A Week of Learning for the Professor

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Good Saturday afternoon,

For those who are wondering about this graphic or picture, I think by the end of the post you will understand it more, but I offer this graphic shout out to all who walked, picketed, shouted, or offered support to the cause of higher education this past week. Since my last post, life has been a whirl-wind of events, requirements, obligations and emotions. As I begin to write this I have been working on my courses because of some required revision and an obligation to following through on what is required because of the events of this past week. When I posted the last time, we were forty-eight hours from the first possible faculty strike in the 30+ year history of the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE); it is now about a week later, the weekend following my Monday post and on the other side of a forty-eight+ hour strike where the 5,500 faculty left their classes to stand up for the quality of education we so strive to maintain in our classrooms. Monday and Tuesday were sort of a blur as I prepared for what turned out to be the inevitable. I spent more time preparing and grading so that if Wednesday turned out as it did, I was prepared and I had done as much for my students as possible. Because there had never been a strike, most of the questions asked from others, or even my own self-pondering, were/was answered by the simple three word phrase my mother so detested if she asked questions, “I don’t know.” There was no template; there was no recipe card; and there were too many variables over which I had no control.

So Tuesday night I spent the last hours in my office tidying up, much like what you do before you go on vacation so you come home to a clean house. I also did the things I could to make sure that someone could not come in an easily take over my classes. I made sure to not do anything that would have gone against the admonishments and warnings from our provost. I went into my office one last time about 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday morning to make sure that I had everything I needed for about 10 days. Again, because I had neither an inkling nor an idea what to expect. I was up by 3:30  and I was nervous. Even though I had a better idea than many what was in place, as a member of both the Public Relations Committee and the Mobilization Committee, I still had little idea what to expect in terms of support on the campus or from the students. We had some indication of wide-spread support because the strike authorization vote that was above 93%, but it is one thing to vote, it is another thing to walk out and have no paycheck and no health insurance. We had also created a strike/picket line sign up with more than 2,000 slots to fill and they were all filled. These things seem to bode well for the chance of wide-spread support among colleagues, but there were other constituencies to consider, the most important being students and their parents. Would they realize our actions were about more than us wanting a raise or no change in our health insurance? The jury was still out on that one. There was the other audience for which there little doubt there would be no convincing or “winning,” if I can use that term, the local 30-second crowd. There is a long history of disenchantment between some of the local people and those “elitists” on the hill (that is the actual term that is regularly used). There is a bit of irony when largest employer of the county brings about 11.00 back into the community for every 1.00 earned. Bloomsburg would not really be much of the only town in Pennsylvania without those of us who work for the university, but also live within the community.

I experienced this disenchantment when a local member of the community named Rob referred to me as an “over-educated asshole” the morning the strike was to begin. When I let him know I was one of those educated assholes who would be striking, he told me “to get the fuck away from him.” Sorry if you are offended by this language, but I am merely repeating the exact quality of his discourse. Long-story-short of our communicative interaction was I did not back down and he got a bit exasperated. I must admit I was also, but I could manage it a bit better than he. What was interesting was Thursday, the following morning, I had breakfast at the diner and Jessica, the owner, asked if I had been involved in a verbal altercation at Dunkin’ Donut the previous morning early. I was stunned. She told me a local came in and noted that someone got in his face when he started smarting off. I should note that the owner and I spoke a second time and he, Bad Hombre, did admit that I spoke passionately, but not crudely. She said she knew it had to be me. What I learned in that moment was simple: there was more of my father in me than I might have realized. I had never stood up so vehemently for the union cause in my life. I had never found myself in a place to stand up for principle and be confronted by such an inappropriately-stated-disdain for what I am so passionate (my teaching). This “somewhat” closed-minded person not only had little idea what I do daily or weekly, he stated in his profanity-laced foolishness that he did not give a shit. Ultimately, it was the tone, his attempt to bully me, and his blatant disrespect that created such a comeback from me, one that not even I expected. I was reminded of what my older brother once told me about the laid-back man I knew as my father. He said on the job or when it was about his union membership, we was a very different person. I guess I have that piece in me also.

Wednesday was an astounding day. As we arrived at Carver Hall to begin picketing that first morning by 5:30 a.m., we were greeted by about 20 students, including two students from my Foundations course, Sam and Eric, to whom I offer this shout-out for coming out so early to support us. I walked at three of the 5 locations that first day and walked from 5:30 in the morning until about noon and then from 2:30-6:00 p.m. The entire day was a bit surreal because of the amazing support we received from so many people. To say that I am gratified and humbled by our amazing students does not come close to what I am feeling within me even today as I am trying to find some sense of normalcy. There were students, signs, bull-horns, chants, a band, drums, the campus radio station, honking horns, music, and a sense of camaraderie that I have never felt on the campus, and perhaps not in my entire life. Throughout that day there were so many people in front of Carver Hall and the energy was infectious.  Thursday I was asked to come in early again, but this time to take a post at the construction site on campus. Four of us stood under the ominous clouds waiting to see what would happen. The foreman for the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and for the United Brotherhood of Operating Engineers took the time to speak with us and ask questions about our reason for striking. By 9:00 a.m. that morning pretty much all unionized trades unions had pulled their workers off the site. What a wonderful demonstration of support and union solidarity for us. As I noted in my last posting, my father was correct about the importance of union brothers and sisters standing together. I saw it in action and I hope you are proud of the stance we took this past week, Dad. Thursday was a long day,  but again between colleagues, phenomenal student support and knowing that 13 other universities were also standing strong, we soldiered on whatever the circumstance might be. Throughout the day more pizza, donuts, sandwiches and coffee continued to flow in reminding us of the support that was present for us. Wednesday’s student band and Thursday’s choir and the deaf students on campus, who were told they did not have the right to signing or an interpreter by Disability Services on campus because they had not given 24 hour notice, when they themselves were not given 24 hour notice of the hastily organized meetings on Wednesday by administration, were out in force and their collective voices were deafening. It was fabulous and we are grateful to the local news station, WBRE, for covering their story. By Friday we knew there was more rain coming, but it did nothing to deter our resolve to stand once again. I should note that Kristin Baver, the local reporter for the Press Enterprise, worked tirelessly to cover the changing story from early morning until we ended our picketing around 6:00 or so in the evening. Also on Thursday, more construction workers left the job, and now, in retrospect, there was more going on behind the scenes than we realized. Mid-morning Friday, a group of Bloomsburg students and a couple of faculty boarded a school bus for the Dixon Center in Harrisburg. We were met by colleagues from Shippensburg and Millersville as well as the amazing APSCUF staff. Bloomsburg students wer3e undeterred by the rain and they were outside the Dixon Center chanting loudly and continuously for their education. Once the rain opened with torrents, they went inside and requested an audience with Chancellor Brogan, himself. What they found out was there were two attorney’s ahead of them. Again, in retrospect, it appears, particularly because of what a student overheard, these attorneys were from the State System’s negotiating team and the end was in sight. There are a number of student to whom we owe a huge debt of gratitude for their unswerving support. I was fortunate to get to know one in particular who took the time to drive around early in the morning in her little bug to deliver sustenance and a smile. She is small, but mighty. It might be easy to under-estimate her because she is a bit shy, but she is passionate and keenly aware of what is just and right. She also understands why it is so. She knows who she is and I am blessed to know her. As we returned to Bloom from Harrisburg, she spoke about returning on Monday in a business suit to meet with the Chancellor in person. She realized that rhetorically she needed to be taken seriously. Not your typical student. She reminds me of another student who has become such an important part of my life since returning from Poland last year. She sat with me today as I finished this blog. She is a phenomenal student and brilliant young person also. We returned to Bloom and arrived about an hour before we would hear that we had a new tentative contract. There is so much I could say about the three days more descriptively, but what I learned is solidarity and being honest about what matters makes a difference. I learned that standing in solidarity for something bigger than one’s self  matters and makes a difference. I learned once again that people who think about and believe in the value of education, both professors and students, can make a positive difference in the face of what seems to be pretty daunting odds. I learned that some things take more time than I wish they did and that a Governor’s support makes an unbelievable difference. To my former colleagues in Wisconsin, it is such a difference. Indeed, the professor learned a great deal this week. I need to give a shout out also to the wonderful owners and family of the Bloomsburg Diner. They have been more supportive than words will ever explain. I am honored to call the entire family, friends. Thanks John, Jessica, Amara, Luke, Ariel, and Lexi.

