Friday, September 30, 2016

Friday Thirsty on Christian Colleges. (I Know This Should Be a Sunday Thirsty, What With the Spiritual Angle and All.)

Six years finished with my doctorate, I have struggled badly to find work. Three of those years I've taught part-time at four different institutions, one more than 60 miles away from my home. The other years I've done a variety of jobs similar to the ones I held in high school.

Now two jobs have popped up on my radar exactly in my field - one seems to have been written right for my stupidly narrow disciplines.

And both schools have lengthy disclaimers about being Christian colleges.

I'm not anything, really. And it's not some super-confrontational thing either. I guess I'd be most likely termed an agnostic. If there were more information available, I could believe just about anything. It seems impossible for any of us to know.

I grew up in a Christian home. I count mostly Jews among my closest friends, or others like me.

I want a job. I really want a job. I want at least a CHANCE of a job.

Are Christian colleges really adamant about this thing? I'm a good person. I'm not going to teach the students anything in my field that would make them doubt their own beliefs. (It's not really a field where any of that ever comes up, actually.)

Q: Do I apply? Do I fudge the truth? Do I ask about it pre-interview (if I'm lucky). Do I get the job and then tell them. Do I get the job and go to a Lutheran church once a week to fake it?

The next time you need one more item for a pot-pourri...

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Rant of the Semester from TubaPlayingProf.

To this day, one of the
finest and most subtle
graphics Cal ever made.
He must have been "not drunk."
In strong support of her application for recontracting, I wrote a clear, concise but lenghty paragraph about the incredible achievements of a junior colleague we are fortunate to have teaching for us - a paragraph explaining clearly the significant contributions of her work. And the provost emails, “What’s the impact factor and acceptance rate of these journals?”

Using “impact factor” to “evaluate” publications is hurting younger faculty, especially working in emerging fields who are publishing in the IDEAL journals for their research. Important, groundbreaking, peer-reviewed essays that introduce the world to new ideas, approaches, subject matter, etc. are being questioned and at times “disallowed” for “low impact factor” of the journals

Does Dr. Dumbass even know what an impact factor is? And isn’t that about the journal, not the individual essays? What the fork has he produced? In a single year, my junior colleague has matched his entire production for the last ten years. But to be fair, one finds it difficult to have much time for anything other than capriciously judging and dismissing the work of underlings.

One journal in particular will not send out essays to its reviewers until AFTER the editorial board decides whether the essay is worthwhile, appropriate for its readers, interesting. So its acceptance rate is high. Yet the best venue for my colleague’s work is “not very tough to get into.”

We already reduce student evaluations down to numbers. (Freaking SIRs!) But now publications?

Does Dr. Dumbass not see the name of the school on the sign that cost several thousand dollars near the reserved parking spot he enjoys? To have such a promising scholar here - and he wants to know this?

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

"There goes the neighborhood..." From an Unknown Sender.

Darn. I had a really nice afternoon section of Gen chem, and then this happened:

Of course I can "catch you up to speed." You missed literally 5 hrs and 40 minutes worth of recitations (used your drops and got yourself a pair of undroppable goose-eggs), but I can certainly give you a 2 second version. It's only going to take 2 seconds. I have no idea why the other 742 suckers taking this course wasted the extra 5 hours 39 minutes and 58 seconds. Here you go :


I look forward to hearing your version of our meeting through the chairman's door (yay neighbors). It'll be cool when you're able to find her office in the next 8 minutes even though you couldn't find it for the last 4 weeks so you could discuss the "weird course that had a time but no room number" that was on your schedule. The schedule you took a picture of and  saved in photoshop. Good thing you thought to do that, by the way, since all of a sudden today you randomly rechecked your schedule for no particular reason and suddenly noticed there was a room. I'm sure they JUST added that.

I'm sure the fact that exam 1 was last night is just another weird coincidence.

10 Years Ago Today on RYS.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Freshmen, My God, The Freshmen - What Are We Going to Do About the Freshmen

I never wanted to be the one who turned his back on freshmen. As a junior faculty member, I always hated those older colleagues who ran from freshmen courses and spent their dwindling and precious time with upper level students and graduates. I always swore that would not be me.

And in the early days, of course, I had no problem keeping my vow. I had to teach a certain amount of first year courses, and so I found ways to do it, found ways to meet the challenge of what was basically a room full of high school students. I told myself I loved their freshness, their energy.

But now I find myself at mid-career (or so), and when my Dean sent around the Spring class schedule, I put a clean stroke through my name next to our department's intro level course, and replaced it with a senior-only course.

The freshmen. I can't do it another day. I can't tell them to shush, to bring their notebooks to class, to please quit bothering Kayla. To please put on something other than pajama pants and beach shoes. I can't take another one asking if we could have class outside, or "Can I use the bathroom?" (I don't know. can you?)

I don't want to teach "college" anymore to them. I don't want to explain where the cafeteria is or where the library is. I don't want to hold their hands. I don't want them to tell me their dad might be giving me a call.

I just want the freshmen to go away.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Emails I Wish I Could Send: Academic Integrity Office Edition

Dear Staffer at Academic Integrity Office,

I hope you felt at least the teensiest little twinge of embarrassment when I replied to your request that I highlight the relevant plagiarized passages in a student's homework response because you quote, "couldn't see the plagiarism," by sending you back the entire original document highlighted with the two paragraphs from the Gradesaver article which I helpfully included in my original report fully highlighted right beneath them.

Literally googling any 4 consecutive words from the student's original response should have easily confirmed that they copy and pasted 2 paragraphs into a Word doc, verbatim, and stuck hir name at the top, if actually skimming the article I included proved too difficult. Perhaps the Office of Academic Integrity isn't used to handling such thorny issues as 'The student copied and pasted two full paragraphs from the link I included in my report into the homework document I included in my report,' and the fault lies with me. But then again, comparing those two things might have taken you an extra few seconds, so I'm glad my additional involvement was required to help clear up that mystery.

