What college professors actually do

Oh, all the people who only think I have to work 6 hours a week because that’s the time I spend in the classroom.  What about the 34 hours/week of blogging!  Nice piece in HuffPo:

This likely has to do with the fact that unless someone has been a professor or graduate student or worked with them, they probably don’t fully understand what professors do. Instead, presumptions are made about an alleged leisurely life spent in an ivory tower sitting around in tweed coats, smoking pipes and discussing Kant or Rawls (which actually doesn’t sound bad, except for the pipe smoke). That scene may happen, but it doesn’t reflect how faculty spend most of their time.

So perhaps the best question isn’t, “Do college professors work hard enough?” Instead, it might be, “What do professors do, anyway?”

For professors, actual time spent teaching in the classroom is the tip of the iceberg that follows a great deal of preparation: sifting through mountains of books and articles to pick the texts for students to read; creating detailed course plans; producing voluminous notes and presentations for every class and writing a syllabus, among other things. Professors don’t just stroll into class and say what’s on their mind.

And my favorite part:

Advising students and grading their work takes significant time, as does campus life — oh, the committees. [emphasis mine]  Many professors devote a good deal of their time to various other assignments: search committees to hire colleagues or administrators, tenure review committees, curriculum committees, PhD. committees; and a host of task forces and working groups formed to address all the challenges your average college and university can encounter. This takes countless hours, but must be done and is often beneficial for the institution.


The direction, not the strength

There used to be a huge debate in political science as to whether it mattered more whether voters were closer to one candidate than the other on an issue (the spatial) model, or, rather, were basically on the same side of the issue, regardless of closeness (the directional model).  I don’ t know if that ever got fully resolved– seems like the debate has just largely been dropped.  Anyway, what got me thinking of this was  a recent series of posts about how the economy is actually helping, not hurting, Obama.  Here’s Ezra:

Some months ago, I worked with political scientists Seth Hill, John Sides and Lynn Vavreck to build a model that used data from every presidential election since 1948 to forecast the outcome of this presidential election. But when the model was done, I thought it was broken: It was forecasting an Obama win even under scenarios of very weak economic growth. (You can play with the model here.)

After a lot of frantic e-mails, my political scientist friends finally convinced me that that’s the point of a model: It forces you to check your expectations at the door. And my expectation that incumbents lose when the economy is weak was not backed up by the data, which suggest that incumbents win unless major economic indicators are headed in the wrong direction, as was true with unemployment in 1980 and 1992.

This year, the major economic indicators are headed in the right direction, albeit slowly. We’ve been adding jobs, though not enough. We’ve been growing, though not particularly fast. We’ve seen the unemployment rate drop, though partially because workers are leaving the labor force. All in all, it’s not an impressive record. But it’s weak growth, not a new recession.

Short version, it seems like it’s more important what direction the economy is heading– up versus flat or down– more so than the actual trajectory.  Obviously, if that upward slope was greater, Obama would be in much better shape, but just the fact that it is up at all seems to be, surprisingly, to his advantage.

Infographic of the day

Gender ratio of higher ed degrees.  Yes, women are taking over.

Graphic: Gender ratio of recent US graduates by degree

Gender potpourri

1) You know me, I’m all about breastfeeding, but I just don’t think it is something you should be doing while delivering a college lecture.

2) Katie Roiphe objects to moms showing only their kids in the FB profile photos.   I agree.

3) Fascinating article on “throwing like a girl” and what it’s all about”

The throwing gap has been researched for more than half a century, and the results have been consistent. According to Jerry Thomas, dean of the College of Education at the University of North Texas in Denton, who did the throwing research Hyde cites in her paper, “The overhand throwing gap, beginning at 4 years of age, is three times the difference of any other motor task, and it just gets bigger across age. By 18, there’s hardly any overlap in the distribution: Nearly every boy by age 15 throws better than the best girl.”…

The power in an overhand throw — and in a golf swing, a tennis serve or a baseball swing — comes from the separate turning of hips and shoulders. The hips rotate forward and the body opens, and then the shoulders snap around. Women tend to rotate their hips and shoulders together, and even expert women throwers don’t get the differential that men get. “The one-piece rotation is the biggest difference,” says Thomas. “It keeps women from creating speed at the hand.” Even when women learn to rotate hips and shoulders separately, they don’t do it as fast as men.

