Friday, April 29, 2016

In Which The Semester Wanes and Bella Gets Feisty.

My students are getting on my last nerve! I mean---turn your brains on, people!! I normally manage to avoid conflict with them, but hey, it's April, the cruelest month, right? Here are some of the worst offenders.

1. Answer Annie approached me during an exam, with a question about being asked to explain/define and then give examples of different types of narrative techniques (discussed extensively in class). Annie told me in a loud voice that she could not do that question until I explained to her what narrative technique was. "Ahhhh....that's what I am asking YOU, Annie," I told her. She looked at me blankly, and then rephrased the question, trying to ask it in such a way that I would give her the answer already. "Sit down, Annie. I'm not giving you the answer." Annie thanked, me, in her loud voice, for helping her learn!! I usually ignore stuff like this. I didn't this time. "You can either check the attitude and take an honest exam, or leave now. If you did not learn this yet, YOU ARE NOT GOING TO LEARN IT." I regretted it immediately, but it had the desired effect, so no regrets were necessary. Annie came up to me after the exam and asked me if "we were okay?" I looked at her coldly for a half a second, then gave her a patently fake smile. She left, looking awkward and insecure, the poor thing. Maybe her teacher does not wuv her unconditionally! (Her teacher doesn't wuv her at all.)

2. Religious Rita was asked to read some lesbian erotica in my online class. Very mild stuff. Thoroughly contextualized for the class. Hardly qualified as erotica at all. She wrote me an e-mail, explaining that she had morals, that she was a Christian, and so she could not read this disgusting material and had skipped the assignment. She hoped that I would not persecute her for her religious beliefs. Sorry, she said, but her soul's salvation had to come first. Rita is very close to failing my class already. And this is a hot button for me as I am a Christian, and I HATE when people make ignorant, intolerant claims in the name of all Christianity. I told her that she needed to be precise in her language when making intolerant proclamations on behalf of large groups, and that she should identify the particular denomination she was speaking for when using hate speech. And that she would be receiving a zero on the assignment, as she had for other assignments not completed. I have no idea what will come of this, and I don't know that I care at this point.

3. Cheating Charlie came to see me at the Writing Center, where I work as a tutor as part of my contract (long story---we all have to do such things at Inner City Community College, but tutoring is not a particularly popular choice. I usually like it). Most of the tutors are either paid EAs or student workers. He had a paper he needed to "rework" before he handed it in. The paper was ten pages long, and his professor told him he had errors in the APA formatting, and needed more citations. Charlie was outraged about the APA formatting criticism, claiming he KNEW it was right. "Hmmmm. Well, there's a little problem here, with the running header, and here....with the citation format....oh, and your works cited page is completely wrong!------why did you think this had to be right? What are you looking at for guidance?" I asked. Charlie mumbled something, and suddenly we were onto what he needed to put in his abstract. "Well, you need to explain what kinds of sources you used, and how you used them to make the central points of your paper," I told him. APA is not my specialty, so if any of you CMers want to help me improve on that explanation, have at it! But here, my friends, is where Charlie ran into some difficulty. He did not know much about his sources. "Why not?" I asked. "This is a long paper----you must have spent some time with them! Do you have them printed out?" Charlie produced some printed out copies of articles (the printouts were required to be turned in with the final draft). I began going through the essay, looking for citations that matched his printed out articles. None of them did. "Charlie, these are the wrong articles. Did you write this paper?" Charlie had had it with me, a lowly tutor with an attitude, as he seemed to assume. Why didn't I mind my own business, he asked, and just help him make this work? What was I getting paid for? If his professor did not catch him, what did it matter. I stood up -- "I will not help you. Goodbye." I went into the next room, and he followed me, yelling that this paper was due TOMORROW and he needed this help! He was going to complain, he threatened I walked up to the phone we have in every room at Inner City Community College that has security's number on it in red. "Get away from me or I'm calling security." I said as I gave him a cold stare. Charlie could not believe it, and went to complain about me to the writing center director (one of my closest friends at work). I pocketed the intake sheet with Charlie's professor's name on it, and headed out the door. My work there was through.

I am glad the semester is coming to an end soon, or things could really get ugly!!

Shall We Celebrate Santa Fe Sid?

The Return of Santa Fe Sid.

My students, for the most part, are as lazy as they are willfully ignorant. I have no clever story. I have no lively hyperbolic post.

I cannot believe these people will run the world. I pray I am long dead.

I feel as though I am trying to plug up a basketball sized hole in a dam with a baby carrot.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

UW Cheerleading Tips!


Hey, let's redesign our logo!

This item, about Emerson College's new logo, got me thinking. 

Is there any endeavor more uniformly doomed than the logo redesign? It seems if you're a university and you want to spend a lot of money and make no one happy (except the design firm, I suppose) this is the best way to do it. 

A cursory search through the IHE archives brought these up:
Wright State spends a quarter million dollars  to remove Wilbur Wright from the logo

University of Dayton gets a new "Dayton Flyers" logo with a winged letter "D" 

The University of California's innovative flushing-toilet logo gets 30,000 people to sign a petition protesting it

Then we have Drake University's D-plus campaign, (not strictly a logo but an unfortunate graphic)

Does this ever work out well? Does anyone have a story of a successful logo redesign? 


My Performance Review

We have to write a YPR, a Yearly Performance Review, and I was just finishing mine up (it's due right after grades, because why should I have any chance to breathe?  No, breath is for the weak).  I thought I'd share it.  We have to write it in three sections: teaching, research, and service.

I.  Teaching (please offer quantitive evidence of effectiveness):
I taught a 3:3 load.  My course caps were increased on all my non major  courses, but that's okay, because I managed to scare away enough students early on that it evened out.  I caught two plagiarists, made three people cry, had six pens and one book borrowed and never returned, and wrote something like "'in which' is not a fancy way of saying 'which'" at least a dozen times.  I corrected over two hundred apostrophe errors, and about as many comma splices.  I graded about ten papers while drunk, and came to work hung over twice (once, I think I was probably still drunk from the night before).  If anyone learned, they did it by accident, and certainly not by their efforts or mine. 

