August 28, 2008

What is the big deal?

Posted in miscellaneous other matters tagged , , , , , , , , , at 12:07 pm by profart

The complete ignorance of art history and political imagery in this country is rearing its ugly head. The discussion of the neo-Classical stage set for Obama’s speech is both interesting and depressing. 

The man is running for the White House. The set references the White House. What is the big deal? 

This country began its artistic roots in the neoclassical- the style hugely popular in the 18th century and referencing the power imagery of Rome and the Classical world. It was used all over this nation’s capital, including the Capitol Building itself and the White House.

The neoclassical facade of the White House.

The neoclassical facade of the White House.


The neoclassical facade of the Capitol.

The neoclassical facade of the Capitol.




The stage set uses Doric-style columns, which communicate more strength an solidity than the elegant Ionics used on the White House itself. They are also simpler than the Corinthian columns of the Capitol (though Doric pilasters can be seen on the lower and upper levels). 

The format of the stage follows the Pergamon “altar”, which was probably actually a war memorial, and is Hellenistic. 

Western power imagery is usually laden with Classical imagery and visual vocabulary. I find it fabulous that Obama’s campaign is showing its cultural knowledge and understanding by using these Classical elements in their own power imagery. Politics is all about power. Of course it will reference Rome. People who laugh are only revealing their own ignorance. 

Perhaps they ought to take a class in art history.


August 24, 2008

Deep breath

Posted in Semester endcap tagged at 10:18 pm by profart

The fall semester begins tomorrow. For those starting, have started, or whatever- best of luck for the fall!


Here we go!

August 23, 2008

Clues for the Clueless #10

Posted in clues to the clueless tagged , , , , , , , , at 4:10 am by profart

Hint: Before sending up that “SOS”, be sure you have tried available avenues for information and aid. Announcing to your online professor that you are “new to online classes” and then asking a whole bunch of questions that indicate that you have neither attended a Distance Learning Orientation Session (which you are required to do before signing up for online classes!) nor looked at the tutorials and online information provided by Distance Learning on their website is not going to impress your professor. In fact, it is highly annoying to get a dozen such emails a slew of such emails from a dozen different students (it ends up being more than a dozen emails) just before the semester starts. 

I’m an adjunct. My start date is the date the class starts. Technically, I’m on vacation and shouldn’t be checking my email. I know a lot of adjuncts- in fact, a lot of faculty period- who do not touch their email before the start of the semester. 

There is a lovely fairytale called The Magic Fishbone, written by Charles Dickens in 1867, which every student should read. In it, the Good Fairy Grandmarina gives a magic fishbone to the Princess Alicia. It will give the princess one wish… “provided she wishes for it at the right time.” 

In the end, the Princess learns that the time to make a wish is when you have already tried your hardest, and in all ways, and have already done your very best. 

Yes, that is the time to ask the professor your question. That is the time to really ask for help… 


When you actually need some.

August 19, 2008

What are they THINKING???

Posted in student stories tagged , , at 3:39 pm by profart

Every once in a while, I get a student who signs up for a class, then doesn’t complete the class, or fails the class, and then proceeds to sign up for the class again… and again… and again… 

This is particularly annoying if it is one of my intro classes, which tend to have long waiting lists. They take up a highly valued slot in a course, often until well after the add date, meaning someone who really wanted to take the class didn’t get to. 

My latest victim has now signed up for my class five times. Drop. Withdraw. Disappeared. Complained about technical problem and disappeared. I looked at my class list- and there they are. Again

The dean says there is nothing I can do. I can’t stop this person from signing up. I can only politely note to them in a private email that I am still the professor of the course, I noticed that this is the fifth attempt, and perhaps they ought to try some other class? 

And I just don’t feel like opening that can of worms.

The Beloit List

Posted in Semester endcap, teaching revelations tagged , , at 12:09 pm by profart

The Beloit College Mindset List is out today. Once again, I feel old. And I’m only 36. 


But I know I’ll actually BE old when it says, “Leonardo, Michelangelo, Donatello, and Raphael are… Renaissance artists.”

August 13, 2008

Ah, the approach of fall

Posted in student stories tagged , , , at 12:41 am by profart

Fall semester approaches. I am still technically “on vacation.” This means that there are emails in my email inbox that I have not yet seen. It means there will be several students complaining that I don’t answer emails (which I do within 24 hours of receipt) before the semester even begins. The idea of taking a vacation is, I unfortunately note, a foreign concept to students these days. 

When I first started teaching, ten short years ago, the idea of a student contacting you between semesters was anathema, especially since I’m an adjunct. This means I have no office, no permanent phone, and my email is only turned on when I am scheduled to teach that semester. Even my full-time colleagues would consider a between-term contact something worth telling others about. It was taken for granted that the bookstore had information about the textbook you needed, the syllabus would be available on the first day of class (unless the professor expected you to have already done reading, in which case  the professor would send the syllabus to all registered students beforehand, with the reading requirements), and office hour started with the start of term. Between-term was a time for getting in some heavy-duty drinking researching. It also was a great time to take short research trips, especially in fields like mine, where trips to India are often expected and needed. Students didn’t contact you, because it was understood that the professors, like the students, weren’t on campus. Why try to contact someone who isn’t there? 

