Friday, October 30, 2015

Thus the Misery Endeth.

My apologies to the final readers of the blog.

I spent some real money this week to get a more precise traffic count of the page, and it's clear to me from monitoring CM for 5 years that our reach is not sufficient to maintain the page anymore. The page has been dying - oh, it's been dying for 10 years - as of late, and I don't think the enterprise should continue in this format.

Many of you have written and urged me to keep it going during other periodic lulls, and I can't tell you how much that has weighed on me and encouraged me to push on. But I hit a wall this morning.

I know this place and RYS have been havens for so many of us with common appreciations of our profession, but those discussions will have to continue elsewhere.

To the folks who have worked on the page, and the readers, oh the readers who have supported it, thank you. RYS started almost 10 years ago. CM started more than 5 years ago. It's been my honor to be a part of an ongoing conversation that deserves more attention and care than it has ever gotten here or anywhere.

Courage, everybody.

Your pal,
Fab Sun

I Learn So Much from my Students

I learn so much from my students.  Often, they teach me more than I teach them.  For example, so far in the last couple weeks I've learned these wonderful new things.

Kant believes that morality is whatever the majority says it is, and that we should always do what the most people say we should do.

Freud was gay, because he was obsessed with penises.

Plato's theory of ideas is "stupid," because there's no scientific proof.

Buddhists are all "nuts" because they don't believe in Jesus.

The purpose of college is to get a good job, and learning about literature is a waste of time, because none of it is relevant to what they'll be doing for a job.

If you can't prove something to be true, then it's just a matter of opinion and all matters of opinion are equal.  Science proves that things are true.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Big Thirsty. What Class Do You Dread? From Itchy in Idaho.

Even though I know it is an important day, I am dreading tomorrow. My freshmen will pitch their research topics. Impossibly large like "Mistakes in World War II," and impossibly everything like "My Dodge Ram."

Q: What class or lesson do you dread each semester.

PS: Keep hope, misery, and the duck alive!


Here are some words of encouragement for those starting the interview process this term:

I am really happy at my CC. I am able to travel to two conferences a year to keep abreast of my discipline and to keep my teaching skills sharp. I love the flexibility that my schedule affords me as well as the independence in the classroom. I love teaching, so you really can't get me out of the classroom.

Students can be a challenge, but I enjoy that challenge. I never get bored with them. Every class has a unique personality that I enjoy discovering. Good luck on your interview.

Cindy from St. Louis

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

University of the People (but not, apparently the faculty)

I'd never heard of the University of the People until a few days ago, when NPR did a story (which Frankie's comment about this place becoming an online college reminded me of) about how it's helping undocumented students.  Apparently it's a real place, though, with nonprofit status and accreditation and a website and a facebook page and twitter account and everything.  And it's free, except for a $50 one-time admission-processing fee and a $100 fee for each final exam, which seems reasonable enough (according to the founder, this adds up to c. $4000 -- plus, of course, the cost of internet access -- for a bachelor's degree).  

I'm both intrigued and skeptical. Intrigued because there's still an idealistic part of me that believes strongly that education should be open to all, and would very much like to see this work.  Skeptical because -- well, for the obvious, if-it-sounds-too-good-to-be-true reasons, and also because it took me quite a bit of poking around the site, which is definitely aimed primarily at potential students (and, after that, apparently, potential non-faculty "leadership" "partners" of various sorts and the media), to figure out who is designing and teaching the classes. (Maybe I'm just old-fashioned, but I still tend to think that the heart of a university -- even, perhaps especially, an online university -- is the students and the faculty, and the interactions between/among them.)

As I rather suspected, the faculty appears to be made up of volunteers.   That wouldn't be so bad (hey, there's a real argument for actually volunteering, if you can afford it, instead of -- mandatory CEW shout-out -- feeding the adjunctification beast), but the fact that the faculty (unlike the Deans and Associate Deans, the advisory boards, the president's council, the board of trustees, assorted other administration types, and corporate, foundation, and academic partners) don't even rate a mention on the "our people" drop-down menu, or associated page, does rather stick in my craw.  I can't figure out if this is a laudable endeavor, or, like many MOOCS, an embodiment of some Dean-turned-entrepreneur (or vice versa)'s wet dream of a university free of those pesky, expensive  naysayers known as the faculty.  Maybe the faculty are so useless that we don't even count as people anymore? 

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

The End

While Fab fumbles around with all this high-tech stuff, let's take one second to notice that the former home of our beloved compound has somehow become an "elite" school.  No doubt, this is thanks to CM having hung around there for a few years.  Our mere presence makes a place great.  Maybe we should be charging the PR people at Oilmont?  Five years from now, the previously embarrassing Oilmont will be a goddamned tourist attraction and premier destination for famous ivory-tower eggheads.

Either that, or this is the end of times.  What else could explain it?

Think on that, would you?

Monday, October 26, 2015

10th Anniversary Ideas

Next Tuesday will mark 10 years for RYS/CM.

We're collecting ideas for the celebration / Viking funeral.

1. Burn everything.

Campus Equity Week

This week is Campus Equity Week.  It looks like there are a few things planned, including a briefing of Congress, and the release of a new film about contingent faculty, Professors in Poverty (trailer below).

And if you're a contingent faculty member yourself, the New Faculty Majority is running an update to its 2012 survey of contingent faculty working conditions, with preliminary results to be announced at the end of the week. Click here to participate.  

Are you seeing any Campus Equity Week activity on your campus?  Are you planning anything yourself?  There are a few more ideas here, some printable/shareable images here , and some additional ideas and resources here.

A new game show for mid-Fall From Amelia!

Hi folks, it's time for everyone's favorite game: Confabulate like a fabulous student. Here are the rules.

You'll find 5 scenarios below. For each scenario, guess what the student told me. (Real answers are at the bottom of the page). Extra points for creativity.

