Showing posts with label academia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label academia. Show all posts

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Very Encouraging

via:
WASHINGTON – Hoping to reach an estimated 1 million adjunct professors nationwide, Service Employees International Union on Monday officially launched its new Adjunct Action Network website. The union marked the occasion with a “national town hall” event for adjuncts at Georgetown University here. ... 
Mary Kay Henry, president of SEIU, called the website a “new way to organize in a changing world,” and to eschew some of the traditional problems adjuncts have had with organizing, such as lack of office space and a kind of commuter status. By connecting with adjuncts on their campuses and in other states through the new online forum, she said, there’s potential for adjuncts to “light up the entire country.” 
Of the Adjunct Action organizing campaign itself, Henry said it reflects at once the brokenness of “America's promise” – that is, that education is one’s path to a better life – and the “inability” of adjuncts to accept that brokenness. 



Thursday, March 13, 2014

The Guns of Academe

Why does academia draw such fire? Last week it was arming students. This week it has skipped straight to shooting faculty
While filling in today for American Family Radio host Sandy Rios, Austin Ruse commented on the media frenzy surrounding a Duke University freshman who announced that she is a porn actress. 
Ruse, who leads the ultraconservative Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (C-Fam), promptly blamed the college’s women’s studies department and said that “the hard left, human-hating people that run modern universities” should “all be taken out and shot.”
I greatly admire the Duke student who provoked this tirade. First, she is a first year Women's Studies major. That alone is testament to her courage and perspicacity. It usually takes students a few years to find Women's Studies courses and decide it would be a good major for them.

Second, she is handling a media assault on her personal life and sexuality that few 18 year olds have ever had to face, and she's doing it with powerful eloquence.

As one of the many faculty at whom this radio death threat is aimed, I find some comfort in the fact that our students are so clearly worth the risk.


Thursday, March 06, 2014

Rigor

I've been surrounded by discussions of rigor lately. In academia, rigor seems always to go hand in hand with quality. Degree programs, departments, courses, and assignments which are deemed more "rigorous" are also seen as better. Aside from an often glaring lack of rigor in the definition of "rigor" itself, I suspect that using rigor as a proxy for quality is often misguided.

A post from Dean Dad raises many of these issues. He writes,

Which is more rigorous: a program with all required and prescribed classes, or a program with a host of electives? 
The correct answer is that the question doesn’t make sense.  It’s like asking whether red cars are faster than blue cars.  Academic rigor and freedom of choice are unrelated.  One can choose very easy classes, very difficult classes, or a mix.  A program can require very easy classes, very hard classes, or a mix.  And that’s before getting into non-objective definitions of rigor. 
That should be common sense.  But nearly every year I find myself arguing with people who believe that rigor is about control.  It’s frustrating, because the underlying assumptions -- and therefore definitions -- are different, so we wind up talking past each other.
The idea of a longer required sequence of courses, a longer list of required readings, a longer required essay, etc. strikes many academics as obviously more rigorous and, therefore, better. I have failed many times in discussions with colleagues to shift them from this way of thinking. Quality and quantity are rarely so easily linked.

The real effect of these sorts of mechanical methods of increasing rigor may simply be to make the work load less possible and/or less palatable for many students. Students who are struggling academically, students with less natural talent for reading and writing, students who have to spend more time working for a wage, or students with other compelling intellectual interests, all may fail when rigor is increased in this way. This looks like what has been achieved is making your program/class/assignment more selective since fewer successfully complete it. True enough. But finding the breaking point beyond which only the most academically gifted and well supported students can succeed is very different from fostering excellence in education. In fact, it may be a sign of just the opposite. If the only students who succeed are the most talented ones, that's not very compelling evidence for the quality of our instruction. If one gave voice lessons, but the only students who passed your course were already Grammy winners, it's not clear you're doing much good for your students. They would all sing wonderfully no matter what you were teaching. That we can teach things to wonderful students does not really say much about our teaching skills.

Instead, the goal of rigor starts to feel a bit like a form of academic hazing. We add more required readings, more and longer writing assignments, more and more difficult exams, and the result of this increased work load is called "rigor." We weed out the students unable or unwilling to suffer enough. Making something difficult and making something good are different goals. Strangely enough, making something difficult is easy, and we tend to do that well in academia. Making something good is much harder, and creating an environment where learning is facilitated is much more difficult than creating an environment where learning is hard. A fallacy of composition no doubt lurks somewhere behind many of our discussions of academic rigor.