II.  Service:
I served on the senate, where our perfectly idiotic provost lied to me twice a month and I had to pretend to accept it.  I served on a hiring committee run by a lawyer who thought we needed not only to read but respond in writing to every single application.  I served on the general education committee, which did all we could to prevent anyone from receiving an education, general or otherwise.  I saw a piece of litter and picked it up.  Every so often, I wore really sexy underwear to work, just, you know, 'cause.  

III.  Research:
I published nothing.  Well.  Nothing that "counts."  Breaks my heart.  Even if I did, you wouldn't know shit about it.  My research is so obscure that I find I can just mutter about it in the elevator, and people think I'm doing something.  I will continue to mutter about my research myself as I walk across campus.  I'm either a genius or insane.  Tenured, so it must be genius.  I did make one useful discovery: I got this great recipe for asparagus soup.  That smell in the bathrooms?  That's me.  I did that.  I should put that under service.  I attended a conference in California, where all my efforts to hire a prostitute failed.  I will try harder next year.

Conclusion:  My contribution to this university is as follows:
  • I offend students, so that they have to quit thinking in cliches for a couple seconds.
  • I use my tenure to point out administrators' lies.
  • I research something no one else gives a shit about, because I do give a shit about it, and if I don't publish enough on it, you can bite me.  It's not ready yet, and I'm not going to fake it.
For my efforts, I have a permanent twitch, periodic migraines, a new mysterious pain in my stomach, and health insurance that covers my weekly therapy with a $20 copay.

- from an unknown sender

If I had a million dollars, I'd buy you a college (but not a real college, that's cruel).

Once again, a comment inspires me. TubaPlayingProf commented on the CM flashback post, "A recurrent fantasy is to win the first billion dollar lottery and start a new university, and all your job search ads begin with CM colleagues are encouraged to apply...."

That got me to thinking, what would I do if I could build a university from scratch? As luck would have it, I needed to take a break from grading anyway.

Top ten things to do when I start my own university

10. Implement a regressive tuition system that charges more to students with a lower GPA.

9. Pay coaches less than faculty members.

8. School motto: Facilius est collegium intrare quam graduatis.

7. A faculty council will charge $1000 to any university employee found guilty of lowering academic standards. Proceeds go to stock booze in the faculty dining hall.

6. No legacies, no sports scholarships, no exceptions.

5. All voting members of the Board of Trustees must have a terminal degree.

4. Allow beer at department meetings. Because they are held at a bar.

3. Count College Misery posts towards T&P.

2. Mandatory graduate school application essay topic: (Part 1) What is the outlook for full-time employment in your desired subject area? (Part 2) So, why are you still applying?

1. Hire adjunct administrators.

- Beaker Ben

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

CM Flashback. 5 Year Old Misery from the Cynic.

How to tell when you've spent too much time on College Misery

10. You've wanted to assign the blog as mandatory reading for your students...

9. You've spent hours laughing at vidshizzles and reading old postings because that's more satisfying than grading...

8. You've tried to figure out which users are posting under multiple monikers...

7. You know more about the people on this blog than your own coworkers...

6. When something horrific/funny/disturbing/weird/moist happens in class, your first thought is: "I can't wait to post that on CM."

5. You urge random people (not even academics) to check out the blog...

4. You get raging mad at complete strangers who disrespect your 'blog buddies.'

3. You have to shut down your computer to avoid seeing if there are any new postings...

2. You've spent several hours trying to figure out how to type something brilliant and insightful for the #1 slot and now realize you'd really rather just hear what your friends on here think...


Monday, April 25, 2016

Informative Spam.

This comment on a recent post (also reproduced below) is clearly spam, but seemed worth a post of its own.  Do such services truly exist, I wonder, and, if so, are they scam as well as spam, or is the misery of grading for naught, as students with the money and the right connections will simply have the grades over which we labored changed by their friendly (global) neighborhood hacker?  Maybe this is a way to save oh-so-busy Dean Sprocket some work?

Permit me to share my testimony on this platform. I didn't do well in my finals.Mike introduced me to some hacker lo and behold this guy got me up to a GPA of 3.90. He can change grades also, database hack, clearing of criminal records, credit, bank transfer and all forms of hack

How Things Work...

We're a dysfunctional and open forum for college instructors. Readers supply content by clicking the sidebar envelope icon and sending in their miserable stories ("the misery"). The icon will open an email to our site. Write your email exactly as you'd like it to appear and include a pseudonym at the bottom.

Your post goes into a queue and goes online in a few hours. We've been averaging about 12,000 pageviews a week, so some folks just as cranky as you will read of your troubles and offer a topper or commiseration in the occasionally lively comments.

If you just want to offer up some comments, that's even easier. You don't need to sign in or anything. Under the comment link you can choose "Name/URL" where ALL you have to do is type in your pseudonym. (No URL is necessary, though some wiseacres include a funny URL and bored users sometimes stumble across surprising links to erection cream, election results, or login pages for The Chronicle, our longtime nemesis. Longtime users, some with this page and a previous one for as many as ten years, find having a Google account under their user name handier, but it's not mandatory.)

Welcome to you. If you are a poor college instructor who has been vexed by students, colleagues, administrators, or, we are your people.

Compound Crystal
The RGM (Real Goddamned Moderator)
College Misery

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Dean Solves It For You

by Dean Sprocket, M.Ed.L.

Dear Readers,

Today's "problem" comes to us from an apparent long-time reader in Quakerberg. I'm sure you'll see why I had to treat this case with "tough love" as I did. Let's see what we can solve today.
Dear Dean Sprocket,

This is a difficult letter for me to write. Last autumn, we lost a dear colleague to heart failure, which is probably what convinced another to retire early this spring. Prior to all this, our department was already down by one member, as you'll recall from my previous letter [click here. -Ed.]. Our last two searches have failed, and now we are down by three senior faculty! In the short term, we've distributed the teaching and committee load amongst the department as best as we can, and a few faculty have even deferred grants to free up some time. Working extended hours, we are just breaking even with no time left to develop new courses or update existing ones; cracks are forming under the pressure.

To pick up some of the slack, our Dean has magnanimously agreed to hire one (1) tenure-track faculty at the assistant professor level. Of course, this means another search committee and yet more work for me and my colleagues, but do it we must. As for the search, unfortunately, your earlier advice to consider candidates outside our field did not go well. During interviews, it became apparent that they would be fish out of water unless they could realign their research with ours, and grant reviewers are quite averse to funding new researchers having no track record in our field. And, the teaching demos, because these candidates were so unfamiliar with the subject---let's just say they were underwhelming and leave it at that.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Sometimes Little Things Are Worse Than Big Things. From ELS.