  1. 1. Student arrives in 9:30 a.m. class clutching Starbucks cup, 10 minutes late. Student has missed quiz at start of class and wants to take it late because s/he was unavoidably delayed due to _____________________________
  2. The week before Fall Break, student informs you that s/he will be missing class and exam the Friday before the break begins (days off on M/T/W) for the unavoidable reason that___________________________. S/he will need a makeup exam upon hir return.
  3. Student turns in a paper in which the last page consists of sections from the self-same paper in your hand that have been copied and pasted at the end. Suggested length was 5 to six pages and the paper was exactly 5 pages. Upon questioning, the student tells you that: ______________________________
  4. Student turns in a paper with some phrases mysteriously in a lighter gray color and underlined. Student tells you this is because_______________________________.
  5. Every student in your class fills in a short answer identifying Belize as being a country in Africa. You ask why they would think this, and they tell you ____________________________. 

Real Answers:

  1. student did not wake up in time to both go for coffee and arrive in class on time.
  2. student did not check syllabi before making plane reservations for break.
  3. student did not think you would read that carefully.
  4. sloppy copy and paste from Wikipedia.
  5. hey divided up the study guide, and the intellectually challenged flake prepared the answer to that section.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Spam Getting Better. This Email Included only a Link to An Essay Mill and No Porn At All.

I think educators are responsible for kid's education as well as parents. Student's fails and success depend on the educator. A student who is connected to his learning material is more likely to become attached to it.

Engaging students is an essential element of education process, I think if the formula for student engagement existed, students would less resort to professionals who can cope with case study writing or essay writing.

Students just need more motivation and engagement People used to think that modern students are lazy and aren't intelligent, but, perhaps, we need better education system?

Thoughts While Grading

image source:

What I wanted to write on the paper I just graded:
It's okay to write your first draft when you're stoned out of your mind, but for the love of Pete, please proofread it at some point before you turn it in. I feel like I have a contact high just from reading it on my computer screen.

What I wrote:
Please edit for clarity.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

The "not all disabilities are visible" thing, from the other side.

I'm a pretty happy and healthy person, but I've got a little thing that trips me up sometimes, and it's hard to manage it without looking like a baby.  Or a weirdo.  Or a crazy person.  Most of us understand that something like depression, or bipolar, or OCD can be incredibly disruptive to one's routine and can be a big issue for a college student.  But there are disorders that still get mocked, that are maybe not so difficult to live with, but are harder to explain.  And I am just as guilty as anyone else when it comes to being cynical about disabilities (which is extra shameful for me because my son is autistic so I should know better).

I have sensory processing disorder.  I am picky about the chalk I use because if it makes a certain sound, or feels a certain way in my hands, or against the board, it makes me sick.  I usually keep a cache in the car so I can't get stuck using undesirable chalk.

This sounds ridiculous, right?  But it's real.

I got caught without my chalk one day last week.

Fortunately, it wasn't for one of my science classes, it was for a First Year Experience lecture, so there were no equations to share, no problems to model, no major content to put on the board.  We were going to be discussing things and doing group work.  I did, however, plan to put the homework on the board.

I was able to write the chapter numbers on the board, and then I paused and pretended I needed to decide between two things.  I tried to regroup, I put the date next, then had to close my eyes, because sometimes that helps.  I closed my eyes and attempted to write a word (just to see if I could do it at all with my eyes closed) and it didn't matter whether or not I could write with my eyes closed; I couldn't write with that chalk.  I gagged and had to step out of the room.  I think they think I'm pregnant now.  I stood in the hall doubled over, and in a low squat, with my shoulders hunched up to my ears and my hands grasping my knee caps.  When the horrible feeling left my knees I had to stick my fingers in my ears until it went away.  I was swallowing hard with my eyes clenched tight and finally it passed.

Then I went back inside and said we shouldn't waste the last nice day of fall stuck in a classroom and let them go 20 minutes early.

I just wanted to share that in case you ever wonder if you're being suckered by a student with a dubious diagnosis.

Oh - and that's the graphic because I couldn't find any images of a wombat with an invisible disability, but if any poorly dressed middle aged man were to hug me back to comfort, it would be Bruce Springsteen.  

Friday, October 23, 2015

2nd Shooting in a Week at (near) Tennessee State

One can draw various possible deductions/morals from these incidents, but one that strikes me is that our campuses are not, and cannot be, separate from the larger community and culture.  The problems that affect one affect the other (cue John Donne).  As I've said before here, I'm convinced that many problematic student behaviors that we talk about here are to some extent shaped, or at least exacerbated, by declining financial support for higher education at all levels; the same, I suspect, is true of violence (gun, sexual, substance-abuse-fueled, etc.).  Whatever the solution, it's going to have to be worked out both on and off campus.  After all, young men -- and women -- should not be dying of gun violence anywhere; and young women -- and men -- should not be in danger of sexual violence anywhere; I see no reason to consider current college students as somehow special, or more valuable. 
One person was killed and two others were wounded by gunfire on the campus of Tennessee State University in Nashville late on Thursday, police said.
The shootings, which occurred just before 11 p.m. local time, appeared to have stemmed from a dispute over a dice game in an outdoor courtyard, the Metropolitan Nashville Police Department said.
The male who died was not enrolled at the school, a university spokeswoman said. Police have not said whether the other individuals involved were students or visiting the campus. . . .
Last week, three people were shot and wounded during a large house party near the Tennessee State University campus.
And, once again, I will admit to a twinge of (very guilty) relief every time a "campus shooting" turns out to have occurred nowhere near a classroom, and way beyond regular school hours.

P.S.  it turns out we have pre-existing tags for guns, guns on campus, and violence on campus.  That's not surprising, but it's depressing, and scary. 

Thursday, October 22, 2015

More Frat Fucks.

