Tuesday, January 31, 2012

From InsideHigherEd.com.

The Admiring Ignorant
January 31, 2012 - 3:00am
When I first began teaching — as a master’s student, with one section of English composition capped at around 20 students — I was as optimistic and idealistic as you’d probably expect. I was going into the noblest profession, and I was going to make a difference in the lives of young people who might not otherwise learn to appreciate literature or express themselves through writing. Although I was nervous on that first day of classes — sweating in my suit and tie on an unseasonably hot late August day — I was excited nonetheless.  I promised myself that I would inspire my students the way the professors at my beloved alma mater — St. Lawrence University in Canton, New York — had inspired me.
Of course, by then I knew some professors who weren’t so inspiring. I had overheard complaints about student apathy, about administrators who just didn’t get it, about being overworked and underappreciated. One senior professor tried to caution me against academe, telling me that he actually regretted how he’d spent his life. Each year, he warned, the students seemed lazier, the job of teaching them harder. And much less rewarding.
I thought, "Clearly, this is someone who needs to retire to make way for some new, more enthusiastic blood." Specifically, my blood.

If only . . .

I've seen the following letter making the rounds on the Intertubes. I post it for your consideration and potential use.

Herbert A. Millington
Chair - Search Committee
412A Clarkson Hall, Whitson University
College Hill, MA 34109

Dear Professor Millington,

Thank you for your letter of March 16. After careful consideration, I
regret to inform you that I am unable to accept your refusal to offer me
an assistant professor position in your department.

This year I have been particularly fortunate in receiving an unusually
large number of rejection letters. With such a varied and promising field
of candidates, it is impossible for me to accept all refusals.

Despite Whitson's outstanding qualifications and previous experience in
rejecting applicants, I find that your rejection does not meet my needs at
this time. Therefore, I will assume the position of assistant professor
in your department this August. I look forward to seeing you then.

Best of luck in rejecting future applicants.

Chris L. Jensen

I'm a rich lady!

That's what one of my students told me recently.

I know I haven't been around here much lately. It's been a tough few months and I've been dispirited. I haven't been able to find the humor in just about anything, and that has curtailed my haiku writing--no great loss for this site, but it was an outlet that helped. Sometimes.

Now, though, I must rant.

I was walking down a hall at LD3C when I saw a former student of mine, Whining William, seated on a bench. Before I could say hello, he said, "Hey there, rich lady!"

I stopped in my tracks. "Hi William," I said. "What do you mean, 'rich lady?'"

"Well," he said, "you make more money than me."

"William," I said, "there's a reason for that," to which he replied, "Yeah, you've been given more opportunities than me in this life."

At this point, my blood pressure shot up--en route to a meeting with admin-types, so that wasn't good--and I opted for a gentler answer than what I was thinking.

"William," I said, "think about what you just said. Really think about it. Then talk to me about opportunities."

Whining William was a student of mine two full years ago in Basic Fundamentals of Hamster Communication, a prerequisite for many Hamster Communication courses. During the first half of the semester in my class, he did the barest minimum to pass and he resisted instruction every week. In the second half of the semester, he worked a little harder--but he grumbled about it constantly.

Whenever I saw him afterward, when I inquired about his progress in subsequent Hamster Communication courses, he complained bitterly about the amount of work he had to do and the allegedly terrible instruction he was receiving. I do not know whether he passed these classes or not.

During the semester in which he was my student, Whining William revealed much about himself and his personal history through the assignments he submitted. We are very nearly the same age. We are the same color and of roughly the same ethnicity. His father worked at a factory here. Mine worked at a factory in a similar industry in another state. Whining William is the product of suburban public education. So am I.

The difference between us in terms of opportunity is that I chose to attend college--and pay for it out of my own pocket--while Whining William went to work in the same factory where his father worked. I don't fault him for that. That was his choice.

Neither should he fault me for my choice, though. We had similar opportunities. Whining William isn't stupid, as far as I can tell, and could have chosen a white-collar path. I could have chosen a blue-collar path, as did many of my friends, a path that brought them immediate financial stability--something that took me over a decade to achieve.

Furthermore, it's not my fault that Whining William lost his job, nor is it my fault that Whining William is still enrolled at LD3C--nor will I apologize to Whining William or anyone else for a level of comfort that I've worked toward for many, many years. I'm not living large. I can't afford to take the kind of vacation that Whining William took at the end of the semester in which he was enrolled in my class (nor can I figure out how he did so). I am still paying some student loans. I am paying medical debt from when I was uninsured. After four years of full-time employment, I've just finally paid off the "bad" debt I amassed from when I was underemployed as an adjunct (a job that coincided with working at a local mall).

I have several degrees that I paid for with student loans, worked a decade without any benefits whatsoever--while barely eeking out a living--and now that I have a stable job with benefits, a job through which I'm trying to help others attain stable employment and live better lives, I am the now-to-be-despised rich.

Someone's propaganda machine is working.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Sorry, Flakes.

Dear Monkey Instructor,

Please let me submit my work late. I had the worst week in the world. I was diagnoses with an STI and found out I am at risk for cervical cancer the day after my health insurance was revoked. I had tried to get these tests done before the health insurance was up, but I had been on vacation before that. I'm sure you can imagine why I wasn't able to concentrate on the homework and your deadlines.

