There are bad people out there, and promotion is not automatic (even for those with solid records).
I was approved for promotion to (full) professor this past year, effective this week.
Sixteen years ago I was a few years into being an associate professor, and on track for this promotion within 3 years.
However, I made a lifestyle choice to move to a less prestigious school in a more desirable location.
I want to be very clear: I prefer the students here, I prefer my colleagues, I am happier with this university, and I love that I’ve had a chance to live my life in the magical scenery of southern Utah.
Having said that, unscrupulous administrators used deadweight faculty to rubber stamp a ceiling on my career.
I am not the first person this has happened to, but here’s what I learned.
To entice me to come here, I was given three years credit towards tenure and rank advancement. That offer was honored when I received tenure.
At that time, I heard through the grapevine that a particular administrator did not approve of me. I confronted them directly, and was given a weak answer about their concerns. My advice to others is if an administrator voices concerns about you, get an offer from another school. I didn’t because I liked my job and where I live.
After encouragement from senior faculty, I eventually applied for promotion that had to be approved by that same administrator. Everyone was shocked when I was shot down. Except me: I’d been told I’d be shot down.
I found out the hard way that there was no enforcement mechanism at my school to make sure I was credited for those three years when applying for promotion. In fact, over half of my academic career went unmentioned in my denial. Some people would sue over that, but without a policy stating how that offer was supposed to be honored, there seemed to be little point. My advice to others is that if you receive an offer that cannot be immediately confirmed (like, say, a salary boost) that you check the university’s policies and procedures for enforcement mechanisms. I didn’t.
I also found out the hard way that numerical teaching evaluations are not written in stone, and that alternative numbers can be added to the front of your promotion package. My advice is to make sure there is a policy at your school for retroactively voiding statements and votes made on the basis of conflicting information. The evidence was on my side, but there was no mechanism for adjudicating an “I said/they said” sort of argument.
I also found out the hard way that even objective counts of publications are meaningless. In my case, I reported that I had 12 pubs in my current rank. An administrator added a letter noting that 4 pubs in rank is not enough for promotion. Note that if I had 12, saying 4 is not enough has skirted the fact enough to not actually be a lie. My advice is to make sure there is a policy allowing review of statements between each stage of your promotion process.
I also have some advice for faculty serving on LRT committees particularly at the very first level: include numbers in your statementdocumenting the hurdle that you feel a candidate has cleared.* It’s only natural for successive levels to focus most on the executive summaries at the top of the package. All my numbers were correct, and in my package. But I found out that it’s the first person to add their numbers to the top of the package that counts for succeeding levels. Multiple levels of approval counted for nothing when the next page added didn’t state a confirmation that my numbers were solid.
Finally, let me add that when your spouse works at the same school, this puts a damper on your willingness to be confrontational with administration.
* If you’re serving on an LRT committee, you should also question the math of others. When I was rejected, I was given no clear guidance on what hurdle I needed to clear before reapplying. Crunching the statements of administrators and existing policies suggested that senior faculty had approved a position specific to me that I needed 17 publications in rank to be promoted. Five of the six senior faculty who signed that decision did not have that many publications in their careers. Very few people at my school do.
About a third of my principles students do an optional final exam consisting of retakes and make-ups of quizzes. It's usually a mix of the students who need just 1 more point for an "A", and those that need like 30 points just to pass.
This year's behaviors were worthy of preserving for the ages:
Student is running a D, and didn't retake enough quizzes to have a chance of raising their grade. I had several of those. All were advised to think about retaking more.
Student needs every point they can get, but didn't pick up the extra credit point for notifying you what quizzes to copy for them. I had over a dozen of those.
Student took 5 different quizzes, all numbered differently with no overlap. So they put them on 5 different bubble sheets instead of one. This is in spite of having done multiple exams during the semester in which different quizzes went on the same bubble sheet.
Student must not have approved of the numbers I gave to the questions, so they filled in my bubble sheet from top to bottom in whatever old order they felt like (he did his questions in this order: 41-50 in 1-10, 61-70 in 11-20, then 71-80 in 21-30, then 91-100 in 31-40, then 31-40 in 41-50). Oh, and he had a D too.
Student retook 2 quizzes from the beginning and end of the semester. They are so far apart that they need to go on different bubble sheets. He put one in the right spot, and didn't bubble in anything at all for the other quiz (but he did turn that second bubble sheet in blank). At least he circled his answers on the question sheet.
One student got married during the semester, and put her maiden name on one bubble sheet and her married name on the other.
Student decided not to take the quizzes that she requested (and presumably studied for), but decided to take this other one that no one requested (and which therefore had no copies on hand). Out of 17 chapter quizzes, she wanted the only one that no one had asked for.
