I am not ok

I have not dreaded a school year starting this much since grad school.  Or maybe even middle school.

My state government wants to kill my family and me and everyone else too in some kind of political power move.  It is unpleasant knowing that super villains are both real and in charge.  And most of the parents I know are too burned out to fight anymore.  (The irritating “liberal” White Doods, though, are still happy to tell us that everything is pointless and also anything we do is wrong.)

Last year’s thing with the associate dean really killed my desire to get up in front of a required core class, especially one where I have all the people who signed up late because it’s an 8am class and the later sections are full.  The previous year’s cheating scandal also still lingers.  And the year before the insane and potentially dangerous student who started threatening me because on the first day of class I asked him to move up a few rows (and my chair just sat there after forcing a meeting with him and listened to him accuse me of things until I left)– he did get moved to the online version of the class and went on to threaten other female faculty members and students in his other classes… nothing was done about him.

I don’t want to go into the office, and one of the reasons is because the anti-masker pro-gun faculty member who encouraged last year’s student to go to the associate dean now has an office directly next to mine.  And of course he goes in every day.  I assume he’s gotten vaccinated, but if he keeps up what he’s been doing (meeting with crazy right-wing students unmasked in his office and classroom) eventually he’ll probably get a breakthrough infection.  Who knows.  Maybe he’ll take horse dewormer and get super sick.  One can always hope.

I worry that I can’t protect my kids.  DC2 is homeschooling but DC1 or I could easily bring the virus home.  And probably zie would be ok.  But there’s also a chance zie wouldn’t. Or that there would be long-term consequences that affect hir entire life.  I will do a lot to protect my kids that I will not do to protect myself because they don’t have the power to make these decisions yet.

One of my colleagues quit this summer without another job lined up because he and his wife couldn’t stand living here anymore.  Last night I dreamed he got a last minute position at Delagar’s school where masks are required.

I wish I were taking this semester off as unpaid leave.  And indeed, if I get called into the associate dean’s office again this year, that’s what I’m going to do.  Take leave without pay for the rest of the semester.  The students can have the monotone adjunct for the rest of the semester while I do more job applications.

Maybe it won’t be as bad as I’m worrying.  But now that I think on it, this class has been wildly problematic for the last 3 years.  And this year I have nothing to protect me from the rabid Trump loving anti-masking anti-vaxxers like I did last year.  It’s not irrational to be dreading this semester.

But I do have an escape plan.  I can leave.  Heck, I could even quit my career at this point and Barista FI (though being an actual Barista sounds pretty awful).

74 Responses to “I am not ok”

  1. First Gen American Says:

    I said it before and I’ll say it again. You belong in a blue state.

    Your stories sound like you are on a different planet. At the school meeting they held here, every single parent that spoke up to speak was pro-safety. There wasn’t a single dissident. We are going back to school masked. Vaccinations are required at a bunch of the uni’s. The vaccination rate is super high. People are clamoring for booster shots. Yes, Delta is scary but I am not as scared as I was before vaccines because most people here take it seriously. Many people are wearing masks indoors again even when it’s not required. Some stores have made it mandatory again.

    I realize you must have a very high tolerance for suckiness because you’ve been at the same place for so long, but this post makes it obvious you’ve reached a point of no return. THANK GOD you have the power to just leave if you want to. I always say that you see the best and worst of people in times of crisis and it seems like there is more bad than good there these days.

    I am sorry that this scary stuff is dominating your life right now. You and your family deserve better.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Here’s hoping the East Coast is hiring… I never really meshed with the culture before (too Midwest + Cali) but in a crisis it’s obvious EC states are handling things like adults. There’s something to be said for high quality K-12 education.

      Thank you for the sympathy!

    • wally Says:

      I’m not a parent but yesterday on Manhattan there was an “anti masking in schools” protest. Blue states don’t necessarily protect against this stuff- nor does living in arguably one of the most diverse and liberal cities in the US/

  2. Ann Says:

    As someone who also thinks of ALL the horrible things that could happen, I can empathize with you. I’m sending good vibes that the semester won’t be as horrible as you are imagining.
    No advice….I’m glad you have the option of taking non-paid leave. That is a wondeful feeling that you could leave if you absolutely needed to.
    I’m retired now and thrilled to never have to attend another faculty meeting. But now I’m feeling lots of pressure to go out and do things. And I don’t want to. I have a 4 year old grandson that I see every week and he isn’t vaccinated. UGH… I don’t understand why people don’t understand that this delta variant is dangerous, and that it would be best to continue being vigilant for a few more weeks or months. Sigh….