Sonny Flakerton
And yet you manage to get by! How brave you are.

Professor Monkey,

I apologize for the recent essay submission that you found to be plagiarized. I was away from my computer when the essay was due so I gave my roommate my password so she could upload it for me. Then she ended up selecting the wrong file. It wasn't me and I'd appreciate if you could delete that file and allow me a second submission.

Seratina Snowflake
Seratina, this does not excuse the use of plagiarism or the sharing of your private info with your roommate.

Hey Mrs Academic,

Sorry I haven't been participating much in class this week. My grandma died last week and I'm really shaken up by it so I wasn't able to get out and come to class. I'll get better next week.

Stevie Snotnose
Christ, I don't care.

Dear Sir,

I tried really hard to get to class for my term presentation, but I just wasn't able to. I was raised in a poor household and I have to work my way through school. I wasn't given all the advantages of most students so my work takes priority at times so I can afford to eat. Anyway, my work called me in and I had to go and that is why I missed my presentation. I look forward to hearing my newly scheduled makeup presentation.

Lord Featherweight
Oh FFS you think this is going to make me fall over with concern??? And my name isn't Sir. I have very large boobs. Hard to miss.

[no salutation]
I saw you at the grocery store last week! Did you see me? I thought you might remember me. Anyway, my friend got me into a car accident before class on Monday. That's why I didn't show. I tried to get out and hop over to the classroom anyway, but since my friend's leg was broken I didn't think I should leave him. Can I makeup the quiz you gave that day?
[no signature]
Oh, the ol' car accident story. So many of these!! Your friends really should be more careful when driving on campus. And stop stalking me when I'm buying my whiskey and fruit snacks.

I think you have made a mistake in the syllabus. You assigned a piece of homework every week. I'm a senior and this is a very prestigious institution. I think you underestimate how much work we have on a weekly basis. Please revise the schedule so we can make the most out of our college years. Otherwise I'll have to miss out on some of the unique aspects of our university and I know you wouldn't want that.
Sorority Snowflake
Chair of Snowing
Flakiness Fellow
And somehow, I think you'll manage.

Following Up On Heywood.

Heywood from Henderson here, cats and kittens, with the requested follow-up to the investigation into my egregious action of telling a student he was wrong.

My Dean gathered my "I told him he was wrong when he was wrong. Because he was wrong. I'm allowed to do that" answers to the questions the Dean had. Dean also showed me the actual written complaint.

The student stated that not only was his opinion not wrong, since opinions can't be wrong, but that my feedback was "belittling and bullying."

BULLYING. Being corrected is now considered being bullied among the snowflake set. And this isn't a traditional snowflake, no sir and/or madam - this student is a non-traditional student in his 40s, who works at an outside job that's pretty tough.

Cue long anguished discussion between the Dean and me, with my statements of "WTF? Where are the students getting this attitude that they can file complaints willy-nilly?" being met with the stone wall of "This is procedure. All student complaints are investigated."

Although I am vindicated (I can still correct students when they are wrong, yay me!), the bigger issues remain unaddressed.

Why is the teaching process considered bullying? At what point will students be told to cowboy up and participate in the learning process?

And can I get a raise for the increase in drinking this is going to cause?

To Get Hired: Be Anything But Yourself

Even though I have a low paying community college job, this is why I am absolutely hesitant to go on the job market ever again. Screw my "dream job" if this is what it takes.

Today's myth is: "When interviewing for a tenure-track academic position, it’s best to just be yourself."
via Inside Higher Ed 

Snowflake Mail.

Hi Dr. Unreasonable,

I was unable to get my project downloaded from the server. Even though I waited until the eleventh hour and on a weekend, no less, to come to terms with my incompetence.

I talked with Irresponsible Roommate #1and Irresponsible Roommate #2 and they said that they were also unable to get it downloaded as well. Which, according to the laws of our idiot collective, means that it cannot possibly be our fault.

My website is on my laptop that is not working so I have no access to my files whatsoever. Because my computer is soooo unreliable when it comes to things other than Skype, Facebook, Netflix, Video Games, YouTube, illegal downloads, etc.

Can you help tomorrow morning before class or afterwards to help with this issue? And perhaps you might also help me to locate my ass. I've been searching with both hands, but still can't seem to find it.

 I submitted my files to Blackboard, so the project is done but not on my website. Because "done" is not an absolute concept. It is defined by the parameters of my own choosing.

Irresponsible Iris

An Early Thisty. Are Academics a Non Sporting Group?

I've been baffled for all of my career about the lack of sports interest my colleagues have had.

I have friends outside the academic world, and I find them more widely versed in the world: sports, politics, TV, movies, music, etc.

When I have a conversation with an academic, it's about school, teaching, books, and usually all of those things that make up the work day for me. Even when I try to find out if they're backing the Pats or the Giants, it's a non starter.

My friends outside academe, however, are ready to go toe to toe on Gingrich and Tiger Woods and that new Alcatraz show. And they have no problem weighing in on whether Eli Manning is a pretender or not.

