Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Some Miserable Pictures.

Click image to enlarge.

Click image to enlarge.

Shooting Fish in a Barrel?

This one may be too easy, but there's someone over at Dear Prudence actually soliciting advice (Hi, Monkey!) about whether to get a Ph.D. in English Literature:
Q. Two Roads Diverged in a Yellowed Wood: I’m about to graduate with my Master’s degree this spring and I’m at a loss of what to do next. I’ve been (informally) offered a more permanent job where I’m currently a graduate assistant. I love the work I do and I know the money/benefits would be a great start in this field. But the job has nothing to do with my degree in English Literature. I’ve wanted to get my Ph.D. and become a professor since I was in high school but the cost and time burden with no real promise of a guaranteed position at an institution has me favoring the job offer. Any advice?
Prudence's advice  seems pretty good to me (and I also like the fact that she's standing up for the value of a job that doesn't require a college education earlier in the column), but I thought we might have an additional word or two of advice to add.  If so, have at it below.  

a semi-quantification of caring

I care about my students, about their education and about my discipline.  I believe education plays a vital role in the development of a just society of engaged and effective citizens.  I believe a lot of other unfashionable things, to the amusement of many of my colleagues, which probably explains why I am a Grumpy Academic.  But as a good Miserian, I strive not to care more than they do... averaged over the semester as a whole.  Trying to compose another email explaining that their last-minute panic is not my emergency led me to doodle the following, which I thought I'd share here (click to embiggen):

Who Else Does This?

I get mysterious scrawlings on the board from time to time, but I also find that when the proffie before me leaves the classroom computer logged in on his/her account, that's a great time to visit the site that shall not be named and give myself a great review or chili pepper.

Makes my day.

Dr. Amelia Does Some Old School.

Sullen Suzie there in the back of class,

It has to stop. The staring at me with the narrowed, slit eyes. The whispering to the kid next to you. The hint of a pout on your lips.

I know you are a senior. I know you already know everything. I know, you did an internship. Off campus! And therefore you know not only anything I could try to teach, but the secrets of the REAL WORLD. How very, very awesome you are.

But, good grief, Suze, you are giving me a complex. It's to the point that I am more worried about the length of your lip pooch on a given day than about the other wonderful people who paid for this class. And that's not ok.

- Dr. Amelia

Monday, March 30, 2015

Early Thirsty / RYS Flashback Combo.

The flava:
from a fevered faculty member: "I know that these are good kids. I know that the drinking and smoking and bad behavior of other colleges doesn't exist here. We're blessed."

The meat.

Q: Do you have delusional colleagues?

Consider This . . .

Daryl, consider this: if you need me to add the three different scores you got on three different tests, then divide the result by the total number of points, then multiple that result by one hundred, then assign the resulting percentage to a grade . . . you should consider dropping out of college and getting some remediation.  I know it's sad that you were allowed to get a high school diploma without being able to do very, very basic math.  But that is a skill that you lack, and it is now your responsibility, as a grown man, to fix that lack before you hurt someone.  Please also drop out of pre-med, forever.  I might get sick some day.  Major in communication.  It's safer.

Susie, consider this: if you can't read the syllabus and figure out from the statement "I do not allow late papers" that I don't allow late papers, and deduce from "I only accept electronic submissions" that I don't allow hard copy submissions, then perhaps you are receiving an F in my course for very, very obvious reasons.  Consider dropping the course.  It's not yet too late.  But it will be soon, oh, yes, very soon.  But I don't imagine you can read the academic calendar, since you can't read the syllabus.

Tina, consider this:  when I tell you "this paper needs to address the materials of the course" do not resubmit it with a six word quotation from one of the authors we read in class, in the middle of an otherwise unchanged paragraph, apropos of nothing.  Yes, I gave you a D.  I am kind.  Consider doing the actual readings for the course instead of trying to coast by.

A Dorm Dancing VidShizzle from Cal.

Academic Monkey Gives Unsolicited Advice!

It's about time to bring back some much-needed Unsolicited Advice. How would you treat these students if they were yours?

Snowflake Complainer Miriam:
"So I have this math professor who is just HORRIBLE. She's like, from another planet, and does not connect to any of her students. She tries to be funny and make little jokes during class, but they are absolutely NOT funny. People just give her an awkward stare and are like, wtf? The worst part is, she is unapproachable. I really need help in math and we have a test soon, and I tried to email her because I have another class during her office hours. She is inflexible, and although I try to be polite with my emails, it gets kind of hard when she repeats the same thing over and over again in a stuck up, sniddy way: It's like me giving her many options of other times I can meet, and her being like, Well, I have office hours on Wed evening. Or, I already told you I'm unavailable for [some of my available times] My office hours are on Wed evening 5-6. After 6 may be possible. BUT I ALREADY TOLD YOU I CAN'T MAKE IT THEN!!! AGHHH!!! Any advice? I hate her so much I'm unwilling to even LEARN for her class."

Unsolicited Advice: 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Miserable Picture Share.

If you'd like to capture some of your own campus's particular misery - like our recent conversation about "left behind" whiteboard nonsense - snap a JPG and send it to the RGM. We'll save a few up and post them once a week.


Relive the Magic of Boston the Bitchy Bear. Six Years Ago Today...on Office Hours.

Miss ya, Bitchy...