Five Pi Kappa Alpha brothers at Ole Miss were arrested Friday in connection with an assault that allegedly left another student beaten “within an inch of his life.” Tucker Steil, James Basile, Christian Guy, Kyle Hughes, and Austin Rice—real names—were charged with everything from hazing to larceny to felony assault. Given their smiley mugshots above, they don’t seem too bummed out about it.

Local news station WFLA reports that the assault allegedly took place outside another fraternity house belonging to Sigma Pi on October 6. The victim, Sigma Pi brother Jeremy Boyle, reportedly “heard a noise” outside the house, went outside, and was “jumped by five Pi Kappa Alpha members.”

Ole Miss’s campus newspaper The Daily Mississippian reports Boyle suffered a “concussion, several broken teeth, a ruptured eardrum and a lung contusion” following the alleged attack. The victim’s grandfather, Robert Boyle, told WFLA, “They descended upon him and beat him unmercifully. Beat him within an inch of his life.”


Pat From Peoria Doing the Link Thing With Context. What's Happened? How Can I Be Miserable If People Are Doing Things Correctly?!?!?

So, I came across this article a little bit ago and I thought everyone would enjoy it. Well, article is a little too strong a word. It's a blog post at HuffPo. I don't read the blogs at HuffPo much, but if the quality of the typical blog post there is similar to this one, I don't think I'll be back.

The title of the offending post is "Who's to Blame When a Student Fails a Test?" The name says it all, but here's some flava anyway.
"I had gotten a 48%. If I added in the 6% of extra credit, that only brought me up to 54%, which obviously wasn't much better. It brought my grade up from a low F... to a less lower F? To say I was surprised and disappointed is an understatement. I immediately emailed Professor C to schedule a meeting. Like any student who has just been told they failed their midterm, I was secretly hoping she might take pity on me and see that I was making an effort to meet with her (driving an hour from where I lived)."
There were so many tender morsels from which to choose. I selected this one due to its delicate bouquet, a slight whiff of cluelessness, and its subtle taste of entitlement. As they say, please to enjoy.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Uggy from Utica on Lectures and Flipped Classrooms.

I read Surly's post about lecturing, and I have a theory about why the flipped classroom is suddenly in vogue (besides providing fodder for Ed.D. theses). I realized that in my college physics classes I got the benefits of both the lecture and the flipped classroom. Physics I met FIVE hours per week: four lecture hours (standard for my college, which was on the quarter system) plus one mandatory discussion section led by the professor, where we had to be prepared because at any time we could be called to the blackboard to demonstrate a problem. Lab was an additional 2.75 hours. In Physics II and III the mandatory discussion section disappeared, but the work was challenging and I joined a study group to stay on top of it. On our own, my study group did exactly what science students do in a flipped classroom: work together to solve problems. The lectures and textbooks were also essential and I doubt we'd have made much progress without them.

Fast forward to today, where the flipped classroom is all the rage at my university. The edu-research seems to show that flipped classrooms produce the best "learning outcomes" (can't believe I just used that phrase). Is that just because students don't do homework for their traditional lecture classes? I'm sure students are more likely to read their books and/or watch preparatory videos if they know they will have to do actual graded work in class. Certainly the threat of low section grades, to say nothing of public humiliation, forced me and most of my Physics I classmates to be extra-diligent. Maybe the only way to get the students to work problems is to make them do it in the classroom panopticon.

What bugs me, though, is that all of the benefits of the flipped classroom are available in traditional lecture courses. There are plenty of rooms at the library that study groups can reserve if their dorms are inadequate. Our department has a help center staffed by grad students that's open 30 hours per week. The students can read the textbook, listen attentively to a thoughtful lecture, and then work on their own or with a group to put their new knowledge into practice, getting guidance from the help center as necessary. Needs initiative and responsibility on the students' part, but no administrative hand-wringing.

(On a side note, I'm not convinced that science faculty are pushing the flipping fad, as Molly Worthen suggests. I think most of my colleagues would prefer that students know something before they get in the lab with hazardous chemicals or dangerous equipment. We give them a lot of the required background knowledge in our lectures, supplemented by the textbook and the lab manual.)

link: Professor punished for not assigning dept chair's textbook

Uhh, what the fuck??

Prof Poopiehead

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Oh, Lordy...

Dear Dean Lordy,

You are the reason everyone hates it here and you will be the reason this ship sinks.  I know you get off on whipping adjuncts against the post for every piddle little piece of crap over the top anal superfluous bookkeeping task they botch, so it probably pleases you that you have created so many of this asinine and pointless tasks that no one could possibly succeed.

It should interest you to know, however, that in the spring, none of the adjuncts with any experience have put your campus on their preference list.  None.  Good luck running a college with 70% of your "faculty" being a bunch of first year grad students from the large local and woefully underfunded public system.  If you thought it was bad with us actually teaching, but failing to submit the same essential information in the fourth stupid format you requested, wait until you have instructors accidentally making bombs in the lab.


PS fuck yourself

The Porniest of Any Stat Porn Post Ever.

Ugh, the numbers.
Yeah, only Cal and I care, and I didn't used to. Okay, the numbers over a long period of time seem huge. 10 million hits? But in real time, in hour chunks, it's much much smaller, and sorta fun to think about.

In a 60 minute period yesterday morning, 44 different people (meaning, users with different IPs) read the page for at least a minute. (It's possible someone from Oilmont MT read the page at home and then 55 minutes later also logged in from the bar's dialup PC, but not likely.)

44 people in one hour. As a group, they viewed 123 pages. Most folks usually only view one page, the main page. You can scroll down and see the last 2-3 days worth of posts, and anyone regular rarely seems to page around much.

44 people in one hour.

Now, those 44 people, who are they? Where are they from? Well, 38 were from the US. 4 were from Canada, eh? Some person in Germany. Another in Australia. (Generally, Canadian readers run around 10%. The UK runs around 4%, and these numbers are pretty stable.)

