Ask the Grumpies: The Ideal University

SP asks

Thoughts how an ideal university would function, use of adjuncts, what is the purpose of a university? Is it to educate students and conduct research, and what is the weight of these functions.

I read occasional news media about these topics, and they hit similar themes that sometimes don’t ring true. Most recent example article (posted in my FB news feed by a former adjunct English professor at a university): http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/09/higher-education-college-adjunct-professor-salary/404461/

^ ok, a note on the above paragraph.  I must have written it [#2 does not have and has never had FB] but I have no memory at all of doing it.  I just read the article and don’t remember ever seeing it before.  Apparently I have lost all my memorial faculties, but I’ll comment on it now.

I have no memory of it whatsoever.But here’s a thought: Tuition is high not because there are too many administrators. It’s because states have disinvested and the feds have made unfunded mandates [#2 says, yes, this is what the research says as well]. Also, the cost of health insurance has skyrocketed, which is one of the biggest expenses for a university, aside from salary [#2 isn’t as sure about this, but maybe?].

It’s true that adjuncts are treated poorly, yes!But there are whole *systems* that need to be fixed because people voted for legislators that didn’t fund education and because health insurance companies are for-profit (among other reasons).  But yes, adjuncts don’t get paid enough. I agree there.  Adjuncts should also not be required to mentor students nor write rec letters, unless they are full-time actual faculty (even if not TT).

(I see that this doesn’t answer your question, SP, but please forgive my wool-gathering.)

There are many purposes to a university and many ways to have an ideal university.

On the subject of adjunct pay and working conditions, #2 is kind of like… that’s where supply and demand hit.  Getting a humanities PhD needs to be less attractive so it isn’t so easy to find a phd willing to work a crap job at minimum wage.  (Note:  we pay our adjuncts 10K/class and many of our lecturers make ~100K/year on top of their day jobs.)

This paper discusses compensation of faculty members.  It seems to be optimal for some definitions of optimal, but I only really read the abstract.

I don’t know what the purpose of a university is or what the ideal balance between teaching and research is.  We need research because it provides positive spillovers to society and is unlikely to be privately funded.  We need to teach students so they will become productive members of society.  I don’t know if we should move to SLACS and think-tanks or if we should keep on with our continuum of community colleges/SLACS/R3/R2/R1/think tanks.  I mean, I guess if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.  Though I do think we need more government funding to decrease the cost of education, particularly for those who are credit constrained because it is the only way we know of to productively reduce income inequality in an increasingly automated society.

So that’s not much of an answer either.  Maybe Grumpy Nation has better opinions.

Opine for us, Grumpy Nation!  What is the ideal university?

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Haunting the Middle-Grade Library Stacks

#2 likes to read Regency romances when stressed.  I like them too, but I can’t read a lot of them in a row.  In the worst of my stress and anxiety, I found myself gravitating to the middle-grade stacks in the local library.  Soothing.  Here are some books:

The Anastasia series by Lois Lowry.  I love these so much!  Anastasia, Absolutely… One of my favorites is Anastasia, Ask Your Analyst (hilarious hijinks).  I have read the whole series at least once or twice.  They do have an order, but it’s not important to me.

The Savage Fortress by Sarwat Chadda.  The beginning of an adventure series with two kids in peril, based on Hindu mythology.

School for Sidekicks by Kelly McCullough.  A kid learns that not every super-human is a hero, and not all heroes or sidekicks are what they seem.  Happy ending!

Nightbird by Alice Hoffman.  Beautiful and also a happy ending.  What happens when people find out that your brother isn’t… like everyone else?

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier.  Very pretty and moving graphic novel about family, love, ghosts, and culture.  Read it!

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill.  Another graphic novel for younger kids.  Princesses can do all sorts of active things.

I read all of Zilpha Keatley Snyder when I was young.  Turns out, she kept on writing while I grew up, and I found a bunch of her newer stuff (ca. 2008) on the shelves.  Try finding magic and friendship in The Unseen.

Grumpeteers, do you read any children’s books for comfort?  Which ones?

Giving money instead of stuff to school events

Schools often seem to be really into the idea of kids bringing stuff from home for parties and for crafting.  (DC1’s middle school probably spends more class time making pointless crafts than any prior school year experience, even back when ze was taking a daily art class at private school.  *grumble*.  Also they seem to have a ton of pot-lucks.)

One of our new discoveries this year was that instead of trying to figure out how on earth DC1 is going to get a pie on the school bus and to an appropriate teacher without destruction (or worse, one of us having to drop it off at school!), was that we could just write a check or send DC1 with a $20 bill for these events and the teachers will use it to purchase whatever it is they’re asking for.  This has improved our lives tremendously.

