Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Tenure is Not All Powerful.

An associate professor with tenure at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge says she’s been fired for using profanity in class, including saying “fuck no” and referring to cowardly behavior as “being a pussy.” She was fired in June, accused of violating the school’s sexual harassment policy.

Jezebel Link.

Advocate Article.

Let's all try this new software gizmo to find the perfect Alt-Ac job

The Chronicle (might be paywalled) reports that Texas State Technical College, spurred by the fact that one third of its state appropriations are now tied to graduates' starting salaries, has eliminated all majors except petroleum engineering developed software that matches graduates' skills with job requirements.

[T]he college system has created a software package designed to narrow the so-called skills gap. Part of that gap, the developers believe, is due to colleges, employers, and students using different terms to describe the same skills. That leads to misunderstanding and frustration among both job seekers and recruiters, who frequently complain that they can’t find people with the skills they need.[1]
But why should Texas State Technical College students have all the fun? It's no secret that fewer and fewer of us, percentage-wise, will ever achieve tenure-track employment.

As far as I know, no one has yet suggested using the Skills Engine to jump-start an alt-ac career (don't thank me, just cite me). What happens when you take the CV of a high profile humanities scholar and feed it into the Skills Engine?

Hmm. The Skills Engine's recommended careers are all postsecondary teaching, which doesn't seem very "Alt" at all. [2]

How about a political science CV? (I just grabbed these off the internet. Both are from tenure-track faculty in R1 institutions in the U.S.)

Now we're getting somewhere. Community & Social Service Specialists and PR Managers look like a real alternative to postsecondary teaching.

And of course I had to try my own CV. I'm happily tenured, but things change. What if I slip up in class and accidentally use curse words or tell a sexually-themed joke? What other jobs could I do?

There you go! Managers, All Other. Career Goal: Put me in charge of stuff.

You can try the Skills Engine here.

[1] The article gives one example of how this software was used: An employer was advertising a position for $15/hour when the going rate for a qualified worker was $22. In fact the "skills gap" appears to be mostly a result of employers not wanting to shell out for salaries or training.

[2] Is "Alt-Ac" simply the new "entrepreneurship," a way to ignore structural issues in the job market and place the responsibility on the individual? Discuss.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Nilla in New York With Some Job Misery.

I come to you after a disastrous Skype interview for a 3 year VAP position that I coveted.

I'm two years out of school, and have taught part-time at two excellent and well-regarded private institutions near, let's say, Rochester. I've done well, have great references, and know all the right things about my field. I was told about this VAP job by an old grad student friend who teaches at the university in question.

I was told I was a shoo-in.

During the Skype interview everything went well, until I was asked, "So why do you want to work here?"

It's not a question I had thought about or prepared for. The only thing that came to my mind was, "Well, you have a full time job. I don't." (I didn't say it, but it took all of my strength.)

Instead I said something about my background and experience and my training. As I spoke haltingly, I saw one committee member look across the screen at another, and I sensed I'd not given the right answer.

After that I couldn't focus. I kept trying to work why I would love teaching at their university into every question. I even said at one point, "I've been on your campus. It's lovely. I like seeing professors sometimes bring children to campus." (I have no idea what I meant or where the idea came from.)

I dug a hole and could never find my way out. My anxiety took over and an hour later I thought of perceptive and excellent answers to the last questions - things anyone with my training would lead with - that I'd just not mentioned at all.

I left a voicemail for my pal and haven't heard back.

What should I have said? What does the question mean? Does it mean that university? That field? Why Rochester? Do committee members understand how this question sounds to someone without a real job? What would you have answered?

Sunday, June 28, 2015

From Amelia!

So, how about something optimistic for a mid-summer post?
  • It's summer. I get to spend long stretches of time with my small people when they have long stretches of time off, too. I like that
  • I am keeping up with some of my colleagues on social media. Because I actually like them.
  • Some of my favorite students from last year are starting to get jobs. It's nice to hear that.
  • I'm at a teaching-heavy, research expected gig right now, but I have time to think creatively about my research in the summer and I have some exciting ideas. I actually like my research (even more since I got tenure this year, so I don't have to worry as much about stuff bearing fruit ASAP).
  • I have lots of time to read College Misery. You guys are funny. I like that.
See? It's not all THAT bad...