Today is the 23rd of October, so I actually am working on this for a second day. In 1988, on this day, and it was a Sunday, I was ordained as a Lutheran pastor at my little Lutheran Church in Sioux City Iowa. At that time, I believed I would spend the rest of my life as a parish pastor, and perhaps eventually a professor in a seminary. Well one of the two plans came to be, sort of. I did not expect to be a writing professor or the director of a digital rhetoric and professional writing program. There is an irony in location also because that first parish was in Lehighton, Pennsylvania, only about and hour and 20 minutes away. When I left the state in 1992 I did not believe I would ever come back. It is now the place I have lived the longest since I graduated from high school. That day, after my ordination service, I was so overwhelmed by what had just happened to me that I had to lie down and sleep. It seems like more than a lifetime ago that all of that happened. That twenty-eight years seems a century ago. I was so much more idealistic then. I believed so much more in the goodness of people. I believed that when one was helped or provided help, people were grateful and would respond in kind. While I am still a giver, I know all too well that people will take advantage of your graciousness. That has been a difficult lesson, but the professor continues to learn. As the day continues, I have a number of things to accomplish, but it is manageable. I sit and write with a sense of gratitude for what has been accomplished and for all the people who made a difference this past week and even, yes, in the past 28 years since I was in a different role.

It is back to work and thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin
Present Professor and Former Pastor
Proud Faculty Member of Bloomsburg University
Proud Member of APSCUF

Honoring my Father

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Hello after a day in Harrisburg,

While the state capitol of Pennsylvania is certainly different than most capitol cities I have wandered around, I enjoy it as the political junkie I am and because of the faculty union of which I am proud to be a member. It has been a sort of change for me because, in spite of growing up in a union family ~my father was a strong and adamant supporter of the union movement in the United States and a member of @IBEW231, I understood the reasons for labor unions, but I had a relatively benign attitude. There were times when I struggled to understand his commitment to this labor movement. I remember while in high school, there was a pretty violent strike in my town between the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) and Iowa Beef Processors (IBP) packing plant, which was the largest beef meat packing plant in the country at the time. This included brick throwing, fire bombing and other serious harassment. I remember asking him why supporting the union and standing up was such an important thing. He was passionate about those who would have crossed a picket line. I had never really witnessed an angry tone, but it was clearly there in what he had to say at that time.

What I know now, some 43 years later was that he had a reason to stand up for the fairness and appropriateness of a contract and what it meant to be treated with equity and fairness. While I certainly understand that there are two sides to every argument, and there are certainly two positions from which to begin when viewing this argument about our teaching contract (or perhaps there are five -the state system, who desire to be known as the SS, the faculty, including both permanent and adjunct, the students, including current, future, and former, parents of said students, and tax payers of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania). I am sort of stunned by some of what is happening, but that is because I still believe in logic and the collective good will of people. This is no longer unfettered idealism, but the simple believe that when people sit and speak appropriately and respectfully, things can be accomplished. However, I guess you need to begin from a place where there is some logic for that to happen. When I look at all of the pieces of our current labor situation, there are certainly some illogical pieces. This is why my father was so unwavering about the need for union protection. When management has power, the purse strings, and sees everything in terms of the bottom-line, there is an unequitable situation from the outset. I have been accused of having a problem with authority in the past, and those of you who have read this blog know that has been a statement that I have noted more than once. However, as I have continued to age, what I realize is that I have a problem with the abuse of power. This is what is happening in our current situation, that abuse and what seems to be an unwillingness to negotiate in good faith, as is easily argued. Today as I sit and write this, we are actually 10 days from going on strike and there have been no negotiation for the last 10 days, and none currently scheduled for at least four more. Yet administrators have received their yearly raises. All of this is while the faculty have worked for almost 16 months without a current contract. The state system negotiating team has refused to come to the table during the last 10 days. Yet we have a Chancellor who is willing to readily take his $8,000.00+ raise, and when asked by students about that raise this past week, standing face-to-face with these students, had little he could provide in response, but in a FB live meeting with students claims to be working diligently to avoid a strike.

This is the same Chancellor who has done work within the Florida system to create a business model of education. On the surface it seems to be a good plan, but when little is done to promote faculty leadership or support advancement in building that enhances life in the classroom, there is an issue. He is a 5th grade teacher who, from all the research I have done, has done little or no teaching since he became an administrator and has never been in the college classroom as an actual professor. Yet, he seems to be able to understand what it means to be a college professor. The foolishness of such a possibility is unconscionable. It is stunning to me that he can in good conscious argue some of the things he has about our work or our classrooms. Again, I understand the need to be fiscally responsible, but for him to fail to ask the state legislature for any additional money, especially when we were gutted by the previous administration, is beyond wrong. I did not know that I could be so passionate about all  of this, but I am infuriated by the smugness with which he faced us this past week. There as so much more I wanted to say, but I wanted to be appropriate and professional as I stood in front of the Board of Governors, the Chancellor, the University Presidents, and my own provost. I will say that I have a significant amount of respect for those offices, and in the case of my two administrators, in spite of being turned down for sabbatical this past week, I still believe in their integrity. I know that some of my colleagues will shake their heads by my stating this, but I will try to stand up and yet be respectful. I would like to believe that is age and a sense of growing wisdom. I will say that the sabbatical rejection was a bit of a shock and a sort of kick in the teeth, but there are certainly worse things. To the President’s credit, he has asked me to sit up and appointment with him, and, for that, I am grateful. . . .

