Thursday, April 30, 2015

More Greta

hungry humpday haiku (bad, of course)


i sit, grade, sigh, yearn.
the sun taunts those who ignore
her nourishing rays.


you, so concerned. weeks,
absent. even the spring wind
blows with direction. 
Originally published May 3, 2011

This Week's Big Thirsty.

"What Are You Adding To Your Syllabus For Next Year?"

-from Sid in Santa Fe

Five Years Ago on RYS. "I Got 99 Problems, But Your Paper Ain't One."

I simply miss Dana from Decatur.

RYS Flashback. 8 Years Ago Today.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

At Least She's Got Some Ambition

Cherry has not put forth much effort this semester. She had fairly regular attendance for the first several weeks of the semester. Then she missed the first exam. I told her I would make an exception this one time: I would allow her to make up the exam (in essay format) with a 50% penalty, and she should not expect this kind of leniency ever again.

Eight weeks later, she still hasn't made up the exam.

Then she failed to turn in her first term paper. Nearly one week after the due date, she emailed me her paper. When she came to class, she inquired as to whether I had received her paper. I told her that I could not accept it unless she had some documentation excusing her absence. "Fine, if that's how you're going to be..." she muttered before storming out of the classroom.

I hadn't seen or heard from her until yesterday. I received an email from her apologizing for missing class and telling me she probably wouldn't be able to make any of the remaining classes. Why? Because she is a "gamer." She plays video games for a living, and, as she explained in the email, she is doing very well in her career. She is doing so well that she has been traveling all over the U.S. for tournaments, which prevents her from attending class. She hopes that I can understand that she needs to do this, and she will try her best to turn in work on time.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

"Wisdom about college readiness." From the NYT. Sent in by a Reader.

Saw this article in the NYT, and I think it should be required reading for every parent of a high school senior. I wish I could have those kinds of conversations with some students. 

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Corinthian Colleges Shuts Down, Ending Classes for 16,000 Overnight. Sent in by a Reader.

In what's believed to be the biggest shutdown in the history of higher education in the United States, Corinthian Colleges said Sunday it's closing its remaining 28 for-profit schools effective immediately, kicking about 16,000 students out of school.

Corinthian, based in Santa Ana, California, said in a statement and an email to students that it would lean on government agencies and other institutions to place the students, who were enrolled at Heald College locations in California, Hawaii and Oregon and at Everest and WyoTech locations in California, Arizona and New York.

Greta on Spring

bad tuesday haiku

the cool, cool sunshine
reminds me to breathe the spring,
feel the spring, find the

spring within me that
trickled defiantly through
winter's unseemly

drought. seamlessly, one
term becomes another, one
word becomes a song,

Monday, April 27, 2015


I just read this and I had to share.

News from Texas, with shocking, straightforward language (leave it to Texas to shoot from the hip):
“Since teaching this course, I have caught and seen cheating, been told to ‘chill out,’ ‘get out of my space,’ ‘go back and teach,’ [been] called a ‘fucking moron’ to my face, [had] one student cheat by signing in for another, one student not showing up but claiming they did, listened to many hurtful and untrue rumors about myself and others, been caught between fights between students…. None of you, in my opinion, given the behavior in this class, deserve to pass, or graduate to become an Aggie, as you do not in any way embody the honor that the university holds graduates should have within their personal character. It is thus for these reasons why I am officially walking away from this course. I am frankly and completely disgusted. You all lack the honor and maturity to live up to the standards that Texas A&M holds, and the competence and/or desire to do the quality work necessary to pass the course just on a grade level…. I will no longer be teaching the course, and all are being awarded a failing grade.”

I need to know: What would you do if someone in your Department pulled this? Cheer? Shake your head? Run away? Comfort the students?


Full Link

"Heaven Help Us." From Dr. Amelia.

So Dr. Amelia, being a generally genial and civic minded sort, volunteered for a committee at her progeny's high school and went to the first meeting of that committee this weekend. It's a committee of mostly parents, but also supports the H.S. hamster fur weaving committee, so several of the teachers in the Hamsterology program were there as well.

When the business of the committee was concluded, there was a lengthy period of parent, um, how to put this, ... bitching about the school's EduSpy software. In this software, teachers can keep an online grade book and students can see how they are doing, etc. Apparently, every. single. one. of the parents there checks this resource on behalf of their students daily.

