Thursday, March 31, 2016

A Big Thirsty On the Lonely Campus.

I am at a very large urban university in Large Urban City. It is a commuter school, nearly all students still live at home with their parents. Like all other large universities of similar size, it scores extremely low in national student satisfaction surveys related to student life, with the campus and large classes generally being described as impersonal.

After something happened on campus, I saw a tweet that indicated that the incident was described in more detail on a Reddit thread, so I checked it out for the 1st time. What I found was that within the umbrella of a thread named after the university were a whole assortment of subgroups (sorry, I don't know the Reddit terminology for how things are structured). My curiosity was piqued. I did some cursory exploring, and found one highlighted group with the name "Find a Buddy @
<uni name>".

It appears that the campus has a bunch of students, especially in their 1st and 2nd years, who spend their days alone between classes and labs, eating their lunch alone, studying in the library alone, just passing the time sitting at a bench alone, apparently desperate, completely DESPERATE for someone else to talk to, and they post in Reddit searching for someone to be able to interact with while on campus. I was surprised at how emotionally naked some of these plaintive pleas were, with posts consisting of "Does anyone want to hang out between classes? Just hang out and talk about nothing in particular, just hang out and talk?"; some students try to elicit interest by describing their musical
tastes, what video game platform(s) they have and which games they play, what comics/manga they read, etc. I felt rather depressed after scrolling through a couple of pages consisting of several dozen posts. I imagine I'd have thought very differently about continuing on in academia if each day at the university was an exercise in isolation and loneliness.

Q: Is it like this at other really large urban commuter campuses, does this also occur at small (more residential) campuses, or does my particular uni have more than its fair share of sad sack lonely people?

- Prof Poopiehead

The eternal question...

Sometimes I'm left honestly unsure whether a student has a comprehension problem or a communication problem. 

I've been working through providing feedback on drafts of honours capstone Rodent Science projects, which are written by Rodent Studies students in their final semester at university. 

One part-draft contains the following phrases:

"this project studies the forests that inhabit the squirrel"

"the forests that inhabit the squirrel are mostly coniferous"

"the forests that inhabit the squirrel are hard to walk through"

Native English speaker, no registered issues… comprehension, or communication?

I can't wait to read the methods section if it was the former!

-Grumpy Academic

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

'Tis the season. . .

when I seem to begin more and more replies to questions emailed by students with "as I wrote in the prompt/assignment/whole-class email quoted below. . ."

Mind you, I usually go ahead and answer the question, briefly, after that (because I'm a pushover, I suppose, or at least sympathetic to the effects of stress on reading comprehension/willingness to read beyond the first sentence), but I do include that initial clause, just to let them know the information was already available to them. 

Occasionally I even get an "oops; sorry!" in reply, which makes my day (or at least a few minutes of it).  Heck, I'll settle for just "thanks" (though admittedly such replies add yet more volume to my inbox). 

- Cassandra

State Auditor Investigating UC for Enrollment Practices. From unknown sender.

University of California at Berkeley(as well as all other campuses in the UC system) is under fire by state officials for having enrollment policies that unfairly favor out of state students.  Non-resident students typically pay about 3x more in tuition than resident students.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

The senior and the freshman

My department is fairly good at upholding what remain of our university's standards. One big one is that nobody can enroll in our introductory chemistry class after the first week of classes.

No one.

No way.

No how.

(Unless there's a monumental screw up in the Registrar's Office.)

(Or the Dean needs us to do him a "favor.")

By coincidence, the Registrar did screw up and the Dean needed a favor, both in the same week. Two different students were allowed to enroll mid-way through our semester - a senior and a freshman.

Seniors taking a first-year course do pretty well. If they've made it that far, they know how to turn in homework online and can piece together enough nouns and verbs to create a lab report. They generally aren't a problem. Freshmen are, well, freshmen. They don't know their ass from a hole in the ground even when the sun is shining.

Both students were enrolled in my class. Oh, boy.

I met both separately. The freshman was entirely new to campus. I drew him a map to the bookstore. My years of experience told me that he was going to be a big headache.

The senior was gung ho for chemistry. He apologized repeatedly for his various mistakes that led him into the situation and the inconvenience he caused me. He was going to get caught up on all the work during spring break and ace the class. He knew what he wanted to do - graduate this semester - and had a plan to succeed. With this kind of attitude, he'd do well in the class. It was obvious to me, a professor with years of experience dealing with good and bad students. I'm no idiot about these matters, after all.

I'm an idiot. Well, not exactly but I sure as hell didn't foresee that the freshman would actually follow my map to the bookstore, buy the book, and start reading. I didn't realize that he would study hard and actually do well, at least for a guy who joined the class halfway through the semester. I was impressed.

Nor did I expect the senior to completely flake out. All his grandiose claims of superior time management and dedication to graduating this spring were empty, as empty as the zeros I recorded for his incomplete homework assignments. As empty as the exam page where he should have shown his calculations for a 20 point problem. As empty as my beer right now (though not quite that sad).

I don't know what's in store for the freshman. He's probably going to scrape by and maybe graduate some day. The senior will probably graduate too, but not this semester.