It is a week later and I am just getting back to this I had not saved it on my tablet and I did not want to begin again. I am in Jim Thorpe and grading, which I have been doing for about the last 5-6 hours, but I need to let the other computer charge a bit, so I am back to the blog, and, as is usually the case, that might be a good think to clear my head out before I get to the next task. I should note that we are now four days from a strike and there is little progress in our negotiations. I should also note  that both sides have declared a moratorium on commenting about the effectiveness or where they are in the process as of later today. This was because there was little accomplished in yesterday’s negotiations, and in the 16 day hiatus since the last bargaining, the state merely returned with the same offer we had turned down. I will leave up to you as a reader to ascertain what such a move might indicate. I will admit that I am concerned in ways I have never been because of the ominous tone of a system and their seeming total disregard for students. I cannot imagine how the very university president, of whom I spoke appreciatively, can be a major player in this position. If it is merely because he does not need to worry about the consequences because he is going to retire, I would be deeply disappointed.

This past week it seems that every day brings out something in our political landscape that can only create more disillusionment and a pondering that is summed up by the acronym of “what the French toast?” I have said more than once this past week that it causes me embarrassment to be an American. I find myself agreeing with people on both sides of the aisle at time. However as I noted in a Facebook posting earlier this today, yesterday, or I have no clue as it seems that everything is crashing in at once.  The New York Times has some amazing columnists and op/ed writers. Their ability to get to the core of a situation and say some of the things most are thinking, but seem incapable of verbalizing, or writing, astounds me. In two different pieces today, For my colleagues, friends, former students, and present students who struggle with Hillary Clinton, I can understand some of that struggle, but the issue is more complex than you might know without some serious consideration. Amy Chozick has an outstanding piece in today’s NYT laying out some of this as well as any piece I have read. In another article, Ezra Klein, writing for Vox, does a fantastic job of asking what the consequences of ignoring the stories about Donald Trump say about us as a nation. I should note that both pieces are implicated related and worth your consideration. If you have an Apply phone you can find them easily on your news feed.

This coming week it will be difficult for a number of reasons. There is the issue of a potential labor action and what the consequence of actually having that a reality does to all involved. Yet, there is a time to stand up, this is what my father told me back in high school when I questioned the labor situation as noted in the early part of this post. There is standing up for something more important than myself. This past week I had the opportunity to sit down with someone I have taken to task more than once in this blog. I had the opportunity to meet with Mr. James Sachetti at the Fog and Flame. He agreed to an invitation to have coffee and I must say that my understanding and perception of him has been wrong. That is not to say that we do not see some important things in the same way, but my conversation and interaction with him was completely cordial and enjoyable. He was attentive to what I shared and willing to share his viewpoint and his background. I walked away from that hour-plus conversation with a  respect and appreciation that has been before missing. While I will not agree with everything he might write, nor will he with me, I can say that I respect and appreciate his position in ways I would not have imagined before our meeting. I am grateful that he took the time. It is another place where I believe I have made my father proud. He often said, “Speak to the person rather than about them.” He, as usual, was (and continues to be) correct. On another front, I will be standing up for myself in a manner that is hard for me. I am generally a giving and generous person, but too many have taken advantage of that generosity. It is time for me to stand up and ask them to be accountable. That is difficult, but it needs to be done.

As we move toward Wednesday, I am uncertain of what will occur. As we move toward an election, I am unsure of what will occur, and even when we have spoken at the ballot box, I am unsure what will happen. We have become a nation of whiners, of selfish and self-centered idiots. We fail to think critically and analyze thoroughly. We are content to allow others to think for us. The consequence has been devastating. Those with money and power have taken over our country and the average person seems powerless to make a difference. We have abdicated our responsibility because of our unwillingness to think. We have allowed those like the recently retired CEO of Wells Fargo to make decisions that affect so many of the common folk while they line their own pockets. This is just one example of how the powerful screw the other 99%. In spite of my background as a former Lutheran pastor, I am more universalist than some might find comfortable, but there is something to be said for respecting others and living a tolerant lifestyle. I do not think this is a far reach from the Biblical words that admonish us to love God with our heart and soul and mind and our neighbors as ourselves. And on that note, I think there is enough to ponder for this posting. If you are reading this or found it because of a tag or handle, please share it to those who stand up for quality education in this Commonwealth.

To all who take the time to read my thoughts, please know I am grateful. Thank you, Dad, for teaching me so well.

Your grateful son,

Michael

 

 

 

Wondering how . . . 

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Hello on a Sunday evening where I am working to organize my jumbled thoughts (life, existence, viewpoints or),

I can only try to begin comprehending he array of thoughts, concerns, and yes, perhaps, degree of fear that might overwhelm me unless I take some time to think about it and compose some of those thoughts in this blog. I am a bit shocked because, certainly within my memory, for the first time in my life I might be more pessimistic than optimistic. Lydia would be shocked (or maybe happy that she had converted me from the optimistic she seemed to have such disdain for upon occasion). When she would ask me, “Michael, how are you”(In her Austrian accent)? I would generally answer, “No complaints.” Her retort would be, “That’s disgusting! You are too happy!” I told her that I was brought into her life to balance out that cynicism. She would scowl and hit me. I miss that give and take to this day. I wonder what she would think about Donald? I am sure she would have opinions. Just when I think I cannot be further amazed by the unpredictability of this election year, a week like this one in the immediate past occurs and I know that certainly truth (or whatever you want to call it) is stranger than fiction. Between the United States Congress wanting to blame President Obama for not explaining the consequences of their own bill to them, to the revelation that Donald Trump claimed to lose almost a $1,000,000,000.00 (that is one billion) in a year. How can you lose that much money and still claim to be an astute business person? From the fallout of the debates and 3:00 a.m. Twitter rants to the misogynistic comments that seem to just keep coming from both the candidate and his surrogates, I can only wonder how??

As I write this blog, it is now the 2nd of October and the potential for a strike among the 5,500 faculty in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE) is relatively high. I should note that the administration of PASSHE has asked that they no longer be referred to as PASSHE, but they want to be known as the State System. What might taking the word “Education” out of your title signify? Should we be concerned? I think so.  One might have to agree that with the way they have gone about negotiations referring to them as the SS might be apropos. I have written a significant editorial in The Voice, the student paper, this past week. While it is similar to what I have written before, but it is specifically pointed toward students and parents. If you would like to read it, please go to http://buvoice.com. As you are considering what is penned, here are some other facts to consider: Pennsylvania, in spite of having a 14 university system as well as Penn State, Temple and Pitt, three other universities who also receive state appropriations, ranks 47th in the country in terms of how much money they spend on higher education. Yes, you read that correctly: 47th. In addition, for students or parents who continuously seem to pay more, I would also note that Penn State, Temple and Pitt, as three schools, receive an amount approximately equal to the appropriatation as the 14 state schools who are PASSHE counterparts. And yet . . .  our esteemed leader, the former Lt. Governor to Jeb Bush, Chancellor Frank Brogan asked for no additional money during almost 6 hours of hearings before the State Senate Budget Committee. That unfortunate lack seemed to also be present when asked about the faculty might claim to represent. After being asked how much we worked, he had to ask his supporting staff at those hearings. Then when told he had to add the 5 hours of office hours he was asked if we only worked 17 hours a week for our six figure salary (which is also inaccurate and something the local paper loves to use), he did nothing to dispel such a ridiculous notion. That is in spite of the fact that each faculty member is required to send in a report each semester telling the State Legislature how much we work. Does all of this sound absurd to you? It should, but that is the current atmosphere of negotiations with our State System (SS). While they want to impose a number of significant changes to how we would be allowed to teach in our classrooms, they seem to have little sense of the consequences of those requests. They want the unfettered ability  to move me from department to department and location to location at will. Hmmmm? How is that going to work for a chemistry or a math student as I try to exlain carbon bonding or reverse functions? If you think that sounds ludicrous, the President of Bloomsburg University already tried to put an Anthropology faculty person in the Math, Computer Science and Statistics Department this fall. It did not actually come to pass because, at least currently, we can reject such a move, but even the attempt is beyond egregious. Note the word “unfettered” earlier. That does not allow for rejection in the future. Again, I am left to wonder how we got to this point? 