I know this, because of statements like "It's so frustrating, because it only covers what has happened, not what's going to happen. So how do I know what my kid has due in a few weeks?"

Dr. Ameila, being a generally genial sort, kept her big mouth shut, all the while thinking "Didn't you already go to high school? Isn't this your kid's homework, not yours?"

I had to come home and give the progeny a hug. She's not the best student, but at least she manages her own stuff.

Oh my.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

End-of-semester Sunday-evening Cri de Coeur

Why, oh Why, oh WHY don't they (can't they? won't they?) follow the #$@&*! directions?!?!?!

Wensleydale, this is stupid stuff

Wensleydale, this is bullshit. You have it better than you think, certainly no worse than anybody else here, and whatever you perceive to be worse is surely your own damn fault. But you recognize none of this because you are always so very, very right.

 At lunch during my interview day here, one of the search committee pulled me aside to alert me not to be put off by your tendency towards officiousness. An hour later, in my private interview with you, I got to hear of your vast achievements and acts of academic derring-do -- it was actually the easiest interview that day, because I hardly had to say a word. When I was hired, I tried not to let that episode poison the well for future interactions, and I am still trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, fool that I may be.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

More on the Complications of Addressing Rape on Campus

I already mentioned this story in a comment below, but figured it might warrant a post of its own. The man very publicly accused by a fellow Columbia student of rape (via a senior thesis project in which she carries a mattress with her everywhere)  has sued the university (but not his accuser).  Flava:
“By refusing to protect Paul Nungesser,” the lawsuit says, “Columbia University first became a silent bystander and then turned into an active supporter of a fellow student’s harassment campaign by institutionalizing it and heralding it". . . .
The lawsuit alleges that Jon Kessler, the professor who is named as a defendant, not only approved the project but also “publicly endorsed her harassment and defamation” of Mr. Nungesser.
Full story (free if you haven't used up your NYT quota for the month; if so, try another browser, or private browsing).  

Friday night crunch time

unproductive week
so Friday night is crunch time
buoyed by Tuscan red

my head awash in
seas of numbers that now prove
all inscrutable

will ANOVA work
a Nova is a Chevy
with cheap vinyl seats

I can still smell as
in my memory I coast
down Mulholland Drive

in second gear to
stop the brakes to fade with my
wife still with me now

ah a result no
false alarm need more samples
maybe next week then

Simpson's paradox
you bid me consider what
the fuck do I know

Thursday, April 23, 2015

"Would You Go?" From a Reader.

Suppose your college suddenly were the subject of a viral video in which a former student (recently transferred) alleged a sexual assault by a co-worker who is still employed as a tutor on your campus. She gives her name as well as that of the alleged assailant and provides the date and place of the assault – the livestock care facility. Her account has the ring of truth, and we know that false accusations of rape are very rare.

Your administration issues a no-comment statement and then, under pressure, a statement that both the campus and the local sherriffs thoroughly investigated the allegations. It “cares deeply” about protecting students but also must protect the privacy of its employees.

Your administration has not seemed particularly above board in any of its dealings with faculty or students.

The tutoring program is housed is in your college. A rally in support of the accuser is planned there.

Would you go?

Pros and Cons of Going to Grad School. (Con: You might become an Academic)

This just in, from The Onion:

While graduate school is often touted as a way to specialize in a given field and increase earning power, opponents argue it can put students into debt without helping them get better jobs. Here are some pros and cons of going to grad school:
  • Gives the job market a few years to bounce back
  • Opportunity for more specialized student loan debt
  • Provides more impressive credentials to parents’ friends
  • Can experience college life anew as mature, wizened 26-year-old
  • Increases chance of finding perfectly matched partner while staring across piles of paper at law school study session
  • Will make you stand out among other unpaid interns
  • Undergraduate degree suddenly good for something
  • May be unable to communicate with people who haven’t gone to grad school
  • No money left to frame second degree
  • Only small percentage of PhDs actually go on to be featured in History Channel specials
  • Could be a lot of work
  • Will have to say thesis topic out loud
  • Impossible to truly relive glory days of co-ed madrigal singers
  • Could lead to career in academia

Big Thirsty about Publisher Payola

As I reflect on the awful and merely bad parts of my career, I find one bit of joy: book vendors.

