PhD Me at It’s Probably Me:

You know you have good students when you can leave them on their own and they keep having class.

I have actually left class totally unattended for a week while I went to a conference abroad, but they were working on a big research paper, and it was workshop week. So the first class they came to class just to exchange their papers with their partner, and the second class they came and workshopped the papers. I think I found a colleague to take attendance the first day, but not the second day. Mostly freshmen, but a small class, and toward the end of term so some classroom community had developed.

I was clearly pretty anxious—I made the partners exchange every form of communication, and I emphasized that their main priority was not screwing over their partner, and if someone did, I wanted to hear about it.

I didn’t hear any backsplash. I would do it again. Except for the part where I had to read all the research paper drafts in about one day when I got back.

I have the knowledge to teach Shakespeare. I don’t have the wisdom to teach Basic Comp.

Fretful Porpentine at Quills

From lines ever more unclear—go read the whole post—but seeing the names choked me up:

As long as we continue to ignore the hostile environment we’re all a part of creating, then we have these children to answer to.

Tyler Clementi, 18.
Asher Brown, 13.
Billy Lucas, 15.
Seth Walsh, 13.
Cody Barker, 17.*

LGBT teenagers are 4 times more likely to commit suicide than straight teenagers.

He repeatedly declares that good technology requires the liberal arts, to global audiences.

Now (okay, couple weeks back, I’m slow) he shoots down the classic student entitlement whine.


Because I have had such good experiences as a college student using Apple products, I was incredibly surprised to find Apple’s Media Relations Department to be absolutely unresponsive to my questions, which (as I had repeatedly told them in voicemail after voicemail) are vital to my academic grade as a student journalist.


Our goals do not include helping you get a good grade. Sorry.

Jobs is a wacko, and there are plenty of days I hate Apple despite being a die-hard Mac user, but you gotta appreciate.

Roger A. Safian, a senior data security analyst at Northwestern, says that unlike Amazon, the university is unfortunately vulnerable to brute-force attacks in that it doesn’t lock out accounts after failed log-ins. The reason, he says, is that anyone could use a lockout policy to try logging in to a victim’s account, “knowing that you won’t succeed, but also knowing that the victim won’t be able to use the account, either.” (Such thoughts may occur to a student facing an unwelcome exam, who could block a professor from preparations.)

The NYT on password security.

This is not really an interesting story, but it kinda speaks to a recent IHE or Chronicle piece on whether we still need printed course catalogs—which, I think we do, if for no other reason than that the printed catalog is an existing mechanism by which departments are forced to write important stuff down on a timely basis and commit to it, and recreating that mechanism would cost in time and money what was saved on print and paper.

In doing all my advising, there were still specific tasks I directed students to the printed course catalog for, over the online system—mainly, browsing to see what majors existed (since high schoolers are coming from seven or eight subjects to eighty-plus), and skimming to see which courses in a department could be taken without prerequisites. I actually think the most useful part of my advising was showing them how to use these different systems—as long as they took away the message “always click for more info” and “recognize it’s a lot of back-and-forth”, I feel good.

While advising some 30 incoming students, I found an error in the course catalog.* (see footnote for the truly boring detail)

This is by no means something I’m responsible for—I ran into it because I was advising officially-undeclared-but-planning-on-science majors and I realized the small print conflicted with what we’d been telling our students for the last six years.

However, I’m pretty sure it made no difference because the thing that REALLY enforces the prereqs is the registration computer, so it doesn’t matter what the printed course catalogs says. (I do wonder whether any brand-new undeclared advisors gave some wrong steers—“Oh well. They’ll figure it out” was our advising mantra, despite the degree of hand-holding happening.)

Of course, the only way outside the registrar’s office to tell what the registration computer is actually doing, since the text in the online course schedule is the same wrong text from the course catalog, is is try to enroll for the course. I’m just assuming the registration system has it right because I didn’t hear about anyone crying over their inability to follow my advice on that one (and yes, I did hear about tears over inability to follow other advices).

And yes, I’m arrogant—told the student I was right and the big kahuna of the printed course catalog, the authority of authorities that they are supposed to hold onto until they graduate, must be wrong. Hopefully the message in my explanation there was not “you can’t trust the course catalog” but “the university is not set up to punish you for using logic and taking harder courses”, although, that may in fact not be true at all.

*Specifically, to take general chemistry you need to have taken calculus or be taking it at the same time. There are FOUR calculus sequences, but only three of them meet this co-enrollment requirement (calculus for business majors does not). But a typo made it say that business calculus did meet the requirement but calculus for biology majors does not. Which is clearly illogical. (Honestly, explaining all this to students made me feel some sympathy for the hand-holding demands and helicopter parents—there is a lot of crap to keep track of.)

Political Science is seriously letting students enroll for a fall class that is currently listed as DAY/TIME TBA in the online course offerings. WTF. And yes, that’s pretty much what I said to the student I was advising who pointed this out.

Double WTF. Something like half the spaces were filled, even.

Why is this school so fond of variant sequences? There are two biology sequences, two physics sequences, and FOUR calculus sequences. WTF. At least the honors vs regular chemistry sequences make sense.

There are also a ton of 100-level courses in various departments, presumably good courses to explore a major, that don’t count for major credit should you decide to become a major. WTF.

Human Physiology says that students can take either of the two biology sequences for the major, but only list the easier of the two bio sequences as a prereq for their more advanced classes. And apparently they do not want their majors taking honors chemistry at all? WTF. I also let that student know my opinion, as I advised her to play it safe by taking the easier variants.

People are really overwrought. Our admissions director reported parents hanging up on her, students in tears, because little things went wrong.

Actual WTF comment from me: “You might think in terms of professors and course descriptions when you pick classes, but the computer thinks in terms of CID [course ID number].” Student nodded like that made fine sense. But I need a better name than THE COMPUTER for the sub-piece of Banner that runs the course registration system (if ever I become a registrar, I’m branding that mess).

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