Saturday, March 01, 2014

Don't Shoot

A few years back, I wrote here about guns on campus. This terrible policy keeps coming back to haunt us. Here's a link to a more eloquent piece on the topic: 

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

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Transference, Countertransference, and Search Committees

My most recent stint serving on a search committee has coincided with teaching a class on Freud. The intersections have been instructive.

There is a strange collision that happens as the fantasies and desires of the search committee members are projected onto each of the candidates in turn and find, or fail to find, some reflection or connection.

Oddly, it seems to me that the candidate plays the role of therapist to the committee rather than vice versa. The successful candidate is the one who best manages the transference of the committee members as well as their own countertransference onto the department and the imagined job. Wishful thinking runs rampant at every turn. This includes the projection of fears which are no less reliant on fantasy than are the projections of hope.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Off Again

Off again. Our administration is now "stepping away" from most of the extraordinarily time-consuming and ill-conceived program prioritization that took center stage last year. There will now be a brief intermission while some top administrative jobs are reshuffled, and then next year we will see if this plan re-emerges or simply disappears.


Friday, January 03, 2014

Academic Kindness

A small blog, but I approve.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Prescience

Now this has happened. The fifth and final step that moved us full circle was only hypothetical last week. Now that the semester is over and faculty are away it's been announced and made official. Decade officially wasted.



Monday, December 09, 2013

Anonymous Blogging and Academic Freedom

The AAUP has updated its report on Academic Freedom and Electronic Communications. Below are some salient excerpts:

Academic freedom, free inquiry, and freedom of expression within the academic community may be limited to no greater extent in electronic format than they are in print, save for the most unusual situation where the very nature of the medium itself might warrant unusual restrictions—and even then only to the extent that such differences demand exceptions or variations. Such obvious differences between old and new media as the vastly greater speed of digital communication, and the far wider audiences that electronic messages may reach, would not, for example, warrant any relaxation of the rigorous precepts of academic freedom. 
The basic precept in the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure that 'teachers are entitled to full freedom in research and in the publication of the results' applies with no less force to the use of electronic media for the conduct of research and the dissemination of findings and results than it applies to the use of more traditional media. 
a classroom is not simply a physical space, but any location, real or virtual, in which instruction occurs, and that in classrooms of all types the protections of academic freedom and of the faculty's rights to intellectual property in lectures, syllabi, exams, and similar materials are as applicable as they have been in the physical classroom. 
The AAUP has upheld the right of faculty members to speak freely about internal university affairs as a fundamental principle of academic freedom that applies as much to electronic communications as it does to written and oral communications. This includes the right of faculty members to communicate with one another about their conditions of employment and to organize on their own behalf. 
faculty members cannot be held responsible for always indicating that they are speaking as individuals and not in the name of their institution, especially if doing so will place an undue burden on the faculty member's ability to express views in electronic media.  
social media can be used to make extramural utterances, which are protected under principles of academic freedom. Obviously, the literal distinction between “extramural” and “intramural” speech—speech outside or inside the university’s walls—has little meaning in the world of cyberspace. But the fundamental meaning of extramural speech, as a shorthand for speech in the public sphere and not in one’s area of academic expertise, fully applies in the realm of electronic communications, including social media. 
So why am I still blogging anonymously? Suggestions?