As I have spoken ito groups of students or other, it is apparent that many parents, many towns peopl, and even our own students, have little real understanding of what is at stake. The changes in teaching proposed by the SS will gut the credibility of a PASSHE degree. It will leave students under-prepared and left to wonder why they are caught between the proverbial “rock and hard spot” in their future positions or why they are under-compensated in spite the significant invest of  (approximate for in-state, but substantively more for the out-of-state) 100K they spent on their degree. They have been cheated. They have been stolen from by a bunch of bureaucrats and legislators who somehow believe that higher education is not worth investing in. That credit by tuition keeps them from “lingering in the smorgasbord of classes” to closely paraphrase Chancellor Brogan (March 2016) . What the hell are they thinking? This coming Thursday, I will be in front of the Board of Governors of the System arguing they need to rethink how they are handling this negotiation.we are 16 days from striking and they have refused offers to meet this coming week. 

While my main objections have to do with what they are doing to my classroom, the passion of my argument is also related to what they have done to us financially. I do need to be honest about that piece, but I also want to explain why. In the 8 years (and I am in my eighth year) I have been teaching in the system I have lost 4 steps. That affects my yearly salary; it affects my pension; it affects my morale. Again, I am trying to be as genuine as I can about that. My health insurance is certainly an amazing plan, and I know that. However, we have, like every other part of the country had to give things back (our co-pays increased by 100% in the last contract and our raises were 0, 1,1, and 2 percent), and we will again. I know this. Yet, the other state unions were not asked to give back what they are asking of us. They did not have deductibles added to their plans to my knowledge. They were offered a 7 1/2 percent raise over 4 years with 3 steps included. We were offered that raise only if we will willing to give 70 million dollars in cuts back from the outset. So the 159 million figure the state provided a week ago is a bald faced lie. Otherwise we were offered a total of 1% over four years with one step in the final year of the contract. Again, I am willing to pay more to a degree, and, as noted, I know it is coming, but the people who are asking us to swallow all of this got 3% raises this past year. As a specific example, I appreciate Dr. Soltz, our president. Furthermore, I do not begrudge him his salary, but his raises over the past three years equal about 23%. Or as another example, the governor of the State of Pennsylvania makes $187,000 a year (which I think ranks in the upper third of top state executives) and he does not even take his salary because he has done well as a business person. The Chancellor makes almost $346,000.000 after his over $8,000.00 raise this year. I am pretty sure he was more than willing to take that raise as he has negotiated against us. Again, I do not begrudge what people make, but do not ask me to give up so much when you, yourself, are unwilling to do so. It is about fairness; it is about being equitable. It is an abuse of power to do what they are doing, but then again, such an unfathomable example of this greed can be found in the standard bearer of the Republican party. He brags that he is too smart to pay taxes and then claims that companies that go abroad to do the same are slime balls. As the day has proceeded, the news continues to reveal how he uses the tax code in ways the average person cannot, but then he claims to be on our side? Would he be willing to help the little person do what he does? Does anyone see a disconnect here? He claims that he can be nastier than Secretary Clinton because she has used his own words against him? For the first time in my memory (contrary to things like the Swift Boat issue or even George W Bush’s service record, where people went digging on both sides), no digging is needed to demonstrate the risible reality of the @realDonaldTrump. I am completely stunned as I consider the depth to which we have fallen as a society. Again, I am left to wonder how?

This past week, fortunately, and probably to Lydia.s chagrin, I have been reminded of something a bit more positive. It is related to Congress, but focusing on the President. What I have continued to realize about President Obama is that is perhaps the most principled president i have experienced in my life. As a small person, one from the 50s and 60s, I might have believed that person to be President Kennedy, but what we have learned since about his personal life is more problematic than former President Clinton. I will say that while I appreciate President Clinton’s acumen and ability to make complex political issues understandable, I do not appreciate the digressions that created such problems for his time in office. Yet, other presidencies also seemed to have some significant human struggle. President Ford had family issues in the White House: President Nixon had to resign. Some of the children of former presidents certainly have had issues. The Obamas have had more scrutiny that perhaps any presidency in history, merely because of the social media atmosphere of our present world, but scandal has not been cluttering our headlines; they are an amazing family. Their daughters have grown up in the spotlight, but they are elegant and poised from what I can see. Michele Obama would be an amazing president in her own right. She is articulate, brilliant and also principled. As a first family, I believe they have set the “gold standard” of what we should expect from the occupants of the White House. I am still stunned at the Congress and the degree of obstructionism and racism that permeates both our legislators and the American public. I say this as the White-Anglo-Saxon-Protestant male. This morning, I was in the diner for breakfast and heard about a situation where the youngest daughter of the owners stood up for her older sister when her sibling was being mistreated. She said to the rude guest or customer, or just plain dumbass, “That is my sister and you cannot disrespect her.” Good for you Lexi!! Where did we lose what seems to be all sense of decorum necessary for any society to survive? Where did we become such a society of Malcontents? What I know is that I am willing to treat others with the respect I would hope to deserve myself. What I have finally learned to do is to stick up for myself. I have learned what many have told me for so long . . . . if you not do it, nobody else will. It is so true.

So to whomever might read this, as the days are ticking down and a Chancellor is more content to spin on Facebook than negotiate,  I am hoping is that students will stand up for what is fair. If they do not, what is coming will be hurtful for everyone. If you are reading this and a student, CALL THE CHANCELLOR. If you are reading this and a student, CALL YOUR PARENTS with the real facts. If you are a student or an alumnus of the PASSHE system realize the consequence of these proposals and what they do to the value of the degree you already have. This is not  what happens to those still studying, it affects the entire system, the state, and the alumni. Speak out loud and strong. Tell the SS, as they want to be called, to change course and be fair and equitable in what they are doing to your classrooms. I will not back down. I will stand up for the integrity of what I do and the education I believe my students deserve.

Thanks for reading.

Dr. Martin

@realDonaldTrump, @POTUS, @FLOTUS, @BloomsburgAPSCUF, @APSCUF,

 

My Response to Faculty Vilification

Stop Writing

Good morning from my office,

I got home at 1:15 this morning and it is before 8:00 and I have been up since 5:30. I was at the diner this morning working the morning crowd to support the faculty of the university who are being confronted with perhaps the most egregious set of proposals in the history of the PASSHE system. As is the case locally, the editor of the paper, who is an alum of the very university and faculty he regularly attacks, has written his usual misrepresentation of the facts (I call it this because he includes only what serves his purpose) and called the faculty on the proverbial carpet yet again. This is the same person who regularly posts all of our salaries with little explanation behind them each year in the paper.