Of the US folks, there are a number of visitors who were the ONLY people in their states that visited in an hour's span. If I look at the numbers from some state, let's call it Originalia, I might only see one IP address, even if that person viewed a few pages. BUT NOBODY ELSE! In fact, in this one hour span from yesterday, 25 of the 38 US visitors were the only person in their state viewing the page.

It's in the bigger states where you will find multiple people. In something I might call Maximillia, three different logons, three different institutions, all hundreds of miles apart. (So much for outing each other.)

Firefox and Chrome were used by 80% of these visitors. More than 75% of viewers had a screen width of at least 1268 pixels. And 90 came directly to the page without having to search the damn thing on The Google.

And yes, I'm in my office waiting for students...

Monday, October 19, 2015

Dear New Ed.D.

Hello. Yes, nice to meet you. So, you were just hired by our ever-expanding Office of Teaching Methodology.

Look, kid, no offense, but I've got about 4,000 hours of classroom experience built up over 30+ years. I'm not fond of a 29 year old with more hours learning theory than actual classroom time telling me I'm doing my job wrong.  My classes fill up as soon as the registration system opens, I get great evals, and the average grade in my class is lower than they'd get in my colleagues' classes so they're not coming to me because I'm easy.  They come to my classes because they can see I work my ass off to make the material understandable, relevant, and interesting.  So take what you think worked that time you spent a day teaching ten-year olds in a controlled setting and let me get on with my job.

You want to help me teach? Replace these damn broken desks. Maybe fix the A/C in here so I can't use my classroom as a real-life example of what a Lower East Side tenement or the hold of a coffin ship full of Irish immigrants felt like in July. Maybe teach the students how to take notes or how to read a book----actually READ it and not skim it. Let me be blunt, your salary could be better used to pay another instructor so we could have more reasonable class sizes. Or at least we could pay an adjunct a livable wage. Right now you're just another layer between me and my students, and I really, really don't like anything that gets in the way of me teaching. And you're in the way.

Surly with Some Next-Level Linkage

I know many CMers hate links, so here's my contribution to their inevitable rage-stroke: a double-link post. 

I think I have posting rights, but...

a. I'm too hungover and tired to deal with finding and blurifying a cool pic, and 
b. I don't know if you want a super-linky post on the page, especially one that links to my own thing.

First, Molly Worthen wrote this op-ed piece about lecturing that's been making the rounds.  I know everyone has seen it.  I am, though, interested in what CMers think about it, so I thought it would be interesting to post it and see what people have to say.

Lecture Me. Really.
The vogue for active learning blinds us to the value of ancient teaching methods.
Preview by Yahoo

Second, I my Surly self have recently begun a sort of shitty, half-assed, blogging project, mostly about my K-12 experiences and solely to keep sane in the face of the relentless onslaught of terrible ideas and insane "initiatives" from admins and consultants.  It's just therapeutically ranty and mostly insufferable.  

BUT, coincidentally my first post was a thing about lecturing, which is pretty much everything I have to say about lecturing, so instead of pasting it into a CM post or comment, here's the link:

On Lecturing and Learning
Someone sent me a thing.  It's by Grant Wiggins on why history teachers lecture all the time.  Here it is: I had some feelings about it.  Then I had thoughts and th...
Preview by Yahoo

So please to enjoy or delete!



The Extremely Rare Flashback / Update! 8 Years Ago Today.

Dear RGM,

This is Louise from Lakeside writing. I completely missed the many-years-ago switch to the new blog and I am the worse for it. But luckily this semester I've been catching up with "the misery" and fully enjoying it.

I always liked catching up on the occasional flashback to the old days, though, and since today is the anniversary of an important post of my own, I thought I'd say hello.

After October 19th, 2008, I continued being tough with students, requiring more, making them accountable, not just with their excuses, which was the topic of my post 7 years ago.

And the change has been remarkable.

They'll do what we tell them, or they'll get away with what we let them. I'm sure of it.

My syllabus is tighter than a dolphin's pooper, I can tell you that. It's lengthy, but so be it.

Never give up, never surrender.

Good luck everyone,


Sunday, October 19, 2008
Louise From Lakeside Lets Loose on Her Liars.

Enough with the stupid lies. I've had it. At first, I gave you the benefit of the doubt when you told me that you couldn't come to class because you had a job interview callback, or an ROTC informational meeting, or because you had to take your roommate to the E.R.

You missed important classes, tests and/or presentations and sent me your email excuses. I believed what you wrote, and I let you make up the work. You were so genuine, so polite, so willing to do what ever it would take to make up what you missed. I empathized with your difficulties being in two places at once.

But this year, I wizened up and decided to start checking up on you. I began to ask questions. So, who was the ROTC officer you met with? Who exactly did you have the job interview with? What are their phone numbers and email addresses? What hospital did you rush your roommate to? Please bring me the discharge papers. And it has turned out to be the case every time that you have lied to me. I know this because you can't provide any proof that your story is legit. You have no contact information to share. No business cards, no email addresses. No paperwork. Nothing.

What really gets me is how you embellish your stories. The lies get bigger and bigger. And you do it with such polish, as if generally accustomed to getting your way through such lying and storytelling. I've always suspected that students often lied to me in order to get my OK to make up work. But now that I KNOW you are lying to me, I'm as mad as hell and I'm dead tired of dealing with this in a"professional" manner.

I can only see one way out. I want my own"Daily Show" so that I can make fun of you in the same way Jon Stewart makes fun of public figures caught lying. I want to roll my eyes. I want to show hidden video of you sleeping juxtaposed to imagined video of you doing whatever worthy thing you claimed to have been doing instead of taking my tests.

I would do to you what Jon Stewart does to people who lie: I'd call you out in front of the world and put it on YouTube so no one, least of all me, ever forgets.