Beaker Ben

Monday, March 28, 2016

Easter Monday

So there was no public school today in most of the north-east.  Did you know that?  I didn't realize that until it was too late.  I had to bring my small wisdom of joeys to class this morning because I didn't have time to contact the joey-sitter.  I teach a technical class for an AAS degree and most of my students are the rough and gruff disenfranchised graduates of alternative high schools, or GED recipients.  They hate everything and everyone associated with the establishment.  Except me.  They slightly more than tolerate me.  Everything else they hate.

My 9 year old has autism.  He is sweet and funny and loving and wants to be liked.  But he stims.  He stims a lot.  He skips a lot and hums a lot and bites his fingers and when he gets nervous, he blurts out lines from cartoons.  He's smart and sweet and though I've always thought he was the coolest kid ever - to someone who didn't give him DNA, he might seem closer to the uncoolest.  idk - I gave him DNA so I can't tell.  

He hid under my desk playing on his kindle for a while.  Then he needed to skip.  He skipped around in the back.  He asked questions about why I use car-wash sponges instead of erasers and he picked up the giant chalk-board compass (like for making circles) and used it like chopsticks on my sponge and said "here's your eggroll" and then laughed an awkward very typically ASD cackle.  

At one point my future mechanics, after doing the hard parts (like all of the conceptual stuff and all of the major algebraic manipulations) stared at the result "0 = X - 72" like it was unsolvable and my joey said "Anything minus itself is zero - come on guys - let's do this".  And they laughed.  And then he skipped off.

He skipped off to the bathroom by himself and just when I was going to go bring him back, afraid he was playing in the sink, he had skipped back and was doing karate moves by the window.  My students let me know he wasn't missing, he was just "kicking ass and taking names."

When he tried to make a joke, they laughed with him.  When he was on the verge of a meltdown and needed to climb into my arms like a boy half his age, they didn't.  They smiled.  They high-fived him.  They asked him for help with their arithmetic.  

I cried all the way home.  I love them.  They're the reason I stay in this.

- unknown sender

Outlier Post of the Day

Popping up on the weekend top ten was this lovely overview of "stapler" posts by the much beloved Maybelle.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A weekend thirsty from Eating Low Salt. Dumbest thing.

Without question the dumbest thing my students do is write me this: "You know that essay I have been writing for 4 weeks? Well, last night I changed my topic. Here is an 11 page paper on something else. Hope you like it."

Q: What is the dumbest thing your students do?

Friday, March 25, 2016

More on college readiness/success & graduation rates

This article caught my eye, in part because it appears to offer the beginnings of some actual, data-driven answers* to the questions we batted around in the comment thread of Frankie's post earlier this week.  The whole thing is worth a read, but here are some passages that struck me as especially relevant:

As more college students take on debt to finance their education, getting them to the finish line is critical. College graduates enjoy higher wages and lower unemployment rates, giving them a fighting chance of repaying student loans. And with four out of five black students borrowing for college, ensuring that they graduate could mean the difference between promoting economic mobility and exacerbating the racial wealth gap. 
Administrators at N.C. State found that students teetering on the edge of dropping out were mostly under financial, not academic, strain, so the school provided them with more institutional aid, a move that has disproportionately affected black students, according to Chancellor Randy Woodson. He said the university is also using data to track academic performance and intervene when students start falling behind.

All of this tallies with my experience (and with the experience of many of the commenters on the linked IHE article): admissions offices at institutions that are at least somewhat selective do a pretty good job, so most of our students are intellectually capable of graduating.  Some may have problems with things like study skills and time management, especially with larger projects, and some combination of faculty and academic support services can help them deal with those issues. Some may have mental health issues that become apparent or acute in the college years; those students, too, can be appropriately supported (and/or encouraged to take a brief leave to concentrate on self-care and stabilization of their condition -- not good for graduation rates, I suppose, but still the right thing to do in some cases). 

But many of the issues our students face are caused, or at least exacerbated, by the larger economic structures in which they, and we, are operating, and we just can't fix those from within the classroom, or even the university.  When a student is struggling academically because of outside pressures, no amount of academic intervention is going to help, though we can sometimes suggest strategies to minimize the damage; often, however, those strategies are going to include dropping some classes and/or taking a leave, which will run afoul of systems set up to minimize time to graduation -- which can be entirely well-intentioned, but still counterproductive if the goal is to make sure the student gets an actual education, not just a diploma.  

*Or maybe it raises some data-driven questions? This isn't my field of expertise, but it appears to me that the proposed answers are more speculative than the observed patterns, which do raise useful questions about what is going right at the institutions that are successfully graduating especially-vulnerable** students. 

**And "vulnerable" strikes me as the right word here, with the key included fact, mentioned above, that attending/trying to graduate from college can actually make people *more* vulnerable, by saddling them with loans that they can't discharge even in bankruptcy.  That's a key change from the "look to the right; look to the left" days, when the ratio of what a semester's tuition and living expenses cost to what a student could earn in a summer was lower. 


In which Bella says "Hello!" from the compound

This is a picture of a swan boat. It's a damn nice swan boat.  