As an adjunct, I already lose money every time I spend an unpaid hour or two preparing an Academic Integrity report (which, for reasons some Associate Vice Assistant Dean somewhere must have once found compelling, combines every possible Academic, Personal Conduct, Mental Health, and Campus Crime report into a single online form. 'Check this box to report if a student has plagiarized. Check this box to report if a student has expressed depressive or suicidal thoughts. Check this box to report if a student has assaulted you. Check this box to report if a student speaks to invisible demons in class.' Must be a real timesaver whenever a student decides to play for bingo!). But one thing I've always prided myself on is being a real stickler for upholding the standards of Academic Integrity and coming down hard on cheaters, even when it makes my life harder or threatens to drop my numbers on the Student Evals. Thank you for doing your best to make sure that maintaining that rigor remains juuust inconvenient enough to make me question precisely how dedicated I should remain the next time I bust a less egregious plagiarist than this doofus.

Hugs and Kisses,
Doc Slash

Monday, September 26, 2016

9 Years Ago. RYS Flashback.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

We Love It When "I'm Sorry" Really Just Means, "You're Fucked."

To the students who thought it not important to show up for the mandatory conferences where I give out free advice on how to revise your horrid, horrid drafts.

I know, I know. It's my fault, right? You couldn't find the office. You thought you were signed up for a different time. I have to ask your forgiveness. I only discussed these conferences at the beginning and the end of class for the last three periods. I only passed around the sign-up sheet three times and reminded you to write down your time. And I've only told you where my office is five times, in addition to its location being clearly printed on the syllabus.

But you lost the syllabus, right? Far be it for me to mention that my office is also listed online. You know that "Internet" thing that you all are so obsessed with? This is one time that it could have been useful! But I probably should have shown you exactly how to find me online, right? And who am I to expect you to listen in class? You're trying to sleep/talk/leave!

I know this because one student who did come to conferences (two hours late) told me that he really didn't know what I expected from the papers because he's "just trying to stay awake" during the 2:00 pm class. It must be rough.

Well, all I can say is, I am truly sorry. And when you get your un-conferenced final drafts back, I guess I'll be sorry then too. But probably not as sorry as you will be. I guess I'll be hearing from you all a lot more after that.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Thursday, September 22, 2016

This Week's Big Thirsty.

Q: What Myth or "False" Belief About Proffies Is Actually True?

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Pam the Parent Is Perplexed.

My husband is an adjunct math instructor and he told me about this site a couple of years ago. Our oldest daughter is a freshman in college and we've waited forever for this semester. We're very proud of her, we want her to do well.

But I also have warned her about her work habits, which were not the best in highschool. I told her many times that procrastination and laziness would be rebuked in college, and I was banking on that!

She's living at home this first semester so I got to see her work on her first essay for English Composition. She didn't work very hard and only did one draft that I saw. She asked me to read it and I told her of a number of small things I noticed like misspellings and missing commas. I know she didn't spend much time revising it, and truthfully I thought it was a little boring.

I love my kid, okay moms don't get mad at me. But I am realistic. I hoped she would get a middling score on her first essay so that she'd take it a little more seriously. So far all she ever talks about is how cute the boys are and how far away the parking lots are and about how they have falafel in the cafeteria.

Yesterday she came home with her first college essay. It was marked 100/100, and the teacher had written "Excellent and creative" on it.

Well, my mom brain said, "Yay," but then my PARENT brain read the paper. I saw the same errors I saw before. It wasn't excellent. It wasn't worth 100 points out of 100 points! It had errors in it. Attached to it was the essay assignment which said the essays had to exceed 750 words. This was about half of that!

She's over the moon about the 100%. And I as her mom am not.

Can anyone here who teaches English help me understand what's happened?

- Pam the Parent

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Unions for Adjuncts. From Albert the Adjunct.

 I want to tell my story in order to raise consciousness of what is going on in higher education today with respect to adjunct professors.

I am a successful mathematician working outside of academia. In 2015, a local college hired me to teach a course in mathematical modeling for upperclassmen as an adjunct professor. The chairperson who hired me gave me about month to prepare the course, which I designed myself. (Before the chairperson had hired me, I had raised concerns that a month would be too short a period of time to prepare, given my other obligations, but that I’d try anyway.)

The course naturally didn’t go perfectly, but it was successful. The students all passed with a majority of A’s. I didn’t give them their grades as gifts, and I didn’t curve the tests - they had earned their grades. At the end of the course, the chairperson thanked me and said I would be considered for teaching other courses at the college. I was pleased.

A few days later came student evaluations. And my students ripped me apart. I was shocked; during the semester, no students had raised any concerns about my class to me. I emailed my chairperson a few times to see what had happened. But there was no response.

Recently as of the fall of 2016, I found out that my email account at that college had been deleted and my name was taken off the department webpage, so I have been effectively fired from my teaching position at that college. When I started out teaching there, I was very excited – they had promised me that my children would get free tuition if I would stay on as an adjunct. Now, I’m quite upset about how I was treated. If I truly did my students wrong, then I was never given any chance to defend myself.

From this experience, I understand why teachers need unions. And I believe that adjunct professors need unions too to protect themselves against treatment like this.

Early Thirsty: What is Happening in High School English Classes?

I'm Normal Ned from Naples and I'm a second year t-t English proffie from, really, Florida.

I did my grad school time in the north east, and taught freshman writing to pretty good students. But now in a public uni for the first time, I'm overwhelmed that my students don't have the smallest idea of sentence fragments, comma splices, fused sentences, and on and on and on.

My course description specifically says we are not a developmental class, but that's what 90% of my students need.

My students, even the better ones, spew out unorganized word salads, sometimes not even in paragraphs. I get 300 word paragraphs with either 60 sentences, all fragments, or 4 sentences, all stream of consciousness drivel.

Q: Does anyone know what happens in high school English classes anymore?

Sunday, September 18, 2016

We all have secret stashes of Magic Teaching Dust and if we just agree to use it, everyone will graduate and get the top jobs and everything will be fine

So I just stumbled across yet another well-meaning (let's assume) article full of suggestions for "improving" college education in order to magically increase graduation rates.  Here's what the fresh thinkers at third way tell us we need:

Better Teaching & Supports: Every school with a graduation rate of less than 67% should develop and implement a plan to increase student completion, including improving classroom teaching by professors and adjuncts .

