Wednesday, February 28
Serious question here. Generally speaking some students are not very good with the words "thank you". Leaving that aside, I have one student in particular who practically _never_ says thank you. In addition to my own ego, I'm partly concerned about this trait, because I think professionally it is not going to serve him well. I have heard him in conversations with others (people who far outrank me) and he engages in the same behavior with them. I have come to think that perhaps "Okay" is his "thank you", but I think I'm being too generous and giving him the benefit of the doubt on this one too easily.

I am not exaggerating. I have gone so far as to do a search on our email exchanges. Out of hundreds of messages, not a handful come up with the words thank you or thanks. I kid you not. And believe me, given the amount of time and energy I put into our email exchanges and collaboration in general, there have been plenty of occasions when a simple thank you would have been more than appropriate.

Is this something we can address in any reasonable manner? It drives me nuts and, again, beyond it being a personal issue, I really don't think professionally this is going to be in his best interest.
Saturday, February 24
At a recent reception for a visiting scholar, I witnessed this conversation between a grad student in my doctoral cohort and a recently-retired senior faculty member from our department.

grad student: Oh, Dr. _______, I just found out the other day that you had a blog! I've been reading it. It's...uh...interesting!

retired faculty member: Oh, that, ha ha. It's nothing. I put it up because the consultant I hired to improve my web presence told me the thing I needed was a blog.

grad student: The consultant you hired for...uh...what?

retired faculty member: Well, basically I hired her to make my name come up higher on the list of google results when you search for things related to [academic specialty]. She said to start a blog, and use the same key phrases over and over and over, and then whenever anyone searched on those phrases, my name would come up in the google list.

grad student:

retired faculty member: Yeah. And she told me which other blogs to link to that would most increase my traffic. And she told me that there's this other blog, that's the highest rated in [specialty], that will link to your blog on their blogroll for a fee.

grad student: [stunned silence]'re really making the most


Here's the worst part. The professor only recently started to get interested in the subfields he was talking about, and there are loads of other more knowledgeable researchers out there who have been working in the field for much, much longer. I went home and googled one of the phrases Dr.______ mentioned, and his name came as the 8th google hit. So his schemes have worked, and have boomeranged him and his ideas to the front of the virtual line.
Monday, February 19
Just a quick note that we realize the new Blogger is causing all sorts of headaches. We will be updating the system to the new one soon. In the meantime, if you are told that you cannot post a new entry, try logging out and then logging in again a bit later, that seems to work (on occasion).
I very much wanted to title this post "Well, fuck you, too, you little, whining brat!" but I wasn't sure how that would go over. I also wasn't sure about that last sentence, but if it needs censoring, I'm sure that one of our guardian angels will deal with it.

I also thought about calling it "Not helpful my ASS," which is more apropos to the rant that's about to happen. But I'm upset enough that it needed to be stronger. So, here's the deal. I've been at my current institution for a few years now, but teaching only senior level or graduate classes, which means that my student demographic has not been the sort that uses RMP. I've been regretting this, looking forward to finally getting a rating, because my current course has a huge fraction of non-majors, just the sort to use RMP, and I'm damn good at my job -- all parts of it, even the teaching; sometimes especially the teaching -- and I had hopes of a chile pepper (I'm a geek, what can I say?).

But less than 1/3 (4 fucking weeks, before the first exam, even) into the semester, one of these new little cherubs (read "rat bastards") felt it appropriate to go and give me my first rating on the infamous site. And I got ones. Fucking ones. Even under "helpfulness" -- and I've had a total of 6 people in four weeks of office hours, so they have no way of knowing if I'm helpful or not because they won't use the supplied resources. I've arranged special tutoring assistance (free to the students) for this course which traditionally has no such thing, an evening study session out of my own time, and double the number of office hours everyone else gives. And I'm not fucking helpful? The level of pissed off I am is pretty much indescribable. I've managed not to take it out on the rest of the class, but it's hard. And if I weren't a damn good professor, I probably would.

