Wednesday, April 30, 2008

"Take Your Perfect School and Perfect Self and Shove It." Silverback Stan Runs Into Things-Are-Rough Thandie.

Dear Stan,

Just because you landed in some sort of otherworldly academic paradise doesn't mean that the rest of us don't have to deal with the cards we've been dealt. Your institution doesn't exploit its employees or discriminate against underrepresented groups? Congratulations, we are so happy for you.

Let me tell you a little secret, though: not every institution is just like yours. You see, here on RYS, we exchange stories about our various experiences in academia. Surprisingly, they are not all the same! Some of us work at perfect, unblemished institutions like yours and some of us work at institutions that could rather use some improvement here and there. So, it is just a smidge unfair for you to suggest that Rachel's list of warning signs is invalid simply because your institution does not experience these sorts of difficulties. As I tell my students constantly: it's not all about you. Just because you came upon a post that doesn't apply to you, however, doesn't mean that it doesn't apply to many of your colleagues at other institutions.

For starters, where I come from (public R1), t-t assistant professors who attempt to negotiate their teaching assignments and decline new committee assignments are routinely denied tenure. Is this the case everywhere? Probably not, but just because you don’t have to deal with it doesn’t make it less of a reality.

But what really kills me is your treatment of discrimination. The suggestion that discrimination is only such when it is overt and deliberate is exactly the reason why the academy is such a hostile space for women and people of color. Oh, you mean there aren’t meetings to decide how to screw over underrepresented groups? You’re right; this must be a perfectly egalitarian environment then. Sarcasm aside: Women and minorities remain ridiculously underrepresented in my department, but I’m supposed to believe, since no one is openly plotting to prevent women and people of color from being hired, that there is no problem? For the last three hires, we received more applications from women than men, but white males scored all three positions. I could tell stories that would make you sick (well, maybe not you), but I am genuinely afraid of retribution myself! Again, just because you don’t see or experience discrimination doesn’t mean that it isn’t there.

Finally, just because you, as an individual, do not fit the description of a silverbacked good old boy does not mean that such pricks do not grace our hallowed halls. No less than a week ago, I heard one such asset to the department bemoan that there are no longer cute little secretaries to type up manuscripts and that the grad students are harder on the eyes. This is the same gentleman that announced in a faculty meeting that the female faculty would be taken more seriously if they would just dress like professors, which presumably means that they borrow one of his sweater vests (and possibly also grow a penis). Other charmers include the Department Star who calls his female RAs sweetheart, the grouch who has voted to deny tenure for every female in the last fifteen years (he gives a different justification every time, but the pattern is clear), and the inimitable asshole who has been teaching since the 1950s and truly believes that there is his way or the highway.

So take your perfect school and your perfect self and shove it. This was not a post about you, your school, or your life. If it was, it would have been the warning signs that your institution is perfect but nevertheless filled with self-centered blowhards who are unable to understand anything they do not directly experience. We’ll save that one for another day.

"Stan, Stan, He's Our Man, If He Can't Quell the Junior Faculty, No One Can."

  • Rachel sounds like the whiny students I have in class. I bet she is young and has recently come up through the current "raise self esteem" and "kill work ethic" elementary, secondary, and higher ed system of education. I'll agree with Stan and add simply that Rachel needs to grow up. People make their own opportunities. Sounds like she's waiting to be spoonfed on her job just like she was probably spoonfed all the K-12 and college. That's the nature of the folks coming out of our education system these days. The whiny students we write about now will be tomorrow's college professors. Makes me cringe to think of it!!

  • Oh, I'm sure you'll kick the shit out of Stan tomorrow, but I had to write to say I think his advice is right on. Stan hit me hard with this comments. I recognized myself in every line. But I'm not entirely to blame. My advisors in grad school all gave me the party line that I must fear the new institution, be on my best behavior, eat shit and like it. And for the first couple of years that's what I did. I had a full-scale victim suit on, and everything that happened around me felt like an attack, a slight. It wasn't true, of course, and I found out when I'd given up on the job already. I told my chair that I wasn't going to accept the teaching assignment I was given, and he pleasantly asked me what I wanted to teach instead. It ended up being a friendly negotiation. I took that as a license to turn down a committee project, and instead of the earth opening up and swallowing me, my colleague said, "Oh, okay, but we wanted to find someone new to campus for this. Do you have anyone else in mind?" And it went like that for a year until I finally felt I'd arrived. Rachel will grow up, we can only hope, and so will the rest.

  • We have a crop of Rachel and Renatas at our college right now. I feel for them because I was one of them, too, not so long ago. Whenever I try to be welcoming, they pull back. When we ask for their opinion at meetings, they stay mum or pass along some freeze-dried reply that seems custom made not to offend. It's maddening. The life of the department is stagnant because the "new blood" won't pump. It just lays there in the vein, looking miserable. It's your school, too, people. Speak up. Say something. Disagree, whatever. But show us your alive. Is there anyone inside those nice clothes?

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

"Quit Being a Victim." Stan the Silverback from Sarasota Replies to Rachel.

I admit I'm annoyed at Rachel's post from yesterday. That list of 6 reasons to jump ship all strike me as being written by someone who is fraught with self-esteem issues, bad sense, and an overactive flight response.

  • If you get a bad teaching assignment, speak up. These things are usually negotiable. I hear younger faculty all the time bitch and moan about what classes they're "given," yet nobody ever says, "I talked to my chair about it and we worked it out." There's a "victim" mentality in too many of you.

  • Same thing. Say "no" sometimes to extra assignments. Ask, "What's Harry doing?" "How many committees are the rest of the faculty on?" "Wouldn't Joanne be great for this? I don't think I'd add much. I'm enjoying my work on Xxxxx committee."

  • In extreme cases, of course this discrimination is abhorrent. But in most departments, there's no fucking conspiracy against you. The "silverbacks" don't have little meetings finding ways to fuck you over. Get this straight: Most folks don't give a shit about you, so aren't wasting time plotting against you. They are doing their work, making their own paths. Stand up. Don't cower.

  • Some good advice in this point, actually, because when you actually are harrassed, you should get others involved. Use your colleagues and chair to your advantage. When things are going south for you, get help. But don't expect help to find you.

  • Rachel's oversimplified view of "back in the day" is quite quaint. Has she been watching too much Mad Men lately? She's actually quite rude in her depiction of what she imagines senior faculty lives were. And she seems to be talking about an older generation than the one that is in "power" now. I'm sure I qualify as a silverback - despite having rather brown skin - and my wife never typed my work for me. She was too busy being a doctor. Our kids were raised by television, just like normal. And, yes, better opportunities, they exist, but not in the numbers you imagine. The opportunity lies inside, and as soon as you realize that, you'll be a lot happier.

  • I think you'd imagine anyone was a dick who didn't fall over themselves making you and your partner feel good. But good gravy, can't you do some of the heavy lifting yourself? Did you not research the town you moved to? Did you not check on opportunities for your spouse before you moved? They've got this vast interconnected network of information sites now that you might check into. Shit, back in the day we used telephone books and the library to find out if Pudknocker, Kansas was going to be right for us. And we asked our future colleagues, and we didn't expect the Pudknockerians to make us all well and happy. And yes, because your "grandpappy" isn't from around here, we're going to do all we can to ruin your spouse's career. Good grief, get some backbone, both of you.

