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04/16/2020

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Mike

It strikes me that Kiser is simply overthinking the matter, and doing something many people do: over psychologizing others' actions. I doubt that anyone who sat in front of a Zoom chat window to teach a class in less-than-professional attire did so out of any deliberately chosen "philosophy that we should present ourselves as ordinary people during this time of crisis to be more relatable to our students". Presumably anyone doing this did it out of necessity. They simply lacked the time that day (or week) to keep up with the finer points of social decorum, because they were overwhelmed with prepping new course material for the sudden switch, caring for their children, floored by panic attacks about their cancelled contracts for next year and how they'd pay the bills, or something similar.

It sounds like Kiser is searching for rationalizations to attribute to people, then attacking those rationalizations. Maybe some people were (are?) going around social media cooking up silly rationalizations for lowering their professional decorum, but it seems pretty clear that there are basic, practical constraints that are really driving those choices.

Amanda

I disagree with Kiser. I just don't think how you dress matters much, ever, and during COVID-19 it is even less important. (of course there are extremes of everything, including dress, that are concerning, but just use common sense.) That said, I find the piling on in the comments a bit disturbing. An academic (Ph student - although I don't think the student status is that important) writes a paper that other academics disagree with and/or find offensive, and the author is just eviscerated by the academic community, including comments about how years down the road faculty will find this article and justifiably rule her out from employment consideration. The (strong) points against her piece were made very quickly. What was the need to keep going? It seems like not only do we not allow mistakes (a poorly thought out short piece published on a website), but in addition, at least some academics seem to get pleasure out of kicking scholars when they're down. Sure, maybe she deserved to be down after writing that, but do we really have to kick her too? She did say she was wrong an apologized, not that many people seemed to be listening I expect all of this in the newspaper comments section, but maybe it was silly of me to expect more in an academic forum. True, the comments were not as vicious and involved less profanity and name calling than typical newspapers, but the sentiments seemed pretty similar.

FYI - none of this is about Mike's comment above, which I wouldn't call count in the same class as it is a new forum. I don't take issue with Helen posting about it either, as the discussion topic is a worthy one.

Mike

I saw that Kiser's piece got a lot of negative reaction, although I did not read most of it. I also thought for awhile about posting anything here, especially given that Kiser is a graduate student. She certainly doesn't deserve to be kicked when she's down. Mental health is enough of a problem in our community. I know Amanda wasn't accusing me of doing that, but now I do worry that's a bit of what I was doing. While I think Helen makes good points, especially in the abstract, I guess part of why I replied was just to express the thought that we're all overthinking this Kiser piece. I know I directed that criticism at Kiser, but I now realize that perhaps the same goes for all those who have engaged with her reasoning. I know that amounts to a criticism of Helen now, which I didn't intend either. (I guess I did not think my post through as carefully as I ought to have had.) For whatever it's worth, I didn't totally disagree with Kiser's points in her piece, while I also agreed with much of what those responding to her said. If we must break out reasons, I think a case can be made on both sides. I guess part of what I was trying to say is that, for many of us, this isn't a matter of reasons, but instead of practical constraints. However we'd like to ideally respond, there are real practical constraints forcing us in one direction or another.

I very much hope Kiser is weathering the excessive blowback okay, and apologize for how my post may have contributed to it. I did not think her piece was egregiously off. I was merely trying to add to the discussion in a helpful way.

Amanda

I think what Kiser was trying to say , but what she didn't end up saying, would have been better than what she actually said.

When we switched to online re COVID, there were a lot of social media posts suggesting that we should not put too much effort into transitioning to online courses, after all, both students and professors are going through times that are too rough to really think about school anyway, and that therefore, we should neither put too much effort into class nor should we expect our students too either. And also, there was the suggestion that we shouldn't feel bad about any of this, because, after all, we are all dealing with a lot.

I think Kiser was trying to object to the above sentiment, and that she was trying to suggest that we should try to continue to take our classes seriously for the sake of our students even when it is very difficult, and that we should continue to hold our students to high standards.

I am not sure what I have to say about the above points, other than they are not off the charts unreasonable or anything.

Unfortunately, however, Kiser expressed her points not really in the way I think she meant to (i.e. roughly what I say above) but rather by using sarcasm and exaggeration, so it came off as if her main concern was how professors dress. And that, I think, is indeed a silly concern. Still, it is disappointing that there wasn't more of an attempt from commenters for a charitable reading.

Helen De Cruz

Hi Amanda and Mike - these are interesting alternative interpretations. I did not consider them. Maybe Kiser was overthinking the attitudes of professors, maybe she was cautioning us to try to keep up standards of professionalism. It's hard to say. But even with the charitable reading, my sense is (alas, after never again with this isolation I'm back on FB) that professors really do their best. You read things like "I recorded a 1.5 lecture and then my computer froze and it all disappeared". It's a stressful time and I don't think any of us are slacking. Of course, the situation isn't ideal for students.

Amanda

Hi Helen,

I"d say a lot of professors do their best. I also think a lot of them slack. That has just been my observation (and I mean pre COVID) For instance, I don't think many people would disagree that it is very common fro Phd students to go through their dissertation with very, very, little feedback from their supervisor or committee members. Thankfully, having amazing dedicated supervisors is also common. I'm curious, Helen, is your experience that the overwhelming majority of professors, in general (not specific to COViD) do their best re teaching? Perhaps I'm too cynical, but I'm fairly confident in my cynicism, alas. Of course, I do think there are special circumstances in which professors are overwhelmed with all sorts of things and that in these cases, their lack of feedback to PhD students is *compatible* with doing their best. But, speaking generally, I think most professors who ignore grad students are inexcusably not doing their job.

But anyway, all of this is my observation pre-COVID. I don't think my opinion on it would change post COVID, other than that those who don't slack are probably working especially hard.

On last point:,I didn't get the impression the author was saying that professors are slackers, rather, she was saying that we *ought not to be* slackers. I get those are closely related, but still a bit different. I would be much quicker to say that their was a "sentiment" or "suggestion" that professors do not need to do their best because of COVID than I would agree that professors actually aren't doing their best. It is kind of like a nice person making excuses for those who fall short, but the excuse maker doesn't fall short themselves. I don't think very many professors used COVID as an excuse to slack. I don't get that impression at all. But I did, at least sometimes, get the impression that the popular thing to say was that a little bit of slacking re COVID is okay. I think the author was trying to say "it's not okay." (regardless of whether it was happening.) As for me, is it okay? I think it depends entirely on the circumstance. Some things are much more important than others.

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