They have these at Lake Eola Park in downtown Orlando, just a few miles from the compound.  I stopped in, did some Spring cleaning, and finished the whiskey (sorry, Walt!!).  Left some fresh cut flowers for Crystal when she gets back.  There's a great sushi place just down the road!

Orlando is gorgeous this time of year!

Thursday, March 24, 2016

I Mean He Didn't Let the Baby Dance, But It's Still an Awfully Nice Story.

What are your "is this real, or is it the Onion?" moments? A Big Thirsty from Frankie.

To entertain myself (and a minuscule highly exclusive circle of readers), I write light murder mysteries lampooning some of the sillier aspects of academic life. 

But when an administrator whose actual job title is "vice president for university engagement" proclaims in a national publication that we shouldn't expect students to be college ready, colleges should be do I make fun of that? 
There's nowhere to go from there. The aspiring satirist in me finds this extremely trying. 

Other things I wish I'd invented, except the Office of Appeasement, Retention, Success, and Engagement got there first:

Professors must act as "facilitators" and not "providers of knowledge."  [1]
Students don't care how much you know until they know how much you care. [2]
"We're taking this space for our new Student Success center. It's not our problem if you don't have a place to teach your class." [3]

Miserians, what are your can't-believe-this-isn't-the-Onion moments?

[1] What am I supposed to do when a student asks me to provide knowledge? After all, the customer knows best. Probably the best solution is to stand there repeating "does not compute" until smoke curls out of my ears.
[2] Rather than dismiss this one outright, I ran it by my students (business and accounting majors) to get their perspective. I should've dismissed it outright.
[3] I truly wish I were making this one up. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

From Fab...

Hi everyone! Just stepping in for a couple of days so the current RGM can take a short break.

Found this amazing piece online last night and share it here because, well, because I started this blog, and I like blogs, and because I hate blogs.

In the manner, here's some flava:

Reasons why I will not be replying to your argument
by Rachael Acks

To whom it may concern:

Thank you for your interest in my blog post / comment / tweet / facebook post / [insert social media of choice here]. I appreciate that you have taken time out of your day to share your opinion with me. However, I will not be addressing said opinion further or at all in any substantive way  for one or more of the following reasons.

The rest!

My Visitor. A CM Playlet from Tacoma Tommy.

Kid walks up to my open office door yesterday. Don't recognize him.

"Have you got a minute?"

"What do you need?"

"Are you a math professor?"

"Yes. But I'm not yours am I?"

"No, but could you look at some equations for me?"

"Why don't you take them to your own instructor?"

"You didn't look busy and he's in his office eating a sandwich."


Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Please don't make this a chore. With update.

I know what readers think from comments and email.

You can all ease up. I am not responsible for what others say. I have been pretty hands off with comments. I don't run the page strictly for old timers.

I am not interested in blocking people. Anyone who reads the page knows what it is about.

Obviously students who read the page must understand that they are not among this page's historical audience. Some folks have been welcoming to them but apparently not enough. Someone wrote me a hateful and vulgar email which was about enough to sour me forever on this shit.

Fucking behave. If you don't like it here, believe me when I say I hear that sentiment and I understand. I don't like it much today either. I've asked Fab to help this week and I'm just going to take a few days. No big deal. He has spring break. He needs something to do! He suggested I not do it, but I am closing comments on these last two posts because I think it has all been said. I hope we get some new content soon. I will be back.


More on the Millennials, One of My Favorite Topics. From Nick and The Always Thoughtful NY Post.

I am fascinated by my students - outside of their role as my students. I find myself sticking around after class more and more asking them about their studies, their plans, etc. They worry me tremendously. All of the typical millennial tropes seem to live in them. I think I'm a better teacher to them knowing some of this stuff. Of course I often just want to throw my hands up and say, "Listen. You. CAN. Even. And you must now." 


Seventy years ago, there was “the greatest generation.” Later, Generation X became known as the slacker generation. Today, millennials are turning out to be the anxious generation.

Numerous recent studies have shown that millennials suffer from anxiety at a much higher rate than generations that preceded them. What’s wrong with kids these days?

A lot, actually. They’re the first generation raised with Internet. The first generation to experience “helicopter” parenting. They’re at once constantly exposed on social media but also permanently sheltered by overbearing parents. They’re not the first generation to experience a rough economy, but they certainly act as if they were.

Much has been written about how millennials are tender and delicate. They’re sometimes absurd, like when they don’t eat cereal because there is, apparently, too much clean-up involved — what with the bowl and the spoon. They draw headlines like “Do Millennials Stand a Chance in the Real World?”

But the spike in anxiety is a real issue, one that shouldn’t be lumped with their “omg! lol! I can’t even” social ineptitude.

More Misery:

Trivial Trivia.

Mentioned earlier on here, an old Western Governors University post often pops up on the daily top ten. But this post about cheating also has been making appearances once a week or so as a common read.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Dr. Amelia sees what you are doing there

So this semester, Dr. Amelia is taking a Portuguese class at another university, for her school does not offer Portuguese. She studied it in high school and has visited Brazil several times, so she was somewhere between beginner and intermediate, but they put her in the intermediate class. It's been really interesting - the other students all know I'm old and teach elsewhere, but they kind of act like I'm not there.