On-The-Edge Omar Offers some Smackdown. Seriously, Dude, You Can't Let Them Get To You.

  • SLACKER WHO SITS BY AND HASSLES HER RESPONSIBLE FRIEND FOR HOMEWORK ASSIGNMENTS: You may not turn in your research paper in at the end of the week when it's due today. Ask me again tomorrow. I dare you.

  • ASS CLOWN WITH THE FLY BOSE HEADPHONES: You are not allowed to make up for your 9 absences, including the one on the day of your final. You wouldn't know that anyway though because you cannot hear me.

  • "COMEDIAN" WHO NEEDS TO FIND A NEW GIG -- AND QUICKLY:It is not a funny joke to pretend you forgot your research paper, not for you anyway.

  • THE BASEBALL PLAYER WHO WILL NEVER PASS MY CLASS,EVER: I don't care about your baseball games, your flat tires, your multiple family reunions, or your suddenly ringworm-stricken sibling. There's a guy in your class whose dad and sister died in a car crash, and he missed only 2 class periods, has turned in all of his assignments on time, and doesn't have any makeup work at all. He's tougher than you will ever be, so he will pass with flying colors, and you will fail. Kiss it.

  • THE BASKETBALL PLAYERS WHO PLAGIARIZED: I will not tell your coach. He will email me and ask me, and I will simply present the evidence. That is all I will do, I promise.

  • 15-30 MINUTES LATE-FOR-CLASS KIND OF DUDE: I didn't excuse your classmates so they could leave early today. This is finals week. Our class' last day was yesterday. This isn't even your class.

  • THRIFTY PENNYWISE: You may not turn in your paper, final, and final essay online because you're saving gas money.

  • LURKERS, HOVERERS & LOITERERS: You may not see if I've gotten to your research paper yet. And stop asking me"What'd I get?" That's the equivalent of "Are we there yet?" for any teacher.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Rachel from Raleigh, One of Our Chief Correspondents, Tells Us When and When Not We Can Jump Ship.

I thought with Newton you had created open season on junior faculty again. I'm glad you revisited the issue.

You always generally eat it when you're the new kid on the playground. Some of this is actually useful, like the beatings you get reviewers and journal editors, some of it is necessary in how the university is structured (somebody has to do the work in the department), and some of this is just some stupid hazing that primates engage in to see how committed you are. But there are limits, and you should know what are grounds for leaving vs what you should just suck up and deal with.

Reasonable Dues-Paying Activities:
  1. Having the crap office. I literally cried when I saw my first office at Cracker Uni. My desk was held together with duct tape. There were fist-sized holes in the plaster. Here, you just gotta suck it up, invest in some decent furniture even if it comes out of your own pocket, and do what you can to spruce and liven it up.

  2. Teaching (some) crap classes. You should expect to teach a few of the classes that nobody else wants. A decent department is entitled to expect you to carry some service teaching but won't overload you with it. Be enthusiastic about teaching one or two rotten classes and use your good performance in those classes as a reason to say no to other things. "I'm sorry, I could teach Overview of Overview-ness, but I already teach Intro to Intro-ness. That would mean the majors would have two classes with me their freshman year. I'm thinking that diversity there is important, don't you?"

  3. Some general snootering around and expectation that you be seen and not heard in various departmental contexts. You should expect that you will get some lectures and some spankings, for lack of a better term, at the same time you get little to no praise. Plenty of good people will generally ignore you as long as are you are doing what you should be doing (getting good evaluations, publishing enough) and only rouse themselves when it's time to chew you out for something. This actually counts as mentoring in some worlds. My advisor was of the Dr. Cox (Scrubs) school of mentoring, so I got trained on this early. If you want to get to know them, take it upon yourself to ask them out to lunch. Again, this should be a balance. It's not unreasonable for junior faculty to take some bruises to the ego while they are being trained and proving themselves. It is unreasonable to bully or belittle them and then expect them to give a crap about your opinion or your institution.

Reasons You Should Get Out:

  1. Bait-and-switch on expectations. Yes, people promise you the moon during recruitment and then neglect to mention that you must build your own ladder to the moon. But there is a difference between that and universities that promise you one teaching load (3/3 or 2/2) and then ROUTINELY discover that you must teach uncompensated overloads. That is a sign of a bad ship.

  2. Overloading you with departmental housekeeping. You should be contributing to the shared work of the community (that goes for both senior and junior faculty; seniors who use tenure as an excuse to do no departmental work are selfish and, in an ideal world, should have their merit promotions and raises revoked or delayed). And some of that is going to be crap work as noted above. But there are limits. Junior people should NOT be doing all the advising in the department. The department didn't score a win in the "Buy one young Ph.D., get one Event Planner Free" sale. You should be teaching at least one graduate class so that you get to know the good graduate students if you need them for your research. You should not be on university committees, not until you have tenure. Ask to be replaced on them if you have been appointed. Learn to say “no.” If you get ignored when you say “no,” that’s a bad ship.

  3. Terrifyingly obvious discrimination. All universities have race/class/gender/orientation bias, I am convinced. But if absolutely all of the power at your university is held by the silverbacks (old white guys), then if you have ambitions to move into administration, this is a problem for you if you are not one of the boys. Take some time to figure out the possibilities for advancement there and if it is not good, you are entitled to strategically move. If they are loading all the junior female faculty with advising and freshman teaching and the junior male faculty are given research appointments, this is a bad ship to be on. If you are overloaded with being the “Face of Diversity” at your university, that’s another sign of a bad ship. Feel free to jump.

  4. Bullying or harassment that goes unchecked by the rest of the faculty. Don't mistake well-intended chiding with bullying. By this time, you should be mature enough to know the difference between somebody who says "you need get involved in the biggest issues in your field" and somebody who says "You're an idiot." The former is constructive, the latter is not. Beware: there are variants of the bully/jackass everywhere. Don’t move just because of him/her. If you like the rest of your situation, ask the chair to shield you from the ass by moving you to different committees.

  5. Just plain better opportunities. This is related to #3. Yeah, so your first job was a low-tier university. You work your fanny off and publish a lot and make major contributions. And you're supposed to turn a blind eye to the opportunities that come your way because of loyalty? There is a difference between a mawkish junior faculty prima donna who wants to be treated like a star straight off and one who has actually delivered goods. In the latter case, there will be places that can and will reward a consistent producer even if he/she comes with a bit of ego noise (like Newton) and senior faculty need to get over that "Back in MY day, we didn't play that game and we knew our place" routine if they want to hang on to high human capital faculty. Back in their day, they had wives raising their kids for them, typing/proofing their work for them, keeping house for them, and trailing them without question. Back in the their day, they got hired with no publications and got tenured with four. Senior faculty who are real mentors to you understand that mentoring is a gift: mentoring serves the institution if everything works, but it is unreasonable to expect your proteges to turn down wonderful opportunities that you can not, for whatever reasons, offer them. IOW, mentoring is casting your bread upon the waters in a major way. We all have to live with these risks in the hypermobile, globalized world of elite labor.

  6. Irresolvable Two Body Problems. This is where Backwater and Cracker Unis have a huge problem. Located in a town of 16,000 people with 10,000 students, there is nothing for a nonfaculty trailing spouse to do. Some trailing spouses do a great job of reinventing themselves and find ways to fit into the context. Others, like my spouse, basically ruin their career by moving to these locations where in order to get a job outside of the university, your grandpappy had to be a fine, upstanding civic leader. If nothing comes together for your spouse or your kids at your job locale, you are entitled to look for a situation where you and your family CAN build a life together. And anybody who doesn't understand that is a dick and can be ignored freely.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Two Proffies Wrestle With the Right Balance.

