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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

40 Rumors

Nothing like rumors to get the old blood flowing.  Yesterday I heard a rumor about administrators not trusting faculty and seeking to have hours tracked so I tried to track down the reality.  Herewith is a series of emails.  Please note that my inquiry email contains the words, "I am planning to blog about this rumor.

I sent this email to three members of the Technology Advisory Committee.

Hi – I just heard a crazy rumor and wanted to check it out with you.

I heard that the COCC IT Advisory Committee is recommending purchasing or has purchased some worker monitoring tools to be placed on computers to determine how much work people are actually doing at COCC. 

This sounds like one of those wacky “Big Brother is watching” paranoid fantasies that seem to erupt in institutions with low morale so I’m thinking that it’s just a goofy rumor BUT I wanted to check it out. 

Is there any truth to the rumor that faculty and staff will soon have their work stations monitored by the keystroke and/or that classrooms will have CCTV to make sure that teachers are teaching?  And what about the ankle bracelets and time-clocks?

Please let me know as I’m planning to blog about this rumor. 


I got back the following responses:

From Bob Reynolds:  'Nope.'

From Tina Hovenkamp:  'Kake, I missed the TAC meeting this past Monday, but this rumor sounds too strange to be true...  Will the college pay by the keystoke, too?   Boy, that could get the college bankrupt quickly considering the amount of work we all  seem to be putting in even when away from "work."'

 The response I got from Dan Cecchini was a bit more forthcoming:

Hi Karen,

Don’t know of any purchases or planned purchases of worker monitoring tools coming through or out of TAC.

During the TAC meeting the CFO’s office did raise an item about HR/ Payroll’s need for a way to get a detailed accounting of hours worked by employees at the college for compliance with the ACA. The point was raised about how faculty work hours are to be determined and recorded. This may be driven by the feds requiring colleges to keep a record of actual hours worked, but I’m not an expert on the ACA.

We have not had anything about CCTV come through TAC and ITS is certainly not driving any such initiative. If there are questions about CCTV system, I would think the logical place would be to ask the security office if they have any plans for such systems.

Can’t even guess about ankle bracelets and time clocks, but if you think they have value, please bring it forward to the college. Just kidding. J

At first I couldn't figure out what ACA meant and then he told me it was the Affordable Care Act.  So I asked  him for further information:  'Dan -- I was thinking about this and comparing it to the rumor I heard and it sounds like the concern is not so much that faculty aren't working hard enough (that was part of the paranoid craziness in the rumor) but that part timers who aren't being covered by health insurance aren't being overworked.  So the "tracking" however it's done would actually be to the benefit of both the college (to be sure it's in line with the law) and the part time people.  Is my understanding correct?'

He replied, 'I think that staying in line with the law is a big concern from COCC's perspective. My current understanding is that if we are out of compliance with the ACA by not addressing coverage for eligible employees adequately (even one), the fines that have to be covered are substantial for the institution. Eligibility determination is not simple for non-FT employees. Again, I'm not to guru on this topic, but that is my understanding.' 

So, the rumor that I first hear that seemed to be focused on a fear of administrators monitoring faculty hours is actually related to the school's fear of running afoul of the federal government.  If a part time employee is actually working full time and not getting health care coverage, the school faces stiff penalties.  So the question is, how to articulate and measure the differences between full time and part time employees.  According to the IRS website covering Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act:

"An employer identifies its full-time employees based on each employee’s hours of service. For purposes of the Employer Shared Responsibility provisions, an employee is a full-time employee for a calendar month if he or she averages at least 30 hours of service per week. Under the final regulations, for purposes of determining full-time employee status, 130 hours of service in a calendar month is treated as the monthly equivalent of at least 30 hours of service per week." 

So it really is the feds requiring the school to measure the hours of service.  Unless, of course, the college could provide health care for all.  But it's important to remember that the pie isn't infinite.  

And yet the Board let OSU out of their contract for that darn building! 

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

41 COCC Teaching Support

Andria Woodell
Over the past few years support for new teachers has grown at COCC.  Today Stacey Donohue posted a link in our "Commlines" bulletin board to a blog post by Dr. Andria Woodell.  Andria writes about her work with Philip Zimbardo's Heroic Imagination Project.  She explains the project thusly:  "The main premise is if social psychologists can educate people about topicssuch as apathetic bystanders, obedience and conformity or situationalblindness, then individuals will be more aware of these circumstances and stand against them when necessary.  "

So the students in the HIP enter into teaching teams.  Over the past couple of years I've been among the observers that these students practice in front of before going off into the world to do their presentations to other audiences.  One peculiar aspect of these practice sessions is that Andria wants us practice audience members to be kinda wicked -- rude, looking at cell phones, arguing with the speakers, etc.  It's very hard for me, after years of teaching public speaking, to not give positive nonverbal feedback (smiles and head nods) to student speakers.

In her post Andria says "The last two years, working with the HIP projects and the COPE club has ranked among some of the most rewarding moments in my career."  I enjoy hearing about teaching and mentoring experiences that bring such pleasure to a friend.  It reminded me of the great experiences I used to have with the Phi Theta Kappa students back in the early 90s when I advised the honor society.

This blog post was part of a new site called The Teaching Commons.  I think this is an absolutely wonderful addition to college teaching support.   When I started out at COCC, learning new methods for teaching was a matter of visiting other people's classes or having special departmental meetings where people discussed what was working for them in the classroom.  Often I was too scared to ask for help because I didn't want to look incompetent or weak.  Thus it's great to see all that the college offers now in the way of support for teaching.

