Friday, February 28, 2014

You want smack? I'll give you some smack.

I wanted to use an Eddie Rabbit picture instead.
A couple weeks ago, here at Wossamatta U, we had an ice-storm: this isn't unusual, but it hit mid-day and the administration (suddenly jolted out of its collective turn at the bourbon water-cooler) decided to cancel classes from mid-day, precisely eight minutes before mid-day classes were supposed to start. That was annoying enough, given that I had already clomped across campus with ice-cleats strapped to my boots so that I'd be sure to get to class on time, and given that I had to cancel our class midterm, which had already been delayed a week and a half due to weather.

More annoying was the fact that Gregarious Gilbert had started to take the exam early, on the other side of campus, in order to accommodate his need for, uh, accommodation (extended time). That was not, per se, a problem at all. However, he started the exam a full half hour before the rest of the class, in a separate room with a separate proctor, and thus he was well into the exam when the administration canceled class.

I raced slip-sliding over to the other side of campus where he was hunkered down in a tiny office with the proctor. "Gilbert," I said, "I don’t want to interrupt you. But class has been canceled. I'd like you to continue taking the exam, because you've already started and it just makes sense to finish now. OK?" Gilbert nodded in slightly baffled agreement and went back to work; I left him and his proctor and went back to my office.

Several hours later, long after the proctor had delivered Gilbert's exam to me, I received the following e-mail from Gilbert:

More Google questions

I'm not sure whether anybody else does but I like this feature.  You all seem to really like the picture captions so you must be visual learners, or visual snarkers, or something.  Anyway, here are today's Google questions:

I figure that these questions are asked by high school students since anybody in college would know the answers.  To get into the proper sarcastic, pissed off, WTF?! state of mind that fuels this blog, imagine you are talking with a student, or better yet, the parents of a prospective student and they ask you one of these questions.  Since you are a professional, you'll respond in a socially acceptable way but in your head, you would say whatever you write in the comments...

No, really, Dr. Amelia didn't have anything else to do

What? Go to the out of town meeting for you. Because you're busy, Mr. Tenured Proffie? I would be so very happy to do that for you.

Oh, spend my evenings in the campus call center calling prospective students with good SAT scores? And you'll give me free crappy pizza? Yes, yes please, Ms. Assoc. Dean.

Hmmmm? You forgot our meeting, so can I come in again next week on the one day I have to not drive an hour each way to come to campus so I can have two more hours to, you know, maybe do some research? But of course. It would be my pleasure, Senior Proffie lady. Look forward to your positive vote in a year.

Oh, hey, Sally Freshperson. What? You don't want to Google how to solve your little technical problem? Well, no problem. Don't tire your student-evaluation-writing fingers out on that nasty old keyboard. Dr. Amelia would be so very happy to guess what your problem is, Google it for you, and send you the solutions. Really. It's the very least I can do.

What colleague from a previous school that I'll need a tenure rec from? You can't figure out how to format that table in your paper? By ALL MEANS, please send it to me and ask me to figure it out and send it back. I have nothing better to do.

Dr. Amelia thinks it is a bad thing that she is now fantasizing about what a jerk she will be when she gets tenure. But it just might be epic.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

My day, every single day

Tuesday, no classes to teach and no meetings!  The only thing I have to do is read some articles for a manuscript I’m writing.  If I work on it all day, it will be done.  I feel good already.

The papers are still on my desk.  OK, let’s get to it. 

Gotta check email first.  Delete, delete, delete, delete.  What’s that?  Oh, shit.  I was supposed to respond to that last week.  Let’s get that out of the way so I can concentrate on reading.

Delete, delete, delete, delete.

Done!  Now I can read this article ...

Wha-?  Yes, come in.  Yes, I have office hours on Friday but (since you interrupted me already) I’ll talk with you now.  I don’t care how ashamed you are about plagiarizing the lab report.  You’re still getting a zero.  Thanks for bringing your unhappiness to my attention.  I believe that our impromptu meeting is now over.  You may shut the door.

No, leave first, then shut the door. 

OK, where was I?  Right, reading this article.  Ugh.  It’s really long.

I need some coffee so I can pay attention.  (See, I’m so tired that I missed an opportunity to say, “That’s what she said” in the previous line.)  While the coffee is brewing, I’ll chat with the guy across the hall.  That counts as multitasking, right?

OK, coffee ready.  Now I’m fired up.  Time to read, time to expand my knowledge!

I had no idea times were so good

I'm talking to (almost) all of you right now.

You lucky, lucky professors.  With your preciously smart and hard-working students.  No problems for you this semester, other than they are all reading ahead, attending all your office hours to ask an endless number of insightful questions and asking how many chili peppers you want on RMP.

How do I know this?  Because the smackdown tank is empty.

You could write a quick note about your annoying students, your clueless students and your lazy students.  That is, if you had any of those.  Which you apparently don't have.  Lucky, lucky you.

I'm not terribly mad about this state of affairs.  Really, I'm a tad bit jealous.  And your wonderful, no-smackdown-deserving students.

We made it to Thursday without running out of smack so I'll provide one more post later today.  We don't post any article links until the weekend so unless somebody sends me something to post, there won't be anything new here all day Friday.

That will give you more time to spend with your students.  Maybe you'll get to be BFFs.

Or you could send me some shit to post, okie dokie?

Smackdown, smackdown! Getcher smackdown heah!

