Sunday, January 31, 2016

What Goes Through My Mind

What goes through my mind, when .  . .

an administrator speaks:
"That sounds very reasonable.  How much of it, if any, is true?"

a student offers an excuse:
"Fuck.  I don't give a shit about policing your personal tragedies.  Give a shit about your education and only take time off when you need to, and leave me the hell alone about it."

the University President:
"Whatever you're talking about, it means me bending over a desk, so go stick it up your own, I'm busy with research."

"How do I get on the board of trustees?  Is the lobotomy required, or just recommended?"

A colleague talks about his or her research or teaching:
"Come in, sit down, want some tea? I have a dirty mug and some Earl Gray up here somewhere.  Seriously.  Please, God, please, come in and talk to me."

Friday, January 29, 2016


I'm not overly conflicted about this, so I'm not really looking for advice, just venting the ol' spleen.

My class has a final exam tonight.  Well, it's not so much an exam as a public display.  Can't say more than that.  Suffice it to say that the entire January mini-semester has been building up to it, and students need to do it in order to pass.

Last week I get an email from a student saying that she wanted to warn me in advance:  The exam night is also some kind of sorority rush event, so she's not sure if she can come on time!

I'm trying to process all of this without disclosing my disdain for frats and sororities.  I went to a college where they weren't too big of a deal (only about 15% of the students were in them, and they weren't the center of social life).  I like friendship and clubs and all of that social stuff, and I know plenty of good people who went Greek and turned out just fine, including one of my parents and one of my siblings.  But I've always felt a twinge of--I don't know, hopefully ickiness and not jealousy--when I've heard of some frat or sorority doing or sanctioning something that prizes itself above academic life.

I tell my student to do her best to come on time, especially since her email made it sound like she won't be late to the public display, just late to the "please arrive 30 minutes early to set up" part.  Fine.  Then she emails me again today to say that her sorority-to-be won't be sending their schedule out until early evening (about 3 hours before our final), so she'll have to let me know later how late she'll be!

Before you go all "fail her ass" on me, let me slip in a couple of caveats.  First, it's a little two-credit pass/fail class.  Second, she's not going to be all that late, and her own part of the display is toward the end.  And more importantly, the mini-semester actually ended a week ago.  The only reason we're having the public display tonight is because Snowzilla buried Richmond a week ago, and it had to be rescheduled.  That's hardly her fault, and if I'm asking the students to be flexible, I also need to be flexible.

But a little spleen-vent is in order, no?  Why is the default assumption that the sorority pledging activities are unmovable?  Or am I just getting old?

Has this ever happened to you?  Has a student ever unapologetically said, "Sorry, dude, can't do the class thing--my frat/sorority won't let me go"?​

--Ruby from Richmond

Compound Cal, Always So Cutting Edge, Brings Some Breaking News.

Hey, I don't know about you, but I'm a little worried about these modern students and their mobile telephone handsets. I think it's possible that the sweet dears may occasionally become distracted.

Maybe I'm just being a worrywart.


According to a new study, college studentsare spending one-fifth of their time in class on their cell phones or digital devices when they should be learning. The study was done by the College of Journalism and Mass Communications at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Researchers say the main culprit is texting.

Almost nine out of 10 students reported that texting was their main diversion during class. About three-quarters say they emailed or checked the time on their phones. 70-percent reported checking social media, such as Facebook. Nearly half reported surfing the web, and one in 10 spent class time playing games.

More misery...

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Campus Visit Horror Story Season.

As Megan Kate Nelson says, it's that time of the year. She has a few from her private collection, including a "pit or pendulum" pair of candidates and unlicensed medications dispensing. [Though she's being deliberately vague on what point of view she had on the proceedings, presumably to protect identities, at least a little.]

My own history is suprisingly free of such calamities: I've been on a few campus visits that weren't great successes, but as far as I know I've never said blazingly offensive or inappropriate or even trollish things, never picked my nose at dinner, and never been treated particularly absurdly. Though I don't know, obviously, what kind of stories they tell about me now, since most of those places decided I wasn't the best choice...

I've seen lots of campus visits, too, almost all of which were disaster-free (unless you count over-reactions by older white male colleagues to "dead white male curriculum" comments from younger women candidates).

But the stories are ... instructive. Nelson is right that they're a kind of living reality show, and it's kind of surprising that the campus visit hasn't been the subject of more mainstream comedy. You could do a great ensemble movie of three candidates coming to campus in series, or perhaps three candidates in different departments coming simultaneously. It's kind of a perfect 'fish out of water' / 'stranger comes to town' scenario.

There's a humbling rejoinder to my "didn't notice any problems":

"If you're an academic, and you don't have a campus visit horror story, then chances are you were the horror."