The Flava.

The only thing that seems to vitiate the nobody-showing-up rule is if **I** don't show up or even step out for minute to get my mail or a cup of coffee. Then we seem to enter a parallel office-hour universe where simply hordes of people show up just to see me, and I'm not there.

The Meat.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Observing other faculty in action

Hiram Requested an Old RGM Meme...

More Clickable Goodness for the Linked Article Haters

Not sure how I turned into the linked article king all of a sudden, but whatever…

We often like to bat around the miseries of adjunctery on this blog. And in the last couple of days we've been discussing whom to blame for the mess and what we might do about it. Here's an article from that bastion of feel good liberalism, The New Republic that tells you not to complain to your students about it because they aren't going to give two shits anyway.

Fair enough. I don't know that I have the answer exactly, but in the corner of the inter webs where I hang out in my meatspace identity this article has elicited no shortage of mockery. I can't decide what I think, but that may just be incipient senility.

The Flava:

There's a persistent hope that if only college students knew how little their professors were paid, they’d storm the barricades on their instructors’ behalf, or at the very least be so moved by their instructors' plight as to somehow improve their lot. The latest example comes from Carmen Maria Machado, an adjunct instructor living in Philadelphia, who wrote an essay for the New Yorker about the poor working conditions in her field—not just the low pay, but adjuncts' lack of job stability, professional development, health and retirement benefits, and even an office to call their own. 

The rest, Please To Enjoy (happy now motherfuckers?)


Friday, March 27, 2015

Dress Codes

Dear Isomorphic Learning Center;

So, based on what you are telling me, you have a dress-code but you don't enforce it.  But then, someone complains that my pants are wrinkled and you take me off the schedule for two weeks to "defuse the situation."

I get that appearance matters, especially with teenagers.  But you could make it a little less obvious that you really are just pandering to the wealthy parents that do business with us.  I mean, maybe what you mean when you say that you don't enforce the dress-code is that it doesn't matter how people dress unless the parents complain.

Well, that would sure explain why the other three math instructors get to have facial hair, wear t-shirts, tennis shoes, jeans, etc.  But God forbid I dress in business attire but have some wrinkles in my pants, coupled with a pissed-off self entitled wealthy mom who has never even met me,  and it's holy hell to pay.

Fuck you.

EMH out.

"I Like" Friday

I was inspired by something in the comments here tendered by EC1 the other day. I thought, what if I were to do something similar at my normal day job? Ever the experimentalist, I decided to test the hypothesis that I could find something to "like" in every interaction with another person(s) on any given day. If my hypothesis is not refuted, then I could consider moving to phase 2. Some of yesterday's phase 1 results are below.


To the students: I like the effort that you put into self-organizing to completely blow off three classes' worth of material while studying for the exam. I like how I can be so optimistic that you'll repeat the feat by teaching each other that material while cramming for the national qualifier, for which I shall like you a second time.

If you hate linked articles don't click on the fucking link

Just trying to do my part to keep the lights on.

I found this article about teaching evolution at the University of Kentucky unbelievably interesting and unbelievably frightening. I think the question is whether the students the author describes are just a particularly vocal minority or whether there is actually a silent plurality or even majority in his classroom who share the views of their door-slamming friends? I don't think there's any way to know, but it would be interesting to figure it out.

I once had a student hurl a book (a widely regarded classic of European literature) at me while shouting "Filth, this is filth." But that was an exceptional, I'd say singular, event. I've been teaching that book for two decades plus and that's the only negative feedback I've ever received on it. But this guy is experiencing these types of tantrums on a regular basis it would seem. If he were teaching at Downstate Bible College I'd understand, but this is a core curriculum course at an R1. That's just craaaaaaaazy.

Flava follows:


Thursday, March 26, 2015

The New Yorker wants to fix your grad program (hint admit fewer students)

Actually a decent read. Rothman was a grad student (ABD in English at Haaaaahvaaaaahd) but he evinces little of the bitterness that many Ph.D. program dropouts display when writing about grad school. The article does a nice job of explaining the complexities to a lay audience.

Look for the link to the article "Oh Adjunct, My Adjunct" in the sidebar.


Added benefit of tightening admissions would be that interrupting the flow of cheap labour would make Mosman's head explode. I'd pay to see that.

A Philosophical Thirsty on Giving a Phuck if we Want To.

Back before our most recent near-death experience (latest in a continuing series) something in the discussion of Mozman got me thinking.  Three Sigma voiced a wish all of us share to get rid of a slave labour system based on grad students and postdocs.  Snarky writer pointed, though, to a veritable alphabet soup of bureaucratic hurdles to legally protecting grad students by redefining professional work.

My first thought was to wonder whether we need a maze of committees and statutes and whatnot to treat people decently.  As Terry put it - I have tenure and I can give a fuck if I want.  So I do.  I won't take on students just to have worker bees in the lab.

Of course, we need the legal alphabet soup for the ones who don't give a fuck - but it doesn't seem like most proffies are in this category.  Mozman is an extreme, possibly a charicature.  Most of my actual colleagues (for all their quirks and foibles oft pilloried here) are decent people.  They like their students and want the best for them.  Yet collectively somehow academia (at least STEM fields) maintains this culture of students-as-cheap-labour.

What the fuck is up with that?  How do basically decent people wind up perpetuating this?  

