Tag Archive: Graduate Teaching Fellows


Can you imagine college students being denied their hard-earned final grades for … three months or more?

The reason: privileged graduate teaching fellows (GTFs) decided to hurt their students to line their own pockets.

Guess Lord John Dahlberg-Acton’s saying is still true: “Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Aren’t these students — waiting week-after-week for their final grades — essentially the paying “customers” of major universities, including the University of California at Santa Cruz?

Many are going into debt to pay way-too-high 6 percent interest for their tuition. Others are waiting tables and taking any job they can find to fund their college. Some are fortunate enough to have their parents dig deep for them.

Regardless of how the money is raised, they expect a return on their investment (ROI).

And yet the result of their years of hard work, including hours of studying, researching, drafting papers and presentations, is being denied to them by … striking graduate students.

These graduate teaching fellows (GTFs) are being provided free master’s or doctoral degrees from a UC System university. They are demanding $1,412 more per month for their stipend to live in a desirable, but expensive Pacific Ocean fronting locale.

Did anyone hold a gun to their heads demanding they accept this wonderful opportunity to research and teach in Santa Cruz?

Almost DailyBrett has repeatedly asked in earlier blogs: ‘Where are the university presidents?’

In most cases they are cowering and quivering under their desks, living in mortal fear of their easily excitable and always demanding unionized faculty.

At least in the case of the courageous leadership of UC Santa Cruz,  54 graduate students were dismissed this past Friday for denying students, what they had legitimately earned three months ago … their final grades.

Worse, they are asking their victims (e.g., their students) to support their unionized militancy.

Hate To Admit It …

This is yet another example of ‘What are they thinking,’ unionized graduate student research fellows, receiving a free master’s degree or Ph.D plus valuable teaching experience and a stipend, not a salary. … What a deal!

Your author is ashamed to acknowledge that he was once a member of the Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation (GTFF) at the University of Oregon from fall 2010 to spring 2012.

The unsuccessful angry strike of hundreds of bright, but not smart, GTFs at the University of Oregon during Fall 2014 dead week — only punished students — not the university.

And now graduate students at the bucolic, near-the-ocean University of California at Santa Cruz wrongly withheld the grades of their students as a bargaining chip for three months. Similar petty actions by petulant and selfish graduate teachers are planned at University of California at Santa Barbara (e.g., full strike) and the University of California at Davis (e.g., withholding winter term grades).

Terminating 54 arrogant banana slug graduate teaching fellows at UCSC reminds your author of President Ronald Reagan courageously firing striking federal air traffic controllers in August 1981, who were flaunting federal law designed to safeguard the lives of passengers.

Will UCSC continue to exhibit old-fashioned Reaganesque guts to deliver final grades after three months to students — who have been hurt by this silly strike — or will they cave? These students and their parents should not required to wait one minute more for what they are justifiably due.

“Total Douche-o-Rama”

When Almost DailyBrett dared to offend the University of Oregon graduate teaching fellow union six years ago, the responses — intended to stifle dissent — were vicious.

Some of the nicer salvos including the non sequitur, “This person is an idiot … Perfect for Ph.D candidacy.” And … “This whole blog is an audition for a commentator position at Fox News.” (Thank you).

And finally, “I’m puking in my mouth.” Hopefully, Listerine came to the rescue.

As a retired tenure track professor in public relations at Central Washington University (CWU) for four academic years, there were zero teaching assistants. The task of educating, mentoring, and providing final grades on time was my responsibility and mine alone.

Yours truly was never going on strike, but instead concentrated on the job at hand.

Maybe the University of Oregon, the University of California Santa Cruz and others should make do without spoiled graduate teaching fellows?

Think of it this way: Without graduate teaching fellows, there are no strikes.