That's right, "improve" classroom teaching. Never mind how, exactly. Do we have to tell you everything? What's that, up to 87% of the variance in graduation rates is explained by the student, not the institution? Pfft. Show your fancy numbers to someone who cares.

Pell Floor: High-performing schools should be encouraged and incentivized to accept and educate far more low-income students.

Because accepting more low-income students will do wonders for graduation rates. That explains why top-tier universities insist on enrolling so many of them!

Open Data: We must end the opacity of college-specific outcomes data to help students, parents, and policymakers discern whether schools are succeeding or failing.

But not the kind of data that show that graduation rates can be reliably predicted by student characteristics.  Or the kind that show that where someone went to school explains only around 5 percent of the variation in their earnings  (p. 49). 

This article is from 2016. As is this one, damning nonselective public universities as "dropout factories" and demanding to know why, say, Alabama State University (average ACT 18) doesn't have the same graduation rate as UCSC (average ACT 27).  (Hey, guess what: No school with Alabama State's student academic profile has a 6 year graduation rate higher than 48%.)

I don't have some jar of Magical Teaching Dust hidden away, to be deployed only after I have been sufficiently hectored by fresh-thinking disruptopreneurs. I am already, believe it or not, doing my best. 
Here's an idea: How about disrupting poverty

RYS Flashback: 7 Years Ago Today, For Those Folks On the Job Market.

Lex From Lakeland Doesn't Want to Know More About Your Shitty College Than You Want to Know About Him!

There's no fuzziness at all.
What is Cal smoking?
Is everyone out of their ever-loving minds? Are these people seriously expecting job candidates--most of whom are finishing dissertations, teaching 2 or more classes, trying to publish articles, in addition to living their lives--to conduct in-depth research on 20, 30, 40, or more schools before they even write their application materials? You're getting 200 applications, from which you'll interview, what, 10 people, and yet with those odds you believe that investing untold hours of research into hiring departments represents a wise use of the applicants' time?

Can you honestly say that your department's website accurately reflects the culture of your department and your institution? That its list of faculty and courses is up to date? How many times have I seen application letters that go on and on about how wonderful it would be to be the colleague of a professor who died in the last year (or left--hence the job opening) or about how it's always been their dream to teach a course we no longer offer or that is the sole property of one professor, who frankly is not interested in hiring his own competition for said course. Our department website makes us look like something we're not, and anyone who applies to us with a letter about how much they embrace interdisciplinary cooperation or want a close, collegial faculty, or want to be part of a highly visible research university--all things they might glean from what we say about ourselves online--will be terribly disappointed to find that none of these things are to be found here. Tailoring a letter to that online profile is the surest way to get your application put into the "no" pile, because the search committee knows you'll be desperately unhappy with the job.

Here's an idea: I'll agree to research your institution and tailor my letter to your online self-representation if you agree to give my letter and CV more than 3 minutes' perusal, agree not to discard my application because you find one typo, or because you don't like my dissertation topic, or because my pedigree (i.e. letterhead) isn't impressive enough. Do you promise me that you're running a legitimate search and not just putting up a screen so you can hire your inside candidate? Do you promise you won't discard my application because I'm white and male and your department is under pressure to "diversify"? Do you promise you won't end the search because funding for the line runs out? You understand I'll need some assurances before I invest so much time and energy in tailoring my application to suit your Highness's requirements.

I'll research your institution fully if you'll research me: read every word I've published, look over every syllabus I've constructed, read my teaching evaluations, writing sample, and letters of recommendation from start to finish. Look at the website I've put together, talk to folks who have heard my papers at conferences. What's that you say? You don't have time for all that? Well, neither do I have the time to flatter your ego, kiss your ass, and make you think that you are the world's bestest department and the center of my existence.

Cover letters are generic. Get over it. This isn't a romance novel, full of protestations of adoration and suitability. It is a job search: the candidate tells the committee about him/herself and the committee decides if that profile fits what they're looking for. Half the time committees don't even know what they want until the applications come streaming in, so don't expect job candidates a thousand miles away to read your minds. Anyone who crafts the perfectly tailored letter based on hours of research into your department and hitting absolutely every one of your criteria is probably someone you don't want to hire: s/he either has entirely too much free time (is not doing the work s/he should be doing) or is an eager-beaver stalker (see the film Election. You want Tracy to be your colleague?).

Saturday, September 17, 2016

bad september haiku with a nod to the site itself...

with hurricane force,
the semester blew in and
flooded the end of

summer, ending my
idyll and forcing a search
for my big rubber

boots. oh, the bigger
the storm, the deeper the muck,
thick with nuance and

new regulations.
i miss the days of carbon
copies, paper trails

trailing purple ink
and fingerprints.  i miss chalk,
a little, too. i

fear i pine too much
for the concrete, nostalgic
for the tangible,

the impossibly
slower past that demanded
no more of me than

my teaching required.
it was enough, that process
of tutelage with

no thought of being
lacking.  now, the management
tells us that we are

counselors, we are
enrollment specialists, we
impact recruitment –

academic crew
shift leaders, paper mongers
in kiosks instead

of classrooms.  in my
decades of teaching, i – all
of us – have become

what many of us went
to college to avoid: cogs,
customer service

reps, civil servants
in the worst sense, valued for
the talking points of

talky recruitment
materials, purveyors
of a bottom line

that bottoms out with
no thought to education.
we are now the sole

focus of soulless
bureaucratic rhetoric
that theorizes

that we don't do our
part for this great machine by
merely doing our

jobs, as though our work
itself – the very stuff of
our academic

dreams – by the hour drains
the company coffers. two
weeks of meetings and

i am done, weakened
and resigned to a life of
college misery.

the misers in their
busywork silos plant seeds
that can never grow,

so far have they grown
themselves away from the real
work of our very

real business: our
obligation to provide
access to power.

two weeks of meetings.
that's all it took for me to
realize this new

reality.  it's
september, a favorite
month, summer waning,

the light changing, some
warmth remaining before the
darkness of winter

storms in.  it's darker
now than i thought it could be,
the brightness fading

into a faded,
distant history, the way
we used to teach and

think and breathe and learn
and grow, before the silos
filled with rancid grain

filled these new landscapes.
i grab my boots, another
garden weekend as

the summer departs,
eager to touch the real soil
into which i may

still plant something that
has a chance to grow, maybe
even thrive.  the ground

is soft with recent
rains, and my hands are as keen
as my brain to find

the fertility
once promised to both.

