Recommended reads #65


Teaching grownups how to eat. How to acquire an actual taste for healthful food after you become an adult.

The AAUW reports that 91% of campuses reported zero incidents of rape in 2014. That’s a problem. Because that number is obviously wrong, so underreporting needs to be addressed.

Did you get a cruelty-free bird from Whole Foods for Thanksgiving yetsterday? Apparently, you didn’t.

538 returns to the difficulty that people have understanding p-values:

What I learned by asking all these very smart people to explain p-values is that I was on a fool’s errand. Try to distill the p-value down to an intuitive concept and it loses all its nuances and complexity, said science journalist Regina Nuzzo, a statistics professor at Gallaudet University. “Then people get it wrong, and this is why statisticians are upset and scientists are confused.” You can get it right, or you can make it intuitive, but it’s all but impossible to do both.

P-values might not necessarily always represent the actual probability that the null hypothesis is correct, but it’s also not such a weak relationship that we should abandon the p-value.

The New Yorker comes up with a quiz based on Randall Munroe’s new book. (That’s the xkcd guy.)

Seasonal retail and final exams. This is an important one, especially if you work on a campus that has any students who work off campus.

Why Australia [and others] need a new model for universities. This argues for an investment in truly public universities. Like those that made California the tops in higher education, and as the state has disinvested in our universities, it’s harmed the state’s economy and progress.

A book review of, “The Only Woman in the Room: Why Science Is Still a Boys’ Club”

Oh my, I had no idea that Scott Adams (the creator of Dilbert) is such a hideous person and misogynist. Seriously, ever since I’ve read this, I can’t even bring myself to read his comic anymore (which doesn’t make rational sense, I realize, but I don’t want to reward anybody who is this horrible).

Jeremy Yoder gives thanks to his mentors.

Students people don’t know what’s best for their learning.

Around the beginning of this year, I shared that The American Naturalist was going double-blind in its review, which I think is a great thing. Now that they’ve been at it for almost a year, how has it been going? They give us a report.

80 books no woman should read. (This has a lot more nuance than the title suggests.)

The selectivity of a university has pretty much nothing to do with its academic rigor.

The selectivity of a university has pretty much nothing to do with its academic rigor.

The selectivity of a university has pretty much nothing to do with its academic rigor.

Yes, I linked to that three times, no mistake. Because.

Dealing with mental health: a guide for professors. This is a very good resource, written by a student. This is an important part of our professional development.

In and out: A revolving door for Yale’s professors of color? This is phrased as a question. And the answer is a resounding, “Yes, it is.”

An open letter from 50 black Yale alumni.

Are microcosms a legit and useful way to learn about ecology? (Of course they are.) And welcome back to Jabberwocky Ecology!

The Royal Geographic Society just digitized Frank Hurley’s truly amazing photographs that documented the triumph of a failure of Shackleton’s epic Endurance expedition that targeted the South Pole. The entire exhibit is online. If you don’t know much about the Shackleton saga, oh my gosh this is the best heart-stopping non-fiction story you can come upon. And if you’re familiar, then you’ll love seeing the restored photos.

NIH is finally retiring all of their chimpanzees used in research.

This might be one of my favorite xkcds:


Racial bias continues to haunt NIH grants

More on this racial bias at NIH from drugmonkey. So spot-on it hurts.

On 07 Dec 2015, NOAA is running a webinar that shows us how to use simple climate models while teaching about climate, and it’s open to the public. If you’re wondering how to up your game in climate education — and who doesn’t need to? — this looks incredibly useful.

Do you have your women-in-STEM shirt yet?

The French way of war. If you’re wondering what France will be doing in response to the attacks on Paris, this is context.

A New Yorker story about the conversion of a Westboro Baptist Church member. If you read any of these links, maybe this one. Oh my gosh what a story.

Why don’t American students go on strike?

How to measure a college’s value

Transforming white people is not the job of minority students

Americans are acting sustainably in some ways, unsustainably in others. Some interesting data.

The unknown five scientists who saved science education in Alabama. Change is hard work and it’s worth it — this is a great success story.


A lot of scientists are kind, careful and caring


I just returned from a tremendous meeting of the Entomological Society of America. I experienced a lot of moving moments.

I attended my first EntSoc meeting twenty years ago, as an early grad student. I’ve skipped the last few years (because family). This return brought a flush of friends and close colleagues that I don’t see on a regular basis. I got to meet PhD students who are being advised by my own former undergrad students. When I was in grad school, my advisor had two small kids. At this meeting, I got to see his older daughter, now in a MD/PhD program.