There is some "discuss as a group" or "fill out this worksheet" time and the proffie usually leaves for a while during those times. And the students complain that:
  • the proffie isn't sufficiently sensitive to their mental health issues (as in if I skip class because I am sad today, the proffie doesn't re-teach me the class privately)
  • the proffie isn't sufficiently sensitive to their physical health issues (as in if I have an itchy rash but come to class anyway, I shouldn't be expected to participate)
  • the proffie is mean when I say I decided to change the topic of my presentation the night before it was due and then the Internet went down, so reasons. But mean old proffie says either do a presentation, or no credit for you.
  • the proffie is so mean, because we are going to a churrascaria as a class, but she says I have to actually go with the class, not just think about a time when I went to one before. And the proffie doesn't understand he is totes busy getting ready for Spring Break.
  • the proffie is too hard because he made the test cover everything we had done so far, with examples just like what we did for homework.

I keep my mouth shut, but it is good to know students are the same anywhere. Bless their corações.

Dr. A.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Weekend Thirsty. From Bella.

I was thinking the other day about when I was a young lass about campus, teaching my very first classes.  I did some dumbass things I would never do today. One that had me particularly shaking my head:

Harold-----High Harold, came to class high nearly every time.  It took me a while to figure this out, as I did not know what to look for.  Harold would argue about his grades, and tell me about his terrible life circumstances.  I felt bad for him, I really did. I tried to help---finding him programs, services, grant opportunities. He never followed through on any of my bright ideas. I felt annoyed with his disruptive behavior and lack of effort.  One day, Harold was particularly angry and uncooperative.  He decided to leave class, picked up his things in a huff and headed out the door.  I was so upset with him, I went out into the hallway and literally shouted after him "Harold, you have NO CHANCE of passing this class if you continue to act this way!!!"

Harold was on the scary looking side.  My heart stopped as he spun on his heels and marched right up to me, putting his face right in mine.   "What did you just say?" Harold asked.  Friends, Harold scarred the shit out of me right then, and he knew it.  "Oh, um, I said...I said .....that you....need to do the work if you want to get a good grade...."  Harold gave a nod that was more in response to my fear than my reply----and spun back on his heels and left.

Lesson learned that day ---NEVER yell after an angry student to come back. NEVER, in fact, yell at a student at all. But especially if they decide to leave. They might have a good reason for doing so (which might include that they know they are about to lose it) and I should just let them walk on out the door without comment.

We've been talking at Inner City Community College about preparation for teaching.  College professors begin their profession trained as experts in their fields---yet often with no teaching experience at all.  We have to learn, most of us at least, "the hard way" ----by doing. 
My question for you wise folks here at CM:

Q: What lessons have you learned "the hard way"---and what are some of the things you did then that you'd never do now?

Thursday, March 17, 2016

The Cost of Being Decent to Adjuncts.

10 Years Ago Today. RYS Flashback.

Friday, March 17, 2006
On Maintaining One's Sanity

This job isn’t everything I expected and sometimes I get dragged down by administrative garbage disguised as tenure and promotion policies. Sometimes I get discouraged by my students’ lack of interest in the coursework.

My latest favorite story deals with Student ‘R’ – he was one of a frighteningly large number of students who failed my midterm. He came clean and admitted that he had waited until 2 days before the exam to open his text to read 5 chapters and 3 articles. Do I take pity on him and work my butt off to help him pass the class? Or do I suggest he drop the class now and perhaps take it next semester from a different instructor? It is still Spring Break, so I don’t have to decide just yet. I am leaning toward the latter, however. Lord knows you don’t want an angry student taking his failure out on you when evaluation time rolls around!

I get discouraged by the petty office politics, by the colleague down the hall who I am quite certain must have gone off her meds last week (I am never quite certain which version of Prof. X will show up at the next faculty meeting, which does provide some entertainment value to what is usually a boring rehash of insignificant committee meetings and has little bearing on my day to day work life). I teach, I publish, I have bitch sessions with some of my colleagues about how immature and moronic the students can be at times. I still often rate my day in terms of how well my classes went…did I seem to reach a few students here or there?

So I don’t think I am burned out just yet. I may have changed my expectations since I first arrived just to maintain my sanity. I certainly don’t assign work over spring break – that is just asking to be disappointed!

So I choose my battles, engage those students who at least appear to be interested, and write because that is what makes me happy.

Putting that Math degree to work. From Nick.

Otherwise known as "Fermat's Last Theorem," this equation was first posed by French mathematician Pierre de Fermat in 1637, and had stumped the world's brightest minds for over 300 years.

