Totes Magotes Bloggage – Saldiggity

Well that went by pretty quick…6 weeks gone.  It seems like only yesterday we were introducing ourselves to everyone and realizing how many awfully boring engineering students were enrolled in this class. That was a joke everyone.  Definitely one of the better classes I’ve had at Pitt; and I’m not just saying that.  It really was a great class-the people and the material learned.  I learned a lot and I think along with all of you, I became a little more expressive and outgoing and I think part of that came from the topic we were provided: class and labor at the university.  We could’ve each had our own topic, and that would’ve been fine, but I think it was really cool that we all worked within one specific subject and built a kind of comradery in our class discussions.  Not only did we all work on the same topic, but it was a topic that has affected us in some way or another and will continue to affect us in the future.   Each of us, even if it was a miniscule difference, took a stance somewhat different from our peers, but the end result was that all of us—through our own research and the research of everyone else—became pretty well educated on the matter.

The biggest surprise to me was how much I did not know about class and labor at universities.  From underpaid adjuncts to free tuition at foreign schools, much of the readings and research that I did in this class brought all new information to me.  Being a student, I think it was a great topic to jump into because it gave me an awareness that I never had before.  I am going to college, so it only seems logical to educate myself on how these schools operate and how they’ve changed over the years.  It was interesting to explore some rising issues and issues that have been around for decades.  How schools have become more and more like businesses over the last thirty years, and how schools have gotten away from an academic-focused environment have been the basic focuses of my research.  All of us at some point or another came across research or readings that had to do with the rise of tuition; and even though not everyone’s subtopic was ‘rising tuition’, I think it affected all of our viewpoints in some way or another.  I think it has also been the biggest problem in what our research has encompassed.  The rise in tuition has become utterly insane compared to the rise of all other commodities, and people have really suffered for it.  The fact that tuition keeps rising, but students and parents keep going into debt just to provide a better future is a sure sign that something needs to change.

After all the readings, class discussions, and further research, I have truly begun to think differently of universities, and even my own university.  In talking to friends and colleagues, I have slowly started to see how these issues on class and labor do affect more people than I originally thought.  People that I’ve worked with in classes, drank a beer with at Hems, or have just seen around school…all seem to have been affected by some of the issues we’ve discussed.  The disheartening thing to me though, is that it doesn’t seem like a lot of these people really know how bad it is…and how bad it is getting.  Things do need to change at universities and I think educating ourselves about the problem is a great first step to do that.

Little late…Power went out…and I guess I procrastinate

“You may be the first, but you’re not alone”—what a great way to end a great article.  The piece, “What is it like to be poor at an Ivy League school?” was a great read and I definitely enjoyed it.  I felt that the author was able to write such a strong piece because she quoted so many different students and had an abundance of information from them.  So as I began to read the article, I was immediately hooked; the author started out with a Harvard freshman, and explained her feelings of being out of place.  She talked about where she lived, where her parents were from, and even some physical attributes of the student.  This sort of brought it all together for me…made it an obvious reality for me.  As a student who has really only had one worry on his mind for the last four years—trying to do well in school—it was a little disheartening for me to read that so many student have many struggles on top of what I have worried about.  Trying to find one’s identity, striving to “fit in”, or worrying about a next meal are huge worries for any student, let alone a student struggling financially.

The most eye-opening part of the article for me was the part that stated, “Nationally the graduation rate for low-income, first-generation students in bachelor’s programs is about 11 percent.”  “At Harvard and Yale, 98 percent of students from minority groups underrepresented in college will graduate with a four-year degree within six years; at Brown, it’s 91 percent.”  These numbers were crazy to me because I had not realized that money can be the root cause for kids not finishing school.  And the difference between 11 and even 91 percent was just astounding.

Though reading through this article was very surprising at times…and not in a good way, I was happy to see that there are more and more organizations and support groups that are helping these students in need.  Often times, I think the mental and emotional state of the student is overlooked if their tuition is paid for.  The schools will pay for all their needs, but after that, it’s kind of like they are on their own.  I enjoyed seeing that so many first generation students were involved in the help groups and how they became mentors and tutors for other students.  It’s important for a student to be able to talk to other students with similar backgrounds.  There was even a section of the piece that talked about an organization that helped low-income high school students become more prepared for college and the application process.  It is so important for a student’s ability to succeed to know that people—professors, professionals, and other students—want to see you succeed…and help you in doing so.  College is tough; it really is…and being a first generation student with a low income family is such a difficult journey to travel alone.