3 students sent me rough drafts of projects for "review" after 11 pm on Friday.

In the 18 hours since, two have emailed again saying, "Did you get my draft?" and the other person has simply resent it. Twice.

-Eating Low Salt

Friday, April 22, 2016

The Misery of Adjunct Professors. From Gawker.

Being an adjunct professor at a college may be the job with the single biggest discrepancy between the (high) education level required to hold it and the (astoundingly low) level of pay. How long until this system blows up?

The rest.

I feel a grade change a'coming

I feel a grade change a'coming round the bend...

My student, Anxious Amber, disclosed to me early on that she has a host of mental illnesses, and attempted to hand me doctor's notes and prescription bottles (yes, really) to prove this fact.

I told her that college policy required she go through Disability Services, and do the official registration paperwork. I told her that legally (yes, I confirmed this with the department) I COULD NOT give her special accommodations until this paperwork was filed. This paperwork remains un-filed.

Never the less, I sat down with her, and suggested that if she needed to leave the class early, or take a break, she could complete the exercises from the textbook, and turn them in for credit. This is similar to how I handle absences for other students, so it was consistent.

She... has not been doing so well. Her participation grade is down (she tends not to do the preparation, or turn in make up work, or speak up in class...), her written work fails to follow directions, and she regularly turns things in late.

By with withdrawal date, Anxious Amber had managed to pull up to a solid D, and I was hoping that she would continue the upward trend. I did not urge her to drop.

She emailed me today, asking if her participation grade could be raised when her disability paperwork went through. I don't think it should. She did not honor the terms of the one accommodation that I was able to offer her, and she has not completed the work!

I have a call into Disability Services, and to my department chair to see what I should be doing.

Right now, my email outlines the ways that she can work on raising her grade, but at this point, it is a hail Mary pass at best. I feel for her: many people I love have struggled with depression, anxiety, and the rest of that stew. But if she can't work with me to figure out how to get the work done, there is very little I can do for her.

Advice from the Misery is always welcome.

--Academic Madame Librarian

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Irritated in Irvine Saves Herself.

I have it good. I love my teaching and 90% of my colleagues. But I still find great humor in the shared misery of this website! I am such the fan.

But today I had an experience that allows me to join you all. I'm very proud. I hope I do not do this incorrectly or make Compound Crystal have to move mountains to fix the formatting.

I teach writing at a super lovely college. Our students are pretty high achieving and they normally make my job fun.

But, let me tell you about today.

We write 4 essays in the course of 15 weeks. It's on the syllabus, I talk about the 4 essays taking place within UNITS. Each unit is 3 weeks long and includes reading, drafting, peer revision, and then a final draft.

As of three weeks ago we had done THREE of these. There are FOUR essays total. Are you with me?

So for the past three weeks I've been talking about Essay #4. We've done reading. We've written paragraphs in our writing lab. We've had a peer edit of some APA documentation.

So today I mention the due date - which I've done nearly every day in class (and it's on the handout, and in the syllabus).

No sooner do I finish saying the due date and someone up front asks, "What? You mean there's another essay?"

"Well, I said. Not another. The one we're working on. Essay #4."

Another student in the back says, "Wait. I thought we were just writing practice paragraphs. You mean these are for another essay? Is it an unannounced essay?"

And I stood there, catching flies with my mouth.

Before I could recover, a different student said, "I don't get it. We've already written THREE essays."

"W-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-w-wait," I said. "There are FOUR essays."

And a weird fog came over the room. The rest of the students, GOOD students, normal people, began to take to this insane idea.

"Yeah, you said three essays." It was a Lord of the Flies sort of vibe. They sensed I was caught off guard, knocked free of the conch, and they were going for control.

I stumbled to the PC at the front of the room and frantically found the online syllabus. As the machine whirred to life, the noise from the students started to subdue.

I was saved at the last minute when the evidence appeared, when the focus engaged and the syllabus with its hard truths shone down on them.

Big Thirsty: Fewer Students or More Money? From Cassandra.

Ben alluded in a recent comment to the difficulty of giving students the individual consideration they want, and may need, when one teaches many students at once (which is further compounded, as he points out, when teaching 400 students officially represents only 30% of one's job). 

This reminded me of a perennial debate among my full-time contingent colleagues.

All of us would like to have a lower teaching load (we're currently at 4/4 with no service or research requirements; would like to see 3/3 or 4/3 with service and perhaps some sort of research leave/reduction possible now and then), and feel we'd serve our department and our students better in those circumstances. 

At the same time, all of us want (and many of use need) to make more money (our tenure-track colleagues, who make at least 1/3 more, are justifiably complaining that they can't keep up with the local cost of living; the same, of course, is even more true for us, and our part-time colleagues, who make even less, really can't stay in that capacity for long unless they have some sort of savings/equity from prior stages in life, or another income source in the household). 

We suspect that if we make progress on one issue, we'll then be told that said progress makes progress on the other issue impossible.  It's probably out of our hands, but we still occasionally discuss which we consider the higher priority. 

Personally, I used to concentrate on the load, but have more or less figured out how to manage that, and, much as I long for the sort of input and inclusion service might (but only might) bring, I tend to focus on the money.  Others come down on the other side of the question, and I understand and respect their reasoning (in fact, I think they've probably go the welfare of their students more at heart, though I suspect the welfare of mine would be improved by my taking the occasional summer off, which is probably what I'd do with the money. Also, it would be all too easy to officially lower the load and then raise the course caps, which in my case would result in the functional equivalent of the same load, give or take a few hours in the week in the classroom). 

I realize CMers have varying loads (including 4/4 and even 5/5 with service and summer work, 6/6 on several campuses with shitty pay and no benefits, etc., etc.), but I'm wondering:

Q. If you had to choose just one, would you choose to have higher pay or fewer students? 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Happy 4/20.

This place used to be
A lot more weed-centric.
Pot was a big part
Of my early college
Days, and I swear
I used to get a contact
High from RYS, especially
When Compound Cash was
In charge. 

Unqualified students, on purpose

This morning, Dr. Amelia's usually marginally coiffed hair was further raised by this piece on recruiting of international students.