And my academic friends sometimes don't just show disinterest in sports, there's often a particular disdain for it. "Football is stupid." "Basketball is stupid."

Q: How "sporty" are you or your colleagues? Can you get a good debate going about any of the major sports?

Sunday, January 29, 2012

They just keep setting them up...

How are we to resist knocking them down?
Student e-mail sent late last night

Hi, I missed our first discussion class on the 23rd because I had thought that I was going to get into Professor B's weaving class till then, so I've been going to his class and discussion sections. However, I dropped that class and decided to take this class instead. 
Did I miss anything last monday?
Fact 1- I am the TA in this class, not the instructor of record, possessing my e-mail is evidence that they possess the syllabus
Fact 2- the 23rd was after the add/drop period ended
Fact 3- The first exam is Wednesday

This lovely little flake is delightfully screwed! How shall I tell her? Techno-jargon about what we covered? See me in class, even though she likely has no idea what I look like? Should I mention the exam?

Other delightful ideas?

They're Baaa-aaack

Semester started last week. I don’t feel like I can ever predict how it is going to be after the last two. One seemed shitty and was great. The other seemed like it would be decent and I’m surprised I didn’t stick my head in an oven.

Highlights so far:

Each semester I have notice a phenomenon where several students that do not know each other have similar notions about a single thing – but it’s a different thing each semester. It increases the length of my syllabus. This semester there have been multiple students that think they can get 4 units for EITHER taking Hamster Kinesiology lecture OR Hamster Kinesiology lab – just 1.5 hours a week and I get 4 units, right? Lab? What lab?

Me: Excuse me, but you didn’t come to Hamster Kinesiology lecture, did you?

Student tightsforpants: No, I did. I was sitting here.

Me: Um, we are in the lab. The lecture is in a lecture hall.

Student tightsforpants: No, I was here. Don’t you remember?

Me: It’s in a different building. There are 100 students.

Student tightsforpants: Oooo, no I didn’t know. Sorry!

Lab #1: Please include in your lab report why you did the lab, specifically how you did the lab, and your results. It should be a paragraph...there is a HUGE space before the next question. Three fragments of sentences/words won’t cover it.

 Answer medley summary: This lab was ok. It was kind of hard, though. cause there was lots of steps. I think we shood refresh on how to do stuff. (Answers from students that came in 40 minutes late).

Email that was sent immediately after we spent nearly an entire class going over the syllabus, including what happens if an assignment is late, points deducted, etc: Shitty, yet somewhat motivated student: So, like, it seems like there’s a lot of stuff to turn in and I was just wondering what kinds of things I can do instead of that?

Me: Hello Student Turdhole: You might consider trying to find another class that is less work if you are already planning on missing more than three days on the first day. (I find myself thinking, well, at least she’s thinking ahead – this kind of makes me sad.)

Hopefullyreallystonedstudent: Wait, um, so we have to read a whole book by Monday?

Me: No, you just need to have the Hamster Kinesiology lab manual by Wednesday.

Hopefullyreallystonedstudent: What’s a lab manual.

Me: Eh, could someone show her?

Hopefullyreallystonedstudent: So you want us to read that whole thing by Wednesday?

Me: NO!!! F’ing christ.

ARGH! Is this real? (And at the same time I think, well, at least this lady is thinking about shit she has to do next week. The other 30 people that say nothing and may soon drown in their own drool piles have no clue; as with the above student, these questions are awful and stupid, but at the same time I’m excited they at least know they need to do something.)

The first day info sheet where under “comments” students put how much they loathe the subject, how it is a huge waste of time, and they’ve taken this course before but it sucked balls. Yes, they include their names on these forms.

The deadwood that sends emails to EVERYONE complaining about EVERYTHING all the time actually sent an email chastising people for doing such a thing...he’d never had a problem with what people were complaining about.

Also, I can't believe no one mentioned this: We should vote on the largest snowflake...

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Six Years Ago on RYS. Is The Arizona Newbie Still Around?

This was one of my favorite RYS posts, one that appeared early on, one before my time as moderator. I can't tell you how often it got mentioned to me in emails to the blog. People wanted to know what happened to the writer. I know I do. If by any chance that same proffie is on College Misery, I'd love to hear from her with an update.

It's a great post, and one that I thought captured a lot of what was great about RYS. Are you still out there? Still teaching? Let me know, and I'll report to the rest.


January 28, 2006
A Newbie From Arizona.
A college professor at a large public institution in Arizona writes to us from the second semester of her first year on the job:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But this is not the life I thought was coming.

Haywood from Henderson On What's "Wrong."

Y'all are not going to believe this.

An online student submitted his first assignment last week. The assignment required students to discuss how one historical aspect of basketweaving had affected modern basketweaving. The historical effects of basketweaving development are factual, and supported by empirical evidence.

The student wrote that in his opinion, historical basketweaving had had no effect on modern basketweaving. Accordingly, I gave the student a poor grade.

The student requested clarification over the course of a couple of entitled, demanding, and threatening emails. In one of my responses, I stated "your opinion that historical basketweaving has had no effect on modern basketweaving is, unfortunately, incorrect." My response went on to provide references to our class resources, including the textbook, that contain the scientific empirical evidence that proves that historical basketweaving has profoundly affected modern basketweaving.

