Friday, October 31, 2014

Paulette in Prince George With a Halloween Greeting.

Maybe it's the lab reports waiting for my pen, or maybe it's just the cheery Halloweenie spirit that my backwards uni adminstrators have.

Our whole department got this link in our emails this morning from a Dean with the subject line: "How to spice up Friday!"

The only reason I'm not firebombing the place today is because some of the review comments, like this one:
I really wanted to like this enough to order it. However, it's not exactly accurate. It should come with a pack of stale cigarettes and some ramen noodles. The robe needs armpit stains and some random splashes of laser cartridge toner down the front. Overall, the ensemble doesn't capture that unique combination of exhaustion, resignation, and despair achieved after the degree is conferred and the first loan bill has arrived four months after the wearer sent out 75 job applications to which she has not yet received any response aside from three affirmative action cards from the same HR department at Northeast Western Montana State College. I do commend the designer, however, for suggesting an alternative funding model for that grim day when the stipend runs out.

Longtime Lurker Academic Rebound Sends This In.

KK Update.

Two different readers report that Katie from Kalamazoo noted on her blog this week that she's considering blogging under her real name in the future. We've had such an odd relationship with this well known academic blogger that we thought this was newsy enough for a little note.

No word on what role the cats will have.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

"List Isn't Long Enough." Sent in by Sid From Santa Fe.

The Big Thirsty from Belinda in Boston.

I never get this group.
From the Daily Nebraskan:

Many students despise group projects, professors should take note

When is somebody going to tell teachers that group projects are not such a great idea?

Don’t get me wrong, there’s value in learning to construct ideas and make them a reality together, the whole “two heads are better than one” mantra. But how many of us really enjoy being held responsible for any head but our own?

The Rest.

Q: What do you think about using group projects? 

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

"Male Grad Student Pretty Sure Female Colleagues Are 'Paranoid B-Words." Most Sent Link This Week. From

Life is hard for the male grad student whose heartfelt cry you're about to read. That's because somehow — and he has no idea how this could be happening — he's always offending his female colleagues, who seem to think he's some kind of sexist douche.

A tipster sent us the Crybaby's recent Facebook post, wherein he confesses that he "often offends" the women around him, and he doesn't understand why. He's tried to so hard to learn all those stupid rules said women are always going on about, like not interrupting or calling them stupid or anything. And yet somehow they're still always mad at him! Must be because they're all "highly ambitious, paranoid b-words."

Click here to see his cogent sociopolitical analysis, with some identifying details redacted.

I'm Hiram and I'm Baffled By Students Who Can't or Won't Follow Instructions.

So I set as a goal this year to make students follow ordinary and quite limited guidelines when turning in essays. I see about 400 essays a semester, and I believe that readers have expectations about content and style, and in the academic world, yes, some of those include format.

I told my students in September that even messing up where the student ID block went would result in a rewrite. I give them a copy of a correct essay format the first week. There's page number shit, spacing, all that. Even font size. Good grief I hate myself for that.

But still, many weeks in, students just fucking ignore all of it. And I pass papers back with RESUBMIT on them and sometimes I see them again and sometimes I don't.

Klueless Kevin has had 2 of these so far. No grades of course because I haven't read any of his work yet. (I tell them this.)

He came to my office yesterday and asked how he was doing.

"Well, you don't have any grades yet. You haven't resubmitted your essays in the required format."

"What? You mean I have no grades."

"No, of course not. You have to resubmit the papers in the format for class. I wrote it on both essays."

"I thought that was just so I'd do better on the next essay."

"Well, sure, but your second essay was done incorrectly as well. I'm happy to look at anything you've got though once you get them fixed."

"What's the right format?"

"Well, it's one of the first handouts, it was emailed to you with the subject line 'format requirements for essays.' I put it on the screen one day, and it's on our LMS page."

"Oh. So I need to fix those before you grade them?"


"Well, were they any good?"

"I haven't read them at all. I won't read them until they match the requirements for class."

"So I have no grades at all."

"Not yet. But I'm looking forward to it when you do."

Compound Cal Sets His Sights on Closing the Page Down For Good With a New Feature.

Dr. Amelia Wants Us To Play a Game. Anything to Avoid Reading Plagiarizing Pete's Newest Essay.

A colleague of mine got a cookie without fortunes in it. I wrote him a few. Can you come up with others?

  1. The winds howl. Whine-ter is coming.
  2. The research problem you are having will prove intractable.
  3. Coffee with your colleague will be the best moment of your day.
  4. "Sick" for the midterm Suzie will not pass.
  5. It is not your imagination. The students are snap chatting your outfit.
  6. You will spend your winter vacation doing research, and not feel like you have done enough.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I'm Not So Impressed With the Ivies Anymore. This Class Taught at UPenn is Like EVERY FUCKING CLASS TAUGHT AT MY COMMUNITY COLLEGE.