I know all about fairness and rules and following the syllabus. I know I need to maintain academic standards. But occasionally I'll get a student like Reynolds who just seems to be outside the normal standards.

Reynolds is an adult student, coming back to school after 15 years. He works in a neighboring city because he has a young daughter. He's in the midst of a terrible child custody case right now, and also works full time. How he gets to all of his appointments, to class, to his job every day just astonishes me. But he's always cheerful, ready to go, and hard working.

He doesn't have anything like the kind of time my traditional students have, and sometimes it shows in his work. He's skirting the C/D line right now, and at our institution the D carries no weight, is more or less a more pleasant F. I've asked him what he's able to do to increase his time in the lab, or what I could do to get him his assignments a little ahead of time, but Reynolds just shakes his head and says, "Just treat me like one of the kids, Professor."

But it's breaking my heart. He's got more on his plate than any student I've had before. Last week his ex-wife had a car accident and Reynolds is now shouldering even more of his daughter's care. He turned his lab report in, and while it showed that he's getting the material, it also showed that he'd simply not spent enough time on it.

I know what the right thing to do is. Reynolds doesn't have the time to really do well in this class. I have no doubt he'd ace it if he could just pull back one of his real world responsibilities. But I hate how I have to treat him the same way as the ganja-smoking waste of a life who is his lab partner, Reggae Richie, who is either stoned, getting stoned, sleeping, playing Xbox, or shuffling into my class in his hemp sandals.


The young woman went AWOL from class for three weeks. During that time she missed two assignments towards the researched essay, four journal entries, three quizzes and class conferences. She did email me about our conference, saying she had to take her niece to the doctor as she was the only one in her family with a car. I understand the tug on my students from their outside life, and unlike many at the neighboring Big U, these community college students have much to juggle.

On the day she returned, I passed back the research papers. She approached me and asked if she could make up the work. I referred her to the assignment where it clearly stated, "No Late Work." Or I thought it did. I realized I'd only said that in class, when she was gone. I'd been quite dramatic about it, hey, the class even laughed with my dramatics, but. . . she wasn't there. Luckily, she took my word for it, and as she left the desk I scribbled on my handout "add No Late Work Accepted." I'm covered, because it says this in my syllabus.

So how does a professor balance this need to be King Solomon?

I much prefer the days when I stand in class and give out the assignments, rather than the days where I have to balance their excuses/reasons/life fumbles against the standards of higher education. My father (also a professor) says that the university is bigger than just one student. While I can live with throwing the one under the wheels of the academic train once in a while, it's wearying.

What Has Newton Taught Us? Three Stragglers Join the Debate on Our Northbound-Fleeing Colleague. Who, By the Way, Called Us all 'Weenies' in an Email!

  • I recently read the post by "Northbound Newton" regarding leaving a particular school. While the responses seemed appropriate in this particular situation, I was wondering if the readers at large had any advice on when one should leave and any"success" stories readers wish to share. Are there any clear-cut signs one should definitely watch out for on a daily basis? Do readers have a list of "slam dunk" reasons to try elsewhere? I'd be particularly interested in responses from tenured faculty.

  • Y'all had your fun with Newton, but a lot of us junior faculty probably understood his misery. We get wooed hard by you people during the hiring, and then when the contract is dry we get shown our closet and then ignored for about 6 years. That's bullshit. There seems to be such a level of dismissal when you're a young professor. All of the old guard where I am treat me like a 9 year old, and then idea that I'd have the nerve to speak up at a meeting has been the context of a few conversations. I don't think it's fair to call the senior faculty deadwood, but it sure wouldn't hurt if they'd soften a bit so that new folks feel welcome and then stay longer!

  • It all depends on the institution, I think, and the character. I can't imagine Northbound Newton would ever be happy anywhere. And I don't doubt that there are schools that are less than welcoming to new faculty. But in my own experience I've felt wanted, right from interview time through my 3 year review. My views are sought out, and my ideas are implemented in concert with the those of folks who've been here 20 years longer than me. And that sort of involvement and respect has made me love the place and feel like it's my own. I have friends at schools who can't wait to get out, and I think a lot of it has to do with how invested they feel in their school. For me, at least, it's the senior faculty who took me in, valued my input, and thus made me feel welcome and at home. Sure, there are other schools I could work, and I do have ambitions that might take me somewhere else, but it would have to be a pretty spectacular offer because I feel at home here, and I wish all junior faculty were as lucky.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Rhetorical Reggie Celebrates April By Saying Farewell To Some Students.

Ahhhh, April. The snow is finally gone, sun is occasionally poking from the clouds, and students, reeking of obsequiousness, have come from hiding. The question is, why bother? They could have saved the world some fuel by not making those bothersome trips to class when anyone with an ounce of sense would know that he or she had failed.

  • Pierced Petunia: You came to four classes, were told by me that you would not be allowed to make up any work, yet asked for a copy of the midterm to study for the final exam. Why bother? You failed already. Congratulations, you were the earliest this semester. What were you thinking?

  • Sincere-looking Sammy: You politely asked to leave my 3-hour class early because you weren’t feeling well. A quick check of my grade book revealed that you had not written any of the 4 essays and had failed 5 of 8 quizzes. You failed and I told you so. Why did you bother to ask if you could leave? What were you thinking?

  • Stephanie Seldom: It took me forever to learn your name because I rarely saw you. You, also, have passed zero essays and failed half the quizzes. You wanted to reschedule your conference with me about your final paper? Why bother? You already failed, and I told you so. What were you thinking?

  • Wanda Whatserface: You thoughtfully called from the emergency room to reschedule your conference about your final paper. A quick glance at your record allowed me to reschedule you to never. You, too, have never done an assignment and have failed as I told you over the phone. What were you thinking?

  • Dominic Deadwood: I should have known better than to let you add my class on the day it began. Since then you’ve failed six of nine quizzes and one essay, and you haven’t turned in anything else. You skipped out before I could tell you not to bother coming to conference with me about your paper. You’ve failed. Now you’ve got to come all the way back to school for me to tell you. Seems a waste. What were you thinking?

Someone's Just Finished a Set of Papers. And We Fear We Might Get an F As Well If We Don't Post This.

  • I have so enjoyed reading your paper on the death of your first beloved dog, Mr. Sniggles (affectionately known as "Snig"). The drawn out description of how Snig forever changed your life, as well as the inclusion of nine separate occasions on which you "broke down sobbing" really carried an emotional punch. However, I am a bit perplexed. This paper was supposed to center on the analysis of a news article. While I can see how you might think that your story was "newsworthy"--its being so unique and all--the lack of an actual news article is, I think, where the paper first goes wrong. It then continues to go more drastically wrong with the lack of anything approaching analysis, the narrative and informal tone, the completely personal focus with no real evidence, and the overwrought, cloying sentimentalism. For the lack of anything nearing an actual idea, as well as the complete disregard of the assignment, this receives an F.