It's possible...

10 Years Ago Today. A Flashback and Big Thirsty All At Once. Q: In Today's Academy Would Newbie Have Found Anything Changed?

Saturday, January 28, 2006
A Newbie From Arizona.

I did my Ph.D. work in the Pacific Northwest and earned most of my fellowships through editing and publishing, so my work in the classroom was very light before I started my first year on the tenure-track.

I wore a nice charcoal pantsuit to my first class last September and sweated through the jacket before I even got to class. I took it off in the hallway in front of my classroom before going in - I was wearing a perfectly normal camisole top that is quite modest - and two young men walked past me, one of them saying, "Pass me the JUGS, man."

I was caught up by that, but also just the nerves of this first day of all first days. When I walked into the classroom and went to the front, the two young guys I saw outside were in the front row. One was sheepish - thanks to something I imagine his parents might have given him while growing up - but the other just fixed me with a big grin.

I felt like I was in some sort of bad TV movie called "Teacher's First Day," and all I wanted to do was crawl back into the comfort of grad school, of my safe apartment in Seattle, my coffee, my friends, my sweatpants, my bookbag, and a dream that I was entering into the life of the mind.

I made it through the semester. I'm still on the job. But that first semester wiped clean any idea I ever had that teaching in a college is anything but babysitting. My students complained if I asked them to write 500 words. They would lie to my face about any and everything. One girl told me that the college's computer lab (there are 4, 3 of them open 24 hours a day), closed unexpectedly at 6 pm and she couldn't print her paper in time. I asked her about the other labs on campus and she whined, "They're ALL the way on other side."

I fielded an endless array of stories about dead family members. I heard about car crashes on every highway in and around the city. Nobody could make it to class when it rained. The heat index was 120 and when they were in high school they didn't have to go to class. They knew I'd understand.

I sat in my new and clean office and felt like a failure most days.

I went for help from my mentor, a woman about 25 years my senior, and told her everything. She nodded her head, took it all in, and said, "They're kids, honey. They don't know any better."

She hoisted me up, boosted my confidence a bit and told me to get tough. I wear dress shirts to class. I don't take any shit. I have policies on my syllabus about being in class - regardless of temperature. I have deadlines and there are consequences if they're not met. The students started this semester in the same way, complaining, whining, but I'm a new woman.

I wear my iPod - see, I have one, too! - and don't let their innocence and ignorance bother me. I teach what I know. I help when they want it - and more and more do. And when they act like they need sitters, I refuse to be one.

But this is not the life I thought was coming.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

This again: The use of devices in the classroom for nonclass purposes is on the rise.

From IHE:

Students waste about one-fifth of class time on laptops, smartphones and tablets, even though they admit such behavior can harm their grades, a new report found.

The average student uses those devices for "nonclass purposes" -- in other words, texting, emailing and using social media -- 11.43 times in class during a typical day. Since the survey was first conducted in 2013, the number of times students check their devices has increased from 10.93, according to the results.

Students also overwhelmingly support using devices in the classroom, with about 90 percent of respondents saying devices should not be banned. The students base their support mainly on two beliefs: that they can use devices without being significantly distracted, and that they should be free to use their devices whenever they want.

It took about thirty seconds for a commenter to weigh in with the old, 

The real problem is not the tech - it is the ability/inability of the instructor to gain and hold the student's attention.

Okay, I know, that's what I get for reading the comments, but look. I just just saw Star Wars: The Force Awakens in a packed movie theater. The woman sitting in front of me was on her phone the whole time. 

So a blockbuster movie with a 200 million dollar budget--a special-effects-laden spectacle whose sole purpose is to entertain--can't hold the attention of every single person in the audience. But apparently it's my fault when someone's attention wanders while we're trying to cover Porter's generic strategies. 

Also, I guess professors have become ten percent less engaging since 2013, because what else could have possibly contributed to the increase in students checking their devices? 

Read the whole thing here

Monday, January 25, 2016

Silky in Savannah is Sick of Being Undervalued.

Yay, I'm
an academic!
For whatever reason, while perfectly happily watching football yesterday with several of my non-academic friends, salary and age and accomplishment and respect all came up.

My pal who works for a logistics company was complaining at how his company undervalued him. He went on at length about the pressure of his job, scheduling, planning, etc. He had portions of the year when he worked more than 40 hours. He had a BA from a good school, some managerial experience in the past, and he was disconsolate about his $85,000 salary with benefits, 4 weeks vacation.

I'm an anomaly among my friends, the one who stayed in school forever. I've published two books. I've bounced around in academia because I'm one of the countless glut PhDs in the humanities. I came to age at the same time the peak of the glut.

