Assess Titanic

So the phone rings, and it’s my old pal Lars Abraham, Superannuated Professor of Sesquipedaliana at Seattle State. “‘Sup, Pops,” say I. “”I’m not doing so good, Tim,” says Lars. “When was the last time you were doing good, Lars?” I ask. “The Truman Administration?” “Tim, it is no joke. Things are declining rapidly in higher education. Take Assessment. A new mandate has come down from Olympia …” “Sounds Jovian,…

Welcome to the New Whatever

So the phone rings, and I know before I look that it’s Lars Abraham calling from Seattle State University. I’m so glad I got the idea of setting “Kol Nidre” as Lars’s custom ringtone. “How’s it going, Lars,” I answer. “Not so good, Tim.” “Listen, Lars,” I say, “can I call you back? I can call you back in … 2017. How does 2017 sound?” “Hilarious as ever, Tim. No,…

So What Would You Suggest, Genius?

I have been sharply critical of the corporatizing of universities, and I realize that my attitude verges on gloom-and-doom handwringing that might reflect the utterer’s cynicism more than the objective situation. I stress that UTA is not as corporatized as some schools, that lots of good things happen here, and that the problems I cite in my imaginary dialogues are general national trends, not specific grievances. Yet they are real…

You’ve Tried the Rest

So the phone rings, and wouldn’t you know it, it’s Lars Abraham, Past Professor Plenipotentiary at Seattle State University. “How now, Lars?” say I. “Things are not so good, Tim,” says Lars. “Raining in Seattle again?” I ask. “C’mon, Lars, the bluest skies I’ve ever seen are in Seattle.” “What? No, it is not the rain. It is the new Chancellor of our University. He has announced a sweeping new…

Doing the Math

A recent article by Rachel Riederer, “Teaching Class,”, has been making the rounds of social media, posted by many of my alert friends in the teaching profession. Riederer makes a point that is seeping slowly into general awareness: college teaching is a working-class occupation. As Riederer puts it: A professor belongs to the professional class, a professor earns a salary and owns a home, probably with a leafy yard, and…

Where Do I Commence

So my phone rings, and it’s my old mentor Lars Abraham, Professor Semi-Emeritus at Seattle State University. “How’s it shaking, Lars?” say I. “Not so good,” says Lars. “I had a premonition you would say that.” “Tim, morale at Seattle State is at a new low in the 53 years I have taught here.” “And knowing you, that’s pretty low, Lars.” “Tim, we have a new Chancellor. And his first…

10 Things I Like about U(TA)

Pretty much on a daily basis, UTA faculty get a memo from the administration that makes life a little bit worse. I don’t mean to single out UTA, mind you. Pretty much every employee of every organization gets a daily “things will get harder” memo from the higher-ups. More compliance, more assessment, more hoops to jump through, more meetings, more meaningless attendance commanded, less support. Welcome to the world of…

Numbed by Numbers

I thought of making this post a satiric dialogue. But the topic is not very funny, and there’s the danger that satire will miss its mark. So, for once, an academic-life post in all seriousness. UTA, perhaps like many other universities, has started to evaluate teachers largely on the basis of numbers: scores derived from surveys that students fill out at the end of each semester. Here’s how it works.…

Customer Service

So the phone rings, and it’s my old friend and mentor Lars Abraham. You remember Lars. He teaches four courses in English per semester at Seattle State University, as a reward for his decades of service. “Lars, I can’t talk right now. I’m doing some reading for a big lecture at UTA this week. It lasts for three hours on Thursday morning. We’re hearing from Neal Raisman, an expert on…

Encryption

Recently we got a memo from the Provost’s Office insisting that we encrypt our laptop computers with military-grade security software. Since I went to graduate school for English and not computer science, I failed miserably at the task. So I had to call my friend Ken Kleinkram, who was just named Associate Pinch Provost for Informatic Assets at a salary several multiples of my own. Ken came over to my…