- Great Lakes Greta

Here is the Totality of CM's Election Coverage for the Year.

8 Years Ago Today.

Car Wreck Pedagogy.

Two days ago I got a panicked call from the husband of one of my colleagues. My colleague had been side-swiped by another car on her way home from school. The car was nearly totaled, but luckily my colleague only suffered minor injuries, bruised ribs, and a strained shoulder. But she needed me to cover her classes the next day.

I went to her classroom, saw the usual muddle of drooling and blank freshmen and went to the front.

"Are you a sub?" one guy shouted out.

"Yeah, are you like a part-timer? We don't have to listen to part-timers." Then he laughed.

"Your teacher, Dr. CarWreckLady, had a bad accident yesterday," I started.

"Yeah!" two kids in the back shouted, and then - unthinkably - did a high five.

"She got hurt in the accident," I said, just absolutely stunned at the now-smiling faces. "She won't be here today."

One girl up front said, "Is she okay?" but most of the rest were packing their books up and getting ready to leave.

"Yes, she'll be fine in a few days, but - WHERE ARE YOU GOING?"

One student with his backpack already on said, "Well if she's not here, why do we have to be here?"

"Yeah," another one said. "I got up early for class, and if she's not coming to class why should I?"

I rubbed my eyes as if I were sleeping and having some sort of nightmare.

"Sit down," I said, in what I'd call my "outside" voice. They were starting to get it, I think.

Once they had quieted down I started my colleague's lesson, and over the course of the hour they looked a bit more sheepish - at least I hope.

At the end of class I said, "I may be here on Thursday, too, and I'll be taking attendance and doing Dr. CarWreckLady's normal schedule."

They slowly left class, and more than a few stopped by my desk to tell me they were sorry and that they hoped their prof was going to feel better soon.

"Could I send her an email, you think?" one student said.

"Yes," I said. "That'd be nice."

Friday, September 16, 2016

University Title Generator, posted by (but not programmed by) Froderick Frankenstien from Fresno

All university administrators with titles that are six or more words long should be subject to a comprehensive review. It's easy to see what a "Professor of Physics" does, since that's only three words. Does anyone know what an "Associate Assistant Executive for Investor Technology" does? Does even the Associate Assistant Executive for Investor Technology know?

For even more such rubbish, see here:

- Froderick Frankenstien from Fresno

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Whoops! I See No Big Thirsty Today. How About If I Slip One In At the Deadline?

Picking up on a recent linked article about roommates...

Q: Do you have any contact with a college roommate? Is it weird?

least used BT graphic ever

PS: That's all I've got. I have one roommate who died shortly after college, and one who I see once a year because his family is from the same hometown as me, which was 2000 miles away from where we went to college. There's nothing interesting to add about that relationship. I should turn the TV on. Oh, this is Terry P.

Today's VidShizzle, a Real One, Not Crap Like Usual.

from HuffPo

Some professors go over the syllabus during the first classes of the school year. Loyola University Maryland’s John McIntyre has a more unconventional approach.

The professor deadpans in the video below what he describes as a “trigger warning” for new students on the first day of his copy editing class at the university’s Department of Communication.

“This is going to be a difficult class,” he says. “And part of what is going to be difficult in this class is that if you are like the 700 or so students who have preceded you here, you are wobbly in English grammar and usage.”

VidShizzle Link

Of all the unhinged open letters to soon-to-be college roommates that have appeared in Seventeen magazine, this is my favorite. (From ELS.)

Hi Roomies!
Flava? A blurb cannot do it justice. Oh well, so as not to upset convention, how about, "So as a final reminder: I am getting the top bunk of the bunk bed with the bed on the bottom."

The Whole Thing.

An Update.

Librarian Dies; Donates 4 Million Dollar Estate to University; $100,000 of it spent on Library

*Sigh* le article

- Annie "Disappointed But Not Surprised" From Abelard

Parallel World...

Saw this fun piece on the other day.

As humiliating as it is to have my confessions mocked on, I can at least say I’ve repented for sinning and that my conscience is clear of guilt. I cannot say the same for Father Kevin.


Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Meek Michelle Hands Me This Today... (WITH A GLORIOUS UPDATE FROM CHILTEPIN!)

...and says, "My mother wants to know if this list is in your curriculum."

According to Kathy Livingston's Guide to Writing a Basic Essay, there are seven steps to writing a successful essay:
  • Pick a topic. ...
  • Prepare an outline or diagram of your ideas. ...
  • Write your thesis statement. ...
  • Write the body. ...
  • Write the introduction. ...
  • Write the conclusion. ...
  • Add the finishing touches
- from unknown sender


In response to Meek Michelle's Mom's steps to writing an essay listed above, I thought I'd write my own list.

1. Pick a topic.
2. Write a page.
3. Realize the topic won't work. Pick a new topic.
4. Write a paragraph.
5. Go back and do the reading you skipped.
6. Throw out the paragraph.
7. Write a new paragraph.
8. Do more reading.
9. Modify that paragraph, write another one.
10. Panic and weep and drink.
11. Write a page.
12. Throw away earlier paragraph.
13. Write another page, and another.
14. Finish the essay.
15. Go back over it, throwing out half of it.
16, Rewrite the half you kept.
17. Throw away the other half of it.
18. Add a page on that thing you forgot but just read about.
19. Realize that would make a much more interesting topic.
20. Pick a new topic.
21. Start over.
22. Get a graduate degree and make this your whole fucking life.