The current expectation seems to be that everyone is fully available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. I had some kid email me on Christmas, and  got upset when I didn’t reply until after the New Year. They want syllabi. They want book info. They want me to lead them by the hand through the class before the class even begins. 

We are still two weeks out from the beginning of the fall semester here. I already have ten emails inquiring about course requirements and books. Nevermind that 100-level course requirements are fairly standard, and spelled out in the student handbook. Nevermind that the bookstore has had the textbook information- and the book for sale- all summer already. But most of all, do these kids really think I’m sitting around checking email? The only reason I know about these emails is because I decided to clean out my email box before the new semester started, and had a minute to do so. That minute went right out the window, as I suddenly had ten emails to respond to. Not counting the one complaining that I hadn’t replied to their email. 

When did I become a public property celebrity?

August 2, 2008

Surprise! FAIL!

Posted in Semester endcap, student stories tagged , , at 11:10 pm by profart

I hate to think that a fail has “snuck up” on a student and taken them by surprise. You’d think they knew they were turning in crap all semester- after all, they saw the crappy grades they were getting- so why did they think their final grade would magically metamorphose into an A? 

But the strangest of these is the plagiarist. I make a pretty big deal about plagiarism in my orientation materials, such as my syllabus and my orientation powerpoint. I think I make it pretty clear that cutting and pasting from websites is definitely plagiarism, and that I will definitely fail you for doing it. 

Every couple of semesters, I catch someone plagiarizing on their final exam. I think it would happen more if I were more vigilant and a subscription to Turn It In, but generally, it would take a lot more work to catch folks than I have; so when I do catch somebody, you can bet it is pretty glaring. 

Then comes the hilarious part: the post-semester email, when the student gets that final report, or checks on their grades in the gradebook, and sees that big, fat ZERO on their final exam. Ah, the great cry of “Why did I get a zero???”

What, you didn’t notice when you hit that “copy” button? How about the “paste” button? 

What else can I say? “Here is the webpage you pulled your sentences from. Fail.” 

As in, epic.

August 1, 2008

How To Piss Off A Professor

Posted in student stories tagged , at 11:59 pm by profart

Feeling lazy, and I just love this list I posted elsewhere, so here it is for my ATST readers: 

How to Really Get Your Professor In A Bad Mood: 

1. Don’t show up or complete a midterm. Show up afterwards or better yet, email, saying “Oops, I forgot to take the midterm. Will this affect my grade?” Yes. Yes it will.
2. Write a long, whiney email about how much work the class is. Explain that you are working a full-time job, raising kids, and trying to do a full courseload. You’ll get bonus grumpiness if the prof is an adjunct, since it is likely that they are doing the euqivalent of all this while trying to hold down three or four jobs to your one- and being paid less. 
3. Ask lots and lots of questions that are clearly answered in the syllabus. For example, “When is the midterm due?” or “do we have to participate in discussions this week?” or a perennial favorite, “What chapter are we on?”
4. Write rambling, tangential posts on discussion forums in poor English, then complain when you are asked to clarify the post. Ditto for in-classroom comments. Do this a lot for lots of extra grumpiness. For extra, extra bonus, complain to the Dean about your grade. 
5. MIs-spell important terms and/or names in non-timed assignments. Complain when you don’t get a perfect score. More extra bonus points for complaining to the Dean. 
6. “Forget” to complete the first three weeks’ worth of assignments. Complain loudly about how the professor wasted your money when they advise that you withdraw from the course. More bonus points for contacting the Dean. 
7. Post unprofessional, “humorous” posts on discussion forums, or make inappropriate, off-topic jokes in class. Complain when the professor points out that the post or joke is inappropriate. Complain more when the professor deletes such posts or stops calling on you. LOTS of bonus points for whining to the Dean. Even the Dean will give you bonus grumpiness.
8. Turn in a paper that is 13 pages when the assignment was 20-25 pages. Or don’t cite sources or examples when the directions clearly state you need to do so. Complain that you need the course to graduate- and you need at least a C. Guess what happens if you protest to the Dean (or Department Chair)… 
9. Stop coming to class. Comlain about failing same class when you return the next semester. Bonus points for having sent emails about how you needed a certain grade in the same class to transfer/get off academic probation/graduate.
10. Sign up for class with long waiting list. Drop class. Sign up for it again. Drop it. Sign up for it again. Withdraw from it. Sign up for it again. Drop it again. Sign up for it again. Fail it…
11. Complain about other students getting accomodations… when you have no disabilities. Lots and lots of extra ire for complaining to the Dean about “favoritism.” More bonus grumpiness for going onto public websites like “” and making nasty comments about the professor being an unfair grader (and yes, there are ways to know who send those comments, people… especially if you areregistered.)

Students who flunk classes because they couldn’t be bothered to do the work or follow directions always makes me grumpy. Don’t let it happen to you.