Sure the productive labs get rewarded by the admins and the granting agencies, and exploiting grad students is one way to crank out 'product'.  But once a PI has tenure, the baubles on offer don't seem enough to motivate the truly greedy, and you'd think someone willing to sell out underlings for advancement would go into finance.  Are we all just locked in some sort of massive version of the Milgram experiment?

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

St. Patrick's Day student shenanigans

This one is simply too good to not share. Our campus usually tries to schedule our spring break during the week of St. Patrick's Day, for a variety of reasons. This year, however, it did not work out, and so we had class that day. For the most part, it was a normal day. The parking lot was reasonably full and attendance in my classes was good. Fast forward to the end of the day - 6pm. I was heading out of the parking lot, toward the road, when I passed by a couple male students, walking along in their shirt sleeves (it was maybe 35 degrees, but sunny), eating food out of takeout containers from the Union. It was pretty clear to me that they were wasted. When I got to the Stop sign, and I noticed that one of them was running toward my car, waving his arms.  I waited at the Stop sign, and he ran up to the passenger side of my car. 

Student: Hey, can you give me and my friend a ride?

Me (I am a professor and a department chair, pretty well known on this small-ish campus): Do I know you?

Student (drooling a little): Can you give me and my friend a ride?

(The other student continues to walk away, happily eating his takeout food and ignoring the ongoing scene with his friend.)

Me: Where are you going?

Student: Just down the street (points).

Me: Are you a student here?

Student: Uh ... yeah.  I'm a Communications major.

(Note, this is not my department)

Me (doors locked, window still rolled up, no way in hell is he getting into my car): OK, who are your professors?

Student (as the light bulb slowly turns on): Uh ....

Me: Come on - name one of your profs.

Student: Uhhhh ... I can't.

Me: Well, then I'm sorry, but I have a rule. I don't give rides to people I don't know.

Student: Uh ... OK! (runs / stumbles away).

And then yesterday, I found two empty cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer in one of my classrooms. They were tucked behind an overhead projector, and I discovered them while I was sitting at the desk proctoring an exam.  I have no idea how long they had been sitting there. The students taking the exam were amused. But, that's a story for another day …

The Open Source University of College Misery


"You don’t need libraries and research infrastructure and football teams and this insane race for status."

That's from a New York Times interview with Kevin Carey, author of The End of College, and envisioner of what he calls “The University of Everywhere.” I can't argue with Carey's point about football teams, and I'm rarely in favor of insane races for anything.

I do have an (apparently unfashionable) attachment to libraries and research infrastructure, but I'm loath to contradict the best writer on higher education in the country. What if the denouncers of academic expertise are right (albeit inconsistent)? All of the information we need is out there, available to everyone [1]. Maybe we really are Borders in 2005, complacent and doomed, and the gumdrop unicorns are right.

So let's gird our loins, hop on the Surfboard of Progress and ride the disruption tsunami to that delicious information buffet that's out there for everyone [2] to enjoy!

The Open Source University of College Misery [3]  can be our fallback plan when when we're all fired and replaced by software.

I'll start: Every university needs an English department, right? [4] Here is an article called How to Teach Literature to College Students.

Get a degree  : No community college will let you teach English with less than a BA, and very few will let you teach with less than an MA. If you intend to teach at the university level, you will most likely require a PhD, as well as recent publication in respected journals.

Get a degree? What kind of retro old-school advice is that? When The Revolution End of College comes, someone will have to revise Step One. OK, what else?

Keep the class especially challenging for the first few weeks: Usually you will find a group of students will enroll for a class for no good reason. Because of this you tend to get slackers in class or people who are not intellectually cut out for such a subject. 
(NOTE: If your school receives state funding based on attendance, you might want to wait until the census date has passed before engaging in actions that will cause students to drop; your dean may cancel the class if a minimum number are not enrolled.)

Whoa, whoa, not so loud, WikiHow! Everyone [5] can hear you!

Additional tips include #10, Involve every single student ("Even the lazy students can usually provide some sort of input"), #11, Grade the thought, not the content (handy advice for when you're tired of pushing that basic-grammar-and-mechanics rock back up the hill). And finally,

Enjoy the experience: If you are heading to class and you are dreading it or feeling like you ought to just turn back and go home, it is time to reschedule the class or postpone it. If you are not giving a class 'your all', the students will notice and it affects the environment of the classroom. Also, the students will probably like you more for the extra couple of hours of time you've given to them.

"Sorry folks, class is cancelled. Just not feelin' it today. Why don't you all go Learn How to Write a Paper for College Literature Classes?"

[1] "Everyone" = "the young, Whites or Asians, the affluent, and the highly educated" [PDF from the Census Bureau, a bunch of government "experts."]
[2] Ibid.
[3] Located in Oilmont, Montana, "The Pearl of Toole County."
[4] Hell, as they say, has two English departments. But we just need one.
[5] See [1]
(Graphic elements courtesy of freepik.com and paint.net)

Speedy Liar Rant

Of course.  My chair tells students to "reach out" to me all the time to ask to be let into my class during the 8th week of the semester.  All the time.  And even if she didn't, how could I possibly check up on that when there's a whopping 8 feet between our offices?  I'd never know even if you were full of shit.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Why do dates matter? This is an English class!

