that we, too, could benefit from this great new idea of her. Her great new idea: to include her office hours in her syllabus so students would know when to expect her in her office. I wanted to say: "No, shit? If you bothered to look at the list of required items for your syllabus, you'd see that this isn't a new innovation; it's a requirement that we've had for years. You didn't invent it. In fact, by suggesting this, you merely show your ignorance." Instead of saying it, I thought it. Having somewhat learned my lesson about thinking before I act, I refrained from emailing her back what I was thinking.

semi-anniversary? bi-anniversary? THIRSTY re: SMARTPHONE APPS

Today, it has been exactly six months.  Or at least that's what ordinary people say.  Frod, on the other hand, would say that the earth has flown to the other side of the sun--perhaps only approximately halfway through it's flight around the sun.  He will, no doubt, feel compelled to explain it in more precise terms.  We hope he will.  He will pull out his different kinds of calendars and give a history of the classification of time and forces and whatnot.  He might even command one of his French doppelgängers at the International Bureau of Weights and Measures to file a report....

And for the linguists and grammarians and lexicographers and composition proffies, this is not the anniversary of the thirsty re: smartphone apps...  because an anniversary is exactly one year.  Not 362 days.  Not 6 months.  Not this.  Not that.  Not whatever.  (or, as the flakes say, "whatevs")

And for the rest of us who are gulping bourbon alone in our locked offices on nearly-empty campuses on this Friday afternoon, this is the fucking 6-month anniversary!

So it's time, again, for the THIRSTY.  All four of us can answer.  None of this unsolicited stuff.  This is fucking solicited

Q. What's the app that's making your proffie life tolerable?

A. ______________________________________
         [Be honest, dammit.]

Marti from McMinnville Is All Done Having Fun.

Does anyone among actual faculty really like it when the opening week meetings are described as "fun activities" that "get us moving and getting to know each other better"?

Does anyone really get off on skits, or hands-on exercises to explore our metaphorical teaching philosophy animal or whatever other bullshit they make us write on a notecard and pass around?

Does anyone think any of this time wasting is fun or worthwhile? Is this dancy-prancy crap really to improve morale, or is it just to prove that the people in authority can make us do humiliating shit at a meeting (Hey, let's all do jumping jacks while singing the fight song!)?

What an awful humiliating waste of time this goddamned week has been.

Monday, I was even a little bit excited about classes starting soon. Now, I just want to drink. Great job, admin. You just killed my enthusiasm with your "fun."

Last Set of Tweets on Cancelled Classes.

This week I've been retweeting a SMALL number of "class cancelled," "professor didn't show" tweets. I continue to be astonished at the numbers. It's hundreds. Seriously.

I know there are a lot of proffies and a lot of colleges, and I suppose these students could be wandering around in wrong buildings and so on, but I think the sheer number of these no shows is awfully embarrassing.

All this week there was never a time that I didn't find at least 50 of these tweets from students.

What the fuck, people? Who's cancelling class the first week? What is with these folks who are cancelling ALL FRIDAY classes? Does an administrator or chair know you're running MWF classes only on MW? Who are these faculty who have not yet returned from: Alaska, Costa Rica, Canada, England, Italy, Dominican Republic, Portugal, NYC, Vermont, "vacation," etc.? Did they not know when the semester started?

I know there are a hundred kinds of emergencies that might stop a faculty member from missing a class at some point during the semester, but I have never missed a first week class in my career. I talked to 4 of my colleagues and none of them had ever missed or cancelled a first week class.

What in the world is going on?

Terry P
CM's Tweetie-Domo

The last installment of cancelled classes appear below the jump....

RYS Flashback: 4 Years Ago Today.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

One More Flake Wins a Battle Of Wills.

I wanted to thank you for taking my course. I appreciate how you persevered through the course despite the many hardships you faced during the last 6 weeks and your total hatred for the subject matter. I wish you and your husband well since you felt it necessary to share with us how you both had been fighting from week to week and this is why your work was not quite what was expected. Hopefully the 4 sessions with a certified therapist the school has provided will prove helpful. 

I also hope all the soda you gave your son to sit for the final exam didn't make him sick. It would have been a terrible shame for your young child to be sick at the bar that your husband runs. I truly appreciate how you managed to do most of your assignments there despite the poor lighting.

I just felt you should know you have only been receiving an A for these last couple weeks in the course to get you to shut the FUCK up about your first amendment rights being trampled on or what other manic issue you had each day. I normally don't let a difficult student slide, but unless you learn to keep quite and listen, failure is inevitable and on this rare instance I will have forgiven myself from the rants of the hopelessly oppressed.

