Monday, April 23, 2007

    Adjunct Academic freedom

    I must confess, this is probably not the way that I would introduce the topic, but I have to wonder if he would have been fired if he had tenure.

    An adjunct (AP story via Salon), two days after Virginia Tech, introduced a discussion on gun control by "shooting" members of his class with a magic marker. He also included a response by a student shooting him back.

    Apparently there is a you-tube defense the adjunct has posted.

    Is this a story of no academic freedom as an adjunct?

    Personally, I have not felt that I had any academic freedom. My paycheck came semester-by-semester. There is absolutely no freedom in that model.

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    I'm calling this one a joke

    It is not just that the ads are so well done (see LonelyGirl16), but a paraplegic principle as a recurring character in both ads puts it over the top for me.

    Saying that, it is entirely plausible, which that alone makes me uneasy.

    AOL's video site has a set of online campaign ads, not for the 08 Pres. bid, but for a 7th grade student body president gig. One of the candidates is Dakota Fanning.

    What makes the campaign ads noteworthy are the Rovian tactics employed by the boy. Fanning's ads are straight out of The Brady Bunch (which is pretty cute), but, again, the recurring character of the principle interjects some really dark humor.

    A Google-look indicates homeschooling, but then again, who can you trust?

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Saturday, April 21, 2007

    No Go To Limbo

    In a stunning reversal of centuries of teaching, the catholic church now allows unbaptized babies into heaven. No more limbo.

    See the AP story at AOL, and especially note the reaction of Dick McBrien (the one at Notre Dame):

    "If there's no limbo and we're not going to revert to St. Augustine's teaching that unbaptized infants go to hell, we're left with only one option, namely, that everyone is born in the state of grace…baptism does not exist to wipe away the "stain" of original sin, but to initiate one into the Church.”

    Well, yea. Doesn’t he realize that the church was one of the original social network groups?

    Aside from that excommunicable missive, to think that babies are born into original sin has always bugged me. By ordaining so, the church establishes their reason for being at the earliest a priori.

    All in all it is a good reason to ignore the whole scene.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

    Higher Ed Kelly Girls

    Robert Zeksky, speaking to a pro-union conference, argued that unionism should give way to incorporation in higher ed. Here is the IHE article. Read, especially, the comments. Here is my response.

    I am coming to this discussion from a unique position: I have been both an adjunct and an IT consultant. The former gave me the small wages to push me to be the latter.

    I design, develop and deliver specialized software training for fortune whatever companies. But, since IT is ever evolving and projects are of a limited time (6-18 months from end to end), few companies bring on full-time workers. Rather, they hire out to consultants to design, configure and implement their software “solutions.” Then I come in. I am hired to take their technical documentation and turn it into trainable/teachable materials. Then I train the end-users how to use the new system. It’s not Chaucer, but it pays well.

    The “incorporation” that Zemsky calls for is actually in full operation in IT services. There are consulting companies which employ full-timers (W2’s) with benefits and retirement options that are then “placed” with the client to fulfill a need. There are other agencies who headhunt talent, taking a fee out of the bill-rate for the placement. With either model (and there are many other variations), the one with the knowledge has some measure of security and control over how their services will be compensated.

    Teaching is a service industry (more so than a mission field), and it is time to establish a compensation structure that benefits the knowledge worker.

    How would this work? For more on my answer, see me blog:

    As a seasoned worker, I get a much higher bill-rate than when I first entered the field. This is due more to project experience than to continued employment with one company. In fact, I have worked for three consulting firms as an employee, but have been placed on many projects as an independent. While I like the benefits of an employee, I also like the higher bill-rate of being independent. In fact, I incorporated myself two years ago, and now I pay my own benefits.

    I get work because my services and skills are in demand. Here is where an academic incorporation would get sticky…some knowledge is not in high demand, but of high value (fine art, philosophy, etc.). Market forces should not be left to determine if these survive.

    But even that fear is relatively low. Even if the bulk of higher ed went incorporated (which is not to say going corporate), there will be those schools whose mission is to provide a specialized educational opportunity—like an Ivy, Conservatory, etc.—and whose class level will counter the market forces (see the example of high art).

    Would the average comp instructor benefit from being able to compete on the greater market on an experience and skill level? I don’t know. One would hope that is happening right now, but I doubt it is. Would the average comp instructor want to be a “Kelly Girl” dropped into a class willy nilly? Probably not.