And without strikes, students … our customers … secure a better education and their final grades as well.

https://www.latimes.com/business/story/2020-02-28/uc-santa-cruz-fires-54-graduate-student-workers-wildcat-strike

https://www.cbsnews.com/news/university-of-california-grad-students-striking-for-a-livable-income/

https://www.vice.com/en_us/article/wxe45b/graduate-student-strikes-are-spreading-in-california

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/are-striking-uo-graduate-teaching-fellows-certifiable/

UCSC cancels classes, shutters services as demonstrators block roadways

Fired UCSC grad students speak out, campus prepares for impacts

“You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometime you find: You get what you need.” – Jagger, Richards

Sometimes life turns in directions you never anticipated.

Three years ago, the author of Almost DailyBrett couldn’t find Ellensburg, Washington on the map. This geographical gap in knowledge was not particularly troubling. Why would it be?DSC01202

Having said that, yours truly is writing this blog in a Central Washington University office with the customary diplomas, commissions and photos on the wall as if this result was always somehow in the cards … even though I did not know it for years.

Six years ago, my world consisted of the vaunted six-figures, incredible expenses and working myself to the bone. There was also plenty of time in never-ending traffic jams, three-hour marathon meetings and weekend sales conferences to day-dream about doing more in life including bestowing knowledge to the next generation and serving as a mentor.

There was money, but no time to enjoy the legal tender.

And then a spark came a break that led to a change and with it a second career.

One of my Edelman clients (e.g., TSMC director of brand management) was an adjunct instructor at Santa Clara University. He had a recurring problem. He was required to report to Taiwan, and he couldn’t teach his MBA-students. Would I run his classroom for nearly three hours on a Saturday morning?

Wait a minute; you want me to lecture for 165 minutes about financial communications to 15 Poindexters?

Believe it or not, that’s how it started.

There was also an additional kick in the proverbial derriere: the global economy took a multi-year siesta circa 2008-and-forward. Life was changing. There also seemed to be a concerted effort by society to “pasteurize” literally thousands of Baby Boomers at advanced levels of “maturity” (e.g., more than 50-years+ young).

It was time for something revolutionary for your blog author, including taking the GRE (what a blast) not once, but twice.

Drinking Beer With Fellow College Students … Once Again

Almost DailyBrett earlier discussed taking the plunge into a second career, including serving as a (non-striking) Graduate Teaching Fellow (GTF), attaining a master’s degree as a non-traditional student (read: older), becoming an adjunct instructor and finally landing a hard-to-acquire tenure-track assistant professor position in public relations and advertising.beerUO

How’s that for telling those who thought I was ready for pasture to (insert unpleasant phrase here)?

Is it simply a matter of having the will to change, a long resume and everything else will fall in place for those wishing a mid-life academic career?

Not in the slightest. Ponder the Top 10 “intervening variables” to use an academic term:

