Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Dr. Amelia is assembling her elite strike force

A few years ago, faculty at Amelia's university had to go through active shooter training. This consisted of watching a video and then having the chief of campus police stand up and mumble something about how the video had pretty good advice. Dr. Amelia's hubs (also
a proffie) then got to do this at his school this year.

The video did, in fact, have good advice. For example: run away from the sound of apparent gunshots. But one part really made me wonder.

There is substantial emphasis on survivor mentality - basically being willing to do what it takes to stop a shooter if you can't avoid them. Apparently, if there is a shooter in your building, you should make your room look/sound like there is no one in there (turn off lights, lock the door, silence phones) and at the same time assemble your students into an elite strike force, prepared to physically attack a shooter as soon as he gets through the barricade by throwing things, jumping them, etc.

It is probably also good advice, but I am thinking to myself "Have you met my students?" And also "When did we cover this in grad school?"

How About the Rest of Us Go In Today?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Nobody Is As Good As the Onion: "College Professor Reminds Students It Will Take A Few Classes To Memorize Everyone’s Triggers"

So are those trips to the MAC counter tax-deductible now?

Once again, it pays to be pretty [1].

​Not only do more-attractive teachers get better evals, it seems their students pay closer attention and learn more:

Participants listened to an audio lecture while viewing a photograph of instructor. The photograph depicted either a physically attractive instructor or a less attractive instructor. Following the lecture, participants completed a forced choice recognition task covering material from the lecture. Consistent with the predictions; attractive instructors were associated with more learning.

Can't wait to see what this is this going to do to our professional-development curriculum. 

[1] and male; an "unexpected" finding of the study was that the male instructors received better ratings than the female instructors, although the students' performance on the recall test did not differ by instructor gender. 

My Students Compiled a Compendium of Things I Said. From Annie.

So my last summer course ever, probably, just wrapped up and one of my students sent me an email that contained a list of all of my "best quotes" including a "top ten" that he and a few of his peers had collected. He asked if it was okay to disseminate to the rest of the class. I approved after reviewing them. I was kind of flattered that they felt writing down what I said was worthwhile. The horror of saying that as their professor is not lost on me. I thought I'd share their top ten as well as some of my favorites:

10: Source?

9: Do you have a source for me? Is the source a surprise? *holds out hand and closes eyes*

8: If you've read any of the things I've written in a casual setting, you'll know how much I love parentheses. You are not to use them in this class. They are... the forbidden punctuation. Just don't even hit those keys on your keyboards. I guess you'll have to avoid numbers that incorporate nine and zero as well.

7: *laughs* You can tell this guy didn't read my Rate My Professor reviews yet. Your assignment for next week is to read my Rate My Professor reviews, buddy. You do still have to write the essay, yes.

6: What would happen if you used an ampersand in an essay instead of spelling out "and"? I honestly have no idea... I've never seen that before. Do you want to be the first archaeologist that goes into the Pharaoh's tomb, Josh?

5: Well, taking a break and talking about your essay due next week was a fun reprieve, but let's get back to work.

4: If you don't need sources to support your arguments, then I guess I don't need any rationale to support what grade I give you and doctors don't need any reason to prescribe medication. And the horses start eating each other and it rains blood.

3: If you liked it then you should have put a source on it.

2: I strongly encourage you to read my Rate My Professor reviews before writing your first essay.

1: Sure, maybe appealing to ethos and pathos would work on some audiences, and you need to know your audience. For instance, the audience reading your papers is me, a calculating, emotionally constipated woman who wasn't loved enough as a child. So employ ethos and pathos at your own risk, is what I'm saying.

Here are ones I liked that I'd forgotten about:

  • "Oo! A source!" *claps hands delightedly* 
  • "I don't think you've earned Sans-Serif, though." 
  • "I believe one of my reviews said that I'm cold, calculating, and don't care about anyone's feelings. That student didn't do too well, which goes to show you that flattery gets you nowhere."

- from unknown "source"

Paula in Podunkville on Professor Absences.

You weren't in the mood?
Your chili sucks anyway.
I'm a long time professor at a gorgeous and tiny college in the Midwest. We have 5 full time faculty members in our department and two part-timers who have been with us for 8 and 15 years.

Our annual department "bash" is during the first week of classes. It's a longstanding tradition that has been in place as long as I've been here.

On our first day of classes, our newest full timer (Nicholas the New - just 2 years in) called in sick for his classes. I took one. My colleague across the hall took one. A part-timer drove in 25 miles to take the other one, the early one that meets at 8 am. (She had 45 minutes notice!)

At lunch I was eating my cold sandwich in a lounge area and a few of us were talking about Nicholas and what a shame it was he was out because he's always the life of the party.

That night, at the chair's house, we were 10 minutes into the fun when Nicholas and his wife arrived. They had fresh beer and a homemade veggie chili. He showed no signs of being sick. It irked me all night. I'd read on this blog about professors skipping class, cancelling Fridays and all that, and it had annoyed me.

Nicholas's buoyant manner and chipper health annoyed me even more now.

I ended up sitting on a lawn chair next to him in the back yard and asked how he was feeling.

"Great," he said. "I wouldn't miss the yearly party for anything."

"What about your classes?" I asked. "You know we covered for you."

"I owe you one then," he said, tipping his beer toward me. "Needed a mental health day. Wasn't quite out of my summer mood." Then he laughed.

