Sunday, January 25, 2015

Back to work....

Among a myriad of important things that happened this week, school started back Tuesday.  (Monday was MLK Day, so the college was closed.)  This means that I've only seen three of my classes once, but I'm looking forward to getting to know them better this week.

That said, I've seen my 1301 classes twice now, and they're really wonderful and on the ball, and doing a fantastic job.  They made me really happy on Thursday, and I can definitely tell that I've got a group of hard-workers who are on the ball.

In some cases, spring semester seems easier.  Most of the students have at least a semester under the belt, and so they're a little more cognizant of what they need to do.  That said, the idea that spring is easier is one of those old teacher's tales and not always true.

My 1302 class is themed around food.  I'm enjoying this idea very much.  Even though I've only seen the class once, I'm already having fun with it.  I read a lot of news each day, so I've been collecting links here and there to stories about food.  What I'm going to do with all of them, I have no idea, but at the very least, it'll be nice to put together a little compendium of links that students can explore for ideas for their research.

I'm looking forward to teaching my British Lit I class tomorrow morning as well, as we will start delving into Beowulf.  (Yes, Mom, I can hear you groaning over it 1200 miles away.)  Our first class started with going over the syllabus and an overview of how English became English.

Speaking of the syllabus, I gave a syllabus quiz to my 1301 students on Thursday, and my 1302 students will get one tomorrow.  The first question on the quiz is "What's my name?"

You will not believe how many people get that wrong.

Dear Husband made a suggestion about bringing my papasan chair to my office.  I think it might be one of the best suggestions he's ever had, and I can't wait to actually bring it.  Someplace comfortable to sit and grade!  I might bring an afghan too, as it can get rather chilly in my office sometimes.  Not this week, though.  I had to let my 1301 classes go early Thursday because it was 85 degrees in the classrooms and just really unbearable.  Dr. Dave used to say that the mind cannot absorb what the rear cannot endure, but I think the statement holds true for heat as well.

Part of the reason that the heat has been on at school had been because it's been cold--or at least, what passes for cold in South Texas.  Home got several inches of snow, and in the meantime, I turned the air conditioner back on in our house yesterday, as things are starting to warm up down here.  The English building is a bit like Peck Hall (or like any non-new building at EKU), and changing the temperature can be a problem.  Like so many other places, the key seems to be layers.  Also, I'm seriously considering just stuffing a T-shirt into my bag that I can wear between classes.

DH actually had Saturday off for the first time in a really long time this weekend, which was very pleasant.  Instead of working at work, he worked his butt off here at home, doing dishes and laundry and yardwork and cleaning out the car.  I've not felt well, so I've not been much help, but he's been busy and productive and generally all around wonderful the way he usually is.  He and I spent part of yesterday afternoon watching the first week of the League of Legends Championship Series spring split yesterday, and watched the final game this evening.  He may have spent some time shouting during the last game at TSM.

This week has been a great week.  Here's hoping for another fantastic one.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Well, this is late.

Yeah, this is later than I meant it to be.  Sue me.

Today is the first day of classes here, and I started out with my 1301 classes this morning.  For the first time, I had a class in which everyone showed up the first day.  I was amazed.

Tomorrow begins with British Lit I and a lesson on Indo-European languages and the development of English, then two 1302 classes back to back in the afternoon.  I have several repeating students this semester, so it's going to be nice to see friendly faces.  (If they're taking 1302 with me after having 1301 with me, I consider them friendly.)

Last week was the dreaded Week of Meetings.  I made it to almost all of them.  Faculty Professional Development day was Thursday morning...and I completely and utterly forgot.  It was in my calendar and everything.  Made it to the department meeting that afternoon, not so much professional development that morning, which was really a bummer, as I'd been looking forward to a colleague's stress reduction workshop.

Meetings started with convocation, which was, in my opinion, a disaster.  Not because the meeting was a disaster, but because of new federal guidelines that are being shoved on us through Title IX.

Let me explain.  I love Title IX.  Title IX is great.  It does a lot for women in academia and education.