"I make $30,000 with no benefits," I said at halftime during a lull. "No benefits. I have a week off in Spring, and take about 2 weeks around summer school off. I work about 50 hours on a normal week, teaching 5 sections of freshman writing. I work 60+ hours 5 weeks each semester around essays and final exam grading."

Everyone looked at me stunned.

"I figured you had it made," one of them said. "Don't you have a doctorate?"

"That school," another said. "That place looks like a palace. It costs $35,000 for my kid to go there. Why aren't you getting some of that?"

And it had been so long since I considered it that I just sat there mutely pounding guacamole and hoping the second half would start soon.

I am so used to my particular conditions of employment that I just don't even think about it.

"What about my apartment," I said. "You've been there. It's a shithole. Do you think I'd live there if I made any money."

"I figured you were quirky," one friend said, and that eased the tension.

I talked through it a bit, what I new from this site and InsideHigherEd. I told them that I felt undervalued, disrespected. I was asked to teach more than all of my discipline's organizing committees recommend. I was given the worst classes, the worst times, and asked to do what amount to the job of 2 full time professors for less than half the money.

"Quit," my best friend said. "You're smart. You can do something else. I'd put a pistol in my mouth if I thought I was being taken advantage of that."

"You wouldn't," I said. "Because it doesn't happen all at once."

I couldn't tell them the joy I felt GETTING this job, with some security, some guaranteed classes. I'm better off than half of the people I work with.

It's fucked, is what it is.

The RGM Email is Still Open...

Sorry for any confusion. If you just want to write the RGM, the regular CM email is still operational. We don't post it in the sidebar because it causes some confusion. That link over there is for a post you send it JUST AS YOU WANT IT TO LOOK on the page.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

The Great Poster Session

Being a creative instructor who likes to give the little darlings inspiring things to do, I run a poster session every semester in one of my classes. I split a book on Hamster Fur Weaving Combs up into 10 chapters, have the students pair off, and give them each a chapter (10 entire pages!) to read. We had an in-class session for them to make posters about the chapters, but since this semester no one had read the chapters, they all went to the cafeteria instead, purportedly to do the reading. Whatever, I noted that the presentation is the next week, they needed to be in the room 15 minutes early to put their posters up on the wall and get ready for the Great Poster Session!

I was in the lecture hall very early with scissors & tape & magnets & sweeties. There were 2 (two) groups there with their posters. Okaaay. They got to pick the spots that they wanted. Another group came in, but had to still put their poster together. Distributed work, okay, that's fine. They should be done on time if nothing rips. One guy was there, but his partner had the poster (he said, it never actually turned up), so I assigned him to traveling first round.

When it was time for class to start, I had five (5) out of ten posters there. As I was closing the door, another one shot in, so I told them to hurry. We paired off for the session. We do two rounds, one of each pair travels in one round, visiting all the other posters, and explains hir own poster during the other one. Every X minutes (X = minutes in half of class session / (number of posters -1)) I ring a loud bell and the travelers move on to the next station, clockwise. When they come back to their original station, it's half time and they switch jobs.

I dinged GO! and they started - and the next guy walks in. No poster. His buddy is held up in town and has the poster. He wants to leave and go for lunch. I made him sit down and gave him a good chewing out. I advanced the travelers a second time when the NEXT guy walks in. All week he wasn't able to meet his partner. I chew him out royally. This is generation smartphone, surely during a week one can communicate by telephone/email/SMS/smoke signals? Not having a poster cheats the rest of the class out of learning about one kind of Hamster Fur Weaving Comb.

At least he had a plan for a poster scribbled down. I parked him at the board, made him put his "poster" up with markers, and spend the rest of the first round explaining his poster to the other late guy. Then I made the first guy who was traveling also have to be explaining this poster, and we had one more group for the next round. No one notices if I cut the time from six to five minutes :) But in all, there were only seven posters instead of ten. Two more just didn't bother showing up at all.

It worked, but WHAT IS WITH THESE STUDENTS? They can't deal with the concept of deadlines? Can't communicate that they are having trouble and need a solution in advance of the deadline? Can't tell the others that they won't be able to keep up their part of the deal? I've had lots of lazy students, but this takes the cake. And it's the SECOND instance of this happening this month - they can't coordinate, can't communicate, don't do the work, shrug off all responsibility. Do I need to start showing up as a drill sergeant or what?

Suzy from Squarestate

Saturday, January 23, 2016

"Godspeed My Friend." From Dutch Just Outside Davis...

LA Times

Francisco Alarcón saw life as a poem — a single, continuous verse.