There are so many scientists who made a difference in my life — professionally and personally —  and having so many of them gathered under one large roof was overwhelming. To me, this conference was more of a reunion than anything else. Part of the attraction of academic “genealogies” is that these relationships can be very personal. Being trained in someone’s lab and having an “academic heritage” sounds sterile, but these relationships are often more than academic.

Weeks ago, science lost a giant with the death of Charles Michener. When the social insect people (the IUSSI) gathered, some of his former students shared recollections of his work and life. Mich was a member of the National Academy, published oodles of important papers on the biology of bees, and his ideas have truly been the foundation of much work that continues in social insect biology.

Mich was a Great One. The memorials mentioned his great science, but his greatness emerged from his character. He was fully invested into his students. He was inspirational and caring, demanding without having to demand, and was a master of bringing out the best in people. I can’t even begin to capture the eloquence and heartfelt thanks and admiration emerging from our community*.

One look throughout the room, among people who I’ve seen raising cohort after cohort of students, told me this: Mich’s mentorship was heritable. So many of the beautiful things said about Mich are just as true about the students that had the fortune to work with him. My own advisor, who graduated from Mich’s lab, was – and is – an equally great mentor. Some of what happens in my lab is a direct consequence of what Mich was doing in Kansas several decades ago. At least, I can dare to flatter myself by thinking as much.

Also, Mich apparently had a thing for nachos.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a goodly proportion of the papers I submit end up being reviewed by an academic descendent of Mich. Most of the reviews I get are careful, fair and thorough, just as I’d expect from Mich himself. He didn’t just improve his students’ lives, he made academic science a better place, by example.

This year’s EntSoc meeting also had another moving celebration. Three former students of Bob Jeanne organized a symposium highlighting his pioneering work on the biology of social wasps, and the new directions inspired by his work. I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with him over the past twenty years, and while I haven’t worked directly with him, I’m fortunate that some of my close buddies and collaborators have come from his lab, as undergrads, Master’s students, or PhD students. They’ve all picked up from him all of the best characteristics of quality mentors, and they all look up to Bob as the best example of what a leader in science can be.

Mich and Bob have provided perfect examples of kind, careful, and caring mentors.

I’d like to say that these Great Ones are special in this mentorship. But that’s not quite true. So many of the people who worked with them have these same qualities. And actually, so do many others!

I don’t know about you, but my extended academic community is replete with dedicated and concerned mentors who put their students first. They’re not Mich-level or Bob-level, but they’re great mentors.

We’ve got no shortage of systemic problems in academia, but a shortage of excellent mentors ain’t one.

Which brings me back to the EntSoc meeting. The conference featured a plenary presentation by Jorge Cham, the creator of PhD Comics. (I skipped his talk, and headed to dinner with my lab and some friends.)

You might be familiar with PhD Comics — those are the ones with miserable grad students with crappy PhD advisors. (and, surprise, the current comic features this crappy advisor in stereotypical form.)

I’ve not been a fan of Cham’s work. I think he occasionally hits a nail on its proverbial head when discussing some frustrations of academia. Some of the comics are hilarious observations on the idiosyncrasies and absurdities of academia. I understand that grad school is often emotionally difficult and overwhelming, and setbacks are far more common than successes. Nevertheless, as I read the work I pick up an unpalatable gestalt that inflames insecurities rather than providing a normalizing salve.

I used to think the thesis, or the theme, or the central foil of PhD Comics is: Grad student life is misery. At least, that’s what I thought, when I wrote about it many moons ago. I’ve modified my interpretation. Now, I think the central theme of PhD Comics is: Grad student life is misery because professors are assholes.

In Cham’s vision of science, grad students suffer under the unreasonable and selfish expectations of their professors, who treat them like shit. If grad students happen to temporarily emerge from the torture of their advisors, then people outside their lab screw them over with nonsensical manuscript reviews, arbitrary funding decisions, and academic obstruction.

Mich and Bob — and actually most PhD advisors I know — are the diametric opposite of the PIs portrayed by Cham.

I haven’t scoured the archives of PhD comics, but I don’t happen to recall any slight hint that a professor might ever be a capable or caring mentor. (If you know of one, please share it with me! It would be precious in its rarity.)