That said, a new policy has come down (and whether or not all of it is the federal government or the college remains somewhat unclear).  Any instance of sexual violence regarding a Del Mar faculty, staff or student, must be reported--whether it happened on campus or not.

My problem is not with reporting.  God knows if something happened on campus, the college needs to know about it.  But off campus?

Here's the other thing--it has to be reported.  The victim doesn't get to say, "Please don't tell anyone."  Well, they do, but that request can't be honored.

I understand the intention behind this.  People are concerned that one student may cyber-stalk another or something along those lines.  But here's the thing:

Professors are often in a position where we are neutral figures a student can come speak to.  We know where resources are, we won't tell anyone, and we can provide advice.  English professors deal with this even more, because students often pour their hearts and souls into the writing, so they feel even more comfortable with us.  But now, if a student comes to me and tells me about something that happened to her (or him), even if it was off campus, I'm required to report it to a coordinator here at the college, no matter what the student's wishes are.

That's wrong.

Someone who has been a victim of sexual violence has already been through a horrific violation.  Now, if they come to me, I then have to betray that trust that they've put in me by reporting it up the chain, when the college has no interest, no claim, and no jurisdiction on anything that happens off campus.

So I have the following questions:

1. Isn't this a vast over-reach of college/university power?  What happens on a college campus is the responsibility of the college--I have no qualms about that.  But off-campus, a state-run college has no right to interfere with a student's life in any way.

2. Do off-campus incidents get included in the college's Clery Act reporting?

3. Is this, in fact, all from the federal government, or is the college placing additional restrictions on this that should not be there?  The policy has been approved by college lawyers, so my guess is that this is all from the federal government, as this over-reach might otherwise be something that could hold the college liable for privacy breaches.

4. Won't this have a detrimental effect on the reporting of sexual violence to authorities or in a victim seeking emotional and psychological help?  Students who have been victims (and who are aware of this policy) sometimes simply need someone to talk to.  I'm not a psychologist, but I can help students find other resources and encourage them to use them.  But if a student thinks that someone else will find out, or that it might become part of their college record (no matter how confidential), that may keep them from talking about it.

We already have a problem with under-reporting of sexual violence.  Let's not help that along.

5. Is the college counseling office exempt from this duty due to medical confidentiality?  My understanding (admittedly limited) was yes.  There was some fuzzy wording that suggested that counseling, clergy, members of the outside community were people we wanted students to speak to.

6. Does this mean that the college is simply trying to pass the buck when it comes to students who have been victims of sexual violence?

7. Do we not have a duty, as faculty, to stand up and point out that this is wrong?

I may have done that during Convocation.  But I was really, really angry about this.

I don't have answers for these.  I imagine that this is going to be a continuing discussion around the college (at least, I hope it is).  And that means that someone--several someones--are going to have to start protesting this to the federal government, which can withhold funds if we aren't in compliance.

In other's a mess.  A very tangled, unhappy mess that is essentially going to make everyone angry.  I'm still pissed, and this was over a week ago.

There were some other things that went on last week that made it particularly eventful.  I'm really hoping this week looks up.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

This week in the life...

I would say that this week has been uneventful, but that's not true at all.  Still, that's a story for another day.  Other than that, this week has actually been uneventful.  Dear Husband went back to work and his office is desperately preparing for the week from hell that will be next week with express registration.

Naturally, DH woke up coughing, congested, and pitiful this morning, so we stayed home from church.  He must not be too sick, though, because his cat isn't bothering him, and she can get very attentive when you aren't feeling well.

In other news, we got the bill from the hospital for his misadventure with the utility knife over Thanksgiving, and that was a reason to give thanks, given that we are paying about ten percent of the entire hospital bill.  It was rather wonderful.

This week, I mostly knocked about the house.  Did some laundry, regular housework, and while DH was working hard, I honestly lazed about a bit.  To be fair, I haven't felt very well this week, but as I start back Monday myself, I've been unashamedly taking advantage of the time off to sleep.  The grand sum of the work I've done this week was to file a grade change form, and revise two of my syllabi (but not the schedules).  I'll finish all of that up this week.  I have two meetings Monday, work registration on Tuesday, and have meetings on Thursday and Friday, so I'll be in and out of the office with plenty of time to work.