His chili sucked anyway. And so does he.

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Monday, August 29, 2016

Another Week...

hazy (bad) haiku for the first week of class

fog. it's monday. this
week, i return to work a
monster.  she looks the

same, but she's aiming
her ideologies at
the defenseless! i

should be labeled, the
warning tattooed on my face,
a scarlet m. some

of us wear our scars
like invisible masks, our
faces seemingly

naked while we face
our gauntlets daily, the world
a serrated street.

some walk a somber
path, their rigidity clear
as ice in their eyes,

as necessary
as the air they breathe.  some are
openly fragile,

like leaves left open
when beetles have fed. i want
to hold us all and

keep us whole, but i
am just one woman this week
and of the wrong kind.

it's a kind of self-
induced torture, this speaking
aloud when only

one form of loud is
acceptable.  this morning's
fog is easy to

hit, a target too
convenient to ignore in
the first week of class.

the first thing i'll do,
then, is go for a run, my
body threading the

moisture while the threads
of haze in my brain begin
to stitch the patterns

of the initial
encounters of the coming
week. there is a kind

of weakness that mocks
the legitimacy of
that which makes us frail,

and, therefore, makes us
human.  then there is the kind
that shouts a one-note

song and demands that
others join the chorus.  these
are musical times.

today, my music
will include the cadence of
my middle-aged joints,

at some point joined by
an aching internal voice
that will try to make

sense of a trying
path and of the lyrics key
to sing its looming


-- Great Lakes Greta

Sunday, August 28, 2016

From the mouths of babes

"Everybody gets tested on the same standards. It's just not fair"
--A fourth-grade teacher, quoted in an article on the
unfairness" of Common Core reading standards

"We take the test to see how teachers have teached their kids, like if they've teached them nothing and they don't know any answers, teachers get rated and they might get fired because they might not be doing their job...It's creepy because you try your best, but some kids just can't learn, and a teacher will get fired because of those kids."
--A ten-year-old student quoted in the same article.

The first quote struck me as an eyeroll-inducing example of ed-school doublespeak; the second quote, on the other hand, explained the "unfairness" angle clearly. 

I think I'd like to see more ten-year-olds writing about education. 

Dr. Amelia smells fresh meat

Orientation ruins students

Quite a bit happens to my merry band of freshpersons prior to their arrival in my classroom. They say buh bye to their high school friends, siblings and pets (for many the pet seems to be the most missed, but perhaps that is another post). They shove their gaming consoles, new sheet and towels and shower shoes in the car and ease on down the road to the university.

They move in. Mom cries. Then, they get wrecked.

Freshperson orientation seems to consist of

1. Playing stupid ice breaker games with a group of 19 other newly liberated souls.

2. Learning who the kid who has the best fake ID to go to the local libation dealer and bring back social lubrication so that the newly liberated can practice their liberty through secret intoxication.

3. Hearing important tips from the upper-classperson orientation leaders such as
*That required freshperson class is the easiest A you'll have in college
*Don't worry if you didn't do the common reading. Proffies never ask about it.
*Frat row has the best parties with free beer for girls
*Proffies don't care if you book your trips over university holidays with just a couple of extra days on each end.
*Don't let the RAs catch you drinking. But everybody drinks. All the tea-partying time.

4. They confusedly buy their textbooks. Our bookstore (a Silos and Peasants branch) has now stopped carrying textbooks in the store. You have to go in and order them and come back another day after they have paged them from the warehouse. So you can't look for used books with the kind of notes/highlights that might actually help you.

There's a big freshperson gathering where they mill around on the sportsball field holding those candles with the paper bibs on the bottom while not hearing some guy on a stage talking about integrity or morality or tradition or something. They show in my class the next day. with the idea that college is a party (I had a student describe it as being like summer camp), professors are pushovers and as long as you show up (most of the time) you should be just fine.

Friday, August 26, 2016

The University of Chicago warns incoming freshmen that they should expect no safe spaces

The University of Chicago sent a letter to incoming freshmen addressing the ideas of "safe spaces" and "trigger warnings." 

I think this is a great idea, but I have a couple of colleagues who think that there should be accommodations made for student trauma.  (One colleague is worried about students with PSTD.) 

What say all of you?

- Great Lakes Greta

Welcome to the Tea-Partying Party

So we're going to have an all-college "summit" on enrollment this fall, a full day of required meetings for all faculty and staff.  Full day as in 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.  On a Friday. 

I know that the way we manage our classrooms can affect the reputation (and enrollment) of the college.  I also know that my fellow full-time faculty are really, really good; they have to be good in the classroom, given the nature of our particular college. 

I also know that I am not a retention specialist, an advisor, a counselor, or an enrollment expert.  I also know that our administration will do practically nothing that the faculty suggests that may positively impact enrollment.  At LD3C, we faculty have very, very little input on scheduling -- and scheduling is big problem affecting enrollment -- and history has taught us that whenever we're asked to contribute in these summits, our suggestions are often ignored. 

At one such summit a year ago -- something about general issues at the college -- the administration invited us to speak openly ... and then roundly and loudly put down anyone who did so.  It got quiet in a hurry ... and we were chastised for that, too. 

We've been promised lunch, though.  I hope there's coffee.  It goes well with whiskey.

I used to love my job.  I used to respect my profession. 