When I was but a wee assistant professor, I still entertained the idea that giving a thought to my students' education would help me get promoted.  Ah, the silly ideas of youth.  (I do care about their education but I now realize that it distracts from research, which is how I'm really evaluated.)

A consequence of caring was that my colleagues let me lead our department's textbook committee.  Actually, I am the committee.  That means that every book vendor is sent to my office.  I receive all their calls.  They know that I make the decisions about books for our big gen ed classes.  The experiences with vendors have made me a richer man.  Literally, I'm making bank, I mean, honorariums.

They want me to evaluate a chapter for a new gen chem book that's just like all the others.  That will be $75.  I'm invited to workshops where they show off their new online homework system.  Those score me $100 for an afternoon at a conference or more if it's an overnight trip somewhere else.  I've been to lunch with book sellers visiting campus and professional baseball games with marketing teams, all comp.

They get value for their dollar.  I write one hell of a good chapter evaluation.  I even check the end-of-chapter questions.  Webinars don't compare to spending four hours elbow-to-elbow with other faculty, all trying to break the slick new online lab experiments that the publisher is trying to sell.  We earn our keep.

The downside is that they call every God damned semester to see if I'll change books.  I won't because our current textbook is slightly less terrible than the others and it's slightly less expensive too.  Still, it's nice to be compensated for helping them, I enjoy the networking with fellow faculty textbook decision makers, and the book reps always pick up the bar tab.  (I drink cheap beer so I'm doing my part to keep textbook prices low.)

Oh, yeah.  I'm supposed to make this a Big Thirsty.

What's the best free stuff you've gotten as an academic?

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

End Comments

Thank you for your paper.  The assignment required five pages of analysis of one of the texts we read this semester through the critical lens of your choice.  Your thesis is "Jane Austin is boring."  This well may be: I am unfamiliar with her work.  Jane Austen, on the other hand -- boring or not -- is worth analyzing.  I wish you had.  F.

I found your introduction absolutely amazing.  I didn't think so many sports metaphors, meaningless platitudes, and irrelevant "attention getters" could be crammed into such a short paragraph.  From "Have you ever tried to get a girl to notice you?" (Nope) to "Shakespeare takes it to the next level and leaves everything on the field" (level of what? field of where?  Agincourt?  But this isn't Henry V; it's Much Ado).  You have clearly given a hundred and ten percent, full heart, open eyes, what would Jesus read, and so on, and so forth.  D.

Misere me

A rant about the delicate tenderness of the snowflake, and the granting of extensions.  

Not the extraction-of-information-from-students-via-medieval-torture-devices kind of extenstions, however much we sometimes fantasise about such things, but the additional-time-to-complete-work-due-to-exceptional-circumstances kind.

I work in the UK where semesters are not so neatly bounded: teaching ends, then there are several weeks of official examination period, then a few more weeks of paperwork before the exam board at which marks are formally submitted to the central administration.  Assignment dates for non-exam components are generally fixed for the first week of the examination period or before.  This means that there is room in the system for 'exceptional circumstance' students to be granted an extra week or two on coursework without serious delay of the system, and an academic needs to mark the work once it is handed in.  This is annoying because it messes up any batch marking system one has and means a module can be 'not quite done with' for weeks longer than necessary.

Greta on April

really bad wednesday haiku, but only one

snow! april is the
cruelest month, this snow not deep
enough to cover

the pile of essays
begging for attention, like
small birds with open

mouths, too hardy to
freeze, too weak to survive in
any meaningful

way. dark letters, marks
against a sea of white, stones
in too-shallow snow. 

Online classes are great, except for the part about students learning stuff

Disclaimer: I realize that in a sparsely-populated area, online education can be the only option a student has. I also realize that some of my fellow Miserians teach online, and are putting a great deal of effort into making the online experience as valuable as possible for their students. Any ire and snark are properly directed toward those administrators, trustees, and anecdote-besotted pundits  who seem convinced that online education is either a magical money multiplier, or simply a trend not to be missed out on

Inside Higher Ed reports a study out of California that compared students enrolled in online classes and their face to face equivalents.
The researchers found online students lagging behind face-to-face students in three critical areas:
  • Completing courses (regardless of grade).
  • Completing courses with passing grades.
  • Completing courses with grades of A or B.
The results were the same across subject matters, courses of different types and different groups of students. Larger gaps were found in some areas, such as summer courses and courses taken by relatively small numbers of online students. But no patterns could be found where students online performed better than those in face-to-face courses.
Turns out we already knew this. The Community College Research Center has been studying online education for a while, with similar results. Students who take online courses are more likely to withdraw from or fail those courses, and less likely to attain a degree. Developmental students do particularly poorly.