“He said he would never use a period until he died,” said his sister Esthela Alarcón. Each day added a line or stanza; only death would end it, her brother said.

The L.A.-born Chicano poet and factory laborer who worked his way from adult school, East L.A. College and Cal State Long Beach to Stanford University died Friday of stomach cancer in his Davis home, still eschewing that final punctuation. He was 61.

from here.

Friday, January 22, 2016


Hi all y'all out in East Coast land,

Looks like Mr. Weather says you have some snow coming. I went to grad school out East, and I know that in places where it snows regularly, it's not a cause for canceling class - it's a cause for leaving for class early so you can get there on time. But how about y'all south of the Mason-Dixon? Will you have a day off from classes tomorrow? If so, how will you handle it - skip some stuff? Teacher faster, dang it? Put stuff on your LMS?

We here in Abilene want to know.

Dr. Amelia

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Stars For the Sweet Snowflakes. From Brunnhilde.

As it's the start of a new semester here at Prestigious Public U, I decided to check out some of the shiny new bells and whistles (aka "apps") available on our CMS.  But rather than finding useful new tools for tracking student progress or assignments, I discovered that we can now literally give our students gold stars.

I'm tempted to ask my freshmen if they find it infantilizing or if they would actually be motivated by stars and thumbs ups and megaphones beside their names. 

But I'm afraid the answer might just make me cry.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

How do you get started? Uriah from Ukiah Unsure About Units.

Tomorrow is the second day and I'm tired today.  I'm tired but I shouldn't be, so I was thinking about my sleep, my breakfast, the pleasant break from the horrible weather.  And then it hit me.  I'm tired because tomorrow I have to teach units.  It's so boring.  I want to start with something fun, but I don't know how to get in to take a bite of something fun without laying out the terms and clearing all of the boring stuff out of the queue.  I'm in the middle of my 11th year of this and I don't know how to start without starting with god damned boring mother fucking units.

How do you get started? How do you get through the stuff even you think is boring without boring them to death?  

Monday, January 18, 2016

What About Western Governors?

I'm an adjunct at a gigantic state university in the far west.

I recently got word (via email) that I am on a short list of people who will be offered teaching with Western Governors University.

I know only a tiny bit about for-profit schools, and am simply hoping that some of the disenchanted dozens here at College Misery might have tread in those waters before and could offer the simplest and most basic replies to these simple questions:

1) Is the all-online teaching option manageable in time? Or does it go beyond what you'd normally expect to do for a face-2-face class?
2) Are the students interesting, hard working, or are they disaffected online dabblers who never do the work?
3) Does working for this kind of school hurt your soul?

It's 3 which is the one I'm most worried about...

- Angie Allright

Sunday, January 17, 2016


I've been teaching 12 years. I have hated the job from the beginning. The students are every bit as bad as is reported here, and since I teach at an open admissions college in the rural south, I am occasionally dealing with young people who can barely read and write.

And the money is bad. And I admit I got in the profession in part because I thought being a professor would bring respect. And in most cases you know that's not the case.

I'm afraid of quitting. I'm a goddamned History professor. I've only had one other job in my life; I worked fast food as an asst. manager.

I'm married and have 2 kids. My husband makes okay money, but our salaries together keep us afloat. What am I supposed to do?

Kelly on the Edge

Friday, January 15, 2016

Dr. Amelia thinks: Just because we are all shallow doesn't make it ok.

Two articles out this week show that we are all shallow, unfair jerks when we evaluate each other.

This one for proffies argues that students evaluate female professors lower in a way that is impossible to adjust for. This one for students argues that prettier students get higher grades.

And I will admit that this past fall semester, on the day I was going to give course evaluations I stood in the bathroom thinking if I should take time to curl my eyelashes so that some recency effect of appearing, I don't know, more awake, might tick those boxes up a notch. And then I thought, "You know, [male colleague in the office next to me] doesn't think about this kind of stuff at all." And then I curled my eyelashes.

A friend posted the first article on Facebook and one comment was, "With the exception of a modest number of students, these are popularity contests, based on two things: how cool do you think the teacher is and were you given too much work by your standards?"

I think that is right on the money, but I do think I will stilll be having mirror debates.

I am inspired to use the blinded grading mode on the LMS for the students, but there's not such a thing for course evals, unfortunately.

Friday Thirsty (not a light-hearted one, I'm afraid). From Cassandra.

