That old snag again?
Eyal Press has written about his experiences teaching journalism at SUNY-New Paltz recently. Contrary to the most popular university-themed clickbait you might have seen at The Atlantic or The Huffington Post in the past academic year, he finds that complaints about “political correctness” fascistically controlling class discussions and about this so-called “coddled” generation of students to be overwrought. Says Press:
I’d been hired to teach an undergraduate journalism seminar that focused on polarizing, divisive subjects: abortion, immigration, Islamophobia, the gun debate, campus rape. Issues likely to touch sensitive nerves, in other words, and to stir considerable discomfort among my students.
Several of the students in my class felt strongly about these issues. A few chose to write term papers that drew on personal experiences as well as on research and interviews they did. But no one in the class seemed uncomfortable talking about them. Nor did anyone object when I told them that, especially when reporting on issues close to their heart in which they had a personal stake, it was essential to talk to people whose opinions they did not share and to imagine things from multiple points of view, including views that disturbed or repelled them. None of the students called for “trigger warnings” to be placed on any of the books or articles on the course syllabus, despite the fact that several contained vivid descriptions of abuse and violence. When students aired criticisms of the readings in class discussions, the objections were about the quality of the work, not the offensiveness of the content.
This is what I’ve been reporting from my perch at a public Aggie in the West. My students are far from privileged, and as Press reports, the issue they’re most worried about is the debt they’re accruing in pursuing higher education. In a class he visited with 15 students, Press asked how many would be graduating with student debt. Continue reading
Phil Hill reports on the Scriba Disaster: Sakai-based LMS for UC Davis is down with no plans for recovery:
In what might shape up as one of the worst LMS outages in recent history, UC Davis has been working without an LMS for the past week and does not expect their vendor to fix the problems before the end of the term. UC Davis uses a version of Sakai hosted by the LMS remnants of rSmart. In 2013 rSmart sold it’s Sakai-supporting LMS business to Asahi Net International, and in 2015 a private equity firm – Vert Capital – bought ANI and renamed it Scriba. Scriba brands the Sakai LMS for UC Davis as SmartSite.
UC Davis is on the quarter system, with the last week of class next week (May 31) and finals the week of June 6. A few months ago UC Davis announced their intention to migrate to Canvas as their LMS. SmartSite subsequently went down on May 19th, and all signs are pointed to a complete and final outage. Scriba will not answer the phones (you get a message that the mailbox is full), and UC Davis staff are making a heroic attempt to in-house recreate LMS tools and even to recover grades that had been entered on SmartSite.
At this point, they’re working on a temporary fix that will permit only instructors (not students) to access their LMS information for the end of the semester. Continue reading
Dump the blue books!
The always-thoughtful David Perry of How Did We Get Into This Mess and on Twitter @Lollardfish) has given his last blue-book, in class, timed exam. Those of you who know his writing will not be surprised that he’s doing this because of the inequities and exposure in-class exams mean for students with disabilities:
I’ve been inching away from the blue book for years, but it’s time to go cold turkey and match my praxis to my principles. Whatever pedagogical gains the in-class test might bring — and I’ll argue they are few and increasingly less relevant — I can no longer justify forcing people with disabilities to disclose their conditions in order to receive basic test-related accommodations.
Although protections for disabled students date back to Section 504 of the 1973 Rehabilitation Act, the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act spurred widespread change throughout academe. Compliance with the ADA and with Section 504 — for any institution receiving federal funds (including financial aid) — requires providing reasonable accommodations to students with diagnosed disabilities. It’s become routine, rather than rare, for students to begin the semester by presenting their professors with documented requests for accommodation.
That it’s become routine is great but far from perfect. Not only do students have to disclose disability to their professors —who are no more immune to ableism than to any other sort of bias — but the most common form of accommodation extends the disclosure to classmates. Many students with invisible disabilities (such as anxiety disorders or ADHD) require quiet rooms and extra time to work on a test. I’m thrilled to provide both. On the other hand, when the whole class gathers to take an exam, with one student conspicuously absent, everyone notices.