I'm an English proffie, but one with an historical bent, which I'm able to indulge in my one literature class this semester.   The class includes among its goals fostering students' ability to make connections between literary texts and their historical contexts, so we're looking for additional documents that provide contextual information for the literary texts we're reading.  Overall, it's going pretty well,  but I'm learning that some of my students have very little sense of time (and/or they don't want to admit to having a sense of time, because that would require them to pursue their research beyond the first vaguely-related source they locate).  So far, I've learned the following interesting facts:

Behind the Door at The DERP -- The Extended Extra Session

Yet another session of perhaps several. A CM Playlet from OPH.

(An earlier session was published previously here.)

[The door opens. Prof. Panquehue enters and joins Profs. Bryndza and Stilton, who are already seated.]

Panquehue: Did I miss anything important?

Bryndza: Of course not. All life was suspended, awaiting your blessed return.

Stilton: Sorry. We can’t just rerun the whole class for you. See if a classmate will share his or her notes.

Panquehue: I saw Jack in the hallway. He said he’d be right in after he took a pit stop.

Stilton: Pit stop? Luxury!

Bryndza: It occurs to me that I worked straight through lunch, and I haven’t been in a restroom since shortly after arriving on campus at eight.

Stilton: Teacher’s bladder. Also quite useful on long trips.

Bryndza: Limits exposure to lavatories in airplanes and skeevy highway rest stops, too.

Panquehue: Potty break notwithstanding, Jack’s several minutes late, isn’t he?

Bryndza: That clock isn’t running; it just happens to be close to the current time. Maybe that will come in handy sometime.

Panquehue: Ah. Chekhov’s gun.

Stilton: Clever device. Interesting I hadn’t noticed it there earlier today.

Panquehue: Interesting but not surprising. So much doesn’t function around here, we just stop noticing. We’re habituated.

Stilton: Hmm. I haven’t seen Wensleydale lately. Has he announced his retirement?

Panquehue: He has, for certain values of the word ‘announce’. But I haven’t heard a specific date.

[A knock is heard.]

Monday, March 23, 2015

Research, What Research

I just got back from a senate meeting where the new procedure for getting travel expenses reimbursed for conference presentations was given to us as a non-voting information item.  In other words, we were not asked to approve it, just to recognize that it was now the way things were.

We now have to explain to our dean in writing how the research we intend to present will be used in our classrooms.  I teach mostly freshman classes.  I research an obscure corner of my field.   My dean has no background in my field, and to explain to him what I do, I'd have to give him a sixteen week seminar just to bring him up to speed.  Essentially, my travel expenses will never again be funded by the university, even though I'm simultaneously expected to attend conferences.

This amounts to a pay cut for anyone whose research isn't pedagogical.  When asked, in the very brief time carved out for discussion, we were told that "the university just wants to know what it's getting for its money."

Does anyone else have such a stupid, stupid policy in place, or is it just us?  Where the hell do administrators get such idiotic ideas!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Thoughts on Spring Break. From Dr. Amelia.

Dearest flakies,

It will be such a delight to see your sunburned faces back in their seats on Monday. I had a look at the Snapchat stories about break posted by media sites I follow. Wow - it looks like you had a time that should be quite memorable, although I think few of you will remember it.

Please do not ask me how my break went. What do proffies do over break?

  • Well, I excised grime from my house that has been building up since I had the first set of your work to grade so many months ago. It was baller.
  • I, um, caught up on grading. It was a banging' good time.
  • I, hmmm, let's see, oh yeah, wrote a conference paper. Grindin' away - that was me.
  • I binge watched House of Cards. Been putting that one off until I had time. At the end, I was all, like, WHAAAAA?!?!?!
  • I had lunch with my shell of a friend who didn't get tenure, so lost his job at the end of last year. He's not doing well. Thanks for asking.
  • I had an attentive, full-length conversation with each of my children. One of them twice. That ought to hold them until May, right? #winning at this parenting thing
  • I planned our classes for the next two weeks. You know, you're RIGHT! We really do spend time just figuring out how to make your lives miserable. You need to keep that on the DL, though.
  • I froze some casseroles to feed those children when we have important meetings at the end of the day. Important, meaning the relevant adminiflake feels important when the seats are occupied while s/he reads handouts to us. It's a real fun sponge.

Sadly, I had no margaritas at all and my shirts, while worn, stayed completely dry. And I'll remember every minute.

Best, Dr. A.

Saturday, March 21, 2015

Saturday Scholarship

Go ahead: click it.
The first sentence is meta. The second sentence tells us that the rest of the paragraph will be somewhat meta as well, and that “the good part” of this post will be coming later. I got the idea for this post from an excellent Friday Thirsty posed by Beaker Ben. I was about to answer the thirsty, but then realized that I was going in a new direction. It was BB himself who made me more aware that sometimes, things in the comments go off in a direction that could merit a whole new post. Now, it being Saturday, I’m not going to do another Thirsty; that would be insane. I could be telling you again what I’m not going to do, but I’m not doing that, because I couldn't possibly pull that off. Instead, I’m telling you how this post does not pose a question per se; rather, it invites a response. That’s completely different. Also, I’m a compleat n00b to Blogger, so I’m trying out this jump thingie, which should appear in the next line when this post is on the home page...

Astrophysics is such a competitive field.