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I will see tomorrow how many of my students in my biggest class are masked…

      The other (smaller) class is almost entirely international students, so at least they will be vaccinated.

      Today we got an email telling us we’re not allowed to ask ANYBODY if they’re vaccinated, not just students. Wonder how they’re going to enforce that one.

  3. delagar Says:

    Lots of people here are anti-vax/anti-mask, but thank God the people in charge are sensible. Masks are required in all the schools and all the medical facilities, and in the stores they’re “strongly recommended,” and I’d say 80% of the people wear them.

    Your situation sounds horrible.

    • delagar Says:

      Our legislature DID force us to allow guns on campus, though, and we’re still not allowed to ask about vaccine status or to “bully” students about getting the vaccine. (By “bully,” I suspect they mean ask. I did mention on the first day that everyone who could should get vaccinated and SO FAR I haven’t gotten any complaints about it.)

  4. gwinne Says:

    Blue states help for sure but they are not necessarily homogenous across counties. My mom lives in a red-tiny county in a blue state; signs up everywhere say ‘follow the science; unmask the kids’ (apparently this is a national movement?!). I’m in a blue county in a red-tint state; our university and our school district have reasonable policies at the moment. But, yeah….I’d be thinking unpaid leave in your situation, too.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I think it’s pretty unlikely that we would end up in a red county in a blue state. They just don’t have the kinds of jobs that DH and I need. In theory we’re in a blue dot in a red state, which once protected us, but hasn’t since the last redistricting.

  5. CG Says:

    I’m just so sorry you and your family are having to work and go to school in unsafe conditions. I never imagined that we would know how to head off this virus and keep people safe and then just…refuse to do it. And by we I mean other people.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I never thought government would be so transparent in its desire to kill people for political gain… all my life it’s pretended plausible deniability. I thought that blatant corruption and evil was something historical.

      • Debbie M Says:

        I agree with all that both of you have said.

        I do have one bright note–one of my friends who is a disgusted parent is seriously considering running for her local school board. I have sent her links to lists of organizations that help people run for office.

        In other news, I’m working the election again this year. It’s an off year, so I didn’t expect to work, but one of my favorite co-workers from last time is on permanent staff now, and it’s really true that you can get jobs if you know someone, even if you don’t want a job. Our job system sucks. I’m taking the job anyway, though.

        Please vote–the scum buckets are trying to slip things through during this off election year (Republicans are more likely to vote, just from the leftover days when they were all about personal responsibility). This might not be as bad in states where they don’t have to amend the state constitution to do anything, but even my blue city had a scummy organization petition (sometimes lying about what the petition was for) for some super scummy changes.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yes, local elections are so important!

  6. Matthew D Healy Says:

    If you actually decide to move, maybe you can pick a place where (1) at least 80% of people over 26 in the County are vaccinated, (2) there is a University with at least 20K full-time students, and (3) rent for a 3BR/2.5BA house or apartment within a 30-minute drive of that University is under $2K per month. I know such Counties exist in the Midwest because I am in one right now, and there are other such Counties within a 5 hour drive of here.

    Such a place should be a good fit for a “Barista FI” life.

    Note: I had to Google Barista FI and thus learned it means saving enough that one cannot totally finance one’s lifestyle on savings but Is close enough that a relatively undemanding part-time job plus 4% of savings each year is enough.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I’m picking places with mask mandates in the schools. Currently that is one job opening, though I am hoping that MA will be hiring.

      If we follow DH instead of me we can basically live in one of three cities.

      We can actually live on DH’s salary in any of those expensive cities (renting), but he’s working at a startup right now which could make it big or could go under. If that happens he could easily get another job in said cities.

  7. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    Honestly that all sounds terrible. I’m sorry.

    Our campus is 95% vaccinated and also requires masks; same is true of the public school employees (95%!) and masks are required in school. There’s still some risk, of course, but at least people are taking sensible precautions.

    The HS is out in the 85%-Trump-voting county and they’re a train wreck, but at least my kids aren’t there yet.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      We’re not allowed to know what percent of people are vaccinated! Don’t know what the punishment is for asking but we’re being reminded almost daily that we’re not allowed to ask.

      I’m glad your area is taking common sense precautions! Except wow that HS sucks.

      As of last Friday 1.5% of the K-12 students and staff had been diagnosed with new cases of covid in the week and some change that schools have been open.

