Category Archives: students

September 20, 2014, 6:19 pm

Why Neoliberal Labor Practices Harm Working Students


Ronald is probably running from his shift to a class at the local community college.

Is anyone talking about the fact that students don’t graduate from college in a timely way not because they work,  but because the nature of the work students do has changed dramatically?

This afternoon, I was reading this excellent article by William Finnegan about fast food workers’ labor activism. Finnegan is not only an outstanding reporter, he has a talent for weaving in critical details that enrich a story without derailing it. One of these is that people resign from professional jobs in Latin America and Caribbean countries to earn $7-$8.00 an hour at a McDonalds in New York. The article begins with the burden of “just in time” scheduling software, through which workers are scheduled — or unscheduled — at the last…

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July 28, 2014, 1:06 pm

Bye-Bye Birdies: Sending The Kids Away to College

cartoon of dad and baby

They grow up so fast if you let them

All over the United States, slowly but surely, families are preparing for the ritual of Sending the Kid to College. Some will be living at home and going to a local four-year or community college; other young people will be taking the big leap to living away from home for the first time.

By September, one of the biggest topics for discussion — and one of the biggest gripes — among many college faculty will be how emotionally, and practically, underprepared many of your kids are for their freshman year. Although I now teach the non-traditional, adult students who are becoming the majority of undergraduates, for years I welcomed fresh-faced 18 year olds whose academic preparation often far exceeded their ability to navigate school independently of their parents.

The major…

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February 8, 2014, 6:13 pm

Tackling Hunger On Campus

food stampsI was glad to see this article by Peg Tyre about Franklin and Marshall College’s efforts to recruit and retain low income students. “Poor students who are accepted into selective four-year universities often find themselves adrift,” Tyre writes, ”overwhelmed by the financial, academic and cultural challenges created by an environment shaped to serve the habits and needs of the wealthy” (The New York Times, February 5, 2014).

Full disclosure: I happen to like this little liberal arts college in Lancaster, PA, a 45-minute Amtrak ride from Philadelphia. Years ago, I was part of a visiting committee at F&M, and I returned to consult on a second project. Each time, I found it a thoughtful place. I was impressed by the care that faculty took with their students (want to work at F&M? Guess what? When I visited, faculty were expected to be at the office five days a week, like other people…

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December 11, 2013, 10:03 am

Should a Grading Policy Be Absolute? No,No,No


In the old days at Zenith, I had this sign hanging in my office, given to me as a Christmas present by a student.

OK, so there are some of your students who weren’t listening to Amy Winehouse this semester: too much shot glass, too little in class. Now is the time of year that the chickens come home to roost, don’t they? Their failures are our failures.

And it makes us so mad that we sometimes respond badly. I was privy to an interesting conversation yesterday about having policies that govern late papers, make up exams and whatnot.

The arguments about whether to enforce late paper policies strictly ranged from:

  • Do it: I’ve heard every excuse before; to
  • Don’t be an a$$hat. Give the kid a make up the exam.

I want to emphasize: there truly was a healthy range of views expressed on this issue, and …

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August 2, 2013, 1:11 pm

Interns At The Nation Pass Final Exam, Stand Up For Better Pay

66th Annual Tony Awards - Show

In a tradition dating back to the quarrels Alex Cockburn, Christopher Hitchens and Katha Pollitt used to have with each other (sometimes printed one right after another), interns at The Nation have decided to hold their employer publicly accountable.

Back in June, my favorite left weekly ran a good piece about poorly paid journalism internships, and how this route to work experience is reserved by default for kids (white, middle class or rich) who can pay their own way.  In “How To Fix Journalism’s Class and Color Crisis,” (June 3 2013) Farai Chideya linked “the resegregation of the American media” to “endless unpaid internships….Getting your start in journalism often doesn’t pay. Instead, you have to chip in to join the club.” Stipends that pretty much cover lunch in a major United States city make housing, travel, a few items of business clothing and any other expense up …

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March 8, 2013, 9:14 pm

Sticky Fingers: Columbia Puts On The Freshman Fifteen

nutellaHave you gotten over the Nutella thefts at Columbia University yet?

The first news was that $5000 of this Italian spread (made of chocolate, sugar, hazelnuts and palm oil) was being taken from the dining halls every week. Meant to be put on toast, it is also commonly ingested by simply sticking a spoon (or a finger) in the jar. The HuffPo originally pegged Columbia’s losses at 100 pounds a day, which kind of makes me gag every time I think about it.

My Lose It! iPhone app pegs a cup of Nutella at a whopping 1,600 calories: eat the entire jar, and it’s 2,000 calories. This makes me think that Columbia students must be readily identifiable on the Upper West Side as the young folks with coats straining at the buttons and chocolate smeared all over their faces.

But now the Columbia administration is saying that the thefts are only about a tenth of what was originally reported on …

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December 28, 2012, 4:45 pm

Grading In The Age Of Mechanical Reproduction

If you are my age, you remember a time, years ago, when some wag of a colleague would distribute a mimeographed list of verbal “boners” found in that semester’s student papers. Some of these could be verbalized, and still retain their maximum impact, but most required the visual media we then had at our disposal.  Student boners, which would now be called bloopers for obvious reasons, usually involved a homynym, a misspelling, an ungrammatical twist or a peculiar metaphor. You had to see it to get the full yuck. One blooper that I recall vividly from my TA days was a response to a short answer exam question for the nineteenth century U.S. History final, “Identify and state the significance of  the reaper.” Answer: “The raper was a machine that performed the work of ten men.”

Humiliating students in their absence is, of course, a symptom of very intelligent, highly verbal and very…

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November 26, 2012, 9:28 pm

Tenured Radical Celebrates Cyber Monday…..

…by linking to an interview done with up-and-coming blogger and journalist Zach Schonfeld about student protest and chalking the sidewalks at Zenith University.


October 17, 2012, 2:32 pm

Calling Mary Poppins: Should Colleges Teach When Parents Don’t?

Should these books be on every dean’s shelf? Photo credit.

Now that I no longer teach at a residential campus, I rarely think about what used to be called in loco parentis, otherwise known as “parietals” or “colleges acting like parents.”

Mary Poppins was the original in loco parentis, but her university life descendants had titles like Dean of Women and Dorm Housemother.  You have to be sixty or older to remember what these remnants of Victorian England were like: they enforced a set of rules, the most odious of which purported to control campus sexuality by controlling women in particular. Women signed in and out of dorms, and had to be in at a certain hour. Men were allowed in the women’s dorms in the evening, but only in parlors. Any man visiting a woman’s room required an open door so that patrolling…

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September 23, 2012, 11:53 am

An Eskimo in Egypt-land

O’Donoghue, who refused to write an SNL sketch for the Muppets: “I won’t write for felt.”

Today’s guest blogger is Jennifer Finney Boylan, Professor of English at Colby College. She is the author of twelve books, including the Falcon Quinn series for young adults and the memoir trilogy She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders (2003), I’m Looking Through You: Growing Up Haunted (2008) and Stuck in the Middle With You: Parenthood in Three Genders (forthcoming in 2013). 

Comedian Michael O’Donoghue once wrote a poem that began, “A blizzard blew an Eskimo way down to Egypt-land. He found they had no word for snow, and he no word for sand.” The poem goes on to describe the Egyptian and the Eskimo’s search for a common language, “the thing that each man shares.”

O’Donoghue was, of course, better known…

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