--Prof Chiltepin

Oh the Schumanity...How Long Have I Waited To Use That.

In 2015 the wonderful Academic Monkey linked to a Rebecca Schuman article as part of her "unsolicited advice" series. When another academic made Schuman aware of this, this tweet appeared:

Listen, that's fine. There are a lot of people on this site who love Schuman's work. Ben and Cassandra and I have all said glowing things.

She tweeted today and commented on our blog that she had never emailed any mod something similar to her tweet, and I cannot produce evidence she has because I'm notoriously clean with the shared mod mailbox - for privacy concerns, obviously.

If I misunderstood things Schuman has written about the blog, I'm happy to be wrong.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Phrases you do not want to see on a syllabus. From MAaM!

You may have seen the joke about putting things like "and I am not afraid to go back to prison!" on your syllabus.  What other phrases do you not want to see on a syllabus?  A few suggestions….

1. The Aristocrats!

2. Remember, it is required that you bring a condom or diaphragm to every meeting with the professor.

3. Finally, by taking this class you agree that you have sold your soul to Satan for all eternity.

4. Survivors of the lab section will receive an extra 10 points towards their final grade.

5. Required Books: Necronomicon Ex-Mortis

6. All students must bring proof of American citizenship to the first class, unless you're white.

7. Students must agree not to reveal lecture contents to law enforcement authorities.

8. Please remember not to get too emotionally attached to your lab partner.


10. Please list your next of kin in the order they are to be contacted.

11. Any student agreeing to be the professor's friend will get an A.

12. Everyone has somebody that they want to put out of the way. Oh now surely, you're not going to tell me that there hasn't been a time that you didn't want to dispose of someone. Your parents, for instance?

13. Required monthly one on one meetings with the professor will be held in the gym shower room.

14. Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea commodo consequat. Duis aute irure dolor in reprehenderit in voluptate velit esse cillum dolore eu fugiat nulla pariatur. Excepteur sint occaecat cupidatat non proident, sunt in culpa qui officia deserunt mollit anim id est laborum.

15. The final exam may continue questions taken from the following material: the textbook, lectures, online readings, and what the voices in my head tell me to ask.

16. Please ignore the man with the tranquilizer gun sitting in the back. The TA has "issues" and the man is there for your protection.

17. I have found that the Roman policy of decimation really improves class participation, therefore…

18. Your thesis defense is based on one simple rule, two students enter, one student leaves.

19. While most English composition classes do not have loose tarantulas wandering the classroom, the professor feels….

20. You know what I think? I think that we're all in our private traps, clamped in them, and none of us can ever get out. We scratch and we claw, but only at the air, only at each other, and for all of it, we never budge an inch.

(bonus points if you ID the five movies I quoted/borrowed from)

- Middle-Aged and Morose

Job List Misery -- and happy endings to leaving academia

So glad to be able to bring
out this old blurry graphic,
one of my favorites, and made,
of course, by the egomaniac Cal.
As an addendum to Alice's heartfelt, all-too-representative-of-the-view-from-the-trenches post yesterday, I thought I'd point out that the first MLA job listing (known as the JIL -- that's Job Information List, I believe) of the academic year is out, a fact of which I'm aware only because Rebecca Schuman has posted an analysis of the inaugural selection of JIL listings in German and "allied fields" (loosely -- in some cases very loosely -- construed). 

It's a small sample, of course, and the analysis features Schuman's signature hyperbole (which I enjoy).   Even taking the hyperbole into account, I continue to think she overestimates the advantages of an Ivy-League Ph.D. (or maybe underestimates the amount of "waste product" some Ivy programs produce -- though hey, some of us are doing useful stuff, even if it's a long way from what our professors/mentors/foundation funders imagined. Also, Schuman does admit that those of us who fall in the "non-suckup-super-eminence's-pet" category -- which might well be the majority of Ivy-League Ph.D.s -- might have more trouble.

Personally, I think a top-ranked-in-your-field public Ivy/flagship state u is the best place to go for maximum versatility on the job market, but (a) I, perhaps in company with Schuman, might well be doing the grass-is-greener thing, and (b) I really, really don't recommend getting a Ph.D. from any program, at least not with the intention of becoming a tenure-track college professor, right now. It's just not a reasonable gamble, at least not unless you're independently wealthy and would be genuinely happy to end up as some combination of adjunct and/or independent scholar, depending on whether it's the teaching, the research, or both that most floats your boat.  I don't know what that non-recommendation means for the future of the profession, but planning for the future of the profession falls outside the assigned duties of a full-time non-TT  professor -- even one whose title acknowledges that she is not just visiting her institution -- so I'm calling it like I see it, even though I do worry about the future). 

In any case, there's some good stuff in Schuman's post.  The Albion and Williams listings seem especially relevant to the current discussion, and her  analysis of those strikes me as spot-on (and in keeping with some of the observations in Alice's post and the comment thread that followed -- especially Cal's observation of trends even at decently-funded, teaching-oriented schools).  Schuman's advice not to move for the Albion job sounds absolutely right to me.  Even moving for one-year jobs strikes me as something to do only if you've got a clear sense of what you'll do next if by the time that job ends you don't have another one lined up (because that's a very likely scenario). 

Schuman is also a good example of a Ph.D. who sounds a lot happier now that she's transitioning to a non-academic career.  I don't think she'd mind my pointing out, however, that she lives in a household with one reasonably-reliable (academic) income (a husband with a TT job).  Figuring out the transition, and how to support ourselves in the interim, is a lot harder, as Alice's post makes clear, for those of us who are single (or for couples made up of two underemployed Ph.D.s). 


STUNNING! In the "Breaking News" Vein.

According to the survey, the average full-time college student spends only 2.76 hours a day on education-related activities. This includes both class time and studying. Meanwhile, the average student spends 4.4 hours per day in leisure activities, not including shopping, grooming, personal care, housework, cooking, or eating.


Monday, September 12, 2016

Today's Student. From Hazel in Hamburgertown.