  • Academic Prejudice. Do universities hire the best-and-the-brightest? Nope, particularly those who received advanced degrees from your university. The reasoning: The profs who taught you as a little academic whipper-snapper will never envision you as a colleague. To have a chance of coming back and teaching at your university, it is best to receive an even higher degree (e.g., Ph.D) from a university far, far away in another universe.
  • Advanced degree or No-Advanced Degree? Almost DailyBrett recommends pursuing a fellowship, resulting in not only a no-cost master’s degree or higher, but also valuable daily teaching and mentoring experience and a stipend. Advanced degrees are “preferred” by virtually every college and university. There are ways around this rule (e.g., professors of practice), but once again these are low-percentage “exceptions” and no way close to standard.
  • Bureaucracy is eternal and laborious. The universal academic mascot for colleges and universities (not the athletic teams; some of which move at warp speed) would be the snail. If college administrators were left to invent the personal computer, the IBM compatible would be debuting this year as opposed to 1981. There are three speeds in academia: Slow, slower and not-at-all.
  • Comprehend the academic and professional worlds are diametrically opposed. Ivory towers say they want oodles of real-world experience, but at the same time they really don’t totally trust non-academic experience. At this point in your life, you will not have the commensurate record of academic publishing and conference presentations, and you never will. Face it and get over it: you will never be treated the same.
  • Digital Immigrants teaching Digital Natives. Engaging on a daily basis on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn and blogging is not enough. These social media “first movers” are now 10-years old and older. You need to upgrade your digital skill sets to include Pinterest (2010), Instagram (2010) and Snapchat (2011) and their inevitable successors.
  • Grading is the worst. Pontificating and bloviating your hard-earned knowledge with your PowerPoint and clicker in a classroom or lecture hall setting is just one part of the job. Syllabi are becoming ever-longer legal contracts, trying to cover every possible uncertainty. Colleges are now even demanding “grading rubrics.” Trust me, there are no corporate bosses that have rubrics. You either do the job or someone else will soon be holding your position.
  • Grade grubbing is even worse.  Young Party Dude will most likely not complain about his C+ on his latest paper. There are oodles of others who will tell you how hard they worked (they need to actually study). What is the worst grade you can give anyone? An “F”? Try a “B+.”
  • Publish or Perish. Similar to the absolutes of death and taxes, there is also the issue of research and service requirements. Life is much more than teaching and grading. It is also hours of research to write a massive tome, submitted to an obscure and molasses-moving academic journal and/or presented at some Holiday-Inn conference. Just as marathoners hit the “wall” at 18 miles, many would-be academic Wunderkindern never make it past the publishing barrier.
  • Research über Alles. Teaching the undergrads is far down on the level-of-esteem list at most universities, particularly R-1 or Research Ones. Tenured professors must work on their Reeesuuuuurrrrcccchhhh. The lecturing and grading of the proletariat is best left to those at the bottom of the academic world totem pole.
  • Vow of Poverty. What are raises? Those taking the plunge into an academic second career need to ensure their nest-eggs are filled. Academia pays a fraction of what can be gained in the private sector, particularly when compared to Silicon Valley, San Francisco, Gotham or the Beltway.

The purpose of this exercise is to provide a real-world peek into the world of academia. It may be for you; it may not. Before you take the GRE, apply for admission and fellowships, make plans to uproot your life, you need to first have your eyes wide open.

The bottom line: Academia is a satisfying world, but it is far from perfect. Most grind their teeth about inflexibility and glacier-like change of the university world. Keep in mind, there are major issues in the corporate, non-profit and public sectors too.

Sometimes you have to get what you need.

Editor’s Note: To be more accurate, The Almost DailyBrett headline should read “From Assistant Press Secretary to Assistant Professor.” Alas, the alliteration is not the same.

http://www.prsa.org/Intelligence/TheStrategist/Articles/view/11473/1125/From_PR_Professional_to_PR_Professor_The_Long_and?spMailingID=12893176&spUserID=ODkxMDgzMDgwMTkS1&spJobID=743018301&spRep

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2013/08/11/taking-the-gre-again/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/are-striking-uo-graduate-teaching-fellows-certifiable/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/03/04/launching-a-second-career-2/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2015/11/20/research-uber-alles/

 

 

 

Couldn’t believe my ears.

Did my post-graduate classmate in “Teaching and Professional Life” just state ex-cathedra that (being) “mean is awesome” when it comes to teaching impressionable undergraduate college students?larrysumners

For some reason, the author of Almost DailyBrett can’t just simply vanquish these words, uttered by a Ph.D candidate in communications, from his personal DRAM.

Sure wouldn’t want to be in her classroom.

The question for today is whether this brand of arrogance, callousness and potential cruelty is reaching epidemic proportions on college and university campuses?

What blew me away is that some were actually nodding their heads in affirmation.

I couldn’t agree less.

Who Are Our Customers?

Almost DailyBrett is not universally loved by privileged graduate teaching fellow (GTF) types, so these next thoughts may not be especially well-received either.