In the 1990s, Oxford professor Andrew Wiles finally solved the problem, and this week was awarded the hugely prestigious 2016 Abel Prize -- including a $700,000 windfall.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Four Reasons Why My Students Think I'm Mean

  1. Blind Brian came to me, telling me the stories I asked questions about were not in the assigned pages. "Really?" I asked. "Let's look together!" I carefully flipped through each page---and lo and behold, each of the stories was right there! "Oh, ok, " said BB. But I, for some reason, did not want to let it go. "How do you think you missed them?" I asked----and the sarcasm was right there, plain even for BB to see. He didn't like that.
  2. I assigned a piddly ass 30 pages of reading for one week, and Struggling Sam complained to me that it took him two nights of no sleep to finish it. I told him bluntly that he needed to read more, because if he continued to read that slowly he'd never make it through college. He didn't like that.
  3. Trying Terry wrote me an e-mail, telling me "not to give up on her yet" even though she has failed everything so far, and missed the last four classes. "I'm having a very hard semester, but don't you give up on me because I am still trying!" I answered her that it was very hard, when life made it impossible to pass a class. She didn't like that.
  4. Writing-tutor Wanda went to the writing center instead of coming to class at least half of the time, and handed in all her essays at least two weeks late. She got a C in my class, even though her tutors gushed to me about how WONDERFUL she was! I told her (and them) that coming to class was important (class participation figures prominently on the grading rubric for that class), as well as handing things in on time. She didn't like that.

I get so SICK TO DEATH of their shit excuses and lame ass stupidity. That is all.

To Send In Your Misery...

Send in stuff when you want. That link is below and in the sidebar.  Whatever is in your email goes in your post! Please, as it was once said, in the "goon" old days, in the manner, to enjoy. 



In order to send posts in, 

Make sure you include your user name at the bottom of your post so we know who you are!

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

I hate everything. From Nick. And that cursive article too below.

Cursive Handwriting, Reading, and Spelling Achievement

Texas Campus Carry.

Original photo: Eric Gay (AP)

Arrest of college professor raises questions about free speech at the Georgia Capitol. From Savannah Morning News.

State Troopers handcuffed and arrested Kennesaw State University philosophy professor Amy Donahue for disruption of the General Assembly and obstruction of an officer. She was holding a 22-by-28-inch sign opposing legislation that the Senate later passed 37-17 that would allow students 21 years old and older to have a concealed weapon on college campuses.

A woman accompanying Donahue said legislative officials told them holding a sign would be permissible on the Capitol floor that legislators use, but a statement from the Georgia State Patrol quoted a state law authorizing security officers “to deny entrance into or upon any such property or building of any person displaying any sign, banner, placard, poster, or similar device.”

Donahue had already been allowed entrance to the building with her poster and had even ventured to the fourth floor before her arrest on the busy third floor.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Georgia passes ‘campus carry’ bill legalizing guns at colleges. From Atlanta Journal Constitution. Notice that carrying in the classroom is okay. Wheeee!

The Georgia Senate on Friday gave final passage to a bill that for the first time would legalize firearms on all public colleges in Georgia, following an emotional two-hour floor debate over the wisdom of letting students carry concealed guns on campus.

House Bill 859 now goes to the desk of Gov. Nathan Deal, who with a sweep of his pen can sign the measure into law.

The legislation would allow anyone 21 or older with a weapons license to carry a gun anywhere on a public college or university campus, except for inside dormitories, fraternities and sorority houses, and at athletic events.

The Misery

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Comment Trouble

I've now had emails from about a dozen readers who are unable to comment through the previously working "Name/URL" or "Anonymous" commenting options.

For as long as I've run the page they have worked, and I've noted an increase in readers making use of that completely non-registered option. I cannot duplicate the error here. If you've had trouble with this, please email me here and tell me what browser you use and any error or description of the error as it occurs to you.

Compound Crystal

Oh, look! We moved!

You cannot believe
how much time I spent
editing the map.
Maybe you can.
I'm guessing that the Ocala Orlando weather report in the sidebar is evidence that our compound moved. Time to wash all that Oilmont mud off the van and put on the flip flops. We're in Florida!

A tropical paradise to sooth our weary souls? Sure, but our neighborhood has something that add to our misery as well. Ocala Orlando is home to the University of Central Florida (UCF: U Can't Fail or U Can't Finish, depending on the student's aptitude). It's the largest university in the United States. With only warm weather, lots of other students, world renowned amusement parks, beaches, and natural wildlife nearby, the administration had to come up with something to keep the little darlings entertained.

Behold, NorthView dorms:

In case you can't believe what you just saw, here's an article about the extravagant dorms at UCF and elsewhere.

It goes without saying that I didn't live in dorms that nice when I was a student. I don't live in a house NOW with those amenities. (I'm even writing this email in secret so that the lovely Ms. Beaker Ben doesn't find out that college students have granite counter tops but she does not.)

Beaker Ben

Sunday Thirsty.

when I was an undergrad, I was so dumb that I


Saturday, March 12, 2016

Friday, March 11, 2016

The Incomprehensible Search Results.

Top Searches For Our Page Today:

college misery
college proffessor salaries 1970
grade anxiety
how to add length to a paper
i give zero shits
misary xxx
misery xxx
add inattentive type misery
asking for a letter of recommendation
beaker ben

How Did I Never See This? From Nick.

I was searching Google for an image for a post I'm trying to write and I found this.

Die, I.T., Die

Hey there, hepcats, long time no misery! Heywood from Henderson coming atcha with a little misery not from students, but from supposed support systems: Enjoy a little theatre this day along with a nice vodka gimlet.