  8. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    It really does all seem so surreal. Like I’m in a last century dystopian novel.

    The change in my hair color over the past year has been more stark than Obama’s was. I went from mostly brown with a few grey streaks to half *white*. If Valium were OTC I would be so blissed out right now.

  9. Turia Says:

    I’m so sorry. I feel physically ill whenever I read your recent posts. It’s just mind boggling that so much idiocy is allowed to prevail and put so many people at risk.

    I know you don’t want to leave until DC1 can get the geography bonus for university (if I have read your previous posts on this correctly – the whole application system is a mystery to those of us north of the border), but it sounds like you need to get out now, and I hope you can find some options.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Not really the geography bonus—it’s just disruptive to be in a new school junior or senior year of high school (DC1 is a junior). There is a little geography bonus but not enough right now to matter for that (and really only for the PSAT’s national merit which is taken in October).

  10. Cloud Says:

    I am so sorry. So many people in this country have just completely lost the plot. I hope you can find a job somewhere where a higher percentage of the people in power are not in that group.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Me too!

      Right now I’m not even sure what I could do if I left academia. All the jobs I see outside of DC are for machine learning economists helping large companies stalk us which is not what I want to do in the least. I don’t even know who I am anymore! #midlifecrisis

      • omdg Says:

        What about pharma?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I don’t really have any experience in that. I’m a labor economist.

        So I’m really good at using large datasets and semi-exogenous variation to get at causation. But not auctions or transfer pricing or machine learning or anything else that big industry finds useful these days.

        I might be able to pick up bioinformatics quickly, but it would definitely be a new thing for me.

        I could probably get work at a social science consulting company (Rand, Mathematica, etc.), but the kind with internal sales are not at all a good fit for my introverted personality. And I hate hurry up and wait/last minute stuff and I turn extra stupid when I’m sleep deprived.

      • omdg Says:

        Main reason I suggest pharma is that a lot of them have health services research / social science / outcomes research departments. I interacted with a PhD in clinical epi recently at a pharma company on a project that does NOT involve ML methods at all. I could do her job. I bet you could too. I bet she gets paid pretty well too.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        Yeah, I could probably do that sort of thing but it’s not trivial convincing a hiring manager that I could without some retooling. #2 has had that problem a lot with her industry job searches. If I end up just giving up academia entirely I will have time to explore that kind of option. (I don’t do any health services research stuff though I have a colleague who does.)

        This is one of the problems with being heavily introverted— not many connections outside of my narrow purview!

  11. rose Says:

    Makes me so sad. Esp as professors in my family generally report equivalent. A ‘strongly held personal belief’ exempts from vaccine mandate and testing. Guns in classrooms not legal yet, but YET is key word. Have you looked at Canadian options?
    Best wishes. Fingers crossed.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Um, actually guns in classrooms are legal here. For people with concealed carry permits. I’ve had police officers as students open carry as well. I am not allowed to put a sign up in my office saying that people cannot bring a gun to my office, just like I cannot exclude people without masks from my office if I allow people with masks in my office.

      Canada does sound lovely. But there aren’t that many job options– their universities are very good.

      • accm Says:

        A lot of Canadian universities will only just be getting their job ads approved now and posting them within a few weeks. That’s certainly the timetable we are on (though I’m in physical sciences). So keep an eye on them. Also, since you’re senior, lots of places could be receptive to feelers about whether there is any opportunity to move. Of course, places like Vancouver and Toronto are very expensive; Montreal a bit less so. And with your worldview, you wouldn’t want to end up in Alberta as a province even though Calgary and Edmonton as cities are fine. But there are several good universities outside the biggest cities. Just out of curiosity, because the laws of physics are the same everywhere in the universe, and I honestly don’t know: does a specialization like yours translate easily across borders? Or would you have to spend time and effort getting to know the Canadian labour system?

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        I’m just not anywhere near as good as my Canadian colleagues. When they come back to the US it’s always for a top 5 uni. About 5 years ago I got sent feelers for a non TT position at a center but never applied. I don’t know if I’d even be competitive for anything like that now.

      • rose Says:

        Sorry, I meant open carry by everyone on or off campus is not yet legal where the family academics are currently in my remark on guns. Family academics however are North East and North West Coasts. Open public carry of guns not YET there … but may come.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I guess it’s true that machine guns are not allowed on campus yet.