It rains where I live and teach. It's not a big surprise from April to October. Clouds form in the sky, where many people who aren't looking at their phones can often see them. They get dark. Water falls down.

Adults and other humans know of umbrellas. You see them. I've seen them. I've seen some students carry them because there's always a decent chance it will rain.

I can see one end of my campus from the other end, well, if I'm on the second floor of a building. It's 3500 students. We have residence halls located NEARLY in the middle of campus.

Today it started raining around 8 am, which is a little early.

At my 10 am class I had 12 of 30 students arrive, all perplexed, dripping, stunned, really. Their looks of incredulity were precious and a little funny. They shook themselves like dogs and complained about the nuisance.

The other 18 students? Well, 4 came in late and 4 came in REALLY late.

The other 10? They stayed home. They stayed in their dorms.

One wrote to me, "It doesn't like like its every gonna stop raining."

Others wrote, too, but with fewer errors, but the message was clear. It's raining. There's no way to get to class.

No flooding. It was showers. No puddling. There are concreted paths from every building to every other building. There are overhangs over all the buildings. You could, without an umbrella, scamper up one side or the other of campus under building overhangs about 50% of the time.

Spankings. This is all I'm thinking about. I don't believe any of these children got enough spankings.

- Hazel

Yesterday Being an Adjunct Got Real. From Alice the Adjunct.

I had a wonderful day with 2 high school friends who came to my tiny apartment to see me from our shared hometown about 6 hours away. It was like no time had passed. We laughed about boys (two of us are single still), our old teachers, told tales of parents, reminisced, and looked at 1 million pictures of babies and pets.

And then at night we were in my apartment eating pizza in pajamas and talking about our careers.

Jane got a business degree and went to work in a small factory as an office manager right after college. Tricia got a degree in English, married her high school sweetheart, and runs part of the town's library.

I, of course, as you know from my name am an adjunct instructor.

They envied me. No, seriously. They told me how much they admired me when I went to grad school and how proud they were when I became a professor. The pizza turned in my stomach a bit. Then I fell apart.

I told them that this semester I'd only been able to secure 3 classes at the community college where I work mostly. That's $8100 a semester, no benefits. No office. A mailbox in the department office and a debit card I can use to print and make copies. If you count my HAUL from Spring semester I will make $20,000 this year before taxes.

They looked at me and I wept, and all the frustration I have felt about this career washed over me and overwhelmed me.

Jane couldn't stop herself from saying, "I make $45,000 and I barely graduated. I only work 30 hours a week most weeks." Tricia said, "I'm at the library half time. I make $36,000 with all the benefits and a retirement plan."

Then they both said, "How do you do it?"

And I just felt so sick. I always thought being a "professor" was everything. It was my dream job, and I worked hard to get there. Even now, with my three classes this term, I work 40 hours a week. These first few weeks of this semester have been especially trying with under-prepared students, unwelcome overloads in all three sections, and hours and hours of prep and grading for a new book I was assigned.

So what did I go to grad school for?

I used to love to research and write, but the teaching and the worry and the coupon clipping has sapped me of my strength. The girls stayed overnight and we went to breakfast together, both of them fighting to pay! I felt like the loser, like the fool who took the wrong path. They have always been my friends and that they know this about me, that they discovered the truth about MANY academic careers, embarrassed me. We'll always be friends, and in fact we made hard plans for some fun this Christmas when I often go back home and just collapse in my brother's house with him and his family.

I know my story is not the only academic path. I have grad school friends who did better than I did, who teach better full time schedules, have time to write, and live much easier lives. But I know a lot of adjuncts, having worked at 4 colleges in the area. There are a LOT of us, and as everyone knows, THIS is the way the profession - especially in some disciplines - has been going now for many years.

Why all the hard preparation? Why all the years of grad school misery? Why do so many of us do it when the result is the sorrow I felt yesterday when it all came crashing down on me?

- Alice

End of Domain

The domain goes offline today, so if you've bookmarked that and use it for returning to us, I'd ask you use instead.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

Why I May Not Always Live in Wisconsin - From Wisconsin Will.

Wisconsin senator Ron Johnson: "We've got the internet—you have so much information available. Why do you have to keep paying different lecturers to teach the same course? You get one solid lecturer and put it up online and have everybody available to that knowledge for a whole lot cheaper? But that doesn't play very well to tenured professors in the higher education cartel. So again, we need destructive technology for our higher education system."

More misery.

Friday, September 9, 2016


A reader noted that the 2 most recent comics were created using portions of blank strips created by the cartoonists who do "Penny Arcade." These artists have made their blanks available to ESL and EFL teachers in the past, and they've been used as language lessons in several states as recently as last year.

A longtime reader named Isaac sent them in and told me about their provenance. I did not do any checking, however, and in response to the reader who contacted me I've taken them down.

I don't know anything about the "Alladin Sane" comics from the previous days. They came in from Reg W., but to be on the safe side I've deleted them as well.


Trustee Misery With Annie From Abelard

I attended a trustee meeting because that seems like something I should start doing now. Holy shit, best decision I ever made.

It is an interview of an archaeological contractor and the board of trustees. I will label the trustees as 1-5 and the contractor as "Contractor." Most of the hour is really dry and horrible, but there are some fantastic nuggets that I separated out.


1: We're not here to discuss WHY there are bones beneath- beneath this building and the surrounding developed area.

Contractor: Well, that's not much of a discussion. They're there because you guys built on top of a graveyard.

2: It was a common practice then.

Contractor: The building was built in the seventies.

3: I'm fairly certain it was... it was commonplace. That was a long time ago.

5: Yeah, like fifty or sixty years ago, at least.

4: Might wanna check your math there, sweetheart.


Contractor: Well, actually it was a very upper-class cemetery that you guys developed. But the church it used to be attached to was defunct and most of those buried there had no remaining descendants. Those that did, your university did dig up. That is, disinter.

4: It was a cemetery for the upper-class?

Contractor: Yes.

4: So these deceased would have very much WANTED to be buried there.

Contractor: I suppose.

4: Would you say that the deceased were... thankful or, well, grateful to be buried there?