  • This paper has in it some good points. I think you're right: children ARE exposed to too much sex on television. And if I had not already hear this point 75 billion times on TV, on the radio, from every pundit ever, and on the back of my cereal box this morning, this might actually be a good idea. Unfortunately, this is not an idea at all, but a trite, cliche generalization that shows absolutely no thought whatsoever. Moreover, you don't even provide evidence or analysis of anything related to this issue in your paper. For example, when you throw out the statement that "Every parent should monitor their children's television intake 24/7," you tend to overlook some very key issues in parent's lives, and you also manage to sound like a pompous jackass trying to tell everyone how to live. Since our class has been devoted to avoiding sounding like/being a pompous jackass and instead actually examine ideas thoroughly, this is a bit of a disappointment. For the lack of focus, evidence, thought, and the fact that you insist on acting as though you can and should dictate the lives of others despite being an eighteen-year-old whiner with no life experience, you receive an F.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

"Get a Dog. Get a Life. Get the Fuck Out of Here." Northbound Newton Takes a Beating.

Northbound Newton was one of those little gifts we sometimes get, someone so sure he was right, so sure he'd been wronged by wickedness. As is often the case, Newton was just a jackass, and our readers wanted him to know. Enjoy the flava:

  • Of course Newton's not a rat. He's just a colossal douchebag. And he seems to have the emotional maturity of my Pomeranian. Speaking of dogs, maybe Newton should get one. Because that's the only way he's ever going to get the emotional validation he seems to crave from his colleagues. He's bent out of shape because no one threw him a party for some fucking poems? Who gives a crap? Does he pay attention to every scholarly or literary achievement of all his colleagues and fete them accordingly? Bet not. And seriously. He thought his colleagues, for whom he has created more work, would do more than smile and congratulate him? How much emotional work does he expect his colleagues (whom he clearly scorns) to do on his behalf? Junior faculty don't owe the university anything more than their service. It isn't ratlike to leave. But it's pathetic to expect everyone to get all excited when you announce that you're now going to leave their inbred, shoeless, retarded cracker university for a real job with real students. And it's startlingly childish to let their lack of enthusiasm for your future happiness turn a day of glad tidings into "the worst of your life." Man, is Newton going to be cheesed off when he discovers that his next job has its own realities. And I bet NONE of those realities include "just accepting him for who he is." That's not what a fucking job is for, Newton. That's what your mom or our Pomeranian is for.

  • Let's see...Cracker College made promises that you would teach interesting classes. They made you promises that life would be great, and then it wasn't. Now you're getting promises from another school someplace else that says they are interested in you and your important work. Here, (really - trust us) you'll teach great classes. I'll bet they even tell you that those students will be interested in your classes. Count me as a skeptic. And I'll be looking for your next post when you leave Northern Noncracker U.

  • Wow, and we all thought precious snowflakes can’t amount to anything. Heaven forbid a person take a job and have to deal with seniority. Newton is an arrogant ass that gives all professors a bad name. Why can’t he teach freshman level courses; is he too good to help his students learn good technique and maybe mold them into something useful early in their college career? His office is on an inner wall, boo hoo. Many educators don’t even have an office they can call their own. His comrades in arms are senile deadwood? Maybe there is a reason they are teaching upper level… what is the word I am looking for… oh yeah, experience. Maybe the tenured, senile professors get the classes and perks because they have proven a commitment to the school and its unwashed masses (those freshmen you have to lower yourself to teach), rather than running at the first sign of greener pastures. The “cracker” university that Newton is leaving is better off without him, maybe they can get an educator instead of a prima donna. Newton is most likely going to have a rude awakening when he gets to his greener pastures and finds the pastures are never as green as they seem.

  • Dear Newtie: When I agreed to date you, you told me a ton of lies about how great things were going to be: we would have a beautiful house, do activities we both enjoyed, and you would respect and encourage my interests. But in the three years since that time, you've taken little interest in me or my accomplishments, and we're still living in a studio apartment, with me scrubbing the toilets while you're out having fun. Happily, I've just met someone new. He's sexier than you, lives in a better part of town, makes a lot of money, is better in bed, and truly appreciates me in a way you never did. So I'm here to tell you that I'm leaving you for him at the end of May, and I'm glad, glad, GLAD that, within a couple of months, I'll never have to see you again. Wait.... why aren't you happy for me? Don't you want to help me celebrate?

  • Howdy, Newton, it's the aged and nearly senile prof in the cushy outside office. Good ol' Geriatic Joe Bob, your favorite hayseed. You know, the one who has been here for 14 years more than you, and who has won both the university's highest teaching and research awards? You know, the, what did you call me, deadwood professor who teaches mostly upper level courses while your academic skill is wasted in mere Freshman courses. Congrats on your new job. I tip my trucker's cap in your general direction. Hell's bells, son, you're leaving? So soon? I do SO hate to see you go. I'll miss so much about you. We thought we'd have a good-bye poetry slam (complete with haybales) featuring some of your students to thank you for your service, but we couldn't find a single student who wanted to speak in your honor. Nope. Not even a danged haiku for your work here at good old Cracker U. Newton, face it, we're glad you're heading north. None of your colleagues is going to miss you either, since you've never bothered to be a colleague in the first place. And you're worse than a rat, Newton. You're a possum. Oh, and don't let the door of your sequestered office hit you on the ass on your way out of town, ok? P.S. Drop us a note in three years when you scurry away from that place, too.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Northbound Newton Is Not a Rat. Do You Hear Us? HE'S NOT A RAT. We Mean, He Is Scurrying Away, But That's Not Necessarily Rat-like.

I am so angry that I can't even think straight. I went from the best day of my life to the worst in a blink.

Let me backtrack. I was hired by this cracker university 3 years ago with a ton of lies about how easy my time was going to be. I would get the classes I wanted, I'd have a nice office with a view of the quad, and my research would mean something. But it hasn't worked that way at all. Instead I'm asked to teach almost all freshman classes, while the deadwood professors teach mostly upper division. My office is on an inside wall, when the aged and nearly senile senior faculty luxuriate around the outside of the building with sky-high windows. And when I had three poems in a quarterly journal, not one of my "colleagues" said a thing to me.

But I just shut my trap, was very professional, and took their inconsideration because I knew that I was better than any one of them and that someday today would come.

Today I got a chance to jump to another t-t spot, at a garden spot, a truly beautiful campus, close to where I went to grad school. The people there, forgive me, wear shoes and have all their teeth. It'll be like sucking manna through a straw for me. There I will get to teach upper division courses, and everyone who interviewed me seemed truly interested in my writing, my teaching, and just accepting me for who I am.

So when I got the news I ran to my office building and started knocking on doors to tell my colleagues. Call me a greenhorn, but I thought they'd all be happy for me. But most just smiled and said, "Good for you," with about as much passion as deadwood can summon. In fact, after I left the faculty lounge - where I told a group of faculty from Political Science and Sociology my great news - I thought I heard someone say: "I sort of forget it's job season. I guess the rats are scurrying off the ship."

I couldn't believe it. I AM NOT A RAT, you ignorant cracker douchebag. I AM NOT A RAT. I'm a hard working and talented professor, one who has been ignored and lied to, disregarded and underused by this small time, small town ship of fools. (Ahhh, there's the ship imagery!)

I am going to turn my grades in, pack my books, and I'll be on a highway north before my former "colleagues" even know I'm gone. I would give anything if you would publish the name of my school so that when their job ad comes out next week nobody will get stuck like I did. I know you probably won't, but it's Xxxxxxxxx College. Fuck them. You're better off teaching where you are then coming here. You're better off being UNEMPLOYED than being here.