But who (among those whose opinions seem to matter) doesn't love the idea of infinitely-expandable classrooms?


If Someone Were to Act Fast...One Could Save $100 and Give Us Back Our Original Name...

Click this link to buy now, although I don't know who would.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

"If They Were Only This Creative In Class." Sent in by a Reader.

Greta on the Vernal Equinox (with bonus Frod content)

bad haiku for the theory of the vernal equinox

it is a kind of
joke, the idea that spring
will emerge from the

tough, hard ground, that the
tyrannical winter will
be driven from the

landscape by the mere
fact of science, a turning
world that for millions

Oh caption, my caption!

Give me a caption.

See you in the comments!

Monday, April 20, 2015

This Semester's Excuses. The Beginning of a List From Academaniac.

We're experimenting with making fonts bigger!
1. My dog dropped my hard drive in a bucket of water. (This was a real excuse. I couldn't make this stuff up.)

2. My brain hurts.

Sunday, April 19, 2015

All this playlet needs is a title. I'm thinking "No math skills and no calculator make Rosencrantz something something..." A large examination hall.  Rows on rows of desks, each occupied by a student concentrating on an exam paper
A hand shoots up.

Rosencrantz Andor Guildenstern: Yes?

Panicky Pete: I don't have a calculator.

R/G: You probably don't really need one. 

Cut to closeup of exam question.  We read 

"If you have 100 rodents and 37 of them are hamsters, what proportion of your rodents are hamsters?"

PP: Is it OK if I write it as a fraction?

PP points to answer booklet.  We read: "37/100"

R/G: I'm sorry - what's the problem?

PP: I can't get the number - I don't have a calculator.

R/G: Errr...

PP: Is a fraction OK?

R/G: Ummm...

PP Looks anxiously at R/G

R/G [sadly]: Ok, yes, you can leave it as a fraction.

R/G walks away down the rows of desks slowly shaking his head and chuckling ruefully.  Camera pans slowly out until R/G is just a dot moving through a vast snowy landscape.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Saturday: Time for Haiku (part 1 in a Greta retrospective)

I suspect I'm not the only one here who misses Great Lakes Greta's haiku posts.  So I'm queuing up a little retrospective, to appear intermittently, mostly on the days of the week when it seems we're all too busy to generate original material.  Greta's themes are often seasonal, and I've tried to pick poems appropriate to the time of year.  There does, however, seem to be a dearth of April poems (probably because, with November, it's one of the two official exploding-heading months in the academic calendar).  So here's a fall one, with a nevertheless-appropriate (and very tempting) ending:

Thursday afternoon,
seething class. weekend homework?
but...but...the big game!

found on my office
door: "Bitch!" how clever you are
after six short weeks.

it is a writing
class. we write. when you groan, your
misery feeds me.

"you can't talk to me
like that!" righteous parolee,
your paper, still late.

set of comp papers.
beautiful Saturday, contest.

Satterdae kwik linques

We NEVER stop
working toward
the worst
graphic ever.
I don't see anything in the blogger dashboard scheduled to post later today, so I thought I'd conserve the momentum with some stuff I happened upon recently, which I'm pretty sure was not posted here before (I even searched to be sure).

Title and link: The Professors Aren’t Retiring

Flava: If they love their jobs and they want to keep drawing those relatively generous salaries, good for them. But the situation isn’t so great for newly minted PhDs, who will now toil even longer as adjuncts.

Commentary: This ties in with discussions we've had recently about supply and demand, the sizes of grad programs and toxic elder colleagues who won't get out of the way.

Title and link: Sad Professor vs. Frustrated Professor: Battle of the Memes

Flava: People have rushed to embrace the Frustrated College Professor. This poor guy with head to chalkboard has plenty of things to complain about. For example, he teaches in one of the few remaining college classes with a chalkboard.

Commentary: I thought these were kind of funny. Click the link and maybe you'll think so, too.