Each semester, I usually teach three classes. The first is a large section of general-ed astronomy for non-majors. The second is a large section of introductory physics for engineers and scientists.

The third is a smaller, upper-level theoretical astrophysics course for physics majors and grad students. Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? We’re supposed to be exploring the secrets of the Universe.

Well, THIS semester’s astrophysics class has convinced me that American university education is without question in its death spiral. As in: kaput / finito / apres moi, le deluge / hasta la vista, baby / hosed / past the point of no return / circling the drain like a turd / beyond the event horizon / having crossed the Schwarzschild radius / intercoursed, as in the PAST tense.

Why this, why now, you may be wondering?

The large, general-ed astronomy class is packed with freshpersons. Sniveling, patently unprofessional, childish behavior is common. I hate it, but it’s like the smell you get living near a slaughterhouse: you get used to it.

Childish behavior is less common in the introductory physics class. It’s a more advanced class, with prerequisites. When childish behavior does intrude there, it hurts.

This semester, I have for the first time encountered childish behavior from most of the astrophysics class. It REALLY HURTS.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Conference questions for a Friday Thirsty

I've long thought that we and what(ever) we do here are worthy of scholarly study.  I dream of a day when the National Institute of Mental Health invites all of us to participate in a panel discussion, probably under the observation of trained therapists (kinda like the last episode of The Office).

Academic Monkey's comment earlier today turned my idea in a new direction.  We should be the subjects/keynote speakers for an academic conference.  It kills me that I'm about to go on a vacation today so I can't flesh this out into a top ten list.  Still, all is not yet lost.  Y'all can do this work with me.

What would be the title of a conference that features us as subjects or contributors?  

You are required to express your title in the idiom of the appropriate discipline.  Other conference details are welcome.

A second conference question: Is anybody associated with the central science going to the ACS conference next week?  You don't have to post anything here.  Email me.

How to Post...

There are 2 ways to get your material online. If you're a regular contributor, please request posting rights from the moderator. Make sure you specify to which email address you'd like the invite sent.

If you only plan on posting occasionally, simply send your post to the moderator and he will put it online for you, with the requisite bad graphics.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Accommodations Misery

As I recover from the fourth, fifth, or sixth almost-losing of this site (the emotional roller coaster!!), I am also trying to deal with a pretty terrible demand from my college's accommodations department. Let's commiserate!

First, a caveat. I have a disability. Not one that ruins my life, but I am epileptic, and that fact has been pretty disruptive. I used the Disability Services in undergrad and grad school to help organize my thoughts when seizure headaches made studying almost impossible. I am grateful to these services and I try my very best to accommodate students who are overcoming depression, schizophrenia, blindness, or any other issues in order to get their degree. So when accommodations get out of hand, I get really pissed off.


For two months now, I have been dealing with an absent student who is taking my course absentee from an institution. He is allowed exactly 10 hours online per week, and he spends 5 hours of that online time "attending" my lectures via Skype and trying to do his homework. (guess how thoroughly one can do a research paper with such restrictions....)

Here are the problems so far:
  • The student cannot access the online textbook and had to wait three weeks for a physical textbook to be delivered to his institution. Why three weeks? No one can explain. I gave him an extension and he caught up quickly.
  • More often than not, Skype fails to connect adequately (surprising no one). He cannot email just anyone from his institution, so I have to convince volunteers to email me their student notes and then forward said notes to the student.
  • Part of my course requires a weekly blog post. Each student chooses a theme and posts academic material, personal thoughts, or creative expressions about that theme to a final blog. They are then responsible for posting on at least 3 classmate blogs every week. Guess what institution blocks these blogs from their location? Yeah, so Special Student cannot access a term-long assignment that is worth 30% of his grade.
  • The final assignment of this course is a term paper. Pretty standard. However, the university databases (things like science direct and JSTOR) are blocked from the institution. So are general websites like about.com, wikipedia, and yahoo answers. Not that I would have allowed such things to be used in a paper, but without academic sources OR library visits OR general info websites, how the ever-loving hell is this kid supposed to be able to write a goddamned research paper??????
So everyone reading this has to be with me when I say: these accommodates have gone too far. They are over the top. The only way to "accommodate" this student is to create a completely different course with abstract assignments or maybe just worksheets based on the textbook. His work will not resemble the rest of the class at all, so any grade he receives will not really represent passing my course.

Guess how the administration reacted to my concerns? Something something student success something something customer service something something deconstruct the paradigm and shoot me in the skull.

There is nothing really to do. I give some grades; no one is satisfied; I avoid failing the kid entirely but the whole thing takes way too much of my time and ends up serving no one.

Unsolicited Advice: Drop the damn course, get better, and go to school later.

We Have a New Miserable Home.

In keeping with how we do things, the survey has been a contrarian nightmare. 42% of respondents avoided the CAREFULLY chosen options and used write-ins: Omaha, Odessa, a wiseacre suggested ATHENS OH (guess who?), Oshkosh, Orono, etc. Of the CAREFULLY chosen options, Olympia WA was the favorite.

But Oilmont MT? How can you not want to be there?

Thanks to Ben for the suggestion. 

Now, everyone pack your guns, weeds, leathers, laptops, and canned meats. We will officially take over the Derrick Bar tomorrow morning. 