ENG 111

Students will be required to stare at the screen for three hours, only interacting through chat rooms, bots, social media and  listservs. Distraction, multi-tasking, and aimless drifting is mandatory.

- Sid from Santa Fe

Speedy Titular Rant

Dear "Student"

     You are in a gigantic open lab where six classes are meeting simultaneously.  Stop shouting out "Professor" every time you have a question; you're driving five of us crazy.


Our New Vidshizzle Correspondent Is Worried His Posts Might Kill the Page. We're Going to Post as Many as He Sends Us To Find Out.

Performing "Le Sigh" Can Get You Suspended.

Dr. Jekyll: Hyde, my dear man, you know how much I dislike College Misery linking stories, but this one is just too good to let by.

Prof. Hyde: Enlighten me.

Dr. Jekyll: Let me put it in clickbait terms. The professor sighed heavily. Then THIS happened...
"A professor was suspended from a top university for nine months following accusations he 'sighed' and was sarcastic during job interviews. Thomas Docherty was banned from the University of Warwick in January for allegedly giving off "negative vibes" and undermining the authority of the former head of his department."


Monday, October 27, 2014

For Any Proffies Looking To Move to Syracuse Next Fall to Teach a Single Film Noir Class, Your Ship Has Come In.

The English department at Syracuse University is looking for an individual who will teach ETS 410 Forms and Genres for spring 2015 (3 credits). This is an upper division undergraduate course.
Course Description: examine the history of the category, investigating its historical sources, mutations, and continued popularity. We will also consider how the film noir depicts criminality and the investigative process, placing these depictions in their historical contexts. Screenings will include a wide variety of films noir across the history of the category, from the 1940s to the contemporary period, with the first portion of the course focusing on studio-era noir, and the latter portion on neo-noir.

The candidate must have a PhD in film, English or a related field.

Why elite universities should admit more community college grads. From WashPost.

Every year about 3 million students graduate from high school in the United States — and only about 50,000 will have the qualifications to begin their academic careers at one of the country’s top 30 private research universities. These are schools that not only teach, but also inspire scientific innovation, social progress and artistic expression. Yet these universities are often branded as perpetrators of high student debt or bastions of privilege.

But they need not be. An important step toward reversing this perception would be to expand the ways that low-income, academically qualified students can gain access to these institutions. In this regard, the University of Southern California has been leading the way by widely recruiting and admitting transfer students from two-year community colleges.


Tensions Running High at UVa.

Multiple-choice is the right choice

Multiple-choice tests are valuable teaching tools for large introductory courses

On October 2nd, my fellow columnist Jared Fogel argued University professors should reduce their use of multiple-choice exams. He criticized the test format for preventing professors from effectively judging students’ understanding of the material, eliminating the possibility of partial credit for students whose work is nearly correct and causing students to feel less obligated to study. While these criticisms are valid for some administrations of multiple-choice tests, I disagree that these are inherent drawbacks of the format that recommend against its use. Multiple-choice exams are a valuable feature of many introductory courses at the University.
While I agree with Fogel on the importance of professors promoting a “deeper understanding of material,” I object to his assumption that multiple-choice tests are never a vehicle to achieve that goal. 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Too Good To Be Linked Under the Header. 8 Years Ago Today on RYS. A Flashback For the Ages.

Letter to New Faculty

Hello and welcome to the University. I think you'll find teaching at a college to be a rewarding experience. Please adhere to the following 8 rules:

1. You are not to abuse your Xerox machine privilege and make more copies than is absolutely necessary. This helps us save money in ways that you'll never see on your paycheck.

2. You may not sleep with your students. No, not even if they're "totally begging for it." Please note: Sleeping with the Xerox machine or making copies of your students is, however, acceptable. When making copies of your students, we recommend only those that are getting a "B" or better. When sleeping with the Xerox machine we ask you call the next day. And would it kill you to send flowers?

3. If a student asks a question and you do not know the answer, simply say "I don't know, but I'll get back to you." The following are not acceptable responses: -"What? Sorry. I don't speak retarded," -"Sounds like a question a terrorist would ask," -"You know, your mom asked me that same thing last night."

4. You are entitled to one free punch of any student you like during your career, but only ONE. So make it count. If you can hit more than one student with a single punch this will be acceptable.

5. The following do not count as official reasons to cancel class: -"No Pants Day" (We found that this is not an official holiday either in the US or Canada) -"Let's see if I can chug my way to a better profession day," - "Wednesday."

6. If you must cancel class for personal reasons, you are required to provide an alternate activity to your students. Please show discretion for what qualifies as an alternate activity. This University has found the following previously given excuses for canceling class to be unacceptable alternatives to lecture: -"Praying my hangover goes away by Thursday," -"Applying the lessons of Machiavelli by punching a hobo and stealing his change," -"Going to Hell."