Wheedling Will: Why, oh why is it that EVERY time I say “no” to something, you take it as an invitation to ask me AGAIN if you can? “Can I meet with you at noon?” No, I have a meeting. “But just for 5 minutes?” NO! “But I need to talk to you and-” NOOOOOO! “Can I redo the lab work?” No. “But I didn’t get the results right the last-“ NOOOOOO!  Please remove the word “but” from all of your conversations with me. Unless you are using its homophone - together with “head” -  to describe yourself.

Superior Sally: Yes, I know that some of my posted files are in older versions of Word, and it would be super keen if every one of the 250 or so posted files on the LMS were updated into the latest and greatest versions of the Office suite. I DO, unfortunately, have just a few higher priorities, so next time you bring it up I’ll take it that you are volunteering to do it for me. I’ll give you an extra-special pat on the back for every typo you find and correct.

Klutzy Karim
: STOP! DON’T TOUCH ANYTHING ELSE IN THE LAB EVER AGAIN! We may have to replace every item you have ever even breathed on in the lab, you are such a walking disaster area. STOP throwing your hands around when talking (several pieces of glassware). STOP looking at your classmate when your hands are working equipment (sample jammed into instrument). STOP using devices before you have read the instructions (melted wires and setting off the smoke alarm). Darwin may win in the end, but I’d like to avoid your taking innocent others with you when you remove yourself from the gene pool.

Deceitful Desiree: You were late. You didn’t sign in before the sign-in sheet was collected. After class when I was distracted talking to another student, you reached into my bag to get the sign-in sheet.  If you ever touch my personal things again, I will take YOUR bag/purse, empty all the belongings onto the front desk, and auction off anything I don’t want to keep myself to the highest bidder. After I cut your hands off.

Horrible Meanie Prof

Rites of Spring (A Thirsty)

Alas! The AWC banner asks for smackdowns, but I have no sturm und drang to express, nor angst, nor schadenfreude nor even deansprachtbarfen. It's the first day of the term for me, and the Little Dears arrived on time, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed.

Hope springs eternal that THIS will be the bunch that remembers to check the syllabus before asking about deadlines, and contacts classmates instead of me for missed notes. THIS group will read the textbook and follow directions on assignments because THESE students recognize their good fortune and appreciate the opportunity to meet the real intellectual challenges of college.

What will be the first event that bursts my bubble? 

How long will it take for that event to happen?

(Please, no wagering.)

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Today on Professor Facepalm: Smack!

Clueless Non-Trad, at end of class: Excuse me, Mr. Facepalm, but I missed some of the stuff on Socrates... and Plato...

Prof. Facepalm, erasing whiteboard: I don't doubt it. You were an hour late to a class that lasts an hour and twenty-five minutes.

Clueless Non-Trad: Uh, yeah... I was busy. Could I get that stuff from you...?

Prof. Facepalm, now staring at Clueless Non-Trad: "Get it?" How?

Clueless Non-Trad: Uh... could you go over it again, maybe? Real quick?

Prof. Facepalm: It took an hour to go over it before. How quick would you like it?

Clueless Non-Trad: Just, um, real quick.

Prof. Facepalm: They were Greek. Quick enough.

Clueless Non-Trad, actually writing this down: Uh... that's all you said?

Prof. Facepalm, returning to erasing boards: I'm not re-teaching the material just for you. Get the information from another student.

Clueless Non-Trad: I asked one, she didn't take any notes...

Prof. Facepalm: Well, at least she was here.

Clueless Non-Trad: [flees]


O Caption My Caption!

Here's a normal campus scene on a normal day.  Nothing really to talk about here.  See if you can think of something interesting.

Let's hear it in the comments.

Mathy Matthew shares some delicate feelings about his colleagues

WALTER and WILLA the Wastes: Our department was ordered to start tracking certain data. To try and save everyone a great deal of work, I volunteered to create a common spreadsheet. I put hours and hours of work in to make this as easy to use as possible. Everyone else in the department was able to follow the instructions. Hell, several people thanked me for my work. What did you two do? You threw your data into a blank spreadsheet and left out several of the key pieces of information. One of you even used the wrong grading scale! We had a meeting about this, where I explained the spreadsheet and you agreed to use it. So either you're completely fucking stupid, or you just don't give a shit. Either way, YOU are the reason that some people suggest we get rid of tenure. And damn, I'm starting to agree...

Scatterbrained SANDRA: You emailed me to ask if you could come into my class to introduce a new tutor to the students. You gave me ONE date that worked. I emailed you back to confirm. Then you emailed me back to tell me that the tutor isn't available on that date, but you'll come anyway. WTF? And you're not fooling anyone when you say that you'll only take up three minutes of class. You'll be there for at least eight minutes, nervously rambling on and on, so much that the students won't have any desire to go use your services.

Adminiflake ANDY: We are one month into the semester and the final exam schedule has not yet been posted online. This is two weeks after I alerted you to the fact: two weeks you spent ignoring the task and my emails. You should be fired. Or hanged.

It just bothers me when I work hard and sometimes go above and beyond to make things work smoothly, and other people who are paid much more just can't get their act together. To anyone who makes my job harder by not doing theirs: FUCK YOU!


Mathy Matthew

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Tuesdays with Twitter

I was curious to read some of the Twitter comments about what faculty teach in class.  Here are some gems.

The second one reminds me that my English professor once shared her favorite saying.  "A college professor is like a proper young lady.  You don't want the reputation for being easy."

The second-to-last tweet, about cancelling class for the hockey game, is pretty typical.  I saw lots of pictures of classrooms watching the game on the projector screen.