1: Alright, alright.


3: So, bottom line is-is that we're tired of bones floating up all the time. It's not good. Nobody likes bones.

Contractor: Well, I like bones.

4: I sense a company motto.


2: Can you maybe quantify for me how certain you are you've found all the bones?

Contractor: Two thirds...ish.


5: That's not a lot.

2: I mean, that's pretty good.

3: If you take those odds and bet on them towards infinity you'd be very wealthy.

1: What? If you took 51% odds and bet on them you'd be wealthy towards infinity. That means nothing.

5: If you're buying a car and it says that two thirds of crashes do not cause the engine to explode, would you buy it?

4: Question: Who is the car for?

1: Oh, Jesus Christ. 


4: So, you've worked for us three times and all three times you've said "Well, that's it! We've got all the bones!"

Contractor: Well, there are a lot of bones. It's a cemetery.

4: Just don't lie to us.

Contractor: Yeah.

4: Because there's always room.

Contractor: What?

4: Always room for more bones.


5: I mean we are basically paying you an exorbitant fee for something mafiosos do for free on a regular basis.


1: So if more bones float up after you leave, you won't come back and dig them up for free?

Contractor: Well that's something we can talk about. But if it's extended work, yes, you'll have to pay for it.

4: Seems like pretty bare-bones service if you ask me.


Best of Trustee Number Four:

4: Please show some respect for this institution. People are dying to get in.

4: Would you say you're a... bone-a-fide archaeologist?

4: Throw me a bone here, guys.

4: Were you really digging for bones? Because it sounds like you're a gold-digger to me.

4: If we find out that this wasn't done right, we'll have a bone to pick with you.

4: Bones. Bones bones bones. BONES!

4: I'm serious. Dead serious. Why would even ask that? ... Bones.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

A Big Thirsty Game From Dr. Amelia!

So I was listening to the radio station that has traffic reports on my way into work this morning. They were playing a game where someone described things about their profession and people had to try to guess what they did for a living. I came up with some for proffies:
  1. My boss has very little knowledge about what I do on a day-to-day basis
  2. I'm a strong introvert, but my job involves a lot of public speaking
  3. I spend a lot of time writing things that very few people will ever read.
  4. Customer reviews have a lot to do with how I am evaluated.
  5. I work 9-14 hours per day, as well as weekends, but I mostly set my own schedule. My Mom thinks I only work 3 hours a day, though.
Q: What Descriptions Could You Come Up With?

Helpful Dean.

Because of a delay in getting access to a database for faculty, several people in my department were a day late with turning in "attendance verification" for this semester's class. All of my faculty have completed that task as of last night and then we get this email from the Dean:


I don't suppose YOU want to be responsible for students not receiving their financial aid."

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Sometimes No Means NOOOOOOO!

This past week, a student emailed me with a complaint about a grade he received in Spring 2015.

Apparently, he did not realize at that time, that a grade of "C-" would not allow him to take the next class in the sequence.  Now, he has attempted to take that next class, been denied because he did not receive a minimum grade of "C, " and decided to complain to both me and the Dean of Academics. 

I immediately wrote to him and told him that the deadline for contesting a grade had long passed, and that according to our written policy, not being able to register for the next class was not a reason a student could contest the grade anyway. (This student had actually written in his e-mail that while he knew he probably deserved the C-, he did not think such a grade should prevent him from registering for the next class.)  For the record, in our state, some colleges accept "C" and some accept "C-" as the barrier for registration into the next course.  My department faced intense scrutiny for demanding the grade of "C" rather than "C-."  And actually, at that time, I was in favor of "C-". (So sue me-----I just thought at the time that it would be better if we were in accordance with our cohorts throughout the state system…)  But here is the kicker, y'all:  in the end, my department succeeded in getting "C" as the standard for our college.  And I am the Department Chair.  I will die before I fail to uphold the written, fought for, and accepted standards we have all agreed upon (or at least accepted).

I wrote this student an unequivocal "NO" answer.  NO---your C- will not allow you to register for the next class.  SORRY you did not realize this, and contest your grade within the very reasonable time period stated in the student handbook.  The answer to your question is a simple NO!  You need to take this course again, and get a grade of "C" or higher.  Thank you and goodbye.

My Dean of Academics wrote him something different.  "Have the department chair check with your professor to see if the C- was a low C- or a high C-.  Perhaps we can change your grade, if it was a high C-, to a C, so you can take the next class."  When I protested, he insisted I meet with the student, contact the previous professor, and decide if the grade could be "tweaked." 

I'll tell you what.  I am fed up with this shit.  He can kiss my ass.  I did meet with the student, told him my academic dean was full of shit, and that a C- was a C-, and that was that.

The hopeful side of this equation is that this student was actually a sensible, intelligent person.  He himself thought the Dean's response was "strange" and that if what he said was okay, then grades as assigned had no real integrity.  I told this student that an alternative he had was to take a CLEP test  for the class in which he received a C-.  If he passed, he could then register for the next class.  The cost of a CLET test is much less than the cost of taking the course again.  The student was pleased to have an alternative that gave him the opportunity to see if he was actually qualified for the next class. 

And I am still quite upset at the absolute lack of integrity in our administration!  What a bunch of assholes we have, running the show!!

- Bella

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Bill Clinton's recent contributions(?) to higher ed.

I know who will get my vote for president this November.  She* shares many of my ideals (though she doesn't always live up to them as well as I'd like; then again, neither do I), she's competent, and I'm still hopeful that she'll be elected, and will do a good job. 

But I'm still finding this campaign depressing, in a number of ways.  And the way that's most relevant to this blog  (and which has actually been in the news for at least a few weeks, but just popped up again on the front page of the online Washington Post) is the amount of money Bill Clinton has made as an "Honorary Chancellor" at Laureate International Universities. According to the WP story, these were the duties for which he earned 17.6 million over 5 years**:

Angel Urena, a Clinton spokesman, said the former president "engaged with students at Laureate's campuses worldwide and advised Laureate's leadership on social responsibility and increasing access to higher education." Adam Smith, a Laureate spokesman, said Clinton "was paid to advise Laureate, inspire students and visit the campuses and communities they serve, and that's what he did, with great conviction and energy."