In my mind, there are multiple unfairness issues here. The first is for the students who come to the U.S. seeking a degree that they are far, far from being prepared to undertake. I've worked with grad admissions before, and I can tell you that it is really hard to assess records on some of these applicants. We could have easily filled our graduate programs just with students from China, if we had wanted to. They often looked great on paper: top GRE scores, grades in undergrad that looked great. Recommendation letters were harder. Often they were translations, and not being a reader of Mandarin, I couldn't tell you if they translations were accurate. Even if they were, the rhetorical strategies and things valued by different cultures are pretty different, so it was hard to tell what a recommendation meant. Eventually, we ended up doing interviews with the student: sending them questions like "What was the most important book in hamsterology that you read as an undergraduate and why" and then calling them to discuss their answers as a way to try to gauge English proficiency and preparation in the field. Departments who didn't do that often found themselves in a pickle when they had eager students who couldn't understand the professor or the readings and ultimately either flunked out or were kicked out because of cheating. It seems unjust to admit students who have no chance of successfully completing the program.

As the article notes, it is also unfair to the prepared students. When a program seems to have two degree tracks - one for students who meet the requirements but receive financial aid and the other for students who get passed through because they can pay, the end is a problem because you can't tell what the degree means. But the beginning and middle are problems, too, as the unprepared students drag everyone else down.

It's also unfair to the faculty. It's reasonable to ask faculty to make extra effort to delineate what, say, cheating is, since that's a culturally determined idea. Allowing students to record lectures so they can review and catch up on fast bits they missed because of a language issues - I'm not thrilled about that, but I'll allow it. But it's not reasonable to ask them to arrange informal tutoring from proficient students or to run classes on parallel sets of standards so students who never should have been admitted can "succeed".

Is this a problem at your institution? How do you handle it?

Contributing to a worthy cause

You may have heard that the Sacramento Bee recently uncovered the fact that UC Davis, under the aegis of Chancellor Linda Katehi, paid consultants at least $175,000 to bury accounts of the November 18,  2011 incident in which UC Davis cops pepper-sprayed student demonstrators in the face under more positive search-engine results about the university. 

Historiann (appropriately for a historian), doesn't think the record of those events should be buried. She asked for help from her readers in re-boosting the story to prominence in search results. I'm not sure that's strictly necessary (Katehi seems to have managed it pretty well on her own, proving that the coverup is, indeed, often more damaging to a perpetrator's reputation than the original offense), but it's a worthy cause, so I figured I'd join in.  #UCDavisPepperSpray

We could also discuss how the UC Davis pepper-spray incident compares with Ohio State administrators' recent tactic of turning students' "safe space" rhetoric back on them.  One is more obviously violent than the other, but I suppose one could also lead to the other, especially when "you looked scary to them" rhetoric is in play. 


As if a Dead Grandma Wasn't Enough.

Got an email this afternoon from a student who said he/she wouldn't be in class because it was the one-year anniversary of said student's grandmother's death.

Are you serious?

Now, we have to concern ourselves with not only dead grandmas, but the anniversaries of their alleged deaths?

I am speechless.

- Agnes of Dog

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

My Favorite Post of the Week...Of a Certain Type...From the Real Email Account of A Longtime Reader...(Not Really That Person, Of Course...I Hope!)


I just arrived in Athens, Greece I need your help, I'm in a really deep mess. Can I get a loan of ($1,350 USD) ? You'll have it as soon as I get back home. I lost my bank card, I'll appreciate what you can give if not all. It's really urgent, please get back to me asap, Money Gram is the only way i can receive funds here.

Below are the details needed via Money Gram Transfer

Receiver's Name: XXXX YYYYYYY
Location: 18, Hxxxxxx St. Kooooot 145 64
City: Athens, Greece

As soon as you have it done get back to me with the money gram reference code.


They Weep

Me: So, you've said that "Many wizards do a lot of magic because magic doesn't exist." What do you mean by that? If magic doesn't exist, how can magic work?

Student: Uhhh.

Me: [long pause] So, you're saying that magic work because magic doesn't work. Maybe that's like a really cool thing you're laying out, about how people think it works, so it does?

Student: Uhhh.

Me: [long pause]: Do you think magic works?

Student: Uhhh.

Me: 'cause if you do, that's cool. Wiccans all think magic works, and lots of religions get behind magic, so if you think it does, we can talk about why people might think so . . . even if. . . you know . . . maybe other people might not . . .

Annie From Abelard Needs Our Advice. An Early Thirsty.

Been reading for a while but never had anything worth submitting. That changed last week. I am a recent adjunct professor. I got my highest degree at a SLAC. I'm not making a lot of money at all, but I'm fortunate to have found a job near home so I can live with the parental units. So the small amount of money I'm making feels like a bit more than it is since I don't have to pay rent or buy food.

I teach four courses under the loose instruction/guidance of a more senior Professor. In my early morning Communicating to Hamsters course on Friday, I was instructing on strategies for writing to certain audiences for the final paper. One of my students questioned me today.

Student: But what about X?

Me: What *about* X?

Student: Well if we're writing to say that the Hamsters did X, don't we have to provide evidence as to why they did it?

Monday, April 18, 2016

Ohio State Admins Used "Safe Space" to Combat a Student Sit-In. From The Atlantic.

If you are students, and I think the vast majority of you are, I want you to understand that you are violating the student code of conduct. As dictated to me by [university president] Dr. Drake 15 minutes ago to me on the phone, we have chosen to try to work with you this evening because we respect you. This is your university.
And we want to have dialogue. We want the dialogue to extend beyond tonight. But if you refuse to leave, then you will be charged with a student code of conduct violation. And I’m telling you this now because I want you to have good thought and careful consideration. If you’re here at 5 a.m. we will clear the building and you will be arrested. And we will give you the opportunity to go to jail for your beliefs. Our police officers will physically pick you up, take you to a paddywagon, and take you to be jail.
Our goal, because I want you to understand why we would do something like this—I didn’t think we were going to—but the consensus of university leaders is that the people who work in this building should be protected also.
They come to work around 7 o’clock. Do you remember when you all made the rush down there and chanted to the folks outside the doors a minute ago?
That scared people.