Some of you noticed the Twitter feed on the right.  Yeah, we're in.  You'll appreciate me sharing the funniest/saddest student tweets rather than finding them yourselves.  Talk about a cesspool of humanity.  The bright side is that there are other faculty like us on Twitter (actually, some AWC writers are there) so that brings some balance to the feed.

An Early Thirsty about the only group on campus with less influence than faculty

Take a brief break from the this week's smackdown theme to answer this question, sent in by a polite undergrad who is a fan going back to the RYS days.  Wait, how long has this kid been in school, anyway?

I’m a junior at my university and a regular reader of RYS/CM/AWC.  I’m also a part of my university’s student government.  I’m pretty curious.  How pervasive is the impact of student government throughout your university?  Also, as professors, how do you feel about having students from student government on various university committees--scholarship committees, faculty awards committees, etc?



The smackdown rolls on. Horrible Meanie Prof with a letter (hopefully) never sent

I do appreciate that the student can at least write coherently, really I do. In red – the smackdown.

Dear Dr. Horrible Meanie Prof:

I, and many other students who, your two best buddies who you let you copy all their work?, feel that the poor planning of the course is wholly unprofessional on your part. And you can say this of course, because you ARE a professional with over 20 years’ experience  – WHOOPS, sorry, I’M the one who has been a professional for over 20 years - sorry, forgot! Perhaps in class you can explain why we had the same amount of work in the first ten weeks of the semester that we now have had in the last 4 weeks (one project, two assignments, and one midterm). I am very confident  I am glad you are confident about SOMETHING that, even in the "real world" a boss would understand when one of his/her employees are working their hardest but are simply overwhelmed by the load. Yes, they would understand enough to say, “don’t let my office door hit you in the ass as you leave – you’re fired.” It is my hope that you can set a better example now and in the future. Oh, please, PLEASE FORGIVE ME!!!! I will do better in the future, I PROMISE!

I know without a doubt that my peers will forgo sleep You mean they won't sleep in class anymore? , drop their other commitments, and do the very best that they can to get everything done, all the while being frightened of admitting what they don't understand. Your asking the whole class, "Who doesn't understand it?" “Who has questions?” or "Who can't do it?" will never get an honest response. Especially now when students literally do not have the time to think about and determine what they don't know.

Thank you for listening, I AM impressed with your writing – that tone of entitled superiority normally takes years to develop.

Self-Appointed Class Leader and Entitled Know-it-all (SACLEK)

Monday, February 24, 2014

The Professor's office hours: 10 am EST, Tuesday

The Professor, original founder of Rate Your Students, will be hosting virtual office hours on Tuesday, 10 am Eastern at Proffie Chat.

These are just like the office hours we hold with one small difference.  Interesting folks actually show up to his.

As always, mind the rug.

Now I can honestly tell my dean that I do everything I can to encourage people to attend office hours.

UPDATE:  I'm not sure what's going on over there.  Hopefully, something will come up soon.  Meanwhile, the show here goes on...

Happy Monday!

An open thread for the worst Monday of the week.

We're going to try that Google game again.

This time, with better instructions.

1.  I post a picture of Google autocompleting a search query. 

2.  You answer any of the search query questions with your own snarky, creative answer in the comments.

Here is me performing step 1.

Here is me pretending to be you performing step 2.

Yes, I want you... to show up to class and realize that if I stop in the middle of lecture to stare at you for ten seconds, then it means that I've just asked you a question.  Pay attention, dumbass!
Nicely done, if I do say so myself.  Now, the rest of you get down there and have at it.

The Professor's office hours, now even more convenient!

If you've been hanging around for the past few days, you noticed my post about The Professor's virtual office hours.  It's a pretty neat idea - the founder of Rate Your Students sets up a chat room in a few minutes for people to, um, chat.

Well, I know how hard it is for some people to attend office hours.  You get so busy reading this page that you forget.  Don't feel bad.  Shit happens, right?  Well, me and everybody who built the internet are here to help.  Below is the actual chat room for you to participate.  It's virtual office hours delivered straight to you.  You can type stuff in the chat box here.  It works.  I promise.

UPDATE:  The chat room is now closed so I removed it from the page.  I hope those who were there had a good time.

Starting the week off right: Clyde from Carolton can’t keep cool about his colleagues

Colleagues: the only things worse than students.
IGNAZIO the immigrant:  I’m happy that you came to the US as a poor eighteen year old and are now a professor, living the American Dream.  That doesn’t mean you can single out foreign students to pick on them, as if they must work as hard as you did.  “You’ll speak English in my classroom or go back where you came from!” is not an acceptable way to speak to any of our students.  I don’t know the ins-and-outs of whether an immigrant can be a xenophobe but I do know an asshole when I see one.

Old Fashioned OLLIE:  We are tired of hearing about how much better the students were in your day.  How you think the teacher in Another Brick in the Wall was a softy for not belting young Pink on the head.  We are bored to hear again that these new “iblueberry smart lapphone tablets” are just a fad and we’ll all be better off when we go back to writing things down in pencil.  Oh, and the Registrar HATES you for trying to turn in your handwritten grades instead of typing them in online like we’ve done for the past twenty years.  We would just bide our time until you fall over dead except that you’re only 35.  Being so young and cantankerous makes you an unpopular, obnoxious pain in the ass.

ALVIN the avoider:  You have a special knack for avoiding committee work.  None of us particularly like it but some of it is important.  You just blow it off and fail to get the work done.  This means that the higher-ups now view you as too stupid to handle anything more complicated than scheduling a meeting.  This means more work for the rest of us.  Pretending to be incompetent is a dangerous game to play when you’re surrounded by very smart people.  I can’t wait to see this blow up in your face.