    I do think, though, that this model merits some serious consideration, before dismissal. Unionization may be the ultimate best way, but its lack of traction indicates that there is room for other considerations to this problem.

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Tuesday, April 17, 2007

    My experience teaching online

    Dean Dad beat me to a discussion of online teaching. His is in reaction to an article about CC’s moving into online instruction. Here is my take:

    Most, about 80% if not more, of my adjunct experience has been online. Here are some random comments (more on my blog):

    * almost no one (instructors that is) takes advantage of the publisher "cartridges" that go along with a book. These provide online-enhanced media that would add to the student experience.

    * the attrition rate is due to the level of student more than the subject matter.

    * asynchronous learning appeals to the challenged (deaf, wheelchair, etc.) as well as the isolated (in the sticks with no school around) or the deployed (lots of service men and women have access to internet services). In this way, teaching to this population is really rewarding.

    * lots of recently-divorced mothers who are recovering from abuse are also attracted to online courses. Their personal narratives are sometimes the most harrowing and impactful.

    * it is easier to automate online functions--even grading to a small extent (online quizzes and the like, recycling discussion questions, lectures, etc--it is not only the students who can cut and paste).

    * the pay is on par with on-ground, and you can check in at your leisure.

    * The students whine more. The online tone is much less formal…which can be a real pain.

    * You never see the dean. That is nice. But, the dean has no obligation to assign you new courses, and with the relative anonymity of e-mail, he can ignore you at will. This does not bode well for job security.

    * You cannot walk around and verify low enrollment. See the note about job security above.

    * It is easier to ignore obnoxious students. “I’m sorry. I didn’t get your e-mail.”

    * Not checking into your class is easy to note by the admin.

    *Admin do not take the time to read your well-thought-out comments placed on the student’s Word document and returned to said student. So, most of your work will go unnoticed and unappreciated.

    * Students do not take the time to praise…they do, though, take extended time to bitch.

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    ...and I teach because I love the kids...

    I didn’t want this gem to get buried in the comments and go unread. IPF shares two all-too-familiar anecdotes about being an add-junk.

    Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

    I really think that some of them believe that the academy is a pure meritocracy and thus, those with merit get tenure. They don't want to admit that the hiring process that put them in their sweet job could have just as easily put one of 100 other qualified people into their job...

    I'll never forget the ignorant comment made at a random faculty event about 5 years ago. Some t-t person was lamenting having to teach a J-term class (short course between fall and spring semester). She said, "if I'd known how little it pays, I'd have made an adjunct teach it" -- This comment bothered me at the time because I was adjuncting both there and at other places, had considered trying to jam a J-term class into my schedule (money is necessary!) and realized that the 3-hours per day, 4-days per week schedule made it impossible to do that and adjunct at the other places.

    An adjunct friend of mine in NE had the guts to correct a table full of our college administration who thought she was waiting tables as a hobby... she told them the truth, that her adjunct job was the hobby because it paid so little. They left her a big tip but changed nothing on campus...

    I can hear it now: “Aww, how cute. You must wait on people because you like it so much…” To which my response would be to hurl their knock-off ethnic food at their bloated egos.

    Good thing I don’t wait anymore…

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

    Picking up my baby

    [Caution—graphic content]

    When, exactly, does one go from being a person to being a thing? Apparently when one enters a hospital.

    Corollary: when does one begin to be a person?

    I drove from Small Town to Bigger Town today to pick up LW’s and my baby. That was how we felt about the whole trip. The medical community, though, referred to our child as “products of conception.” These products, once removed surgically, were shipped off to a lab for examination. We did not consent to this nor were we informed this would happen.

    At the lab, our baby, only 7-8 weeks old and wrapped up in LW’s fallopian tube, was dissected and mounted onto slides for microscopic inspection. We found this out when we reviewed LW’s chart.

    It only recently occurred to us to follow up. What if the lab still had our baby? I made the call Wednesday. No, the lab said, we don’t return samples. (There are a thousand little cuts in medical language.) It was not a sample, I say, but a baby, removed with a ruptured fallopian tube. She got her manager.

    The manager, with some hesitation, indicated that the “wet tissue” was kept for four weeks and then sent out of state to an incinerator. There would be nothing to return.

    LW, at this time, is going ballistic at the injustice. How can they just take our baby, however small, and discard her as medical waste?

