roasting marshmellows in phd hell

Archive for September 2012

MLA Jobs- The Movie

with one comment

Well not exactly.  But this website is pretty accurate/hilarious:

Or it would be hilarious if it wasn’t so depressing.


Written by universityoflies

September 21, 2012 at 13:51

When Teaching Becomes Tap Dancing

with 4 comments

The semester is going ok so far.  It’s funny how you can suss out what a class will be like in the first few minutes of the first day.  One group is great- a good portion of the class participates and has interesting things to say, and most of the rest look like they’re paying attention.  The other group has a few good students too, but a larger proportion of em are trying to sneakily text or sleep behind hats/sunglasses/political novelty masks.

We have been looking at some pretty fucking interesting texts.  Of course, this is a subjective categorization.  I recognize that much of what we are looking at, at first glance, appears almost archaic to these 18-21 year olds.  And I feel like my job is to show them that this stuff written twentington million years ago is basically the same shit they are talking about in the hallways, texing their inane friends about, thinking, feeling etc.  Love, death, life, the human condition.  And when they get it and are interested and energized, teaching feels like the best job in the world.

But in that ‘bad’ class, I feel like a sell out.

I feel like charlie in that

can I get an AMEN for shakespeare?

episode of ‘its always sunny in philadelphia’ where the gang sees a gross stain on the wall that looks like the virgin mary, and then charlie and mac become duelling preachers to a bunch of homeless guys.  So charlie’s wearing his white suit and asking for an AAAAAMEN or a HALLELUJAH and talking a load of shite, telling the homeless guys whatever they want to hear (and plying them with liquor, of course).

Why do I feel like a fake preacher ministering to a bunch of homeless guys over a manky looking stain in a run down (and fictional, lets not forget fictional) pub?
First of all, I believe in the stain.  I really really do.

And isn’t it my job to educate in an effective way?  I think I just resent that ‘effective’ always has to equal entertaining these days.  Edutainment.  I mean, it’s cool when the two things overlap, and I think they often do naturally.  But it goes back to the attitude of the student as consumer.  College is like the most expensive movie ticket of your life.  You’ve paid your admission (and will keep paying for it for many years to come)- sit back and hey, try the popcorn.

Sometimes the actual material speaks for itself, and if you’re willing to stay awake and take a fucking closer look without the necessary learning aid of a tapdancing instructor, trying to entice the SHIT out of you (for learning purposes only), hm well maybe learning would be a bit more rewarding.

“yeah yeah, stop complaining,” the imaginary audience answers back. or so I um… imagine.

And they’re right- I could just not tap dance at all.  blast through the material ben stein style and if they get it, great.  If not, feeeck you.  But I want them to get it, to like what they are reading, and maybe become curious about learning more.

And without the noisy shoes, I don’t think I’d have a fucking chance.

Written by universityoflies

September 12, 2012 at 18:32

The Dirty Secret of For-Profit College Recruitment

with 8 comments

What is it, you may ask?  The dirty secret of these for-profit colleges and how they

Coffee’s for closers. And don’t forget to show them the swimming pool.

recruit fresh meat?

The golden rule is to get them in the door.  And that’s as far as anyone in administration pays attention.  Because after the check clears, nobody. gives. a. fuck.

I want to share some information about these for-profit corporations.  I do need to disclose, though, that this ain’t straight from the horse’s mouth.  I have several very close friends who work at this place, and I used to work at one just like it.  So this is more of a postcard from some loved ones currently employed in corporate hell.  And they have kindly consented to let me share their story here.  As long as you are cool with that, let’s proceed.

This school is but one puny branch of a ginormous corporation.  It’s the kind of place you might see advertised during daytime talk shows, in between other less sleazy commercials for avvocatos with guys inexplicably wearing cowboy hats and business suits, urging you to fall off a ladder and call their toll-free number.  And, not surprisingly, the school has a department devoted to recruiting.

The recruiters have sleek offices with big mahogany tables and ergonomic chairs that they use to impress prospective students.  Sometimes the people walk in themselves, maybe after watching Jerry Springer or reading a bus stop bench.  But the recruiters have quotas to make, around 12 students a month, so sometimes they have to get creative.

On occasion, they go to the local train station (not the nicest area- you can buy a variety of drugs and sexual favors there) with a big van and try to pick up random people.  You can imagine what kind of fucking shit they tell people to get into their creepy van.  And when someone takes their candy, on the way to Mahogany Desk City, the recruiters point out local landmarks like the town pool and say that they are part of the campus.

On one occasion, they brought a man from the train station who was so poor that he had plastic bags duct taped to his feet instead of shoes.

I don’t have the words to express how wrong and fucking predatory I think this is.

How much does this make you want to weep for society?