If you've still not settled on a major, I'd suggest looking into pre-law. Since you already have shown an interest in your own rights it could be helpful to learn what they actually mean and of course no one would deny your willingness to argue about every irrelevant point just to illustrate your intellectual dominance. I will admit you taught me one thing. It is important to stand up for what you believe, so with that I cheerfully assign you the A-!

Dream-Killer Stops By To Vent on Class Reps.

Ugh – Class Representatives – does your school have them? We do!! And so we have Class Rep meetings once a semester which we bribe the class reps to attend by offering free pizza. Twice a semester, all the reps congregate with all the teachers of the classes taught to give us report on their classmates’ “feedback” (moans, vents and whines)? UGH UGH UGH. How to keep a straight face and look like I give a damn when told solemnly by my class rep that:

"I'm Stu. I need
so much help."
1) The video clips shown in lecture are great but sometimes I forget to move the cursor off-screen and the cursor on the video screen thus really annoys Witchy Wilma and her wicked coven.

2) Stupid Stu and his posse of brain-dead zombies would like more specific guidance on what to read each week – because apparently, “Ch 2 excluding pages 118-132” is not specific enough.

3) Slow Sally and her silly sisters asked more feedback on the class quizzes last semester. But, this semester, Dimwit Dave and his Dumbass Sidekicks are annoyed by the 5 minutes “wasted” on discussing the quiz answers at the end of class, because that’s five minutes more time spent in class. Class rep proposes a solution: can you post the quiz answers before the class (and hence before they take the quiz). Um, sure. Maybe I should post the exam answers before you take the exam too? Now THAT should maximize my teaching evaluation scores!!!!

Dr. Amelia Wants to Know...

I got an email recently from the Hamsterfurweaving Weaving World Congress' interest group on fur conditioners about a colleague who lost his adjunct position and was now in extremely bad financial straits. Like close to homeless. He was older, and unlikely to re-tool for another career, hadn't saved for retirement due to many years of freeway fl ying, and wanted some help to get to a part-time gig he had in another part of the country. It wasn't much - it's a big group, so assuming quite a few people participate, it would be like funding a Kickstarter. The request didn't come from the faculty member in need, but from someone I do know professionally. So I guess it's legit.

I have so many questions. But the big ones are this:

The request led to a lot of discussion about how the Affordable Care Act states that if faculty get paid for 9 hours, the institution has to provide them with health care. Instead of doing so, many, many adjuncts are either getting hours cut or are getting let go entirely.

1. Whose fault is this? The government, for putting the university in that situation? The university for putting the adjunct in that situation? The adjunct for putting themselves in that situation? Doctoral programs for producing too many workers for too few jobs?

2. What are the long-term impacts for the education we provide? It seems like if you must use adjuncts, experienced adjuncts are better, right? But these kind of restrictions on hours make it less likely that people will be able to keep an academic career together, as they must work at even more institutions. And since we are supposed to be making education less expensive, how does that work under this model?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

D A R L A !!

Just got a text from Darla's hubby:
It's a boy, 4:17 this morning, 7 lbs, 2 ounces. We're all doing fine!
Leslie K

Georgia Tech VidShizzle Plagiarized. From Gawker.Com.

Since it was uploaded to YouTube three days ago, Georgia Tech sophomore Nick Selby's "epic welcome speech" at this year's Freshman Convocation has gone on to rack up over 1 million views, and score rave reviews on many major news networks and websites.

But, as with all good things, this too must come with a catch.

It seems Selby's over-the-top oratory to incoming students was lifted almost wholesale from a speech given by Arizona State University debate team champ Andy Stone in 2008 (skip to the 8:40 mark in the video above, and compare with the video below).

Some Internet sleuthing reveals that, back in 2006, Stone became Assistant Coach of the Speech, Theater and Debate Company at Desert Vista High School, which just so happened to count Selby as a member until his graduation last year.


Is There Something Going On That We Don't Know About? An Academic Rapture?

Terry P., the Tweetie-Domo writes: "I could post one of these every hour. This latest batch doesn't even mention cancelled classes, just proffies 'not showing up.' It's an epidemic. I'm such a sap; I've been in class all week."

OBAMA "announced plans to create a federal rating system that would allow parents and students to easily compare colleges. And he said he would urge Congress to pass legislation to link the student aid to the rating system."

 It sounds like a joke, but then it happens.

On horrific honorifics

It's good to be back in the land of misery, which at the moment consists of meetings, meetings, and more meetings. Yesterday's major mega-meeting offered up an interesting challenge: puzzling over the pattern in a certain senior administrator's inconsistent use of honorifics.