This is why I don’t like PhD comics: the conflation of power and exploitation. The trope about grad student suffering can be a fountain of humor, but is is unfunny to me because the universal suffering is caused by uncaring, unreasonable, and selfish academics with power.

I’m okay with the tropes of grad school being hard. But I’ll take a pass on the trope of rampant assholeism in academia. Perhaps PhD comics is deep social critique and gallows humor, revealing what Cham believes to be systemic horribleness by PIs. Or, it could just be off base.

Students and postdocs are disempowered compared to their PIs, who have the authority that can crush or build up their own students. For every PI that crushes their students, we have many more who build up their students. Yes, let’s make sure power isn’t abused, and we must work to make academia better. But let’s not lose sight of the fact that we are surrounded by great mentors.

Update: here’s a poll I put up on Twitter:


*(I wrote this up on the way home from the meeting, and let me tell you, I was tearing up on the plane. And that’s okay.)


Costs and benefits of attending conferences as a student


Recently I attended the annual meeting of the Entomological Society of Canada, which this year was held jointly with the Société d’entomologie du Québec, in Montréal. While chatting with a (professor) friend at the conference it came up that we both don’t really like attending conferences for a lot of reasons, but attend anyway because we think it is important to do so. At the time I remarked that I thought there were few tangible benefits of attending conferences as a student. Since then I’ve been thinking a bit about the costs and benefits of attending academic conferences as a student, and here I will summarize my thoughts.

The obvious costs of attending conferences are time, money, and energy. Continue reading

The sabbatical isn’t what it used to be


Before I was a professor, I had heard of sabbaticals. That’s when a professor spends a year away from the university and visits a distant land to gain new skills, build new projects, and make new connections.

Then I became a professor and learned that (most) universities don’t pay for a full year of sabbatical, they only pay for one semester. They’ll let you take a year, but at half of the pay. So finding a half-year of salary from grants is needed for a full sabbatical.

Then I became eligible for a couple sabbaticals, and experienced how the travel-to-far-lands part isn’t necessarily what happens either. Continue reading

Recommended reads #64


If you haven’t been watching the news lately, you might not have noticed that the United States is in the midst of a national moment in which university students are speaking and acting out in response to the perennial marginalization of minorities. I imagine more things will emerge, but here is the rundown from a few campuses:

At Mizzou, years of administrative disregard for an environment that minimizes and threatens black students came to a boil with a particularly hateful action that was met with the same do-nothing attitude by the President and the Chancellor. The football team went on strike, and then, in a jiffy, the President and Chancellor stepped down. Since then, protests have grown. Here’s a clear take on the strike at Mizzou this from Dave Zirin, who writes about the intersection of sports and politics. (also, HK and I talk about the Mizzou situation at length in the Not Just Scientists episode coming out this weekend)

At Yale, years of a social environment that marginalized black and Latino students ended up in protests in response to what seems to be a rather reasonable email from a faculty member that encouraged dialogue about culturally appropriative and racist costumes. (Or, as some have put it, the email suggested the campus should be tolerant of racist Halloween costumes because it’s a part of the intellectual experience.) But really, what’s happening at Yale isn’t about Halloween costumes:

For starters: the protests are not really about Halloween costumes or a frat party. They’re about a mismatch between the Yale we find in admissions brochures and the Yale we experience every day. They’re about real experiences with racism on this campus that have gone unacknowledged for far too long. The university sells itself as a welcoming and inclusive place for people of all backgrounds. Unfortunately, it often isn’t.

Yesterday, protests resulted in the prompt resignation of the Dean of Claremont McKenna College (CMC), one of the well-endowed liberal arts Claremont Colleges,  just east of me in the LA area. Why would the Dean resign so quickly? A student (a Neuroscience major, by the way) wrote an eloquent op-ed piece in the student paper about how CMC is often hostile to her because she is a Latina. She heard crickets from the university. Then, she wrote to her Dean, and sent a copy of the article along with her, to let her know about these concerns. Here’s the email:


click to enlarge

That’s a screamingly horrible email in two ways. First, it’s disingenuous. The Dean said she’d love to talk “sometime.” You and I know what that means. No administrator replies to an email with the hope that it will result in an extended email conversation leading to an appointment. If the student’s email said she wanted to talk and donate a six-figure check, the Dean would scramble to pin the student down for an appointment. So, obviously, the Dean didn’t really want to talk, or she would have made an appointment to talk. The second horrible part of this email is the fact that the Dean said the Latina did not fit the mold of the college. That deserves little more than a: WTF? There’s a mold, and the student doesn’t fit that mold? That deserves a second WTF!?

