Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Auld Lang Syne • from Weber State.

They have the nerve to ask me why I drink

when they should be asking me why the hell I bother with this job at all.

In a discussion with my department head about my salary, he checks my salary in next year’s budget and exclaims with surprise that it is way too low.  I appreciate the sympathy, asswipe. Could you have noticed this problem a few years ago?

In the same discussion, I tell him that the local community college is paying only slightly less than my current salary.  He responds that if I want to teach CC students then I should do that.  Why would I go to the hassle of changing jobs to just to teach underprepared little shits with an administration pushing me to lower standards when I can do that here?

I shovel a ton of research salary (relatively speaking) to my ABD research assistant as a reward for several years of good work.  He thanks me by blowing off the semester, not graduating and not meeting our research goals.  I should let him explain this outcome to the granting agency at our next meeting.  Thursday.

I haven’t read a book in months.  Maybe a year.  I am not proud of this, mind you.  I read stuff for work and lots of news and kids’ stories for bedtime (the kids’, not mine) but not a single book.  I’ve gotten to where I am based on being smart and, frankly, I’m not very pleased with the results.  So fuck it.

Update: I see that Professor Chiltepin wrote, "learning how to think made my life immeasurably better."  Upon reflection, that's an imminently wise view.  I retract my immoderate comment and conclude with a more polite "screw it."

A Smattering of Old CM Headers.

"Where I'm At," From Mid Career Mike.

I'm touched that you called. I still keep up with the page, and read nearly every week. I love it when someone struggles and then finds an answer; I think that's the best thing we can do as teachers. Share it here, get some feedback, and go back in renewed.

Where have I been?

Well, still at Soda Pop College, still basking in the warm Gulf breezes. I'm over my envy of past colleagues. I've seen some of the pressures they face, and they simply aren't for me. I guess what I always wanted to be was a good teacher, and I continue to work at that.

Abe, my adjunct pal, who I shared my office with for a year, got a t-t job in Arizona and has left the area. But we still keep in touch.

The dickhead we were forced to hire stayed his 8 full months and took a job back in the northeast, where, presumably, the weather suited him better. I have almost no memory of him.

I guess I'm at the tail end of being mid-career. I feel totally at home here, and expect to stay here until - as Yaro might say - "the string is unwound."

My career did not become the one I dreamed of as a young academic. It became something else, and I'm proud of it and happy. I cannot ask for any more.

My best to you all,
Mid Career Mike

PS: As I said once before, even though Cal gave me a spectacular avatar, you cannot believe how much more handsome I am in person!

Monday, December 30, 2013

"The Humble Brag," From Dr. Amelia.

So it's the holidays. And maybe you've had enough of the darling nieces and nephews, so you are catching up on your social media. For the love of all things good and for my tea-partying sanity, please resist posting:

"I am so blessed to be a professor. I took my three weeks at Christmas to jet off to Paris with my s.o. Look at my pictures of croque monsieur!"

"I just finished grading. Time to get to work on next semester's assignments. I work so hard."

"I just finished grading. Time to get my research done. I work so hard."

"I am so blessed to have the time over this break to spend 10 hours on Christmas Day working on my research."

"Just finished eating the most delicious cookies my Kelly Keener gave me to thank me for teaching her. I have such great students!"

A Christmas Card from Bitchy.

I wandered away from College Misery because here at Massively Overpriced University I got put into a shitty administrative role, and the things that were pissing me off enough to write about them over at RYS were far too specific to put out there for general consumption. For one, I became the chair of our sexual harassment review committee, where the provost seems to believe my dick-shriveling glare and lawyers on speed-dial have been working out for us.

Oh, and I did some hard time in Distance Learning Purgatory, in a program that we have to all pretend has been a riotous success because it was our president’s idea, but so far has reminded me of nothing so much as the British in the Siege of Khartoum, only with plagiarism. Ooodles and oodles of plagiarism. It’s awesome, truly.

