Archive for the ‘Campus Issues’ Category

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Scary Times in the Classroom

posted: 5.5.15 by Traci Gardner

Wednesday morning, the Virginia Tech community woke up to find a Crime Alert emailed by the campus police department, giving us these details:

Last evening at approximately 11:15 p.m., a statement appeared on Yik Yak which read “Another 4.16 moment is going to happen tomorrow. Just a warning”.

For us, this was more than a generic threat, even if the police had indicated that there was no evidence this was “a credible threat.” [read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues, Traci Gardner
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Writing about Campus Rape

posted: 12.2.14 by Steve Bernhardt

I am having a hard time not thinking about the disturbing Rolling Stone exposé on the rape culture at the University of Virginia. If you have not read it, stop right now, follow that link, and think about your campus culture.

Reporter Sabrina Rubin Erdely doggedly pursues a story focused on the experience of a first-year woman student, Jackie [read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues, Steve Bernhardt
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Student’s Violent Outburst, Part Four

posted: 4.25.12 by Barclay Barrios

(Please note that the video discussed in this post contains violence and offensive language. Many of the comments left on YouTube are also offensive.)

In thinking about a student’s recent outburst  outburst at my school, I’ve considered what it says about students’ digital literacy, what it says about race, and what I would do in that situation. For this last post, I’d like to consider the student herself.

There’s still a lot we don’t know. However, there are some things we do know. We know, for example, from the local CBC coverage:

Just 24 hours earlier, a calm Carr was captured on CBS 4 helping to organize a bus trip to central Florida for a rally to support the family of Trayvon Martin the unarmed teenager who was shot to death allegedly by the head of the neighborhood Crime Watch.

[read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues
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Student’s Violent Outburst, Part One

posted: 4.4.12 by Barclay Barrios

(Please note that the video discussed in this post contains violence and offensive language. Many of the comments left on YouTube are also offensive.)

This past Tuesday, as I was getting ready to fly out to St. Louis for the Conference on College Composition and Communication, as I was polishing my talk on students reading and writing in New Media, a disturbing example of students’ digital literacies at my school went viral. During a discussion of peacocks in a class on evolution, one of the students became disruptive and violent. In a powerful example of unofficial digital literacies, several students used their cell phones to capture the incident, which ended up on YouTube.

As of this writing, the video has had over 195,000 views, and the entire incident has moved from student/citizen journalism to various online and mainstream news outlets.

There is so much packed into this incident that I’d like to dedicate a series of posts to it. I think it has that much to say. More importantly, I think we have that much to learn from it.

For starters, given the subject of my talk, I’d like to think about this in terms of digital literacy.  We live in a world not just of surveillance, with cameras watching us all the time and with Google or Facebook knowing everything about us, but of sousvelliance. The term comes from  “Sousveillance: Inventing and Using Wearable Computing Devices for Data Collection in Surveillance Environments.” In the article, authors Steve Mann, Jason Nolan, and Barry Wellman define the term:

One way to challenge and problematize both surveillance and acquiescence to it is to resituate these technologies of control on individuals, offering panoptic technologies to help them observe those in authority. We call this inverse panopticon “sousveillance” from the French words for “sous” (below) and “veiller” to watch. (332) [read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues
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Violence, Schools, Teaching

posted: 3.7.12 by Barclay Barrios

As a teacher, I find the intersection of schools and violence particular shattering. I’ve been thinking about the recent shooting in Ohio and how I might address this type of event in my classroom.

Two readings come to mind. The first is “Community and Diversity” by Rebekah Nathan. Nathan (whose real name is Cathy Small) is an anthropologist who enrolled as a freshman at her school to study student life. In this particular selection, she traces the gap between the ideals of community and diversity promoted by universities and the realities of how students relate to one another. Bringing this reading to bear on school violence, I think, would highlight some of the stakes in community and diversity in ways that Nathan doesn’t consider.