I have recently entered a zone/life stage with which I know some of you (Bubba, for one) are all too sadly familiar: my father is dying. I'm not his primary caregiver (though I do live nearby, and hope to play some role/spend time with him, subject to navigating my relationship with a stepmother I -- and not only I, though she might say the same of me -- find difficult), and I learned of his prognosis in time to design my teaching materials in such as way as to make the semester (my usual 4/4 all-writing-in-the-disciplines load) as manageable as possible. I also intend to eat and sleep as well, and exercise as frequently, as possible. And I have the support of friends, colleagues, and my church community, and hospice will be involved. I'm also considering seeking out a personal therapist (hey; everybody else in the family has one; I might as well join the group). So,

Q: Does anybody have any advice (from experience, observation, etc.) for balancing full-time teaching with a personal crisis (in many ways normal and manageable -- we all get sick, die, etc., at some point, and watch family members do the same -- but still very hard) of this sort? In particular, I'm wondering how much to say to my students. My present thought is to say nothing until it's necessary (i.e. I have to miss class, or another major commitment such as student conferences). However, if and when it becomes necessary to mention the situation, I'm trying to figure out how to model an appropriate balance of being genuinely preoccupied, and possibly even overwhelmed, at least for short periods, by what is, in fact, a very sad and difficult life event, while still keeping/catching up with my basic responsibilities, because that's what responsible adults do.


Thursday, January 14, 2016

If only I dared...

GrumpyAcademic here, reading my module evaluation questionnaires (happy sheets). My University has a policy whereby summary scores and my written response to the concerns of my customers students have to be posted in paper form on a departmental noticeboard, shared electronically via various means and presented to the Slave Staff - Student Liaison Committee.

I am NOT happy about my happy sheets. If I was being honest (and caustic) this is what I would like to say:

Dear Gerbil Greatness 407 students,

You complain that you never knew when to attend class or where it was. We met every week at the same times, in one of two rooms on the same floor of the same building (lab or classroom), and every week there was a notice on the door of the room we weren't using in case you went to the wrong place. That was too hard?

You complain that you do not understand what I want for the final report. We spent a whole class going over an example of a past report. Oh wait, only two of you attended that session. Hmmm…

Many of you thought the practical work was disconnected and didn't relate well to the lectures. Would that be because only one person out of the class managed to attend every lab, and everyone else missed at least two of the sequence?

You complain that I didn't tell you you would be expected to take notes during the field trip to Gloria's Genius Gerbils Gamboree and use them to write your essay on Genius Gerbils, which specifically told you to use the Gamboree as the case study? Why do you think we visited GGGG, for shits'n'giggles? Why did I tell you to bring notebooks and pens? Why did I ask if you were writing things down, or had any questions for Gloria (or indeed her gerbils)? Weren't you in any of the lectures when I spoke about the essay, did you not read the syllabus (of course not, what was I thinking?), did you not notice the pink piece of paper repeating the essay title which I included in the info pack for the field trip? Hells, even a pretty averagely dumb gerbil would have noticed ONE of those signs and at least asked about it...

But that MIGHT explain why the first essay I marked began 'Humphrey the Hamster is a Genius Gerbil of our times'.

You say I didn't explain why you should care about Gerbils or about their Greatness. Guys, it's an elective on Gerbil Greatness, and you are all majoring in Gerbil Studies or Gerbil Education or Gifted Rodents. I… kind of assumed that beginning each lecture by explaining how the topic helped us understand a recent rodent news item or replicate a Great Gerbil Moment From History would be enough of a reminder. Oops, my bad. Clearly I don't teach honours students enough to realise that you still need the same level of cheer-leading, geeing up and general theatrical bear-leading as the Frosh. Sorry, I assumed you'd actually grown up a bit.

And finally, the thing that totally baffles me. SEVERAL of you say you enjoyed the seminars and that they really helped you understand the literature. I am really confused by this statement, because only four people turned up to each seminar, and only one of them had ever done the reading. Did that person's multiple personalities fill out one form each???

Oh well, back to writing something a little more mea culpa, grovelling, and acceptable in the eyes of the Dean for Student Satisfaction.

10 Years Ago on RYS.

A friend sent me the link to this blog with a question: "Catharsis?" Maybe. We have an ideal or value in common as professors, and that is that an education is a valuable thing, a good in itself. We are also generous: we want to share what we know. We are idealists of one stripe or another. The world from which our students come, and to which they will return, and in which they work while in college, does not hold those values. Also, I try to remember that 18 year olds are not now the people they will become, and the that person I'm teaching may not emerge for a while. Sure, I have students who drive me mad, and their general poverty of talent for "being students" is frustrating. That's their education. I tell them about this. They perk up. I was not always a perfect doll as an undergrad myself -- and now, I'm on the other side of the desk. Asked about me at 18, most of my profs would likely have just crossed their fingers, rolled their eyes, or held silent. I was not a treat. I earned the grade. But I was not a treat.