Today, I received an email from my Dean. The student has filed a formal complaint against me for informing him that he is wrong.

Yes, you read that right. I am being investigated for telling a student that he is wrong when he is, in fact, wrong.

While on the surface this appears ridiculous (and is), in fact I am exceeedingly troubled by this situation. There is no effort on the part of administration to look at the content of the complaint and recognize the utter insanity of it. This complaint should have been dismissed out of hand. Yet, our procedures have become set in stone recently, in no small part due to negligence on the part of other institutions (Penn State, for example).

I assure you that I am not leaving anything out, other than the actual text of the email thread (2 emails to me from the student, one response from me back to the student). I am not failing to mention that I told the student to go blow a goat, or in any way was rude, dismissive, or less than helpful.

I literally mean that I am being investigated for correcting a student when he was wrong about a concept in my field.

You Only Think You're Being Sneaky

Friday, January 27, 2012

Are We Too Reliant on SpellCheck?

I give my students online quizzes. Online, open book quizzes. Online, open book, open internet quizzes. It's not like I can monitor their sources. They have an inordinate amount of time (3 hours) for a 10 point quiz. Yet, they spell things wrong, and the computer marks them wrong, and then they whine to me that they got it write but they spelled it wrong.


So, do I give them the points? I'm think yes on this first quiz, and then specifically stating that it will be no from here on out.

Any Press is Good Press?

Lamest Professor 
By Briana Harris and Chris Persaud
from Florida Atlantic U's University Press

Some professors did an over the top job last year, while others made students want to pull their hair out. And the one who makes the most money, doesn’t even do much teaching. Barry Axe.

Some classes can quickly become a drag when you’re stuck with one of the worst-rated professors on campus. And judging from students’ reactions, there’s one guy you don’t want to be stuck with. Barry Axe. He teaches classes such as Introduction to Management and Organizational Behavior. But his profile appears near the top of Google when you search “worst professor at FAU.”

Comments and ratings on ratemyprofessor.com suggest that Axe seems to be a contradiction as a teacher. According to past students, he teaches management and organizational behavior — with a personal organization issue. Students said he often misplaced their work or messed up during grading. Supposedly, he tends to interrupt students frequently and is easily distracted, to the point where concentrating and learning in class is rather difficult.

Unrolling the National Academic Conference Quality Standards Project for 2013...

Dear Colleagues,

As you all know, we have made great strides over the past ten to fifteen years in the standardization and Taylorization of higher education. More and more of our teaching staff is made up of low-paid adjuncts whose courses we can subject to greater and greater regimentation. In the online world this has been particularly successful, as we can not only determine which readings they assign and how they structure their class and make them fill their syllabi up with 10 pages of legalisms, we can control how they organize every single aspect of the class and even control and evaluate their teaching with checklists made up of easily quantifiable, low-inference quality control markers for ABC (Auditing By Chimp). What is more, we have even turned online graduate education into a a standardized enterprise, with standard course titles with committee or chair determined reading lists and where interchangeable, title-bearing but otherwise disinterested "PhDwaps" (PhDs with a pulse) can lend their degrees to our institutions' prestige while doing our customer-service-centered bidding and earning less than short order cooks. As we watch those shiny new MAs and PhDs roll off the assembly line and into administration jobs, we can be proud of the progress made so far.

But there are still challenges ahead in our never-ending battle to sap the joy and creativity out of higher education. While keeping adjuncts in poverty is important for controlling them, there are still areas in the academy where not only tenured professors, but adjuncts and yes, even graduate students can pretty much do what they want. I'm talking about conferences. Yes, there has been some progress. More and more of our member associations require specific formats for panels. That is a good start. But so much more can be done! If we want to make sure that...

  • everyone is on the same page in terms of what the current "turns" and standards are,
  • that nobody is being made to do research that is harder than what others are doing,
  • that discourse about research is substantive and relevant
  • that evaluation of research is fair according to a standardized catalog of rational measures
  • and most importantly, that those attending the conferences are getting a guaranteed level of quality and a transparent and predictable level of rigor and intellectual investment for their registration fees and allow all attendees to pick their conferences and conference schedules according to their own personal needs,

....we'll have to do more than that. The Academic Control and Assessment Board, made up of high-ranking quality control leaders from America's most prestigious institutions, is proud to announce the National Academic Conference Quality Standards Project. The following measures will be taken in order to bring academic conferences into lockstep with the rest of higher education culture:

