Virtual Bourgeois

Just An Analog Guy Trying to Upgrade For a Digital World

Archive for May, 2008

Post Commencement Rant

Posted by Gerald on May 13, 2008

It is 11:30 and I just got back from a post-commencement dinner with a couple of my friends and co-workers.

I’m not going to re-cap the ceremony – commencements are pretty standard and this was no exception -except for one thing that is really bothering me.  I made a last minute suggestion about the program which the organizers agreed to.  After hearing a couple of my colleagues talking about what really mattered to them at their commencement ceremonies, I suggested that after the recessional I should lead the faculty over to where the new grads were picking up their diplomas (like many colleges we do this separately since you can’t be sure who might actually be there – it minimizes confusion).  There was an outdoor reception and my thought was that we would line up on either side of the sidewalk running between the tables where they were picking up their diplomas and where the food was laid out.  This would allow us to congratulate the new grads – applause and hand-shakes directly from their instructors.  Well, I led them.

About ten actually joined me.

Everyone else ran over to get free food and drinks, then dropped their robes in their offices and left.

It will be no surprise to my regular readers to hear that my social science colleagues all came over.  So did my good friend Steve and a couple people from his department, two of the ladies who teach cosmetology, and the dean of our division.  Conspicuous with their absence were several people who like to give long speeches about their dedication to their teaching and their students.

I’m increasingly angry, though not particularly surprised.

I’m not surprised because many of these people started complaining the minute we lined up.  When I announced what we were doing, a Senate colleague of mine who likes to talk about how dedicated she is looked at me incredulously and said “Well whose bright idea was that!?!”  It took all I had not to snap back – “Mine, bitch!”

I know I’ve been heard to complain loudly (and on this blog) about unmotivated and uncaring students, but the majority of those people never finish.  For the rest, this is the only commencement most of these people are ever going to have.  Most of them aren’t the gifted or the well-prepared.  Those who make it through are a minority, and most of them had to put forward a lot more effort for their two-year degree than I did for mine.  I was always good at school.  Most of them aren’t.  If we think what we are doing is worthwhile, then this damn ceremony is the symbolic moment when the rubber meets the road.  We should take it seriously and remember it, like the whole damn thing, is supposed to be about them, not us.  Sure, many of them – maybe most – don’t care, but we are doing this for the ones who do. 

I get that it was a long ceremony, etc…, but if my seven-months pregnant department chair could run (figuratively) over for a much needed bathroom break and then come and join us, the rest could have as well.  It is easy to talk a good game about commitment to students and dedication, and all this crap but it is by showing up for a little thing like this – little to us but obviously touching to many of those students – that gives those words meaning.  If the faculty are going to demonstrate this kind of apathy, why should we expect anything different from our students.  If we are to lead we must do first by example.

Tonight I’m more proud than I can express of the friends and colleagues who joined me on that short line and who tried to make up in enthusiasm for what we lacked in numbers.  I’m ashamed of the rest.  Maybe that isn’t being fair or reasonable, but I really don’t care.

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Commencement Day

Posted by Gerald on May 13, 2008

Today is commencement in my corner of academia.  I just finished running a lint roller over my robe and hood.  A colleague volunteered to iron the stuff for me (I’m afraid to take it home – I have a long-haired blonde dog and carpeting.)  In addition to robe and hood and silly hat I’ve decided to wear my honor cords from Phi Alph Theta.  Strictly this is a violation of the rules, but I never got to wear them during my actual commencement (long story) and my colleague is wearing hers, so I’m going for it.

Unlike usual, I’m not just going to be sitting with my colleagues at this one.  Since I’m Senate president this year, I’ve got to lead the faculty in then go up on the podium.  I’m going to call the proceedings to order, recognize our faculty and staff excellence award winners, present the candidates for graduation (for each degree or certificate I wait until all their names are called and then get up and “present” them to the college president who then confers the degree), and then I lead the faculty out.

While I’m happy for our graduates, I am not looking forward to taking part in the ceremony.  I can’t wait until this is over.

Meanwhile, we are (mostly) all here at work but since grades are already in nobody is really doing much except visiting.  I generally like this day.  Everything is relaxed and most everyone is in a good mood.  We have to start gearing up for summer soon, but today is not that day.

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Blogging and Waiting

Posted by Gerald on May 8, 2008

There has been enough activity in my area that local TV has been showing continuous weather coverage.  Numerous severe thunderstorm warnings and tornado warning along with hail, heavy lightning, etc…

I’ve been in the strange position of having a major series of storms to the west moving north east and a big storm to the east going in the same direction.  Here there has been no rain, no noticeable wind, it has been quiet all night – so far.  Still, the whole region is under a tornado watch until 1:00 am, and this one is serious.  So I’m waiting and watching.