Sure we are sometimes appalled. Sure some of our students do come to class in altered states (since there have been universities, or symposia for that matter, students have come to class altered). Sure we wish some of them would put some clothes on. Sure, they sometimes threaten to kill us (four profs in my experience, all women, have been so threatened). Sure, the sense of entitlement is obnoxious and the result of their upbringing and previous education. Yes. Absolutely. This, in the modern age, is the job. As one of my former profs said when I asked why he never shared certain students' position papers, "I don't need them." After I blinked in astonishment, he said something like,"You, on the other hand, are actually trying to get Lacan. Your position papers get shared because you're trying. That is, you're sometimes wrong in a really interesting way, and it bothers you. Them? They're wrong and don't care." That was the day I learned that I could and should really expect adult level, heavy duty creative and critical thinking from my students. He "needed" us too, on some level, so he let the "problem children" go. And, well, taking that position saves me some emotional energy that is better spent on people who love me. Why try to feed someone who's not hungry?

I sometimes explain to my students what kind of work goes into becoming their prof. Some of them really do not know, can't even guess. I put it in terms of "becoming a professional" and "paying dues in any profession" -- because we do -- and because doing well in college shows a willingness to learn, and to pay those dues. Some of them listen.

Bitch, moan, vent, shake fist at heavens. Please do. Because teaching is a human interaction and it affects us just like any other human interaction. But then get on with it, stay open to them. We're the experienced adults in this context. We've been on both sides of the desk. We were not all perfect at being students when we were young. But, we caught the bug, fell in love with learning, and here we are. The ones with talent, and dedication, and drive, they need and want our guidance, advice ,and tutelage. is proof of that. It's also proof that some people are vindictive and vengeful and spoiled. What, really, is new? Vent away.

We need not be concerned. There is no statistical standardization for the RMP site. None. So the ratings you find there are without any real value compared to your course evaluations, which are properly measured. Some are offered in good faith, some are just emotive, and there's no standardization like the IDEA folks and other evaluations companies have. And I bet our administrators do not have time to dig around for what "the jock in the back" had to say.

I talk to my students about accepted methodologies, about national standards, about how accreditation works. I tell them to go read the syllabi for similar courses at other schools by searching on the web. They do. And then they know it's not them against me in whatever Oedipal drama they're still working out with their families. It's them against what's expected of them Out In The World (where their flat tire and their hangover and their break up don't matter and their habitual rebellious self-sabotage doesn't matter either). Then, I can be their guide and advisor, not their neurotic adversary. Most of the time, this works. And some kids, and some adults, are simply unaware that a touch of medication and therapy would do them a world of good. ;-) Probably including me.

Miss class? Have a receipt for the fix on that flat. Dead grandma? Funeral program. Missing homework? Email went to Mars? Nope. Leave me a hardcopy too. Dog ate your lap top (really, got that one)? Bring the receipt for the new lap top, and shoot that dog because it is a menace. Life has a paper trail. I make them show me the trail. Really cuts down the self-sabotaging and cynically manipulative lies they sometimes resort to. No paper trail, no extra help, no extension, nothing.

For my part, they get to choose. Engage or don't. I have a whole new crop to be available to next term. I'm a blip on your radar, you're a blip on mine. That blip can help you or not. I assume they're grown-ups, I treat them like grown-ups, most of them act like grown-ups. "Here's the community rules for my class. Come back next week and I will understand that to mean you agree to these rules. So, when you break them, you just get the consequences as spelled out in the rules. Your call."

Most of the time, that works. When it doesn't, they fail.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

"Skype Nightmare." From Ticked Off Teddy in Tennessee.

I have a colleague who has been here for years but recently got his own webcam. Now he Skypes during office hours: wife, friend in Seattle, fantasy basketball person somewhere, his mom sometimes.

It's always louder than needs to be, and he doesn't wear headphones so I get to hear both ends of the always inane conversations.

"Yeah, Melissa is burning my ass about that dinner party."

"I need a shooting guard. You've got all the good ones. Take a look at my team and see if we can make a swap."

"Mom, I said you have to quit using Internet Explorer."

Then of course sometimes the job comes up.

"These students are burning my ass today."

"Nah, I'm not doing anything. Just waiting for that stupid 1 o'clock class."

Occasionally I get up and close my door. Yesterday I slammed it hard. I could still hear him cooing to his fucking dog or cat that his wife was holding up to the camera at home.

"Honey bunny, it's daddy. Are you eating your crackers?"

Going to class is a relief for me now.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Monday, January 11, 2016

Original Poster Asked For Deletion

By saying, "I don't have the strength to do it myself. Somebody please KILL ME NOW," I wasn't expressing a desire to kill myself. I was trying to make a joke because it's the first day of the semester and I thought I understood the humor of this page. Don't worry; it won't be a problem in the future.