  • Each conference must have a clearly defined topic. This topic will be included in the title of the conference. The topic's designation must include clear and specific references to subject groups, ideas, geographic areas and time periods. The Conference Reference Guide to be published this spring will explain the acceptable operators and terminology in detail. Thus, a conference on "Folk Traditions in the Americas" will no longer imply an ambiguous, vague notion of "folk" or of "the Americas." The Reference Guide will explain which continents and islands are eligible for inclusion as the subject of papers under a designation such as "the Americas." The committee that is writing the guide will clarify, for example, whether Greenland is part of North America or whether music that is still being performed today is a general "tradition" or whether it must be considered a "living tradition." We can't have people flying in from all over without a clear idea of what they will learn at a conference.
  • The clearly-stated topic cannot be deceptively nuanced in the body of the conference description by statements such as, "Papers on subjects outside this year's theme will be considered..." If presenters are not going to give the attendees the topic they came and paid to hear, they should find another conference.
  • Each conference topic, panel and paper must be relevant. The Academic Control and Assessment Board will decide based on economic potential, national security, societal self esteem, attendee satisfaction as reported from similar conferences in the past and the conference's estimated American Knowledge Synergy And Potential Growth Assessment Catalog score. Topics discussed at other recent conferences are not to be considered relevant, since those issues have already been covered. For topic repetition or redundancy, we recommend a waiting period for new research developments of 100 years for theology conferences, fifteen years for humanities conferences, five years for social science conferences and six days for natural science conferences.
  • In order to insure continuous scientific progress and avoid waste, under no circumstances are issues which have been decided to be considered relevant for purposes of academic conferences.
  • Conferences which seek to introduce new research "turns" must apply to have their turns approved at least six months in advance. Turn applications must include a factual description of the turn, a list of articles and books in which the turn is already in evidence or to which the turn could be fruitfully applied, and a list of researchers willing to be involved in promoting the turn. Panels may use already established turns, if they are still deemed relevant, but may only introduce new turns within the context of a conference-wide turn. Audience members cannot be expected to have to think in unexpected ways about a subject while they are still learning about the facts of a subject.
  • Unless specifically advertised as speculative and theoretical, all conference topics, panels and papers will deal exclusively with facts.
  • Conference registration will cost $80 in boring cities and $130 in interesting cities. All attendees will be given a $10 registration fee discount for filling out a standardized evaluation form.
  • Each session at the conference will be 90 minutes in length and must be in panel form. Panels consist of six members, at least two of whom must be female and all of whom must be paying members of the association hosting the conference. Members include a moderator, who opens the session and introduces the presenters, three presenters, who speak for 20 minutes each, a discussant, who reacts substantively to the three papers in a single, ten-minute contribution, and an observer.
  • Panel members will speak in the following order: After the moderator introduces the speakers, each of the speakers presents his or her paper. After the third paper, the discussant speaks. Then the moderator may allow members of the audience to ask questions. The moderator insures that each speaker is given no fewer than one and no more than three questions. Responses to audience questions will be substantive, at least 45 seconds in length, and will address all the key points raised by the questioner. If the respondent wants to introduce new topics or information in his or her response, he or she may ask the moderator's permission to go off on a tangent. The observer does not speak unless he or she deems it necessary as a matter national security or to veto audience or respondent tangents to insure conference relevance. He or she submits a protocol of the session together with the standard Conference Panel Assessment Checklist.
  • All papers are required to use some form of visual media. Papers which do not are to be marked as "potentially boring" in the conference program.
  • The Academic Control and Assessment Board is working on a standard formula for converting these rules to poster sessions.
  • All research presented at a particular conference must be of comparable rigor. Each conference will announce a Rationalized Rigor Rating to which all panels and papers will conform. Rating categories will be based on measures of how difficult research is (how many months of research, travel and languages required, laboratory equipment, extent of the already established knowledge foundation preceding the research, etc.), categorized levels of abstraction (University of Minnesota Meta Meter Measurement score), and set parameters for how creative and revolutionary the ideas presented are (American Knowledge Synergy And Potential Growth Assessment Catalog score). This standardization assures that conferences and panels have comparable rigor so that people attending a particular conference or panel are not unpleasantly surprised or unduly challenged in a manner they did not expect or may not be accustomed to.
I look forward to working with each of you as we unfold this new and exciting program. By 2013, the program will be in place, so be sure to plan any conferences held after December of this year with these guidelines in mind.

Finally, the Academic Control and Assessment Board is proud to announce that we have hired Becky as project coordinator. She'll be down in the trenches dealing with the details of implementation. If you have any questions or concerns about the plan, she and her staff will be at your beck and call.

Best wishes for a great start in 2012!


Dr. A. S.
Director of Assessment Services and Standardization
Department of Education and Neuro-Robotics

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Nitwit 6 (because the five other nitwits need their own post)

I remember you, Nitwit 6. You were a nitwit in this very course last year, you know, the online course you signed up for and then promptly ignored. Imagine my surprise to see you on the roster this year, and my utter lack of surprise when you straightway began ignoring the class yet again. You didn’t even log into the course website once during the first two weeks of school, let alone complete any assignments. I know these things, Nitwit 6, because Blackboard allows me to know these things. So when, earlier this week, my university asked that I report all non-attending students in my classes, students that might be, oh, trying to scam the university and the US government for aid, I promptly reported that you, Nitwit 6, had never even logged in once.

Oh, the humanity! Nothing gets a student to stand up straight and pay attention like the threat that their fraudulently acquired student aid might fly right out the window. I promptly received two emails from you and a phone call, explaining that you “thought that classes started on the 19th”, which was why you hadn’t paid any attention to the course as of yet. Wrong, Nitwit 6. And by the way, the 19th was a week ago. What have you been doing since then? Nothing? Big surprise.