When it comes to colleges and universities, who is paying the bills (e.g., salaries, benefits, stipends)? Besides donors and grants, the main answer lies with parents/guardians of students, the students themselves waiting tables, taking out loans or the combination of all the above.

The Economist reported this week that average annual fees at private universities are $31,000 and approximately $10,000 at public universities. The typical college student, who may spend up to six years on campus, will be saddled with $40,000 in debt whether or not she or he graduates.studentloans

And you want to be mean to these students and by natural extension, their families?

And wouldn’t one think that since these students are indeed a prime source of college/university largesse, the service providers (e.g., professors, instructors, GTFs) would actually be nice to their “customers?”

What’s that?

Some believe strongly that colleges and universities should not be run like businesses? They are mostly non-profit. Right? So they should be oriented toward searching for the truth rather than preparing students to find a job? Maybe that attitude und Weltanschauung is at least partially the source of the meanness.

Mentoring/Not Meanness

Academic politics are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.” – Former Secretary of State and Harvard Professor Henry Kissinger

Let’s face the truth.

College and university faculty meetings are generally not happy gatherings. Hours are spent in academic debate, but little if anything changes with the exception of tuition, fees and administrative hirings going up.

Some faculty members have a difficult time impacting their own worlds, so they are not usually in a good mood entering the classroom. This is where meanness and ruthlessness is carried out, just make sure every rule and regulation is included in the syllabus. Maybe, these particular faculty types are more suited to being bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.

Don’t get me wrong, faculty members (e.g., professors, instructors, GTFs) cannot be friends with students, but that doesn’t mean we should be enemies. We should care about our students, and the best teachers do just that.

This is where another “M-word” comes into play: Mentoring. We should not be teaching exclusively out of a book, but instead we should be providing real-time knowledge about how the professional world really works.

Our students should venture out into the work-place with their eyes wide open. They should be trained to speak not the words of students, but the language of the workplace. They should know the difference between the top-line and the bottom-line, between revenues and net income or loss.

They should embrace buy low, sell high. They should prove their own return on investment (ROI), not just their degree, but a record of solid experience articulated in cover letters, resumes and LinkedIn profiles.people1

If a student demonstrates and proves her/his preparedness for competition for publicly traded/privately held/for profit/non-profit positions, then we as educators should be willing to provide a graduating student with a reference and all the help that we can.

Will the mean professor do that?

Almost DailyBrett has found that very few things in life are more uplifting than reading/hearing about one of your former students being hired and embarking on what very well could be, a rewarding career.

Instead of being mean, let’s mentor with a little tough love, if necessary. Let’s encourage our students to seek out and attain the best anti-poverty, wealth-creation program ever invented: a well-paying private sector position with full benefits and maybe a stock option or two.

All it requires is a little TLC and some mentoring too.

http://www.economist.com/news/united-states/21646219-college-america-ruinously-expensive-some-digital-cures-are-emerging-log

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/are-striking-uo-graduate-teaching-fellows-certifiable/

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/dealing-with-online-hecklers/

http://quoteinvestigator.com/2013/08/18/acad-politics/

 

 

 

 

 

“This person is an idiot … Perfect for Ph.D candidacy”

“This whole blog is an audition for a commentator position on Fox News! If so, well-played, sir. Your inability to look past the length of your nose and complete lack of logic make you a shoo-in.”

“I’m puking in my mouth.

“Total Douche-o-Rama.”

gtf

Maybe this Perfect Idiot Douche-o-Rama should compete for a doctorate?

Or a pundit on Fox News?

Never in recorded history has a humble blog drawn so much vitriol when the stakes were so low.