Sign me out,
Northbound Newton

Monday, April 21, 2008

4 Minutes of My Life I'll Never Get Back. The Ballad of Slaptastic Shitforbrains.

Student X: Hi, uh, Dr M?

Dr M: Yes...?

Student X: Hi, I'm in your class and I wanted to know what I can do to get a good grade. I am supposed to graduate in May and I really need an A.

Dr M: Okay, which class of mine are you in and what is your name? Let's see what we can do.

Student X: I'm in your media course and I'm Slaptastic Shitforbrains.

Dr M: Well Slaptastic, as I teach 3 courses in media, you may have to be more specific. If you don't know the course title, give me your ID number and I'll look you up on the roster.

Student X: My ID number? Did you give those out at the beginning of class?

Dr M: Your university ID number? The one assigned by the university when you started?

Student X: Oh, that. Uh, I don't remember, can you look me up by my name?

Dr M: You know, you don't look very familiar to me. When is the last time you've been to my class?

Student X: Um, I haven't been in a while because I've been really busy.

Dr M: Define "a while."

Student X: Well, I meant to come last week, but couldn't. See, I enrolled in your course but I haven't been to class. It's been a really busy semester. I'm taking 4 other courses and it's just been too much. I need 5 courses to graduate though, so I need a passing score for your class. I was hoping I could make up the assignments this week and get the photocopies of the notes so I can pass the exam. My friend said you make copies for us. Can I get the notes? If I give you the assignments by Friday will you accept them? My friend says that course work counts for 60% and that we have to have a participation score. Can I do an extra-credit assignment to make up the participation score? 'Cause I really need an A.

Dr M: Let me see if I understand you: you have not been to class at all, everything you know about my course comes from your friend, and you want to do all the course work in the next 48 hours. I'm sorry, at this point, I cannot help you.

Student X: You see though I really need a score higher than a C because I have to pass.

Dr M: You have not come to class once. I cannot help you at this point. Your choice not to come to class at all is a choice not to get a grade in this course.

Student X: Is there someone who can help me? Do you know who the academic advisor for the media department is?

Dr M: I AM the advisor and I am telling you that I cannot help you, either as advisor or professor of your course.

Student X: But, I really need....

Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Return of Academic Haiku: Plagiarism, The Futility, the Quickness of Time.

You turned in a paper
so clearly plagiarized
that it made my eyebrows curl.

I tried -- no luck.
I tried Google -- nothing.
I floated it to the faculty list

I spent two hours on it,
trying to track down references,
time I could have spent with real students.

You included no works cited,
although you cited in-text.
Then you turn in new names whose articles you could find.

The guilty flee, I suppose.
The time I will spend working on busting your ass
exceeds the time most people took to write the paper.

In that time, I could have had conferences with half the class,
written six to ten pages of my novel,
or had sex twice (four times, if they were quickies).

Angsty Audrina Tells Us The Tale of Lying Lizzie and Her Late Essay.

When I had finished grading all of my students' first essays in a media studies course a couple of weeks ago, I noted one was missing. I checked my email to see if the student had emailed it (something I do not encourage, but since the computer lab many of them use often has printer issues, if students ask first I allow them to email assignments so they can meet a deadline). She had not.

I spoke to her after class (this was ten days after the deadline) to say I did not have her paper, and she said she had emailed it. I said I would check again, and did. I emailed her to say it was still missing, could she print out a copy and put it my mailbox, and/or email me a copy? She then emailed me to say her computer was malfunctioning and "at the repair shop" and so she no longer had access to the essay to send it to me, as (naturally) she had not bothered to back up the hard drive nor had she printed out a draft copy. She would be without her computer for at least two weeks.

I responded via email to her that it was a difficult situation, as I had no evidence she had actually emailed it to me the first time. It finally occurred to me (long after it should have occurred to her, if she was telling the truth) to ask her to forward me the email from her "sent box" which, even if the essay file attachment had been removed, would have shown a dated correspondence proving she had sent it to me. I said this should have already occurred to her, and said if she could not send me this proof, the due date was moved up to the following day at 10 am.

Then she started to get a bit cagey. She claimed she "thought" she had sent it and was "willing to accept" the failing grade and thought that was "fair."

I spoke with her after class and, after she promised to check her email for the "proof" she had sent it, I let her know that, if in fact she was lying all this time, that 20 years ago this behavior probably would have resulted in her failing the class, no questions asked. 30 years ago, she might have been expelled. She nodded, and left.

She emailed again to say she had checked her email and could not find it and that she realized "this was making her case seem weaker." I wrote back to say that the only way to prove she had done the work was to show me the file and the date of its creation and editing, thereby proving it was at least being worked on around the time of the deadline. But that if she had in fact been lying all this time, the time to come clean about it was now. I also said that if she had been telling the truth she certainly would have tried harder to prove she had done the work.

So yesterday I got an email admitting that she had not turned it in because it was "incomplete." She said she "had never meant things to go on for so long," apologized for "perpetuating this and wasting your time" and claimed this was absolutely not "in character" for her, that she was sorry to not have shown me the "respect" I deserve, that she was "ashamed" of her actions and hoped she "could prove her true character" to me in the time remaining in the semester (about 3 weeks).

The essay was originally due at mid-term, almost a month ago. This back and forth via email has been going on for two weeks. I answered her most recent email thanking her for finally coming clean, and saying I was giving her an F for the assignment (which counts for 20% of the grade), but that it was still possible to pass the course if she got everything done on time and did really well. Her attendance is fine and other grades so-so.

Does she deserve to fail for being dishonest or stupid?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

What Happens to Evaluations of Profs When Profs Make Students Teach Themselves? Depressed Delmar Wants to Know.

So I'm trying this cooperative-learning stuff in my class. I've rebuilt my entire intro science course into a team-learning model, and it's been really successful from my point of view as the instructor--students are learning more, and applying it at a more sophisticated level, than I've ever seen in this course. I've read up on this stuff, been to workshops, seminars and talks, and I'm using best practices. I work hard at this. And I am a very effective teacher.

And yet: they're over there doing their course evals right now, and I suspect I'm going to get slaughtered, because so many of them would just rather have someone stand at the front of the room and drone at them--whether they learn anything or not, whether they make good grades or not--than have to read the material and have a conversation about it. "She never actually teaches us anything, I have to learn everything myself, I had to read the book to learn anything, I had to study more for this class than for any of my other classes" is what I'll get, over and over again.

For my part (and while I'm actually qualified to have an opinion about what makes for effective, deep learning, most of them are not) I actually take those comments as positive feedback rather than negative. I mean, whether or not they realize it now, that's a big part of what I'm trying to teach them: that ultimately we have to learn everything ourselves. But because they think that having to read, discuss, digest, synthesize, and form a complete sentence from time to time are undesirable things, they also give me the crappy crappy numbers. (Some of them even go so far as to check "no" of "never" or "disagree" on things like whether I passed out a syllabus the first day; clearly they don't realize that when they check "no" to something on which 147 other students check "yes," they just look like idiots.)

Maybe it won't be that bad, I'm just depressed because of how shitty this system is. I fucking hate evaluation time.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Back Before We Became Boring and Pretentious, We Featured a Lot of Smackdown. In Fact, Our Heads Are So Far Up Our Asses, That We Almost Missed This!