By the way, my speshul powerz also allow me to see that you’ve withdrawn or flunked out of every course you’ve taken here in the past year. Yet now you want me to call the registrar and tell them you’re an active member of my course. Seriously? Think again, Nitwit 6.

But I’m not entirely unreasonable. I informed you that I would tell the registrar that you were participating once you actually started to participate. The earliest opportunity for that is the latest assignment, due tomorrow morning. It’s going to be hard for you to complete this assignment, however, as I know for a fact you haven’t even started the reading yet, because on the phone today you said you “just got the book.” I doubt you even have the book, Nitwit 6, but if you do, get cracking. And turn in that assignment by eight a.m., because I don’t accept late papers. Otherwise, no amount of begging or explaining will get you that note to the registrar, and your check will be held hostage in the ether somewhere, hopefully to be freed and let loose into my bank account in the form of a tax refund. But you’ll get nada, Nitwit 6. Nah. Dah.

One last note: If you dare get desperate enough to plagiarize, you can watch me take making your life difficult to a whole. ‘Nother. Level. A Whole. ‘Nother. Level, Nitwit 6.

Just try me.

A friendly letter to students

Dear students,

Your friends are idiots. I say this with conviction drawn from of many years of experience. Occasionally, a student does something so utterly stupid that it forces me to question my already dim hope for humanity’s future. When confronted with the consequences of his or her own idiocy, the student exclaims, “But my friends said...” I have been told that a student’s friends said:

  • It’s ok to miss the first three weeks of lab.
  • A note from your mother is a valid excuse for missing class.
  • You can make up a missed final exam.
  • I don’t take attendance.
  • College is just like high school. I provide calculators for all students taking my exam.
  • Students don’t need a calculator when taking my exam.
  • Students can copy lab reports as long as the original report is for the same class.

Other students can be a wonderful source of many things: laughter, sex after a night of drinking, heroin, a ride home, and friendship. They can offer you these things better than anybody else at college. However, they are not good sources of information. This leaves you in a predicament, doesn’t it? Who can you turn to for accurate information about classes and university policies? If only there were people at our school who were knowledgeable about such things. Here’s a thought: ask your professors if you have questions about classes. Maybe they can recommend somebody.

With as much caring as I can possibly muster this afternoon,

Beaker Ben

Bonus Thirsty

As my system is currently debating this topic, what kinds of rules or restrictions do you have regarding faculty workload? Is there a maximum number of credits faculty are allowed to teach? Is there a minimum number of hours or days a campus presence is expected? Do loads balance over the course of a year, or do you have absolutes which you must meet each term? Does summer count toward anything?

Our faculty are getting very upset over these issues because everything is changing and more emphasis seems to be going toward face time than actual productivity. The load balancing issue is also contentious because it's screwing up some people's pay.

VidShizzle Link: Benedictine U's Athletic Recruiting Video.

When this video appeared online yesterday, it went "viral," in the modern parlance.

The Catholic university pulled it because it had not been vetted, but it had received tens of thousands of hits in a very short period of time after being featured on numerous sports blogs, including the brilliant Deadspin.

Apparently the university is not going to post it, but someone was able to retrieve the original.

Can't find the embed code, but you can click here to see it.

Adam Checks In.

After having taken so much time on the page with my little search, I feel bad to monopolize more space, so just a quick update.

Of my seven MLA interviews, I've heard from 5 so far: No from the dream job SLAC in the NE (not surprised after my lousy performance, No from "close by state school," even though I was SURE I'd get an invite.

And then I had campus visit requests from "good SLAC in PNW," "mid range SLAC in NE," and "large state school." In fact, I am writing to you today from the last school on that list; as I noted earlier, it was a relaxed and casual job interview that showed me how fun the people were.

I flew in last night, got met at the airport by 2 members. We had some beers at a nice upscale bar near campus, and they told me that I'd had the best interview at the MLA by far, and that they were going to "knock my socks off" at the full day visit today.

This was not my dream school or location. I had foolishly sort of ignored learning much about the town. And it turns out to be this postcard-perfect spot with friendly folks, a town square, a dusting of snow, and a bar that serves the best queso I've ever had in my life.

A Big Thirsty on Search Committee Fairness.

Call me Newbie Nora, a t-t faculty member doing my first search committee service at a large state uni in the Midwest.

I started the process all excited, and even sort of (oddly) enjoyed the EEOC / HR videos I had to watch in preparation.

And of course as soon as the actual process got started, our committee spent nearly all of our time opining on things that I thought we weren't allowed to consider.

One Skype interviewee was deemed "too unhealthy" to take a risk on. (All we knew for sure is that she was overweight.)

An early candidate was dismissed because our search chair said, "Jesus, this guy was teaching before I was in middle school! He's only got a few good years left." The table erupted in laughter.

Another candidate was singled out this way: "I bet he has all of Cher's CDs in his car."

Q: Is this "normal" in job searches? I liked one of the candidates above quite a bit who got bounced for obviously non-academic reasons. I'm new here; I like the school. Should I stick my neck out and say something? To whom?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

It's Different, All Right...

Higher education is probably the only industry in which a person is expected to get another degree and take a pay cut.

That's what happened to me, and others in my graduate school, when we finished our degrees.  We found that we were making less as adjuncts than we did as TAs or fellows.