That elicited disbelief from protesters. Who was scared, they scoffed, the police officers with guns? Said the university messenger, “If you refuse to understand what I’m trying to tell you—I’m not going to answer that question,” meaning he refused to say who it scared. Soon after, his sidekick steps in, saying, “It would scare employees who are wanting to do their work in this building.” Added the first messenger, “The employees who work past five o’clock left early this evening. Do you know why? Because they were scared you were going to do something.”

The rest.

- from unknown sender

Sunday, April 17, 2016

Another Day for the DERP

A CM Playlet from OPH.

[Lights up. Panquehue, Bryndza, and Ogre are seated around a table. Panquehue is poking some keys on a laptop computer, which she slides towards the center of the table.]

Panquehue: The Diagnostic Educational Review Panel gathers today to deliberate the case of one Stewart Dent, who had taken a leave of absence for undisclosed personal reasons. Mr. Dent now wishes to come off of LOA, but the wrinkle is that before he took leave, he had also accumulated enough course failures to merit dismissal from the program. Had Stu not gone on LOA, the DERP would have been responsible for determining if he should be dismissed, and had we ruled for dismissal, he'd have been eligible for appeal. The provost has charged the DERP with interviewing Mr. Dent to assess his academic fitness for return from LOA, a function which by the way is already in our charter. The provost's interest regards whether dismissal, and more specifically the inevitable appeal, might be avoided.

Ogre: [aside to Bryndza] She's even more, ah, "official" than usual today.

Sundays and student emails

Yo, Poopie.
Still waiting!
Two days until the final exam. The time is nearly upon us.

Emails are now starting to pour in from students, asking questions that sound suspiciously like they are staring at a lecture slide online that simply has an image, or an image with one line of text associated with it, and they have no idea what it means because they didn't actually come to the lecture.

It is a warm, beautiful Sunday, and I've got several young children who need to get out to the park and enjoy the outdoors.

I suppose these students think I will answer their Sunday afternoon emails?


Prof Poopiehead


Federal Reserve Bank New York

Ref.: Payment Release Update.

Amount Valued: US$12,800,000.00.

Foreign payment allocation security code (US/A84PRFGN2016)

Attention: Beneficiary,

By means of this message, we wish to inform you that your hour of compensation and actualization has come after our meeting with the United Nations, Bank of America, Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Reserve Bank officials, it has been agreed that your real approved funds valued US$10,500,000.00 and the compensation of US$2,300,000.00 (Total US$12,800,000.00) will now be processed and released to your Bank Account through Wire Transfer Department of the Federal Reserve Bank New York.

However, it may interest you to know that after the meeting, with the Bank of America, Central Bank of Nigeria and Office of the Director On-line Account Department have entered into full partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank and your funds Total valued US$12,800,000.00 will now be credited to you by the Wire Transfer Department of the Federal Reserve Bank as soon as you make contact with me.

To this effect, you are to contact us with the details below for the immediate release of your funds.

Full Name:-----------------------





Alternative Email:-----------------------

Your id or international passport:-----------------------

Thanks for banking with Federal Reserve Bank New York while we looking forward to serving you with the best of our service.

Thanks and Congratulations in Advance.

Best Regards,



Saturday, April 16, 2016

Your tax dollars at work!

You may remember the viral video of 2011 depicting UC Davis students sitting passively on the ground while being pepper-sprayed by officer John Pike.  Well, it turns out that UC Davis spent $175000 trying to make the video disappear from the internet.

That didn't work.  You can read about the misery here.

As soon as the incident became well known, Officer Pike was let go.  He was later awarded $38000 for the "trauma" he faced in the incident.  He was sorry for getting caught.  Read more about Officer Pike's "misery" here.

For extra credit:
    Perhaps you can find out why half of the campus is in Yolo County and the other half is in Solano County.  I tried to obtain info but was unsuccessful.  I had heard that it was the result redistricting, for keeping the students from voting on things by having the dorms in another county.  However, that may just be a rumor.

- unknown sender

More fucked up shit administrators do

Friday, April 15, 2016

10 Seconds At A Time, A Teacher Tries Snapchat To Engage Students. From NPR.

What's the first step of learning? Paying attention.

Which may be hard for students to do when they're constantly peeking at their phones. So, as the adage goes: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

One app that teachers are embracing is Snapchat. That's the one where you send a video or picture, and then it disappears 10 seconds after you open it.

For some teachers, it makes sense. Their students are already using it. Snapchat has around 100 million users worldwide and, according to one estimate, 77 percent of college students use it daily.

And so, Michael Britt thought, why not go there? He's an adjunct professor at Marist College in upstate New York.

Since last fall, Britt has built Snapchat videos into his introductory psychology class. He takes "snaps" of real-life examples of what he's teaching in class, and posts it to the app. He does this right before exams, so his students will look at them when they're studying.

The rest.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

We are getting a lot of these in the queue.

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(Some question marks are intentionally omitted because this asshole's intonation betrays his disdain for any kind of answer.)
---from OPH.

Pissed Pumpkin Links us to Some Cartoon Fun.

Lessons Our Teachers Taught Us. A Big Thirsty from the TubaPlayingProf

This huge stack of essays and examinations has me remembering some of the lessons about teaching that I learned from my own teachers about what NOT to do, practices that guide my grading.  Here are three examples.

The first I'd like to share is from a grad assistant.  He mentioned that for the essay section of our midterm exam he might either choose one of the two topics we went over in class or include both.  Convinced that he was a "good guy," I studied and prepared only one—the one he did NOT include on the exam.  I wrote the one I prepared—along with a note explaining that I worked so hard on it that I had to write it.  He awarded that section a score of zero.  He included no response, no explanation, only the score of zero. Of course the grade was appropriate, for I deserved the grade.  When I have to, I assign the same grade.  But I can't help thinking that for a goof like me the hint of a choice was misleading.  One should usually assume that the typical undergraduate only anticipates hur best option.

Lesson learned: be definite.

The second is from a young assistant professor in graduate school.  He emphatically and dramatically announced on the first day of seminar that he would not under any circumstances accept our essays late (the only graded assignment) and would not under any circumstances assign incompletes.  I had to pull an all-nighter but I arrived with my twenty-five-page essay on the final day of class.  No other classmate had a paper ready—after my professor allowed late papers and agreed to assign two INCs (to the two stars in the programs).  In the three days before he received a second paper to grade, he graded mine—in his words-- reading "as an editor of a scholarly journal might" all to help me improve my writing because I had "the (mis)fortune of turning the essay in on time."  I earned a B for the class, and I feel that my writing improved, yet after six additional months AND feedback from our professor the two stars turned those INCs into As. My essay deserved its grade, but still. . . .