Is that email a firing offense or a step-down-worthy offense? On its own, I don’t think so. Of course, blowing students off when it comes to accusations of a racist environment is hideous. It could have just been badly worded, a quick type-on-the-phone and maybe she did want to talk. The email suggests that the college has a mold for the campus that doesn’t fit Latinas, which is harder to explain. But still, why did the Dean step down, and so quickly? Because of the long-standing conditions that led to this email exchange. Because the marginalization of students from underrepresented groups is an obvious fact on campus and for years nothing serious has been done about it by the Dean. And she knew it.

With protests burgeoning across the country, a lot of us — including myself — are listening to the students. If you’re not impressed with the way students are protesting, I imagine a careful read of this spectacular piece about the protests, from Tressie Cottom, might put things in perspective.

I’m not really interested in hearing any critiques about how the protests are going down from anybody who hasn’t spent years as a black or Latina student on a primarily white campus. It’s our time to listen, even if some of us don’t like what exactly the protests are saying or how they’re going about saying it.

Are these student protests silly and futile? Well, maybe, but please — please — take them seriously. The perpetuation of racism and inequity on university campuses (and of course, well beyond) is not something to be overlooked.

Meanwhile, Washington University in St. Louis is embarking on a five-year-plan to increase socioeconomic diversity. Their plan seems to be focused on recruitment, and there doesn’t seem to be much about investing in the cultivation of a campus environment that supports and accepts the students once they arrive. Hmmm.

Outside this set of issues, what else is shaking?

The editors of Genetics say the Impact Factor is dumb, and that using this measure to make decisions is like making arbitrary lines in the sand. We get a somewhat different take on Impact Factors from Scientist Sees Squirrel.

Anybody familiar with urban planning knows that by expanding freeways, you just create more traffic congestion. But what’s new is that the California Department of Transportation finally admits this fact.

The entire editorial board of a linguistics journal published by Elsevier resigned, because Elsevier didn’t support the society opening up the journal with relatively inexpensive open-access fees. All six lead editors and all 31 members of the editorial board stepped down. The open access model isn’t shaking out that well, it seems.

Nature published a well-researched and straightforward journalistic piece about sexism and science on Twitter. It contains many excellent interviews. “Twitter is that thought under your breath.” It is unfortunate that the editors of Nature didn’t use this opportunity to directly address its history of overt sexism in their own editorial and opinion pieces in recent years, though I wouldn’t expect the author to have addressed it in her piece directly. If you’re trying to understand the social function of twitter in science, this is a good read.

Speaking of which, if you’re not entirely weary of the Tim Hunt saga, a very detailed and information-laden post-mortem came out this week. I think the general narrative that people have settled on is, “People heard Tim Hunt said terrible things, but then news came out that it was taken out of context and misrepresented, and actually he’s a stand-up guy who didn’t really say anything sexist.” That doesn’t seem to match up with the facts, though. Here’s what I think is the lid to put on this story, which is well substantiated with a ton of information:

In the end, the parable of Tim Hunt is indeed a simple one. He said something casually sexist, stupid and inappropriate which offended many of his audience. He then confirmed he said what he was reported to have said and apologised twice. The matter should have stopped there. Instead a concerted effort to save his name — which was not disgraced, nor his reputation as a scientist jeopardized — has rewritten history. Science is about truth. As this article has shown, we have seen very little of it from Hunt’s apologists — merely evasions, half-truths, distortions, errors and outright falsehoods.

Kids have lost the opportunity to become scientists — we need to get that back.

Here’s a great piece to share with conservatives about climate change from a former climate denier. You know it’s conservative because it insults Naomi Klein! Here’s the take-home: “The existence of man-made warming does not mandate any particular policies… If generally rising temperatures, decreasing diurnal temperature differences, melting glacial and sea ice, smaller snow extent, stronger rainstorms, and warming oceans are not enough to persuade you that man-made climate is occurring, what evidence would be?”

Do you know who Peter Scholze is? He’s the mathematician who turned down a $100,000 New Horizons in Mathematics Prize from the Breakthrough Prize people. That’s a story I’d like to know more about.

Chemjobber asks whether teaching postdocs are a good thing. (Well, if a postdoc wants a job at a primarily undergraduate institution, then I think this a step in that direction. But I don’t have the statistics about hiring practices and outcomes to back it up.)