The school also has another department you might not normally hear about..this one is for ‘student retention.’  So these people are employed to call students when they don’t show up or don’t do the work or fail, maybe because they were picked up at a fucking train station and sold a pack of lies from a recruiter, and too disenfranchised or naive to question these things.  And then the conversation goes like:

Student Retention Person: So (insert name here), why did you fail the midterm/never show up?  Would you like to come in and make an appointment so we can make a Student Success Plan (TM) and get you back on track?

Student: I can’t focus on school right now because of (insert horrible sob story here)


Student: Fuck you. (click)

What a fucking awful joke.  The students this place attracts (or hunts, depending on your point of view) fall into (mostly) two categories.  One, people who have some serious fucking shit going on in their lives- sick family members, job loss, foreclosures, medical bankruptcy, immigration issues.  People that are probably not going to be best served by taking out enormous loans that they probably won’t be able to pay off.  (Now I am certainly not saying that only those who can afford redonk fees should go to college, or that people with big big fucking problems can’t take on college- but this place and those like it prey on the disenfranchised, and the numbers show that most of the students at these predatory colleges with no real support networks for students drop out anyways)  And then there’s type two- people who don’t really want to go to college in the first place.  So Why Do They Go?  The answer is, they don’t.  They get talked into signing up by Alec Baldwin and then, as far as the school is concerned, it’s milk carton city.

Do they even put missing kids on milk cartons anymore?




Written by universityoflies

September 4, 2012 at 02:50

Teaching for Montgomery Burns

with 12 comments

In the interest of anonymity and my favorite hobby (which is not being sued), I won’t go too deep into the specifics I find myself in.  Which is too bad, because if it wasn’t so horrific, it would be hilarious.  So, Legal Disclaimer: some details below may be changed to protect the innocent, ie ME.

Give me your soul, UniversityofLies..That’s right..

The for-profit college where I now find myself is run by a person who I’ll call  “Montgomery Burns.”  And, while we’re at it, why don’t we draw up a little character sketch?  Monty Burns likes: Money, Saving Money, and Eclectic Shrubbery.  Dislikes: Spending Money, People Who Leave the Lights On, Liberal Arts.

So what does this mean for the  students who attend this school?  Nothing good.  It means there are no remedial classes, because that would imply the students are weak.   It means many of the employees of the college are ‘graduates’ of the place themselves, which can create a very fucking weird dynamic when staff give you dirty looks in the hall and you vaguely remember them dicking off in your class and failing.  It also means overloading and combining sections in order to pay less faculty for less time.  So, per esempio, despite official paperwork saying the place caps a class at say 35, (and only being room for 35 desks in a class), shoving 50 people in there, making kids sit on the floor and on window ledges.  Cause it saved you a few grand!  Bazinga!

Monty and Co. cry and bitch about retention.  “We get em in the door, why can’t YOU keep them there?”  The “you” in question being, presumably, the faculty.  So in overcrowded classrooms with no extra resources to help these kids who were accepted because (lets be fucking honest here) they either could write a check or get the government to do it for them,  these kids are now expected to do college work (or an extremely watered down version of it), and they can’t.  Is it their fault?  Not entirely.  And when they disappear, vanish into the great unknown, whose fucking fault is it?  The man who pays himself a salary greater than what the heads of most nations earn?  No, it’s the fucking faculty.  Of course.

The place is run like an elementary school.  You are expected to teach like you are in an elementary school.  The first years are often confused and disappointed that they are treated like they’re in a fucking elementary school.  And this toxic environment causes idiots like me to think that a phd will solve all their problems.

The best thing to do is keep your head down and teach.  But it’s difficult when your classroom is barged into and your lessons interrupted by someone with information commercials for your students, who might be busy taking a test or um learning.  Or when your classes are cancelled at the last fucking minute, after you’ve wasted ages preparing material.  Or your whole department is fired in the middle of a semester because someone whispered the “U” word.  The message is clear to faculty and students alike: teaching is the least important thing that happens at this place.

In my packet of paperwork, there was some shady as shit piece of paper that I was supposed to sign, swearing that I would never talk about anything that happened at Fight Club, even after I leave and am no longer employed there.  I am not signing that piece of paper.  There is a fucking book in this.

I always associated the Ivory Tower with this picture. Should have thought that one through.

I am rambling now and I don’t really know the point of this entry.  I don’t know why I am so angry or surprised.  How could I have forgotten?  This place is the front line, the place so shitty that the fucking Ivory Tower looked like the best escape plan ever.  I’m angry for me, and everyone out there in the same boat.  I’m also angry for the students and their parents and everyone duped into thinking that higher ed is automatically the best move, or a stamped ticket to upwards mobility.

And I’m angry as hell that Monty Burns is able to make such a criminal profit by swindling so many disenfranchised young people.

Written by universityoflies

September 1, 2012 at 16:55