That's the crux of the problem. I know I'm good. I know that I establish a rapport with my students -- even lecturing on extremely difficult material, I get rapid responses (often accurate ones), engaged questions, the whole deal -- I know I'm doing an amazing job with very advanced material. But these students are so spoiled and pampered (and spoon-fed, thank you very much to all the "professors" that had them before me) that they do not believe that they need to take an active role in their own education. My peer reviews are excellent; my student reviews are good; my past students come back and tell me that, even though it was appallingly hard (the nature of the material, not just me) at the time, I've made them stronger and other, later courses easier. These students come back to me for outside help, for advising, and, in some cases, to tell me that their graduate instructors (at top schools in the country) are extremely impressed with their preparation. And one lousy rating, from one under-informed, astoundingly lazy, worthless little drive-through consumer, and I feel like the floor's been cut from under me.

As academics, we're largely geeks. Performing in front of an audience is hard, and looking out at them, wondering (although I think I know) who did such a thing, who places responsibility for their education on somebody other than themselves, makes it so much worse. And damn, I want to know --- so that I can be vindictive to the right student, not to all of them. They think this is hard? Just wait -- I can make it so much worse: that the material seems at all easy is a testament to my not-inconsiderable skill. Of course, I am good, so it's only a fantasy, but its a wonderful one.
Thursday, February 15
Life is like a box of chocolates. So are students. Some of them are heavenly bliss, and others are total disappointing duds.

I find that with the undergrads in my classes I don't care one way or the other. Some stink, some soar, and it doesn't really affect my day-to-day life. But when you're working with a student one-on-one, or you're on one of their committees, or you have them in a grad seminar, and their work is like a chocolate truffle coated in stale coconut that scratches your throat on the way down and leaves a nasty taste in your mouth, that can really ruin your day.

Although I had issues this past week with one of my graduate students, I sorted that out by sucking it up and being more confrontational that I might normally be.

I think I basked in the glow of that accomplishment a little too long, because just when I was sure I had eaten the last nasty chocolate in my student box I got an updated draft of another student's thesis. First, the title is incomprehensible. Second, the thesis is only ten pages long. It was twenty pages when I first read it, before I started helping him, way back in October. It's due in April and is supposed to be 50 pages long by then. Third, the writing sucks. Sucks, sucks, sucks. Fourth, he still isn't citing the right way. In fact, his cites have not changed at all after extensive feedback from me on citing. Fifth, speaking of cites, the majority of his come from pages 1-6 in a number of books. Do you think that he reads past the introduction? Sixth... you know what? I just can't go on.

Why am I roped into reading this draft, commenting on it, and meeting with him to discuss my comments when I have other things to do, especially when he so clearly doesn't take a lick of my advice? It's exhausting. I would much rather be making myself sick on some real clearance-priced chocolate than shoddy work.
Wednesday, February 14
Come on, folks.

It's been so long since someone's posted (and that would be me), that a gerbil came out of the woodwork and might actually be my knight in shining armor.

There's got to be some secret that someone has to get off their chest.


Updated: Apparently thistle read my mind.
I received this in my inbox today:

Tens of thousands of academic couples are searching for jobs in the same city. Now Inside Higher Ed ( introduces Dual Career Search -- a way for couples to conduct joint job searches. Give it a try, at

To celebrate the launch of Dual Career Search, Inside Higher Ed is sponsoring the Commuting for Love contest. Readers are invited to submit stories of their challenging academic commutes -- 1,000 words or less. We'll post the best stories on Inside Higher Ed, and pick one couple to win one round-trip airfare between any two U.S. cities (up to $500).

To show a little more love, Inside Higher Ed will send a box of chocolates to the first five academic couples who report that they found jobs in the same city using the Dual Career Search.


Wow! A whole box of chocolates! That's the incentive we've all been waiting for to launch a dual career search.