A "DIE, I.T., DIE" play in one act:

I.T.: Hello, this is X, how can I help you?
Me: Hi, X, my email account keeps asking me for my credentials but won't accept them as valid.
I.T.: That means your password has expired.
Me: No, it was working this morning.
I.T.: Then you changed it and it's not syncing up.
Me: No, it's the same password that I was using this morning.
I.T.: Your password needs to be the same for the email system, the CMS system, and the school system.
Me: They are, it's the same password, it was working this morning.
I.T.: It needs to be the same password for your iPad.
Me: What? I don't use my iPad, I haven't turned it on in forever, what does that have to do with anything?
I.T.: The passwords need to be the same otherwise the iPad won't recognize your password.
Me: I didn't use the iPad, I'm not on the iPad, I didn't turn on my iPad, I'm on my office laptop trying to use the password that I was using remotely from home this morning and which was working.
I.T.: Well, if you're not using the iPad we need to take it back.
I.T.: Because the passwords need to be the same.
Me: The. Passwords. Are. The. Same. (and more along those lines)
I.T.: I'm trying to help you, the passwords need to be the same because if they aren't then the email account on your iPad won't sync up and you'll get that message.
Me:……………….All the passwords are the same. I didn't turn on my iPad this morning.
I.T.: Let's restart your computer. (i.e., "Have you tried turning it off and turning it back on again
Me: I restarted it this morning, just FYI.
I.T. See, so when your email and iPad and your school account passwords aren't syncing up, it means there's a problem.
Me:……………………………Yes, that's why I called. Thank you for your help.

Heywood from Henderson

OFFER CLOSED...THANKS FOR PLAYING!!!!!! [Compound Cal Free Giveaway.]


Thursday, March 10, 2016

Much like Trump's press conference with the table of raw meat, this list of student demands must be seen to be believed.

Why I Love This Place.

As often happens, a perplexing event occurs in my own teaching. I think, "Am I totally batshit crazy? Am I the only one who sees this as being insanity?"

And then I come to College Misery, search around a bit, and find that I'm totally sane, and that college students are apparently the same everywhere.

I won't tell my story; it's not as interesting, but let me show you Wylodmayer's post from 2011.

-- Darla Keef


The Things I Never Realized Were Optional
After discussing the reading summaries my students are (in theory) going to be handing in, one of them came up to me after class and expressed doubt as to whether he'd be able to complete them all as required.

"I don't know if I'll be able to check the book out of the library."

I pursed my lips and narrowed my eyes while considering this. I wasn't sure I was getting the connection between his library issues and his predicted troubles with turning in the assignments.

"I mean, I don't want to buy the book," he clarified, laughing.

This was obviously something he considered frankly outlandish.

I assured him that he was responsible for the reading assignments regardless.

He looked puzzled. "But... I wasn't planning on buying the book," he said. He seemed shocked that it had come to this.

I firmly assured him that he wouldn't be able to complete the coursework adequately without the book.

He looked annoyed. "Hm... I didn't want to have to buy the book," he said testily.

"That's unfortunate for you, then," I offered.

He left, jamming his headphones into his ears in a little hipster snit.

Is this common?

This Week's Big Thirsty From Geoff in Georgia.

I'm very new in these parts, but like others I've read about, I've had a bit of a "binge watch" of going through older posts from all of the associated blogs.

What fascinating stuff, and so worthy of large distribution.

The Cal post from yesterday got me thinking about my own retirement, which is some 8 years away, using the traditional markers. But my college has been pushing a phased retirement with us veterans, that allows us to go to half time (or even less with some department work) with 5 years remaining. It ends up costing us some money in the long run, but probably extends our lives a bit with less stress and less teaching.

Q: What are your plans concerning retirement? Who here is close, and who here is oh so many years away? Is it something you think about? At what age did you start pondering your exit from the profession? Does it truly seem like an impossible finish line? If you had your way, what would your path to retirement be?

PS from the RGM: The graphic, as everyone surely knows, is the iconic Big Thirsty image that goes back all the way to the "goon old days," and one of several hundred that Cal has made for his blog and this one.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016


Hi friends. Because of some continuing health problems I'm retiring for good in May. (I semi-retired in 2007 for other reasons and then taught 1-2 classes part-time for several years until recently returning to a full time gig in the south.)

But it's more than 30 years in the classroom, and despite my belief that college has gotten it all wrong, that we are in many ways doing things now that are the opposite of what I loved about the profession in the goon old days, I'm feeling tragically weepy and nostalgic over the whole enterprise.

What a fucking blast it has been! As a trailing spouse I've been able to teach in a dozen institutions in nearly as many states, all kinds of schools, entry level gigs, administrative posts, top ten schools, night school, one year in a prison, and on and on. And always, really, always I found a student or two that made the bullshit all worth it. God it is great when someone gets it, a 19 year old kid, a 50 year old returning student, a veteran, a mom.

And my pals around the country, former colleagues and grad school buddies, and, really, truly, the folks at RYS and CM, what joy they have given me, and comfort, and ribbing, and sometimes plain old mother talk about this job, this life.

I have been grateful for the electronic friendship and collegiality, and for the space to hear other folks talk about the vexing world of the academy. I always found truth here, and humor, and sometimes, just crazzy crazzy times.