- Great Lakes Greta

Welcome to Fall 2016

College Misery is in its 6th year as a dying and inconsequential blog (we've always been inconsequential and dying...and small) and we are happy to welcome new correspondents. If you have stories and tales about the misery of college proffie life, we'd love to share them with our readers.

Over in the sidebar are two links, the top one - with the green envelope icon - will allow you to write a post the way you want it to appear on the site. (Make sure to include a user name / pseudonym at the bottom.) It goes into a queue where the moderator will check it for formatting and post it within a few hours.

The second link further down to the RGM (Real Goddamned Moderator) sends a direct message to me. 

Thursday, August 25, 2016

I'm Annie From Abelard and I Made Friends, Apparently

I moved your stuff.
Now help me with my quadratics.
I'm not the most... emotionally astute person. Some doctors have said I have Asperger's, some have said I don't. Neither here nor there. Bottom line is that I generally don't make a ton of friends where I go. I didn't really have any until I got to high school, at which point I had a resounding two. Then one in college. And a glance at my RMP reviews show that "Cold/chilly" and "lack of understanding" are frequent descriptors my students use for me, unfortunately. But I can now say, with no small degree of enthusiasm, that my fellow professors genuinely like me.

I'm moving across the building to a refurbished office, and I'd been griping a little bit about having to move my stuff (which I would have had to do tomorrow). Just more or less saying that I'm not looking forward to it. A lot of educational paraphernalia (i.e. crap) tends to coalesce around me and I can't really part with any of it so moving shop is always a huge hassle. But I came in today to find my workspace in my department office completely barren and wiped clean. I start freaking out, terrified that maintenance had thrown it out or that everything had been a big joke and I was fired or something. Then I see a note on my chair.

"I wonder where all your stuff could be? Hmmm... I do wonder, indeed. If you could wave your magic wand and have it appear someplace, where would that be?

~(My friend/mentor's first name)"

Relief flooded over me and I calmed down. I wasn't fired. My stuff was somewhere. It occurred to me to check my new office, assuming that my mentor had moved it as a nice gesture. When I arrived, I found that not only had my things been moved, but my computer and phone had been set up, my supplies were neatly organized on my desk, and my "crap" had been put into legal boxes on the side of the room in a slightly more organized fashion than it had been previously. Seemingly out of the ether (in this case, nearby cubicles), my entire department coalesced and shouted things (I think they couldn't decide on "surprise" or "congratulations"). They had some party platters of cheese and crackers and sparkling apple juice.

The fact that they threw me a little morning party was really, really nice. And I was particularly flattered that they helped me get set up in my new office because I had been sweating the idea that they resented me leaving or that they wanted the position themselves. So this gave me some closure as a sort of blessing from them. Upon further inspection I saw that they had put up a sort of billboard with pictures of each of them making funny faces and taken the liberty of taping a list of their names with their extensions next to my phone. For someone who assumes that any time I reach out to someone, it's unwelcome, this clear message saying "keep in touch" was something else.

Maybe this isn't so bad after all.


PS from the RGM: I'm waiting for someone to tell me that blackboard could not possibly be showing quadratics...10, 9, 8, .....

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Grad students recognized as workers

Driving home from beginning-of-the-year meetings, I heard this news on NPR:

NLRB: Graduate Students at Private Universities May Unionize

If I heard the NPR story (which I don't see online yet) correctly, the ruling also applies to undergraduate student workers.

I don't know all the ins and outs, but I think this is probably good news, since it seems likely to reduce opportunities and incentives for exploiting grad student labor -- perhaps not by much, but maybe at least a bit?


Tuesday, August 23, 2016

I won't post another of these, but this is shameful. I've found pages and pages of this.... From Nick. Sorry.

Cancelled Class Blues

I know we've discussed this before, and my memory is that some people were annoyed that this page made a thing out of professor cancellations. But, although I'm nowhere near perfect, I tend to meet my classes all semester long.


First Day VidShizzle. Cancelled.

Regardless of what folks think, the vidshizzles are always made with a healthy portion of love. I was a lousy college student, and thank God I didn't have the YouTube capabilities of today's students. I can't imagine the idiocy I would have posted.

But as I often do for this site, I was going to stitch together a few funny and inane "first day of college" videos today to post. The first ones were great, kids lost, kids mad about walking 3 minutes to class, etc. Then I found 2 back to back that broke my heart. Two freshmen in their dorm rooms crying, seriously upset about being away from home, feeling lonely and lost.

It broke my heart. I spent a few sleepless weepy nights back in the 70s in my undergrad days, and it was nothing to laugh about then or now.

I start classes on Thursday, and today's little wake up call has served to remind me how young the modern student is, how fragile. Not all, of course. There will be fuckups and loudmouths and entitled brats like always.

But there will be some who are frightened and fragile, and I'm going to do my best to help them.

- Cal

Monday, August 22, 2016

I. Can't. Even. Olympic Recap: ENG 1101, 9:30 am.

It is not in my nature to rag on students, but in my first class today:

1: oh my god did you see the Olympics?
2: yes it was so much fun. But where were those other countries from?
1: what do you mean?
2: like which countries were those other countries from?
1: which ones?
2: the ones that weren't America.
1: all over. Did you see those women that looked like men?

And then I passed out the syllabus.