I do wish they could be a little bit more like the school back in paradise and just ask for a lump sum donation at the beginning of the year instead of these small sums throughout the year, but I also realize that where we live now doesn’t exactly have the same donations base that Paradise had so it’s not quite as easy just to ask for $500 and then have that be enough to cover all the kids who can’t pay or whose parents won’t pay.  It turns out that there’s even a state law of some kind that says the orchestra can only do fundraisers to cut the costs of all tickets to events, not to make the events free for kids whose parents can’t pay.  (It turns out, however, that directed donations can still be used for that purpose– I got a nice note of thanks with a receipt when we wrote a $64 check instead of a $32 check for DC1’s most recent orchestra field trip. $32 is a lot of money when you’re trying to make ends meet!)

So yay, even if they don’t always ask for cash, cash can still be king.

If you have school children (or if you teach), how does your school deal with needed stuffs?  What would you prefer they do?

Link Love: Stay strong!

Hey guys!  It’s been another crazy week.  Here’s how to stay sane from a therapist.  I’m not sure how to best give a pep-talk, but I do feel like if I keep fighting and resisting that means that everyone like me is still fighting and resisting too.  So hang in there, because that means everyone else like you is hanging in there too.  I do feel a little lack of direction right now, but so does everybody else, including most of the bad guys, so that’s something, right?  If you want to know what you can do, our current recommendations are 5calls and indivisible, but we want to continue to encourage everybody to find a local group— especially those of you in red and purple states.  It’s time to go nuclear.

Why the Census director’s resignation is a BIG DEAL.  Not just for academics, but also for political power reasons.  The fascists can keep more political power if they under-count cities.

This NJ Republican just lost any claim of being a moderate (voted for the ACHA).

Confused by the James Comey Firing?  Here’s an easy to understand Primer from 5/10.

We linked to this before, but for mother’s day, here’s the mama’s bail out day donation page.

Here’s a plausible theory about why the GOP is going along with a fascist no matter how awful he gets.  It would seem to explain my senators…

WTF is wrong with the NYTIMES?

How our democracy was hijacked.

I wish this were my senator.  Instead I get a true believer whose people have been told to lie (“I’m just an intern, but I think I’m supposed to say that we can’t give you that information [about planned appearances], oh wait, I’m supposed to say we don’t have that information, but even if I had it I couldn’t give it, I don’t have it, I’m just an intern.”)

A couple of our older posts on health insurance markets:  How the used car market is like health insurance and What is the purpose of medical insurance?

A stressed nation (three months have passed… )

Publishing while female.  Being in business school while female.

When schoolie mcschoolface is the best of the options.

This is highly unsettling.

How big is a buttload?

Nicki Minaj went on the best kind of spending spree.

Amusing

These are even better than regular green and black  (We get no $ etc.)

Why?

Ask the Grumpies: Where to learn economics?

Leah asks:

I’d love to learn some basic econ. Where’s a good place to start that is not too arduous but is also accurate?

I know there are a lot of Econ for laypeople books out there (Freakanomics being the most famous), but when people ask me this question I always stick to two textbook recommendations.  The first is the Intermediate Microeconomics by Robert Frank called Microeconomics and Behavior.  The second is Public Finance by Jonathan Gruber.

I love Frank because he discusses microeconomics in a way that contrasts how the rational person would behave with how people actually behave.  This I think makes the theory more believable and more powerful.

Public Finance I really think ought to be taught in high school.  If you want to understand the role for government, it is a must read.  So much of what is going on with healthcare right now violates basic economic principles and after reading about adverse selection, you, too, will understand why.

Note for these that you do not at all need to buy the most recent edition.  The 1998 edition of Frank is fine for understanding the basics.  The first edition of Public Finance by Gruber is still a fantastic read.  Get whatever is available and cheap.

What economics tomes/videos do you recommend, Grumpy Nation?