H: You are a derailed keener. You want to be idolized as a deep thinker and brilliant mind, but it would help if you actually read the books we're discussing. I'm not an idiot. I know when you come out with broad statements about style or vague responses including the word "postmodernism" that you have not done the reading. Don't try to answer every question when you don't know what's going on. Oh, and stop showing up in your DIY clothes, smug smile, and air of entitlement.

R: Please shut up. Just stop speaking. No one listens to you, no one thinks you're funny, and you waste SO much class time with your tangents and stupid, unrelated questions. Who cares that the play you wrote last semester included a joke about the Cold War? So very clever of you to reference the political climate of the time in which your play is set.

E: Everyone knows you're lusting after the guy who sits next to you, but please stop giggling maniacally at everything he says and put the ass-crack away. No one wants to see your thong at 9 am and your cackling makes me fear that a den of witches is going to descend upon the classroom at any moment. Plus it's distracting. So stop it.

J: Seriously, if you roll your eyes again I will poke them out with my pen. It's not even your just your eyes; you practically roll your entire body. But guess what? You make more mistakes than most people in this class. It's not below you. I realize your sense of entitlement allows you to loudly interrupt the lecture when you don't understand something, and even almost-yell "No!" when someone presents a fact you disagree with.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Fed-up Flossie from Fort Collins Is Leaving, And We're Waiting for Our Invite.

On this, the anniversary of the Virginia Tech massacre, I read my state legislature's new concealed-weapons bill (now pending the guv's signature) that would give our self-centered, self-righteous adultolescents with anger management issues permission to carry handguns on campus. The alleged rationale for this piece of right-wing, gun-nut, ideologically-driven crapfest is that several 18-year-olds with impulse control problems are, theoretically, going to save me and their classmates in Room 330 from the next mad shooter to lose it. If the snowflakes' aim is anything like their inability to hit the broad side of a syllogism, we're up to our necks in deep shit.

I have the solution. I am leaving the U.S. of A. to teach in a country where handguns are not permitted, admissions are based on academic performance and intellectual ability (not bastardized testing), and High Culture is revered. (And yes, we can extend the definition of High Culture to include that of Indigenous Culture, in case you were wondering--not like here in the States.)

While the knuckle-dragging, mouth-breathing, cleavage-flashing, Daddy's-SUV-driving morons of our great nation continue to bullshit their way through useless "degree programs" that leave them with a piece of framed toilet paper as the ultimate validation of their snowflakey genius, I will be training the cultural elite of another nation to kick their asses in business, politics, the arts, and every other aspect of civilized life. And I will have health care, decent working conditions, and--most important of all--students who actually WANT to read, write, learn, think, grow.

I say leave the universities to the Philistines. Nobody has had the balls to call a general strike over the fact that college professors make half as much as K-12 "educators," much less the clear and present danger of armed MySpace Cadets. What would it take, people, for you to rise up from your individual and collective complacency about how shitty teaching conditions have become?
Religious nuts and ideologues of all political stripes (but especially the right) have mounted an assault on the citadels of reason in this country, using false, invalid, and unsound arguments that most freshmen can't grasp but are willing to swallow like Girls Gone Wild on spring break in Florabama. Young Americans for Freedom goons send students out like so many Amway salesmen to earn "points" for creating one-sided "debates" about the alleged brainwashing that "liberal" professors are engaged in.

Now wealthy ideologues are buying their way into the curriculum (via bad Ayn Rand books). In short, the university is becoming a bizarre mix of sex, religion, and drunken target practice. Next up: Brown shirts as the new uniform to restore order to our nation's campuses and Coulter Across the Curriculum.

Let's decamp. Exile is the solution for the foreseeable future. Let's enjoy pleasant climates, reasonable costs of living, regular dental visits, classroom authority, and a living wage--not to mention the honor and respect we have earned by dint of our hard work and sacrifice over decades of research and learning. We are masters and doctors, not grade-waitrons.

My work here is done.

If You're Going to Just Pull Your Assignments Out of the Newspaper, At Least Drive to the Next Town For Them - Or Check the Byline.

Some students are not so dumb. One of mine, for instance, redefined "stupid" all on his own. The assignment was simple: write in about 500 words how you felt following 9/11.

He turned it in, I read it, and on the spot told him he plagiarized and asked why I shouldn't drop him from the class. I think I said something to the bend of "Why is your ass still here?"

He denied it, of course. I explained that it isn't procedure to accuse anyone of stealing someone else's work unless we have proof -- so clearly I was not bluffing. He denied it again, of course.

I gave him two options: come back with the original and I'll let him redo it -- I believe the embarrassment alone is enough sometimes to loosen up those tight asses out there. Or, I come with the original and I remove him from the class (my standard policy -- do your own work or work at Hardees).

He told me I couldn't come back with the original since he wrote it. He showed up for class the next day. I taught. Everyone left but him. I asked if he brought the original and he said he had not, not making eye contact, slouching in that way only students can when they know they're about to be embarrassed.

"It's okay," I said. "I brought it."

I started to read: "There are still no words for September 11th, by...." I looked at him a long time.

"You've got to be kidding me!" he said.

It was the first paragraph of an essay I wrote for the local newspaper.

"It had to take more time to find this than to just write what you felt," I said/asked in a "no one can be that stupid" kind of way I've spent two decades perfecting.

"It wasn't such an easy assignment," he said. "I really didn't feel anything.”

Damn. That's what scares me the most.

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Over It Oscar: "Over and Out."

We tend to get a lot more of these posts than we used to, and they often come near the end of semesters. We've gotten at least 20 of these this month, and they always make us sad. We've found great joys in an academic career, but we completely understand this writer's confusion and despair. We'd rather this was a light and lively smackdown story, but the truth is, a lot of our readers feel like this.

So, another semester come and gone in my life on the temp treadmill. Sadly I am coming to the conclusion that I don't need the academy to be happy. So despite the opportunity for continued spectacular underemployment, I have had it with condescending senior faculty and unmotivated, culture of entitlement students. Unlike some of my colleagues from grad school who are unemployed or under-employed as fry-vat engineers, I have been 'lucky' enough to land a couple back to back contracts at Mediocre Midwest University.

The faculty here at MMU has generally been supportive, but I am tired of the uncertainty of yearly contracts which the university views as less expensive than a 'real' hire. I am also tired of the job search grind. Yeah I just got the Ph.D, but I don't see how that makes me sub-human. In my experiences with search committees I got the impression that they felt I should be grateful they deigned to talk to me... and here I thought they might view me as a valuable potential addition to their department. Silly me.

As for the human flotsam barely pretending to be a carbon based life form around here, i.e., students, what can I say? If this sad ass lot of Guitar Hero wannabes is the best we have to offer as a culture, we are screwed. They don't need a university professor, they need zealous missionary attention.

Anyway, I am not interested in dribbling on about how my precious little feelings have been hurt - they haven't - or how the system has damaged my idealism - it didn't. But I do want to point out that the current system is moving towards students as customers and this cannot be good.

Anyway, fuck it. I can go elsewhere, make some money, not have to deal with the bullshit and have a satisfying life. So I am taking myself out of the game.

See ya,

They Don't Entertain Us, Why Should We Entertain Them?