While the coverage in the Press Enterprise have been a little more even-handed, even those articles leave out a number of important points. Is it because of incompetent writing or not knowing how to ask the questions? I am unsure and I want to give a particular reporter the benefit of the doubt because I believe them to be sincere. However, after an editorial yesterday in the local paper, which was ludicrous at best, I have decided to respond. I am pretty sure the paper will not run the entire response because they will tell me it is over their word limit. It is probably impossible to make it to that limit because this editorial was unconscionable in so many ways. Therefore, I offer a copy of what I have written. I have also posted in on my Facebook page and sent it to the Raging Chicken Press.

Dear Bloomsburg University student, towns-person, and the “esteemed” editor of the Press Enterprise,

Indeed, you have heard much about a possible strike by the faculty of the fourteen PASSHE schools of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania; you have received emails from Chancellor Brogan’s office assuring you that the System and the Board of Governors are bargaining in good faith to reach a fair and equitable contract; and you have once again heard from the editor of this newspaper that we are merely fear mongering and pretending to sacrifice your education (9/14/2016). Unfortunately, as often seems to be the case in the seven years I have taught here, Mr. Sachetti delights in vilifying the faculty of the university, the very university from where he received his degree. His reasons for doing this and the enormous energy he regularly spends to disparage this university and its faculty baffle me, but that is a topic for another time. Suffice it to say, someone must have hurt his feelings tremendously for him to champion such disdain so routinely.

What he fails to note in his editorial is that the primary reason your faculty, your fellow citizens of this town, have chosen to stand up for a more evenhanded contract is precisely because of you, the student. Some of the major sticking points, contrary to his assertion, are not about health care or salary; those points of contention are about the changes they want to make to the collective bargaining agreement, all 249 of them (yes, you read that correctly), and how those changes affect your education. Let me offer just three of those changes we believe to be most egregious and worth our not accepting their proposal. We will hold out because of what it would do to the quality and credibility of the degree you would receive from Bloomsburg or any of the other PASSHE institutions.

As has been the case in each of the last two or three proposals, they want adjunct faculty to increase their teaching to five sections with more preparatory for different classes added also. All of this with no pay increase, thereby cutting their salaries 20 percent. As important is it would create two-tiers of education within departments because of the increased work load in preparing for classes and grading assignments. The system rationale is they do not have as much to do as tenure track faculty, so it should be easy. What they do not say is that most of those faculty are working to finish their doctoral degrees and are looking for other positions where they have a sense of security because currently as an adjunct, they have no job security. Additionally, it takes away from the quality of instruction and is pedagogically unsound. Second, the administration wants the unfettered ability to move us from department to department and location to location at will. As a tenured faculty, hired specifically to create a Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing program that is now one of the most comprehensive on the East coast, I work hard to support that program as well as teaching four sections a semester. However, you do not want me teaching your Principles of Accounting class or Organic Chemistry class because I do not know enough to provide a substantive learning experience for future CPAs or M.D.s. I, in fact, would feel guilty because I could not do an adequate job, and we should never be simply adequate. In addition, I do not want to drive to East Stroudsburg twice a week to teach a course there. I did not get four degrees to be a substitute teacher, moved around by the whims of those not in the classroom. Students, parents, and certainly future employers need to ask how my instruction in those classes would compromise the quality of the education for which a student (or their parent) has paid good money? Third, the system wants to allow people with no Masters or Doctoral degree to be the instructor of record for a class. I am quite sure you will not pay less tuition for that section than if your PhD-degreed professor is teaching. More significantly, what does this do to the credibility of your degree? How does that provide you the foundation you will need to be successful in your career, and 90% of PASSHE students stay in the Commonwealth so what does that do to the credibility of the workforce for the future?

Those are only three of the proposals that we are fighting against. This has nothing to do with salary or benefits so the majority of Mr. Sachetti’s recent editorial is moot. While he has tossed out figures and claimed a number of things about our intent and what we make, he has misspoken (and that is not surprising). He claims we only work 30 weeks a year, but he fails to mention that we work throughout the summer to publish or we go to conferences to stay current in our scholarship, a requirement if we want to become tenured or promoted. He fails to mention the incredible number of hours we spend outside the classroom advising, supporting undergraduate research, traveling abroad with students, without being paid a faculty wage during the Christmas break, or the amount of time spent each break preparing for the next semester

I do understand that I make a reasonable salary (and he will provide that for you in his yearly chart), but he does not mention that I have four degrees and fourteen years of higher education. He does not mention that I have been teaching college for the last 20 years. He does not mention that the money faculty pour back into this town daily, weekly, and yearly, make a significant difference in what is available here for each and every one of us. I have read his hateful and reproachful commentary on us for seven years and enough is enough. The real story is that the faculty of this university and the faculty across the thirteen other schools want a system that demonstrates a commitment to quality education and does not merely give it lip-service. We desire a fair and equitable contract that illustrates that we work and live in this Commonwealth, a contract that recognizes we have worked 33 months of the last 60 without a current contract, we continued to come to work every day, in spite of losing four steps. We have bargained in good faith and we have stood up for the integrity of providing an education that both our students and the people of this state deserve. I might note that I am still in my office as I write this and it is 11:22 p.m. and I have been on campus since 7:00 a.m. this morning. So while I certainly do not want to strike, I will. So how dare he??!!

Sincerely,

Dr. Michael Martin
Asst. Professor of English
Director of the Digital Rhetoric and Professional Writing Program
APSCUF Member
#APSCUF, @RCPress

If you are a parent of a student or a student it is time to stand up and let the chancellor or the local university president know that what they are proposing is unacceptable. Notice, I have said nothing about the health care or benefits. I care first and foremost about the quality of education we provide and the integrity I hold as an educator. If you have questions, please contact me and I will be glad to provide more information. I should also note that for some reason, the copied article has paragraphs in it when I am drafting, but somehow they do not show up in the post. I am working with this and trying to figure it out. I apologize.

Sincerely,

Dr. Martin

Realizing a Mistake and Blaming Myself

Hello from the acre,

It has been a busy day and a disconcerting one. Progress has been made in so many ways, but progress in the world of imperfection is always fleeting and tenuous. It seems that might be the situation, but one time or misstep does not negate the advances accomplished . . . but it does require an inventory to understand what created the newest problem. In the meantime the first step of powerlessness is painful apparent for all of us. Tonight along with the others who care, we wait and we pray. . . That has been a couple of Tuesday’s ago and indeed, the frailty of our humanity was illustrated once again, but as it the case we learn and continue on. I learned, as is usually the case, more about myself once again. Since I started this, the never ending reality of life’s marching on, and seeming to pick up speed, continues. School has begun,; the hope for some small semblance of order to the fall continues and I have spent the majority of my Labor Day weekend doing precisely that: laboring. The lack of planning from another has required the revision of a new prep, which was itself a sort of draft, now three times. I have spent close to 20 hours in just the last two days. However, at least I now feel like there is  something reasonable to work with. The first week of school is always a bit of a whirlwind, but this past week seemed even more so, it that is possible. The fall always gives me pause, but simultaneously a sense of hope and excitement. Many academics look forward to commencement/graduation. I look forward to the fall and the commencement of the new year. I remember in my undergraduate years having a fall convocation and I looked forward to that as much as anything of the entire academic year. This fall, however, has a sense of tension as we continue to work without a contract and little progress or sense of good faith bargaining by the State on our contract. We are four months from two years of negotiating and as has been the case, at least in my time here, the State drags things out interminably to make money off the faculty and then offers a simple unacceptable and egregious set of contractual options to make the process even more painful.