On the positive side, distance learning and MOOCs promise far easier ways for students to not do shit while pretending they have accomplished shit, while we, the faculty, aren’t in any way responsible for making them do shit. Just record my lecture and rake in the Benjamins. Sounds Pareto to me, except for the part where I am fired and replaced by Max Headroom or Dolly Parton.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

Update on Terry's Recent Poster.

I thought it was funny. Of course I took a lot of shit over the early Twitter stuff, too. Humor is tough, I guess, and maybe mine doesn't work. Sorry.



Hello all. These things often come to boil very quickly. A bunch of rascals used a variety of anonymous email accounts to barrage us with notes more or less saying that we're bigots, especially Terry, and it was ugly and sad - and not altogether unfamiliar to us.

There are academics who hate this fucking page, and take any opening to attack us for anything they can twist into rationale.

Terry chose to take the image down even though the notion that he was being racist in the tag line is laughable. My favorite comment was on the page; someone suggested we "lightened" the complexion of the supposed "target." Yeah, because that's how we hoped to save our good reputation.

Terry's right in his note above. Humor is funny - get it, funny? We don't all laugh at the same things. I'd urge him to keep working for us. He has been a steady and dependable voice around here, and I think we're better off with his contributions.

Also, I've put the original poster up again so you can decide for yourself.

Leslie K

Bitchy Bear & Mid Career Mike: You Can Catch Up Here.

This coming Monday and Tuesday we welcome updates from two favorite RYS/CM community members. Below are some links to their work on these pages.

The Bitchy Bear of Boston

Mid Career Mike

AHA CM Meet-Up?

Would any CMers be interested in a meet-up at the AHA next week?

CM Flashback: Three Years Ago Today. On the Death of a Student.

Why is it Always the Good Ones?
Crazy Math Professor

I had my first student death today. Well, not the first since I’ve been teaching as we get a few each year. But this is the first time I had actually taught the deceased. He died early this morning and they haven’t said what of. He was an athlete so perhaps it’s better I write this now before the cause of death is released.

This kid was a good kid. He had me for one of those classes for students who suck at my subject. The students were overall a hostile and angry bunch. Part of it was they hated my subject; part of it was my newness to the school. When you are the new prof you have lots of misconceptions about the students. You expect them to behave like they did at your last place but that’s hardly ever the case. I expected my students would be dishonest and massively underprepared for my classes. In truth, most of them are as honest as anyone and better prepared than I would have expected. Looking back there are many things I would have done differently with that group. Maybe I would have gotten a little more love out of them but maybe not.

Saturday, December 28, 2013

Two Years Ago on CM. The Golfer on the Job Market.

Duffer Darryl from Dallas on Search Committee Dynamics.

We're nearly done a fairly boring job search process. There haven't been any big blowups, no crazy scenes. Work got passed around. We had some votes. Most things made sense.

We're hiring two positions, we're a small department, and we got along just fine.

There was one guy we didn't invite to campus and I guess that was the only decision that went against what I thought was right. But the whole process had been so calm and normal it didn't even occur to me to complain.

Then today I was sitting in the lounge with another tenured proffie from the committee, Judy. We were not in committee mode; we were just shooting the breeze.

I suddenly said, "Hey, why did you and the rest vote against that one candidate, the guy from Florida?"

"Oh," Judy said. "All that talk in the phone interview about golf! My sister's husband is a golfer. He spends all his time on it; his clubs alone cost more than a thousand dollars. It's really wasteful. And he's gone 5-6 hours three or four times a week. We don't want someone like that teaching here. We have too much to do. You can't just take a whole day off to go golfing in the middle of the semester."

I looked at her open mouthed. I'm a golfer. She knows it. I have a tie with golf clubs on it. It's a bit of a running joke that if I'm not in my office I'm probably golfing. He didn't have much to say about golf, but I'd actually brought it up because I asked a question about what he did to unwind from the pressure of a heavy teaching load. All he said is that he played, and knew that Dallas and environs was good golf country.