Email Address

Because of an insane spoofing problem that continued for many weeks, we switched the mailing address for the blog. It is now once again safe to use collegemisery@gmail.com. My own private email will still be monitored. Sorry if there's been any inconvenience. This all took place in the background and nobody except a handful of folks - in the very beginning - (who got an increase in spam) were bugged by it.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

What did they think was going to happen?

Only one in four students who place into noncredit remedial courses will earn a degree within eight years of enrolling. Last year, Florida's legislature came up with the solution: allow students to skip remedial classes if they want to.

A year later, the astonishing results are in: Enrollment in remedial courses is down, and failure rates are up.
Hunter Boylan, director of the National Center for Developmental Education at Appalachian State University, said he's not certain what legislators expected would happen. “This isn't rocket science. If students don't have the skills to complete a college course and you let them take the course, there's a likelihood they'll fail the course,” he said. “What did they expect?”

I suspect that it's even worse than it looks. How many of this year's instructors do you suppose looked at their final gradebooks, and thought, I'd better curve the grades. I can't fail everybody.

The advantage of this approach, on the other hand, is undeniable. Unlike resource-intensive programs that actually work, handing at-risk students just enough rope is practically free.

4 Years Ago on The Misery.

A reader writes:
This post of Terry P.'s got me hooked. I didn't know what to make of this blog until then. Suddenly it all made sense. I know you're struggling, but made a note on a post-it to watch for the anniversary of this very cool part of your past. Love the page, brother. Keep doing it.

This is an article I found about college professors. It also has some stuff about college students. It says we need to remember that NEW THINGS ARE...


It sounds like good advice to me, because I'm a professor, and I have students, and they're scared. And I forget that. I just think, "FUCKING MEATBAGS," when I see them, and forget that they're human.

This article that I'm directing you, too, though, takes a different approach. This lady who wrote it seems nice. She's a professor, too, like you or me. Although since she's at a community college, many of you will think she's probably just a half step above being a beauty salon worker, since at the community college I taught at when I first started teaching, we churned out as many beauticians and air conditioning people as we did transfer students.

But your horrible prejudices aside, I think this article below is something that MANY of you would enjoy, because the lady, I think it's a lady, because the lady is saying nice things about helping students, and shitfire we all could use some of that.

I've not posted the WHOLE article, because that would be absolutely fucking crazy. I mean it must be at least 500 words long. I'm sure Fab pays Blogger by the bits and byte, so I would never presume to waste his money or your time by giving you more FLAVA than is necessary for you to decide if you want to read the article or not.

So, without any further ado, prompting, etc., here's a little taste of this article I was talking about. Should you want to know more about what this lady, I think it's a lady, has to say, you can click the FULL ARTICLE hyperlink and Fab (wherever he is) will connect a big fiber optic pipe to the necessary widget box and you'll be able to peer in through your monitor and see the WHOLE thing. But I won't post the whole thing. That would be absolutely fucking crazy.

And if you don't want to click the link, well, shit, what else do you have to do? But if you don't? If instead you're up in the Beehive state with Yaro, and don't have time for this lady's nice article about how scary college can be, at least I think she's a lady, then skip on by. Angry Archie has got some crazy fucking game going down below, and further down from that Fab Sun has made up a bunch of fake complaint letters, because he's one needy SOB, and more nervous than a bald guy holding a long tailed cat at a rocking chair convention outside one of Donald Trump's casinos.

And then below that is just pages and pages of Google ads.

So, here we go. Here's the article I was talking about. Well, not ALL of it. I mean it's about 500 words long. Posting the whole thing here would be absolutely fucking crazy.


New Things Are Scary

June 27, 2011, 11:05 am
My 5-year-old son will be starting kindergarten in the fall...