The weeks ahead are going to be stressful as we vote on the various campuses this week to authorize a strike. I am quite sure that vote will be supportive of moving toward a strike on the fourteen campuses of the system. It is my hope that will prompt a more serious negotiating posture from the system than has been exhibited up to now. Letting my students ask the questions necessary has been one of the things I have done as well as speak to students, colleagues, and townsfolk at the diner and elsewhere about the specifics of the sysrem’s disrepectful offer that is currently on the table. As I move into this fall, I thought about times and dates as I am often prone to doing. I am not sure if it that former history major or merely my penchant for reflecting and remembering. It was 30 years ago that I was in Big Lake, Minnesota as an intern pastor and I met such amazing people. During the past couple weeks I have reacquainted with high school classmates and some people I knew when I lived in Houghton. It is interesting how things have a way of coming back around. It is that coming back around that is really the focus of this blog. Particularly when I have lived a sort of itinerant lifestyle, it is easy to believe that once you are gone you can leave things behind, but that never really happens. We are influenced, and often affected more than we realize, by our former actions. I believe that coming to that conclusion is another way in which I am slowly becoming a bit wiser. As I consider this life I am aware of my mistakes and coming to terms with those mistakes has been a difficult, but important process.

A couple of weeks ago, somehow within the period of a week, I was asked three times if I had ever been married. I asked one of the people, after their inquiry, if there was something on my forehead I could not see that said I needed a date or something. What the heck?? However, it did get me to focus on the last 16 years since I was last married. For those who know me well, the fact that I was married twice is no surprise, for some of the rest of you, perhaps it is. I was almost 29 when I got married the first time. I had dated a person the last year I was in college and beyond. We were engaged for more than a year. We chose to get married because, at least from my much latter perspective, we believed we loved each other and we had dated and been engaged for quite some time and it was the next logical thing to do. What is interesting to me now is that I am not sure I was ever in love with her (and that is not her fault, it is mine). What I realize at this more elderly point of my life is that I was in love with the idea of being in love and I was in love with the idea of creating a marriage and family. I must admit that I failed at both things. There are a variety of reasons for that, but it is interesting to me that someone tried to talk me out of getting married only minutes before I was at the front of my home church waiting for her to walk up the aisle. I must admit that while I tried to be a good husband, the baggage carried because of earlier experiences in my life had never been dealt with and I was not a prince of a husband. While I am aware of things done on both sides of our relationship, I know that I could have been much more understanding and supportive than I was. I could have been more faithful than I was, and that is a difficult admission for me to make. While I am aware of things on the other side – so was she – and we failed each other in a number of ways. What I know now is I should not have married her and I am accountable for that choice. That decision had its issues and the consequence of those issues had/has affected me both at the time and even since. One of the things still haunting me the most is that her parents were really good people (and I hope they are yet, meaning I hope they are alive). Her father in particular was/is an amazing man. He is insightful, honest, hardworking, and the kind of person I would want in my life. By the time we were divorced, I was not feeling sad or disappointed, I merely wanted it done. That says a great deal and most of it is sad. In the 23 years since we have been divorced, I have spoken with her fewer times than the number of fingers I have on one hand. That too says something. I went on with my life and found myself actually in love with someone as I was almost turning 40. While she had been married before (and twice) so I knew walking into that relationship, and she certainly gave me more than one indication that I should have probably gotten out while I could have, I believed I could fix anything and we would be alright. That marriage was certainly done out of being in love with someone, but neither she nor I were in a healthy space. Again, I cannot blame her for the mistakes I made or the rather naïve belief held that I could make anything work. I remember my therapist telling me I was really good at high maintenance people. I am not sure to this day that is a compliment. What I know is again as I was hurt and felt like there was no winning, I struck out in ways I should not have. I have talked about that in earlier blogs and I paid dramatically for that mistake. Again, sometimes I still feel I am paying for it. I lost an ordination that meant more than words could have ever express. I also lost a sense of direction in a number of ways after that divorce (and in terms of finances and property, I lost a lot more). I always say that every thing I owned fit in a pickup truck and I did not own the truck. It is always easy to point a finger at the other person, but in both cases, I had my own mistakes and places or occasions for which I must take blame. What it has caused is this feeling that I am both better off and safer by being alone. Yet that too has consequences and there are times where the loneliness causes more pain than I let on. That loneliness has caused me to reach out – only then to pull back when I am afraid. By doing so I have hurt others and I know that. I am sorry for that pain, and those to whom this has happened, please forgive me. You know who you are; of that I am quite sure.

It is always dangerous to let another person into your life on any level because it changes the dynamics. Whenever another person is offered space in our lives it changes our lives and it makes us vulnerable. That is not a bad thing, but is certainly has repercussions. For me it is learning to limit their influence and the time I am willing to put into that relationship. Part of the difficulty has always been I jump in with both feet without considering the consequences for them or for me. I know I have spoke about the rather oxymoronic way I am simultaneously open to others and yet guarded beyond what is readily apparent. It is not necessarily something I mean to do, but as I examine most of my life, to say that that is a pattern I have developed would be a profound understatement. Again I think it’s important that I apologize to those I might’ve hurt, albeit unintentional. In addition, I find it interesting that I am much more frail about those relationships than I might have realized. Introspection is such a profound and frightening thing. It is even more frightening to write it all down, but in a cathartic way I’m hoping that it will help. There are still things that I must come to terms with, and that is, in part, what this blog is about. Today was one of my closest friend’s  birthday and tomorrow would be my best friend’s 60th birthday if he were alive. It was four years ago I sent him a letter telling him how important he was in my life. I did not expect that he would already be gone. Thursday would be my great Aunt Helen’s birthday. I think she would be about 110. That is an amazing number for me.

As most of you know we are two weeks of the school, and the days seem to blend together and fly more quickly. The initial meetings have started and I spent much of day responding and grading blogs. Between office hours meeting students and meetings, the day flew by. Tomorrow will be more the same and while it is only 9 o’clock in the evening and not quite that, my eyes are tired and my brain feels like mush. And now I realize that I didn’t close my car windows. So, my cathartic exercise is finished, at least for the moment, and I think I will finish up the night, brush my teeth and go to bed. However, not before I set an early alarm so I can get up a take more things off the list than I put on it. That is my plan. The initial picture is for my favorite Republican friends.