That particular trip with my mother to the neurologist was a little more than a year ago.  Cut to the chase: I'm sitting in the doctor's office with my mom, and she looks me in the eyes and says, "What's your name?"

I did not cry then.  I think I smiled kindly and answered her.  Some watershed moments are so dreadful.  Whether it was a watershed moment or not, I have interpreted it that way.  And I remember being stoical that day.  All day.

Sometime later that night, I was sobbing and sobbing and sobbing in some corner of the house. My wailing noise was drowned out by the washer or dryer or a thunderstorm or something.  I remember being so utterly relieved that some other noise was covering mine up.

I had essentially become the emotional and moral manager of my family of origin.  A fog set in.  I have shed only a few tears since then.  There's a kind of numbness most days.

I stopped writing much for this blog.  I have been preoccupied with the care-giving and care-taking.  My thoughts have been, "This can't be happening. This is happening. What do I do?  This isn't happening. What do I do? What do I do?"

The cast of blog characters (actually real, interesting, wonderful people) certainly remained on my radar, and I would read through the blog regularly just to see what they were doing and saying.

My mother is still a dear, kind woman with so much determination to move forward.  She really is.  And I love her so much.

So one of the questions on my mind has been this:  If I can no longer even get my mother to remember where the bathroom is, then why do so many of those administrators truly seem to think that I can make all my students wiser?  After all, I don't love them nearly as much as I love my mom.  I cannot be as committed to them.  And, frankly, she still has more energy and drive than so many of my students.  But the brain is what it is--for Mom or for my students.  For her, we use the word "Alzheimer's" and we accept that.  Yet we can and should and must push the students and get them to "succeed"--as if they, too, are not limited by their own brains?

I'm oversimplifying, because I'm tired.  But that's the heart of what I feel.

So here's the deal:  We've had this great opportunity to use the blog to pursue the truth through our various crazzzy ways.  We've tolerated each others' opinions and explorations.  We've deliberately refused to be gaslighted by the "best practices" and the newest, shiniest technologies to improve "student success."

It's like Stendhal said: "Almost all our misfortunes in life come from the wrong notions we have about the things that happen to us.... To judge events sanely, is, therefore, a great step towards happiness."

"Sanely" is a bit of a stretch for some of us sometimes.  But some crazzy kind of sanity is what we have here at this blog.  We escape the wrong notions of the too-often pathological higher education community.  We've had compassion and decent moderators and open-mindedness and some other good stuff--and I am happier because of y'all.

As long as the blog endures, I'll keep coming back to read.  It does make me happier and helps me to keep my sanity.  Thank you.  There is something to be said for bourbon, virtue, poetry, truth, and such things that those old French artists embraced.  Thank you.  And when the lights go out, then so it will go.  I will remember it (mostly) fondly.  Until I don't.

Thank you all.


A guy can't take a day off the blog to grade 40 bad essays??? My thoughts are these:
  • "Do you feel how heart my fast is beating?" The only line that compares is Yaro's "wheel to my barrow." Terry P. wrote a majestic piece that I've read ten times now. It's a masterwork, full of amazing inside jokes that paid off for me in a huge way. And I got to be Terry's dead duck! I mean it, I feel as though I'm finally a fully realized human being after that. The stuff with the wife (Kimmie OR Katie), the daughter, the birthday, all the shoutouts. At the end I wanted it to all be true, one poor mad genius with 10 years of psychopathy. The line about writing female characters better, like Fab...I spit out my cereal. But poetry, really. Stunning stunning stunning. It just made me proud to be a small part of this nutty group.
  • Beaker Ben needs more love, too. His blog kept this community together. He always needs to be thanked for that.
  • Yellow? What the fuck? Listen, Fab, we do it gray here. We're miserable, didn't you hear? And the fonts, oh God, the fonts. Can someone get back to me on that.
  • Have all the compounds really been in "O" towns?
  • Wait, no big thirsty? What the hell, man. Fab, you're RUINING THE BLOG. Bring back one of the alters who abides by the covenants.
  • Finally, thank you, thank you, thank you to everyone, readers, correspondents, and mods. This place, well, it saved me.

Old News.

Ben sends in two old new links that gave us shout-outs.

First of all, in July of last year the U of Georgia Red and Black gave an overview of professor and student rating sites. When asked to comment, one proffie said, “Sometimes students are careless, which might leave professors frustrated and willing to react,” he said. “But I can’t envision a scenario in which I would [post online].” Another said, "It’s silly. It seems to me that professors should be providing information on whether or not to take their classes [instead]."

And then the Crampicle last June featured an article by someone whose entire understanding of this site is that we "bad-mouth students."

You Can't Kill Something That Just Won't Die.

Well, maybe.

I've sent out some blog invites to folks who've been active on the page before. I had some requests early this morning about that, and it seemed reasonable. People like having their own access to post without going through a mod.

The email in the sidebar is a place where you can reach me, however, if you'd like me to share your misery with the rest of the page. (Also for questions, queries, complaints, you know.)

If you didn't get an invite and want one, you can request one here.

Friends, the blog is in your hands. When I can help, let me know.

Lights On

Hi. I want to thank everyone who wrote to the page today, and thank everyone who revitalized the Misery over these past six months. Terry P. gets all the credit in the world. When he talked to me and others last summer I thought he was crazy, but it's been quite a cool period and I respect the hell out of him.