Students requested copies be made, but didn't show up — several of those.
This one's a doozy. The directions state "This is the 7th opportunity you've had to take this quiz ..." (that I use for assessment). Student asks where the other 7 are. Even worse, he doesn't realize that if it's the 7th, there were 6 rather than 7 given previously.
Another student skipped enough homeworks to zero out about a third of their grade. He was going to make it up by covering some chapters independently for extra credit. But he had done no work on this by exam day. So he requested copies of the extra quizzes, and then decided in the exam not to do them.
Student took me for 2 classes. Both have exams on the same day. He requested retakes for the morning but not the afternoon class. Then he skipped the morning exam, showed up for the afternoon exam, and wondered if he could take the morning's quizzes then. Even better, he acted surprised that I didn't have the quiz copies from the morning with me in the afternoon.
Student had bubbled in answers in the wrong spots on his answer sheet on two previous occasions. Did not respond to two emails from me, or a face-to-face request, to clarify which answers were which. He was surprised on exam day that his (publicly available) quiz scores show zeroes for things he'd taken. He bubbled in answers improperly on two more chapters this time, and has not responded to new emails.
Student has to take a particular 10 point quiz that can't hurt their grade four times during the semester. This student only shows 3 scores and a zero. He wanted me to look and see whether he 1) only did take it 3 times and needed to take it a fourth time, or 2) had taken it 4 times and gotten 0/10 on one try — but so would not have to take it again (even though it can't hurt his grade).
Student announces that she thinks she'll be OK to retake a quiz because she's a really good guesser. Her evidence to support this was a high score on a pretest given on the first day of class on which all the students are guessing on almost all questions. I suppose she can be forgiven if she's never learned that the correlation and expected correlation of random events are not always the same.
Student did not request a quiz be copied for them. So we agreed to borrow one printed for another student. Borrower circled their answers on the question sheet before returning it to the lender. Borrower is running an F. Lender did not notify me until turning in their bubble sheets: I hope the lender was smart enough not to use the proffered information.
I've been using the following exam system for principles for about 13 years now. Students love it because they can miss exams without guilt, and still make them up when they can perform their best. I'm not sure if the students mentioned above realize that quizzes measure performance.
Every chapter I cover has a 10 question quiz.
These are numbered in 10 question blocks: Chapter 2 is 21 to 30, Chapter 3 is 31 to 40 and so on. See the pattern in bold? Some of the students noted above did not, even though they did up to 6 exams with this format.
I cover more than 10 chapters in a semester. Stuff from before the midterm goes on one bubble sheet, and stuff from after the midterm goes on a second one. My question sheets are on two colors of paper: white from before the midterm or pink from after the midterm. All the answers from white question sheets go on one bubble sheet, all the answers from the pink question sheets go on another bubble sheet. See the pattern in the colors? Some of the students noted above did not, even though they did up to 6 exams with this format.
My final is just retaking poor scores from early in the semester to replace them with new (and hopefully better scores), and make-ups. Most students take a shot at a handful of chapters. They get extra credit for letting me know in advance what quizzes I should copy for them.
Suppose we measure a candidate’s “whiteness” by the ratio of their level of white support to their level of nonwhite support within their party. Donald Trump seems to be somewhere around 1.3 – 1.5. Bernie Sanders is somewhere from 3 – 10. It isn’t even close. If any candidate is “playing to the politics of white insecurity” or “preaching to the white electorate” or “harnessing the white vote”, it is he.
(though I should clarify that in a general election, Sanders would no doubt garner much higher nonwhite support than Trump just because of the D after his name. We’re only talking about relative to other people in their own party here)
This explains a couple of otherwise mysterious things. How is Sanders on track to win in Iowa and New Hampshire when he is losing so badly nationally? Well, because Iowa and New Hampshire are two of the whitest states in the country. And how come I keep hearing people say “I’m sure Sanders will win, because even though the media and Big Business support Hillary, everybody I know supports Sanders”? Well, are those people white? Is their entire friend group white? Do they live in very strongly white areas? Then Sanders probably has much higher support among their friends and neighbors than he does nationally.
To be honest with you, I’m not that surprised. I see some flirtation with Sanders in the students and faculty at my whiter-than-most, otherwise conservative, university.
What can we learn there? We’re in a long, modest upswing in grades, following a pause after a big run-up in the 60’s:
We can also see there that private schools are worse.
A lot of this seems to be shifting C’s to B’s, and B’s to A’s, but on net this makes it look like a shift from C’s to A’s:
And the spread between humanities and social sciences is getting broader:
At my school, one of the six colleges actually brags that they don’t like to give anything other than A’s and B’s, and that they try to counsel students out of majors in that college if they feel like they'd have to give them something lower. Unfortunately, that college is already regarded as the academically weakest one on campus.