As always thanks for reading,

Dr. Martin

You are kidding? What the French Toast? And “Time Passages”

IMG_4979

Hello at almost midnight on a Friday night,

The phrase of “when you least expect it, expect it.” something I used to say to others as a sort of admonishment or a tongue-in-cheek warning per se had come to roost today with an unbelievable vengeance. For the last two years, more off than on, I have had a sensitivity in one my upper molars, but with a tripe root canal and crown was assured that tooth could no longer be a site from which I should experience pain. There was just one issue, I had pain and the pain had become quite unbearable. So an emergency trip to the dentist after hours lead to a trip to an endodontist and an initial cut into my upper gum is leading to another more extensive cut into the gum and a surgery to seal root canals from the top down. However, that is next week’s fun and games. There is so much to manage before then. Yesterday I was speaking with one of my colleagues (one of my closest and longest-known colleagues) and he said when I retired it would take three people to cover what I have been covering. I am not sure that is entirely true, but it was quite a compliment. It does seem that things are only getting busier, they are not slowing down. However, I feel like I am falling short and should be doing more work. I think my reason for such a response is there is always more we can be doing. I also understand the dilemma in that statement, but we are not put on this earth to see how little we can do. That is certainly an option, but when we refuse to do our best, people have not sense of what our best is, and neither do we.

The other day I noted in my Facebook posting that I knew it would all get done, but I had no idea how. It seems the end of every semester is there. I am not sure how it happens, but it does. I wish the misperception that we only are contracted 17 hours a week was really the case sometimes. I do understand that this is the idea that we are only contractually obligated in a certain place at a certain time has a modicum of truthfulness, but that is certainly not how we manage our positions. It is as another colleague noted today (and as Martin Luther noted so eloquently over 500 years ago), there is certainly a difference between a job and a vocation. Dr. John W. Nielsen, with whom I had a wonderful opportunity to speak a few weeks ago, once noted the difference between a professor and a teacher. While teaching is about a classroom and how we impart knowledge, a professor is about a lifestyle and what we do with every ounce of our fiber. It is not what we do, it is who we are. During this past week there was a legislative assembly for the faculty union. While I know the view of unions (and understandably so) is varied, there is a lot a opinions regarding the efficacy of the union structure. If one returns to the reason for the development of unions to begin with, not as much has changed as we might like to believe. The reason for unions was to protect the right and safety of the worker. It was because of the greediness of the corporate structure, and, by extension, the greediness of humanity in general. News Flash!! Humans are still greedy, and more and more, the administrators at the top of educational systems (and the Wisconsin System in which I once worked, which is totally off the rails, and the Pennsylvania System in which I currently work seems to want to follow) have decided that education is a f-ing business. When the chancellor can say we are “leaner and meaner,” when he can tout that we are 900 employees less than 8 years ago, but employees refers to faculty, but he refused to refer to us as such, at least at that point, I am sickened. When he thinks somehow 12 credits a semester is enough before a credit-by-tuition kicks in (and it has worked well), when it takes 15 a semester to get to 12o in four years and so you have just raised tuition on the entire student body with no negative consequence (not just to enrollment or retention,  but for additional minors or other programs to help a student be more prepared for the 21st century world), I want to sit him down, buy him a Starbucks, even though I have no contract and continue to work,  and probably note, “It seems that you neither majored in math or economics.” While he has a degree in education, it is certainly evident by his latest remarks to the Pennsylvania House Budget-Appropriations Hearing, his move toward being an administrator that seems to focus on cost versus quality of education is painfully evident. I am saddened to hear this particular soliloquy about our system. As a faculty person, when the chief academic person of the system seems to be selling the faculty out, it is hurtful. I will admit he is rhetorically astute and says the right things in front of this committee, but there is so much behind what he is saying that is unspoken. I would also note that Pennsylvania has a legislature that is the least educated in the country. That does not bode well for appreciating a college degree or what it takes in anyway shape of form.

http://www.apscuf.org/blog/item/366-watch-highlights-from-last-months-budget-appropriations-hearings

In the meanwhile, as seems to be the case, the faculty will be made out from the local paper to the halls in Harrisburg to be the problem children. I do belong to a faculty union called @APSCUF, and I am proud of that membership. I know from working in Wisconsin where a governor and legislature gutted the teaching ranks what can happen. Many will say, “We want too much. We are the greedy.” We are unwilling to work with the system. I am sorry, but I disagree. In  our last contract we did not even get a cost of living raise in any year of the contract. We worked for 19 months without a contract. Now we have worked another 10 months without a contract. Where are we the greedy when we come to work each day and we work hard to educate, to work in and out of the classroom, and to make a difference in the lives of so many students? Illustrate or show me where I am being greedy. In the seven years I have been here, I have lost steps, which affect my retirement in three of them. Has that happened to a single administrator? I dare say, “NO!” I am not asking for the moon. I am not asking for less work. I am not asking for anything, save being treated fairly. Contrary to a chancellor’s or provost’s contention, I work more than 17 hours a week. I am, in fact, required by my State Legislature to fill out a semester report to show that I somehow work full-time and I  would love for them to follow me around for a week. I know that there are a number of sides to this issue. I know it is complex, but how can we be called a state system when less than one quarter of our funding comes from the state? Since when and how did education become such a thing that it is vilified and treated as an unwanted or ungrateful step-child? That is what it seems. The local paper editor deems it appropriate to post everyone of our salaries in his paper yearly. Certainly I make more money than many, but I have worked hard for my education and what I make certainly is less than many who have less education than I. Again, I am not complaining. I do not begrudge what anyone makes, but it does call into question our priorities. I am a huge Green Bay Packer fan, and will remain so, in spite of this next comment. I believe Aaron Rogers is a phenomenal quarterback, and he seems to also be a very genuine and good person. Yet, is anyone worth his upcoming salary of $19,250,000.00? Yes, you read that number correctly. Again, he has a contract and that is what he is deemed to be worth. Since when is football worth so much more than education. I am not asking for that kind of salary. In fact, if I made that in one year, I would retire, invest and give to charity. I would buy a college in Blair, Nebraska and reopen it somehow

On Friday we had a second meeting of faculty and President Soltz. I ended up getting quoted in the local paper and as I spoke with a number of faculty at a gathering yesterday, the prevailing attitude was one of cautious optimism. I would like to believe and take him at his word as another colleague noted, at yet, another meeting. If we are about educating students, which I believe the great majority of us are, then let’s get on the same page. I am all about accountability, but micromanaging and response that seems (and when that word is a general belief, there is a problem) capricious or misinformed, at best, the consequence is an atmosphere of mistrust. It is pretty much what I see at the federal level with our elected officials. It is this mistrust that leads to frustration or anger and that is what gives rise to the demagoguery of a particular group of people or a candidate who capitalizes on this fear. I am frustrated by a lack of critical thinking that seems to characterize our American public in general. Today . . . yes more time has past since I had the time to write . . .  is the primary in New York. I was up until after 11:00 trying to finish up my own taxes last night. I wonder what tomorrow’s headlines will say if the front-runners on both sides win? What will be the spin for the others? Everything is spun in some manner. Perhaps that is life in general. It is a passage of time we try to understand, and something we spin to feel better about that world around us and ourselves. With that in mind, I share a song I remember and appreciate.