Lesson learned: be strict but also fair by being consistently so.

The final is from a senior professor in graduate school, a well-known scholar.  He had our seminar write five-page essays every week.  We all agreed that writing every week and on every work was worthwhile and instructive.  On the first Monday, seven of my classmates and I arrived with our five-page essays.  And "Mr. Man" had a seven-page essay.  "Mr. Man" announced on Friday that his essay got a A because the teacher liked the development and detail.  Predictably the eight of us wrote seven pages, and Mr M then had ten; then seven turned into ten, and ten into twelve….

Lesson Learned:  follow your own directions, especially target lengths.

Q: What are the lessons you learned from your teachers that you feel make you a better teacher by NOT doing as they did?

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Academic Biker Gangs. From Beaker Ben.

For my previous post, an anonymous commenter mentioned the idea of an academic biker. This is such a great archetype to explore. My imagination is going nuts thinking about this.

Top Ten Things that Make You Part of an Academic Biker Gang

10. Suede elbow patches on your leather jacket.

9. The T&P process is literally brutal.

8. Most of the actual biker activities – the bar fights, drug trafficking, operating security at Rolling Stones concerts – is done by adjunct bikers with no allegiance to any particular gang.

7. Even biker gangs have to deal with accreditation and they hate it as much as everybody else.

6. Their most lucrative criminal enterprise is filing fake Pell Grant and student loan applications.

5. You joined the academic biker gang with the idea of getting summers off but you continue to be a biker year-round because you need the money to make ends meet.

4. Any administrators who bother you get shivved.

3. Completing initiation in a gang is more fun than getting through grad school, and is probably a better career move also.

2. You have Foucault tattoos.

1. Gang names: Les Professeurs, The Tenured Disciples, Publish and Perish, The Devil's Undergraduate Curriculum Committee, Ivory Tower Mafia, The Edutainers.

RYS Flashback: Ten Years Ago This Week.

Someone Wants to Talk About the Correlation of Easy Profs and Good Evaluations

I began teaching 3 years ago at a mid-sized undergraduate college. It's amazing how much I've changed in that amount of time and what I've learned regarding human behavior.

Unfortunately, I'm one of those people who worry too much about my evaluations. It's not that I really care what college students think of me, it's just that I work very hard to be a good and fair teacher, and I get frustrated when students don't see that. Besides, student evaluations are the primary indication of teaching ability at our school.

I also get annoyed by the correlation between good and easy when students rate professors on student evaluations or on Rate My Professor. When I read comments like "XXX is the best professor at XXXX. It's impossible to make less than an A. Exams are the study guides. I wish all teachers were this good," I get frustrated.

My classes are particularly challenging due to the subject matter. I do what I can to make the material as clear as possible. But, no wonder students sometimes say negative things about me on my evaluations....not everyone makes an A in my courses and you have to work particularly hard in order to do well. How can I compete with other professors who give out grades like they are nothing?

Just once, I'd like to see one of these 'good because they're easy' professors get a comment like, "What's the point of this class? I do not have to go to class or study to make an A. I have learned nothing new since taking this course.... what a waste of time!"

Monday, April 11, 2016

Waiting for TurnItIn

My new grad student plagiarized parts of his research proposal. His matches procedures written by my previous student in her dissertation. I already warned him once, very sternly that This. Will. Not. Happen. He either didn't care or forgot to correct it. That's bad enough but I know there's more. The writing style is more sophisticated in some paragraphs than others. When in doubt, I upload the paper to TurnItIn...

...Which is taking its own sweet damn time to analyze the document. I want to know so badly what he's done. This shit bugs the hell out of me when it's a freshman cutting and pasting but when a grad student does it, I get obsessive. I've yet to determine what the punishment should be so I guess the extra waiting provides me with time to figure that out. I've narrowed it down to a few options:
  1. Yell at him. I haven't yelled at any of my grad students before, so that would have an impact, I expect.
  2. Dismiss him from my group. It wouldn't be a big loss but it could sully my reputation as a kind, supportive graduate mentor.
  3. Turn him in for academic dishonesty. I'm not sure this charge would stick since he's only writing a draft, not the final document. Kicking him out of the program wouldn't bring tears to my eyes but it could be a big hassle of paperwork.
  4. Dissolve him in hydrofluoric acid. Now I'm getting creative. This would require some extra chemical waste containers, for sure.
  5. Take him out for a drive south of the compound to see the gators. Of course we'd get close, very close, so that he could see the native Florida wildlife up close. If, by chance, he slipped into the swamp, I would try my best to save him, I swear I would. And nobody would cry more than me at his funeral.

Decisions, decisions.

- Beaker Ben

A post about the job hunt.

These institutions, they can do better.

My partner and I have been on the job market for a few rounds now. Yes, we have jobs and tenure, but we are ready to move up. In the last 2 years we have turned down 3 jobs over the health insurance. Its nothing short of atrocious. The most recent offer was $700+ a month, $8k and $14k deductibles (in / out) and $25k max per year. Are you kidding me? If you're in a family with health issues you're looking at at least $17+k per year. O

n the $50-65k salaries that are being offered, that amount makes you part of the working poor. We've actually looked at the ACA (Affordable Care Act) as an alternative and the coverage is better and the premium is lower. But, with an election coming the ACA could be dismantled on day 1, and thats not a risk we're willing to take.

Yes, we'll readily admit that our current insurance is amazing - we have a $10 co-pay, no in network deductible and $1k out. We know we'll probably not find that again, and thats fine. But plans that cause you to worry more about your healthcare bill than it does your teaching and research, are bad for everyone.

Furtherer, we've now caused 3 failed searchers because of this. As we all know, searches aren't cheap or easy on the committees. How did we end up here?