Two items in my always-overstuffed email inbox caught my eye this morning. One offered me the glorious opportunity of coming in on my day off to listen to a speaker discuss ways we can reach our students through Facebook and MySpace. The other asked whether I was intrigued by the possibilities of using Second Life (a “Virtual World”) as an instructional tool. I’m sorry, but I am not intrigued, nor am I planning on spending my off-time listening to someone telling me how to reach out to students who can’t be troubled to reach out to the alarm clock each night to be sure that they get up in time to attend my class. When is this shit going to end?

When did it become my responsibility to meet students half-way, let alone going all the way over to their turf, to keep them interested in my class? What makes anyone think students would respond better to having a two-dimensional simulacrum of themselves listen to a two-dimensional simulacrum of me lecturing in a virtual classroom? What’s next? Virtual teleconferencing? Your on-screen persona watches a virtual television broadcast of my lecture, performed by my pre-recorded on-screen persona? Despite the Escher-esque subtleties of such a teaching environment, I just have to say “Fuck that.”

What folks don’t seem to be getting is that anything that is cool for students is cool because it violates the rules of the academy. I’m trying to imagine how I would have felt if an instructor had told me, back in the ‘70s, that he was going to teach me about Sociology by playing a bunch of YES albums and playing Dungeons and Dragons with us. The closest I can come to the reaction my 19-year-old self would have had is: A) What a dick, and B) I bet I can pull an A in this class with absolutely no effort at all, as long as I don’t let him know what a dick he is.

Can we please dispense with technological attempts to teach those who would rather be entertained than taught?

Monday, April 14, 2008

The Slouchers.

What do you do when your students don't want to be in college? I'm not talking about students who are less than interested in your class, but students who simply enroll in college to appease parents or "society."

I'm at a below average regional state university that feels to me like a prison rather than anything else. I ask my students every semester what they're doing in college, what their dreams are, what they're majoring in. The answers invariably are:

  • I don't know. I just want to get my degree and then get a job.

  • My mom told me I had to go for 2 years and then I can quit. I want to race cars.

  • I'm undeclared. That way I don't have to take any classes above 200.

  • Once my dad's money runs out I can quit.

And of course that attitude makes the classroom a dismal place, a place where even the strongest superkeener would give up.

I spent last week conferencing with my students in preparation for their final projects and final exam. Each 15 minute period felt like an hour. Nobody had questions beyond: "Do I have to write this down?" and "Do I have to take the final?" Everyone slumped. Everyone scowled. Everyone looked at their phones or watches or at the clock on the wall, and just waited for the misery to end.

I have to tell you, I used to love teaching. I've only been at this college for 7 years, but I almost feel that it's not worth continuing. I've started to wonder if college really is a "thing" that we should be doing. Students come but don't have a reason. I can't raise a smile or a chuckle from anyone. I can't find one student who just gets a kick out of being here. They slouch and stumble and hang their heads, and I fear that I'll soon be just like them.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

It'd Be Easier Asking a Leopard To Change His Spots. Agreeable Alex Holds Fast.

Yes, Freddie, I understand that your program requires a minimum grade point average. And yes, I understand that the B- you pulled in my course last term is too low for you to continue in that program. What's more, I agree that it sucks to have your term average be lower than you needed or wanted it to be.

See how agreeable a fellow I am?

But here's where we part ways. No, I will not raise your grade to a B. I know it would "only" take 2% to do so, but since each grade point only has a 3% bracket, those two marks are actually quite a big deal. Were this a course in persuasion and grovelling, you would be making a good case for yourself. But as it stands, I'm not paid to give grades out like some sort of pedagogical Santa. (well, it could be argued that I am, but that's another conversation...)

What's that? You're getting angry with me now. I see. Since you can't accept the polite refusal, allow me to expand upon it a bit. First, how dare you try to pin an entire term - five courses worth - on my class? It's an average, moron. And it's all yours.

Second, you wanna know why I never bump grades for sob stories like yours? In my very first year of teaching, I had student who was very dedicated. She worked her ass off, and I got to know her a bit. I learned that she was caring for her mother who was dying of cancer, she had to work 30 a hours a week to pay for school, and that her father expected her to fulfil all the household duties of cleaning and cooking that her mother no longer could. Near term's end, this student looked like she had one foot in the grave herself - she was utterly exhausted, physically and emotionally. But you what? She stuck it out and finally earned a C. She never asked for any special treatment or consideration.

Thinking back, I should have bumped that grade to a B or something. It's one of the few regrets I carry around. And it's one of the big reasons you can take your begging and tantrums and get the fuck out of my office. And let me get back to being an agreeable fellow...

Monday, April 7, 2008

"Welcome to College!"

On the first day of the semester, I stand up in front of my classes and say the following:

Every day that you walk into my class prepared to give an honest effort - not to do perfectly every time, but to try your hardest - I promise you my very best efforts on your behalf. I will give you every bit of enthusiasm, knowledge, and skill I possess.

However, the first time you decide that you're too cool for school, or that you're just too clever for this class, I want you to drop out. Yes, I want you to drop out, and return the next day with your Burger King application. I hear Burger King is looking for people as cool as you. I will be a reference for you. I will lie and say that you're a good worker. I will even help you fill out the application.

If you plan on sitting here and doing nothing, staring at the walls and not bothering to do your work, you are a waste of my time. My time is valuable to me, and more importantly, to your fellow students who come here eager to learn. They will get my best effort. You will get nothing.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Debbie Drama From Duluth Posits That It's the End of the World. Haven't You Been Paying Attention?

A colleague and I were recently discussing the value of students working in groups, as well as employing more constructivist approaches in our classroom. It's got me thinking about how much more I lecture today than I did ten years ago.

When I began teaching, I would tell my students that I expected them to read the assigned pages and come to class prepared for activities that would apply what they read. I would also assign groups, and give each group a topic they had to "teach" the class, in addition to other types of presentations and in-class activities.

However, over the years, the quality of student work continued to decline and it became harder and harder to expect students to do any of these things at a level that made it worthwhile. I suppose we could blame the k-12 system, and most certainly the NCLB mandate that places more value on test scores than actual learning so these students come to college only knowing how to take tests with answers they've been given, but I can't help but think that I have also contributed to the decline.

Instead of tackling this lack of preparedness and thinking, "I'm not going to let you slide through. You're going to learn how to do this," I found it easier to just spoon feed the material. It became less stressful for me to just come to class, plug in the PowerPoint, and talk away, than to cringe as the students, obviously having not read the assigned material, sat and stared at one another.

This decline in student performance (and their seeming lack of concern about it) has made me become very bitter. Sometimes I feel (as do my colleagues) that we in the college teaching profession are actually first-hand witnesses to the decline of civilization. Melodramatic, I know. Please convince me otherwise, I beg you.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Is Someone's Daddy On The Phone? Is It That Time of Year Already?

Missy has been under-performing for me all semester long, and even though she was in a real jam, I didn't predict this.

I received a voice mail message from her father, asking me to call him to discuss my “unfair” treatment of his daughter. Since she’s an “adult” and since only identified himself as "Missy's Dad," I didn’t bother to return the call. I figured he didn’t *really* want to hear about how his precious angel had the wrong edition of the text, didn’t participate in class, was two absences shy of automatic failure, had been significantly tardy several times, had a D quiz average and an F test average, and had only turned in 60% of her homework.