There doesn’t appear to be a muscular or structural reason for the difference.

Much to my dismay, David throws like a girl, and I have tried to work with him on it some (though, clearly not enough).  I wonder if, see he is actually male, spending time working on the proper throwing motion would have much greater efficacy than the same time spent working with a girl.

4) Word of the day: Vajazzling.  As my FB friend put, and hard to believe, NOT FROM THE ONION.  Rather, from Christwire.  Even with that as the source, it’s hard not to wonder if this isn’t satire.  If it is, it’s great.  If not, just wow.

There is a grave and sinister new threat facing our college sons nationwide. College girls are now “vajazzling” their privates with jewels in efforts to tempt our solid, young men into fornicating with them and having babies.

Females are distracting young men from their studies, hindering their academic progress and dreams of becoming the doctors, lawyers and corporate executives of the next generation.

In these hard times, male college students are more focused than ever on their studies and building lifelong associates, and references, by joining fraternities and other extracurricular organizations.

This trend has caused females to resort to patently whorish methods in order to distract young men from their heart’s true desire in college: study and become successful.

In the 1950s and before, things were much better on campuses nationwide. At that point in time, women were still more inclined to stay at home and raise a family, as nature intended.

Colleges were the place where men of a proper background and upbringing would go, to further edify their academic savvy in a course of study to gain perspective, leading to professional status…

So that leads to today, where college female students are now “vajazzling” their private areas. They are adorning their erogenous suprapubic area with jewels, and then trying to tempt men to follow the sparkles right to a place where only the married belong. You get my drift.

Photo of the day

David asked me last night what was replacing the twin towers.  Now I can just show him this great set from Alan Taylor:

One World Trade Center, center, rises above the National September 11 Memorial and Museum at the World Trade Center, on September 6, 2012 in New York. The World Financial Center is on the left, and Four World Trade Center is at right. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)


2012 = 2004; 2012 ≠1980

Romney supporters have been holding out hope that 2012 = 1980 and that Romney will come from behind and win over all the undecided voters just like Reagan did.  Turns out, though, that’s not actually what happened in 1980.  Terrific explanation and analysis from Nate Cohn (winner of the coveted Steve Greene’s new favorite blogger for 2012 award):

The legend of Reagan’s epic comeback is largely the result of anomalous Gallup polling, which even showed a Carter advantage over the final month of the campaign. But if RealClearPolitics or Pollster.com had existed in 1980, the conventional wisdom would have been a little different. In fact, Reagan held a lead from mid-September onward and had a two or three point lead heading into the debates. Private polling conducted for the Reagan and Carter campaigns showed the same thing…

The problem for Neil Newhouse, of course, is that without the 1980 model, there isn’tany example of a challenger coming from behind to defeat an incumbent president. The leader of mid-September polls has gone onto win the popular vote in every election since 1948, and then it was the incumbent who pulled off the comeback. Now, unprecedented obviously doesn’t mean impossible…

But many still interpret 1980 as a favorable precedent for Romney, since it is proof that a race can change in the final days. But in retrospect, the signs of Reagan’s big victory were apparent well in advance of his actual surge, and that isn’t true for Romney today. Reagan’s post-convention bounce foreshadowed his eventual finish, as he seized nearly 50 percent of the vote compared with his final tally of 51 percent, and above the 46 percent threshold for victory in a year when John Anderson would take more than 8 percent of the vote. In every post-war election involving an incumbent, the winning challenger has seized a majority of voters after his convention. Unlike George W. Bush and Reagan in 1984, Carter did not cancel out his opponent’s bounce with a larger one of his own. While Reagan’s lead vanished after the DNC as many of Reagan’s supporters returned to the undecided column, Carter only edged up to the upper-thirties or low-forties, presaging his eventual 41 percent finish.