"How to Engage with Sullen Students"

I believe we've got a few British participants here at CM (as well as a few Canadians, and others hailing from assorted spots, Anglophone and not, around the globe), but for the most part we're American. So I was intrigued to come across this article from what I believe is the British equivalent of our (not always) beloved Crampicle, Times Higher Ed, on a subject that sounds pretty familiar.  The range of responses from professors, from cheerful suggestions for how to combat sullenness (5 minutes of music, with dancing, at the beginning!) to a suggestion that "perhaps we might want to embrace a little sullenness. It reminds us of the acceptance of difficulty that gives our work its character" (coupled with the diagnosis that the sullenness may stem in part from high rents, low student support, and the need to make up the difference: "If you’re pulling pints in a Brixton boozer till 3am to pay the rent, then you probably will feel a bit taciturn when faced with Sir Gawain and the Green Knight the next morning") sounds pretty familiar.  Even the range of comments sounds  familiar.  There does seem to be a somewhat greater emphasis on rigor as a possible cure, and there's one thing I don't think we'd see in the Crampicle, a dig at American textbooks in particular and the "textbookification of higher education" in general:
The textbookification of higher education has paid a dire dividend to teaching and learning. Richard Arum and Josipa Roksa, in their book Academically Adrift, captured the consequences of low level and minimal reading and basic assessment items on a student’s motivation to excel, transform and achieve.

Sunday, October 18, 2015

The End of Summer Days

From: limburger
To: oph
Cc: trahana, stilton
Subject: URGENT!! Re: Fwd: Re: Advanced Hamster Thermodynamics

Feta's sabbatical went through so I made the executive decision that you'll cover her fall section of thermnemonics. Sorry to spring this on you like this but to make it up the course site on the LMS will be built while you're still on vacay by Trahana from IT and I.

From: oph
To: limburger
Cc: trahana, stilton
Subject: Re: URGENT!! Re: Fwd: Re: Advanced Hamster Thermodynamics

That's great! Feta's long overdue for a sabbatical. We had planned for this eventuality before I left for vacation, and I'm already on board. Thanks for your offer but don't worry about the course site; I'll just copy it from the last time I ran it and update content as appropriate.

From: trahana
To: oph
Cc: limburger, stilton
Subject: Re: URGENT!! Re: Fwd: Re: Advanced Hamster Thermodynamics

You don't understand. We have implemented a new template on the LMS this year so you can't just copy Feta's course. It looks like you have a quiz on the first day, Team Readiness Test? I need to know in order to set up the LMS right.

At this point, dear Readers, I switch to screenplay dialogue mode to save space.

Want to know what pisses me off the most about Geoff Marcy?

Geoff Marcy made headlines in the New York Times last week, having resigned his professorship in the Department of Astronomy at UC Berkeley since his penchant for sexually harassing women finally caught up with him. Some headlines are saying this may be a watershed case, since until last week, he was the star of one of the top four astronomy departments in the U.S., as well as principal investigator of a $100 million project to find life beyond Earth. These headlines say that attitudes in science about sexual harassment may be changing, since Nobel laureate Tim Hunt recently made some stupid remarks about women that weren't laughed off, either.

Nevertheless, want to know what pisses me off THE MOST about Geoff Marcy?

It's not that I used to admire him, since he was indeed among the founders of the field of finding planets of other stars, also called exoplanets. One of the problems with science is that being a perfectly awful human being often doesn't negate one's science. Einstein treated his first wife horribly and abandoned his sons. After one was institutionalized with schizophrenia in 1933, Einstein never saw him again. Nevertheless, special and general relativity have passed every test, and the camera in that mobile phone in your pocket works because light does have both wave and particle properties, the idea for which Einstein got his Nobel prize.

It's not that other people I used to admire couldn't have helped but to have known that Geoff was a terror to women for so long, and looked the other way. The story about Geoff putting his hand up a woman's dress while at a disciplinary hearing makes me say, WTF? It's not that other people I used to admire clearly shielded him from the consequences of his actions. It's not even what Geoff did to at least four women, at the very least severely straining their careers. It's not even the harm he did to science, including whatever science these women might have achieved otherwise, which of course we'll never know now. It's not even that I didn't get to personally staple his dick to the floor. (Up until last week, I promise I didn't know that he did this, but then that tells you something about how out-of-it I am in Fresno.)

What pisses me off THE MOST about this is knowing that the chances are quite good that he'll now get a job in Europe among his former competitors, and all this may be conveniently forgotten until they get nominated together for a Nobel prize.

Reg W. With Some Archival Misery.

So, while I was perusing the nutty drunk student post from yesterday, I found this hero also through the Smoking Gun site. It's an old story, but God it has given me ideas!

A professor at Caifornia State University Northridge has been charged with peeing on a colleague's campus office door.

Prosecutors charged 43-year-old Tihomir Petrov, an assistant professor in the Department of Mathematics at CSUN, with two misdemeanor counts of urinating in a public place. Arraignment is scheduled Thursday in Los Angeles County Superior Court in San Fernando.

Investigators say a dispute between Petrov and another math professor was the motive.


Saturday, October 17, 2015

"Seems like you might celebrate this!" TA Tabitha Sends This In.

A 20-year-old Iowa college student and real-life gladiator called 911 in the wee hours of Friday morning to report that a) she is Olivia Pope, b) she saw Cyrus Beene, a character on Scandal, outside a bar, and c) there is a bomb headed straight for the White House.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

ACTUAL Thirsty: Autocorrect Fail

One of my friends has a son who has newly entered our august profession.  He recently received this email:
Hi Mr. Young Newbie Prof.,

It's Female Student You Don't Recall from your Friday hamsterology lab class.  Could I do the field observation on a hamster my family recently got?

I tried sending nudes a text to the phone number you provided, however it wouldn't let me. Is the number provided a landline?