Besides, the “unfair” treatment consisted of my applying the same course policy (as clearly stated in her course outline) that I apply to the rest of the students: if you show up late for class and miss a quiz, you don’t get to make it up. Hell, I even drop the lowest quiz grade, so it shouldn’t make a difference. The next morning, the student withdrew from my class, so I was finished with her, right? Then yesterday I received the following e-mail from her:

I couldn't believe it when you told me I couldn't make up the quizzes I missed. Your heartlessness and total lack of concern for me was unacceptable. I already told you that there was a lot of construction on the roads between my apartment and campus, and that's why I was always late. I don't know how you think I'm supposed to control construction!

I only do well in classes where the teacher really cares about me, and isn't just faking it like you do. I'm so glad I dropped, because now I'll have a teacher next term who has real care for me, and I know I will do great.

And then the worst thing you did was blow off my dad, who called because he's genuinely concerned for me. He was going to work it all out with you, so that I could stay in the class, but by being rude to him, that was the final straw. He says, and I agree with him, that you will learn a good lesson from this. I hope so.
Wow. Thank you for enlightening me. The scales have fallen from my eyes. Clearly, I need to stop seeming to care. I sure do wish you luck in finding a teacher who conforms to your oh-so-reasonable expectations. Happy travels, Missy. Say hi to your dad for me.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Grouchy Gerta from Glendale Wants this Cheerleader To Save Herself, Not the World.

Cheerleader Charmaine is your garden-variety, over-scheduled Hot Mess Walking.

Having spent most of her life overwhelmed in extracurriculars thanks to Super Helicopter Mommy Who Lived Vicariously, she got to college and immediately joined every single club and org she was even vaguely interested in. She's the social butterfly with the maniacally cheerful demeanor, who is on every welcoming committee and working with outreach group. Whether it's a social or service organization, CC is there with her veneers at maximum sparkle and her bleached-blonde curls at maximum bounce.

Now, she's got a super-developed sense of social justice and a flair for campus activism. Clearly, she watched too many episodes of "Captain Planet."

She's so busy with extras that she regularly misses class and fails to turn in papers. All of this combines into a "D-" in my class. When I counseled her on attendance and homework, she told me that she couldn't possibly drop any of her activities. They're too important because the fate of the world is clearly in her French-manicured hands!

When (gently) told that her priorities might be better shifted towards academic work, rather than extracurricular activities, she was shocked --- SHOCKED! -- that I might value "inconsequential" grades in the face of saving the world.

When told that a fair balance needed to be found between activities and academics, she was outraged. What could be more important than crusading against global warming, social injustice and inequality?

When told she would end up failing if the quality of her work didn't improve, she collapsed into tears. Don't I want to help my fellow man -- don't I care that humanity is on the brink of utter destruction and only WE *meaningful squeeze and stare* can make the difference?

When did social conscience become an acceptable substitute for actual intelligence?

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Modest Marty from Michigan Just Wants Boobalicious Barbie To Put Her Breasts Away. (What a Boob! {Rimshot.})

I'd like to talk to you about something that's been bothering me. Specifically, your breasts, and how much of them I see.

Now I have nothing against your breasts. I'm sure they're both lovely and functional. What I would prefer, however, is that they no longer be pushed in my face. Also, a top that properly covered them? That would be a good idea. If you're a bit short this month, I'll be happy to kick in to some sort of 'Buy A Top That Conceals The Twins' fund.

A few other things. You're a good student. I enjoy teaching you. But I am not going to meet you for a drink to discuss the course material. Instead, I have office hours. In a well-lit room. Without wine.

Also, the hugs? They can stop. Believe it or not, not every male academic speeding towards middle age wants to hump his students. I think of 19-year-old girls the way I think of Ferraris. They're nice to look at, and I can understand why someone might want one, but I'm not in the market myself. I'm happily married, and enjoy my comparatively uneventful life. A life which has no room for you or your pair in it. Also, when we run into each other at the supermarket, and you hug me for a little too long, the Mrs. gets a little cross. And fair enough. So, maybe less of that. In fact, how about none of that? Would that work for you?

So study, read, ask questions, and cover those things up. Nothing against you, but my life would be happier were there less of your cleavage in it. I am under no delusions that this is about my rugged good looks. I suspect that flashing the pair at a prof or two in the past has worked out well. But not with me. In fact, if you looked closely at the handbook for the course, you'd see that your grades are based on exams that are graded by others.

So no matter how spectacular a rack you may have, there's nothing I could do even if I wanted to. Your breasts are being used in vain. Sorry.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

The Return of the Love Professor!

Dear Love Professor,
I think my Math professor loves me. How do I know for sure?

LP: Get up close, darlin’. Say, “Is that a slide rule in your pocket or are you just glad to see me.” If that doesn’t elicit a response, check out the TAs. Math TAs never get any sex, so they’ll jump at the chance.


Dear Love Professor,
I want to impress my English professor. What poem should I write in calligraphy for him?

LP: Hmm, how about, “There once was a sophomore from Nantucket?”


Dear Love Professor,
I have several young honeys in my class. I’m 50ish, but look 35, and I’ve never tasted the forbidden undergrad fruit. What do you recommend?

LP: A warm glass of milk and a nap, honey.


Dear Professor de Love:
I’m more handsome than most undergrad men since I’m from France. I’ve already bedded most of the comely freshwomen, and now want to move on to some professors. You certainly seem an experienced older woman, with much knowledge in these matters. What could you tell me that would help me in my quest for a Sophia Loren type?

PdL: How about this. Le Fuck Off.


Dear Love Professor,
Help us settle a bet. We’ve always heard that Anthropology profs get the most sex. But that can’t be true. Who has the most sex on campus?

LP: Well, on my campus, it’s the Dean, who’s always sticking it up someone's ass!


That’s all for this week, honeys.

The Love Professor channels
all of her mail through Emily Sloth
in the Anthropology department of
Central Michigan School of Beauty.

This Week's Academic Personals.

  • SWF (Sophomore with an F) seeking mentoring, tutoring, and, like, you know, sex, from older (obviously) Registrar's office staff person. I don't think you're all retards, like Ryan says. I've seen some real hotties go in that office. I'd like to really get to know you, have a lot of, uh, sex, with you, and then maybe spend all night in your office, with the computers and everything. I got screwed - not literally, you bad boy! - by my Spanish professor, and he gave me an F, even though I worked a whole summer at Taco Cabana. It's just a grade. My roommate says nobody gives a shit. So, if you're up for the third best cheerleader from 2005's Rancho Carne squad, and you have the password for the grade change software, let's, uh, you know, do it like we're on Animal Planet. Heather in Hughes Hall.

  • DWP (Didactic White Professor) seeking nubile Nadia Comaneci-type teaching assistant. You: height/IQ proportionate, passionate, wispy, flexible, eager. Me: Powerful, well-read, slightly overweight, bald, a genius, fraught with insecurity, beaten down by career, filled with self-loathing. If you like Foucault, we’ll read him in the original language AND in the nude. Send your photo and GPA to: Disciplinarian in Denver.

  • SFF (Single Freeway Flier) seeking casual conversation and bonking from educated and friendly companion. Must live somewhere on I-78 between Muhlenberg College in Allentown and Widener University in Harrisburg. Ideally you’d be a great cook, too, and might offer minimal laundry service. If you’ve ever read or graded student essays, much the better! E-Z access to both you and the freeway makes this a done deal. Your photo gets mine: Freeway Phil!