Clyde from Carolton

Sunday, February 23, 2014

In which Dr. Amelia learns her lesson

So Dr. Amelia has a merry band of freshpersons for a spring course for the first time this semester. And she has be having particular difficulty with the male members of the band. Missing classes, for example having 25% of the class out on a Wednesday, and every last one being a male student. Sleeping in class during a hands-on hamster fur weaving exercise. Just not turning in even the most trivial and easy of assignments.

She asked a colleague what was going on, and got the answer: fraternity pledging. Then she read this article in The Atlantic, and understands a bit more.

She recommends it. The article has her impressed. The fraternities not so much.

Office hours posted

The Professor, original founder of Rate Your Students, will be hosting virtual office hours on Monday, 10 am Eastern at Proffie Chat.  Set a good example for your students by attending.

Mind the rug.

If clicking over to another website isn't "webby" enough for you, you can attend The Professor's virtual office hours from the comfort of Academic Water cooler.  It's like distance virtual office hours.  Mind=Blown. 

Sunday comics

Good morning.  Get your coffee and a doughnut.  Relax and read the news.  Whether you are sitting at home or you snuck out of church and are sitting in the parking lot, it's time for the Sunday comics.

Mike MacRae gives us the students' perspective of Indiana Jones' classes.

In case you did miss church, here's an Anglican priest and Christ College professor, Dr. Deeks.

End strong.  Lewis Black on the dismal science and 8 am classes.

To be honest, there's not a lot of professors out there doing stand up comedy.  I don't know why.  You'd think that faculty would like that job.  At least people pay to hear you speak then actually show up and listen.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Saturday morning news

We have a fine selection of news links for you today, all sent in by readers.

It's like something out of Looney Tunes has come to life. 

I'm not sure where I stand on this one.  If the administration made a professor to teach a class he wasn't qualified to teach, then it's good that people know about that.  However, his students certainly will certainly ignore him now and learn even less. It's still not an offense worthy of suspension.
Rutgers suspends top anthropology professor for allegedly refusing to teach, report says

In this case, I actually feel sorry for the administrators.  Every business includes in their current prices the costs of future financial commitments.  These guys just made the mistake of explicitly telling students about it.
UH West Oahu students getting money back

A reader sent this link to me after reading the stories of undergrad researchers here and here.  This one is actually sad.  Student flakiness ma be involved but it's definitely research disorganization which results in pointless animals deaths.  That's ultimately the professor's fault.
UC Berkeley fined in deaths of lab animals

We can't end on a down note here so I dug up this story.  From the "It's always in the last place you look" file...

Have a good weekend!

The sun never sets on the Academic Water Cooler

This is pretty neat.  During the past three days, we've had readers in the District of Columbia and every state,

(except Alaska, Maine, Kentucky, South Dakota and Montana).

We also have some readers from around the world.  Your not just reading Academic Water Cooler, you're reading the internationally renowned Academic Water Cooler.  Say it with pride.

I assume we'd have more people reading us in other countries if it were not for the Olympics.  This is just the past few days.  I've seen this map before with readers in South Africa and Afghanistan.  We haven't broken into the African and South American markets yet but they'll come around.  After all, if the Hobbits like us, we must be doing something right.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Students who I earn my sympathy

Confusing, right? 

I have a few students who create problems for themselves not out of laziness or stupidity but due to an overabundance of politeness or a weird sense of dedication to their classes.  In the end, I have to deal with their problems so they are still a pain in the ass.

Quiet Quinton  Office hours are when you stop by my office and I help you.  Don’t sit outside my door because you saw that I was working.  I’m always working.  It’s a big part of having a job.  You are allowed to interrupt.

Under-medicated Mindy  Why are you in lab this week when I already excused you because your medication making you space out?  Ah, you didn’t want to miss any class so you are skipping your meds.  No, sweetheart, that’s not how this works.  Take care of yourself first.

Incarcerated Ivan  Yes, jail time is an excused absence.  Yes, I know it’s not on the list of valid excuses in the syllabus.  It’s rare so I don’t include it.  Do you know what’s even rarer?  A student who reads the syllabus.

Injured Ignatius  Don’t try to take your exam with casts on your two broken wrists.  They provide a total of three fingers on two hands for you hold your pencil.  Look tiger, I get it that you want to tough it out but go to our accommodations office so you can get some help.

Something's up...

I don't know what this is all about but I'm guessing it will be interesting.  The founder of Rate Your Students, known only as The Professor, is holding virtual office hours at Proffie Chat starting in a few minutes.  At the very least, go pay your respects to the guy who started all of this, whatever this is.

See you there!

UPDATE:  That was fun.  I'm glad some AWC regulars stopped by.  I found out about this just a half an hour before it began.  If I get any news about future office hours or other events, I'll pass them along with more advanced notice.

Oh, and there's one more post coming up today.

For tomorrow?  Well, that depends what you send me, as always.

Friday Thirsty: Trish from Texarkana wants us to figure it all out

Are there any institutions for higher education that are not focused on numbers?

I am increasingly baffled by the insistence on conflating academic success with enrollment numbers.  Quantity trumps quality.  But isn't it the other way around?  If you invest in attracting quality students, provide them and the faculty with resources, and focus on developing your full time faculty with said resources, including tenure, then won't the numbers follow?  And why are faculty supposed to beat the bushes for students? And if I do manage to get a good annual review, then shouldn't my reward be a raise, and not a gift certificate to the college bookstore?

In other words, the usual questions.