Title and link: Study Concludes Many Teachers Would Improve With Less Control Of Content

Flava: ...the real problem in public education today is that many teachers have too much control over what they teach each day in their classroom -- and it prevents them from perfecting how they teach.

Commentary: As goes K-12, so to will go grade 13 and beyond?

While you're at the HuffPo, be sure to catch up on what those zany American celebrities are doing. Or not.

"Can I Take the Final Early?"

Friday, April 17, 2015

Today's Administrative Vocabulary Word: Ethical Fading

Oops, looks like I accidentally sent 
my moral sensibility through the dryer.
Don't call it "evil." Forget "immoral," "dishonest," or "slimy."

Call it "ethical fading."
 "A senior administrator," Mr. Harris says, "does not wake up in the morning and say, Today I am going to do something that lands me on the front page of the Chicago Tribune for the wrong reasons." Instead, he says, what comes into play is a phenomenon known as "ethical fading," in which the culture or structure of an organization causes those within it to lose sight of ethical considerations.
Or, say, when a hypothetical faculty member should be grading papers right now, instead of locking her office door, unlocking the bourbon drawer, and hanging out on Higher Education's Premier Online Publication.

It's not "laziness." Let's call it "motivational fading."

The Other Site, or, Evals are Evil

We all know what happens at the end of term. We receive a small folder from our Dean or Chair. It contains a packet of pages, half of them scantron-style and the other half open-answer worksheets. Our students are about to lay down some wisdom on us, and let us know how we could go from sinner to winner with just a few easy steps.

"Adjust your style of dress!"
"Add more lectures!"
"Stop lecturing so much!"

Be more interactive / less interactive, more vibrant, more stodgy, less reading, less assignments, more As, fewer Fs. Do what I want, but not what they want, and come down harder on disruptive students who are not me.


A Frightening Thought

I’m not going to call this a Friday thirsty, because I can’t quite remember the rules, and I don’t want to aggravate Cal, but there is a question at the end, and contemplating it just might drive you to drink.

I was thinking a bit more about an exchange we had a few weeks ago about whether reducing the number or size of grad programs would be a good thing (and, if so, which ones should be reduced or eliminated). Personally, I’m inclined to think that declining grad enrollments (whether deliberately planned by institutions, imposed by declining demand, or a combination of both) are at least as likely as a decreased supply of people willing to be longterm adjuncts to play a role in reshaping the academy in the coming decades.

Toole County, Montana (MT)

County population in 2012: 5,220 (57% urban, 43% rural); it was 5,267 in 2000
County owner-occupied with a mortgage or a loan houses and condos in 2010: 662
County owner-occupied free and clear houses and condos in 2010: 690
County owner-occupied houses and condos in 2000: 1,402
Renter-occupied apartments: 663 (it was 560 in 2000)
% of renters here:

Land area: 1911 sq. mi.
Water area: 34.9 sq. mi.
Population density: 3 people per square mile 
 (very low).

Mar. 2012 cost of living index in Toole County: 83.2 (low, U.S. average is 100)
We are giving away a $200 prize - enter simply by sending us your own pictures of this county!
Click here to upload your Toole County photos (outside city limits)
Industries providing employment: Educational,health and social services (27.1%), Agriculture,forestry,fishing and hunting, and mining (16.9%), Public administration (11.2%).

Type of workers:

  • Private wage or salary: 54%
  • Government: 34%
  • Self-employed, not incorporated: 12%
  • Unpaid family work: 1%

Read more:

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Instead of Bitching About the Big Thirsty, Here's One From Me. And Yes, I'm Baffled & Thirsty.

I GET to mentor new faculty. Whee. They're so young and flexible. They have smartphones and talk Game of Thrones with the students before class. Oh my God they're such little dears.

Yet, my guy, the guy I drew, was a guy I pushed for. A guy I said we HAD to have.

So I went to his classroom Monday afternoon with no fear.

And the class was a disaster. I teach the same class and the same book and *I* was confused about what he was talking about. He gave part of the assignment out loud, some on the fancy projector, and they didn't match. Students raised their hands and asked for clarification, and he smiled and said, "It's all there!"

And it wasn't. Students would start discussions and he'd overtalk them, leading them through his own view of things. He started a nice small group project, and then gave them far too little time. I know because like him, I was moving from group to group and sitting in. That part of things was going great. The students seemed more engaged with each other and the material than they were with him.

