In which a veteran of cultural studies seminars in the 1990s moves into academic administration and finds himself a married suburban father of two. Foucault, plus lawn care.
Okay, so I recently mentioned a distaste for bullet points, and I'm breaking my own rule here. Point granted. A few observations on Denver and the League conference:
- The Adam's Mark of Denver is probably the most architecturally confusing hotel I've seen outside of casinos. It's two connected buildings with absolutely nothing intuitive about them. All conference long, I saw attendees wandering around lost, frequently muttering unrepeatable things.
- I admire Colorado's hard line stand against billboards. However, it needs to reconsider its hard line stand against road signs. Some of us find the occasional sign helpful. I'm just sayin'.
- Whoever is in charge of the few road signs that do exist in Colorado has a sly sense of humor. We saw several signs saying "Point of Interest, Next Right." What that implies about the rest of the state is left to the reader.
- At first, TW and I didn't get the concept of a shuttle bus running up and down the length of a pedestrian mall. ("Pedestrian," to me, usually connotes "not driving.") But once it got horribly cold, the utility of the bus became clear.
- A rented Kia Spectra is perfectly capable of climbing to 7500 feet. And when the wind gusts on a cold day in Estes Park, Colorado, you feel it. Sample sentence from the walk around the lake: "(*&^)$(^, it's *^$)% cold!"
- The Wynkoop brewpub's "Railyard Ale" is good stuff.
- The Tamayo restaurant, on Larimer and 14th, makes the best guacamole ever.
- I'm still not a fan of air travel.
- Five days is entirely too long to be away from the kids.
On the conference:
- The concerns of the academic blogosphere, and the concerns of the conference presenters, rarely overlapped. I neither saw nor heard any mention of the increasing reliance on adjuncts, for example. It was just taken as a generally known background condition.
- The only comparative work I saw was foundation-supported, and even that was superficial. Work to be done! (I think part of the issue is that individual college's Institutional Research folk don't usually report their data out, so even basic data-gathering involves constructing ad hoc work-arounds.)
- I don't know if this was a function of the location of the conference or an accurate reflection of the League, but the attendees were almost entirely from the South and Midwest. In talking with some of the exhibitors, when I mentioned my home state, they usually reacted with something like "really?"
- Judging by the foundation reports (from Lumina and the College Board), cc's have been a real blind spot in most education research. Making matters worse, most of the studies that have been done have been either single-institution – and therefore of questionable applicablility – or based on national statistics, with all the methodological flaws embedded in those stats. Those mega-statistical pieces consistently fall prey to the "correlation is not causation" problem, so some very intelligent people are tripping over themselves trying to get around basic methodological flaws. I suspect that what's really needed is a series of studies that look at, say, four or six institutions at a time, in some depth. 'Data' and 'anecdote' aren't the only sources of information; there's also 'comparison.'
And now back to reality...