That first day

Got an email from my chair today with an exhortation to make the first day count and not have your students be those who post #syllabusweek nonsense on Twitter. I feel like we've been there, done that and most people do something that day. I've tried different things over the years.
First Day!
  1. Spending a good bit of time on course-linked, getting to know you sorts of exercises in a class that was going to be interaction heavy. Evaluation: students don't like playing silly games with strangers any more than adults at mandatory training do. It is worse when they are silly games about hamsters. 
  2. Doing a full lecture, passing out the syllabus at the end and announcing there would be a quiz on the syllabus at the start of the next class. Evaluation: They were afraid, but in a functional way. I was the teacher to whom crap should not be given. 
  3. Hybrid of #1 and #2. Some time getting to know, some time on lecture, syllabus at the end. Evaluation: Meh. It was an unremarkable start to an unremarkable semester. Also, I need better ice breakers. 
  4. Variant on #2, The Paper Chase style. Looked at the little ID photos of my merry band of freshpersons that you can get with the course registration system. Started calling on people by name having never met them, asking them questions about course material (that anyone with reasonable general knowledge should be able to think about and answer). Evaluation: They were very, very, very afraid. This group was always prepared for class, but paranoid about rightness in a way that hurt creative problem solving. 
  5. Assigning a group task to small groups that could be done with a HS graduate's level of knowledge, but related to future course material. Best solution got 5 bonus points on the syllabus quiz in the next class. Evaluation: Within the small groups, the bonding experience motivated by points did build strong relationships that carried forward into the semester. Winning/losing aspect was highly motivational. I'd do it again.

- from unknown sender

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Friday, August 19, 2016

bad haiku for a mid-august day

melania trump,
that slovenian flower,
bloomed in the night like

a plastic rose.  in
the back of my garden, real
roses send out their

warm, genuine scents,
an olfactory backdrop
for the syllabi

i'm prepping for fall.
now that we know for sure that
the center never

holds, that truth never
does will out, that plastic lives
matter – uber and

alles --  what matters
more, the fine print on cheating
or how i cover

my ass when i catch
that plagiarist? god, i hate
the pedant i have

become, pedantic
creature writing metallic
scripture into these

syllabi, scripting
course legalities for mere

serving up slices
of conduct code on platters
of base rectitude.

my eye twitches.  of
all the things i thought i would
someday teach, the cold

art of the deal was
never on my radar. in
this summer of lies

we have learned what lies
at the heart of discourse: one's
own beliefs.  it's tough

enough believing
in the need for evidence;
teaching that, now, seems

a lost cause.  and now
in my garden, i sit with
my laptop and write

what my students won't
read or heed or value, the
words my job requires

me to include, my
own voice muted to protect
my academic

assets.  my summer
is nearly spent, my spirit
barely renewed for

the unbearable
onslaught of ignorance dressed
in students' clothes, those

called "clients" in a
recent and chilling memo,
a lousy augur

on a mid-august
day. oh, man, i just want to
breathe, to savor the

summer's last breaths of
decency. everything's in
bloom: the bee balm and

tickseed, the black-eyed
susans and coneflower, some
daylilies, all the

herbs.  days like this, when
even the hummingbirds laze
in the record heat

(which in no way proves
climate change, because belief
trumps science and truth

is so elite), and
the squirrels straddle the arms
of the oaks, and the

dragonflies offer
distraction – skimming the bird
bath, rippling the

water, bathing in
the light, their wings creating
the perfect mantra

for summer's end – the
only thing i want to do
is be.  there is a

hole in the sky, a
rendering of things rendered.
the tangible is

mutable, the real
no longer concrete, and now
instead of the hope

of fall semester –
that anticipation that
has kept me going

for years – i keep a
watch on my retirement
account, grateful that

i can count myself
among those with such options
maybe … maybe … some

day.  some life.  classrooms
full of true believers, fact-
devoid and caring

not one bit.  the void
into which i pour myself
feels like a spiral.

the spiral arm of
the galaxy against the
blackness of space, the

perseids' flash, these
moments that science tells me
exist – real, by god,

or plagiarized by
fireflies? can evidence
save me, or will all

that unsavory
spinning sink the world, the scent
of the artifice

drowning the sweetness
of all that genuinely
blooms and seeding the

planet with plastic? 

Great Lakes Greta

Thursday, August 18, 2016

A Big Thirsty From Prof. Poopiehead.

From the outside looking in, the U California, U Wisconsin, and SUNY systems looked like real jewels of public higher education - the vast majority of research groups and scientific journal articles I read hail from these systems (mind you, the papers I read are also dominated by a couple of unis in each system; UC Davis, UW Madison, SUNY Syracuse, etc).

For several years now I've read the occasional news article about funding cuts, sometimes drastic, that have befallen these systems (it is rare for this sort of topic to make it to the international front-page news, where I'd catch sight of it).

Q: So, can anyone on the inside update me on how are these uni systems doing? Particularly with tenure/tenure-track faculty numbers, research funding, and attracting and retaining top academics? If research is tanking in these systems, its a real blow to a number of research fields.

Wednesday, August 17, 2016

A Top Ten With Beaker Ben.

My colleagues and I are going through the painful process of reevaluating textbooks. (I must have been an awful person in a previous life.) They’re all the same. (I mean the books. Well, the colleagues too but that’s another story.) Books differ only in the ancillary materials available. Quite a variety. In fact, there’s enough that I was able to construct this...