Another odd thing about higher education, and education generally:  We the only professionals who are subservient to the office staff.  In any other profession I know of, the office staff serve the professional.

What are some of the other oddities about being in higher education that most people don't know about unless they're in it?
UCF Students Seek Sugar Daddies, Mommies
Dating Site Says UCF One Of Top Signup Sources

ORLANDO, Fla. -- Forget part-time jobs for college students. Some students are on the search for older companions who have lots of cash to spend. That's the idea behind SeekingArrangement.com, a site that's putting local college students in touch with sugar daddies and sugar mammas.

The site has dozens of students from the University of Central Flrodai turning to the racy site for tuition help. It's called "sugar dating." Some daters seek friendship, others look for fun, but the relationships all have one thing in common -- money, and lots of it.

One dater on the site who goes by Cecila is looking for at least $10,000 to $20,000 per month.

The State Of The Union: More Of The Same--In Education, Anyway

Here's my take on the State of the Union address: http://scholasticsnakeoil.blogspot.com/2012/01/state-of-union-more-of-same-in.html

the "difficult colleague"

Okay, I have a question: how do you deal with an asshole colleague without turning into an asshole yourself?

A Marist Prof Sends This In and Asks Us to Investigate Our Own Off-Campus Housing Offices.

A funeral service is held for Marist student Eva Block Monday, Jan. 23, 2012, in Fairfield, Connecticut. / Karl Rabe/The Poughkeepsie Journal

NEW ROCHELLE — When Michele Sampson learned of the fire in Poughkeepsie that claimed the lives of three Marist College students Saturday, she thought, “That’s my worst nightmare.”

Sampson runs the office of Off-Campus Housing at Iona College, in New Rochelle. Shortly after arriving at work Monday morning, she took to her Twitter account, mentioned the Marist fire and then typed, “FREE smoke detector batteries are always available at Off-Campus Housing.”

Authorities are still investigating the cause of the blaze that killed Eva Block, Kevin Johnson and Kerry Fitzsimmons.

Town of Poughkeepsie Police Chief Thomas Mauro told the Poughkeepsie Journal, “It appears the fire started at the rear portion of the home and tragically spread very rapidly from there, trapping the three victims in the structure.”

Full article.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Adjuncting = Stockholm Syndrome?

Check out this enlightening conversation on how being an adjunct can lead to an academic Stockholm Syndrome. Scary.

Adjuncting and Stockholm Syndrome

"See, this misguided loyalty is what the institutions depend on to exploit you. I mean, it’s not misguided in a sense of higher moral good. But just think—you can’t keep doing good in the world as a teacher if you remain exploited indefinitely. The best good you can do is to find steady work with a liveable income. And to do that, you must be selfish."

Who are you again?

So, my newest thing is to correct student emails before responding to them. Therefore, if you email me a piece of drivel containing no heading, no salutation, no capital letters (my current biggest pet peeve), no punctuation (except the fourteen exclamation points after "I really need this"), and no name at the bottom, I am going to email you back with the following:

"I'm sorry, but I had some trouble understanding your email. If you can make the corrections below and get back to me, I would be able to help you more effectively"

Then I make corrections. It's much more fun to correct bad emails then respond to them. It's only been 1.5 weeks of classes and I've done this 3 times. I know most of my students are mailing me with their smartphones. I don't care. I can use proper capitalization and punctuation on my phone, so can they.

We'll see how long it lasts.

I may have to drag out this Mr. Period comic instead. I wish I could use this one.

This Doesn't Augur Well

Night Vision
Today was the first day of spring semester for HamsterFur Composition 2. When I arrived at my designated classroom a few minutes before 9:00 am, the lights were off.

The students were sitting there, neat as you please, in near-total darkness.

Bombing the Interview

Against all odds, I've started to get some interviews.  I've pretty much been up and down the forums getting advice for on campus and phone interviews.  And don't get me wrong, good tips and advice are much appreciated.  I think I get it: I want to wow them, be someone they want to work with, and not come off as an insane narcissist. 

But the stories I really like reading are about interviewees absolutely imploding during their interviews.  I'm entertained and I learn something at the same time.  So what are some ways (real or imagined) that I could bomb my interviews?  I'm asking to avoid these things, obviously.  I've even started a list:
  • Not know anything about the school.
  • Not know anything about the department.
  • Get really drunk during dinner.  
  • Bonus points: get really drunk during breakfast.
  • Argue with the search committee members.
  • Hit on the the search committee members.
  • Argue with the students.
  • Hit on the students.
Any others to add to my list?

Collegiality is Fucking Hard.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Ransoming Student Grades for Evals

Well, this is a new one. Just got an e-mail from the administration about the new student evaluation policy, and I can't decide if it's better or worse than the old one.

For starters, student evals are now done online, not in class on Scantrons that a suck-up carries to the Registrar's office afterwards.

This is better because: I'm encouraged to go online and add my own questions to the evaluation, and I can actually ask the students a relevant thing or two that'll help me teach the course in the future.

This is worse because: Whatever anonymity the students previously enjoyed, it now becomes total, and it may even feel more anonymous than it is because there's a computer involved. So more students will feel free to get nasty without worrying whether their handwriting is recognizable. Even the students who like me can now write their evals while drunk, which they'd probably do just to say they'd done it.