What the fuck is going on around here?

OK, that last line wasn't from Trish.  I wrote it.  If your six year old daughter was reading over your shoulder and has just learned a new word, blame me.

Contemplative Cynic writes in the grandest style of literature - a top ten list

How to Make Contemplative Cynic Grind Her Teeth

10. "Are we going to be tested on this?"
Only asked when students are asked to write something down.

9. Similarly: "Can you tell us what's going to be on the test?"
You do know what a test is for, right? If I tell you what's going to be on it, it's no longer a test. However, everything we have covered so far is up for grabs.

8. And accompanying that: "Are you going to give us a study guide?"
Yes: it's called the TOC and your notes.

7. "I don't know. It was just really confusing" seems to be used when students didn't read clearly and think that this phrase now means they are excused from understanding what they were supposed to have grasped.

6. "When are you going to be in your office?" means they basically want to contest a grade or give an excuse in person but will likely never show up if it means expending effort.

5. "Do you have a stapler?" No explanation needed.

4. "Do we have to write this down?" Why are you asking this? It's college.

3. "Oh, is that due today?" or  "You didn't tell us that was due today." RTFS.

2. "I always got A's in high school." No you didn't.

1. "Can we get extra credit for [insert inane nonsensical behavior that has nothing to do with learning or the course]?" Grrrrrrr.

Contemplative Cynic

Thursday, February 20, 2014

A comment makes it to the big show! Let's hear it for Wombat!

Yesterday, Wombat related a story from her graduate school days about a darling undergrad research "assistant."  The only problem with her writing was that it was in the comments section of another post.  This is front page material. 

For all you commenters out there, don't hesitate to send me your stories like this.  More people can read them if we post on the blog's main page.  Check your promotion guidelines but I'm pretty sure it would count as a publication too.

Without further ado, I will leave you with Wombat's Tale of Woe.  Adieu!

My undergrad had a constantly growing preamble:
I'm so busy, I have my 1st bio lab, a paper to read for psych, and a problem set for calc due this week.
I'm so busy, I have 2 bio labs, a paper to read for psych, 2 problem sets for calc and an english essay due this week...

She routinely touched things while I screamed "stop stop stop" "stop don't touch that don't touch it" "Stop, Jen just fucking sto... fuck you're like a 3 year old why don't you stop?" She pointed to a perfect bullseye pattern a certain kind of really tuned up laser makes when everything is perfect - she said it was a fingerprint - I said "No, that's not what that is, it's fine, it's caused by.. no don't touch it!" as she stuck a greasy wrench in the beam and ablated wrench crud all over it and ruined the day's work. Everytime she entered the lab, something broke and time was lost.

One time she skipped the preamble and jumped right in with:
My midterm progress paper for research is due Thurs, so can you just write up what we've been doing and give it to me by Wed so I can practice it before the presentation?

We had a great laugh about that.

Whenever she showed up, we hit Napster (remember Napster?) with The Offspring queued up for her arrival.

What are you reading?

Quick request:  I'd like to add a list of good academic blogs to the sidebar.  Tell me what other blogs you read, or better yet, let me know if you write for another blog (excluding RYS and CM, which are already there).  Give it to me in the comments.

We'll call it "supplemental reading" or some such hilarious reference to our students' assigned texts.



Keep on Pushing that Rock

First Draft:

Zora Neal Hurston wrote a really interesting novel about what it's like to be a black person growing up a long time ago called There Eyes were Watching God.  It's really iteresting to compare how this book is similar to and different from Hemmingways book that he wrote called The Sun Also Rises about a veteran of the Vietnam War that was injured in his knee and then met a girl just like the characters in Zora's book did.

My Comments:

This paper needs extensive revision.  There are several factual errors, which severely damage your ability to argue convincingly for your thesis.  In fact, that thesis itself is vague, and you will find it easier to write and revise this paper if you make it more specific.  For example, you could argue that Hurston's language reflects the way she wants the reader to regard the characters, just as Hemingway's simplicity of language reflects the way he paints Jake as an emotionally damaged casualty of war.  Perhaps you should stop by my office and we could work on it together.  Remember the revision is due next week.  I have office hours Tuesday and Wednesday, so let me know if you can make those.  If not, I'll be glad to make an appointment late in the afternoon or early in the morning on either of those days.


Zora Neal Huston wrote a really interesting novel about what it's like to be a black person growing up a long time ago called Their Eyes where Watching God.  It's really iteresting to compare how this book is similar to and different from Hemmingways' book that he wrote called "The Sun Also Rises" about a veteran of th War that was injured in his knee and then met a girl just like the characters in Zora's book did.

Professor Chiltepin

The Best Candidate Does Not Always Win

A long-time reader and frequent contributor sent us this story.  Due to the details provided and the subject matter, the contributor wishes to remain anonymous.

I am on a search committee for a new faculty member in a department aligned with my own.  We began the search full of excitement and hope, because after a long time the department is finally getting very much needed new energy.  The candidate needs to have a high level of technical skill, and also the kind of teaching experience that will prepare him or her for our very diverse environment.  Our student body is around 30% white, with the remaining 70% of various backgrounds (we have a map with pins noting the places our students are from, and it is quite impressive!).  Of course, it is not just experience with ethnic diversity that we need.  Faculty who come to my college often feel quite surprised and unsure how to handle the extreme level of diversity in college readiness.  We have a candidate who meets every expectation, and more.   Years of teaching experience with this population, several years teaching at our own institution, very strong technical credentials, community involvement, curriculum planning. His teaching demo blew us away, and he had a great idea for a new degree program within the department, one that he has the contacts and experience to get up and running in the short term.  He is amazing.  The only problem is, he is a white male.  The department in question is full of white males. Human resources and the admin team don't like this.  Not at all.