Is easiest to reach me on my phone.  555-867-5309 is my number should you choose to message me via text.
Turns out this email had an error made by autocorrect.

Big Thirsty: What memorable autocorrect errors have you seen? Did they involve messages sent to administrators? Students? Your grandmother?

Two Wiseacres Came Up With Similar Ideas...They are Both On My Shit List.

Q: Hey, what gives? No Big Thirsty? How about a Big Thirsty that asks: What was so shitfire important that Fab and his endless supply of sitting around time couldn't cobble together one goddamned question of import? Smoke that.

Q: How about a Big Thirsty for that bastard Cal (a Canadian!) that wonders if the compound is so fueled by a Moosehead beer orgy in the aftermath of the cheating Toronto Blue Jays beating God's own baseball team, the Rangers, that they forgot to come up with a simple question today.

A Project.

Someone helpful found 2 typos in the "Incomplete History." God knows nobody reads that thing. Maybe there are more. This is not a real post. I'm just waiting for my class to finish something. Don't hate the proffie; hate the game.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hiram. Pissed.

I've been meeting with students this week to work WITH them on rough drafts. This is not unusual. We sit on the same side of a table with a rough draft and collaborate on ways to improve the draft based on notes we make during topic and outline meetings earlier in the process.

I had 15 of these 15 minute meetings scheduled yesterday. 6 of those people failed to show up, and instead sent me emails with a version of this message: "Sorry, I can't make it. Here's my draft. Can you read it and give me notes?"

To those folks I wrote this: "No, I can't do that. Our meetings are always collaborative. We meet to work together on the essay. I'm not your editor or your proofreader, and I'm not going to sit in my office alone (or at home) and work on your paper. I'm happy to reschedule your meeting if you'd like."

This morning when I got to school I had this email in my box from my chair:

"Hi, Hiram. I got a call from Xxxxxx Xxxxx (a freshman advisor) who tells me you're refusing to work with a student. I know that many stories have two sides, so please make yourself available this afternoon some time to come and talk to me. Let's try to avoid any problems."

You can't believe how fast I hit DELETE, and how quickly I plan on leaving campus after my 11 am class.

These things are dangerous. That's why you need a seven-day waiting period.

I'm talking about faculty meetings, of course. Bryan College in Dayton, TN, isn't taking any chances:
Under this new policy, a faculty member is required to go through a seven-step process that includes approval from the Academic Council, a written rationale stating the purpose of the meeting and a waiting period of at least a week.
More on these sensible precautions here

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Sent in by, like, everyone. "Hey Fab. Break out the breaking news graphic!"

Most Freshmen Are Not Emotionally Prepared for College

High school students spend years taking classes that will help them tackle the rigors of college courses.

But according to a new national survey, most freshmen were unprepared for campus life in one important way: emotionally.

The First Year College Experience survey, conducted by Harris Poll for The JED Foundation, Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, and The Jordan Porco Foundation, found that 60 percent of freshmen said they wished they had "more help getting emotionally ready for college."

Emotional preparedness was a major factor in determining whether a student had a successful freshman year or not. The survey of over 1,500 first-year college students showed that those who felt less emotionally prepared for college when compared to their peers had lower GPAs and were four times more likely (22 percent versus 5 percent) to describe their first year experience as "terrible/poor."

Half of the students said they felt stressed "most or all of the time" and more than a third felt anxious or did not feel as if they were "in control of managing the stress of day-to-day college life."


"My kind of open carry!" From Proffie Galore.

A student at the University of Texas thinks it's a dick move that a new Texas state law will allow concealed carrying of handguns on college campuses. In fact, Jessica Jin is so passionate about this sensitive topic that she urges a provocative exhibition: arm students with brightly colored toys that are safer and waymore fun to brandish: "quality dildoes, especially super large ones."

What would the late, great Molly Ivins say?

Extra credit for guessing which UT campus Ms. Jin attends.


Gems. From Dr. Amelia.

Gave my midterms last week. The essays were genuinely terrible - incomplete and lots of factual incorrectness (like did you know that NATO invented child labor?).

I let them bring in an index card. In the first half of the semester, I did 3 Powerpoint lectures, and most of them copied the words off the slides onto their cards and then, in some cases directly onto their test with no evidence of thinking or understanding. I actually got the sentence "As is well-known, "tangles" is an important word to understand in relationship to hamster fur."

So, do I try to reteach the material? Go over in grotesque detail how to write an essay on a college test and re-give it? Let them go down in flames?

I have never seen it this bad, and I am sincerely at a loss.

From Reg W. No Context Necessary. Don't Boss Me Around!

The drunken UConn idiot who threw a tantrum when he was denied the sweet, sweet pleasures of cheesy pasta has finally surfaced. Luke Gatti, a 19-year-old student at the University of Connecticut, flew into a rage when he couldn’t get his “fucking bacon jalapeño mac and cheese” in a video that made headlines last week. Now, he has apologized for the incident, saying that he acted like a “complete asshole” to the cafeteria worker who tried to kick him out of the school’s dining hall.“This was seriously a wake-up call,” said Gatti. Interestingly enough, it wasn’t the other two times that he was arrested before — once for reportedly shouting the n-word at a police officer — that were his wake up call. No, it took the denial of some fucking bacon jalapeño mac and cheese to really bring him to rock bottom.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Found Misery

Message (instructor to self, I assume) found on a crumpled post-it note, discovered when I crawled under the computer desk for the umpteenth time this semester to pull the plug (the only apparent way to restart this computer when it freezes, which it does on a regular basis):
Announce reading for Wednesday. Apologize for not having it up yet, but don't grovel. 
Oh, yeah.  Been there; felt that way (though never actually put it down in a note). These days such apologies mostly refer to grading rather than prep, because I have more control of the latter, but still, yeah.  

This Week! It's Up To You!

Going to run a whole week of only reader-generated posts. As always, folks with posting rights can put stuff up whenever you want.