  12. xykademiqz Says:

    I’m so sorry. This is terrible. Maybe you can come hang out with us in the Midwest?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I do miss the Midwest, but some of those states have taken a bad turn. I feel somewhat confident that Illinois and Minnesota will stay good, but every other state I’m concerned about. It sounds like Missouri and Iowa have already turned to the dark side.

      It seems crazy to me right now that I would be making the choice between winter and a government actively trying to kill its constituents.

  13. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    My friend said that 2 of her 40 students in her first semester required core course section were maskless… after she asked them to please mask because her child can’t be vaccinated. She provided disposable masks (individually wrapped!), but only one person took one.

    • rose Says:

      Hope the unmasked one works hard and EARNS a good grade rather than her being open to the suggestion that an earned poor grade was really retaliation re masks…… Because that is CLEARLY the way that could go. Remind her to ensure she keeps copies of all graded materials and they are 100% NOT POSSIBLY SUBJECTIVE re grade.

  14. SP Says:

    I’m so sorry you guys are going through this.

    I was totally swamped last march, and missed the whole debacle with the associate dean, and WOW. Yikes. As much as i am eternally grateful that people like you are activists in these crazy red states, I fully applaud you (and anyone else) getting the hell out of there, to somewhere you can live in more peace. Especially given current times, where things are so totally off the rails.

    (Also, I’m in blue state bubble, and STILL worried about suddenly ending up with a right wing nut job as governor due to the recall…)

    Just curious, what did you mean here? “This year I have nothing to protect me from the rabid Trump loving anti-masking anti-vaxxers like I did last year.” What did you have last year?

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Last year we had mask mandates! And social distancing! (And regular cleaning, though we know now that surface transmission isn’t much of a thing.)

      So basically the three rabid anti-Trumpers first semester were always masked, except that the police officer only really had his mask on correctly the day he wore an actual Trump mask. I wish he had worn it more often. If they hadn’t, I could have called security to escort them out. This year I am allowed to ask nicely, but nothing else. AND if I allow a masked person to do anything, I also have to allow an unmasked person to do the same thing.

  15. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life Says:

    I’m so sorry. I would not be ok in your shoes either. I don’t think the scenarios you pose are to be discounted and I hate that you have to have an exit plan but I’m glad that you do.

    Heck in my shoes I’m not ok. It’s completely infuriating that so many red county/state governments are running rampant with their murder their citizens policies and it’s just somehow ok with their non-liberal constituents. I’m wondering what our exit plan needs to be if we’re taken over by a horror show Republican.

    I feel like I’m stuck in this moment of having to hold our breaths and hoping even though I’m not sure there’s any reason to hope.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Yeah, Californians who haven’t voted yet, get your NO ballot in on the recall. ASAP. (And today is the last day to register if you haven’t yet!!!!! Check your registration here: RegisterToVote.ca.gov )

      Let Revanche breathe! Don’t let Mike Huckabee and other out-of-state crazy people take over CA.

  16. Matthew D Healy Says:

    Professor resigns in the middle of class when student refuses to wear mask properly:


    “The 88-year-old psychology professor explained to the student that he could die from COVID-19 due to underlying health conditions such as Type 2 diabetes, hypertension and age-related problems, Bernstein said in an email to The Red & Black.”

  17. Lisa Says:

    I am so sorry that things are so precarious and untenable! I don’t think that anyone else has brought this up yet, so I will – it could be helpful to find a counselor/therapist that you can talk to. It might take a little searching to find the right person, but they could serve as a sounding board and help organize thoughts and prioritize values as you’re looking at potentially long-term changes. As others have said above, don’t sell yourself short as you’re looking at alternatives. You have little to lose by sending out some feelers and tapping your network this fall.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I do not think that’s tenable at this time. I’m not against therapy but my time and emotional energy is better spent on job applications right now. I know what the problem is and talking about it will just make me feel worse. The econ job market is very regenerated so in January it should be pretty clear if anything happened.

      I’m not selling myself short saying I can’t get a job at my position in most of the schools in Canada— I don’t have a top 5 publication so that’s not realistic. I’m also not selling myself short by saying I can’t get a job in pharmacy without retooling. It’s an idea, but one I would have to focus on to pursue.

      I will be sending out feelers, but it is hard to have these conversations with people without conferences.

  18. middle_class Says:

    I am so sorry you are going through this situation. I had forgotten about that terrible professor who reported you to the dean. I also think you should not have been passed over for that monetary chair.

    And of course the situation at your kids’ schools is very distressing.