    Apparently the manager heard her (she was screaming), and after a long pause said that there might the slides…

    At this point in our grief, our feeling of being violated, lied to and generally abused has gotten only deeper with each phase. This one hurt. There would be a small (7 in all, as it turns out) number of slides with tissue. We could have those.

    I can’t really describe how surreal it was to enter the lab area. The “gross and microscopic exam room, small with the door open, had a set of cutting boards like the one in my kitchen. Was one of them where the autopsy (my word, not theirs) was performed?

    I didn’t look at the slides until I got to the parking lot. All through the surgery and the long recovery, I have tried to distance myself from the hurt, choosing to focus on LW instead—my fear of losing her almost realized. But, with the smallest section of my smallest child in a brown paper lunch bag, it hit me. It hit me hard.

    Our child was lost to us. That hit me hard, but then to have our child taken and sent to a lab…it seemed absurd and cruel. Was it because she was so little?

    I feel at a loss here. Historically I have argued for pro-choice feeling the viability is the line at which life choices shift from mother to child. But even faced with a child who would never be viable (ectopic), I felt she deserved better than this.

    What we would have liked is to have been able to take her home from the hospital and given a proper burial. Now, we will do that with what we have left.

    As if losing a child isn’t hard enough.

    PS: I don’t know if she looked like this picture, or even made it this far in development. The slide, though, definitely shows a cross-sectioned, little dragon-like shape. My littlest, little dragon baby. May you rest in peace.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

    Why I am not teaching at the moment

    Regardless of the animosity directed at my choice in degree, I felt a deep need to study English and American literature. Things did not, though, go the way I had anticipated. Instead of the heralded mass retirement of tenured faculty (which may have happened to a lesser level only to be filled with part-time or adjunct or some other form of non-tt), the positions that were open to me did not adequately pay my bills.

    But, ever the stubborn one, I held a foot into the teaching world by adjuncting here and there (from one to ten classes at a time)(from teaching at one to 4 schools at once). But, no more. This year marks the decline in my ability and desire to continue in this manner.

    From the grading pressure (six week courses require an almost daily grading obligation), lack of adequate pay (I maxed out around 40--45k in adjuncting pay per year), lack of professional recognition (not able to pay my own way to conferences, I mingled only online) and an overall lack of positive input (complaints about grades far outnumbered kudos for good skill development), I have put this part of my life on hold.

    I am deeply saddened by this.

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Monday, April 09, 2007

    Tenured profs spreading the hate

    I like to read Dean Dad. He usually has something interesting to say. This post (More Full-Timers, or Smaller Classes?) in particular got me going. It has to do with using adjuncts to balance the budget at most schools.

    What really got me going, though, was the snide posting of The Professor. Go ahead. Click the link. Here is his picture off of his blog. He is a PhD in Business Admin. That was enough for me to write him off.

    He then went on to trot the whole merit-based idea that if only those dumb adjuncts would publish enough, or in the right places, they would get the tt-job they so whine about.

    While he was taken to task admirably by the assembled, the whole discussion reminded me of my own back-and-forth with Unapologetically Tenured here.

    My basic question: why you be hatin? Why are the tenured folk such assholes? They have the health insurance, 401k, and other such benefits. They teach the lighter loads, and they usually teach within their main interest (fewer comp courses for them). So, why the anger? Why the outrage? Why the f@#$%(^ bull@#@! about adjuncts not working?

    Basic rule. If you don’t know what you are talking about, keep quiet.

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    How do you teach?

    I have been curious, since posting the ad for Grade Eaze (I got a free copy of the software for doing so), how other profs go about teaching and grading.

    Comp becomes torture upon grading time (which is all the time), so how do you make it through (cocktails are assumed)?

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    Ah, Freshmen

    UCLA charted 40 years of incoming Freshman. This is a summary of a summary of what they found (with no attention to proper documentation given).

    • today’s freshmen are the most well-off since at least 35 years ago— with median incomes 60 percent above the national average, as compared to 46 percent above average in 1971
    • students state that they would participate in community service
      • being a community leader is rated higher than previous years
      • raising a family is the number one goal
        • number two is being well-off
        • number three is helping others
    • 1971: 90.9 percent of first-time freshmen were white; 2007: 76.5 percent white.
      • Blacks have “reached their numerical peak and, due to various factors, have slowly decreased their share of the freshman population.”
    • More non-religious affiliations
    • 2/3 socialize with those outside their ethnic group
    • Women have closed the academic gap in math, but not in computer or physical science
    • More students are getting A’s than ever before (24.1%)

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