The next best candidate does happen to be a female who would qualify as diverse.  She has international experience, but none teaching in any kind of a diverse environment or in an urban environment in the U.S. She could give us no ideas for expanding the department (she understandably said that she could only know that by coming and getting a feel for the place).  Her teaching demo (we are HUGE into teaching here----it's the most important thing) was a bit scattered, and she messed up a few technical elements of her lesson.  But she was okay, and I could see she'd get better.  She's young.  I liked her, I really did. I do wonder how she'll handle the diversity, since her previous experience seems a bit....privileged.  But I liked her.   I LOVED the other guy.  We all felt the same way..

At present, it looks like a very real possibility that our first choice will not be getting the job, simply because he has the wrong kind of genitals and parents who hailed from the wrong place.

It will be a hard pill for all of us to swallow, and I also feel like it would put the successful candidate (the one the admins are trying to force us to hire) at a tremendous disadvantage because she would be coming in to face the sting of disappointment and anger that we were not permitted to choose what we felt was the best candidate.

My college does have a tremendously diverse student body, and if I were not so invested in this search, I might feel a bit differently about the way the students might need to see that diversity reflected in their professors.  As it stands, I am very sad by how unfair it all seems.

What do my AWC colleagues think about the value of diversity in a faculty?  Is it so much more important than other considerations, as was the case here? 

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Bob from Bennington has this cheery warning: There is no place to hide

Helicopter parents don’t just land in classrooms.  One if hovering in my research lab right now.

I agreed to let Vincent, a freshman, work in my biology lab.  he was polite and seemed to know something about the work that I do.  His transcript showed that he did well in his fall classes.  Everything seemed to check out.

We met in my office for about an hour to talk about research.  When he left, I heard two other voices say, “I’m so proud of you, Vincent.”  I didn't realize at the time that those were his parents, waiting outside my office the entire time, listening in to our conversation. [cue ominous music]

After a week, I picked up the phone to hear, “Vincent isn’t satisfied with the pace of his training in your lab.  He’s very smart.  I would like for all of us to meet and discuss this.”

A taste of Twitter

Oh, yeah.  Tweet for me baby.
How could I resist?  Although I have no shortage of stories about annoying students, it's easier just to show you the evidence.  More efficient that way, cuts out the middle man.  I think that's the whole point of Twitter, right?  Let idiots reveal themselves directly. 

Finding annoying students on Twitter is like finding breakfast at Waffle House - not very challenging.  The worst part about it is that even when they are at their most obnoxious, most student tweets are just boring.  "I don't like my class."  "My professor is mean."  A few take it to the next level, and that's what we're looking for here.

Having scanned the Twitterverse for a while, I've found a small selection of student complaints which reveal more about the students' character than their professor.

I roll my eyes at most of them but #2 breaks my heart a little.

Caption this!

OK gang.  You did so well at the first captioning captravaganza that I doubt you'll be able to do any better.  I dare you to try.

As usual, go at it in the comments.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Death of an Adivosr - the unserious Early Thirsty

I'm glad that some of you contributed to Sunday's thirsty about the loss of your mentor or advisor.  This profession takes its toll through daily annoyances by students and greater events like these.  If that Thirsty helped in a small way, I'm very pleased.

However, advisors are not always sprinkling fairy dust so that we get tenure track jobs and it wasn't rainbows they were shitting on us when we asked for some help.  Face facts: at some point you wanted to kill your advisor, maybe you still do, and you certainly wouldn't feel bad (unless you got caught).

Let's hear about your imagined plans in the comment section.  Bonus points for incorporating your discipline into the scenario.  Try to be creative, but if you really just want to write gory details about smacking him with a shovel, go ahead.  I'll be slowly moving towards the door now...

How do you dream of causing your advisor's death?

You looked angry at me

I had office hours this afternoon on a warm, sunny day. I didn't really expect to see any students, but one showed up just as I opened the door. He was so angry he was trembling.

Okaaaay, what's up Joe? He wanted to discuss my non-professional attitude.

Come again? Yes, when I was discussing the exam (which he aced) with the group last week, I didn't call on him FIVE times, although he knew the right answer !!!!1!!1!! And I made a flippant remark that hurt his feelings. He is a handicapped student and as long as he takes his meds he's fine, but some remark I made could be construed as having made fun of students who have to take medicine on a regular basis.

I racked my brain to come up with what remark I might have made. I couldn't, so I asked him what it was that I had said. Well, it wasn't exactly a remark, he supposed, but my face looked angry and annoyed when I was looking in his direction.

I managed to keep the expletives bubbling up in my mind under control as I thanked him for bringing this to my attention and assured him that I was not angry at him, personally. He replied that he thought this was because he had disagreed with me on one of the exercises submitted through Moodle. Hello? There are so may people in this course, I don't usually remember people's names. Although I'm sure that I will now remember you, Joe.

I thanked him for coming in person (he came to campus just to tell me this) and not posting a nasty comment on The Site That Shall Not Be Named and managed to get him out the door.

Here I thought I was teaching in college and not in kindergarten, silly me.

Suzy from Square State

Yes, it's true! There's an FAQ just for you.

Readers have asked me how they can comment or post on this page.  I wrote a set of Frequently Asked Questions about that and a few other things.  The link to the FAQ page is on the sidebar above the envelope and is here.  If you think there's some stuff I need to add, put it in the comments section here or email me.