...........................................................................=:?:.
................................................................................
................................................................................
................................................................................
.................................:??IIII7777I=..................................
.............................:+???IIII777777777777?.............................
...........................,=+??IIII7777777777777777II..........................
..........................:++???IIII7777777777777777IIII+.......................
.........................,=+=+??IIII77777777777777777IIIII=.....................
........................,....,,,:=III7777777777777777IIIII?+....................
.................................::~II7777777777I?+?IIIIIII?=,..................
........................,:=~:,.....:,II77777?~=I?=~~~:::?I???~..................
......................~+?III?+:.....~?I77II,,............,==?=:.................
.....................~??IIIIIII+..,+II777III,.,..,~~~:,,....:+~,................
.....................+??+....+I?:..,I77777?,..,~=++?II??+~...==,................
....................:++.+=,,:+I.:~~~I7777:..,~+?IIII7IIIII+..,=:................
....................~+..........I.I+7777?:.,+IIIIIIII77IIII+,:~:................
...................,...?~.........II777I?+~+..~I?=+II.,IIII?~,::................
...................~??IIII???II77I?7777I??+,.........,?.III?~.::................
..................++??IIII777777II7777I??III+~7........+.I?+~,:,................
.................==+??IIII77777II77777I+?III77I~:I77?,...:+=:,:,................
................:==++?IIIII777III77777??III77777777I+,.....~+?~,................
................,~==+??IIIIIIIIII7777I??III77777777777777II:,?~.................
.................,~==++===:.?II=?IIII?+?IIII77777IIIIIIII7II:~~.................
................+........:?I...:..:::,,=IIII+I777IIIIIIIIIII?=~.................
................+....~+?IIII:,..........,:++,.:IIIIIIIIIIIII+,..................
................~....+?IIIIIII.............:~?,.~?IIIIIIIII?~...................
................,,:..+?IIIIII..........III=IIII+..~+???I??+~....................
.................~...............II.....IIIIIIIII=...,:~:,..,...................
.................=,+...........+III+.....IIIIIIIIII,.......?....................
.................:~.=?+=~,......,?II........IIIII:.......,?,....................
..................~..,=?????+++=~....................?...::.....................
..................=~.,..:+????IIII????++~:,........I...,~:......................
...................~,.~,.....,=++?IIIII???????II?I:..,=+,.......................
...................~=.:======.........,:~:,,::,.....~+=.........................
....................~:,=++++??,......,,...........,++:..........................
....................:=.~=+????..?..+??+++==~:....=+=............................
.....................~=:=+???......??++++=~:...=+=..............................
.....................,=:=++?~...~..??+++=~:.,++=,...............................
......................:=~=++......=++++==::++=..................................
.......................:~==+......++++=~~++~,...................................
........................:~==.....=+===~~=~,.....................................
.........................:~~.....===~~~,........................................
..........................,:....::::,...........................................
................................,...............................................
................................................................................
................................................................................
................................................................................
                                                                 GlassGiant.com

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Weekend Grading Again

It's Sunday and I'm grading again. Looking back at past posts, I see that I've been here before.

This one and this one stand out for me in particular. I seem to be in much the same place today. Spinning wheels, circle of life, etc.

 

I will survive.

Friday, December 06, 2013

eForum on Contingent Faculty

eForum on the Working Conditions of Contingent Faculty in Higher Education

The House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democrats are interested in learning more about the working conditions of the over one million contingent faculty and instructors at U.S. institutions of higher education, including part-time adjunct professors and graduate teaching assistants, and how those working conditions may impact students’ education.
Tell Congress your story.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Trifecta

Today began early with a trifecta of back to back to back meetings: a personnel committee meeting, a department meeting, and a search committee meeting. This is not the recommended way to start a day.



I notice a previous post where I managed to find a silver lining even for the drudgery of committee work: "We're all in it together, so we can safely grouse about it to each other. ... We bond over our shared suffering."

Clearly timing matters. This morning the end of the semester rush precluded even the simple pleasure of companionable complaint.

Monday, December 02, 2013

Student Feedback

Below is a paragraph that was written after a pleasant discussion with students about one of my current works in progress. Having a venue to discuss faculty writing with students is new for me. I like it. I rarely want to subject my own classes to such a thing. The content is unlikely to fit well into the class. But this class revolves around discussions of academic research more generally and student engagement with issues involved in doing interdisciplinary work. It seems to be working. The students seem to like the glimpse of their professors at work, and I like the opportunity for student feedback on my writing.

Another corollary to the reliance on unpaid digital labor is a loss of waged jobs. As more and more amateur and user-generated content is produced, less and less waged work may become available. This trend may be offset somewhat by the overall expansion in the size of the audience and in the demand for digital content, but as a total share of the labor involved, waged labor will become an ever dwindling part or the total labor expended on digital production. Coupled with this contraction of waged digital labor, there is another type of pressure created by the capitalist integument of digital work. Like other jobs under capitalism, there is always a tendency to de-skill the labor force. This serves to make more labor-power available for exploitation, to increase competition among workers, and to lower wages. While the creation and dissemination of digital content used to require relatively high technical skills and some knowledge of computers and programming, now it is often reduced to a point and click skill. This de-skilling of the digital labor force is, of course, a prerequisite for the widespread use of unwaged digital labor. Tasks such as streaming digital video online, which used to require significant technical skills, now require about the same amount of skill as sending an email. This process is most often seen in the light of a broadening of access and a democratization of the process of producing digital content. And so it is. However, this was never really the goal for capital. Freeing digital labor from the shackles of specialized knowledge is less important to capital than the attendant benefits of expanding the available labor supply in such a way that waged digital jobs vanish into a vast ocean of unwaged, user-generated content. That digital work begins to look more like a kind of addictive behavior and less like an economically valuable activity of its own is of little consequence.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Alternative Academic Titles

I just realized that my inaugural post for this blog concerned a list of John Hodgman inspired academic hobo names. The recent post below on academic titles seemed in a similar vein. So in honor of this confluence, I decided I should post a slightly longer list of alternative, unused academic ranks and titles.