RBOC

  • PSA:  If you need to save space on your grant proposal, do not, I repeat, DO NOT mess around with the spacing between letters to buy yourself more space.  Cut things, play with your margins, get rid of adjectives, whatever, but playing with the spaces between letters just makes life difficult for your reviewers.  Leave Kerning Alone!
  • We hadn’t been shopping in the city for something like 3 months.  When we finally went, we spent almost $300 at TJ’s (DH says this is a new record) and $175 at WF.  And also we bought loose tea at the tea shop and ice cream at the ice cream place and poke (yay!) at one of the new poke bars and a lasagna at the fresh noodle place and… Our freezer is now full and our pantry is over-stocked.  Since we also have the CSA (which also provides eggs and a pound of ground beef each week) going right now I told DH we weren’t allowed to go grocery shopping except to get milk for a few weeks.
  • I really like the teapot DH got me for my birthday.
  • It’s a little depressing looking at stats for random posts and seeing that some quite excellent posts haven’t had a single view in aeons.  Do they get lonely?  Do they feel unloved?  Back when we had less of an archive, occasionally we’d have people read all the posts, but I think there’s too much now.  Which is a shame because there’s some really good stuff in there.
  • I found out that the Davis, California Whole Foods recently went out of business.  If a hippie university town near SF can’t support a WF, what hope does our nowhere have of getting one?
  • It’s creepy seeing that a college ex-boyfriend has checked out your LinkedIn profile.  (He’s a product manager at Google in case you’re wondering, so I can’t imagine that he’s got any professional reason to look.  Plus apparently we only have one connection so it’s unlikely he accidentally landed on my page.)  I probably wouldn’t have minded if this guy hadn’t turned out to be a jerk, but this is not a guy I think fondly of if I think of him at all.  (Whereas I was super happy for my sweet first boyfriend when I heard through the grapevine that he’d gotten married and later he’d had kids.  I think I’m happy leaving him with that Happily Ever After.)
  • I suspect that at this point in the season I am about 70% zucchini bread by weight.
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Purple Carrot: A Review

This review is not sponsored or anything at all.  #2 has just been nagging me to do it since everybody else is doing blue apron [which #2 still doesn’t really understand] and we’ve been doing this one instead.  We get no money from this post.

Purple Carrot is like Blue Apron except it’s vegan [#2 understands this a little better because she imagines if you’ve grown up in a meat-eaters culture, it’s harder to come up with tasty new vegetarian recipes all the time].  Each week we get a box with 3 meals (for 2 people) in it.  The servings are frequently on the small side, though.  Currently our plan is that my partner cooks on Wednesdays and Sundays, and I cook on Fridays.  (The rest of the time we fend for ourselves.)  Neither one of us is actually a vegan, but we couldn’t find good vegetarian options for my partner (he’s ovo-lacto veggie) because most other services had one dumb vegetarian option each week (pasta and a salad, we already know that, duh!).  A nice side effect of it being vegan is that I never worry whether the food is staying cold enough in the cold box while waiting outside our door for me to open it when I get home from work: no meat, no dairy, mostly stuff that won’t give you food poisoning at a picnic if it gets a little warm.  It does stay cold in that box, though.  Even though I eat meat, I’m not sure I want raw meat in a box that sits.

We have been using Purple Carrot since June 2016.  The fact that we’re still using it almost a year later is a review in itself, I guess.  Like any meal service, you can pause your subscription or skip weeks if you’re going to be out of town or just don’t like the upcoming menu.  Unlike other services, you don’t get to pick the food– you can either get all the food that week or none.  That’s it.  We’re doing it this way in order to eat more vegetables and try to have at least some healthy food.  Also to avoid decisions — all we have is go/no-go and not “what do we pick?”

Some recipes we both end up not liking (rare).  Sometimes one of us likes it more than the other.  Sometimes we agree that the food is just a bit… odd, though not bad.  And sometimes we have a BIG hit that’s delicious, nutritious, and that we didn’t have to think up ourselves (or shop for, or decide among millions of recipes, resulting in paralysis).

For us, it’s worth the cost 3x/wk, at least for now.  We might stop at some point in order to save money, or if it stops being worth it for us.  Below I’ll put a few of our favorite recipes that we loved.

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/mustard-glazed-tempeh-with-red-kraut-and-smashed-beets (it helps if you like German food, which I do and my partner doesn’t)

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/drunken-noodles (easily modifiable with other veg you have lying around)

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/miso-glazed-peaches-and-eggplant-with-rice-noodles-and-minted-spinach (one of the highlights of all time)

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/pumpkin-fettuccine-alfredo-with-crispy-sage-and-broccoli-rabe (surprisingly delicious, though it would be better with cream)

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/creamy-leek-polenta-with-summer-vegetables (eat this every day)

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/meyer-lemon-forbidden-rice-risotto-with-sweet-peas (not actually a risotto but very tasty)

https://www.purplecarrot.com/plant-based-recipes/spring-radish-fattoush-with-sumac-vinaigrette-minted-basmati-rice (#2 tried this with CSA veggies replacing sumac with lemon zest and liked it too.  Add some feta and you’ll increase the joy.  Noms!)

Grumpeteers, has anyone tried Hello Fresh though?  I’m thinking of trying that one day.  Other thoughts?  Who likes to eat veggies?  How do you get veggies into your life?