If you don't have rights but do have some misery to share, just email us here and we'll do the rest. (Or you click on that submit button below. Who knows if it works.)

If you want to send a link to an article, please provide at least some context, just because, well, it's just one of our many useless tropes.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Students going to work under a professor

Seemingly everyone in academia knows of a situation in which a student goes to work under a professor (nudge, nudge, wink, wink, say no more). Why is this shit tolerated? Come on, everyone knows of this happening.

When I was an undergraduate, I didn't blow the whistle on the metaphysics professor infamous for this, because as far as I was concerned it was pure hearsay: he never came on to me, or any of my immediate friends who admit it. I didn't blow the whistle on the experimental high-energy physics professor who married a former student 30 years his junior, since for all I knew everything was legit: after all, they did have the wedding openly. I didn’t blow the whistle on the colleague about whom I got the expression, “he had a student working under him,” since by the time I found out about this, he’d been gone from our university for over eight years, and I had no idea where he'd gone to, anyway. When I was an accursed Visiting Assistant Professor, I didn't blow the whistle on my incoming department Chair, because he’d married his former student 25 years his junior, and before he'd even arrived on campus anywayplus I was an exquisitely vulnerable accursed Visiting Assistant Professor who considered myself on easy street whenever I could see as much as one year into the future. When serving as department Chair, I worried that I would have to blow the whistle on a colleague, who would go on road trips to scientific conferences and on camping trips for fun with groups of students, where the sleeping arrangements resembled those of youth hostels, but he stopped that when he got married, not to a student or former student.

Nevertheless, faculty having love affairs with students isn’t uncommon. Everyone knows it's wrong, despite some strained rationalizations for it you sometimes hear. Nevertheless, seemingly everyone knows of at least one case of it. Why do people look the other way when it happens? Why is it so widely tolerated?

Saturday, October 10, 2015

FERPA eliminates lazy college kid stereotype. Linked Article. No Context. No Duck. It's a Lot of Work For a Saturday. From the Daily Trojan.

FERPA says USC puts the student as the chief executive of his or her private academic information. It’s supremely important for us to finally shed the image of the lazy millennial.

The legislation has been around for more than 40 years, about a decade before Generation Y even hit the scene. FERPA lasts even after our college careers end, so it’s likely that most of our parents are also covered by the act.

A recent Los Angeles Times article claimed “college students have too much privacy.” To prove their point, they included a horror story about how a parent was kept in the dark for years about their child not actually graduating.

This is not a once-in-a-lifetime story, USC’s Associate Registrar Bob Morley told me. In his 30 years in academia, he has encountered a handful of parents who didn’t know about their kids’ academic struggles. Since FERPA’s enactment, parents have lobbied Congress to loosen its restrictions on guarding their child’s records from them.


Friday, October 9, 2015

Texas Southern Shooting. One Day I Imagine This Might Develop Into a Problem.

An 18-year-old freshman college student is dead and another person is injured after a shooting at Texas Southern University. The southeast Houston campus is no longer on lockdown. Houston police say two suspects are in custody and they are looking for a third person.


From Cal...

10 million. Don't Make A Big Thing Out of It.

This blog passed 10 million hits sometime at the very end of September. I hadn't noticed the landmark, and had to do some calculations based on the last ten days, but that's pretty close.

VERY roughly, RYS did 15 million hits in 1649 days, or about 9000 a day. CM started 1933 days ago (and there was the 219 day hiatus) which means we've been active for 1714 days. Our daily hit average is around 5800. The Drudge Report news aggregator does 25 million a day, just for some perspective.

From the NYTimes.

In light of the bill permitting guns on our state’s college and university campuses, which is likely to be approved by the state House of Representatives in the coming days, I have a matter of practical concern that I hope you can help with: When may I shoot a student?



A deadly shooting occurred on Northern Arizona University’s Flagstaff campus early this morning, and the suspected shooter is in custody, according to a university spokesperson.

One person died and three others were wounded in the shooting, the spokesperson said.


Thursday, October 8, 2015

Delores in DC Sends This Along As Our Big Thirsty of the Week.

I'm only five years into my teaching career (yes, T&P is all I think about), but this editorial in our paper caught my eye.

I was prepared to be all the cynical, but as the story continues, I found myself wondering a great deal about the writer's notion of the "ideal relationship" between students and faculty.

So, here's the flava:

This fall, I started playing weekly tennis games with one of my professors. I had taken a course with him in the spring, we had become friendly and both enjoyed tennis, though we both found discovering people to play with difficult.
Nothing about this felt odd until I started telling people about it. From my roommates, friends and classmates, I almost invariably received a reaction of “Why?” or else a winking smile, pat on the back and some variation of “Congratulations, that’s so smart of you, way to get ahead!”

Q: What is the "ideal relationship" between students and professors? Did you ever have it? Do you do things now to create it for your own students?

PS: Can I confess a crush on OPH?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

I Can't Think of a Nutty Enough Title About This Expelled UConn Douche.

Baffled about Imposed Misery

Ten days before the start of the new semester, rumours of new university-wide Personal Tutor scheme began to emerge, and about three days before, departments were sent information.  It is Mandatory and must be Implemented Immediately.  Personal Tuition is a local name for a role somewhere between advising (help students navigate the university and make good module choices, signpost them to various support services, advocate for them if they run afoul of some part of the disciplinary system) and individual tutoring in Skills (help students understand their feedback from modules and develop Action Plans For Overall Improvement, give them individual help with the referencing system and basic essay writing etc. as needed).  The old system required three meetings per academic year between student and tutor, the only documentation was an attendance record, and it emphasised the advising side of the role.  The new system requires 8 meetings a year, each documented using a lengthy form, and emphasises the individual tutoring side of the role.