I’d sequence that assignment with Joan Didion’s “After Life,” an essay about Didion’s grief following the loss of her husband. Didion has a particular concept that always resonates for me: the ordinary instant. One moment life is just going along and in the very next, in that simple and ordinary instant, everything changes forever. I’m all too familiar with these moments, though my students are often too young to have experienced them. But it’s a useful concept to apply to school violence.

What’s more, by pairing Nathan and Didion, I could encourage students to think about how communities form around grief. More importantly, I could get them to think about how to form communities before the ordinary instant.

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Categories: Campus Issues
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Working Towards Better Conditions for Adjuncts

posted: 2.14.12 by Traci Gardner

3553802352_9726ae033c_mI’ve heard discussion of poor working conditions and low pay for teachers for decades. Everyone seems to recognize that a great number of teachers are not paid adequately for their work.

This is particularly the case for adjuncts, who frequently pick up classes wherever they can. They usually have no long-term job security and are typically paid far less than those on the tenure track to do the same work. In the classroom, adjuncts are a bargain in a system that is constantly trying to cut costs.

Most of my readers probably already know all that. It’s not exactly a secret in higher ed. StiAnd so, few steps have been taken (at least by the institutes of higher learning) to correct the situation. I know many advocates of better and fairer conditions for adjuncts, but as we all battle mthe onolithic structures of tenure and professorial privilege, it’s hard to make headway.

This week, I’d like to ask you to help.

Late last month MLA President Michael Bérubé reported on the New Faculty Majority summit “Reclaiming Academic Democracy: Facing the Consequences of Contingent Employment in Higher Education.” Pointing to the MLA Recommendation on Minimum Per-Course Compensation for Part-Time Faculty Members, Bérubé stated that part-time (in other words, contingent or adjunct) faculty should receive a minimum salary of $6,800 for each three-credit course. He explained, not surprisingly to those of us who have worked at adjuncts, that “as far as we can tell from the data we have collected thus far, only 7% of departments in the modern languages are meeting or exceeding this recommendation (yes, some are exceeding it).” [read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues
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posted: 12.6.11 by Steve Bernhardt

At the University of Delaware, only a single semester of IntroComp is required of first-year students, so activities are compressed and course goals need to be well focused. As we move quickly through the final week of fall term, I reflect not only on what we were able to accomplish in my class, but on what we were not.

I usually have at least one collaborative writing assignment that requires students to compose with another student or as part of a team, but because this term I was trying not to overload students, I decided not to include it. I like collaborative assignments, because students must talk together as they plan, research, and draft, learning from each other in the process. I tend to favor assignments that move writing from an individual task toward a more social activity. It’s important to learn how to work toward a shared outcome and a shared reward in a well-constructed text. I suspect that more often than not, when we talk about collaboration in Intro to Comp, we have in mind peer review, but not full-fledged collaborative authoring. On the single assignment where I suggested collaboration as an option, only one pair of students took me up on the offer, and they produced an excellent text. Next time, I’d like to find a way to require more collaboration. [read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues, Classroom Challenges and Solutions
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WAW for Occupied Campuses

posted: 11.30.11 by Elizabeth Wardle and Douglas Downs

Downs pic for BitsDoug

I don’t know exactly the place the UC Davis gassing might have in a writing-about-writing course, but I think it has one, and so I’m thinking about that moment as I write this post, four days after the event.