  1. Elder Viceroy for Academic Affairs
  2. Grand Vizier of Student Services
  3. Vice Admiral for Institutional Research
  4. Lord High Provost
  5. Temporary Trusted Advisor
  6. Assistant Grand Inquisitor in Residence
  7. Major General of General Studies
  8. Adjutant Affiliate Graduate Dean
  9. Honorary Academician
  10. Eternal Assistant Dean
  11. Associate Vice Khan
  12. Distinguished Interim Emperor
  13. Visiting Dean Regent
  14. Acting Vice Sultan of Instruction
  15. Supreme Exalted Associate Professor
  16. Eminent Illustrious Adjunct Instructor
  17. Serene Associate Vice Provost
  18. Venerable Consulting Scholar
  19. Grand High Instructor
  20. Honored Guest Director
  21. Emeritus Grand Mugwump
Here is an actual list of academic ranks and titles. It is no less strange.

Monday, November 25, 2013

How To Waste a Decade

Here is a brief chronology of my academic life so far at my bizarro university:
  1. Interdisciplinary department with faculty lines, one degree, multiple concentrations.
  2. Department eliminated and programs separated, no faculty lines, multiple degrees. 
  3. Individual programs given some faculty lines, multiple degrees.
  4. New interdisciplinary department formed with faculty lines, multiple degrees.
  5. Interdisciplinary department with faculty lines, one degree, multiple concentrations. 
*headdesk*


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Academic Titles

As a consequence of my interdisciplinary program's perpetual restructuring, I've become unreasonably expert at academic job titles. There is a vast sea of differences among various ranks and titles which make no clear difference except to their office holders, but this does not prevent them from being jealously guarded and doled out only sparingly.

First, there are the mysteries of academic ranks: Assistant, Associate, and Full Professors, Adjuncts, Instructors, Lectures, etc. along with the entire alphabet for our various degrees: PhD, MA, BA, BS, EdD, MFA, etc. These are all used with relative consistency among academic institutions in the US and although often unclear to those outside of academia, those of us on the inside imagine them to be very clear and precise.


Then there are the various administrative job titles: Chairs, Deans, Assistants, Associates, Vice, Interim, Provost, Chancellors, and Presidents. This entire menagerie begins to overlap and interbreed so you get Associate Vice Chancellors and Interim Assistant Chairs. These often have specific local meanings and can be more difficult to translate from one institution to another.

Finally, there are the strange interstitial institutional locations which seem to demand their own names, but which aren't supposed to compete with the more well entrenched ranks and titles. Directors, Advisors, Coordinators, etc. I inhabit one of these institutional borderlands. My current rank is Associate Professor and my current administrative title is Interim Director. There are entire histories of institutional schism and intrigue that can be read within such titles by those intimate with the intricacies of academic power.

Recently, though, I have needed to create new titles to distinguish between various faculty performing useful and necessary, but uncompensated, services within our academic program. I have been leaning towards the bland but unobjectionable honorific of "Advisor" for all of these jobs. But no doubt this will still need more committee meetings to accomplish.

However, I began to think of all the other possible academic titles we could use, but don't. Why just plain "Advisor," why not "Trusted Advisor" instead? But why stop there? There are many possible honorifics which are currently untapped. Military titles: Vice Admiral for Institutional Research. Eastern titles: Grand Vizier of Student Services. The possibilities are endless. Academic Potentates, Captains, Bishops, Grand Dragons, Black Belts, Yahoos, Fuhrers, and Emperors are all possible academic titles just waiting to be claimed. Just think how this could liven up our dull and pedestrian cv's by the judicious use of some of these more colorful and unused options. I wager you would take special note of a colleague who was introduced with the title of Elder Viceroy for Academic Affairs. And given that so many of our academic jobs receive no remuneration beyond a dignified title, perhaps we should begin to insist on the splendid.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Reorganizing Again


I'm back.

My university is once again engaged in its periodic and inscrutable reorganization of my academic life. So once again I find myself in need of a creative outlet. So, blogging it is.


Monday, November 28, 2011

Book Contract!

Zero Books will be publishing the LumpenProf's book, Reading Capital Digitally! 


This does, however, mean I'll have to finish the book now... details, details. 

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Police Riot at UC Davis


Below is an excerpt from an open letter by a junior faculty member at UC Davis calling for the Chancellor's resignation over yesterday's police attack on non-violent students.