The class was awful, confusing, and after the students got tired of asking perfectly reasonable clarification questions, they just shut up and started looking at Instaface on their phones.

I have to meet my young charge Friday afternoon and I just want to take a sick day.

Q: What part of the existing faculty's job is the training of colleagues, even new ones? Am I to blame because I was part of the group that pushed for his hire? Should I evaluate what I saw or just launch into some steps to improve? He's t-t. He's friendly. He gets along swimmingly with everyone. I'm the only one to actually see his class, and it was JUST one class.

The Silverback Lament

It would do me no good to retire now, while I am still at the peak of my academic worth. Yet I find myself questioning how much longer I can endure as, under an administration increasingly out of touch with the tried-and-true, amid a dwindling old guard, within these rooms and halls I meet and toil over matters that my younger colleagues are little fit to appreciate.

I have survived three department chairmen and even more presidents -- this alone should proclaim my use to this institution! I have been chair of committees, director of centers and programs, developer of courses, and principal investigator of multiple studies. As I was at the institution I graced before, I am here a fierce advocate for the students; every year I befriend some and solicit their vision of what my colleagues should be doing better (which I share with those colleagues when others are also present to benefit from my analysis). But the new guard will not apprehend my accomplishments: when I speak in meetings their eye-rolls lay bare their chagrin for having forgotten my history, for having troubled me to preemptively remind them of it once again. They frustrate my noble efforts and are refractory to anything but that which they have invented themselves.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

How to Make a Snowflake Disappear in 60 Seconds or Less

His professor inadvertently caused
the rapture to occur.
The following message took place via SMS:

Student:  Hi!  I saw your tutoring ad on Craigslist and need some math tutoring.  Are you still doing tutoring?

Reply:  Yes, I am still available.  What is your availability?

Student:  Oh great!  I'm not taking any math right now but I am due to take a major test soon.  Can you help me?

cue Admiral Ackbar:  It's a trap!

Reply:  Sure.  Do you have a study guide for the test?

Student:  No.  I have no idea what will be on the test but would like to brush up on some topics.  My most recent math class was prealgebra at the local CC.

cue rhetorical question

Reply:  Okay, which topics do you need help with?

Student:  *poof*


Tuesday, April 14, 2015

click forecast for more

Monday, April 13, 2015

"I'd Do Anything for Love (But I Won't Do That)." From the Tuba Playing Prof.

In a post here some time ago (in which I described myself as a turtle, not a silverback), I tried to articulate the difference between my work and my job. And I continue to see the gap between those two. I have long feared that my work has little to do with my job. Now I am beginning to feel that I am weary rather than miserable. I imagined what I was experiencing as malaise, that general uneasy anxiety that somehow “things aren’t right,” and things are beyond one’s control. I have been resigned for a long time that as an old man I no longer “fit.” And I have put into practice a simple strategy for most campus meetings: When I feel the need to say anything, I count to ten then shut up.

A student mentioned before class to no one in particular that he “hates group work” because he has issues with dissonance. Curious I researched dissonance after class and stumbled upon an essay written about mental health professionals. The authors put forth the concept of, their research on, and conclusions about what they label “professional dissonance.”


I have mandatory conferences for the final paper before they submit it.  It's due tonight online.  Students currently have six hours to write it.  She schedule a conference on Monday, then cancelled it.  She rescheduled for yesterday.  Cancelled it.  Now she schedules one for today, shows up (miracle!) and I say "which of the options for the final paper among the three posted online did you take?"

"Which one would your recommend?" she says.

"Nooooo.  Choosing the option is up to you.  They're all designed to be equal in terms of difficulty."  I give her the assignment sheet.  "Is this the first time you've looked at this?"


"Oh.  Well."

"The second one."

"Okay, so, you'll take a chapter from our textbook and apply it to one of the case studies.  Cool.  Which case study will you use?"

"I don't know.  I didn't read them."


And she stares at me, as if she expects me to do something.

"Well," I say, standing up, "thank you for coming in.  This is a waste of time.  Good luck."

Sunday, April 12, 2015

"Some are snowflakes, others live in a furnace of pressure." From Dr. Amelia.