- The Dupe in Dearborn

Friday, January 8, 2016

Praise the VidShizzle.

I've been around for eons, all the way back to the "goon old days," and one of my favorite features has been the vidshizzle. I recently uncovered the old YouTube account for RYS, and I thought it might be fun to revisit these clips, some of them now 6-7 years old. Here's an old chestnut, as they sometimes say on the Oldies radio stations. Oh, this is Eating Low Salt, by the way...I told you I've been around for eons...

Why are they all lying sacks of crap?

Dear Professor Indicated by RMP as Easy,

     I [have some long and boring story about an ambiguous "hold" that "they" finally removed] so now I can register, but all of the classes are filled, so can you add me to your class?  It is the only class I need to graduate.  I know this is an unusual request, but [I looked at RMP and all of the reliable data therein led me to believe the other professors would be mean to me if I asked them instead so I asked you].

   Lenny the Liar


Dear Lenny, 

    According to the degree audit I just ran without your permission, you also need field work and a practicum in your major, an English elective, and, strangely, Freshman Seminar.  That is assuming you don't fail the remedial math you're taking over intersession.  The math class is interesting, by the way, because how did "they" let you register for that when "they" put a "hold" on your account? Weird, right?  Oh, and now that I've made you read a long boring story too, I'll answer your question:  No.  You can't be added to a lab - it's literally against the law.


PS It's not that unusual of a request - you are much more ordinary than you think.

PPS I can also see the same exact class schedule that you can see, so go register for Professor RMP Says is Mean before it's too late.

PPPS Professor RMP Says is Mean really is mean - ha ha.

Thursday, January 7, 2016


[Seems the ebb and flow, comings and goings of the Misery mimics a similar evolution/devolution - depending upon yer ideology - of the nation.]

Got a weird one for Miserians –

“Dear Professor A&S, you might not remember me, but I took your Care and Feeding of Wombats course over a year ago. I am now at a different university and would like you to forward all of my grades from the course to my new university. Thank you for your cooperation.”

REPLY – “Greetings pupil, I’m sorry but having never received such a request before, I must ask how/why such information is needed. After a fuckton of teaching experience, my understanding is that universities only communicate final grades to each other.

RESPONSE – “I need all my grades for financial aid reasons.”

BACKSTORY – Walter Wackadoo was known for making rather outrageous statements throughout CaFoW. Of course, with the self-of-steam based rubric there was no way to fail developmental work as being nucking futs or simply factually inaccurate. So long as questions were answered and sources – regardless of quality – were integrated, at least a passing grade had to be granted. However, come final project time, WW submitted a manifesto of how he would create a care and feeding career based upon religious tenets, sports metaphors, and snips and snails and puppy dog tails. Given the nature of the final project, and after consulting with the admincritter, Walter Wackadoo failed Care and Feeding of Wombats.

Of course WW’s request came when the admincritter was on vacation. The back-up critter agreed it was an odd request, but a final decision would have to wait for the official admincrittter’s return. The Student Self-of-Steam Center concurred, it was a peculiar request, but “eh, why not?” Upon admincritter’s return, “Yup, that’s a weird one, but go ahead and supply the information.”

No one has ever been asked for such a thing before, but go ahead and provide the information? Anyone else’s BS meter in the WTF range?

The only thing I can imagine: Walter is trying to convince new school that meanypants professor from old school failed him for NO REEESON and looking at the formative grades – and ignoring the final – will prove, with numbers, that Walter should be given course credit despite that pesky failing final grade.

I am, as always, aware and scared.

~ Aware & Scared

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Data Breach for The Site That Shall Not Be Named...


I'm Cyrus from Cincinnati, a long time reader and former contributor.  I received this email below and thought the CM community would relish the potential harm that their students may receive due to their use of RMP and this data breach.

Why did I get this email? Because I submit faux reviews of my colleagues. They are all positive comments, meant to attract students to their classes (and reduce the enrollment in mine) and fool the idiot administrators who peruse RMP as a way to evaluate faculty. Which reminds me, fall semester is over. Time for some reviews...

"I thot you were man enough to give me what I earned." Early 20th Century Snowflake Mail.