7. You are welcome to ask for a raise, but we prefer you do not ask us.

8. You must conduct class in the classroom you were assigned. Class may not be held outside, in a bar, or in your student's pants (no matter how much he/she "is still totally begging for it.")

Thank you for adhering to our policies. Please enjoy a fulfilling semester!

Saturday, October 25, 2014

I Wait All Year For This!

A great professor can inspire a student, create a comfortable learning environment, and generally bring a course to life. released its annual list of Top University Professors on Tuesday, charting the best teachers in higher education based on student reviews.

These 25 professors were noted for accessibility, clarity, and ability to cultivate a discussion, among many other traits. They come from a variety of subjects and from colleges all over the country. Many students noted that these professors made them thrive in and love a subject they previous struggled with.

No. 25 Bonnie Mackey

Via University of Houston-Clear Lake
Education, University of Houston - Clear Lake
"ONE of the BEST teachers at UHCL. She is an amazing professor who helps your and teaches you so many things that you will use in the future. She makes class fun and interesting."
"Dr. Mackey is an awesome professor! She is very enthusiastic, and teaches very useful and relevant strategies. There are lots of hands on activities in class, and a few easy projects that are done outside of class. Take this teacher!! She is amazing!"

The Rest.

Friday, October 24, 2014

A Friday Thirsty on that Lousy LMS. From the Academic Madame Librarian.

My class didn't make, so I was allowed to convert them to independent study for a 5th of the money. But I needed filthy lucre, so I'm now committed.

This is my first goddamn time teaching a 100% online course. And my first time teaching anything longer than a three part workshop all by myself. And my first time working with this damned LMS as anything other than a student.

It lost my pictures, diligently uploaded and selected to go with the content, for my visual learners.

It somehow moved all of my files, so my quick links no longer work (which a student informed me of - yes, that was a fun series of emails), and it took completely re-doing each and every one of the blasted things before they would work.

Things that seem like they should take 10 seconds take me almost 30 minutes to do, like setting release conditions for tests.

Q: Does this get any easier? How does anyone teach with these things? Is there any benefit for the instructor from the LMS?

Lena Dunham. Oberlin. BA: Creative Writing. 2008.

There I am in my long sleeping-bag coat, shuffling to class twenty minutes late on a Tuesday morning. There I am in what used to be the video store, piling my arms high with VHSs. There I am in the diner, ordering not one but two egg sandwiches. There I am in the gym, riding an Exercycle from the early '80s and reading a book called Bosnian Rape. And there I am, drunk on a spring night, yanking my tampon out and hurling it into a bush outside the church. There I am falling in love by the bike rack. There I am slowly realizing my bike has gone missing from the same rack, stolen while I was sleeping. There I am calling my father from the steps of the art museum. There I am half listening to a professor when she tells me I need to start attending class more regularly. And I'm there, too, dragging a torn sofa into the black-box theater with my 'set designer.' If I had known how much I would miss these sensations I might have experienced them differently, recognized their shabby glamour, respected the ticking clock that defined this experience. I would have put aside my resentment, dropped my defenses. I might have a basic understanding of European history or economics. More abstractly, I might feel I had truly been somewhere, open and porous and hungry to learn. Because being a student was an enviable identity and one I can only reclaim by attending community college late in life for a bookmaking class or something.

Traffic Report.

These are the daily hits
from the past couple of weeks.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Allow me to break character. I feel sorry for these students.

Really, I do feel bad for the,.  If they leave college as clueless as they arrived, they have no chance.  Proffie Galore's comment reminded me of a recent conversation I had with a student.

She came to office hours with questions.  In the middle of explaining how to solve a problem, she says, "By the way, I have a question about lab."  she sat back from the table where we were working, making it clear that her mind had fixated on to this new topic.

OK, let's talk about lab.  I started to answer her question but I needed to check the syllabus.  While I opened my file cabinet, she became curious about our final exam (6 weeks from now!), then about something else.  She moved from topic to topic whenever I paused to catch my breathe.  Her body language suggested that she never fully understood what I said, just that her new thought was more important than her previous one.  We ended our conversation with her telling me about a science show she watched (partially, of course) on the Discovery Channel.  I told her that it sounded interesting.  That made her happy; she packed up and left.

We never finished solving the problem that she came to see me about.

Why can't Johnny understand math? A Big Thirsty from Dr. Amelia.

So Dr. Amelia teaches in an area that is not math heavy, but is math friendly. To do what we do, quantitative ability is pretty important, but often lacking.

As of late, she has noticed that her students, who usually did quite well in math classes in high school and even college seem to still be innumerate when they reach her. I ask the percentage change between 8 million and 10 million and they give an answer of 200% and don't bat an eye. "Don't you see that that makes no sense?" she asks them. "Math is hard," they answer. If they have a formula, they can plug and chug an answer, but seem incapable of thinking about what it means.

Q: How is it Johnny can DO math (sometimes), but can't understand it?

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Vic Wants to Vent. A Speedy Rant About Wind.