Then there's this other little change. From now on, students can't know their grades until they submit an eval. If they submit one, they find out their grade right away (or as soon as grades are normally released). If not, they can't know how they did in the class until an additional three weeks have passed.

This is better because: More students will likely fill out evals.

This is worse because: More students will likely fill out evals. (And they'll now do it spitefully, with a passive-aggressive bone to pick with the administration. Good chance they'll take it out on me.)

So I don't know. As my obstetrician asks every time he changes the little lens thingy, is this better, or worse?

I'm Baffled.

I'm baffled at this one kid who came to the fourth class of the semester last week.

"Hi," I said. "What's your name?"

"I'm Dipshit Doug. Do you have a syllabus?"

"For this class?" I said. "You are a student in this class?"

"Section 110. Yep. So, do you have a syllabus?"

"It's the 4th day of the semester. I assumed you wouldn't be coming."

"Nope," Doug said. "I'm here. I had a bunch of stuff I was working through. I told Road Rash Rodney over there to tell you I'd be here this week or next."

"You know we've done some stuff already, right? I mean, we've done some writing, read some material. We're even doing a project in groups."

"Yeah, well I'll just catch up." He smiled. I'd been waiting for that.

"Yeah," I said. "But it's not up to you. Come to class, don't come to class, whatever. But when you miss the first three classes and don't contact me, I do what's in the best interests of the class."

"I'm here now. I told Rodney to tell you."

"Listen," I said. "I don't know Rodney either. I think he missed a class already, too. You gotta put your faith in more reliable people."

"Whoops," Doug said. He smiled again. "I'm going to talk to my bro about that. But, listen, let me get that syllabus so I can get out of your hair."

"Whoops." I said. I already dropped you. Some other students got in. Now I'm outta room."

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Another Amazing Email from a Senior in College

Im sorry to already be doing this but I will not be attending class tomoro due to the fact that i have a prior engagement to attend to due to the fact that I just was able to finalize today. I did not think I would be attending school at all this semester but thankfully I was able to finalize and continue my college career. I will be there from here on out though. Thank you

Would you rather? (Snowflake grading edition)

Would you rather:

Mark a paper that bears an astonishing, though inadvertent, stylistic resemblance to A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man? (Once upon a time there was a moo cow coming down the road and...3/4 of a page later, it's still the same run on-sentence.)


Mark a paper written by an exceptionally bright girl who expends almost all of her time and energy making herself look and sound like the love child of Kim Kardashian and Snooki? (Who is smart enough to know if she does all of the analysis but only part of the assignment, she disqualifies herself from an A.)


Mark a paper where every lower-case "i" is replaced by a colon?  ( Trust me, that sh:t gets old, qu:ckly.)


Mark yet another paper written exclusively in the passive voice?  (Yeah, I'm not even going to go there.)


Mark yet another paper that references the "various positive and negative" effects of hamster fur weaving?  (To the high school teachers who didn't nip that shit in the bud, I Johnny Cash salute you.)


Mark yet another paper that you are not even sure was submitted for your course, because it bears NO RESEMBLANCE TO THE MOTHERFUCKING INSTRUCTIONS? 


Go all Gloucester-in-Lear-Act III-Scene vii - with a mechanical pencil?

Discuss.  Or one-up.  Whatever.  Just...don't leave me alone out here.  (I'm cold, and there are wolves after me.)

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Deja Vu

At the end of each semester I tell myself I will have a new job by the time the next semester starts, and that I won’t have to go back to that dreadful place. Especially after last semester, which was officially the worst regarding the students. And at the beginning of each new semester I find myself going to the departmental meeting, with the same 5-10 people (20 or so never show up), the one new person that will soon be gone, and everyone asks the same exact questions, answered with the same exact answers every single time. I feel like I’m in Groundhog Day but without any fun parts...I know I wouldn’t survive jumping from the roof.

Why do I know more about aspects that affect my paycheck than my counterpart that has been here 8 years? Why do you people get confused by typing info on an internet page instead of writing it on a piece of paper? It’s 2012. Why have you never ever checked your departmental email? How did you find out about this meeting? Why does someone have to show you how to use the internet? Why did you type in a URL and go through 4 links when you could have just typed in the 4th URL which was shorter than the first? It’s 2012. Why did you just announce that I am to be in charge of a committee when you only once emailed and said you’d like to meet about it (ok, so this was new, and will be new misery)? Why do you pretend the remodeling will actually happen this semester – you’ve said it since I got here (3 years ago, and supposedly for 3 years before that)? What do you mean we need to instate rules for the intro hamster classes? I’ve been enforcing them for 3 years and I got the rule sheet from you! Did something change? No? And no one is new here? So why are we going over it again? No, I’m not new here. I’ve been here for 3 years, 7 semesters, and yes, I think I may have met you at this meeting before. Or in our shared office space. No, the professor that teaches the Biology of Hamsters did not make that cake. She brings it every semester, the same one, and you always ask if she made it, and she always says no and tells you where she got it!!! Anxiety attack justified! Brain hurting.