It's been on the cooler side of things in South Texas this week.  Temperatures have (*gasp*) dipped below freezing one or two nights this week!  Day time temps have been in the forties, and people are wearing their heavy coats, hats, and gloves.  Meanwhile, I keep going out in a hoodie or pullover, and get strange looks from the natives, who think I've gone crazy, because winter with temperatures well below zero, as they have been back home, are much more 'winter-y' to me.

I suppose I should rephrase my earlier statement.  It has mostly been uneventful here.  Like many people, I've followed the events in France during and following the attack on Charlie Hebdo with horror.  It's been one of those things that's hit particularly hard for me, because I make my living with words--teaching, reading, writing--words make up my life.

Yes, Charlie Hebdo's cartoons were often offensive and racist.  No, that did not mean that anyone there deserved what happened to them.  Ideally, freedom of speech means that you can share ideas freely and without retribution for them.  Realistically, it also means that you can share yourself being a general asshole about subjects from A to Z.  But supporting freedom of speech often means supporting speech that you personally find distasteful.

At the same time this week--unnoticed and unreported by most news sources--an NAACP office in Colorado was also the site of an attempted bombing.  These events are truly frightening, and I don't really know what to say about them.  What do we do?  How can we be agents of love and peace in a world where such awful things can happen?

It's something I've been contemplating this week, and that I imagine I will continue to contemplate in weeks ahead.  In the meantime, all I can do is continue to hope and pray that the human race can somehow find themselves to be the good, kind people we know that we can actually be.

Monday, January 5, 2015

....And we're back!

It's been a big two and a half weeks since we left Texas for Kentucky for the holidays, and there's so much to tell, I can't even begin to think of all of it.  So I'll do my best, and we'll go from there.  (This list is no particular order.)

1. We bought a car!  Thanks to the very wonderful relationship my FIL has with the Tim Short dealership in Hazard, we were able to afford a brand new Jeep Cherokee.  It's lovely.  We'll be selling the Saturn, as its time has probably come.  On the other hand, Dear Husband's boss has already called first dibs on buying it!

2. I learned that despite my nightmares of being unable to run/scream in case of some sort of danger, my reptilian hindbrain works just fine in real life situations.  We were over at Snarky Writer's house during our last stop on our world tour when the SWAT team invaded two apartments over.  We heard shouting (not unusual), a thud (odd, but not out of the ordinary-this was the SWAT team bursting into the apartment), and then a shotgun blast (fired by the police, not the perpetrators), at which point, SW's husband shouted for us all to get down, and everyone's bodies seemed to obey without thinking about it.  Naturally, we have no idea why any of this happened, as the news has not picked it up.

3. I crocheted an entire afghan in UK colors.  This seemed appropriate after UK stomped UCLA and then proceeded to beat down on UofL.  I'd forgotten how much I really enjoy crocheting.

4. The kitties were unhappy while we were gone.  According to DH's co-worker, who cat-sat for us, she never saw Ding or Bergie. Cat, on the other hand, made friends with her.

We came home to find that someone had puked all over the house (Bergie), which was not all that unexpected, as they'd had unimpeded access to food, and he tends to do that when he overeats.  When I walked up to the door, I could see through the window and saw Ding sitting on the kitchen table.  *facepalm*  And then, I discovered that four of my Willow Tree figurines had been knocked off the bookshelf and are now in several pieces.  Fortunately, DH is going to try to patch them up for me.

5. I got new Jamberrys in Stewart plaid.  All of the SILs got Jams for Christmas.

6. DH bought me the most beautiful blue diamond earrings to match my engagement ring.  They are absolutely beautiful.

7. I'm sure I have more, but I can't think of them right now.  But watch this space for more exciting news in the near future.

All in all, I think 2015 is going to be a pretty good year.