Unlike Carter, Obama has inched close to 49 percent of the vote in the RealClearPolitics average, which puts him in striking distance of reelection. Even if Romney could pull-off a Reagan-esque surge among undecided voters, it would just result in a dead heat. And unlike Reagan, Romney didn’t demonstrate that a majority of voters were prepared to dismiss the president by reaching or surpassing his own magic number after the RNC. Instead, 2012 looks more like 2004.

Right now, Obama is selling on Intrade at 62.  I’d say that’s a good buy.  Honestly, given all the recent information and the very few opportunities left for Romney to turn this around, I’d say anything under 75 is a good buy.  If only my wife had not forbade me from gambling on intrade (and she doesn’t forbid much– something about gambling and that Baptist upbringing of hers).

More Romney and Libya

As all the polls have been showing, Romney’s position has not been looking good.  I do wonder, though, if he hasn’t sealed his fate by his knee-jerk, asinine comments in the wake of the Libya tragedy.  He’s really taking it from all quarters.  Former McCain key adviser Mark Salter— after first showing his GOP foreign policy bonafides– let’s Romney have it at the right-leaning Real Clear Politics:

 In the wake of this violence, the rush by Republicans — including Mitt Romney, Sarah Palin and scores of other conservative critics — to condemn him for policies they claim helped precipitate the attacks is as tortured in its reasoning as it is unseemly in its timing…

Having said that, while its timing and wording was dubious, there is nothing wrong in principle with making clear to people, who have yet to embrace the categorical right to free speech, that Americans and their government deplore the deplorable, that we reject vile attacks on Muslims as vigorously as we reject vile anti-Semitic attacks.

To do so does not constitute sympathy for the people besieging our embassy, as Gov. Romney alleged. Nor is at an apology for America, as some Obama critics have claimed. It’s an expression of our decency…

But this is hardly the issue or the moment to demonstrate a greater resolve to take the fight to the president. Four good Americans, brave and true, have just died in service to their country. They were killed because some of the Libyans who fought a civil war for freedom, or cynically pretended freedom was their cause, do not really approve or understand freedom’s values. Nothing said or done by the president or anyone in the U.S. government is responsible for the violence that led to their deaths.

Slate’s Fred Kaplan also lays in:

No other prominent Republican, even those who have vigorously criticized Obama in the past, has spoken out against the president on this issue. Sens. John McCain and Mitch McConnell, as well as House Speaker John Boehner, have stepped before microphones to condemn the attacks, mourn the deaths, and assert American unity in seeking justice. These politicians know, as Romney apparently doesn’t, that in these sorts of crises, the proper thing to do is to rally around the flag.

Ironically, it’s also the politically smart thing to do. Imagine if Romney had called President Obama, asked how he could be of assistance in this time of crisis, offered to appear at his side at a press conference to demonstrate that, when American lives are at risk, politics stop at the water’s edge—and then had his staff put out the word that he’d done these things, which would have made him look noble and might have made Obama look like the petty one if he’d waved away these offers.

But none of this is in Romney. He imagined a chink in Obama’s armor, an opening for a political assault on the president’s strength and leadership, and so he dashed to the barricades without a moment of reflection, a nod to propriety, or a smidgen of good strategy.

So, back to my original point.  I think this will shape an evolving media narrative/conventional wisdom of Romney as shameless, desperate, and willing to say anything.  Why?  Because, in fact, the evidence is now quite clear that Romney is shameless, desperate, and willing to say anything.  Now, I don’t think most American voters would have come to that conclusion on their own, but this is the sort of thing that subtly shapes campaign stories.  I have no doubt that the (not fully deserved) narrative of Al Gore as the serial liar/exaggerator easily cost him the 2000 election (leaving Florida aside).

Of course, maybe I’m wrong about this, but I certainly think there’s reason to expect to see overall attitudes towards Romney really change among journalists in a way that affects his coverage and thus the tenor of the campaign.  This could easily be Romney’s “the fundamentals of the economy are fine” moment.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer guy.

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