Friday, June 26, 2015

Sally from Sumpter Sends in This Civility Link.

What I found interesting in the comments is that some people think that college/university settings must be more civil than corporate settings--- except for the commenters who actually work at colleges/universities.

Years ago a colleague shared an idea he had about wanting to create a class on workplace civility. I guess he should have done that as we now need to teach people Civility 101.

The Misery

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Hiram is Thirsty And Baffled About Tenure

When I started in this bizness, tenure was the goal. All of my cohort focused on that. We wanted to get trained in our specialty, find the RIGHT school, and get tenure. And then we thought the world would be open to us and our giant minds forever.

I find more and more that my younger colleagues - and they are SO young now it seems - aren't concerned with tenure. They seem willing to accept the sea change of academic employment. I had a perfectly wonderful teacher say to me a few days ago say, "If teaching doesn't work out, I'll find something else I can do."

Q: What does tenure mean to you right now? Is it still a goal? Does it still matter? Was it ever the reason you found yourself in our profession?

Anyone in the DC Area Like Medicore Poetry?

Compound Cal will be reading from his latest book in Chevy Chase, Maryland on July 6th.

He posted the following note on Facebook and has sent it to me twice already. Why he won't just post it himself on the page I do not know. He's like that. He's the great originator of the half-hearted attempt.

I'll be reading these and other terrifically mediocre and depressing poems July 6th at 7 pm at the Friendship Heights Village Center, 4433 South Park Avenue, Chevy Chase, Maryland. I may wear a hat. I do zany voices.
At some point I tear off my shirt. Sometimes there is an intermission while I sit down and catch my breath. Once, someone left in the middle and I followed him into the street. You can buy my new book after I'm finished. It's TINY. It will take me longer to count out your change than it will take you to read it. If none of that convinces you, then you are dead to me.

And even though I already bought the damn book at a MUCH higher price, he sends this link for others, not me, not the sucker, to get it for just $7. I hate him. I'm thinking of sending him an envelope full of gluten.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

5 Years Ago Today.

So, most people know the history.

But College Misery opened its psychotic and healing doors 5 years ago today. I did it with the support and okay from Compound Cal, the last standing moderator from the "goon old days" of Rate Your Students."

It's always been dysfunctional; it's always been dying.

Our first post:



Why do all our department meetings seem to last as long as this Wimbledon match?

Sure hope this blog lasts a lot longer!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Something more serious, which I hope will stimulate a lively discussion

There was a nice young woman student in my large, general-ed astronomy class. She had a boyfriend who, the couple times I saw him, talked to her in a way that struck me as abrupt and not very respectful. It wasn’t yelling, but only because it wasn’t loud. Early in the semester, he disappeared from class, except for exams. I don’t require attendance, and she may have been taking notes, turning in homework, and collecting graded homework for him.

One day, she came to class with a black eye. She also had her arm in a sling. It was on the same side as the black eye, the kind of injury one might get from warding off a blow.

I said and did nothing, thinking it was none of my business, since I had no proof of wrongdoing by anyone. Did I do the right thing?

Another time, I had a physics grad student who was a real dunderhead. He squandered a prime scientific opportunity for himself, came close to doing the same for me, came close to wrecking the observatory, and consistently turned in work that was clearly the least he could get by with, probably because it was the best his limited intellect could do.

I hear he’s been hired by the local community college as an instructor of introductory physics. Ordinarily I like the local community college, since they usually do fine work.  I’m dismayed this time, though, since I'll get his students in my upper-level physics classes. Even worse, there’s a much smarter, more knowledgeable, and more effective instructor of intro physics in the area who I know is looking for work.

So far, I have said and done nothing, thinking it’s none of my business, since who the local community college hires is up to them. Am I doing the right thing?

All thriller, not enough filler


"Less Than." From Neala Healy.