At Least The Name Was Spelled Right

Far worse than being misquoted is not being quoted at all.” – Former Presidential Communications Director Pat Buchanan

“Communicators need to learn how to handle the hecklers on social media.  It is now a required skill. I know of two agencies and three Silicon Valley companies who include this in their pre-employment tests. What a great real-life example to show them (students)!“ — Colleen Pizarev, PR Newswire Vice President

Writing a provocative blog (e.g., Almost DailyBrett) is not for the meek and mild. My December 3 post about the recent strike by the Graduate Teaching Fellows (GTF) at the University of Oregon is a case in point. Fortunately, the Graduate Teaching Fellows Federation union (GTFF) finally caved in to the university and no further damage was done to the school’s 25,000 students and/or faculty.

If one is not willing to venture an opinion and take calculated chances, then why write a blog in the first place? Think of it this way: A blog is the most discretionary of all reads.

There is a huge difference between being provocative-controversial and being notorious. The first is responsible; the latter, irresponsible.

So what are the best ways to respond to online hecklers, yes even those who take issue with: “Your tactics here are a clear sign of your ignorance and privilege”?_MG_1292 (3)

 

Dem’s fighting words, but one must pick her-or-his battles.

Taking the High Road

The juvenile level of discourse you’ve displayed in these comments makes me embarrassed that you have a degree from my alma mater (e.g., M.A. from the University of Oregon).”

What are effective strategies when it comes to responding to the most determined of online hecklers?

  1. Avoid Writing Blogs When Upset and Frustrated in the First Place

There are times when you want to give someone or some organization a piece of your mind. That is not the time to write a blog. Your posts need to be thoughtful and based upon concrete facts to back your assertions. This is not to say that you cannot be provocative and controversial. Most blogs do not draw comments, generate Facebook “shares” and/or cause fur to fly. Every once in awhile this is indeed the case

  1. Never Engage in a Public Urination Contest

Learn how to be offensive without being OFFENSIVE. Dirty Harry (e.g., Clint Eastwood) always expressed his point of view (sometimes with his .44 Magnum), but most of the time he went just a tad too far. For a blogger you can respond to the heckler and parry back the verbal volleys, but you should never lose your cool and engage in a public urination battle. The results will not be pretty. There are times you want to engage the heckler, and there are others when you want to leave unanswered the charge/allegation. Your pride is not injured, if you allow the heckler to have the last word.Dirty Harry (1971)

 

  1. Pick and Choose Your Battles

The intent of the heckler is to bully, intimidate and silence dissent. Some are just not used to anyone standing up to them. We all have the First Amendment of Free Speech. A blogger has just as much right to compete in the Marketplace of Ideas as anyone else. If the heckler resorts to childish name calling, utters ugly slurs or demonstrates racist, sexist or other nasty behavior, it is best to NOT post that individual’s comments and to disengage.

  1. Allow the Heckler to Build Your SEO, Then Disengage

Keep in mind, the heckler is doing you the blogger a huge favor. The search engines (e.g., bots) take note of digital activity … the ones and zeroes of binary code … flowing to-and-from your blog URL. Every foray from the heckler can be met in kind with a witty and/or clever reply. For you this is a victory in the SEO (Search Engine Optimization) arena. Let the invectives fly across cyberspace.

  1. Always Take the High Road

Turning the other cheek results in two throbbing cheeks even in the online space. Engaging the heckler to demonstrate that your dissent will not be silenced is noble, provided you are cool, calm and collected … and always take the high road. Remember: You wrote the blog. The heckler(s) is/are responding. As the instigator, you are the one driving the story.

  1. Don’t Lose Any Sleep

As a tadpole, you learned some variation of “sticks and stones will break my bones … “ These wise words still apply all of these decades later. Get a good night’s sleep. Maybe your next blog will draw even more hecklers.

https://almostdailybrett.wordpress.com/2014/12/03/are-striking-uo-graduate-teaching-fellows-certifiable/

http://www.prnewsonline.com/water-cooler/2012/07/27/5-tips-for-dealing-with-hecklers-on-twitter/

http://www.problogger.net/archives/2008/03/09/how-to-deal-with-blog-hecklers/

 

Want a free master’s degree and/or Ph.D?

graduatingseniors

How about comprehensive medical, dental and health insurance for the entire family?