And to what happened today, well, it's unfortunate we didn't all have a better plan together, because some loyal readers were unnecessarily ruffled and inconvenienced.

I've just talked to Terry about all of this, so I'm not saying anything behind his back. It was not clear to me, Leslie, or Cal that Terry was shutting the page down. While it's true that no former moderator was ready to start the page back up when he did, we didn't want it to simply evaporate. (Although after the "mediocre reveal," I don't know what else could ever follow!)

Terry started sending me emails from readers this morning and it was clear that many folks could not conceive of the page going away, especially since it really had only gone 6 months in its current form. It was only then that I realized that Terry was going to shut things down for real. (Like many of you, I thought his amazing post was just another April Fool's doozy.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Mediocre Reveal.

In November 2005, during a gloomy office hour at my community college in Georgia, I made up a website called RateYourStudents. It was just a gag. I called myself "The Professor."

I made up other names and identities and posted shit that was on my mind for a few months. Some other academics found it and sent me entries, most of which I never used. I would post something on my own, always highly fictionalized, and did it for the lulz.

I started to create characters along the way; nearly everyone who ever appeared on RYS was just me. I felt badly about it after a while. Because of my boredom I kept the thing afloat for 5 years, creating a vast piece of performance art that stunned me. Why I had the energy, I don't know.

All of those national news articles in the NY Times, Chicago Tribune, LA Times, Chronicle, etc? I made them up, too. I got pretty good at spoofing well known news and education publications and created a whole mythology about the site and its large following. The truth was, there were never any more than a dozen page visits in any given month that didn't come out of my office or home computer. (My wife had left me during this time, for an oil and gas roughneck from Texas named Bubba, and I had a lot of free time.)

I Swear To God I Did Not Write This.

Hey, this is
not a duck.
from the James Madison U Breeze:

College is stressful enough without trying to hide a feathered friend in your closet during a room inspection.

Sarah Hollenbeck, a senior psychology and economics double major from Centreville, Virginia, knows this all too well. While living on campus, Hollenbeck and a few hallmates smuggled a duck into the appropriately named Eagle Hall.


Northwestern College Alum Share Memories of the Old Caf.

When I was a student, the caf’ had two entrĂ©e options. As you were standing in line, just before you turned the corner from the hallway into the serving area, there was a table with two cellophane-wrapped plates of food to whet our appetites.

One day Darin Wiebe ’88 tucked one under his coat and took it back to Coly, where we hid it in the room of Paul Dougherty ’87, Dave Izenbart ’89 and Perry Krosschell ’87.

After a day or two, a faint sour smell was developing—worse than usual for a room with three football players. After a couple more days the guys were changing deodorants and buying air fresheners.

Eventually they discovered the plate from the cafeteria—by that time, covered in green fuzz.

Orange City, Iowa


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

They need a ****ing carrot for everything!

As an undergrad at a SLAC with really loose distribution requirements, I did what all the STEM students did.... "Economics counts as a social science, right?"  So I never learned any of that psychology stuff every other college grad in the Universe knows.

Last year I enrolled in an MA program in "higher education".  I had to take a class called "Student Development Theory".  I picked up some of that psychology stuff.

This year I started phasing in lots of low-stakes assignments with the following rubric "Student turned in something other than used toilet paper:  100, Student did not turn in anything or turned in used toilet paper:  0"

They turned in lots of mediocre crap.  But they had to read the ****ing book to even get that far.  They got their full credit just for breathing.  I assumed the first test would be a big wake up call.  And it was..... for me.

The whole ****ing class passed the first test!  That has never happened.  The test was at least as hard as it usually is.  I put one pain in the *** question on there just to be mean because they were annoying me via e-mail while I was writing it.

They can do the ****ing work if they crack the ****ing book!  All I had to do was say "Turn in ANYTHING and I'll give you full credit for your homework, even if it ****ing ****s."

I might never give real homework again.

Greeks, Amirite? Like, Is There No End?

A Penn State fraternity has been suspended after police alleged that members photographed and distributed images of drug deals, hazing, and unsuspecting, passed out, and mostly nude women, NBC News confirmed Tuesday.


No Fair Looking It Up. New Game.

Confess before time runs out.

The constant ticking of the countdown clock is driving me nuts.  Two weeks we have to look at that thing.  I'm not complaining, mind you, about a free blog that provides a ton of entertainment to me for so many years.  Just making a critical observation.  That's not the same thing.

Professor Chiltepin and EC1 had a great idea going in the comments of this (untitled) post.  Here's a copy of the conversation so far:

I am eager to discover the nature of the confession. I hope it's not that the blog is closing again. I can't take heartbreak like that.

  1. The RGMs are all associate deans who get bonuses for cutting faculty lines.
  2. The confession is worthy of a caption competition, or some other way of listing what we think will be confessed.

    Could it be:
    The RGM has sold our e-mail addresses to Scientologists?
    CM will have its own ISSN, and everything we post is a peer-reviewed article?
    The blog is closing again?
    Yaro isn't real?
    We woke up and it had all been a dream?

