Sunday, December 14, 2014

Life In the Pissant Swamp: The Bureaucracy and the Peon...

There are a zillion stories in the Pissant Swamp.
This is one of them.

I hope you realise by now dear readers and unreaders that there is a lot of pettiness, backslapping, piss arse power struggles, strangeness, bizarreness, and even surrealism of the Kafkaesque variety that goes on behind the ivory gilded halls of the Pissant swamp. One of the most bizarre and surreal, at least in my opinion, is the mandate that faculty submit their grades within forty-eight hours of the last exam during finals week at MicroMegaState University. I quote an email I received from the College Registrar, "Please remember that final grades are due 48 hours (including the weekend) after the final exam meeting time."

The MicroMegaStateUniversity 48 hour deadline sometimes feels a lot like that the deadline cop and con were under in the Walter Hill film, 48 Hours. As this school terms comes to an end I feel a little like Cates and Hammond in 48 Hours. I have two exams on the last day of finals, the second one ends at 4 o'clock, This means that I have little turn around time to get my finals in. This means, in turn, that what I used to prefer when I tested--essay exams or journals--is no longer practical or possible given the 48 hour deadline. And this means that the emphasis on trying to implant critical skills in our students has become more and more difficult if not impossible in the Tayloresque university. Fill in the blank tests, the kind of test I now give during finals week, has become the test of choice for an old liberal arts dinosaurs like me who thinks that critical thinking should be at the heart of the liberal arts college. The fill in the blank test just isn't a test that sharpens critical thinking.

But this is not the only problem that we faculty labourers have in contemporary academic institutions. There is an additional problem that those of us who teach at MMSU have at the end of the term, namely, accommodating students from the Division of Disability Student Services (DDSS). DDSS allows students with a varieties of disabilities to take exams in their offices ensconced in a building on one of the far edges of the campus. Historically, I have allowed any student who requested that he or she take the exam at the DDSS offices no questions asked. Since I have to give the exam on the last day of finals, however. Since that exam lasts until 4 pm. Since I am now 60, have severe asthma, have osteoporosis thanks to my asthma medication, have failing knees and legs, and have a failing back, and work three jobs to make ends meet I asked DDSS to accommodate me for a change. I requested that they post the exam to my home 82 miles from campus in Capital City. They replied with what I thought as an imperial NO. I then requested that the office mail the exam to the departmental office via campus mail and that I would give the student an incomplete (an I) and change the grade as soon as I was able to get the exam. On a part-timers salary it is simply not rational to drive 180 or so miles to pick up an examination. Again, I got the royal NO. We were finally able to come up with a compromise the DDSS bureaucrats would accept: the departmental secretary would pick up the exam and pdf a copy to my email address so I could grade it without having to drive three hours. Ironically, the student who had taken the first exam in class--somehow DDSS did not receive copies of these I sent though I found these emails sitting comfortably in my sent box indicating I did indeed send them to them--decided to take the second exam in class.

But back to the 48 hour rule, this mandate is simply one of the things that is increasingly turning colleges into high schools these days. If and when America's MegaBusinessGods ever decide to do to public colleges what they are doing to public schools--taking them over in the name of reform--the real reason they are getting into the public school business, of course, is that just like the bloke who founded the for profit University of Phoenix they see money, mammon, their green god, in them there educational hills. Ironically, if and when private for profit interests begin their takeover of public non-profit colleges they will find that others have already laid the groundwork for them by fatally wounding if not killing the liberal arts college and university. RIP, liberal arts college. We all hardly knew ye.

Any resemblance between this blog post and reality is purely coincidental.

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