Thousands of people view AWC but not many comment and even fewer send me something to post.  That's OK but this place would be even better if you got involved.  Why participate vicariously when you can share your frustrations with us?  The FAQ page addresses some questions you might have about that.


By the way, some of you might have been away for the weekend.  That's fine.  The rest of us were here, busy as usual.  Before you ask, YES, YOU DID MISS SOMETHING IMPORTANT!  In particular, there was a full assortment of posts, including a very serious Sunday Thirsty, Saturday's links, posts by Academaniac, Dr. Amelia and Ogre Proctor Hep and, right below this post, some Google-inspired questions for you to answer.  Thankfully, we do allow you to make up your missed work.

Yes, you may borrow my stapler.

As always I am,
Your ever helpful moderator,

Beaker Ben

Monday, February 17, 2014

What does the Google say?

Letting Google autocomplete your search queries can yield some amusing results.  Asking AWC commenters to respond to a post can get pretty hilarious too.  Dare we combine these two?  If the level of comedy becomes too great, causing something to divide by zero, creates a micro-black hole and destroys the universe as we know it, well... then you don't have to finish grading those papers.  You're welcome.

Here's our first entry:

Think of how many students it took to get these questions to the top of Google's list of search terms.  Don't let these curious scholars down.  Share your wisdom by answering any of them in the comments.

Dr. Amelia wants to line her gradflakes up for a group smacking


Several of you have written to me to tell me you don't understand what we are doing. Good news - your failure to "get" what is required is easily remedied. You just need to stop being so teapartying lazy.

Some tips:

1. Read the assignment. In it, I put links to several great examples on the web that are both in the desired format AND about the topic. How awesome is that? I KNOW, right? What, you DID read the assignment carefully? Funny, cuz I used link tracking on those links and you haven't clicked on them. Ooh, pwned again.

2. When ever you want to write in an e-mail to your professor the words "How do I..." you may get faster results if you type those words instead into the search engine of your choice. It will pull up EXACTLY the same links that I will e-mail you back several hours later. Look at you, getting information at the speed of the Internet. Winning!

3. You will have to READ the links I send you. I know you passed TWO classes in stuff harder than what i'm asking you to do for this one. Once you read then, you will realize that you literally only have to cut and paste. And I've seen your blog - I know you know how to do that. Sad face.

Ok, super sugar bears, that's it for now. I'm off to make your next assignment. Which you will also have to read. Womp womp. 

Dr. Amelia

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Of Symbolic Awareness and Assessment

The Big Electronic Assessment System Thing exists without conventional physical form within the long-term and working memories of devices numbering in the thousands, if not millions. At its beginning were intracephalic electrochemical impulses that when eventually conducted to the forearm musculature of people known as “coders” caused plastic keys to drop in ways that yielded sequences of symbols. These sequences are interpreted and/or understood in several ways; for instance, one that might appear to a human as

while (num < numstu) scorexam(num++);

may be stored in the host computer’s working memory as 01110111 01101000 01101001 etc., but when transformed (a.k.a. “compiled”) it becomes yet another sequence that directs the host ultimately to perform millions of individual data transfer and arithmetic operations. Thousands of such sequences constitute but one part of the BEAST.

Losing a mentor - A Sunday Thirsty

A reader sent me this link about the passing of Stuart Hall, a leader of the cultural studies discipline.  You can read it if you want but this post isn't about the link.

It's about the passing of your research advisor, probably your first research mentor.  Has anybody experienced that? 

Often, feelings for our research mentors and advisors change from awe to hatred as we muddle our way through grad school.  In my case, my advisor never knew how often I plotted his demise.  We still chat occasionally.  I would be sad to learn that he died (especially if it was because I forgot to remove one of the lethal traps I had set in his office).

To restate my Sunday Thirsty question:

How did you deal with the loss of your advisor?

You might be waiting for the punchline but there is none. I'm serious because this is a serious topic.

OK, if you have something funny to say, hold off for a bit.  I'll have an opportunity for you on Tuesday but I want these comments to stay on topic out of respect for those who share how they struggled with this.  Thanks.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

Saturday is a good day to hit the links

We have another batch of links today.  Readers sent in quite a few this week, which is always appreciated.

This first article describes the predicament of medical doctors.  I know, the poor little dears.  Actually, read the article and you might, just might, notice some similarities between their situation and ours.

A reader also suggested we check out Professor Doom's Confessions of a College Professor.  I did and it's good stuff, worth reading.  Now, don't go sending Prof Doom your student smackdowns and such.  Those belong here.  Still, there's nothing wrong with visiting other faculty blogs once in a while.

Finally, the best headline of the group: Neighbors said to fear 'transient academics'.  You're Goddamned right, you should fear them.  Nothing ruins a neighborhood like a bunch of visiting professors.

Wishing you a restful Saturday afternoon,

Always and truly yours,

Beaker Ben

How bad is academia? You can start a story with "I got Tenure" and still have nothing good to say about it.

I got tenure. Next I was promoted to full professor (but not without a fight). But everything has become about our new hires and what is trendy and cool. The fundamentals are not being taught. And there is no building of skill sets. This meant I never knew at what skill level students coming into my classes would be. This doesn't seem to concern anyone else, and I care only because it negatively impacts the program I worked to make successful. Yes, I'm open to change - when there is a reason for it and not simply for the sake of change itself. And not just because our newbies like making me feel out of touch (I assure you I am not). I found myself being told I couldn't teach this or that. The reason? I was told there were budget constraints, when our budget could more than accommodate my reasonable requests, and without impacting the needs of anyone else.