I have loved you and it all, the misery, the whole shebang, the delicious and wondrous struggle and triumph.

Yer pal,
Compound Cal

The Return Of The VidShizzle.

The RGM has insomnia.

Blogger shows me the ten most viewed posts of the past day, week, month, etc. Usually this is a list of the most recent posts, but occasionally it includes a random older post. Why, for example were there 40 views of this yesterday?

Monday, March 7, 2016

Academic Freedom, Free Speech & (Social) Media

Oberlin is dealing with a thorny academic freedom/free speech on social media issue: a rhetoric and composition professor who has been saying inflammatory, anti-Semitic, and just plain false things on social media.  It sounds like a complicated situation (much more so than that of the chemistry professor-cum-porn star described below; though I can imagine some possible problems, the two jobs are clearly separate, and he seems to have done his best to keep them so).  

It sounds like Oberlin is addressing the issue thoughtfully (which also means more slowly, and with more nuance, than the 24/7 media cycle/outrage machines on all sides of the issue would prefer);  this is probably a privilege reserved to private colleges these days.  

Speaking of which, Melissa Click was fired by the MIzzou board last week, and the AAUP is protesting (mostly on procedural grounds).  More thoughts on the implications of that situation, including the role of the legislature, here

- unknown

A manifesto in favor of grade inflation (and against grading).

Mark Oppenheimer published a manifesto in favor of grade inflation (or, really, against grading) this weekend.  Miriam Burstein points out the degree to which he is commenting from an elite/R1 perspective, and some of the perils of that position (which he acknowledges, but probably not enough).

I gave up writing comments on the final versions of my students' major projects years ago, because most students didn't read them (whether they read interim comments is another question; conferences help, but of course are also time-consuming, exhausting, etc.)   I'm happy to have a next-semester conference with students who genuinely want feedback on final work, but if all almost-90 of them genuinely wanted feedback, I'd be in trouble. 

And I have a relatively small number of total students compared to many people toiling in the intro/core trenches.  As far as I'm concerned, finding ways to comment efficiently, effectively, and in a truly individualized way is the goal, but I rarely manage more than two out of those three, and all too often I feel it's one or even zero out of three. 

- unknown

Sunday, March 6, 2016

University of Manchester lecturer investigated after his secret life as a porn star is revealed

I am not an academic myself, but I have followed you, and Rate Your Students for years. I wonder if you might be interested in this. 

Chemistry proffie by day;
porn star by night.
Nicholas Goddard, Manchester University. 

Friday, March 4, 2016

A Friday thirsty to last all weekend long

For the Americans in the house, which presidential candidate do you think would be the most disastrous for higher education and why? Discuss.

Dr. Amelia

Thursday, March 3, 2016

It's now officially "scholarship that counts"

Thinking about attending MSUM? Tell us why you'd like to #BeADragon and you can win up to a $2,500 scholarship! That's in ADDITION to any other MSUM scholarships that you qualify for. Enter by tweeting why you want to #BeADragon and follow@AdmissionsMSUM. Entries will be judged on how creatively you include Dragon Pride as you explain why you wish to #BeADragon. The tweet can include pictures and links to video and other media.

I think this isn't so much a sign of the End Times as it is a clever way to get a lot of social media buzz in return for a small investment. 

Although I am warming up my thumbs just in case grant applications start going this way. 


A Big Thirsty From Yuri in Youngstown.

Q: What qualities do faculty look for in a new president? What about someone taking over as academic dean? What do you think these people spend their time doing? What do you think they SHOULD be doing (because I'm here to tell you that 90% of have probably got the job descriptions wrong in your head.) My university is making some sweeping changes, and during my very enjoyable visits to this blog, I've learned a lot about what faculty with no administrative background think about the profession. I value your input!

I'll swing by and
pick up your
answers later!

RYS Flashback. Ten Years Ago Today. We Were Already Fucking Up.

Wisconsin Checks In, Takes Our Temperature With Something Big, and Then Tells Us We're Off Track...and We Liked It!

I feel betrayed. RYS has turned from a pithy, often hysterically funny site where professors revealed themselves to be human, into yet another mea culpa, professional development piece of crap.

Let’s get one thing straight: I hate teaching, and I could not care less at becoming better at it. Yes, I should be doing something else. Yes, I tried. But economic conditions, a poor choice of majors—and no real skills (liberal arts type, y’know)—conspired to force me into the position, and now it’s a gravy train to retirement that can’t be matched elsewhere. But I don’t have to like it. And I don’t, not even a little.

I did try. I gave it a shot. But this soul-sucking community college where the entrance competencies are fulfilled by fogging a mirror makes me miserable. It’s driven me to the brink of suicide at least once, and as I vowed not to let that happen again, I had an epiphany: It’s okay to hate your job! While 53 percent in a recent poll liked their jobs, that clearly suggests that 47 percent don’t. I’m not alone. I’ve got 4 months a year to forget about it, which I do by working with my hands instead of my head.

Still, the semesters are long and cold here. And living a lie, smiling at students and pretending to give a shit while suckling at the golden teat of government-funded higher education, is still trying, especially at this time of the year. RYS offered a humorous respite, a wry look at others who sometimes wanted to yell, “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take it anymore!”