I’m so tired, I’m bone-weary, of hearing how inadequate I am. My students walk in the door assuming superiority to me in every way. My visible disability gives them an even greater jolt of smug self-worth. Super Sheba believes she is better than me and better than everyone else in the room. She earned a “B” on the first exam and emailed me in a fit of fury. “How could this have happened?” she demanded. That was my best laugh of the day.

The administration dangles my job in front of me like a spongy, maggot-infested carrot. Long after the bookstore is demanding textbook orders, I’m waiting to hear if I have a job next quarter. Well, if I wanted respect, I would have been worthy of a decent job. Adjuncts shouldn’t expect more.

A social media friend pontificates about the deprofessionalization of various professions. We’re old friends, far-left liberals who care deeply about worker’s rights. He uses adjuncts in higher education as the prime example of the trend of replacing skilled workers with people who are less skilled, less able. My rage surges fast and burns white-hot. He explains the historical trends, the realities of my job to me. I am not grateful.

His conclusion is that I am a less skilled replacement worker. I am dismayed that highly intelligent adults behave like traditional, college-age students in their ability to think. Highly intelligent adults demonstrate the social skills of college students. Please, explain my job to me some more. I so enjoy having my career and the daily realities of my job explained to me by an outsider. I so enjoy being evaluated by someone thoroughly unequipped to evaluate me. Yet the consistency of this evaluation – across students, administration, and the general public, truly impresses me.

I’m devalued by everyone I encounter, even by those who should know better.

It’s okay. At least I’m not them. This is my mantra.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Cindy from St. Louis With an Ongoing and Vexing Early Thirsty On What We're Called.

This summer I am teaching an online class. It is full of students from other colleges and universities that are home for the summer. I sent everyone a welcoming e-mail on the first day of class, explaining the class procedures and components. I signed the e-mail, with what students call me in the classroom, Mrs. (or Ms.) Mylastname. 

This summer, however, I have received three different e-mail from students, with the salutations “Hi Cindy,” or “Cindy.” This strikes me as odd, as an in-the-classroom student would never call me that. Maybe I am too sensitive about my status as their professor, but I am offended at their familiarity.

Q: Should I say anything about this to them? How should I respond? Is this a common practice at other schools? Should I just deal with it and ignore it?

A Modest Proposal From Cal.

Dear Fab,

I'd like to suggest that on the anniversary of your very fine blog that you stop using "filler," the memes, the maps, the made up eye candy, the moderator-generated content that updates the page once a day in the absence of original material.

I've never been a mod here, but I've been a long time counselor to you, Leslie, Terry, etc. And I have contributed "filler" myself, recently, for the same reasons you have. But I don't believe it's the best thing anymore.

The page needs to go on on its own. I believe that blank days will test the community's interest in keeping the page alive, and I urge you to consider this very modest proposal.

I hope others who are reading today will weigh in with their own thoughts - or indeed other proposals - in the comments below.

- Compound Cal of the Canadian Cals

The end of tenure?

Once again, I find myself agreeing with Rebecca Schuman:
But here’s the thing that Walker, and Vos—and probably the general public—just doesn’t seem to get: To the majority of American faculty, quibbling about tenure is irrelevant, because they are ineligible for it and always will be. “How do you prove that tenure is necessary when a majority of your colleagues have been working without it?” asks long-term “visiting” professor John Warner in Inside Higher Ed. “Where will tenure be in 10 years?” asks Josh Boldt on Vitae. “No adjunct professor should care.” . . . .
Instead of fighting about tenure, perhaps we should decide what the post-tenure university should look like. Out of extreme cynicism comes extreme pragmatism, and now is the best time (possibly the only time) for professors to maintain the approximation of an intellectual vision rather than the gleeful strip mall–ification of some pandering governor or executive slumming it as an administrator. . . .
Yes, there are problems with tenure, but they are not the largely fictitious ones championed by right-wing jerks. The problem with tenure is not that it allows “elites” (who make $50,000 a year) a “job for life” (nope). It’s that too few people have it so there’s nobody left to fight for it, and for the academic freedom it promises. What few tenured academics remain are handed just enough disproportionate power to maintain just enough acrimony that everybody is too busy being at each other’s throats to mind the store.
I'm still convinced that a system where the great majority of faculty are tenured or tenurable is the best option, but, as an almost-certainly-permanent (if relatively privileged) member of the contingent class, I'm finding it harder and harder to get excited about threats to tenure per se (as opposed to, say, broader threats to faculty governance, which at this point start with the fact that, at many institutions, the great majority of the faculty have neither opportunity nor time to be involved in governance at all).  At the very least, having a conversation about what a functional system without tenure would look like might give us a chance to identify more clearly what's wrong with the current system.