I'm not even sure what to say, or what to ask. The question of influence-peddling aside (and I guess it can't really be put aside, because once you've done that, what's left?), is there anything that can justify this kind of money for this kind of "engagement" and "advice"?  Setting aside what this says about the role of money in U.S. politics (and, once again, I realize that's probably the central question, but I'm trying to get to the issues appropriate to this blog, and the ones that are, honestly, hitting most close to home for me), what does this say about the U.S. system of higher education, and about Americans' view of the U.S. education system's role in the world?  Are we*** now engaged in peddling knockoffs of what once was (and to some extent still is) a great American-made "product" to the rest of the world?  Am I missing something that would make this revelation okay, or even slightly less dispiriting (please?) 

*No, not Stein, though I appreciate the need to make the distinction.  4 nationwide candidates:  2 male, 2 female, 1 of each gender from major/established parties, and 1 of each from smaller parties.  That sounds about right -- representative of the population, at least in one way --  and is one of the bright spots that periodically bring some cheer to an otherwise dreary political year.  

**And no, I'm not going to do the math to compare this amount with what I made over those 5 years, or my projected lifetime earnings, or the accumulated lifetime earnings of several generations of my generally well-educated, reasonably prosperous, immediate family, many of whom work(ed) in jobs that fall under the general headings of public service and/or education, but some of whom were in more lucrative, business-related fields.  Because that would be really, really depressing. 

***We as a nation, because we who read and comment on this blog -- including our members who work or have worked in the for-profit sector -- seem determined to keep producing the real thing, even at considerable personal cost. 


Flipping success and student workload

I used Screencast-OMatic back
in the goon old days, when it was
called BigWordsGoUpOnnaScreen.
I was trolling through the archive, as one does after a summer mostly away from the office, and stumbled on Cassandra's link to this article.

I agree with the author that "flipped classrooms" can work just as well or better for "non-elite" students. In addition, flipping my course has mostly solved my homework and student preparation problem.

I teach developmental writing entirely in a flipped format: the lectures are PowerPoints that I record myself lecturing on using Screencast-o-matic (yes, it is a terrible name, but it is free), I use supplemental videos, including large parts of Schoolhouse Rock from Youtube, and they are required to read the chapter(s) in the textbook, which are actually really well put together. Overall, I think that out of class my students are spending about 2-3 hours on preparation (mostly the writing I make them do) per class session. This is in a compressed 8 week semester, so it feels about right to me.

My first semester doing this was fairly crazy, but the students liked the videos, and while I often went over concepts in class as well, for the most part the in-class portion of class was working through examples and exercises.

Last semester, I started them on "Cornell Notes" which are actually more of a worksheet. They answer questions related to vocabulary, terminology, or concepts from the chapter. They MUST turn in these Cornell Notes to get participation points, and I tell them that they may use them on the final exam. 

This scaffolding actually helped a great deal. Students could not claim they did not know what a conjunctive adverb was: it was right there in their notes. The notes became working documents which scaffolded the in-class exercises. 

I've only had a few students who claimed not to have either technology or time to do the readings; in both cases, they did not stay in or pass the class. Students now come up with a plan on how to watch the videos and do the reading as their first assignment, and based on the notes I'm getting, the out of class preparation is largely happening.

In class time becomes for working in groups or one-on-one; it is very much student centered active learning. I have small classes, which helps, but often with students with learning difficulties, language issues, or a profound lack of previous education.

It is, in some ways, more work for me. I grade the Cornell Notes, and I had to record all the video lectures. But my pass rate has continued to go up, and they are better writers than when I started.

I don't lecture in class, and no one (including me) misses it. Has anyone else in the Misery tried flipping a course or single class? How's that working out for you?

-- Madame Librarian

Classroom Misery

Two classrooms that I met students in last week have somehow been given to other instructors. I wandered into an abnormally full classroom this morning at 8 AM, and was told by the new instructor that their class started a week late and that as a tenured professor he had the right to the classroom. At 11 AM the same thing happened, but with another new person like me, but from another department. I stood in the hallway each time with my class gathering, and after a time, and after we had scoured the hallways for another room, I dismissed them.

 I have emailed the department coordinator, and made a journey to their distant office, but nobody was in. This is not anything earthshaking, but I wonder who in the hell is running this place.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Jonny West Coast Says Hello.

"Sell your crazy somewhere else!"
I have a longtime involvement with my university's paper. I've taught classes in the major, been an advisor. I wrote a column for a while, and I've been an advisor off and on. I love what a great school paper can do. And other times I just wish the building would blow up.

This example from last month is not even that bad; it's just got this "attitude" that I see more and more that drives me batty. I will try to mark some "flava" and then provide a link to anyone interested in more:

Lies College Professors Tell Us: College is only an extension of high school in which students continue to decipher and read in between the lines of what their college professors are saying. Be alert, don’t take their every word too seriously. Some statements we hear semester after semester, class after class. “This is going to help you in the real world.” Lies. Hearing this statement for all four years of high school, we’ve finally concluded that derivatives and the timeline of the presidents are definitely not going to help us in the future.

The rest.

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Are YOU, talkin' to ME?

Dear Professor Sea turtle, Professor Wombat, and Professor Canary in a coal mine,

My name is Confusion and I was just added to your section of College Stuff. I missed the first meeting because I wasn't enrolled yet, so I wanted to apologize and introduce myself. Also, what did the three of you cover yesterday?



I'll give her points for manners, but I don't know whose class she's in. I tried 3 drafts so far but no matter how I approach it, "which of us do you actually have?" comes out more harshly than I want.  I'm picturing an enthusiastic freshman on her way to a performance of her fantasy teaching ensemble, and being disappointed by the 1-man show.

I also keep hoping Turtle and Canary will respond for me, but Turtle's been teaching before the advent of computers, so I don't think he even knows he has an email address, and Canary probably couldn't handle the stress and died.