Thank God your page exists.

I'm in my second year of teaching. The first year was a blur. I have no idea if I did anything right or wrong. I can't remember what the students were like. I was in a fog the first two semesters just trying to keep my shit together.

But now, solidly in place halfway through this semester, I'm starting to recognize that I'm teaching children, 18-20 year old children who have no attention spans - look, a bug flew by - and who act like 5 year olds.

In the middle of a student's reading of a heartbreaking poem about suicide today, Dick in the back row actually farted. Not, a small whisper of flatulence, but a raise-the-cheek fart.

A kid two seats over said, "Hey, that's the Caf's burrito working, man!" And the whole class laughed, including the poor sap I'd tapped to read the poem.

I felt my face go red, and beads of sweat popped out on my forehead. I could only think of one thing to say, and I didn't say it gracefully, "Why can't you just BEHAVE?"

And it was quiet for a second and then some titters. It was close to the end of class. I grabbed my book and my jacket and headed for the door.

"Be here Friday," I said.

Just Imagine that Sophie Is A Duck.

Animal Therapy Reduces Anxiety, Loneliness Symptoms in College Students

from the Georgia State U News

Animal-assisted therapy can reduce symptoms of anxiety and loneliness among college students, according to researchers at Georgia State University, Idaho State University and Savannah College of Art and Design. Their findings are published in the latest issue of the Journal of Creativity in Mental Health.

The researchers provided animal-assisted therapy to 55 students in a group setting at a small arts college in the Southeast. They found a 60 percent decrease in self-reported anxiety and loneliness symptoms following animal-assisted therapy, in which a registered therapy dog was under the supervision of a licensed mental health practitioner.

Eighty-four percent of the participants reported their interaction with the therapy dog, Sophie, was the most significant part of the program


Forget the Burners. What About Bullies? From the USA Today.

Bullying not a thing of the past for college students

By: Kaitlyn Krasselt

Bullying comes in all forms but is usually thought of as a K-12 issue that ceases to exist once students head off to college.

This misconception is one that could be harming many college students, according to Brian Van Brunt, President of the National Behavioral Intervention Team Association and author of the book Ending Campus Violence: New Approaches to Prevention.

“I think it’s that perception (college) a blank slate,” Van Brunt says. “Once high school’s over it’ll be a whole new experience, but the problems don’t go away. These things don’t just disappear … I would argue they get worse because you’re adding stress … Why would that get easier not harder?”


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Pumpkin Riot.

An interesting headline on BBC World News caught my eye - there was a "Pumpkin Riot" in Keene, NH.

From the video footage, it would appear that the rioters were "young people" i.e. college students from Keene State College.

It would make me feel better if college students rioted about something substantive, rather than simply doing so as a consequence of the presence of booze, or having a popular football coach suspended.

-- Prof Poopiehead

Hiram Is Here, and He's Baffled By All the Bakers.

Well, I hardly don't want to start this. Because I was a full on stoner in college. I went to lots of classes baked and failed some and took my punishment and got my shit together to finish in 5 years! Hooray! At a state school!

Anyway, during most of the 2000s, I just didn't have many students like that. I sensed they had their fun on the weekends, and found enough beer cans around campus on Monday mornings to know they were partying.

But in the past couple of years, I'm catching a whiff of weed in classes. Am I crazy? Is there an uptick in pot smoking in the 2000-teens?

I have a 9 am class and it's a little cramped. (We don't have Yaro's yawning windows!) We've had some cool mornings recently and I can smell weed on the jackets and sweaters of some students. It's not overpowering, and nobody is like Spicoli, but at least a few students seem blissful and peaceful and ready to listen - but not talk - as we cover some bitching Walt Whitman.

What's it like where you are? Is pot making a comeback? Do you have boozers? Do cokeheads still exist? Do meth kids even GET to class?

I'm baffled, and I knew right where to turn!

PS: To the RGM, please note I sent this in on Tuesday; that used to be my day! Oh, the new kids don't care.

Today's VidShizzle: Ask Adam!

We love the scientist / TV star Adam Ruben quite a bit. In fact we pushed the shit out of his brilliantly funny book some years back.

We get word that he's doing a new web video series for the Journal of Visualized Experiments (a video-based scientific journal). It's called "Ask Adam about Grad School." It's meant for grad students in the sciences, but most of the advice is fake anyway, and most of the explanations involve toddler toys.

Here's the first episode.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Give me a caption!

Time for a caption contest.

Let's do this in the comments section.

Quick Reminder from The RGM.

As noted when I reopened the page in September, I'm just working an hour a day, so don't be forlorn if you don't hear back from me about links or posts you send. I'm usually online with the email and the blog around 9 am eastern, but truly don't see anything until the next day. But I will address any questions or requests the very next time I'm logged on.

Ten Before Tenure encourages learning at Boise State. From the Boise State Arbiter.

