Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Re-post: Wax on, wax off

Originally posted January 11, 2005:

Just me and the undocumented-worker/floor-waxers in the building tonight. As low prof in the lineup, I have limited access to the copy machine -- the one and only copier for about 50 instructors. Tomorrow is the first day of class, so I scurry up to the office late to make the necessary first-day copies of things. Syllabi. Reading lists. Assignment schedules. Nobody around but the cleaning crew, waxing the pale beige linoleum hallways where no one has set so much as a heelmark in the last six weeks.

The first department meeting of the term, in review. We get a big lecture on over-use of the copy machine. Last semester our department spent $10K on photocopies. Now we're supposed to create websites and tell the students to go there online to access our handouts and quizzes and other materials. Since I teach a writing class, where they have to put pen on paper in class for all that stuff, I will have to sneak copies when I can. We use individual code numbers that track who is making copies. One of my colleagues uses a code number of a professor in another department to disguise the number of copies she makes for her outside research and freelance work.

Warning from our department chair to attend next week's full faculty meeting for the school of the arts. "Attendance will be noted," we are told. But there are supposed to be snacks provided. Whoop whoop. Vanilla wafers and Delaware punch. Oh, and the provost is retiring. "Anyone know someone who wants to be a provost?" we are asked. I have no idea what a provost does.

Also at the meeting, which takes more than two hours, is the usual molar-grinding hooha about students who aren't quite cutting it grade-wise but want to be accepted as majors. The decisions there often depend on how much money the student's parents have and whether they are big contributors to the university or whether they might soon contribute something to the endowment of our division. The deeper the pockets, the better chance that some young dunderhead's D might magically change to a C-plus.

We also go around the table to decide what courses we'll teach and what days we want to teach on for both summer terms and for Fall 2005. Some of the profs teach in a la-ti-frickin’-da program abroad in the summers, but with the Euro stomping the dollar (and the university not raising any salaries to offset that), they're less excited about it than they used to be. Teaching on campus during summer terms means competing with the screams and yells of high school cheerleading camps that fill the grounds with ponytailed rah-rahs for weeks on end. Grumblings many.

Under "old business," I bring up the rampant plagiarism I have uncovered over the past two semesters. Oddly, the response is less angry at students and more suspicious of me than I might have anticipated. They aren't sure how I was able to catch the bums cutting and pasting from the 'net. I have to explain the simple Google process -- no special academic cheat-finding program needed. "More paperwork," somebody mumbles.

Under "new business," I make a suggestion for something I think would be good for the graduating seniors: A "business etiquette workshop" that would clue them in on how to dress and behave and sell themselves on job interviews. It would include a trip to a white-tablecloth restaurant for a practice run on the interview dinner (from what I've observed, even the kids brought up in wealth and privilege have the table manners of hungry macaques). I have floated the idea with a few students and they think it's swell. I would plan it, organize it and lead the workshop -- for free. What's not to like? The immediate response from one of the tenure-trackers at the meeting is an eye roll and a shrug. "That's total fluff,'' she says, dismissing me with a flip of her hand. "We should never do anything like that! We'd be a joke to everyone in the business school!"

Fuck me for trying.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hmm, MIT seems to think this is a good idea, I guess I'll know the SMU grads by their lack of manners.

8:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I went to college at Bucknell, where they also think this is a good idea!

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