I’m thinking about it in the framework of Cory Doctorow’s young-adult novel Little Brother, which I’m also musing about finding a place for in my WAW courses. Its scene is a post-911 dystopia created by Department of Homeland Security uber-surveillance in the name of public safety. There are a number of chilling scenes, including a youth gathering being gassed for failing to disperse on command. (You can see why it came to mind.) Little Brother opens with the Bay Bridge being blown up by terrorists. The teenage protagonist is arrested because he was skipping school and was swept up by police in the chaos. Taken to a secret DHS detention facility, he refuses to divulge the password for his smart phone, which provokes a harsh reaction. His friends, also arrested, say, “’They really hated you… really had it in for you. Why?’”  They conclude, “It had been sheer vindictiveness….A mere punishment for denying their authority….They did it to get back at me for mouthing off.’” [read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues, Writing about Writing
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The Graduation Speech

posted: 5.16.11 by archived

For many of us, the spring semester has come to an end. We may be grading the last few papers, planning a summer of leisure or a summer of research, or (if you are like me) preparing to teach the summer session. One common event happening across campuses is graduation. So in today’s post, I want to share some links and ideas about the graduation, or commencement, address.

The graduation speech is an interesting but often underexplored (and poorly delivered) genre. As Al Gore said in his commencement address at Johns Hopkins University in 2005: “in preparing my remarks, in all seriousness I tried very hard to remember who spoke at my commencement in 1969. I have no idea. Unless I’ve just tricked you into remembering, my bet is that thirty years from now you won’t have any idea what was said here.” I can’t remember who spoke at my own graduation ceremony. I just remember having to kneel while someone touched a sword to my shoulder. (No, I wasn’t being knighted—Canadian graduation ceremonies are just strange.)

Scholars like Lois Agnew have written about the complex rhetorical situation of these speeches. The speaker is not necessarily expected to speak freely. (Agnew examines the audience’s negative reaction to New York Times reporter Chris Hedges’ antiwar speech at Rockford College in 2003.) Unlike other forms of public rhetoric, the speaker is expected to congratulate, offer advice, make jokes, tell an inspirational story. But not necessarily to put forward a challenging idea or opinion. The result of this rhetorical difficulty is that many of these speeches are forgettable—because many of them are bland and similar, full of inspirational clichés and safe and simple life lessons. But as we know as teachers, the strict conventions of some genre often produce interesting communicative results. [read more]

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Categories: Campus Issues, Jay Dolmage
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Texting IS Writing

posted: 5.12.11 by Andrea Lunsford

Recently, I followed a thread on the WPA Listserv pondering the question, “Is texting writing?”  The thread took off, from Jeff Grabill’s appearance on Inside Higher Education’s “Academic Minute.” Jeff took his minute to  question those who continue to bemoan the state of literacy today. (Since the 1880s, we have had a “literacy crisis” roughly every thirty years in the United States, so the current one is just an echo of many others—just with different technologies as the culprit.) People, Grabill argued, fail to recognize that young generations today are writing—and I would add reading—more than at any time in the history of the world; this is what I mean when I talk about a “literacy revolution.”  Those who view any change as a decline see new literacies, those enabled by digital technologies, as cause of diminished literacy.  Instead, as Grabill pointed out, literacy today is just different than it was 50 years ago, changing and shifting and morphing—as literacy always has.  Students today are particularly good at communicating through text messaging and through the use of social media such as Facebook and Twitter.  And they have an acute sense of audience and purpose, what I think of as rhetorical awareness, though they wouldn’t use that phrase.

Perhaps most of all, they are inseparable from their phones, which Grabill called “the new pencil.”  With these phones, they are keeping in touch with friends and family, taking notes, writing texts of all kinds—even novels. (The cell phone novel has been a phenomenon in Japan for some time now.)  So YES, texting is writing, and we need to be paying very close attention to it and learning from our students how they are using this new “pencil.”  I expect that textual features will change under the influence of this medium, just as such features changed with the advent of print type.  Looking back, we can see the average paragraph length shorten as newspapers became ubiquitous—those narrow columns needed to be broken up to be reader friendly—and over the decades paragraphs in other genres got shorter too.  Trying to understand changes to conventions and patterns of communication is one reason I ask my students to talk with me about the apps they find most useful, about how many different kinds of writing they do with their phones, and about what they think characterizes effective text messages.  They have a lot to say about all these issues, and I for one am ready to listen.

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Categories: Campus Issues, Critical Thinking
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