If Socrates were alive today, he wouldn’t get tenure. This is largely because he polluted the minds of his students with ideas and had a tendency to shake things up.

At Boise State, students don’t really have the Socrates problem. Sometimes, however, they get a tenure-track professor who takes a safer approach to teaching, which helps them secure tenure but negatively impacts the overall experience for students.

“There are certainly people who get very comfortable teaching in a particular way and, for most of their careers that’s the way they teach,” said Susan Shadle, director of the Center for Teaching and Learning.

For this reason, the Ten Before Tenure program was created.

The Rest.

What are college professors (not) teaching? From

We're the Danes
and we're living it up!
With two teenage daughters, I try to stay “relevant.” It’s not easy. So, I like to scout around the Internet to see what’s “trending” among teens and college students. What I find is sometimes fatuous. And mystifying.

A recent popular post “shared” on a college student’s Facebook page lamented life in the U.S. and extolled how wonderful it is in Denmark –the happiest place on earth! One person wrote, “Let’s follow Denmark! The Declaration of Independence states, ‘the pursuit of happiness is an inalienable right.’”

(Actually, the Declaration’s final draft was “unalienable,” but I don’t want to quibble.)

Photographs on the post displayed happy Danish faces with captions that read, “Free Child Care, Free Health Care, Free University, $20 Minimum Wage.” My favorite photo was a grinning guy with his feet propped up on his work desk accompanied by the words, “33 Hour Work Week!”


Sunday, October 19, 2014


I'll tell you when
to panic.
I just received what I'm pretty sure is the third university-wide email about Ebola in the last two months.  This is not completely ridiculous; my university is located in a major metropolitan area with multiple international airports and a regular flow of travelers to and from all corners of the world, and some of our students come from West Africa (though most of them haven't been back in a while). We also have a number of students who are employed in various capacities in local hospitals, which, given what we've learned so far about the spread of the disease in the U.S., may be a more plausible source of possible infection. 

Still, I'm not sure I really feel the need to receive emails from the president and the provost on the subject, until and unless there's a case diagnosed in someone with some connection to the university population.  The most recent letter started by assuring us that there are no known cases on campus, then spent several paragraphs  paraphrasing information from the CDC, which is sensible and responsible, but also sort of underlines that there's nothing university-specific to say.  The title of the email -- "[University] monitoring spread of Ebola" -- also seemed a bit alarmist, given that Ebola hasn't, as I write this, spread in the U.S. beyond the population associated with a single hospital (a long long way from us).   

I'm wondering how other institutions are handling the Ebola situation (or non-situation, as the case mostly is).  So far, I've only heard about Navarro College, which seems to have way overreacted, then  sort of apologized. Has your institution felt the need to tell you that there are no Ebola cases on campus, but that they're watching the situation carefully?  Does the institutional reaction (if any) seem to bear any logical relationship to the kind of institution, nature of the student body, location, etc.?  Do your students seem worried about, or even aware of, the disease? 

Grad school's mental health problem. From Pacific Standard.

by Ted Scheinman

The prevailing presumption is that graduate school is supposed to be hell, and that madness is the natural reaction.

Pop wisdom says you'd have to be a lunatic to spend six years earning a humanities Ph.D. given contracting faculty budgets and a concomitant expansion of ill-paid lectureships.

Leaving aside this prevalent if pat diagnosis (the constant howling drives consistent traffic — exhibit A), we might more properly say: Six years in a doctoral program is liable to make kooks of even our best-adjusted scholars.

Just look at our rich options for scholarly neurosis. There's Imposter Syndrome, relative poverty, the endless solitude of reading and research, disdain within one's extended family, not to mention the mixed-up rewards system that you must engineer in order to tell yourself that reading qualifies as work and therefore you deserve three square meals and occasional sleep. Depending on the school — especially if you're in California — competition for funding (not travel grants, but a livable teacher's stipend) can fuel all manner of anxiety.


Saturday, October 18, 2014

Anita Sarkeesian cancels talk at Utah State University over threats of ‘the deadliest school shooting’ in US history

The feminist pop culture critic Anita Sarkeesian has been forced to cancel a talk at Utah State University, after a threat of a “Montreal Massacre-style attack”.

Sarkeesian, who is best known for her YouTube series “Tropes v Women in Video Games”, assessing various anti-feminist trends in gaming, was scheduled to talk at the university on Wednesday, when the unsigned email was sent.

The author of the email threatened that if the talk was not cancelled, they would carry out an attack in the style of the 1989 Montreal massacre, when Marc L├ępine murdered 14 women, claiming he was “fighting feminism”.

“I have at my disposal a semi-automatic rifle, multiple pistols, and a collection of pipe bombs,” the letter said. “This will be the deadliest school shooting in American history and I’m giving you a chance to stop it.”


Friday, October 17, 2014

Prof. Poopiehead Helps Us Meet Our Canadian Content Guidelines With This Piece from the Hamilton Spectator. Go Ti-Cats!