Right on, David! (Be sure to read the whole article.) He comes to his conclusion about canning the in-class, timed exams based on his understanding of the concept of universal design. Perry explains, “That term — coined in the 1970s around architecture and public space —advocates that systems be designed to accommodate the widest range of function and ability possible. Universal design asks us to try and build accessibility into the fabric of our institutions and culture, rather than wait until individuals make their needs known.” I’m sure you’ve seen evidence of it in buildings of recent construction–the extra-wide doorways and hallways, the paddle-handle door pulls that have replaced traditional doorknobs because they don’t require the number of fine motor skills to operate. Continue reading
Since I’ve got another book in the bag, this summer is all about readin’ and reflectin’. I’ve never had a summer in which I was not engaged in writing a monograph for more than twenty years: first it was a dissertation, then it was Abraham in Arms: War and Gender in Colonial New England (which was not a revision of my dissertation, oh well. . . ), and then it was my forthcoming The Many Captivities of Esther Wheelwright. And that about covers the previous 24 summers!
So what the heck am I doing with myself?
I’m giving myself the gift of just reading and dreaming about what might be an interesting project that will bring together my interest in women’s and gender history, sexuality, fashion, the body, and material culture. I’ll be reporting here and there about what I’ve read and who else might be interested in reading what I’ve read too.
For example, I finally have had the chance to look over The First Book of Fashion: The Book of Clothes of Matthäus & Veit Konrad Schwarz of Augsburg (Bloomsbury Academic, 2015), edited, translated, and with essays by Ulinka Rublack and Maria Hayward. It’s nearly a coffee-table kind of book in terms of its size and production values. I first heard about this book last winter via Twitter, which led me to Rachel Herrmann’s fascinating interview with Hayward about fashions in the courts of Henry VIII and Charles II of England. Continue reading
Ugh. Disgusting! As if we need more proof that we need professional standards that prohibit sexual relationships between faculty and students at all levels. (As in most of life, the solution is just don’t be an a$$hole, isn’t it? We can avoid so very much trouble in life if we put up this little sampler in our offices, kitchens, and living rooms and obey.)
I’ve made the point here before about how these relationships poison other faculty-student relationships as well as the learning climate in general. But here’s something else that’s ruined when faculty-student sexual relationships are tolerated, something I have direct and sad experience with myself: the notion that faculty interest in young women’s brains and careers isn’t tainted by sexual motives.
When I read Fernanda Lopez Aguilar’s experiences as an undergraduate student of Thomas Pogge’s at Yale University, I was reminded of something that happened to me as I was finishing college. What happened to me was much less dramatic, but it was I think very related to the feelings of confusion and humiliation she recounts in the linked Buzzfeed article.
Sadly, although women are now the majority of college students (and have been for two decades at least), young women frequently have their intellectual ambitions questioned and have to wonder about the interest that senior faculty–especially senior male faculty–have in encouraging them. Lopez Aguilar thought Pogge was interested in supporting her intellectual work, when it turns out his interest was mostly just sexual and prurient: Continue reading
From a Candidate of Very Little Brains
Bernie Sanders is officially cuckoo for Cocoa Puffs. After a number of his supporters in Nevada behaved very aggressively at the Democratic convention in that state over the weekend, throwing chairs, screaming at party leaders, and leaving vile and harassing voice mails for party officials, he says this today:
The Democratic Party has a choice. It can open its doors and welcome into the party people who are prepared to fight for real economic and social change – people who are willing to take on Wall Street, corporate greed and a fossil fuel industry which is destroying this planet. Or the party can choose to maintain its status quo structure, remain dependent on big-money campaign contributions and be a party with limited participation and limited energy.
First woman U.S. Secretary of State, or “War Criminal?”
Scripps College (the women’s campus of the Claremont Colleges) has invited Madeleine Albright to be their commencement speaker, and some students and faculty don’t like it. These students and faculty accuse Albright of being a “war criminal.” I think that’s a ridiculously overblown charge. My guess is that she’s a proxy receptacle for leftist resentment of Hillary Clinton’s presidential candidacy, but the accusation that anyone who complains about a choice of commencement speaker is somehow against free speech or are not “letting her speak” is equally hysterical. So let’s rehearse:
- Students who write op-eds for campus newspapers (or any newspapers) aren’t “silencing” anyone. They’re exercising their right to free speech.
- Faculty who sign letters of protest and/or promise to boycott graduation because they dislike the speaker are not “silencing” anyone. They’re exercising their liberty of speech and association.
Repeat until no longer outraged! Continue reading