Top 10 List of Add-Ons for Your Next Textbook

10. A solutions manual with enough mistakes that you wonder if your students wrote it.
9. A picture of a bug that is now extinct because they cut down a square mile of rain forest so your students could buy hard copies.
8. Images of internet memes that are based on the book’s content.
7. PowerPoint slides prepared by somebody who doesn’t know how to use PowerPoint.
6. The Blue Ray extended director’s cut of the textbook with author’s commentary.
5. An app which allows students to not read the book on their phone, just like they don’t read the tablet, computer, or paper versions of the book.
4. Marketing materials which ask you to “Like us Facebook” in a way that seems a little desperate.
3. A note that says, “If you sell your instructor’s copy, the puppy gets it.”
2. A system for clicker questions which requires a 300-page user guide and five hours of online training to use.
1. The book is a bunch of blank pages but, when you wear these augmented reality goggles, you see words on the page.

Early Thirsty From the Wombat.

I have a new administrative position and I'm in charge of a few dozen adjuncts who we've flung all over campus in rooms we can't control. The chalk boards and white boards vary in quality from acceptable to crap. I was an adjunct for 11 years, schlepping myself all over god's green earth, and struggling to get supplies during off hours etc. I've made it my unofficial mission to set my instructors up for success and to treat them with respect and understanding.

One of the things that drove me mad when I was an adjunct was the expectation that I would supply my various employers with chalk and markers. I've taught labs that started at 9 pm, lectures at 6 am, and a variety of Saturday and Sunday classes. There's never anyone around to supply markers, and the ones you scrounge from nearby class rooms are always dead, that's why they're left behind. So the first i I'm going to dot is access to chalk and markers for my teachers. And since I can sometimes project my own preferences, I thought I'd poll les miserables for chalk and marker preferences. 

I need brands, formulas, colors, tip shapes. The courses my people will be teaching involve group problem solving sessions and team reporting on the part of the students. Roughly 5 groups of 4 students, 85 minutes per week. I have a total of 4 dozen sections. I'll take input about anything else you can think of. 

Q: How many colors do you like, how fast do you burn through them? If you were an adjunct what would you want me to provide you with to get through a lesson

-the Wombat of the Supply Closet

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Annie From Abelard Has an Update.

I wrote about an opportunity that my Dean approached me with last week; a research fellowship that's being started that they want me to be chair/senior fellow of. There would be two junior fellows that I would be responsible for hiring. The Dean, HR, and the college have nailed down exactly what they're going to do. The fellowship is going to be a part of the college, but not a part of its associated department. I'll answer directly to the Dean, but be expected to coordinate very closely with the associated department (which is defined in pretty certain terms). They approached me with the official offer and, after doing research, I asked for slightly more money while presenting my findings. Dean said sure, HR wanted me to take half of the increase out of my budget. I thought that was fair. So done deal. I didn't need anyone to walk me through the benefits package because it's the same as I was getting before. Everyone at the University gets the same thing: Professors, administrators, janitors, Deans, everyone.

So they've given me my research budget and my hiring budget. The research fellowship is going to be named after a donor who started an endowment for it, which is where the lion's share of my budget will be coming from (just learned this last week). I'm probably going to write them a letter thanking them. The Dean wants everything to be up and running by October (October!) and to start having comprehensive research projects out next spring. Which means I've got the next two months to sign two other fellows and then a semester and a half-ish to publish some heavy shit. So I'm kind of freaking out now. (Thank you all for your help, by the way)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

I Don't Know What The Fuck Any Of This Is But It Came To My Faculty Email This Morning From My Chair. From Charlotte in Charleston.

Let's have some fun with this next week!!


Pokémon have taken over campus! Whether you just downloaded the Pokémon GO game, or you’re a level 30 gym leader, the Hamline campus is a great place to catch Pokémon, restock your supplies, and battle at gyms.

Within the bounds of campus, Pokémon trainers can reach over 20 different PokéStops and three different gyms, including one at the Bishop statue. Campus is also a hotspot for the pocket monsters. Along with the common Pidgeys and Wheedles, rare Pokémon like Staryu, Eggsecute, Jigglypuff, and Meowth have been spotted on campus.

Note: This graphic was made by
someone who doesn't know what
she's doing.

America desperately needs to redefine ‘college and career ready’. From

Well-intentioned national K-12 education goals are jeopardizing the futures of millions of kids. Our stated goal is making all kids “college and career ready.” The reality, though, is that we’ve turned schools into college prep factories, leaving the vast majority of kids ill-prepared for career or life.

I wish adjuncts could get even the health benefits she gets, by Froderick Frankenstien from Fresno

This week, after an investigation that began in April, Linda Katehi resigned from her job as Chancellor at UC Davis. You may remember her from refusing to step down after the pepper spray incident in 2011, asserting that "I really feel confident at this point that the university needs me." Or from spending $175,000 and an unknown number of staff work-hours trying to erase the incident from the internet, which went about as well as you might expect: it turns out it was more like $407,000. She's been on paid leave since April, and will go on one year of leave, drawing her full salary of $424,360, and after this plans to make a transition to the engineering school as a tenured professor.

- Froderick Frankenstien from Fresno

Friday, August 12, 2016

A letter to my incoming merry band of freshpersons (with fun literary references!)