Andrew Hendry advises How To Teach.

Irony so thick you’d need a chainsaw to cut into it: The Huffington Post criticizes academic journals for taking advantage of their authors.

Damn Right Amazon Runs a Fucking Deficit and So Should America

Understanding plagiarism in a digital age

A very good guide to academic blogging.

Speaking of academic blogging, this might be the finest piece of it I’ve read in a long, long while: Why is the human vagina so big?

Should academic conferences have codes of conduct? Of course they should!

The ‘Unified Microbiome Initiative’ and the risks of standardization

Tenure is disappearing. But it’s what made American universities the best in the world. If you can forgive the author the American exceptionalism (hey’s it’s election season, just one more year to go!) this is pretty good.

“Desperate Environmentalism” won’t save the environment. This is a really important point, that environmentalists don’t seem to have their eyes on the prize for really big things like we used to.

In defense of the bark beetle

One thing I learned in my twenties is that most USians don’t use the specific article the when referring to highways and freeways. Such as the 110 or the 405. They just call the 110, “110.” Not “a 110.” but “110” – more like a person than an actual physical thing. But apparently as an Angeleno, I’ve learned people think we’re the weirdos. Here’s the explanation about how this came to be.

The Australian Research Council publishes an account about how they pick which projects to fund. This is a very ugly sausage factory.

Have a great weekend, folks.

By the way, did you like some of these links? You know there are 63 other posts like this one in the archives? Also, feel free to click on the “free subscription” box, if you just want to get new Small Pond posts in your inbox instead of having to come to the site. It’s free, and you can easily unsubscribe if the 1-3 posts per week turn out to be more than you can handle.

Why I avoid lecturing


Academic freedom is glorious. Despite pronouncements to the contrary, university faculty — including most contingent faculty — enjoy tremendous freedom in what we teach and how we teach it. Most professors teach however the hell they choose to teach.

Academic freedom enables change, but resists rapid change. Faculty have the liberty to stand aside as change happens. We can stand by and snark as fads wash by. We also can fossilize as the landscape truly changes. I think it’s hard, in the moment, to distinguish between a fad and a change in the landscape. Continue reading

Choosing between “head of lab” and “independent scholar” models


When people ask how I run my lab group, I don’t know how to respond. It boggles me because these perfectly normal questions often have assumptions baked into them, about my university, my students, and the kind of work that happens in my lab.

It’s only natural that folks might compare my “undergraduate research lab” to the template of major research institution lab, most of which also feature undergrads in substantial roles.

The way I run my research program, and the students involved, is probably different than you might imagine unless you’ve spent a bunch of time at an underfunded regional state university like mine. Continue reading

Recommended reads #63


The New York Times published a stunning piece about what is happening to the Greenland ice sheet. It’s an extraordinary piece of journalism and a really important read. Especially if you live somewhere that’s not too far above sea level.

How to Not Drop Out of Grad School. Like everything else I’ve read in Mary Anning’s Revenge, this is great. It’s about how to take care of yourself, and be a happy and balanced person. Working long hours consistently doesn’t make you more productive.

The Odds That a Panel Would ‘Randomly’ Be All Men Are Astronomical

The Frontiers series of journals is now on Beall’s list as a possible predatory series of journals. Here’s a long take on the how/why/what of this move. Beall’s List of predatory publishers — created and run by a rogue librarian — is a useful service for academia, but I am reluctant to even mention, much less endorse, the List because it’s clear that Beall really doesn’t understand the distinction between predatory publishing and open access publishing. Or, if he does understand the distinction, he is deliberately conflating the two because of his social and political views on the value of the for-profit scientific publishing industry. It’s a hot mess and I hope that someone — Retraction Watch maybe? — can step in to keep tabs on predatory publishers instead of leaving these judgments to a source as specious as Beall.

Tools for Change in STEM identifies the two biggest things that need fixing to increase the representation of women.

Daylight Savings is a dumb idea, I say. Why do we still have it? One reason is that Big Candy sells more candy at Halloween.

The new head of the University of North Carolina system is bad, bad news for higher education: “For those of us who think that universities exist for academic purposes — to teach academic knowledge and skills, to pass on academic virtues, and to sustain academic research — the stakes could not be higher.”