Young Hamilton workers need attitude adjustment
A new study concludes Hamilton's youngest workers have a sense of entitlement that's keeping them out of jobs.
In its 2014 Labour Market Plan, Workforce Planning Hamilton and other agencies said the survey of employers showed getting workers with the right "soft skills" is becoming more difficult.
"Soft skills … refer to personal qualities, habits, attitudes and social graces that make a worker a good employee and compatible with an organization's workplace culture," the report states.

The attitude these little shits show in the classroom? It carries on into the workforce. Even if they manage to get a university or college degree, they still continue to be little shits.

The first few paragraphs of this article have a couple of gems worth mentioning:
  • "A new study concludes Hamilton's youngest workers have a sense of entitlement that's keeping them out of jobs. "
  • "...[applicants assume] an employer, or the world, owes them a living..."

Kimmie on Homeschooling.

Oh I am not prone to optimism, but after Cal's piece the other day I thought I'd share a nice one, too.

I've had homeschoolers every once in a while, more in the past few years, and - forgive me - they are usually so maladapted for getting along with other humans that they never really thrive in my classes. They're usually sweet as all get out, but some also have a kind of titanic need for attention.

And then I got Edgar in my 9 am class and Lucinda in my 11, fraternal twins in their first year of college.

Their last name is exceedingly Massachussetts-ian, so I didn't even think they were related for a few weeks.

They dominate their own classes with comments and questions, but when I spoke to them they each pulled back. The thing was, I hated to do that. They are great to talk to. They know when they don't know something, and they're polite and thorough in trying to figure stuff out. Neither had ever been in a traditional classroom before September.

They're among the best students I've ever had.

Yesterday I was walking to my car around noon and I saw the two of them together getting in a van with a woman about my age. They waved, and then the woman started to walk toward me, hand outstretched. I could see Edgar and Lucinda's eyes open wide. They looked at each other with cute embarrassment.

"I'm Joanie," the approaching woman said. "I wanted to thank you for making my kids' first semester so much fun. They talk about your class all the time."

And she was warm and sweet and although I'm often horrified about meeting strangers, especially parents, it didn't bug me.

"Well, they're great," I said. "Whoever taught them so far has done a great job."

And, then still holding my hand, she started to tear up. Oh God, what had I done.

But it was all right. She thanked me, apologized for keeping me, and sheepishly she and the kids got into the van and pulled out as I was opening my car door.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Dr. Pablito Wants to Get to the Bottom of the Snowflake Thing. The Big Thirsty.

So the lovely spouse is training to be a research hamsterian, and as a class assignment, she decided to investigate the earliest usage of "snowflake" in its snarky sense, the way it is used here.

From Fight Club, 1999.

Tyler Durden: "Listen up, maggots. You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You're the same decaying organic matter as everything else."

Q: Can anyone push it back further than that? When did it first appear in these pages?

Let the Learning Continue. From the Baylor Lariat.

You're done
when I say
you're done!
Several times on any given day, students begin to nervously eye their watches, slide their phones from their pockets or glance at hallways where other students are roaming. All this in anticipation of the moment when an instructor finishes a sentence with just the right inflection that signals class is finally over.

It’s an anxious two to three minutes that consist of an even longer train of thought in students’ minds. Will my professor mind if I leave right now? Is class technically over?


Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Speedy Rant from Winnie in Warrensville. Job Misery (Old Shit; New Unhappiness.)

I know you've covered this before on the blog, but I'm in the midst of job season (creative writing), and I've been keeping track of my applications using the stellar resource of Interfolio. (They bundle all your shit and send it where it needs to go.)

Well, these first applications are so annoying when departments want ALL of your materials right off the bat. I know enough to know that they could do a first cull quite easily with letters and vitae. But they don't.

It's the laborious Human Resources form with inane questions like can I lift 25 pounds and when can I start the job? (Yes, I can, but I won't - that's why I got the PhD; and "I CAN START WHENEVER THE FUCK YOU WANT ME TO.)

Rec letters, samples, lists of publications, separate list of references only, syllabi, sample assignments, teaching philosophy, separate philosophy for multi-cultural students, courses I took, courses I've taken, courses they have I can teach, have taught, will each, and then my favorite, "Suggest 2 courses not in our bulletin that you'd like to teach."

My list of recent Interfolio applications show that the smallest set of documents I've sent off since September 1st is 20 pages, and the largest has been 70.

Really? You need this right now?

EMH Sends In This Helpful Graphic In Response to a Recent Editorial.

Re: Post by Daniella Contreras, train-wreck argument tenure bad
because tenure...

"We’re all adults here." From the UNH Charger Bulletin.

by Kayla Katt

Can professors really kick us out of class? I mean, we pay them to teach us, and we pay a lot of money to be there. So when a professor threatens to kick you out of class for being on your phone or using your computer for the wrong reasons, can they really kick you out?