- from unknown sender

Amelia Eats Out

So our churrascaria visit was this week. The proffie wrote an internal grant to pay for a minibus to drive us all into Capitol City to visit the place, which was locally owned and very nice. We also all got $15 towards our meals. If you just wanted the cold buffet, this was enough, but if you wanted to try the meats, you had to put in $10. The proffie even got the owner to come and talk about the restaurant he owned in Brazil vs. the one he now runs here and to talk about how the food was prepared. Great stuff. What was not so great was a trip with undergrads. To wit:

Beyonce and Adele: Two girls in the class who are in campus acapella groups. I'm just a guest student at this university (a swishy, private one), but I am gathering that there must be at least 7000 groups on their campus, to hear them talk. I actually don't mind acapella groups. What I do mind is a 45-minute streak of musical one-upswomanship where they are ostensibly talking about songs they like performing. Really, they are just trying to impress each other (and us poor non-musical slobs, I guess) with their obvious Diva talents, singing at each other for most of the trip. You can't be my halo, and if you want to swing from the chandelier, please do it in the next room.

Lactose Larry:
So, I see that the lactose intolerance thing is new for you, Larry. And yes, I am familiar. No, I really don't need to hear a description of what will go on in your gut if but a single drop of milk should pass your lips. No, I don't think the pork chop on a stick has dairy in it. No, I don't think the waiter is lying. No, I doubt they will let you into the kitchen to check on how your meal is being prepared.

Sara Cirrhosis: Honey, when you are 19 years old, and you spend the entire trip and most of dinner discussing how you know the nightly specials at every bar in town, and which one has this awesome Bucket o Booze Tuesday where they give you a YUGE glass filled completely with liquor on special on Ladies' Night, you probably have a problem. Also, no one else seems to be finding this interesting either. I noticed Adele did not jump at the invitation to come with you next week...

Keener Kenzie: When the very busy owner comes out just to talk to our class, it is not the time to ask the proffie if you need to take notes because it will be on the final. Don't complain about the man's "Impossible" accent. You are in a Portuguese class! Also, moving the table candle to your place so you can see as you write is both obnoxious and a fire risk. Don't snarl at me when I move it back so pork chop man doesn't set his frilly sleeve on fire.

Cheap Charlie:
Yes, we all need to put in $3 to tip the wait staff. That's what human beings do in America. You can't claim extreme poverty with one breath and go to the bar and order a $10 Caipiriha with the next.

Recent Statistical Numbers.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

First World Professor Problems

My Prius is too quiet;
I almost kill a snowflake,
every single day. 

RGM's note: Two former mods wrote to remind me, us, you, 
and Anonymous that "academic haiku" has been defined 
broadly on our site over the years. The most common 
language goes: "short, enigmatic free verse often 
referencing snowflakes, misery, and margaritas." 

Deadline? What's That?

This semester I have a freshman comp class that meets once a week on Fridays, and it's a complete goat rope. Today they got their first papers back...or, should I say, the 50% of them that didn't skip got their papers back today.

Most of them took their papers and slunk out, but 2 stuck around to complain--a guy who emails me long, drawn-out excuses on a weekly basis for why he was late/absent/had to leave early this week, and a girl who I'd spent 15 minutes talking to during the peer review period for this essay about all the major changes she would want to make in her rough draft....who then changed literally 9 words (no, really, I counted) and submitted it as her final draft.

Both complained that it wasn't their fault that their last papers had been utter crap, because they'd emailed me asking for help. But, being the Big Meanie that he is, ol' Doc Slash just never responded to them. Gasp! Obviously, not THEIR fault!

I asked them when they'd emailed me, and if they remembered that I'd opened the week leading up to that first due date with a classwide email that stated very clearly, 'I'm going to be unavailable the day before your papers are due, so I can only answer questions or provide feedback on drafts that have been emailed to me by 5:00 PM on Wednesday.

According to my inbox, the guy emailed me at 10:08 PM on that Thursday night (casually asking that I 'glance over it quickly that night'). The girl emailed me at 11:24 PM that Thursday. The paper was due at 11:30 AM Friday. And even when she looked this up herself, she STILL tried to argue with me like it was my fault she barely edited her rough draft since, in her mind, the fact she had emailed me asking for help an entire 12 hours before it was due clearly meant the ball was in my court.

I hope they appreciated the passive aggression in the 'Here's the email I'm finding in my Inbox asking me for help. I didn't respond to it because, as you can see from the time stamp, it arrived in my inbox 30 hours past the deadline to ask for help' emails I just sent them. Because if they want to try to keep playing the 'it's your fault my paper was bad' game with me, that ought to be their first clue that they're waaayyyy out of their depth on this one...

-Doc Slash

Friday, April 8, 2016

Friday Thirsty -- Students Come First vs. Teaching Comes First

This one may not be quite light enough for a Friday Thirsty, but the RGM is on record as pining for a thirsty, and I've been thinking about this, so here goes:

My university has a longstanding goal to become a R1-ranked "research university." It also has a (relatively recently) explicitly articulated "institutional value" that "students come first" (we are by no means unique in this; I googled). 

It strikes me that saying "students come first" is somehow subtly (or perhaps not so subtly) different from saying "teaching comes first" or "the teaching mission of the university comes first" or even "education comes first," but I'm having trouble putting my finger on exactly how/why. 

Q: Anybody want to help me out? 

- Cassandra

College Video Essay VidShizzle from Hiram...

Is Anyone Dissuaded From Posting Because of the Sidebar Email Process? From ELS.

I was always more of a commenter, and I'm NOT complaining.

But I wonder if the old system of individuals having posting rights is easier.


Thursday, April 7, 2016

Beating this meme photo to death...from ELS.

In Which Bella Writes a Letter of Recommendation

​Many students from Inner City Community College are hoping to have careers in the health care field.  A huge percentage of these hopefuls are trying to become nurses.  It's a competitive field.  Around here, you have to get an "A" in everything (including, alas, Composition) to have a shot at nursing school.

Hopeful Healthcare Hannah did, in fact, get an "A" in my class.  She also earned the record for being one of the biggest pains in the ass I have ever met (and I've met some doozies!).  She asked questions about every. obvious. thing.  She wrote draft after draft, never happy with the grade she earned the first time. I'm talking about 3-4 drafts per assignment, and we have five assignments.  I allowed it----she seemed to be working hard.  I read and commented on draft after draft.  She met with me at Every. Single. Stage. of the writing process.  She was in my office more than any other student, before or since.  She was....unique. 

She was exactly the type of student who earns this sentence on the letter of recommendation (one I learned right here on this blog): " Hannah can thrive in a supportive environment."  At least from what I saw, she needed LOTS of support to thrive. 