I’ve slept through a lot of this.  I haven’t left work any night this week until 6:30 at the earliest.  I’m mostly through my grading and expect to be done tomorrow sometime.

Best line from an essay so far has been one about “The Scrabble for Africa”.

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I’m Ready!

Posted by Gerald on May 5, 2008

Tomorrow is the NC primary and since I do not have an exam in the morning I’m going to go vote on the way to work.

For people from states that do not regularly schedule their primaries in May, you might not realize how exciting this is.  Someone is actually sort of paying attention to the vote here!  Sure, you almost forget our primary given the press coverage: “Tomorrow is the all important primary in Indiana!  They’re also voting in North Carolina…”  But still.

I actually got a robocall from Hillary yesterday and one from Bill, for Hillary, today.  The blinking light on my answering machine suggests I’ve got another one – maybe Barack?  People who live in cities and are inundated with these won’t get the novelty.  I live in a rural county that, I believe, last voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate when LBJ ran in 1964.  I’m used to robocalls for the local races, but I’ve NEVER gotten one here for a national race.

I spent much of the evening at the website for the NC Center for Voter Education.  I made my picks for President, Governor, and the person who Elizabeth Dole is going to defeat in November (my least favorite Senator – I preferred Helms, he at least had an honest commitment to this state) already.  My task was to figure out who I wanted for the Council of State posts (Labor Commissioner, State Auditor, etc…).

I started out with the NARAL and NCEA (the teacher’s non-union in our “right to work” paradise – affiliated with the much hated NEA) voter guides.  Then the Center for Voter Education website, which has a collection of podcast interviews with most of the candidates for state offices, including the non-partisan judicial posts.  I decided that to just reject those who didn’t interview out of hand.  If you can’t find time for this, you don’t have time for the job.  That got me through everything but our district court race and that sorted out through some judicious searching through on-line articles from our local papers.

So tomorrow morning I’ll head out for the polls armed with my list (written on the back of an Oxfam envelope) and go hit my polling place.  As usual, I’m sure the workers there will be surprised to see an actual breathing registered Democrat come in to vote.

I remember my father taking me in with him to vote sometime back in the 1972 election (he was a Nixon man to the bitter end).  Standing next to him in the old voting machine, he picked me up to let me press the lever for Nixon.  That moment had a sacred quality to my young mind that going to church never had.  I have had a certain sense of religion, but I once had faith in the United States of America.  As I grew up, I was more excited as a teenager about the prospect of voting than I was about driving.  I volunteered for my first political campaign when I was 16.  One of my teachers was running for county commissioner.  I got my first experience with cold calling, knocking on doors, and with angry people who didn’t want Wheel of Fortune interrupted and didn’t want to see me in any case – good experience for when I later worked as a bill collector in college.  He didn’t win, which some might take as proof of the divine.  I kept that excitement through college.  I loved election night.  I was a politics junkie.  That survived my switching ends of the political spectrum, a growing maturity in my understanding of my country, and even Bill Clinton’s decision that the sexualized needs of his ego were more important than his party, his presidency, or even the dignity of his office.

That all ended in 2000.  Bush the Younger was the first candidate I had opposed not just because I disagreed with him (as I had his father) but because I thought he would be bad for the country.  His smarmy self-satisfaction and total lack of engagement just seemed so clear to me.  Still, after Florida and the courts, I told myself that his victory wasn’t so bad.  The republic had weathered Civil War and the Great Depression, how bad could he be?

Eight years later I’ve lost most of my remaining faith in democracy and in this country.  Still, for the first time in years I’m feeling an echo of that old excitement.

Maybe there is a chance.

Maybe.

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Damn Allergies

Posted by Gerald on May 4, 2008

I’m on day five of an allergy attack of epic proportions.  I’m told we’ve been setting pollen level records hereabouts.  This is definitely turning into one of the worst seasons I can remember out of forty-some years of this crap.

Tuesday night it just moved into my lungs and plugged them up.  I was dry coughing for the first two days.  As of Saturday the sinuses opened up and began draining down my throat.  Thanks to Mucinex D, I am doing better today, but I’m still snuffling a lot and coughing a bit and my eyes are so watery that I can’t really read or write much.

When I was diagnosed with this stuff as a kid, I was told that I could at least look forward to this easing in middle age.  Several eminent health professionals have offered me the same comfort since.

Damn liars.

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