This article, along with so many of the other articles that we’ve read in this class, has really broadened my view of college life.  In researching about the struggles that adjuncts face and in reading about the struggles of a low income, first generation student, I hope that I continue to educate myself after this class is over.  It is such an important issue in my generation of students, and I hope that support and understanding for those that struggle at universities continues to grow.

Disclaimer: The power went out while I was blogging and half of this was then typed on my phone very quickly until the power came back on.  Maybe not the most well written blog post.

Traffic on a Freeway

I picked this infographic because I felt it was a great tool in understanding the traffic in the City of Pittsburgh…Interstate 376 to be specific.  It had everything that I would like to see in an infographic: lots of colors, short separated text sections, and an eye-catching shape.  The creator of the infographic wrote that ‘Traffic planners call this a “shockwave”‘ and so I liked that the road was shaped into a wave.  I also appreciated that there was another example given to allow the reader another way of learning (the funnel effect section with the faucets). Enjoy!

Freeway Infographic for WFP

A New Era for Universities…and the Effects on Adjuncts. – Sal Monteverde

When you read the phrase, “sleeping in her car, showering at college athletic centers and applying for food stamps,” you may be lead to think of a homeless student, or a homeless service worker at a university…not able to pay for a place to live, but trying to make it work.  You surely don’t think of the lifestyle of a professor; or at least I didn’t think that.  That phrase was the opening line for the article, “The Adjunct Revolt: How Poor Professors Are Fighting Back”, by Elizabeth Segran.  Immediately after reading that, I was hooked, because I was so surprised.  Even though Segran states that the professor was an adjunct, and therefore doesn’t make as much as a full-time professor, starting off with such a bold statement left quite an impression.

I really liked how Elizabeth wrote the article; she included many thoughts and quotes from an array of professionals who had experience on the topic.  This gave me a broad idea of how different people are being affected by the same problem and how they think it should change.  One part of the article that I thought was interesting was when Segran mentioned Maria Maisto, the president of an adjunct activist group.  She wrote, “Maisto told me that many adjuncts are afraid to challenge their students in class because poor student evaluations could cost them their jobs.” I never realized that adjuncts’ performance was based a lot off of student evaluations.  Part of me wishes that this wasn’t the case, because I know adjunct professors may not have the outside time/resources that other teachers have and this could result in students writing bad evaluations…not the fairest thing for adjuncts.  I do however, think that adjuncts, despite their disadvantages, can bring a certain value that other professors may not be able to.  I currently have an adjunct teacher that comes to class straight from work.  What I like most about the class is the fact that he brings real life experiences and situations to the classroom every day.  He basically teaches what he does at work, and for my particular degree, it’s really helpful.  He may be able to provide a little extra knowledge to his students that another full-time professor couldn’t.  Now granted, there are professors that have spent time in industry before becoming a teacher, but some haven’t—and it’s a nice change to have that.  I’m not sure if schools recognize what adjuncts can bring to the table, but they really should.

Half way through Segran’s article, she changes a little bit of her focus to how universities have really changed in recent decades.  I enjoyed this part of the article most because it touched a little bit on the topic for my white paper.  Segran said that an author, Jeffrey Selingo, told her, “We moved away from faculty-centric universities to one focused on serving students.”  “To attract students, universities need amenities to keep up in an arms race with other institutions.”  In my white paper, I explore how universities distribute our tuition money throughout the school, and the word “amenities” is a big part of it.  Schools really seem to be losing sight of what’s truly important for the students.  It comes to me as a huge dilemma—you have schools trying to compete with other schools to become bigger and better and attract more students; but on the other hand, they shouldn’t be forgetting the school’s mission.

I understood and very much enjoyed Segran’s article, but I wanted to quickly touch on the article “Zero Opportunity Employers” written by Sarah Kendzior.  It brought up a question for me and I thought I’d quickly write about it.  So it seems like the underlying problem is this: a business (the university) can save money by hiring part-time workers (the adjuncts) and don’t need to worry about paying them a lot because they can easily replace them.  The business becomes hugely profitable, and no one can really stop them.  It was discussed in class previously, but my question is this: why is it that some adjuncts, when living on low pay and in harsh conditions, stay with an adjunct job as their main job.  I understand the love of teaching, but what is it that keeps an adjunct staying if she/he can’t make ends meet.  Why must “adjuncting” be your main job?

Sorry this was kind of on the long side, but I just wanted to touch on both articles.  Thanks for reading!