Hey miserians,

I was especially interested in this article in the New York Times about teen pressure in Palo Alto. While I think it's easy to blame it on that wacky, degenerate Silicon Valley culture, I can tell you that I don't live in any of the places mentioned in the article, but my kids' high school is exactly the same here in a city with a nearby Whoopty Doo U.

Anyway, thought you'd be interested.

- Dr. Amelia

Fuck you, Microscoft

Who wants to collaborate with me on a Gates Foundation proposal to investigate the negative influence of advertising on student learning?

I probably don't need to convince you that this ad is real.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Friday, April 10, 2015

Aarghs for the day

  • In one class, we've been reading a novel in which a game -- let's say parcheesi -- is mentioned with some frequency. Characters play parcheesi, they talk about parcheesi, they fall in love over parcheesi, they work out animosities over parcheesi, they get themselves in various sorts of trouble betting over parcheesi games, etc., etc., etc.  I just discovered that one of the students in the class has no idea what parcheesi is, and has not bothered to google it.  
  • In another class, a student who had, as far as I could tell, been happily (if somewhat slowly) pursuing a nice focused investigation of a particular hamster-nest weaving technique has now announced that she finds her present subject "distressing," and wants to investigate hamster locomotion devices.  All of them, apparently. Attempts to encourage her to narrow her focus to wheels or balls, let alone gearing mechanisms for wheels, have so far been unsuccessful.  And yes, I'll be running whatever she eventually hands me through a plagiarism checker (assuming she hands me anything that resembles a response to the assignment; it's actually pretty well-tailored to avoid students' using pre-existing papers -- their own or others' -- and I'd be surprised if she can find anything even half-responsive to the assignment on her new, very broad topic (though I wouldn't be at all surprised if she can find a pre-existing "research paper" on the topic, which is, of course, why I'm suspicious)).
  • I still need to finish my taxes. Every year, I tell myself I'll do them in January, but by the time all the necessary documents are available, I'm knee-deep in schoolwork, and then it's April (and I'm chin-deep in schoolwork). 

Mortimer Brewster Has Come To Us For Career Advice, Because We All Clearly Have Made The Right Choices.

I'm a graduate assistant whose work is in a large department, but I took a job in smaller but related department because I have a good relationship with the department head. The first semester went well enough, except that enrollment was unusually low, and we had a crop of dunderheaded students. I'm working again with the same faculty member, Professor Xanthippe (name changed, obviously). My one critique of the prior semester had been that Prof. X had not really made good use of my labor. This faculty member micromanages everything, such that all my grades and comments must be vetted, added-to, and regraded before X will give them back to the students. The papers the students get back are so riddled with comments they are unreadable.

Is the Modern American University a Failed State? From

Is it too late for solutions?
For many youths, vocational school is preferable to college. Americans need to appreciate that training to become a master auto mechanic, paramedic or skilled electrician is as valuable to society as a cultural anthropology or feminist studies curriculum. There are far too many special studies courses and trendy majors -- and far too few liberal arts surveys of literature, history, art, music, math and science that for centuries were the sole hallowed methods of instilling knowledge.

This Week's Big Thirsty Sent in From Wisconsin Will.

Q: What the fuck happened to the Big Thirsty?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

What's next, fake jury summonses? A Really Pro-Active Recruiting Initiative from UF

The Washington Post reports that over 3,000 students were accepted to the University of Florida's online program for the fall.

Oddly, none of those applicants had actually applied to the online program. 

Imagine the applicants' delight when they opened their acceptance letters to find that after earning a total of 60 credits off campus, they might qualify to become residential students!

James Tissot - Bad News

What inspired UF to try this novel "admissions experiment?"

The school was trying to stanch the bleeding raise enrollment in the online program, which was forced on it created by the state legislature and Florida Governor Rick Scott. (Scott has long favored a practical approach to higher education, announcing in 2012 he "did not want Florida's higher education system producing anthropologists or other specialized graduates whose main job prospect is teaching others to do what they do.")

Enrollments in the online program are below expectations and UF is projected to be out $9.5 million over the next two years.

(On the bright side, Pearson stands to make $186 million on its no bid contract).

So faced with an expensive multiyear contract with Pearson, disappointing online enrollments, and limited capacity in their face to face programs, UF resorted to the old bait-and-switch.

Fellow Miserians, is this the most desperate enrollment grab you've ever seen? Or can you top this?