Hi and welcome to college. I, Amelia, your sage on the stage or guide on the side or whatever the edubabble for this year is, am glad that you are here. Seriously. I think it is because, like Rapunzel's Mom, I suck your young life energy when you aren't looking and it keeps me young, but I probably shouldn't tell you that...

Anyway, there's a lot of articles on how to rock college, but here is my $.02 into the pot. It's a three-step formula.

1. You get out of college what you put into it. If you want to write off something as pointless "busywork", that's your choice. If you don't want to do the reading, that's your choice. If you think the night of drinking at the fraternity house that makes you so hungover that class isn't an option the next day is a good choice, knock yourself out. But I have been adulting for quite a while now and I can tell you that that space in life to sit and think about ideas and discuss them with other smart people gets greatly diminished after college. If that's your thing, choose wisely. If that's not your thing, why are you here?

2. If you get in trouble, act early. Fun fact: literally everyone here feels like an impostor. That kid next to you in class. The upperclassman RA down the hall. Heck, even me! We wouldn't' have opportunities for out-of-class help if people didn't need them frequently. But the longer you wait, the bigger a hole you dig for yourself until eventually you and Mary Anne* are kicked out of college and hanging out in the basement of the building where you are doing that job you didn't need college for. There is no shame in asking for help and I am so, so happy to help you find it. There IS shame in flunking because you were too proud to ask.

3. This is a good time to learn about professional courtesy. Your mom isn't here to make excuses for how you are grumpy today because "well, teenagers, amirite?" Giving everyone a little more respect than you think they deserve, from your professor to your roommate to that really annoying kid in your class to that guy who cleans your shower will get you pretty far in life. Perfecting your eye roll and then sending snaps of it will get you seen as the silly child you apparently still are.

So, I'll see you in a week or so, kiddies. It will be fun and there WILL be homework the first day.

Dr. Amelia

*10 bonus Amelia points if you can ID the reference

10 Elements of an Effective, Non-Annoying Email. From

Here’s a template you can follow in constructing your email to a professor. Each element is explained further below.

Dear [1] Professor [2] Last-Name [3],

This is a line that recognizes our common humanity [4].

I’m in your Class Name, Section Number that meets on This Day [5]. This is the question I have or the help I need [6]. I’ve looked in the syllabus and at my notes from class and online and I asked someone else from the class [7], and I think This Is The Answer [8], but I’m still not sure. This is the action I would like you to take [9].

Signing off with a Thank You is always a good idea [10],
Favorite Student


Thursday, August 11, 2016

This Year I Will NOT.... This Week's Big Thirsty from Nick.

Q: What will you NOT do this year? Me, well, I'm not going to bump a grade up half a letter to avoid conflict. You want a piece of me? Come get some!

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Sawyer Sends In This Linked Cartoon.

From R.K. Milholland's "Something Positive.

Olympic Fever. From Ben.

Or did you just catch some disease in Rio?

I was thinking about writing a post about a student version of the Olympics. What types of events would they have? I never did because I kept thinking, didn't I write something like this before? Not on CM or RYS but somewhere else... Then I remembered.

For once, I am overcoming my modesty in order to post links to my favorite series of Academic Water Cooler posts.

First, I introduced POOP. (Play Online with Other Proffies). The follow-up post listed the winners. As usual, the best part of everything was the comments.

Oh, and here's that Olympic snowflake graphic I'm still proud of.

-- Beaker Ben


I don't think promoting your friends 'music' is a very useful practice its a waste of this space which could be used for real articles on higher education like this one.

- unknown sender

Sunday, August 7, 2016


I don't know if any current readers are Tweeters, but there's been some lively stuff going on under #seriousacademics for a little while.

Here's some flava from an article that started it:
Using social media to impress people that you know – as well as those that you have never met – has now become a professional concern for many academics. I see more and more of them live tweeting and hashtagging their way through events. When did it become acceptable to use your phone throughout a lecture, let alone an entire conference? No matter how good you think you are at multitasking, you will not be truly focusing your attention on the speaker, who has no doubt spent hours preparing for this moment.
Which then led to this piece, which I find hilarious.
Sadly, it appears (to me) that most of the people who share their work online do so purely as proof of their dedication to the profession, to mark them out as more enthusiastic than their peers. This is very sad. Before social networks, academia was essentially a communist utopia, where nobody ever self-aggrandised or showed any hint of ego. This is genuinely true, ask anyone who agrees with me.
I mention all of this, because as a @CollegeMisery follower, I was stunned to see retweets from the compound today on this topic. Who's doing it? Fab, is it you? Didn't Kimmie do it? Did Terry P. do it? Regardless, I hope it continues.

Why, because I'm a serious academic.


9 Years Ago. The First Appearance of Wicked Walter.

Where We Don't Even Pretend To Try and Figure Out What To Write For a Title

A professed fan of the site sends along this list of "ideas":

Y'all gone soft there at RYS. There was a time when you put the cart in front of the horse, or just ate the horse for lunch and pushed the cart down the mountain. Now y'all just nice and polite and it's making me a little sick. (Look, I think I just threw up in my mouth a little.)

Well, I've come to save the day. I want to be one of those "chief correspondents" you are always yammering about. I want to be recognized for my wisdom and perspciapacity or whatever. I want you to marvel at my ideas, give me a shocking title and a cool blurry graphic. I want to be in with the COOL KIDZ.