"That's ridiculous," I said. And Judy was now open mouthed. "I taught my 9 and 10 am classes today. I had an office hour. I went and played 9 holes with a neighbor at Stevens Park, and got back here for our textbook meeting at 3. Am I doing something wrong?"

"How can you play that fast?" she said.

"I play 9 holes in about 90 minutes. Lots of us do. 18 holes I might play on a weekend, and that can take 5 hours if I have lunch and some drinks. But surely you spend time on the weekend on things just for yourself, right?"

"Well, you know me," Judy said. "I've always got my grading with me."

"Yeah," I said. "But your kids? Your husband? Don't you have your mother over in Ft. Worth you go visit on the weekends? Didn't you take her someplace last week during the week? Weren't you off campus all day, in fact?"

And at that point I'd gone too far.

"Well, golf is a silly hobby. Just look at your tie," she said.

Most Wanted?

Which old RYS / CM community members would you most like to hear from? We're in the process of trying to reach some of our favorites.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Terry's Motivationals.

A CM Flashback To One of Our All Time Favorites, The Bitchy Bear of Boston. 3 Years Ago Today.


An Open, Bitchy Letter to My Students, and Any Other Students Much Afflicted by Their B+

My dear young friends:

Ah! The B+!! It is the cruelest thing in the world, isn't it? You, my lucky young friends, having been born into one of world's wealthiest countries where everything from frozen yogurt to dirty pictures* to celebrity gossip is but a Paypal click away, are unused to hardship. Even more, you have been fortunate enough to be the children of parents willing, nay eager, to spend $50K+ a year for your education, and probably have since you entered this fine world. I get it. You haven't really had your back up against the wall.

So, of course, when presented with the B+ you earned in my class, you are in turn outraged/devastated. Grief is a terrible emotion. It tears into your soul. Since I turned off my email the day before Christmas and haven't gotten back to you, you have written me emails every single day. Every. Single. Day. So intense is your grief that the emails change in pitch, day by day, as you believe that I am indifferent to the terrible injustice I have done to you. Why am I not in my office Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, hell, EVERY day waiting to fix this blot on your soul? Where in God's name am I? THE HUMANITY!

Grade Twits.

grades are earned, shitbirds, not given.

Junior from Jersey. One of the Most Read RYS Posts Ever. 8 Years Ago Today.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

A Junior From Jersey.

A junior Business major at a public college in New Jersey sends this along this evening. I think it's a fantastic post, maybe the best one I've received since starting this project. She makes several excellent points, and her statements all bring echoes to me of other students I've had in the past, young men and women who truly don't deserve to be judged so harshly. Her post makes me think a lot about what we're doing here at RYS.


Listen, THE PROFESSOR, if you really want to understand what it's like to have professors like you grade us, rate us, poke us and prod us every day, take a walk in my shoes.

My Bio teacher tells us on every test that there are at least 2 right answers for every question, and that one is "better." Does that seem fair to you? Not me either.

My major field advisor is a stinking drunk, and I mean stinking. I can smell his scotch or whatever every time I walk in to his office. I have to smile so he fills out my forms even though he makes me sick to my stomach.

My Psychology professor tries to look up my skirt when I wear one. He hardly even pretends to do it casually. He's a married man, and old enough to be my dad. And because I can't possibly say anything against him - I'll flunk - I have to act like it doesn't bother me. I am physically ill every day before that class, and I'm glad I'll never have to see him again. But I bet there's another one like him waiting for me next semester.

I sleep in a dorm room with a girl who barfs three times a day, and who I can't report because I'm afraid she'll kill herself. I have a suitemate who screws her boyfriend after dorm hours and I can't say anything about that because her dad gave the college a ton of money and I don't need to be any more of an outsider than I am.

