Monthly Archives: August 2015

Congratulations on the First Day of Class

Congrats for showing up today. I’m serious.
I’m really glad you’re here. We’ve got a lot to do–
class roster, introductions, syllabus–
I’m not sure how all this business comes across to you,
so I wanted to take a minute to let you know
I know for some of you it took a hell of a lot
to sit at that desk. You’re far away from home.
You fought and survived a war. A sexual assault.
Your mind is a genius of self-sabotage.
Your body somehow fights you every step.
You know how hard it was, so you be the judge
of just how much applause you ought to get.

Of course this is just the very first achievement
we’re aiming for. Good work on that assignment,
good midterm grades, a full semester wrapped
up neatly like a present for whatever holiday you happen
to celebrate at the end of December. Before all that,
let’s just enjoy a good beginning. Congrats.

Toot your own horn!

Toot your own horn!

I’m posting this in the spirit of a post I liked a lot recently in The Chronicle of Higher Education called “10 Things This Instructor Loves.” It was a response to a blog post about professors’ pet peeves (and there are numerous versions of that list floating around).

People post things on my wall sometimes that have snarky comments from professors, and I usually admit that I’ve thought things like that sometimes. But I try not to say them to students. I even try not to be passive aggressive in my verbal and written comments to students–this after a good friend cracked up laughing when I said I sometimes wrote “spell check should have caught that” in student papers. He called it for what it was, a passive aggressive comment (I hadn’t even realized that).

I do try to be direct and honest. I did tell a student once she was as baffling to me as if a giant mushroom had sprouted outside the classroom while we were inside. She was coming to class and being disruptive, but not turning in enough to come anywhere close to passing. It turned out that she had A LOT going on in her life that I had no clue about, and she kept coming to class because she didn’t want her friends to know she wasn’t passing. I’m glad I was honest and told her she baffled me. I can’t make up my mind how I feel about the giant mushroom comment.

I keep trying to remember that we’re all like a bunch of icebergs crunching around together in the classroom. We can only see the top bits of each other’s lives, but there’s a lot more going on under the surface.

Is there efficiencies? Cheese is cheese and sports is sports and college is college.

Earlier this week it was reported that Wisconsin legislators had begun quietly and unofficially discussing” a possible merger between the UW Colleges, a system of 13 2-year campuses that award liberal arts associate degrees, and the Wisconsin Technical Colleges, a system of 16 campuses that award a variety of certificates and primarily technical associate degrees.

Now that the discussions have been widely reported, the quietness has come into question, and since it is an actual committee with a committee chair, the inquiries seem relatively official.

In considering the UW Colleges and the Wisconsin Technical Colleges, it is important to note that their funding systems, missions, and organizational structures are very different but the current UW System President, Ray Cross, presided over a similar merger in Minnesota, so some interested parties wonder if the merger is inevitable. Given that this is the same legislature that recently dispensed tenure and shared governance with lightning-fast dispatch during the budget process, some interested parties wonder how quickly this will come about, rather than whether it will come about.

Reporting on these discussions has drawn attention away from some much more interesting discussions happening in the legislature. Note: these are all quiet and unofficial and no legislators would go on record confirming these reports. Still, Wisconsin citizens should be concerned.

There are some now discussing a possible merger between the Milwaukee Brewers and Milwaukee Bucks.

We’re just asking questions at this point, really,” said one Assembly rep who asked not to be named but agreed to be called Bucky during the interview. “Are there efficiencies to be gained from beer sales, for example? Are there unnecessary duplications of athletic trainers? I mean–how many ways are there to tape an ankle?”

All that money we just provided for a new stadium—boy, if we could get the Bucks and Brewers to cooperate a little more, we might be able to redirect some of that money to some sorely needed areas.”

Like education? “No, I don’t mean education. They’ve admitted to how much bloat they have–they are cutting people right and left and assuring us that students’ experience won’t be affected, and I’m sure that’s true.  No, what I mean is loans to businesses and whatnot.”

A legislative aid was quoted as saying “a basketball court would totally fit on a baseball field. Just do the math.” He later added, “It almost seems like it was meant to be—I mean, Miller Park already has a roof.”

Even more controversial are discussions related to the merging of cheddar and swiss. “I don’t think that one’s going to happen,” said one long-time capitol observer. “Cheddar and American, maybe, but never Swiss.”

The uneasy alliance of cheddar and Swiss.

The uneasy alliance of cheddar and Swiss.

One state official lived up to her reputation for being “colorful” and “quirky” when she jumped into the conversation and said “I don’t know why your knickers are so twisted. Those cheeseheads are the color of cheddar but they got holes like swiss so we’re already doing it.”

Representative Bucky repeatedly emphasized that no one was considering monkeying with the Packers or State Fair cream puffs. “Some things are pretty much holy in Wisconsin,” he said.

He then added as an afterthought, almost a dreamy reverie really,”But I do wonder if people could get some kind of academic credit for taking part in a fantasy football league. I mean—I do a ton of research for mine. And grading would be easy-peasy. You end up with a winning record? You get an A. Not that I want to tell professors how to do their jobs or anything.”

No calls were returned from the offices of the UW Colleges or System President Ray Cross.

Probably because I made all of this up and no phone calls were made in the first place.

Actually the part about merging the UW Colleges and the Wisconsin Technical Colleges is not made up, I’m sorry to say.

Update:  a highly respected but very anonymous faculty member has commented that  “there could be promising efficiencies but I’d like to have a fully and completely partisan group analyze whether holes in swiss could be stuffed with cheddar.”