So, here are my suggestions for the coming year. I am in my new office at my old school and I've got a new laptop that the Dean had to buy me because I'm such a research stud, and I'm about to let loose with some ideas that will make your little website as popular as or Feel free to use these, but make sure you give credit to me - a chief correspondent in the sciences from a slamming R1 in Texas.

  • Every Friday, post a picture of the cutest ass in someone's class. Profs can turn the tables and whip out their own cell phones and capture a hunnie or a hunk. You could post them with funny captions. I can think of a hundred ideas already.
  • Every Saturday and Sunday, turn the blog over to a random professor. Just tell someone to write a "smackdown" of their own and then watch the vitriol fly!
  • Start identifying students with more comical descriptions and made up names. Saying "Bitchy Brenda" is not enough. Say that Brenda is a petite 5'3" brunette made up of sugar and spice, oregano and combat boots, and that she often has tunafish in her hair...and you get my drift. Spice it up, I guess. This is not TELEVISION, MAN, it's the written word, and let Chaucer and Le Carre and Cussler be our models...describe, describe, describe!
  • Put an immediate kibosh on any post that starts with one of these: 1) I love my students..., 2) My students work hard..., 3) I care about my students... and you get the drift. Those posts always suck. They're always introspective and that's pure death on any of these blogs. Just quit posting shit like that and you'll stop getting such lousy submissions.
  • Just quit trying to be so serious. All of the people in my department are dunderheads, old farts who are on the long slow decline to dementia and retirement (at the same time, do you get me?!?!). If I wanted to be bored to death I'd go talk to them. I come to RYS for some fun. It's not rocket science, baby. This is a blog that's supposed to rip a new one to those students who turn our classes into daymares. So let's have some fun with it.

Okay, so just let me know how amazed you are by all of that. And I didn't even break a sweat. You can thank me at some convention some time. I'm always asking colleagues, "Yo, are you the Rate Your Students guy, huh? Would you tell me?" I'll find you, you bastard, I really will.

Sign me,
Wicked Walter from Waxahachie

(that's nothing...I got a million of them)

Friday, August 5, 2016

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Why Are Boys So Hard? A Big Thirsty from Missy in Miami.

I finished my first year of teaching in May and am dreading starting again. Why? The boys. Not young men. But all the immature boys who dominated my classes even though they made up only 40%.

What do you do about boys, and how can you keep the rest of the class engaged when they can't get a word in?

Wednesday, August 3, 2016


A few days ago, Fab posted a note in the header saying that we'd had our first visit from Nauru, a small island nation off the coast of Australia.  That sounded like a fun, quirky, fact, and raised intriguing questions: do we have a reader from a university there?  Or maybe someone was on vacation there and checked in? 

Sadly, thanks to an article I read today, I can now imagine a couple of other explanations: if there's internet access available to them (questionable, but possible; apparently children are going to school), then a very, very bored (or very desperate, perhaps for anything resembling a college education) refugee may have reached us in the course of browsing the internet. Or maybe someone from the joint Amnesty International/Human Rights Watch delegation that visited in July is a fan? I suppose that would speak well of us, but still, that neat little fact just acquired some considerably more troubling  associations. 


If We're All Meme Friendly, And All...How About This? From Nick.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Incompletes. An Early Thirsty from Cassandra.

As often happens, a comment by BurntChrome (another community member I miss), referenced in OPH's comment on a recent discussion, intersected with thoughts I was already having:

I have had students whose parents died during the semester; I've had students who had emergency surgery during the semester; I've had students whose children were hospitalized with serious conditions–NONE of those students–NOT ONE asked for accommodation. But do you want to know something? I GAVE IT. For free! Most of them didn't take it. What that has taught me is that the students who need it most often don't ask, and it's not because I am an ogre. It's because they feel like college is work, and should be treated as such.The ones who ask for accommodation, and I give it? Very often they don't complete the work.

I just finished teaching a 5-week online summer class.  As tends to happen, a few enrolled students never did anything at all, and a few more disappeared at some point without ever communicating with me.  The majority, as usual, completed the class with only minor difficulties along the way.  But an unusually high percentage were wrestling with serious personal difficulties: a parent in the hospital, helping a parent care for an acutely-ill grandparent, the death of a close friend.*  There were also a few who were having serious problems with the class (which they were taking the second, third, or greater time; if I'm doing the math correctly, at least one student had attempted it every semester, and at least once during the summer, for several years). 

One of the students described above finished the class – a bit late, with perhaps not hir best work, but well enough, and in time to have hir grade recorded with the rest.  The others ended up with either Fs (because they completed a tiny fraction of the required work) or incompletes (for more or less the same reasons).  Those with incompletes asked for them, or at least asked whether there was any way to receive an additional extension, while those with Fs simply admitted defeat at some point, and I accepted their conclusions, encouraged them to re-enroll in the fall, and wished them the best in coping with their ongoing situations.  

That worries me a bit.  I wonder whether, by offering incompletes only when prompted, I'm disadvantaging the students who don't have the courage (or the effrontery, depending on how you see it) to ask. On the other hand, I know that most incompletes eventually turn to Fs anyway (students have until about midterm time next semester to complete the work), and that, although it costs money, the best way to pass the class is to actually (re)take the class. It's a pretty hard class in any case, and even harder with no or minimal support and a full load of other classes, plus whatever other responsibilities the student has, to juggle. 