I can only schedule classes at weird times because of the incredibly clogged network. So on MWF I have a class at 8 am, noon, and 4 pm. How am I supposed to get a work schedule at the Kohl's if I can't get away from campus for a few hours in a row. Yes, I pay for a lot of my school myself, and I have to work in order to come here.

So, while you're all getting your jollies picking on students, please realize we're not all the same, and not all of us deserve your scorn.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Terry's Motivationals.

7 Years Ago on RYS. The RYS Flashback.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

...and We All Ride Ponies to Work.

This is my first post here at RYS, and after reading through the rest of it, all I can say is, boy, do I have it good.

Yeah the pay sucks, and I have no job security or benefits, but what makes that tolerable is the fact that my students are great and it's not what I'm bringing to the class, it's what they are.

95% are serious about their schooling. They work their butts off. If they didn't, they'd fail. They're respectful, fun, profane, disagree with me all the time, eager, and they help each other out. The workload we thrust upon them is tremendous. I would find it crushing and that's an oft-heard comment made by my colleagues as well.

And here's something else - my colleagues and I like each other. They do their job and the students have acquired the knowledge they need to progress. My boss is even great. We fail students and kick them out of the program for low grades and attendance all the time. If students want to challenge a grade, they agree to a mediation, and their grade is raised or lowered without complaint.

If a student is having a problem, I usually don't have to set up a one-on-one session , they approach me, and most don't offer up excuses. They ask how they can improve their work and pointedly request that I not be soft with them.

I failed a student last term and he thanked me for it, saying he needed the kick in the pants, and he's come around completely.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013


Focus on the locus of the hocus pocus

Whence this abysmal inability to pay attention? The implications are grave.

Many of my students display gross incompetence in matters of focusing. And they often suffer as a result. Yet they do not learn from their errors. Perhaps because some of us do not ensure that they reap as they sow? . . .

Read exam instructions? Forget it. Loaded shotgun + own foot = blammo! Bother to review the course resources that often contain exam questions . . . along with the answers? No way, bud. Too rational. Truly listen in class instead of zoning out or transcribing mindlessly? Fat chance. Ears are for holding designer shades, not absorbing the life of the mind. Or any sort of life outside the self. Or avoiding a big, fat F.

8 Years Ago on RYS. A Mini Manifesto.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

A Mini Manifesto From Maine.

Okay, if we're going to be all feel-goody for next year, here are some rules I want the students to play by:

  • If I ask you to read a book, or go to a gallery, or watch a video, I really mean it. It's not just some random thought I've had. My assignments are designed to raise your level of knowledge. If I assign it, it's a real thing. It's not just being all ‘teacherly.’
  • When someone else is talking in class, addressing class - even if it's me - that means you are to shut your pie hole and listen in. 
  • When I ask you a question, I'm asking a serious question, one that has to do with your ability to pass the class. It's not optional. It's not as if I said, ‘Uh, Marcella, if you don't want to I'll understand, but would you care to tell me what you know about cubism?’ I mean, ‘Tell me what you know about cubism from my handouts, the textbook, the film I showed, and the gallery we walked through for 2 hours last week. Your life in this class hangs in the balance.’ 
  • I think my field, my class, and my life work is important. When you make fun of it, or tell me that you just took this class for fun because it's so much easier than your major, it makes me think you're an idiot. And that's not really what you want out of this relationship.
  • Our classes end at 50 or 30 minutes past the hour, depending on the class and the day. I can keep you in your desks until that time if I choose. When it's 9:45, and you're hungry, or Mitch is waiting at the Commons, I really don't want to hear you start shuffling around and slamming stuff into your bookbag. If I cheated you out of 30 seconds on a test, you'd likely call the Dean's office.
  • I won't know your final grade for the semester until nearly the end of the semester. Your grade up until that point - you should imagine - is an F. You have to WORK to earn a grade. You have NOTHING at the beginning, and you have you do work in here to EARN points and EARN a grade. If you ask me in week three what your grade is, it's going to be an F. It'll be an F until about the 13th week. There's no way in the world I'm going to GUESS a grade for you so that you can relax and concentrate on Economics or something.