  3. Yaro is the only thing that's real.
    The RGM is a sock puppet of a certain fellow.
    We're subjects in a scientific experiment.
    Everyone on this blog are BFFs and drink wine together and teach the fuck out of Victorian novels. (Screw subject verb agreement)

  4. There is no duck.

    (But I have occasionally wondered whether we're subjects in some sort of long-running behavioral experiment. It might be hard to publish, however, since I don't remember providing any sort of consent. Maybe that's not necessary when the whole thing takes place in a public space where participation is entirely voluntary?). 

  5. I was going to suggest that the RGM is going to confess that s/he is a doctoral candidate collecting data (and the reboot is the 2nd phase of data collection).

I'll add one more: If this is just a research project on us, then the joke is on the RGM.  Maybe I'm also collecting data on CM.  Maybe we all are.  We're like a street gang comprised of undercover police trying to infiltrate a street gang.

So let's here your ideas for a confession from the RGM.  The clock is ticking...  You have two weeks to guess before you're proven wrong.

Red Raiders Sweep Grand View. Women's Tennis.

Northwestern College picked up its second win of the season, sweeping Grand View 9-0 in a non-conference tennis match played today in Des Moines, Iowa. The Red Raiders improve to 2-4 on the year.

1.Frankie Eszes (1-4) def. Kylar McCann, 6-0, 6-1
2.Terry Odera (1-4) def. Erica Sherman, 6-4, 3-6, 10-8
3.Daniela Lozano (3-2) def. Angela Sims, 6-1, 7-5
4.Valerie Robinson (3-3) def. Lauren Lightner, 6-3, 6-0
5.McKayla Johnson (3-3) def. Megan Hummel, 7-5, 6-0
6.Anna Haler (3-2) won by forfeit

1.Eszes/Odera (3-3) def. McCann/Lightner, 8-1
2.Lozano/Robinson (3-3) def. Hummel/Sherman, 8-3
3.Johnson/Haler (3-3) won by forfeit

Thank Goodness, More Ways Students Can Avoid Studying. From TechCrunch

Friendsy Is Tinder For College Students Only, Created By Two Princeton Students

During his freshman year at Princeton, Michael Pinsky went to the student lounge to watch a Yankees game. Knowing there were plenty of other fans on campus, he was certain it would be packed.

But the lounge was empty except for Vaidhy Murti, another fan, sitting on an adjacent couch. The two began to talk, becoming fast friends.

But the pair realized it doesn’t always work that way.

“You walk around campus and have hundreds of acquaintances, people you say, ‘Hey, let’s get a meal to,’” Pinsky said. “But you never do.”

So the now-seniors decided to try to fix that with an app called Friendsy. The app, which launched nationwide earlier this month, aims to connect college students, whether it’s to be friends, date or hook up. Friendsy launched on about 40 campuses before its national launch. In the two weeks since, its user base has doubled to more than 45,000.


Monday, March 16, 2015

From the Crampicle: Greetings from Wisconsin, Where Higher Ed is a Love-Hate Affair

I have been trying to keep my head down and just be happy in my work, work that I love and that I
find fulfilling on an emotional level, if not necessarily a financial one.

My state system is fucked. Without so much as a by-your-leave, our budget has been slashed--AGAIN--with only the paltry, total bullshit offer of some kind of magical "public authority" that will somehow allow us to avoid further showdowns with the state legislature over tenure and shared governance.

Today, the Crampicle takes us all to my state, and if you want to know what's coming down the pike for you in a red state atmosphere, here's all the flava you need:

"Several people who called themselves concerned taxpayers here didn’t seem to understand that faculty members help their institution in many ways, like bringing in research grants or mentoring graduate students. Others, who understood the complexity of the job just fine, nonetheless thought professors spend too little time with undergraduates.

Over at Anthony’s Steakhouse, in Lake Geneva, members of the Republican Party of Walworth County gathered for a monthly meeting. Afterward, James Loftus, a retired chiropractor, told me too many professors spend too much time on inconsequential scholarship that their universities overvalue. "They say they have to do all this research — that is bull," he said. "They’re supposed to be educating our students."

A moment later, the mother of a freshman at UW-Madison said her son was struggling because he often couldn’t understand what professors and teaching assistants from other countries were saying. "I know it’s not politically correct to talk about," she added.

The angriest person I spoke to was the restaurant’s owner, George Condos. Decades ago, he attended Wisconsin’s Oshkosh campus but did not earn a degree. He had to help his late father, Anthony, run this place, where these days the king-size filet mignon goes for $36.95.

After seating a couple for a late dinner on a frigid night, Mr. Condos told me a story: His youngest son, a junior at one of UW’s four-year campuses, had received low grades on several assignments because his conclusions didn’t square with the political views of his professors. "I’m trying to keep him from being indoctrinated by these liberal-spewing pieces of puke," he said. "I want to yank him out of there."

Here's the rest:

FWIW, Like all of my colleagues in our part of the System, I teach only undergraduates, a 4/4 load, and I do a lot of campus service, plus professional development like writing stuff that gets published but nobody reads, which isn't necessarily my fault, since I didn't know Twitter was where it's at (don't click this link unless you've been drinking first). But the tea-partying taxpayers don't seem to get that, which is why the op-eds in the local papers are full of this kind of stuff.

A really good blog you should be reading if you're interested in what's happening--and the way the professoriate is perceived by those in power here--is Chuck Rybak's "Fresh"--humor: black, blacker, blackest.

Back to grading exams and being an overpaid lazy liberal d-bag.

/Chrome out