Four months off each year including university paid winter-and-spring breaks?

How about invaluable experience teaching at the university level?

And a monthly stipend around $1,000?

And how about being offered a 9 percent pay increase during the next two years?

Does all of the above sound like a great opportunity?

Yep, that’s what the University of Oregon provides to its Graduate Teaching Fellows (GTFs).

And yet … And yet …

Approximately 1,500 members of the Graduate Teaching Fellow Federation (GTFF) just voted to go on strike.

GTFF

What?

The last week of the fall term?

Right before finals?

As a former GTF for the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication, I want to cross this picket line big time.

Hallowed Graduate Teaching Fellowship

After 30 years working in both the public, private and non-profit sectors, I was looking for a change.

And that life-shifting event came in the form of a University of Oregon graduate teaching fellowship with all the benefits described above. The author of Almost DailyBrett literally died and went to heaven in 2010.

What an incredible deal.

If someone had suggested striking over these benefits, I would have questioned the sanity of the union and its members … not the first-time the “what are they thinking” question has been posed about organized labor.

As a result of my tenure as a GTF (Hate to admit it; I joined the GTFF), I was able to complete my M.A. in Communications and Society in 15 months. Two weeks later, I was qualified to teach at the university level. Today, I am a tenure track assistant professor of public relations/advertising at Central Washington University.

This position that I secured in the 59th year of my relatively brief stay on the planet would not have been possible without my master’s degree … that is my free UO master’s degree.

Unlike hundreds of thousands of undergraduate and post-graduate students, I have no student debt to pay back. My fellowship not only covered my out-of-state tuition and fees, it included health insurance for myself and my daughter, and a stipend.

Keep in mind, my degree was not awarded by the University of Phoenix, Capella University, DeVry University, Ashford University, Kaplan University or any of the other nod-and-wink universities and colleges, but the University of Oregon.gtff2

As the author of Almost DailyBrett writes this epistle, my framed degrees from the University of Southern California (undergraduate) and the University of Oregon (post-graduate) hang from my office wall here at Bouillon Hall on the CWU campus.

My fellow graduate teaching fellows also received their free degrees (yes, we worked as teaching assistants … not a chore but vital experience). They are now serving as tenure-track professors at the University of Akron, the University of Alabama, the University of Houston and California State University Dominguez Hills respectively.

They earned these tenure-track positions not because of a demanding union, but as a result of the opportunity that was provided to them by the University of Oregon.

Two More Weeks of Paid Leave?

Striking in the face of a 9 percent increase over two-years on the table, the GTFF is demanding two weeks paid family/maternity leave. Let’s see the GTFs want two weeks of  additional leave to be paid by the university? How many workers get the whole summer off on top of a university-paid (four weeks total) winter-and-spring breaks?

What is probably the most galling of this strike action is the sinister timing. This week is dead week with finals to follow next week. The University of Oregon’s 25,000 students are the ones, who are ultimately suffering as a result of this childish-and-selfish action. The same applies for the extra work dumped on professors and instructors at the end of the quarter.

UOstudents

The GTFF probably now regards itself as somewhat relevant. Maybe, it can transition into being a truly militant union?

Sure wish one or more of the GTFs would have commanded the temerity to remind the union membership how frickin’ lucky they are to receive such a generous deal from the University of Oregon.

Guess, courage is in short supply these days. Otherwise, they would be in the classroom where they belong.

http://www.katu.com/news/local/Graduate-teaching-assistants-set-to-strike-Tuesday-284403561.html

https://www.insidehighered.com/news/2014/12/03/u-oregon-grad-students-strike-better-benefits

http://gtff3544.net/

2/01/strike-on-the-horizon-at-university-of-oregon/

http://www.oregonlive.com/education/index.ssf/2014/12/strike_by_graduate_teaching_as.html

 

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