A Folkchurch Christmas. From 2010.

click to enlarge

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Two Years Ago Today: Yaro With The Christmas.


It is I, Yaro, With the Christmas.

What is Christmas, after all, but an idea? Of course its historical place varies for us in this country. It's a holiday. It's St. Nicholas's grand day. It's all presents and stockings and sales on televisions. It's the celebration of a distant birth freighted with impossible meaning.

Ideas. They are what I traffic in, in my world. I have them. My young charges do not. At semester end I ask myself if I have transmitted enough of them to earn the right to return the next term. (And I have so far always found my way back.)

This place, this academic water cooler, is an idea, too, of course. Really more of an idea than a real place. We examine the world through lenses uncommon. It's not the real academy. It's one we use to fret the ones that exist.

I put the lights on Mrs. Yaro's lovely tree. I think of the three kings and what they mean. I find myself frozen in place, in a warm light. I think of a little boy who lived in this house long ago who is with us no more, taken on a winter day in 1984. It was at Christmastime.

I would think that would color the season forever, but it hasn't. The smell of goose. Tinsel. What a word. It is glorious.

That the Christmas at times has been nothing but a savage reminder of our bitter loss - for it is Mrs. Yaro's, too, though I only truly know my own. And at others, a peaceful, beautiful time of remembrance.

In the same way my teaching has at times been only a job, a place to ply a trade. And other times, my vocation, avocation, an absolution, an empyrean endeavour.

I am all wind up this evening, lacking the pitch. I am not sure where this meditation is to go.

At this time of year my colleagues have mostly struggled to the airport to travel, abroad, or to family homes, or to warmer climes.

But Mrs. Yaro and I watch the fire and think of one baby born and one lost.

I have telephoned my family and friends tonight with hale greetings. I have told them I love them and miss them, and look forward to when we next meet.

And I thought to look in on all of you, for despite the modern and disconnected format of our community, I feel attached to you as well, so kind you have been to welcome my occasional tale.

And I send you my best, Yaro's, upon the evening, the season, and the Christmas.

I am yours,

Real Goddamned Mail: Mini Harvard Edition.

  • Nowhere do I see on your website where you teach. I'm betting it's not Harvard.
  • You've taken a few soundbites completely out of context to make some kind of point. I don't think it's worked.
  • One of these students is a notorious crank, and I see you're trying to piggyback on that to denigrate an institution that is without peer.
  • Wow, what a sad person you must be. I read a few of your posts and all I can say is keep trying.

Folkchurch Flashback. 3 Years Ago. How Grades Work.

click image to enlarge

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Harvard VidShizzle From College Misery.

A Great Looking Harvard Water Bottle!

A Cool Beaker Ben Holiday Flashback. 3 Years Ago Today.

2009's Post of the Year. Len From Las Cruces. (The 3rd Most Read Post Ever at RYS.)

I can't think of many things within the profession that don't cripple me with fear. So your query is not some fresh-as-a-baby concept upon which I'm stumbling for the first time.

Instead, it's driven and pummeled me throughout my career, grad school to 10 years in.

But the thing that scares me the most, the thing that keeps me up at night in my cups rather than snoring beside Lady Len, is that I've wasted my entire life on a profession, a calling, and a career that isn't worth a drop of my energy or blood.

Is it too strong to say that I simply don't think college works?

The rest of the goon old days misery...


For me, this was the ultimate RYS post. In my 3+ years running the page, it was the one that sort of brought the whole experience into focus.

How different (or the same) do you think CM is?

An Early Thirsty From the Wombat: Lecture Vs. Lab.