This is a near-tripling of the workload per student.  Individually, it's not much - if each meeting is 20 minutes long, adding five is less than two hours.  Doing the paperwork is supposedly the responsibility of the student, but the staff member is ultimately responsible and is required to set the appointments, remind the students, keep records of how they 'supported' any non-attendees (e.g. offer alternative appointments and file the email trail appropriately) - this will add a bit of bureaucracy time.  Maybe 3 hours per student over a year, on average?  However, with a staff-student ratio of say 20:1 in a department, that is 60 hours - one and a half working weeks, according to the Stated Working Hours - of extra work for every academic in the department.  PLUS the Department needs to have a Designated PT Champion who will ensure the system is working, meet with student reps, address any issues that arise due to say staff sickness or absence, study leave, students having Issues with particular staff members... oh, and collate data and write regular reports for the relevant Provot's Office.  Needless to say, we are not allowed to drop anything else - oh no, those classes were advertised in the calendar, and that administrative special project is vital, and you still have that Triple Research Income In Five Years requirement - and there is no funding for extra support, not even a graduate student worker or admin assistant a few hours a week to help keep the paperwork straight.  Some of my colleagues literally do not have enough spare hours in their teaching schedules to fit all the individual appointment slots in the 'standard day' (9-6, when appointments must be scheduled to avoid inconveniencing students) in the mandated Individual Meeting Weeks.  Apparently time to eat or pee is not something academics need.

The documentation tells us that this new system was developed during a two-year process of research, planning, consultation and piloting (not in the STEM faculty, possibly explaining how we were expecting recommendations or a reminder to follow the current policy, not a totally new and punitive mandate).  Yet it was released THREE DAYS BEFORE THE START OF SEMESTER.  The administrator in charge is a Deputy Dean, only partially seconded - as in, still teaches one or two classes and has a small research group, as well as DDing - and rose from the faculty ranks after a couple of decades as an excellent teaching colleague and solid researcher in a department closely related to mine.  He led the whole process, the pilot concluded early last academic year, yet no information went out to departments AT ALL until two weeks before the semester.

Can any Miserian tell me what could have possibly happened in two short years of secondment to make a formerly respectable colleague think this was in any way a good idea, or a valid way to implement something foisted on them by a higher-up?

I met one cohort of my Personal Tutees over Monday and Tuesday.  I asked them how they felt about the new system - did they think it would be more supportive, did they feel it was what they needed, what could I do within it to help them as individuals? (customer service speak TO THE MAX).  The comments included "it feels like being back in High School" and "it's stupid" and "the leaflet explaining it talks like we're all helpless thickos not university students."

Hopefully this will be a one year thing, then will quietly wither away over next summer.  But in the meantime, where's that extra week and a half coming from in my schedule?  Annual leave, or research writing (which will affect my career progression - I don't think PTing is going to COUNT in annual reports any more than it does already somehow), or sleep?

Spamcatcher Is Working.

XXXXXXX has left a new comment on your post "The Class Where Everyone Failed":
What kind of policy is that to make as much people to fail as possible? Professors of that kind shoulnot be eligible to teach at universities 


XXXXXXX has left a new comment on your post "The Class Where Everyone Failed": 

What kind of bulls**t policy is that to make as much people to fail as possible? Your kind should not be eligible to teach at universities 


XXXXXXXhas left a new comment on your post "The Class Where Everyone Failed": 

What \skind of BULLSHIT policy is that you to make as much people to fail as possible? Your kind should not be eligible to teach at universitys 


XXXXXXXhas left a new comment on your post "The Class Where Everyone Failed": 

What kind of bulls**t policy is that to make as much people to fail as possible? Your kind shoulnot eligible to teach at universities like yours

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

It's Nothing Specific. It's Just Really a Sorta Gestalt Thing. (With UPDATE FOR OVERLORD RGM.)

Okay, what I mean is. I have a bafflement surrounding me. I bet some of you do, too. What's yours about?

Monday, October 5, 2015

Reg W. With a Bloggy Early Thirsty.

I spent a lot of my youth working in restaurants, so I love the amazing and miserable tales of bad customers that are featured on Jezebel's food blog Kitchenette each Monday. (It is SUCH the sort of thing we occasionally do so well.)

Q: Do you have any nonacademic blogs you read that approximate the misery and smackdown of ours?


Oh, people are clamoring for some "flava," especially because Reg's note is food related. Someone, I won't say who, HIRAM, wrote, "Do you get it? Flava? Both ways? The way we use it, but also flavor, because it's food?" Hiram thinks I'm an idiot.

Anyway, from Kitchenette's "Behind Closed Ovens" feature from today and linked above:

One busy Saturday night, a crowd of about 20-30 people suddenly came in. My friend thought one of his coworkers was kidding when he said a woman in a wedding dress was among them. Then he looked up, and sure enough, there’s a woman in a wedding dress, a groom, bridesmaids, groomsmen, and a bunch of well-dressed people. Yep, it was a wedding party.
Needless to say, the bar was crowded and all the seats taken. Somehow, the wedding party seemed surprised by this, and one older man (father of the bride, maybe) came to complain to the manager, basically telling him he should make some of the customers move so that they could get enough tables for the wedding party. The manager refused, saying he could not/would not make paying customers move, and asked why the wedding party hadn’t made a reservation. The guy’s response? “Who makes a reservation at a bar?!”
Of course by now the whole place was staring at the wedding party in disbelief and amusement. Some of the men in the wedding party headed over to some of the tables in what my friend guessed was an effort to guilt them into moving, which failed, as most of the tables proceeded to order rounds of drinks or more food.
Up next comes the angry bride, who demanded to know why they were still serving “those people” when it was her wedding day. The manager explained that they are paying customers, and he would not force them to move. The bride then accused the staff of “ruining her wedding.” The manager again asked about why they didn’t make a reservation. The bride started crying, saying that “it’s not fair,” yadda yadda yadda.