I think there is a difference between being disrespectful to a professor or talking in the middle of class and being a distraction and using your phone or computer and being disinterested. Of course, speaking out of turn and speaking obscenely to a professor can be disruptive and grounds for dismissal from a class. However, this semester teachers have made a huge deal about the use of cell phones and computers in class and how they are “not allowed.”


Final tally of Academic Bible Verses

Polling stations are now closed at College Misery and we are prepared to project a winner of the best academic Bible verse.

[insert election night graphics with eagles, explosions and apple pie here]

With 17.84% of the vote, the best academic Bible verse is:
And she brought forth an adjunct, and wrapped him in overloads, and laid him in a manger because there was no office for him in the building. 
Congratulations, Evy!

Runner up, with 16.18% of the vote, is:
And the Adjunct went into the University Court and overturned the tables of the Vice President (Finance) and the chairs of the Vice President (Advancement). And he said to them, "This is a Place of Learning and Scholarship, but you have turned it into a Den of Thieves."  
This was submitted by Andrew Robinson, who you can follow on Twitter @AndrewR_Physics.

It's worth noting that verses about adjuncts picked up the top two spots.  Next time you hear an adjunct complain about not being appreciated, show them this post so they'll simmer down.  (Adjuncts: address all complaints to The RGM.)

An entry by I_am_not_nice earns third place with 13.69% of the vote:
Thou shalt not suffer a plagiarist to live.
Of course, I hate students who copy their assignments as much as anybody.  However, the irony here is rich.  We make fun of plagiarism by changing one word in a sentence that somebody else wrote.

Thanks to all who POOPed then CRAPed!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Just When I've Given Up Hope...

Dammit, don't get
me all misty!
So, I've taught for 30 years, and there are times that the never-ending spigot of freshmen and their decreasing ability to read, understand, care, attempt, etc. make me want to blow my brains out. I had that particular feeling this morning.

I get to my office, open the door, and there's a large envelope on the floor. I open it and see two 8X10 photos of my favorite new songwriter. The note inside the envelope is from a student from last term. It's the kind of note proffies dream about. I encouraged this student to take charge of her own heart and head, made her give a shit about things. We've all gotten notes like this and the details are not relevant.

We do a unit each term on the portrayal of women in music videos, and this artist is one we covered in class last year, a brilliant songwriter whose record company seems determined to turn into a common whore.

My student saw this songwriter was doing a show OUT OF STATE, and drove more than 10 hours to see the show and take some photos for her "sometimes cranky and moody, but always awesome and inspiring prof."

Yeah, I got a little moisture in my eye; it was almost as if my heart wasn't dead and black.

Goddammit, this job is hard. And the rewards are meager. But one good student, one good student who gets it, finds something, is challenged, is changed, gets to begin afresh, makes all of the misery worth it.

An Early Thirsty on How Much We're Supposed to Reach Out.

This was the original
Early Thirsty graphic.
I told Cal nobody would
give a shit.
I'm in my third year of adjuncting at a community college in Colorado. I'm a decent writing teacher, but I'm overrun with idiotic complaints from students and insane demands by a squadron of Deans.

This morning I got an email from my main Dean, the one in charge of us part-timers.

He wrote: "It's come to my attention that you are not meeting your classes regularly. There have been a number of complaints. As your future employment here depends on this, please get in touch with me today."

Well, it's not true. I've not missed a single class in the past year. But I do meet classes in two locations: 24 times we meet in our regular classroom. 6 times we meet in a writing lab, 7 doors down the hallway. Lab days are sometimes poorly attended, but everyone knows about them.

I communicate this info to my students in the syllabus, out loud in class, on the whiteboard, and in a weekly fucking email I send them.

Once I reached the Dean and told him this, he told me that the "number" of complaints was 2, and I asked for the names, which he wouldn't give.

"Fine," I said, "but anybody who tells you that I didn't meet my classes is lying."

"Well," the Dean said, "I have a note here saying you did not meet your class last Wednesday morning. Students came right to my office."

Here's a relevant detail. To go from our classroom to the Admin building, one walks down a long hallway that includes - wait for it - our open lab door.

Anyway, I tried my explanation again and the Dean said, "Well, let's try to do a better job of letting your students know where you're going to be when you're not meeting class regularly."

"Okay," I said, "but for as long as I've been here I've made use of our tech labs in order to help the students get their essays done. I assure you that everyone who's ever been in my classroom knows about these meetings; they aren't unusual or given by surprise."

He sort of sighed. "Well, let's make more of an effort to tell everybody."

"Okay," I said. "But beyond the syllabus, the classroom, the whiteboard, and email, how else can I communicate something like this?"

"Well," he said, "some long time instructors call students on the telephone."

And then I waited, waited for a chuckle, or at least a wry groan of "Why has it come to this?"

But there was nothing.