Empirically Testing a Three-Step Intervention to Increase Faculty Gender Diversity in STEM. If your department is hiring and you don’t have the gender ratio you should have, then this looks like a very useful guide to make the change we need. Seriously. If you’re on a search committee, print this out and give it to everybody else. Why? “Searches in the intervention were 6.3 times more likely to make an offer to a woman candidate, and women who were made an offer were 5.8 times more likely to accept the offer from an intervention search.”

A nice explainer why we need diversity in science published in The Hill. So some congressional staffers are now more enlightened. (By the way, why it is that they are “staffers” and not “staff?”) Also, the ideas in here are good for boilerplate for your broader effects section. But if you’re like 89% of people, then your broader impacts aren’t targeting underrepresented groups.

The so-called Freshman 15 might be because of bad sleep patterns.

Many reviewers reject papers for pseudoreplication, and this occurs more often if they haven’t experienced the issue themselves. The concept of pseudoreplication is being applied too dogmatically and often leads to rejection during review.” Really? I’m not inclined to buy this idea. (First of all, reviewers don’t reject papers, editors do! It might sound like a mere semantic difference but does show a lack of appreciation for how the editorial process works, which is the focus of the article.) How often do papers get seriously dinged because the experimental system isn’t amenable to highly replicated units? In my experience — as reviewer, editor, and author — reviewers are understanding of the notion that some kinds of systems can’t be perfectly replicated, because they are taking place in someone else’s plantations or in streams, or habitat fragments that are scarce or difficult to access. Really, this is keeping good science from getting published? Hmmm.

“’You can’t infer process from pattern’ is just one of those things people like to say because they think it makes them sound rigorous and clever. It’s a slogan. Politicians like to bandy these about, and sometimes, we scientists do too. Real rigour and cleverness don’t lie in slogans; they lie in careful thought that recognizes the complexity of nature.”

Six myths about a teaching persona. This is a really good list if you’re wondering what kind of persona that you should be adopting with your students.

Do you know anybody who complains that the approach to math in common core is dumb? Here’s a straightforward explainer why the “new math” in Common Core is way better, and how Americans have been learning math as kids makes no sense and deprives the chance to develop number sense. (If you’re not familiar with Common Core, it’s a new set of standards for K-12 education in the United States, that emphasizes problem-solving and integrative thinking, and definitely an improvement over what we’ve been doing. It’s not a panacea but it does provide teachers more latitude to teach effectively as these are less prescriptive standards and emphasize critical thinking and problem-solving. You might hear trash talk about Common Core standards, but rarely from those who are in charge of teaching it. Implementation varies, of course.)

George Saunders on his development as a writer. (And if you haven’t read anything else by Saunders, it’s amazing stuff, put it on your list. I’d say start with The Braindead Megaphone. And Saunders’s commencement speech is up there with David Foster Wallace’s commencement speech.)

Monkeys compensate for small gonads by being more loud and annoying. (Here is the press release.)

How Back To The Future‘s vision of the future was off. We don’t have that middle class that Marty and his kids were living in. The neighborhood-of-the-non-horrible-future was filmed pretty close to where I live, and this article in the LA Times really resonated with me.

The New York Times published a hideous op-ed that criticized a strawman version of active learning in higher education. It had a fair amount of the get-off-my-lawn-kids-need-to-sit-down-and-listen BS. She only addressed the educational needs of marginalized students in one line, and then in the subsequent line dismissed those concerns as inconsequential. Josh Eyler was up to the task of debunking the false claims in this op-ed. What to think about whether or not to lecture or do active learning? I think we should listen to The Little Professor on this matter.

Why white parents don’t choose black schools.

On Taphonomy:

Dinosaurs teach kids certain things about the monsters they will encounter: that scary things look scary, that scary things are dead, and also that scary things are exciting and anthropomorphic. Dinosaur fights suggest a singular, definitive battle, like a dragon, something you see coming from a mile away, ready yourself for, slay, and move on from. When, of course, real problems are the opposite: boring, small, creeping, not singular but sprawling. And: extant. A grown-up problem is nothing if not alive.

Why is academic writing hideous? “Academics play an elitist game with their words: They want to exclude interlopers.”

Have a great Halloween weekend, y’all.

Respecting the time and needs of adjuncts


Almost every university in the US has succumbed to financial pressures and employs a relatively high proportion of adjunct instructors. Typically, adjuncts are highly trained professionals with a graduate degree, but don’t get the compensation or professional courtesy that they deserve.

Universities have given up on the notion that all faculty should have job security. Instead, now institutions are measuring “tenure density” as a measure of how many faculty are fully paid and fully respected. Continue reading