During my first semester of teaching, I taught lecture only. It went well. My second, I taught lab. It was Kindergarten Cop meets Lord of the Flies. In my first summer session I taught at a different school, with a different lab book. It was a roaring success. My second fall I was back at the CC and it was a zoo all over again. By mid semester I resolved to figure out why I could handle students in lecture, but not lab, except that one session when I COULD function and teach in the lab. I finally figured out that it was the difference of student preparation. The State College required "prelab" exercises. I wrote some of my own to use at the CC and wallah [sic] I gained control of that class.

By the end of my second year I had written a bunch of pre-lab supplements to go with the CC lab book. I used them in my class and offered them to other professors. Some of them were printed up in custom versions of the lab manual we use, but I had never been asked and I never got any credit. Not in the money sense - I don't give a shit and I don't know what dollar amount you could put on it, but it would be trivial, and I'm pretty sure no one makes money FROM the publisher on those custom deals. I never got any credit as in the original author is listed and our department head is listed as the "editor of custom version" or some crap like that, a few adjuncts are thanked for their "suggestions", and my name... nowhere.

Sunday, December 22, 2013

How One Teacher Handles Cell Phones. Sent in by EMH.

Be The Envy Of Your Colleagues,
And the Scourge of Your Snowflakes.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

It's Saturday Afternoon (and someone's META-THIRSTY)

You are puzzled, frazzled, confused, disheartened, disenchanted, etc.... ??????

Q.  What question do you wish someone (e.g., Yaro, God, your school's president, your dean, Michelle Obama, Leslie K) would answer for you?

A. (actually Q.)  ______________________________
                                                                   Be honest, dammit.

Friday, December 20, 2013

It's Friday and I Don't Have Class...

I think I'll do some drawing...

A "Fried" Friday Thirsty From Bubba.

What has higher education done for you today?

Did it give you a carpet burn?

Did it make you feel colorful?

Did it make you feel old?

Did it make you feel like a bug in a rug?

Did it make you want to give Leslie K a hug?

Are you too numb to know?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Big Thirsty: Pompous Professors in Fiction

Last week's discussion of competitive colleagues included true misery, commiseration, snappy rejoinders, and insight into pride and fraudulence.

What the thread did not suggest, however, was an approach dear to the hearts of College Miserians. I refer, of course, to prolonged ridicule.

So I present to you Professor Dr Moritz-Maria von Igelfeld of the Institute of Romance Philology, author of that renowned and monumental work Portuguese Irregular Verbs. Flava ensues below the jump.

As a followup to Peter K's recent request for "CM-worthy quotes from world literature," here's the Thirsty:

Q: Who's your favorite pompous professor in fiction? 

Fireable Tweets. From Inside Higher Ed. Written by My Pretend Academic Boyfriend Scotty J.

by Scott Jaschik

In September, the University of Kansas suspended David W. Guth, a tenured journalism professor, after he responded to the shootings at the Washington Navy Yard with this comment on Twitter: "#NavyYardShooting The blood is on the hands of the #NRA. Next time, let it be YOUR sons and daughters. Shame on you. May God damn you."

Many pro-gun politicians called for Guth to be fired, but he kept his job and the suspension has since been lifted. Officials also learned that the state's public universities didn't have a policy that explicitly permitted the dismissal of faculty members and other employees over their use of social media.

On Wednesday, the Kansas Board of Regents changed that, and adopted rules under which faculty members and other employees can be fired for "improper use of social media" -- and some parts of the policy are already drawing harsh criticism from faculty leaders.


"Just a Job," From Allan in Akron.

I teach in a ridiculously judge-y department. I'm the youngest person in the department, the most visible, the most recently published, and the one with the largest set of mentees. My classes fill up, is what I'm saying, when those of my colleagues' are always half full.

I know my colleagues think I'm lazy because I'm not standing in the hallways like them all day and night. When I do show up to work - on time and before my class - the "veterans," who are always huddled together talking about how hard their lives all are, swivel their heads, say a begrudinging hello, and turn their noses up as if they caught a whiff of something bad.

For a time I let it bother me and felt a little out of place, but I got over it. I know I'm doing my job well and have the student evaluations to prove it.