I was one breath away from asking, "How about if I just drive to their fucking houses each morning and pick them up in my car? I could deliver them right to the right spot?" But of course I didn't, because I'm a small, small man, who is so desperate for my $3k a class that I'd eat shit as long as there wasn't two servings.

Q: Does anyone else have this expectation where you teach? When students simply complain about something that is legitimately not your fault, do you have to play some kind of game, or do something about meeting students' needs that just feels wrong? Is it wrong to think about quitting a job I like because this mindset seems so perverse? 

Monday, October 13, 2014

"I don’t pretend to know what being a professor entails, but as a student, I can distinguish professors who care from those who do it for the money." Where the Daily Aztec Allows Us the Chance to Sleep A Little Better.

by: Daniela Contreras

Professors are the rulers and the classrooms are the realm. Professors are incredibly influential people. They have the ability to encourage, discourage and enlighten. As employees, they also have a right to protect themselves from any unjust treatment. Tenure means professors can’t be fired without evidence of incompetence, unprofessional behavior, or the closure of an academic department due to budget cuts. I get it. Professors shouldn’t get fired for one or two bad reviews on RateMyProfessors. There should be enough evidence to prove a professor is clearly not serving his or her students justly, but what does this safety net mean for students’ learning?

The Rest.

Bryan College settles lawsuit with professors.

We are not evolved from penguins.
Even though they are exceedingly

A lawsuit filed by two former professors at Bryan College against the school has been settled, but the terms of the out-of-court settlement are confidential and the parties involved are not commenting on the matter, according to reports.

The lawsuit was filed by two tenured Bryan College professors that were notified earlier this year that their employment was terminated after they failed to acknowledge the college’s recent “clarification” on the origins of man in their contract renewal.

The original lawsuit states that when the Bryan College Board of Trustees approved a “clarification” to the school’s statement of faith saying that man descended from Adam and Eve and did not evolve from other species, it was effectively altering the Bryan College statement of faith. The school’s charter expressly forbids an alteration to the college’s statement of faith.


Pizza delivery man gets an unbelievable tip from college students. From

An Indiana pizza delivery man was surprised by a class of college students with a hefty tip.

The students of Indiana Wesleyan University fill the seats of the campus chapel every Wednesday at 10:00 am for student worship. But today, thanks to the president of the residential campus, Dr. Keith Newman, things were a little different.

“He asked the lady to go and order pizza. At first I thought we were all going to get pizza, but then as he began to talk about it, he revealed that he would be bringing the guy on stage, and we were going to bless him with an offering.”


Sunday, October 12, 2014

Academic Haiku From Normal Nick.

copier code changed.
toner cartridge out of ink.
handouts won't be made.

one half-assed marker.
not even enough to sniff.
blue streak of failure.

projector screen broke.
bulb's been burned out for 6 months.
miss shadow bunnies.

guess I must lecture.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Tim from Toluca Lake With a Weekend Thirsty on Clubs.

I have had the (thinking of word to go here - let's go with...) pleasure of being the faculty advisor to my discipline's club.

I do love this part of my job. I do. Every semester we have about 40 or so students join the club and they are enthusiastic and they amaze me with their dedication. They do. And if I must say myself, I'm doing a bang up job.

 However, 99.9999999% of the club members are my students. How can I motivate my colleagues to encourage their students to join the club (and why don't they?). Oh, don't get me wrong. Please don't. They do get "involved." My colleagues do get up in my business and criticize what I do with the club. Even the noob does this.

Q: How can I motivate my colleagues blah, blah, blah. How can I keep them from getting up in my grill concerning something they're not really interested in?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Sexual Assault on campus (Virginia Wesleyan).

A colleague who received hir Bachelors from the Virginia Wesleyan sent this to me, outraged that something like this happened at hir alma mater. After reading the article, I am nearly speechless with rage myself.
Virginia Wesleyan College found a student responsible for sexual assault, expelled him, then changed his status to "voluntarily withdrawn" to help him get into a new school, according to a lawsuit. The suit, filed by an assault victim under the pseudonym Jane Doe against Virginia Wesleyan, a liberal-arts college associated with the Virginia United Methodist Church in Norfolk, claims the school failed to help the struggling young woman, but took steps to assist her assailant.
How can we let this happen to our students? How can this University justify allowing a student that they found guilty of such a heinous violation of another human being simply "voluntary withdraw" - so he can "seek further studies" at a different institution? When I read that, all I see is so that he can seek further victims at another institution.

Perhaps more importantly, why isn't this nationwide news? Why as a culture do we accept this? And what can we do to stop it?

Clara from Cleveland Sent Us A Great Wombat-Inspired Graphic She Found. We Then Tried to Ruin the Idea. This is What We Do.

from Clara...

from Cal...

Okay, so in the comments below we learned
from Ruby in Richmond that the first image
is not a wombat, but the some other
dirty fucking rat-like creature,
you know, like someone from Sigma Phi Epsilon.