When I started teaching at Idaho State, I was just thrown into a classroom with the assumption, I suppose, that I would swim or sink.  It was pretty much the same at the University of Utah.  Most research institutions don't offer a lot of training in teaching for their graduate students and of course it's the undergraduates who suffer.  The Chronicle of Higher Ed. reported on a recent study by Wabash College’s Center of Inquiry in the Liberal Arts which claimed that many first year students report that they rarely experienced clear and organized teaching.  Fortunately, however, my favorite professional organization, WSCA, always had superb yearly panels on Great Ideas for Teaching Speech.

I also spent quite a lot of my early years professional improvement plan money on teacher training, including a chunk on a week-long course from Sivasailam "Thiagi" Thiagarajan on using games in the classroom.

I've heard that there have been some wonderful campus wide teaching academies but since I'm short timer saying goodbye to the profession, I have not attended.

Monday, April 21, 2014

42 More Working Days Left - Old Papers

Last week I was in the basement looking for financial paperwork more than six years old -- shreddable paperwork.  Among the boxes of old checks I also found two boxes of notecards covered with references to books and articles.  I used these boxes for my dissertation.  I don't know how they survived the first burn through I made 10 years ago when I through out all the photocopies of useful articles.

There were around 500 cards. Maybe a few more, maybe a few less.  I tossed them into the recycling. 

23 year old notecard.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

43 Easter

I'm wasn't happy to be working on Easter today.

So I'll write about a nice note I got from my colleague Ken Mays on Thursday.  I'd loaned him my copy of Rob Bell's Love Wins.   Over many years at COCC, Ken and I have enjoyed the occasional conversation about Christian theology and the nature of having a relationship with Jesus.

The typed note he sent with the book said, "Thank you for letting me read the book, "Love Wins"  It is a wonderful conversation.  You highlighted much of the book -- but it was the starburst on page  153 -- pointing towrd Colossians 1.  The writings that follow "Jesus leaves the door way, way open " is something I get to enjoy.  I become a "witness" to what He is doing -- every day.

Our journey is just beginning as we look for who is precious, transformed, and loved."

Blessing arrives through these ordinary connections made of paper and ink.

Saturday, April 19, 2014

44 Last Organization Tree

Graphic Communication
Today I taught basic speech organization for the last time.  This is always one of the toughest aspects of public speaking for me to teach because I literally cannot remember a time when I wasn't able to put smaller ideas inside of larger ideas.  I don't understand minds which are not able to organize ideas in hierarchical and outlined fashion.  Nevertheless, I do my best to get across the concept of how this basic form of organization works and turn to an old metaphor, the Organization Tree.

"Tree of Science" from Ramon Llull's "Arbol de la ciencia de el iluminado maestro Raymundo Lulio" (1663)
Tree of Science (1663)
I'm sure this idea arises from the teaching of rhetoric in the Middle Ages.  I seem to remember seeing an organizational tree form on the door of a colleague some years ago.  Today I asked Professor Google to find that illustration for me but, sadly, I couldn't track it down.  I did, however, discover that Manuel Lima, author of  Visual Complexity: Mapping Patterns of Informationhas a new book out called The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge, in which he provides a history of the use of the tree as a visual metaphor for various kinds of information.  Allison Meier provides a review of Lima's book at HyperAllegic complete with several illustrations (see one below).

So, I feel like my little tree is part of a vast and branching history of visual rhetoric.

Nevertheless, I'm not sorry to say good-bye to it.

Friday, April 18, 2014

45 Goodbye Andrew the Chaplain

Ten years ago the Bend Bulletin called me the "Anti-Cupid" after interviewing me about my love education courses.  A photographer visited my class on a day I had students competing with Valentines.  The photos show me acting like a game-show host.  One of the games I used to have students play was based on the work of Andreas Capellanus, Andrew the Chaplain, a medieval priest who wrote a book of "advice" called De Amore.  This is a core text in the study of "Courtly Love" as Andrew gave facetious advice (that he denies in Book Three) about how to love another adulterously.

I stopped doing the full-on competitions in class when I realized that in order to have the course labeled a "Western Culture and History" course, it needed to have more on the background of the philosophers.  Competitions take a lot of time to be run well.  So over the past ten years I've added more lecture material.  Nevertheless, I still enjoy student activities that allow some "fun."  Yesterday, after my introductory lecture about feudalism and the chivalric code, I had them play with their understanding of Andrew's advice by earning participation points doing the following activity.


"Ask Andrew"

Pair up

Imagine that Andrew is a contemporary advice columnist.  (Look especially at list, p. 67-8)

Write a short letter asking for relationship advice.  Be prepared to read letter aloud with Andrew’s response
Once the letters were written, they needed to be performed.
First, read the letter aloud so the class can hear it.
 Before you give Andrew’s response, ask if anyone in class thinks they know the answer. 
Call on anyone who raises their hand.  Let them answer. 
Then, say either “yes” or “no” and give your planned response. 

I think my students did an  awesome job with the activity -- they had fun and saw the relationship with contemporary thinking.  AND, it was fun for me. 

Thursday, April 17, 2014

46 For Skyhooks

File:Campo de l'Arsenal.jpg
The Arsenal

I thought I wasn't going to be able to write a poem for the Skyhooks meeting tonight, what with all the tax problems and school stress and I don't know what all.  But I sat down a half hour before the meeting and the muse whispered another poem about Venice into my waiting ear.  The metaphorical shipbuilding refers to an event in Venetian history in which a visiting ambassador was shown how the assembly-line work in the Arsenal could produce a grand, fierce, Venetian war galley in a single day, from boards to boat.


I once ruled my corner of the earth
showing ambassadors of larger powers
that I could build and furnish fighting ships
in less time than they took to write a letter home
and now I seek no greater later years than yours --
filled with tourists weak with admiration
at my ancient spirit, picturesque in ruin,
but still working, still living, still enjoying
every morsel even as I slip into the sea.

(c) Kake Huck 2014