I don't actually qualify for retirement. But I was weary of being treated badly and tired of watching a successful program suffer. I went to our admin and said, I have a simple request. I'd like my colleagues to actually listen/consider what I have to say and behave in a professional manner OR make me an offer regarding retirement. They chose the latter, which is a sad statement of how the university approached such concerns. I worked hard, and was very dedicated.

So I have moved and set up an office where I will work on weaving hamsters. Well, not really, but you get the idea.


Friday, February 14, 2014

And the winner is...

Here are the results for the winners of the Student Olympics, as determined by our first POOP (Play Online with Other Professors) event.

There are a few things we need to take care of before the winners are announced.  This game included over thirty entries so there was a lot of competition.  On the other hand, you could vote for your favorite entry as often as you want so if you didn't win, that's your fault.  Complain to us about how busy you were.  I dare you.

We don't give medals for these awards because I think the Olympics and/or NBC trademarked them.  We sure as hell don't want to listen to the national anthem of Snowflakistan. 

One last thing.  I want to point out that making that awesome Olympics snowflake graphic took a ton of time.  I'm giving myself a trophy, just to let you know.
Alright, enough goofing around.  Here we go:

Edna Expat says that the international competition for crappy schools and students is pretty intense

The grass ain't greener over here, people.

Here at Across the Seas U we regularly play host to temporary faculty, often recipients of prestigious international fellowships, who come to us bright-eyed and ready for adventure. I always wonder what they expected when they applied to come here, but I am pretty sure they don't end up finding it.

My adopted country is just exotic enough to be enticing, and AtSU cannily markets itself as an oasis of Anglo-Canadamericanism amidst a local desert of institutional disorder. But what these scholars find on arrival cannot possibly live up to the hype. Computers that were high technology when I was an undergrad. Facilities that were built well within my under-four-decade lifetime, yet have already fallen into startling disrepair. Students who are at least as apathetic as the ones they left behind.

Some of these temporary colleagues manage to have a blast, mostly by spending their time as far from campus as possible. It's like junior year abroad, redux, with an actual salary to fund travel involving actual hotel rooms instead of backpacks and youth hostels. One colleague whose department is hosting a fellow this year marveled at how upbeat their guest has been, "but that's probably because she doesn't actually have to live here." True dat.
All I ask is that these international fellows stay long enough, or look hard enough, to notice that the grass over here has its own distinct patches of brown. Sometimes they are the same shape as those back home, but sometimes they take on forms so new or unusual that one might first think them green. Remember that your temporary annoyances are our more entrenched struggles. We welcome you among us, but you aren't quite one of us.

Edna Expat

Friday Funnies - UPDATED

Update: see below

Good morning,

I know you come here for the misery and the venting and the smackdown.  So do I.  But that doesn't mean that it can't be funny too.  Here are a a few stories and websites that are amusing.  They would be hilarious if they weren't so damn accurate.

I couldn't stop scrolling through this list of freshman memes.  Whoever writes these needs to start sending me some material to post.  That site has some memes about professors but they aren't as funny, though occasionally true.

We just had a Thirsty about academic publishing.  Here's a story about J. K. Rowling trying to publish Harry Potter in an academic journal.

I know that the Onion often has funny stories about college but I had not read The Cronk, which is dedicated to our world.

Do you know of other funny sites or stories?  Link them in the comments and I'll post them here.  If there are enough sites like The Cronk, I'll start a list of them in the sidebar.

[ + ]

UPDATE:  Here are some other links worth a few laughs.

Quarter Wave Vertical suggests PhD Comics, which I should have included in the original post.  Has anybody seen the movie they made?  The previews look depressing authentic.

Dr. Lemurpants likes the Lazy College Senior meme.  I can relate to those.

Sawyer in Student Services likes The Academic Advising Burn Book.  Staff feel that way too?!  I guess everybody who deals with students ends up hating them.

Any more sites?  Send them to me

If somebody wants to make some memes, this is a good place to start.  Send them in.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Today on Professor Facepalm: No-Snow Days

My institution has cancelled class. For the third time this semester.

And there is no snow.

There is supposed to be snow. Later. Maybe. It might be lots. But it might not. No one really knows.

The students are elated.

Me? I'm going to have to cut down the amount of time spent on the Middle Ages to "mentioning they happened." Golden Age of Greece straight into the Renaissance, baby.

Academic Inmate has a Big Thirsty about publishing and gives us more reason to hate "real" doctors

I finished my PhD about 2 years ago and I am a research coordinator in a very clinical department that needs to change and up its research output (or else).  Right now, I'm running into problems regarding how research is planned out, conducted, and published. I honestly have more research experience than the people I'm working for. The majority are medical doctors with minimal research training but I'm only a "phd" so what do I know? 

I'm curious how different disciplines deal with writing papers. They think that the lead author (one of them) comes up with the basic idea and someone else runs the analysis.  Then, I'm supposed to take their idea, read all the "relevant" articles (which is poorly defined) and write the paper. My usual reaction to that is "you're asking me to do what?!?" Then when the papers haven't been finished and submitted because I'm waiting for the "lead author" to have time to look at it and give feedback and finish any issues with the discussion, I'm accused of being a "poor writer."

My experience led me to believe that the lead author comes up with the idea but is also responsible for a good chuck of the writing. The co-authors contribute as well but it's not "dictated" to them.

I know there are different expectations about publications between disciplines but are there disciplines that actually write papers in this manner?

Academic Inmate