Right now there are a lot of things going on in the world. Tenure is being threatened. ISIS is ISISing. Rachel Dolezal is identifying as black. Donald Trump is running for president. LeBron James is taking on the entire state of California in the NBA finals.
With so many things going on it is easy to spend all of the time you had planned to work on a given day (between the hours of 2 and 4, for example) reading things on the internet instead of actually getting work done. If you, like me, suffer from summer doldrums, it may be that you just need some motivation. Here, then, is the key to fighting summer distractions:
I’m going to take his advice starting first thing tomorrow…
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Posted in The Ivory Tower | Tagged Memoirs of a SLACer, Motivation, Shia Labeouf, Summer Distractions, Summer Doldrums |
In my first ten years of teaching I had no shortage students complaining about their grades. In one instance, a student who had earned a B+ was so sure that his grade should have been rounded up to an A- that he sent me a series of e-mails with quotes from his parents’ friends, who were professors, stating that they would have rounded his grade up if they had been in my position (including one who said, “Honestly, the guy sounds like a jerk”). Eventually, despite threats to appeal the grade, the student relented. Later in his academic career, the student asked me for a letter of recommendation. I suggested that another faculty member might be able to write a more positive letter (jerk status confirmed!). This is a rather long way of saying that I have had many students complain about grades, but I have been lucky not to have any direct contact with their parents. Until now.
This semester, a student earned a grade that was less than ideal. I did not, however, receive an e-mail from her asking me to change it. No, the first message I received came from her mother. I did hear from the student after I explained that FERPA prevented me from responding to the mother’s questions but that I would be happy to discuss the issue with her daughter. My explanation to the daughter was apparently not sufficient, because the next e-mail I received was from her father. The issue has not yet been resolved, but I am appreciative of the people in Academic Affairs who have taken the matter over. Since it is largely out of my hands at this point I’m not sure if I will receive the forthcoming e-mails from the student’s siblings and extended family.
Aside from the idea that students (and their parents) think that my grading practices are so arbitrary as to be easily changed, these situations are the most frustrating to me when I have given students multiple opportunities during the semester to work with me to improve their grades and they have not taken advantage of these opportunities. Since I do not foresee myself providing a mid-summer extra credit opportunity for my spring students, I would advise them to be proactive about their coursework while they are still in the course! Otherwise, their options are: (1) Appeal their grade; or (2) Invent a time machine…
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Posted in Rulz for Undergradz, Teaching Tricks, The Electronic Age, The Ivory Tower | Tagged College Parents, College Students, FERPA, Grade Complaints, Grading, Memoirs of a SLACer |
I recently came across a copy of Durkheim’s Suicide at a used book sale and decided to buy it since it was 80 cents and I didn’t already have a copy. The version I got was published by the Free Press. The front cover looks like this:
The front cover, though, is not the reason for this post. It was the back cover that was particularly interesting. Here it is:
Despite the fact that the book’s subtitle is “A Study in Sociology” and several of the descriptions identify Durkheim as a sociologist, the upper left corner clearly classifies the book as “Psychology.” Similarly, the quotes describing the book’s importance are from Psychoanalytic Quarterly and American Journal of Psychiatry.
It would have been interesting to hear the discussion that led to such a critical work of sociology being labeled this way, but I assume that the decision came down to marketing. A lot of small bookstores might not have sociology sections, but they probably do have psychology sections, so maybe the Free Press thought that labeling it this way would allow it to appear in more stores. To the slight credit of the Free Press, the newer cover of Suicide appears to be labeled as “Social Science” but the quotes remain the same.
I guess that this isn’t quite as bad as labeling Bill O’Reilly as “Social Science” or Glenn Beck as “Non-Fiction,” but it does indicate that sociology’s quest for legitimacy continues…
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Posted in Popular Press, The Publication Gauntlet, The State of Sociology | Tagged Bill O'Reilly, Emile Durkheim, Glenn Beck, Memoirs of a SLACer, Psychology, Sociology, Suicide, The Free Press | 1 Comment »
As many faculty handbooks across the country likely state, faculty members walk an interesting line between private citizens and institutional representatives. Things get even more complicated when faculty become public intellectuals, advocating for particular causes. These divisions used to be relatively easy to maintain – what one said in private would not preclude one from being employed. Thanks to technological advances, though, even those who are not typically seen as institutional representatives are regularly fired for things that there is now a digital record of (as I’ve noted several times in the past, there is no backstage on the internet). Although I completely understand the reasons that one might want to have a social media presence as an academic, I have to admit that it seems like a good time to be pseudonymous. (Edit: Fabio also connects these cases to internet shaming.)
In the past year we’ve seen John McAdams get fired at Marquette and Steven Salaita get un-hired by the University of Illinois for social media activity. Twitter seems to be particularly problematic because of the lack of room for context in 140 characters. Twitter isn’t the only problematic outlet for our thoughts, though, and those of us who say that these things are easily avoided may be overstating things. As Tenured Radical stated earlier this year:
Most of us don’t go to the trouble of writing a whole blog post about a graduate assistant to throw our careers into a death spin, but most of us in academia *do* put up thoughtless, reactive things about colleagues, students and political events on Twitter and Facebook. Some of us do it all the time. Might be time to check that at the door, until we figure out this new American thing of wanting to smash people for saying and thinking the wrong thing? It might also be time to check what we tweet, re-tweet, Facebook and share to make sure it is true. The law of Internet truthiness means that social media utterances tend to acquire facticity as they trend, and they also become more “about” one thing — racism, free speech, misogyny, the One True God — as they multiply across platforms. In addition, when are the stakes high enough that we are willing to take a risk? And when could we just shut it and everything would be fine?
Most recently, another almost-hired faculty member has come under fire for tweets. This time, it is sociologist Saida Grundy, scheduled to start at Boston University in the fall. It currently appears that she will be allowed to keep her job, but starting a career with a stern rebuke from your new boss seems less than ideal. Grundy’s case highlights the danger of posting things on the internet that don’t seem problematic to friends or fellow academics but that are taken very differently by the public (or Fox News). Many of her tweets would have been right at home on the Facebook pages of my friends from grad school, yet her career has been threatened before it even starts.
This unpredictability is why I am happy to remain pseudonymous and I extend this offer of pseudonymity to you. If you would like to write something about academia without fear of reprisal from colleagues, lawmakers, or TV pundits, send me an e-mail.
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Posted in Blogging, Teaching Tricks, The Electronic Age, The Ivory Tower | Tagged Blogging, Boston University, Facebook, John McAdams, Memoirs of a SLACer, Saida Gundy, Steven Salaita, Tenured Radical, Twitter |