So I'm wondering: assuming you have fairly wide latitude to do so (I do), and that it's relatively easy to retake the class in question  (for the required class I teach, it is), how do you decide when to offer, or grant, an incomplete, and when to record an F for a student who simply hasn't finished the work of the class by the end of the term?  Do most of the students for whom you record incompletes actually finish the work within the allotted time? What about students who take the same class over and over and over?  Does your school have an approach to that situation?  And have you experienced the phenomenon I'm increasingly experiencing (though not this particular term): the student with official accommodations (i.e. a letter from the disability office)  who receives an incomplete, and then seems to expect what is essentially one on one tutoring on hir schedule?

I am taking students' words for the reality of these situations. Maybe that's naive, but it feels right to me, and the bottom line is that they still have to do the work to pass the class (and this is a class that one passes by producing a substantial amount of writing, and where turning in late work generally means receiving less help/feedback, so there's no unfair advantage gained by, and no need for me to write another exam for, students who receive extensions).  

Annie From Abelard Has a Choice

I've posted here before about how I snapped at a student and then got a real job. I've mentioned multiple times how my university incentivizes us to publish (and how these incentives allowed me to keep eating as an adjunct). Well, I've been publishing and researching pretty prolifically by my university's standards and I got a study published in a pretty respected publication and have another one slated to be published as well. On one of them I definitely got lucky: I happened to be researching for nine months a topic that became super topical, like, a month and a half ago. So while I'm sure that there were better studies being conducted, most of them started when the issue became topical and were still at least six months or so out. This is relevant background, not putting feathers in my cap, I promise!

Dean comes to my cubicle super early in the morning. Oh, shit. Either I'm in trouble or he needs something done in excel (department chair is computer illiterate; all excel work that we need falls to me). Neither is good. He gives his character weak smile/cringe, the smile he gives no matter what the occasion. It's a smile that says "Hey, sweetheart, your dog just died."

"Hey, Annie. Got a moment?"

"Well... not really. I have a class in like half an hour and I couldn't really grade on the train..."

"Alright, I'll be quick, then." He sits down in the chair of the person I share a double with. Jesus it's too early for this.

"You've been quite the busy bee with the publishing."

He expects a response. Oh, man. I nod.

"I bet you could probably publish even more than you already have been if you had more time, though, yeah?"

"Uh, yeah. I guess. But I have to teach as well." Where is this going?

"What if you didn't? See, we're trying to start a small research fellowship and we'd like you to chair it."

I'm not quite sure how to take this. Part of me still suspects I'm being fired.

"What would that entail?"

"Well... you wouldn't really teach anymore. One class a year. You'd be expected to publish with an emphasis on research and you'd be responsible for two junior fellows."

My university is not known for its research but wants to be. I was told that this is part of why they hired me by my mentor. I'm not very quick on my feet so he kind of just keeps going.

"The funding is pretty good for the size of the fellowship, I think, though it's not extraordinary. But the compensation is probably a bit more generous than you're used to." He clearly expects a response now.

"Well... I always envisioned myself teaching, I guess?"

Another weak smile/cringe. "Look, you're welcome here as a professor. But that's not where your strengths are. Most professors here are better than you at teaching and worse than you at research and publishing. That is just how it is. So your choice is really a mediocre career in teaching, sorry to put it that way, or a stellar career in research and publishing where you're renowned in your field."

He said some motivational speaker-y things after that and it was whatever. But that was the important part. I'm still kind of spinning. To be told that bluntly that I'm not, in fact, a very good instructor was kind of hard. But maybe not altogether wrong. My first post here, after all, was describing how I snapped in a truly awful way at a student. I always kind of knew research was my strong suit, but I always sort of just imagined myself teaching and imparting that knowledge directly to students. I can't help but feel that they brought me and kept me as an adjunct with the intent to throw me into research the whole time, which makes me feel a weird combination of cheap and valuable. Here are my Pros and Cons:

  • I looked into it. The compensation is fucking LAVISH compared to what I'm used to. 
  • I get my name out there and get to spend time researching, which a lot of other professors who teach to fund their research would kill for. 
  • My lack of seniority vanishes overnight as an issue. The research fellowship wouldn't be subject to seniority rules so I wouldn't have to start at the bottom of the pack. 
  • Management experience??? 
  • $$$$ for real food! 
  • Research! 
  • No students...  :)
  • More time demanding, probably. 
  • I'll have to grant fellowships and approve research areas. I would hate having to be in the position of denying someone something, but would probably get used to it. 
  • Won't get to impress students who are TOTALLY interested in and awed by my FASCINATING research. 
  • No students...  :(

"Inconsequential" and "Useless" Stat Porn.

Wheee, new stats program gives some slightly different info.

Yesterday, our busiest hour on the site was 10-11 am Eastern time, 204 views.
Our slowest hour yesterday was 2-3 am Eastern time, just 14 views.

Monday, August 1, 2016

50 Years Ago Today.

I've lived my whole academic life in the shadow of the 1966 shootings at the University of Texas. For me, the story seems a tipping point between one kind of world and the one we live in now. Every time a new school shooting occurs I worry how numb we have become.

When I took this job many years ago, the specter of the clock tower often crept into my dreams. It scared me. It was ever present and sad. Of course those victims are long forgotten to most, the whole story nearly unknown to my students. But I say Godspeed today to their souls; I hope they found peace in another world.


In effect today.