My great-grandfather was a professor of classics and literature at a small private college in southwestern Ohio. While visiting my parents recently, we sorted through some boxes of family documents, and among them was a letter mailed 100 years ago to my great-grandfather by a student angry about his course grade. I was fascinated both to see that some things haven't changed, but also to know that my great-grandfather thought to save this letter for over 60 years (he died at the age of 90 in 1977). I've transcribed the full letter below as written:

June 12 [1915]

I have received my grade card and received a D for my grade for last semester. I said nothing about last semester's failure, but, I am not going to receive flunks when I do efficient work. I know you haven't any use for me, but I thot you were man enough to give me what I earned. I think you did that way in order to have an excuse to flunk some (you have it in for). I would like to have a talk with you about the matter. I think it was your place to give the test if you doubted any one. Last semester I didn't have time to study my lesson and I took the D in english lit as justice. But I have done good work this semester and will not recognize any grudge blow like that. I think I shall take an examination in it and get justice. I just wanted you to know that I am aware of your prejudice-ness and partiality and that I have brains enough to know when one is trying to lay one over on me.

Signed by
Chester A. Jacobs

[I've attached a photo of the first page of the letter if you would find that a helpful illustration; I'm guessing FERPA doesn't reach back 100 years.]
- Panacea

Rude and dirty-sounding astronomy terms that should never be said in public among normal people (otherwise known as non-astronomers)

As requested by Bubba, here is an image of a galaxy that is quite nearby, as galaxies go, since we're in it.

Some years ago, Sky & Telescope magazine found that kids couldn't look at their web page on "Naked-eye astronomy," since parental-supervision software was flagging the word "naked." They ran an editorial proclaiming that the naked eye is dead: long live the unaided eye, which shall now be used in its place from now on.

Further rude and dirty-sounding astronomy terms that should never be said in public among normal people (otherwise known as non-astronomers) include:

- heavenly bodies

- occultations

- double degenerates

There are others, but I dare not say them in the climate of censorship in American academia today. 

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Compliance Training in Full Swing.

Can My Supervisor Say These Things To Me?

During Class We Rarely Drive in Fog.

Listen, My College Is In Dire Financial Straits. Don't Judge Me!



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Monday, January 4, 2016

Proffie resolutions

Stop destroying
the compound's furniture.
1. Value my family more and my students less.
2. Learn some new things, both for work and not.
3. Read a book that is not for work at least once a month.
4. Exercise at least some.
5. Despite my growing cynicism at the world, make being nice the default option.

Anyone else want to share?

Dr. Amelia

Saturday, January 2, 2016

I have to do what to retain students?

What have you been asked to do in the name of Retention?

Make your classes more "fun" and "engaging?" 
Grade on a curve to minimize the number of failing grades? 
Have sex with students?

Wait, what?
The teaching assistant claimed that Maillo ...told her and other teaching assistants to go to parties with students and sleep with them to encourage them to take Spanish. [I]n frustration, the teaching assistant asked Maillo if she wanted her to sleep with a different guy every night like another teaching assistant was doing... Maillo responded, "that is what I brought you here for."

[O]ther teaching assistants in the department ...confirmed this, according to the lawsuit: "These young T.A.s believed they were being asked to prostitute themselves in order to increase enrollment in the Spanish Department."
(In a shocking twist, the whistleblower's contract wasn't renewed.)


Friday, January 1, 2016

Two Years Ago Today...

January 1, 2014

The Yaro.

Though I am loath to take up any more space on these splendid pages, I was asked by Lesliekay to do just that. Her note found me, as they all do now, in the Beehive cabin that Mrs. Yaro and I pad around, post retirement, post breakfast (as it so happens), post a brief but energetic session of snow moving. (For it is not removed, merely reconstituted elsewhere, alight from the path.)

We're in a lovely valley, and the sun obliges in winter with long and careful tracking through our southern windows. How the cares and worries of a long academic career have faded, swiftly, in a wink. Surprising. What weight they all had at one point, and now, not even a feather's worth.

I do check in on these pages, though not as often as I did once. And I send you all my good wishes as you solve and sometimes re-solve problems that afflict all of us who love higher education (and longshot ponies).

A former colleague, Ianthe, wrote me last week with a long list of academic grievances. She was a mentee years ago, and I suppose always thus. Her list was not unlike your own, I imagine, and it broke my spirit to see how hard she fought, seemingly without assistance from those around her. I replied to her, "Tell me, dear Ianthe, a story of your favorite student this term. Tell me how that student surprised you, awakened you, showed you that the endeavour was still worth the striving. If you can tell me about one, then there is reason enough to continue."

And of course, she could. And of course, she did. And it was a funny tale, and one that I recognized in the fading and nearly lost faces of my own dears over the, well, over it all, over my whole life.

And Ianthe's joy shone through in her words and the tale, and we exchanged our Happy New Years, electronically, in the manner.

I will no doubt hear from Ianthe again, and I hope to remind her in the same way, of the small gifts of a good student, the sudden silver in our spirits.

I bless you all with my good thoughts on this new year.