I’m a sucker for choropleths: maps shaded by the incidence of some other variable.
A geographer has mapped out the U.S. based on which swear words people use in their tweets.
Here’s the map for the hot, new, swear word: fuckboy (Urban Dictionary says that’s a synonym for … Justin Bieber). I’d never even heard that one before I saw this image:
Fascinating. To the extent that the movers and shakers of swearing are on the coasts, it seems that this word is going to arrive here in the high desert fairly soon.
Truth be told, I grew up in the suburbs of the blue collar northeast, the baby boomer son of a guy who’d been in the army during World War II. So I grew up with a ton of swearing, and I still swear more than most adults of my social strata.
But now I live in Utah, where swearing for many amounts to saying “My heck”, and “Fudge”. That’s not the majority at all, but there’s a significant plurality that do say those things.
So, going back to more traditional Carlin-esque swear words, here’s what they called the F dash dash dash word in A Christmas Story:
Sure enough, that’s popular where I grew up and I still use it.
Here’s the one that’s currently popular with my whole family: douche:
What’s popular in rural southwestern Utah besides douche? Slut. Crap. And faggot (confirming that for a lot of pop culture, Utah seems to cheerfully adopt things a few decades late, even if they were once regarded as offensive).
FWIW: I have some trouble in class from time to time. When I run up against a political viewpoint that’s incorrect from the standpoint of conventional economics, it’s often useful to call it “bullshit” for shock value. The thing is, in ranching country, it doesn’t have much shock value but it’s still regarded as swearing. Think about that for a minute: it’s still regarded as a swear word yet it doesn’t have much shock value. Odd.
There’s many more where these came from: bastard, whore, slut, pussy, hell, crap, gosh, damn, cunt, motherfucker, faggot, asshole, bitch, and shit.
Suppose there are 2 employers and 4 potential workers.
Does pay 2 people a wage in exchange for their labor,
Does not pay 1 person who works for the other employer, and
Does not pay 1 person who doesn’t work at all.
Does pay 1 person a wage in exchange for their labor,
Does not pay 2 people who work for the other employer, and
Does not pay 1 person who doesn’t work at all.
Who is morally superior, Employer A or Employer B? Most people would say Employer A is morally superior because they employ more people. But it’s a tough call, and arguably neither one is morally superior.
But almost no one would argue that Employer B is morally superior.
That’s actually kind of important, because the cop out commonly used in an exercise like this is that it matters how much the people are paid and how much work they have to do. I don’t think so: why on Earth would you presume that someone is trying to trick you with this example? Simply assume everyone is getting paid the same for the same amount of work. No biggie.
Yet, this is exactly what the typical American is doing when they claim that the minimum wage should be raised. Doesn’t this make the position of most people on the minimum wage immoral?
This is because the typical American doesn’t employ anyone at all. So actually, they’re more like this:
Pays no one an receives no labor in exchange
Does not pay 3 people who work for the other employers, and
Does not pay 1 person who doesn’t work at all.
It’s a no brainer when you actually write it out that way. And do note that this includes people who don’t pay their spouses for doing the dishes, or the kids for mowing the lawn.
Returning to Southwood:
Walmart employs 1.2 million people in the US, more than any other private firm. Why is Walmart any more obligated to pay high wages to 1.2 million people than you or I? Does Walmart's decision to provide jobs for these people automatically obligate them to provide pay above a certain level?
What makes this complicated is that you, these journalists, and I employ zero people (or close enough by comparison), which means we effectively pay 1.2 million people a wage of $0/hour.
Walmart critics embrace two moral standards: in the first, morality requires payment of high wages to 1.2 million people. In the second, morality can be achieved without employing anyone at all--that is, by paying zero wages. Most of us have chosen to live by the second standard, and from our lofty moral position we can criticize Walmart for not meeting the first standard. How convenient!
N.B. Do note that this argument also carries over to other strong moral positions. For example, most people in favor of allowing gays to get married aren’t actually marrying any of them themselves. So what they’re really in favor of if forcing others to do something that they’re not prepared to do themselves. Our moral positions are more reasonable about stuff like “you should cook a couple of burgers for this couple because they’re gay”, which we quickly recognize as problematic.
* The argument I make in class is not my own, but its origin is lost in the mists of my middle-aged mind. It starts with a student complaining about the price of a product, say gasoline. I then ask them at what price they sell gas. The light bulbs start to go off over students heads when they realize that they are the high cost seller complaining about the low cost seller not undercutting them enough.
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