Like so many other schools, LRU is dealing with lower enrollments, budget cuts, and all sorts of bureaucratic nonsense.  Not all of this is bad news, at least when considered in the short term and on the ground: smaller classes?  Boy howdy!  You want to take away one section of my least favorite upper-division class for majors and substitute a lower-division gen-ed class where I can introduce scientists and engineers to some of my favorite stories?  Go ahead—make my day!

And some of it I can face with equanimity.  Overhaul assorted aspects of the grad program?  Sure, fine, whatever; tell me what the new rules are, and I’ll follow them.  Only don’t expect me to help make the new rules.  I am, as I have been saying for years now (when will you listen?) a cynical old bat.  There was a point at which I was all afire for reform.  I tried.  The Law of Unintended Consequences kicked in.  I said phooey; I don’t seem to have the talent for this.  So now, if there are eager young just-tenured folks who want to try again, I’ll say, “Go for it.  You never know, it might work this time, and if not, well, at least we’ll go to hell in a thoughtful and deliberate way instead of accidentally and piecemeal.  I’ll be in my office; call me when the dust settles.”

Excellence without money?  Been there, done that: been doing that for most of my career, it seems.  Look, I’m happy to teach all the gen-ed classes you like, and to fund my own research besides.  I ask only one thing: leave me alone to get on with it.  Jesus H. Christ on a crutch, if you don’t have any money to wave at me, then take your fucking learning-outcomes assessment jargon and shove it pointy-wise where the sun don’t shine.  I am sick and tired of bureaucratic bullshit getting in the way of actual teaching and learning—my own as well as that of my students—and after twenty years of this, I am all out of patience.  All.  Out.  What dregs I can scrape up go to my students, who are (this blessed term) all enthusiastic and interested.  I am truly teaching.  They are truly learning.  Yes, they make mistakes, and they are young and fun, and so they get my meager stock of patience.  They deserve it.  You fucking bureaucrats do not, because you are old enough to know better, but apparently you don’t.  And so, because I am all out of patience, one of my delightful students will miss out on an opportunity that would increase the sum total of knowledge in the world.  The point to research is that you don’t know what you will find.  If I could predict the “learning outcome” for this project, nobody would need to do it.  You’re counting on my affection for my students, aren’t you?  You think that will get me to shovel your assessment manure one more time, don’t you?  But you’re wrong.  I’m done.  I’m going to go plan my super-fun gen-ed class for next year, and get on with my actual real work, and stop playing your goddamn bureaucratic games.  Swyve you all.


9 thoughts on “Twenty years in

  1. My husband and I are both getting hit with “fucking learning-outcomes assessment jargon” without money. Our chair is doing most of the crud, with occasional emails asking for something specific and saying he knows it’s dumb (most recent, one example of how we as individuals interact with the community, don’t think hard about it, just write something down so he can fill in a damn box). My husband’s chair has delegated everything, but fortunately DH is leaving his job and hasn’t been assigned any of it, even though the other faculty tried. What is bizarre is you’re a humanities person, I’m in social science, and he’s an engineer, and in all of these fields they’re trying to turn the class-based stuff into things that are required for online classes. No sir, I don’t like it.

    We did have to do the learning outcomes last semester. I took the course description for each of my classes and turned it into bullet points. My husband is currently wrestling with adding a project and a paper to his class mid-semester because apparently that learning outcome hasn’t been assigned to any of the other classes, and somewhere they need to write about their continuing education opportunities. Whatever that means.

  2. Sorry they’re pestering you with this. As long as they aren’t asking to do meetings about assessment, I find, as nicoleandmaggie did, that putting whatever you already have in your syllabus in bullet points, with a light dusting of whatever assessment jargon is popular in this round, seems to work.

    The terrible thing is that those points were in the syllabus in the first place because we really do want students to learn. We just hadn’t dressed them up with this year’s jargon.

  3. Yes! Right there with you — except I haven’t been at it as long. I expect my cynicism will only get worse, since I’ve given up hope of reform. This place doesn’t pay me enough to deal with the stress.

  4. Not to hijack, but my theory is that the bureaucrats have a different set of concerns: since they’re five-years-and-out, a lot of times, in administration, they’re less concerned with what really happens in learning than in establishing and naming a program (assessment, learning outcomes, student success, whatever) that they can then put on their CV as a Proven Ability for the next place. They’d like it if things got better, but that’s not the main purpose. I try not to take any of this more seriously than they do.

  5. Our assessment bs is completely driven by our accreditor. We read the rules, and follow to the letter. Grrr. They want to make the key question how well are we doing assessment. Not how well are students learning, but how well the assessment has been done.

  6. The committee I want to quit, though, is executive committee of academic senate. The senate and it are being used, apparently, as venues in which to convince faculty to replicate the corporate and corporatizing message. The fallacy would be that only I can save us — I say that if only I can save us, we are already lost and I might as well save my effort for something else.

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