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


Hey, I'm not just trolling for pageviews.  That's a legitimate post title, although I am also trolling for pageviews.

It seems that a Drexel University law professor accidentally sent her students a link to Pornhub.  Above the Law has a good summary (work safe) and a penetrating analysis that is both intellectually stimulating and goes deep into the subject matter.

Most likely, she accidentally copied the wrong link then pasted it into her email to students.  That happens, though thankfully not to me, yet.  It would be even funnier if the text of her email could be taken as a double entendre related to the link.  I'm imagining statements from your syllabus and instructions for assignments.    

How to Make Your Accidental Porn Link even More Scandalous: A Top Ten List

10.  Here are some examples of the technology gadgets that I will use in class to enhance your learning and enjoyment of the course subject matter.

9.  The dean won’t let me change the date of our final exam.  This link explains why my hands are tied.

8.  This class is intellectually challenging.  At first, you will be uncomfortable stretching yourself in new ways but I hope that by the end of the semester, you will come to enjoy the experience, as described in this video.

7.  This link shows how you will complete your project in groups of 3 or 4.

6.  These pictures illustrate examples of students with proper outfits and grooming for class.

5.  Here are some activities that you and your lab partner will be performing together this semester.

4.  I do not like cell phones ringing during class.  This tutorial shows you how to set it to vibrate in your pocket.

3.  As you research your essay topic, you may find that you change your position frequently.  As the attached document explains, that is natural and healthy.  Find a position that makes you feel comfortable.

2.  The attached document describes how we will conduct your oral exam.

1.  Arriving late to class is annoying and interrupts my presentation.  The following tips can help you come when you are supposed to.

I hope you found this experience as satisfying as I did.

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Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Students Charged with Hateful Graffiti

I bet these students were a joy to have in class...

Police charged two students in connection with offensive graffiti discovered over the weekend on a reported the Cincinnati Enquirer. Students said the graffiti, which was discovered in Wells Hall, contained racist, sexist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic statements. A spokeswoman for the university in Oxford, Ohio, declined to describe what the defaced bulletin board said, but she said the content was “offensive to many groups of people,”

Read the rest....  You know you want to....

Dead Tweeting the Conference

When I started my account, Twitter gave me this green and white avatar; click to see what it made me think of.
So of course our Publicity and Communications department wants to approve everything that any of our university's employees ever says publicly that might in any way reflect on the university, so that they can "manage the message" and "build and protect our brand". Therefore we have a pretty strict policy regarding social media, which on the one hand I find pragmatic if not reasonable to follow because #DontShitWhereYouEat, but on the other hand fuck you because #AcademicFreedom.

It was therefore with great interest that I noted that P&C wanted us to "live tweet" our experiences at certain events. This not only would open the sluiceway right past their own approval mechanism, but also might run afoul of rules at the events themselves. For instance, professional societies often have their own policies regarding leaking conference information to the public.

I determined that to live within all applicable rules, I could nevertheless "dead tweet" a conference after the fact, by removing any information that could identify the specific conference, my institution, or myself. I therefore give you these Publishable Units...

Monday, April 6, 2015

Hammocks, Tightropes, and Guitars

Daffs (& mud) from my garden
Spring has (finally!) sprung on our campus (at least for 48 hours or so; I'm not looking at the weather forecast for later this week. Just. not. going. there.  We'll let that be the obligatory misery repressed in, but nevertheless haunting, this otherwise perhaps inappropriately cheerful post.) 

The annual panhellenic shantytown fundraiser for the homeless took place on the quad a couple of weeks ago, when the weather was still quite cold and raw (to my rather mean pleasure; it's hard not to notice that these events are never planned for say, January, but instead for the first week of spring, which may or may not actually be springlike in our climate, but which I suspect the organizers imagine will be pleasant). 

 It has now ceded its place to more spontaneous spring gatherings, which, this year, seem to feature hammocks and tightropes strung between trees (some of them rather spindly for the purpose, but they seem to be surviving so far), long gauzy skirts and other bohemian/somewhat '60s-ish apparel, and al fresco singing accompanied by (acoustic) guitars.  There may also be frisbees, but they seem less numerous than in years past, and I don't think I've seen a hackey-sack for some time. 

What does spring look like on your campus this year?  What's new?  What's missing from years past? 

Miserable Pictures (cont.)