Well, that’s gone now, replaced by just another piece of corporate, worker-improvement crap that keeps telling us that we must love our work, and we must draw identity from our jobs or quit. That’s bullshit. I’m not my job. I’m me. I’m outta here.

Thanks, yeah, thanks a lot.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

(2nd Attempt) Trying to Reach You



Do you use a machine like the one in the video? - view it here
Are you thinking about trying a machine on the go? a mobile one might be a good idea. It is the one that uses network connection and lets you accept card throughout the UK and you'll not require traditional landline.
Other people choose the Portable one to take card in a variety of locations in their premises and it's a machine that has a base unit and provides portable connectivity through a phone or Ethernet.
The last one is typically operated at restaurants or pubs that need to receive card from persons who are dining at tables.
The last one is the Desktop one and it is one that is good if you want to allow cards at defined parts in your building and is often near the exit.
Perhaps you are in a specific area and this makes the latter is good option, however, you will need internet or phone connection set up.
View more details here
Prevent further notifications here

Nuances of "No": from "I'm sorry, but I can't make it work" to "Go boil your head" by Uggy from Utica.

I have been saving up a list of student requests since the beginning of the semester. Some are semi-reasonable; others astonish me with their sheer chutzpah. Here is a partial list of the requests I denied, along with the increasing degree of emphasis I put on my N-O:

Q: Your office hours conflict with my class schedule. Can you add more office hours?
A: Sorry, but no. Between course prep, lectures, seminars, faculty meetings, advising, and the occasional bit of research I try to squeeze in, I can't permanently set aside another office hour each week, much less coordinate my schedule with >100 students. You can email me to set up an individual meeting outside of office hours, or better yet, go to the help center, which is open five hours per weekday.

Q: I'm in your hamster physics class. Can you help me with my gerbil studies homework?
A: Grrr. I did it once, because the two subjects are related and I was being nice, but I really don't have time to do it on a regular basis. Did I mention the help center? Even better, you could go to your gerbil studies professor's office hours, your TA's office hours, or get a gerbil studies tutor.

Q: I'm on an intramural broomball team. Can I switch my lab time next week so I can play in the Wednesday's game?
A: No. With >400 students in hamster physics labs this semester, imagine the chaos if I let people start switching labs for silly reasons. Plus, maybe academics should take priority over intramural sports? Just a thought.

Q: I couldn't attend last week's quiz due to a conflict [this is literally what the email said]. Can I have a make-up quiz?
A: No. The rules for make-ups are explicitly stated on the syllabus. Contacting me several days after your absence with no doctor's note or documented academic activity doesn't cut it.

Q: Your Friday lecture conflicts with my Hamster Care & Feeding lab. Can I keep my schedule and you can just catch me up on Friday's lecture material in office hours? [I am not making this up]
A: Are you serious? You want me to repeat half the week's material in a private lesson, just for you?? Never mind the fact that I have three office hours per week to serve >100 students? Don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Wait for the Callback...From Jacksonville Jessica.

Joe was in class last week when I said out loud (as I read from a Prezi page on a giant screen): "Your essay must start with a dramatic story about the issue in your paper. If you're writing about legalizing marijuana, make sure you start your first paragraph with a "story," maybe found in research, about an individual in that world, a grower, a user, a doctor, etc. It needs to get the interest of readers. Don't worry about giving all the facts; put a human face on the issue. Tell a story!"

Then I got rough drafts from MANY students AND JOE, most with NO story of any kind, just things like: "Abortion is a big problem in the world today," and "Weed is a big problem in the world today."

I wrote back to these people something like: "I think your issue can work, but in your first paragraph, if you're writing about legalizing marijuana, make sure you start with a "story," maybe found in research, about an individual in that world, a grower, a user, a doctor, etc. It needs to get the interest of readers. Don't worry about giving all the facts; put a human face on the issue. Tell a story first!"

Then the next day I got a lot of emails that said this:

"So, do you want me to start my essay with a story about the issue?"

Joe actually wrote: "I don't get it. It's almost like you want me to start my essay with a story or something, about someone who is in the issue. Is that what you want?"

So I'm planning now to go and drown all the bunnies.

Quick Sigh from Bella

My Advanced Lit class and I have been having a wonderful time together.  They participate----they have opinions!  They argue with each other in an appropriate way!  They do their homework!

But yesterday, I sat in class, watching them peer review their first essay assignment with a sinking heart.  Nothing like a writing assignment to kill a good vibe.

I could tell the honeymoon phase was over by their worried glances at each other, their furtive peeks at me, and by the questions they asked ----"So, if we did not use two poems, as required, is that a big deal?" and "I can't tell where the intro ends and the body begins because this is all one paragraph."  and "Oh---I don't have a works cited page, is that okay?  I did not use any outside resources---is that okay?" and "Does it count for a draft if it is only one page?"

A quick peek at the stack when I got home tonight did not dispel my gloom.  Things are looking pretty dismal in that stack of papers.  I did all the things we do to make this work.  They did all the things they do to keep it from working.