Hannah recently came to me, looking for a letter of recommendation.  She wanted to get into Inner City SLAC's nursing school, just down the road. I thought it was a bit suspicious that her science professors were not writing her letters.  As I've said here before, our STEM professors enjoy an ability to be---realistic---with students that the rest of us are denied.  THEY can tell a student to forget their dreams and buzz off.  WE cannot.  But I saw no reason not to write the letter (with the qualifying sentence, at which Hannah did not bat an eyelash).   And this is where the conflict began. 

"Hannah, you have read the letter, now I'll print it out and place it into an official envelope and sign my name across the seal. That's the way they want it over at Inner City SLAC Nursing School."  No, she assured me, they want her to staple it to the back of her application.   

"Hannah----I've done lots of these.  I'm pretty sure of how they want it. Why don't you call them?"

Hannah did not have their number.  Could she use my computer to look it up?  Visions of Hannah treating me one day in the ER flashed through my head.  "No, Hannah, why don't you go out to the lounge, get into contact with them (I'm sure the number is somewhere in your paperwork) and give them a call."  Hannah looked at me coldly.  She was unimpressed with my lack of help.  She and I had actually clashed about this before----with her accusing me of not being a good professor at one point when she felt I was not giving her enough help.  I had forgotten just how much of a pain she actually was, and began wishing I had not written the letter.  "Listen," Hannah told me. "This is due TODAY.  This is my FUTURE and I want to get this DONE.  Will you please just print it out?"

I kept my face absolutely expressionless.  "Sure, Hannah.  No problem."  I printed it out, handed it to her, and even lent her my stapler.  I fumed a bit as I watched her scurry across the grass toward IC SLAC's admissions building, and then promptly forgot all about Hopeful Hannah.  My office hours were over, and I decided to leave the premises.

Today, I had a frantic message taped to my door.  Could I please print out another copy of the letter, put it into the envelope and leave it taped to the door by the end of the day (left yesterday).

New teacher experiences living hell in inner city public school


TLDR: New teacher quickly learns that he is expected to control his students, yet is not allowed to actually do so. Admin dishes out opposition.

Parents physically threaten teacher for intervening during fight and physically pulling one student off another (because you know, you're supposed to let my kid kill the other one). Teacher faces prosecution for that as well. Found not guilty. Parents then sue teacher for $20 million. Case settled for $90,000.

Too bad the parents themselves didn't get sued for their kid inflicting harm on another student, but hey why should people be present to do the right thing amiright?

'I paid no attention, gave my students the grades they deserved, and patiently explained to every parent that their child's grades would improve once he or she started behaving in class and doing the assigned lessons. For this, Ms. Savoy cited me for insubordination.'

'Ms. Savoy had abandoned all pretense of administrative support by this point. Nearly every student I sent to the office returned within minutes.'

'False allegations against me and other teachers snowballed, I began to be investigated on almost a weekly basis (for separating combatants), parents came to school to berate and threaten me—naturally, without reprisals from the administration.'

Click here for more of the misery.

- from an unknown sender,
and a new record for trying
to remove HTML code!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Congratulations Darla!

Little Jacob has a baby sister, 11:55 pm last night. Mother and daughter doing great!

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Grammar Jerks. From SF Gate.

The Flava

Everybody knows the world's worst people are the ones who never miss an opportunity to explain the difference between who and whom. Those "friends" who are pretending to be policing spelling and grammar for the sake of posterity are probably just flexing for attention, or so it seems to everyone they're interrupting.

As a study from the University of Michigan recently found, those people aren't just annoying, they're also apparently huge jerks.

The Misery
The Full Study

Digital Numpty not Native

I teach statistics for Hamsterology, for my many sins (and I hope my past self really ENJOYED those sins, 'cos this is a steep price). After many years of trial and error, I now include two pieces of software in the practical sessions for the course, the professional stuff my colleagues who never teach this option insist is used by "all hamster-ologists", and the Giant-Conglomerate's-Fancy-Spreadsheet software which begins with an 'E' and which, judging by the documents produced by said colleagues for all manner of university purposes, is used in the day to day working lives of every Hamsterologist in the department, whereas maybe 10% of them even use statistics in their research publications. In other words, I show students how to use the 'proper software' and how to use the software they'll most likely use in their working lives, whether they go on to be receptionists, generic business people or specialists.

Class time is not infinite, so for many methods I have students carry out exercises using only one kind of software - after all, my goal is not to teach 'how to use software' but 'how to select, carry out and interpret simple statistical analysis'. Statistical methods get updated, reformatted and given new menus FAR less often than statistical software, and I'd like my class to have at least a fighting chance of having some usable, non-obsolete knowledge/skills (oh, who am I kidding - notes and handouts in a folder with barely a trace on the old grey matter) when they graduate.

For the final assignment, students are given a problem and some data, and have to work through the process of planning and carrying out a statistical analysis, using whichever software they choose. Fine. If they are particularly keen to use a specific piece of software (e.g. the one which came free with their computer, GCFS, so that they don't have to find pants and leave the house to go to a campus log-in point and access the expensive professional stuff for free, or pay the small licensing fee to install a student copy of same on their own computer), that sometimes means they need to work out how to do their chosen test, they can't just use the class notes.

This means my inbox is continually pinging with emails of the "I can't find out how to do Test in GCFS, it's not in the notes and I've googled and tried lots of links and I can't find anything!" kind. I try to reply in a positive, supportive, encouraging matter (out of principle, as well as because of the rapid approach of HappySheet day). But sometimes, when the first thing I find on googling the phrase "Test in GCFS" is a step by step walk through of the method, that's really hard.

I honestly don't think that it's always because they didn't try, sure some of the students are lazy little so-and-sos but many of them are hard working and earnest and were always good kids in school and bring an endearing straightforward honesty into university with them (in my student population, I get relatively few "but I worked on it for days!" comments when work gets a poor mark for being rushed, an "well I only started last night, of course it's rushed!" response is more normal). It's just… I don't know, if there isn't an app for it, they can't do it? If putting half of the word, misspelt, into google doesn't work, they don't have any idea what to do next?

Digital Natives my arse, as my northerly neighbours would say, more like Digital Numptys. Digital Tourists is perhaps kinder, but today, Numpty is the word!

-- Grumpy Academic