Full article here

4 years Ago Right Here on CM! From the GREAT Academic Monkey!

Everyone, including me, gives Cal shit over the
 graphics. But this one is the shit. He's 
having a tough summer,
and I want him to know

I appreciate him.
Possibly Offensive Student Stereotypes by Grade

If I had to eliminate the variations and just pool all grades together, this is what I get:

My A grades: You are the students who do the assignment. You do it on time; you write a little bit more than the minimum page length. You come to all classes. You aren't brilliant, but you do all the work and you do it satisfactorily. Sometimes you make me think. Usually, you just stay out of my way. I don't have to write extensive corrections on your homework. You make my life slightly easier. And so I give you an A.

High Bs: You come to class most of the time. I have to try harder to get you to keep an eye on basic things, like grammar and content, but it isn't ridiculous. You write exactly 2 sentences more than the minimum page length just to cover yourself. You do the work, you send me the occasional whine, but we don't clash so I give you a high-ish B.

Low Bs: You are on the verge of not caring at all. Some of you really struggle with the reading because you come from a personal place where learning wasn't necessarily a priority. I totally get that you had kids, or your parents didn't read to you, or you spend a lot of your spare time working and dealing with real life. It makes my job harder, but you're getting by. So I give you a lower B.

Cs: You don't read the assignment. Some of you are smart and half-ass it because you can. Others are trying desperately to understand what instructions mean, to no avail. Your margins tend to be at 2 inches, or you add extra spaces between your paragraphs, or the font is at 13 pts. Attendance is not a priority. Some of you C students come to my office hours and try to convince me to give you 2 extra points here even though you are still 30 points away from an A. This very act underscores why you are earning a C: trying for a 1% extra credit grade does nothing compared to writing a full-length, course-material-focused paper in the first place, which would be worth so much more. You take up a ridiculous amount of my time and I probably spend twice as long grading your work than I do the B students. And so I give you a C.

Ds: Most of you sleep through the first half of the semester. You submit papers that are sort of on topic, but clearly not written in response to my actual question. An assignment on the beliefs of Christianity might be answered with a devout personal expression of your relationship to Jesus. Alternatively, you answer the question, but you never pass the halfway point in the required paper length. Late work is common. So is the end-of-term request to redo work, make up "lost" submissions, and perform extra credit or makeup exams. You are the students most likely to challenge my grade or ask for post-semester "help" as though that would change anything. I hate negotiating with you, but still I give you a D.

Fs: You either never show up or you plagiarize. You usually never contact me after I have failed you, because you did not speak to me prior to submitting carefully copied work and are too embarrassed for our first interaction to be lies about cheating. You require less work than my A students, but I get paid exactly the same. For that I rather like you. But still, I give you an F.

Sunday, June 21, 2015

bad haiku on the first night of summer, after the last week of the semester

when the cottonwood
thickens the air and the frogs
return to lend their

voices to the night's
chorus, and the fireflies blink
their staccato code

as they trace the dusk
along the back garden wall,
my thoughts turn to you –

you tea partying
scum of a plagiarist – who
will fail at so much

more that matters much
more … and I reach for the wine,
pour another glass …

… and breathe … another
year in the books, another
confrontation to

end it, to remind
me that i'm just a cog in
a giant machine

that buzzes along
with the seaming industry
of bees, but with none

of their grace,
or honey.