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December 5, 2007
A new correspondent -- and apparently the kind of student we'd all like to have -- writes:As a student, I have gotten a lot more careful over the years with how I fill out student evaluations, because I know more about what they mean for the instructors. I've read a lot of complaints on academic blogs that students do not carefully fill out the evaluations and that their criticism is sometimes unfair. I try hard to be both constructive and fair. I almost always include written comments, unless I've got absolutely nothing to say.
December 3, 2007
A new correspondent writes:I am a new department chair. The staff love to decorate for any and all holidays. Recently they have put up the tree, tinsel and various other baubles. One of my faculty members has objected to the "religious" decorating. I am aware that the Supreme Court ruled that the tree is not a religious symbol and the staff haven't put up angels or anything of that sort. However, I am sympathetic to the complaint. What would you do?It's a great question, and I hate it.
December 2, 2007
Search Committee Chair: The job starts next semester. Can you do that?Candidate: No problem! Rarin' to go! Woo-hoo!(skip ahead)Department Chair: The job starts next semester. Are you okay with that?Candidate: Great! Can't wait! Let's go!(skip ahead)Dean: The job starts next semester. Are you okay with that?Candidate: You betcha! Ayup! All systems go!(skip ahead)VP: The job starts next semester. You're sure you're okay with that?Candidate: Abso-freakin'-lutely! Bring it on!(skip ahead)
November 30, 2007
[ Recently I asked writer, editor and teacher Dinty W. Moore to join the conversation on teaching creative writing, and it's my pleasure to bring you his response today. Dinty is the author of several books, including Between Panic & Desire (U of Nebraska/American Lives, 2008).
November 29, 2007
Picking up on the premodern vs. modern theme of yesterday's post, Grad School Friend (who is on the tenure track at a research university) sent me a note about how his department received the news that he was seeing someone who lived in another time zone:
November 29, 2007
Norman Mailer has won England's annual Bad Sex Award, posthumously, for a passage in one of his last novels. Here's part of the winning passage:
November 29, 2007
"It's like when someone says plate. And then someone says shrimp. And then someone says plate of shrimp .... It's part of the cosmic web of coincidence."--"Repo Man"Every so often I stumble upon two articles back to back that seem like they were written to answer each other, even though they obviously weren't. It's part of the cosmic web of coincidence.
November 28, 2007
My guest today is John Warner, editor of McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, a man who once took a chance on a young nobody with a glint in his eye who strode into John’s office one summer afternoon wearing only a jaunty cap plumed with cock’s feathers. That young nobody was…Jonathan Ames. Later, Warner also let me write for the Tendency.
November 27, 2007
A returning correspondent writes:I'm just starting to think of the hiring season and, while I'm at a urban high school and that's differentfrom a CC or 4-year SLAC, it seems that you and I face similar questions about hiring...I'm the math department chair. I have a relatively small staff, but experience pretty high turn-over.The basic question: what do you do to attract more mid-career folks?We have a salary schedule that puts us slightly below average for the area.
November 27, 2007
Over the past decade much discussion has focused on the growing percentage of college teaching done by contingent faculty. Variously seen as the exploitation of an academic proletariat, the consequence of hostility towards tenure, or a response to difficult economic circumstances, this issue manifests itself in many forms.

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