Personally, I don't care what the Big Kahuna calls me as long as my paycheck doesn't bounce, and I'm not sure why honorifics needed to be used at all in this instance. Why not just use names? We're all adults here! But if titles are used, they ought to be consistent.

The administrator in questions mentioned a number of employees both orally and in writing (on PowerPoint slides), but the usage was far from consistent. Employees who do not hold a Ph.D. were referred to as Mr. or Ms. OR by first and last names alone, while employees who hold a Ph.D. were referred to as either Dr. or Prof--and this is where it gets tricky.

If It's Thursday, I Must Be Tangling...

Fresh faced
and spunky.

She denies that
she's taken the class before

although I recognized her
right off.

"Melissa," I say,
"We've already tangled."

She cheated on my midterm
and final

two years ago.
She's desperate to finish

her degree, and I'm the only
person teaching the class this term.

"The Dean and I," I say,
"sat there with your parents."

"Not me," she says.
"I'm not a cheater."

This Week's Big Thirsty.

Q: So, Who Do You Already Hate?

Most Read Posts from RYS.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

In Which an Administrator Bloviates

So I'm starting at a new institution this semester. And in general, I'm happy to be there. After all, I have a job as an instructor in my field. That alone is a coup, these days. No, the pay is not good. No, the students are not really very intelligent (so I hear). And no, my new place of employment is not what you'd call "cosmopolitan." I'm okay with all those things.

It's the fucking administrators I can't fucking stand.

Tonight there was an "orientation" for new faculty, which involved some training sessions on how the school handles certain attendance and grade procedures (informative, useful), some stuff from the police department on where to go if there's a tornado or a fire and what to do if there's a gunman loose on campus (informative, useful, mildly frightening), and break-out sessions with our division heads to go over issues specific to our disciplines (informative, useful, mildly entertaining). They even fed us.

Academic Monkey Gives Unsolicited Advice

Note: This might be a regular series, or just something I do at the beginning of a semester when I've been drinking. Most of the questions I think about have been paraphrased from conversations in my presence or openly stolen from more successful advice columnists on the interwebz. Where necessary, I have boiled down to just gist rather than let people drone on for 5 pages.

~ Academic Monkey

Problem Posed:

I am a tenure track professor at a New England liberal arts school with about two years left on my tenure clock. Last Spring my department managed to poach a celebrated professor from my graduate school. The Department is thrilled to have him. I am not.

This professor made my graduate school experience very uncomfortable. He once tried to kiss me, rather forcefully, many years ago. I managed to hold him off but it made the rest of my grad school experience a terrible one.  It was all I could do to prevent him from sabotaging my work or my standing.

We somewhat repaired our relationship. I graduated and moved on. I’ve heard about affairs he had with other grad students after his failed attempt with me. Now that this guy is joining my department, I don’t know what to do. I feel that his tactics are predatory. Not to mention he’s a married father of four. I thought he was out of my life but now my concern that he would prevent me from defending my PhD for turning him down has become a fear that I will not get tenure because he has joined our department. I also worry about my lovely grad students. What should I do? Hope he has changed his ways, or talk to someone about his past?

Unsolicited Advice:

On College Admissions Consultants

Has anyone else had experience with the "College Admission Consultant"?

Dang it all, if this does not take helicopter parenting to a whole 'nother level!

Parents are hiring consultants---and paying them, at least around here, $50.00 dollars an hour.   To do what? 

Wait for it..... Help them register for their classes! 

Dang it all if I did not have some crazy woman from a business with a name similar to this:  "" call and call and call for her "client."  I had no idea what this meant, or why she called me eight times between Friday and Monday to schedule an advising session for her, who had no idea which courses for which to register.

Hey, Maybe We're the Problem After All... More Proffie Cancellations.

CM Image Dump.

One of the most common jobs for mods (Cal, mostly) is adding poorly imagined and crappily realized graphics to posts that go online without one.

To that end, here is a dump of common CM images that you are free to download to your own hard drive or desktop to use when the need arises.


What the Fuck on the Cancellations?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

paranoid early thirsty

Q.  Do you absolutely never post anything to CM while you're on your campus because you're afraid Big Brother and his adminiflakes (and their sneaky IT people) will discover what you're doing and fire you?  Or is it the wrath of the fucktard colleagues in your department you fear the most?

A. ___________________________

Great Start, Everyone!

The CM Tweeter-Domo has been re-tweeting
scores of first day class cancellations.
He's asked I share some here.