... Today you ordered police onto our campus to clear student protesters from the quad. These were protesters who participated in a rally speaking out against tuition increases and police brutality on UC campuses on Tuesday—a rally that I organized, and which was endorsed by the Davis Faculty Association. These students attended that rally in response to a call for solidarity from students and faculty who were bludgeoned with batons, hospitalized, and arrested at UC Berkeley last week. In the highest tradition of non-violent civil disobedience, those protesters had linked arms and held their ground in defense of tents they set up beside Sproul Hall. In a gesture of solidarity with those students and faculty, and in solidarity with the national Occupy movement, students at UC Davis set up tents on the main quad. When you ordered police outfitted with riot helmets, brandishing batons and teargas guns to remove their tents today, those students sat down on the ground in a circle and linked arms to protect them.  
What happened next? 

Without any provocation whatsoever, other than the bodies of these students sitting where they were on the ground, with their arms linked, police pepper-sprayed students.Students remained on the ground, now writhing in pain, with their arms linked.  
What happened next?  
Police used batons to try to push the students apart. Those they could separate, they arrested, kneeling on their bodies and pushing their heads into the ground. Those they could not separate, they pepper-sprayed directly in the face, holding these students as they did so. When students covered their eyes with their clothing, police forced open their mouths and pepper-sprayed down their throats. Several of these students were hospitalized. Others are seriously injured. One of them, forty-five minutes after being pepper-sprayed down his throat, was still coughing up blood.  
This is what happened. You are responsible for it.  
You are responsible for it because this is what happens when UC Chancellors order police onto our campuses to disperse peaceful protesters through the use of force: students get hurt. Faculty get hurt. One of the most inspiring things (inspiring for those of us who care about students who assert their rights to free speech and peaceful assembly) about the demonstration in Berkeley on November 9 is that UC Berkeley faculty stood together with students, their arms linked together. Associate Professor of English Celeste Langan was grabbed by her hair, thrown on the ground, and arrested. Associate Professor Geoffrey O’Brien was injured by baton blows. Professor Robert Hass, former Poet Laureate of the United States, National Book Award and Pulitzer Prize winner, was also struck with a baton. These faculty stood together with students in solidarity, and they too were beaten and arrested by the police. In writing this letter, I stand together with those faculty and with the students they supported.  
One week after this happened at UC Berkeley, you ordered police to clear tents from the quad at UC Davis. When students responded in the same way—linking arms and holding their ground—police also responded in the same way: with violent force. The fact is: the administration of UC campuses systematically uses police brutality to terrorize students and faculty, to crush political dissent on our campuses, and to suppress free speech and peaceful assembly. Many people know this. Many more people are learning it very quickly.  
You are responsible for the police violence directed against students on the UC Davis quad on November 18, 2011. As I said, I am writing to hold you responsible and to demand your immediate resignation on these grounds.  
...   
I call for your resignation because you are unfit to do your job. You are unfit to ensure the safety of students at UC Davis. In fact: you are the primary threat to the safety of students at UC Davis. As such, I call upon you to resign immediately.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Wiki Wonderlands

Via:

The Georgia Institute of Technology has stripped, at least for now, more than 10 years of class work from its collaborative-learning Web sites, known as Swikis. 
Following a student’s complaint to the university that his name was listed on the Web site of a public course, Georgia Tech officials decided on Monday to remove all Swikis other than ones from the current semester, said Mark Guzdial, a professor in the School of Interactive Computing, who is a co-creator of the Swikis. 
He reported the development on his Computing Education blog this week. (The tech journalist Audrey Watters picked it up on her blog.) 
In his post, Mr. Guzdial recounts how he and two Ph.D. students created the Swiki, or CoWeb, in 2000, so that students would have a place to “construct public entities on the Web.” The Swikis served intentionally undefined purposes, such as providing a forum for cross-semester discussions and a home for public galleries of student work. “All of that ended yesterday,” he wrote, because of Georgia Tech’s concerns about Ferpa, the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act.
This seems a case of an administration over reacting to the barest hint of a legal challenge. My best guess is that the only part of this that might be covered by FERPA is identifying student posts by full name on a university course site. Identifying posts by a user handle, initials, etc., would be fine.

If the blogs themselves were public and hosted on blogger or tumblr rather than on a password protected university server, there never would have been a temptation to identify posts with students' full, legal names. In addition, students would maintain full control over what information remained online after the end of the course, not the university. I don't think there is anything in FERPA that prevents students from identifying themselves, their work, or the courses they took online. FERPA simply prevents the institution from publishing this information.

Deleting all the student authored wikis at Georgia Tech seems a very rash act.