THE Scholarly Web - #toofrank?

Weekly transmissions from the blogosphere

September 5, 2013

“Before you take this class lightly, know my obsession with the subject matter has ruined two of my marriages.”

These are the frank words of Dane Wisher (@daneawisher), an English language, creative writing and literature teacher at Community College of Qatar, in one of the hundreds of tweets that adopted the #overlyhonestsyllabi hashtag to discuss the things academics would not usually say to their students.

A syllabus is there “so I have written legal proof when I inevitably have to fail one of you for majorly screwing up”, said Mat Johnson (@Mat_Johnson), associate professor in the department of English at the University of Houston, Texas.

“When I say *read* the chapter, I mean *understand* the chapter. You might have to read it twice,” added Sarah Tuttle (@sarahtuttle), research associate on the Astronomy Program at the University of Texas at Austin.

Michael Eisen (@mbeisen) was succinct in his appraisal of his students. “It terrifies me that some of you will someday be my doctor,” he said.

“I’m paying for this is not a reason for me to reduce the standards. If anything, it’s the reason to increase them,” tweeted Kimberly Wilson (@phillyprof03), instructor of adult and organisational development in the department of psychological, organizational, and leadership studies in education at Temple University, Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, Adam Mansbach, author and former professor of literature at Rutgers University-Camden, tweeted a link to one of his blogs, in which he goes into detail about the syllabus for his fictional course: English 401: The Short Novel.

“My grading policy is to remain above the fray. Your assignments will be read by Scott, the Teaching Assistant. If you question me about your marks, I will plead ignorance,” it says, adding: “It would take a major act of God – not the kind of thing they consecrate saints for these days, but a plague of cigar-chomping Labradoodles plummeting from the heavens – for me to read a single word you have written.”

Mariana Medina (@ma_me_ga), an instructor in the department of political science at Texas Tech University, used the hashtag to remind students to remember her status.

“If you call my male colleagues Prof. such and such, you have to call me Prof. Medina. Miss Mariana is not acceptable,” she said.

Terry McGlynn (@hormiga), associate professor of biology at California State University, Dominguez Hills, had some blunt words for students who don’t show up for lectures.

“Don’t apologize after you skip class,” he tweeted. “It’s not a personal offense. Your choices merely reflect your priorities.”

James W. McCarty III (@jwmccarty), a PhD candidate in religion, ethics and society at Emory University in Georgia, tweeted a picture of a sign that had been tacked to a lecture hall door saying: “I know when you’re texting in class. Seriously, no-one just looks down at their crotch and smiles.”

However, Roopika Risam (@RoopikaRisam), assistant professor of English at Salem State University, had some cautionary words. “Hope all the profs tweeting the #overlyhonestsyllabi stuff realize that undergrads can actually read tweets,” she said.

Send links to topical, insightful and quirky online comment by and about academics to chris.parr@tsleducation.com

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