Thanks for reading,

Michael

Lucha de Probabilidades

APSCUF poster

Buenas Días,

I had an excellent day today in spite of the fact that I got to by office by 7:15 a.m. and it is 9:15 p.m. and I am still here. I do plan to leave shortly, though I might try to be back at 3:30 or 4:00 in the morning. While tomorrow is supposed to be a day where I am not on campus, I currently have 5 meetings, so I think I will be here for quite a while. Fortunately, they do not begin too early, though I do have a 7:30 meeting at the diner, so I will be up one way or the other. Today I went to my Spanish class and have gotten it scheduled so I can be there both class periods. It was really enjoyable, and while I felt a bit rusty on some things, other things I had learned on my own came back pretty quickly. What I noticed today is that when I was called on my pronunciation was pretty strong. That was a good feeling and I think someone, who regularly kicked me on some things, might have even been slightly impressed.

While I have been working on some important things and made some major life changes to manage some of those things, I have found out how fragile I am and how much I need to be really disciplined in what I am doing. My latest trip for testing revealed that the stress of the holidays and beyond, and the travel, probably did not serve me well. I think my failure to manage my diet as well as I had been doing also was a contributing factor. That being said, now I have to redouble my efforts. It is something I can do. I think we are always playing the odds on things. Sometimes intentionally and other times unaware. I am always stunned when I see people who really seem to take their fitness seriously and then I see them smoking cigarettes, for instance. It is times like that I realize that the addiction to nicotine must be exactly that. I cannot imagine that someone honestly wants to affect their body in such a negative way when working so hard in other ways to maintain or enhance it. Yet there are other ways I believe we harm ourselves because of the lifestyle we either feel compelled (perhaps almost in a VD way) to lead or because we merely do it without thinking. Because I started the semester in such a dismal condition, I have felt like I have been playing catch up from the outset of the semester. From more than a week before the semester began until late last week, the number of times I have been in bed before 9:00 p.m. is probably greater in that month than the entire previous year. It is what I had to do merely to maintain and make it through my classes.

Now I am working to catch up and get ahead of things. I actually feel like I have more on my plate right now than I did last spring when I was starting to prepare for tenure. That is a bit frightening and disconcerting. . . .  Welcome to Friday. I have been in front of people most of the day and it is Wisconsin cold out, so that is my day. I did not make it in here as early as I wanted, but I have been productive nonetheless. I have worked on tutoring an ESL student who works tremendously hard at learning and mastering English. It is actually fun to think about why things work they way they do. Today I got a picture (or actually a poster) that is being hung up around campus for the faculty union. It is the picture that you are seeing at the beginning of the post. It is a bit surreal, and it was also taken before I lost some significant weight, so I look like a fat toad, sad as that is.

I have been working on this post for a week and I’m still not done. I guess that explains how my week has gone. I am not sure the coming week or two will be any better. What I am realizing is that the odds I have been battling in more areas than most realize have taken their toll on me more than I wish to admit. While I have gotten things accomplished, the sum total have not been enough. I am reminded of one of my father’s saying, ” The faster I go, the behinder (sic) I get.” That seems to be the story of my life. However, some of it is of my own making, I am not merely a victim here. I am a bit frustrated with the insinuation, especially by one who should know better, that somehow we only work 17 hours (though it was noted as contracted) per week. I am reminded of another conversation in which it was noted that if we teach in the summer or do summer work related to publishing or other things, it was our choice. Again, it is my interpretation, there seemed to be no appreciation or belief that some of those decision felt more obligatory than optional because of things like tenure or promotion. I think of how sometimes it seems we are squeezed by both sides. The local paper, as they feel obliged to do yearly, printed all of our salaries in the local Sunday paper. Again with little explanation of how those salaries are determined or what work went into the degrees to earn those salaries. So now some people, as I expected, comment in the local paper that only our salaries are the reason for increased tuition. Then the administration notes we are contracted not even part time. So between the two extremes, it seems we are vilified. So I try to focus on two things: first, I hope to support my colleagues. Second, I work hard to support my students. Those are the two groups that really are affected by what I do or don’t do. I know when I hear something positive about my teaching that means more to me than just about anything. When I was awarded an outstanding teaching award at my previous institution that was probably one of the best things that happened in all six years. I know that the great majority of my colleagues work tremendously hard. Parece que estamos a menudo en combate contra las probabilidades o simplemente un siglo XXI versus de Sísifo.

Well, I think it is time to head to school. I have sat at the diner for more than an hour. Somehow I have again misplaced my office keys. I am not sure if I left them in my office on Friday or they are in my jacket at the dry cleaners. I did not hang them up and so I am afraid it will be a day or two yet again before they reappear, as magically as they disappeared. I have a great deal of grading to manage, but just keep plugging (all outside the 17 hours). Perhaps our Snyder Amendment papers need to go to more people on campus. I was looking back at my blog from a year ago. It is a bit boggling to see what was accomplished in the past year. The changes that occur are always merely part of our daily lives, but when you look back at them collectively, they seem so much more monumental. I have learned so much about myself during this year. I think it is that learning that helps me be more comfortable with the decisions I have made and where I am at this point. . . .

Good morning, it is yet another day and about 4:28 a.m. and I am still in my office. I will admit to an hour nap on my floor about 12:30, but otherwise I have been working steadily and getting things accomplished. It will be a long day as I have things pretty much straight through from 7:00-4:30 today, but I will make it through. I am actually feeling pretty reasonable at the moment. That is actually the reason I am typing on this and hoping to finally get it posted before the morning hits (or the normal morning). It is yet another case of understanding the obstacles to accomplishing what needs to be done. I always struggle with how much to respond to students’ work. I could merely put in grades, but that is not going to help their writing. There is so much more. I do have to figure something out, but I believe that the only way to become a better writer is to write. If I assign it then I need to look at it carefully and try to respond in a way that is effective for the student and yet efficient for me in the bigger picture. I am not sure I have ever learned how to do that. I am sure I am not the only English (or any language for that matter) professor who feels the pain of this dilemma. It is interesting how each step of the way, from graduate school to getting that position to getting tenure to . . .  you always think it has to be easier on the other side, and then you find out it is not really that much different. The papers are still there and they require as much work. I actually enjoy teaching composition and seeing the light actually go on. I love when a student who did not like writing suddenly decides it is not that horrific after all. I am excited when a student comes to the realization that writing has value. I feel accomplished when someone sees that the passion I have for what I do is actually inspiring and the result is their wanting to work more diligently. It is pretty simple to make me happy. Just do your work.

As we are into the fifth week of the semester already, I think I might be able for the first time to see that I can get on top of all the things that are out there. I might have to put in a couple more days like this one, but it will pay off. So in the meanwhile, I will keep working on all the things that are necessary for later in the day. I hope that wherever you are and from wherever you might be reading this that whatever odds you are facing, you know that the battle is worth it. There is so much that matters in the world in which we are living, working, and existing. In some ways it is always a gamble. With that thought in mind, I will leave you with one of my favorite artists (amazing that he has been gone for over 7 years). His narrative style and amazing instrumentals were something I so appreciated and still do. Thanks for listening to one of my favorite songs of Mr. Fogelberg. Ironic that I found it in two languages.

Thanks as always for reading.

Dr. Martin