    I hope you can get out of that state soon!

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Me too, thanks!

      I didn’t normally think I cared about status but my hallway is currently chair chair chair. Me, crazy anti mask guy who has a different senior title, chair chair . It’s a little demoralizing.

  19. First Gen American Says:

    Judge Tosses Case Over UMass Boston, Lowell Vaccine Mandates https://www.nbcboston.com/news/coronavirus/judge-tosses-case-over-umass-boston-lowell-vaccine-mandates/2478018

    Like other commenters said, not 100% of people are doing the right thing even in blue areas but I like seeing these kinds of news articles. The law is upholding people’s rights to stay safe. If you don’t like it, you can learn online, wait it out or go somewhere else.

      • First Gen American Says:

        And I very strongly believe in individual freedom when it only can hurt the individual. Darwinism all the way, I say. But when your actions can hurt others, like killing people or polluting a waterway, the government should step in. I think there is a distinction there that is being lost in these red areas.

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:


        Also we need to protect children from their actions— no darwinism until like age 25, give or take.

  20. Jenny F. Scientist Says:

    FYI if you need/want more Cambridge masks they’re running a 70% off sale today.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      Ooh! I just bought a bunch of their buy one get one free of their boring blue and black colors, so I don’t think we need anymore of those.

      Today I went with KN95 with a cute but terrible redbubble mask over it. It was either that or the N95 with nothing over it and I decided it was better to go with Ms. Frizzle’s look while pleading for my daughter’s health.

      Which I did have to do… only about 6 students came in wearing masks and I had to give out a lot of disposable cheap masks. A lot of people did have masks in their pockets though. But I only have two cheap masks left now.

      For anyone interested– Cambridge masks are multi-layered and do well in testing. But they’re thick and hot. DC1 loves them, but DC2 finds them too hot.

      Some of theirs have an exhale valve, but they will send you little stickers to deactivate them and say they’re deactivated.

  21. Alice Says:

    Not sure if you follow the Washington Post, but: https://www.washingtonpost.com/health/2021/08/28/delta-variant-unvaccinated-children-elementary-schools/ has projection graphs from the COVSIM research group buried several paragraphs into the unmasked teacher story. It will probably reinforce your decision to homeschool DC2. (It is feeding into my own what-the-hell-am-I-doing regarding my own kid attending in-person.)

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      I showed that in class today! I’m like, we are this pink line (assuming we’re like a high school plus testing). My DC1’s school is this red line.

    • nicoleandmaggie Says:

      … I also showed the graph comparing this year’s first two weeks of school to last year’s covid case rates. That was INSANE. As of Friday 1.5% of the school district had reported testing positive for covid since school started this year. And then we had a huge spike of cases just yesterday (from the numbers it looks like two elementary schools had had super spreader events). We got a video last night from the superintendent begging people to wear masks and to keep sick kids home because they are almost out of substitute teachers and will have to close schools down, but there’s no money for virtual schooling so we’ll have to use “inclement weather days” added on to the end of the year.

      • Alice Says:

        This may be a dumb question or just one that you don’t have the information to answer, but: I don’t understand the “no money for virtual schooling” thing. Weren’t they able to do virtual for Spring of 2020 and Fall-Spring 2021? Why is “fall on our noses and stop educating” an option now, when they were able to do virtual before?

        (My very strong wish is that the leaders around here would see the rising numbers and switch to virtual, so I guess I’m trying to figure out if your superintendent’s “no money” thing is legit.)

      • nicoleandmaggie Says:

        They were. The state government stepped in and said no money can go to virtual schooling this year. Last year the state allocated money for virtual. So large districts are paying out of pocket from their other funds but ours says it can’t. When I email the school board I ask for $ numbers for fundraising purposes but so far they have not provided costs.

        So this may be something to call your state reps and state department of education about. I also wish the federal department of education would give money with strings. There’s a lot they could do to protect southerners from their evil governments but they’re not.

  22. nicoleandmaggie Says:

    DC1 was exposed in Calculus today. So… two classes so far.

    • rose Says:

      Edited out my impolite words. This is what is left: I AM SO VERY SORRY!
      FIngers crossed for ALL our young children…….Their lives count too………….Or OUGHT TO.

  23. Living in the time of pandemic: COVID-19 (66) « A Gai Shan Life Says:

    […] worried for my friends, near and far, affected by horrible COVID-related policies and threatened by wildfires. I miss my friend who is […]

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