As the Adjunctiverse Turns

cheeky, no respect for academia

Reading _Weapons of Math Destruction_, part 5

ICYMI…never too late to start reading. Algorithms permeate higher ed and everywhere else.

Bryan Alexander

ONeil_Weapons of Math Destruction pb coverWith this post we continue our reading of Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction.  Now the topic shifts to the impact of data analytics on personal finance.

(If you’d like to catch up on the reading schedule, click here.  All posts for this reading, including the schedule one, are grouped here. More info about our online book club is here.)

Here I’ll summarize this week’s chapters, then offer some discussion questions.

But first, some book club contributions since the last post. The New Inquiry released a big data project that inverts one key piece of a WMD, by focusing on the wealthy instead of the poor by mapping the likelihood of white collar crime (white paper) (thanks to Jason Green).  Slate has a new article about the risks of predictive policing (thanks to Jason again). Jason also blogged about…

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Another small American college will close

Bryan Alexander

A small college in Oklahoma announced that it will close next year.  That’s another one.

Founded in 1875,  St. Gregory’s University (Wikipedia) will end its career as an appeal to the federal government for a loan fell through.

The official statement (also announced on Facebook) doesn’t go into great detail about the causes, save for one economic point.  “Like so many small liberal arts colleges, St. Gregory’s has struggled financially for years.”

St. Gregory’s is only one data point, but it’s part ofaseries.  I’m not sure how this campus fits in with its specific details (too removed from big markets? too religious?).

(thanks to Pumpkin Yang)

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Reading Weapons of Math Destruction, part 4

Back to reading, Weapons of Math Destruction (WMD). This week we read/discuss “bad data analytics” job hunting and in the workplace. In case you hadn’t twigged on yet, analytics run those academic staffing sites colleges increasingly outsource hiring to.

Bryan Alexander

ONeil_Weapons of Math Destruction pb coverWith this post we continue our reading of Cathy O’Neil’s Weapons of Math Destruction.  This week’s chapters address the role of data analytics in the world of work.

(If you’d like to catch up with the reading schedule, click here.  All posts for this reading, including the schedule one, are grouped here.)

Here I’ll summarize this week’s chapters, then offer some discussion questions.

But first, some book club business.  There are good comments on last week’s post.  Jason Green has caught up with two thoughtful blog posts on earlier chapters (1, 2).  Mike Richi blogs his answers to some of my questions.


Chapter 6, “Ineligible to Serve: Getting a Job” 

Two stories anchor this chapter, one concerning a man prevented from being hired because of answers to a standard questionnaire based on big data, the other about a late 20th-century British hospital’s…

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A bloodless queen sacrifice?

Bryan Alexander

A queen sacrifice is when a college or university cuts faculty, especially full-time professors, usually as part of shrinking or ending certain academic programs.  That’s how I’ve been using this sad yet useful term over the past few years.

University of Wisconsin-Superior logoThe University of Wisconsin-Superior offers an interesting variant on this.  Maybe it’s a bloodless queen sacrifice.

What’s happening is UWS has decided to shut down a number of majors and minors.  It’s an interesting mix:

Majors: Broad Field Science, Broad Field Science (Teaching), Chemistry: Forensic (concentration), Communicating Arts: Journalism (track), Communicating Arts: Media Studies (track), Political Science (major), Sociology (major), Theatre (major), Visual Arts: Art History (concentration)

Graduate Programs: Masters in Art Therapy  

Minors: Computer Science, Computer Science (Teaching), Earth Science, Geography, Geography (Teaching), Global Studies, Health and Human Performance, History (Teaching), Journalism, Legal Studies, Media Communication, Photography, Physics, Physics (Teaching), Psychology (Teaching)

What’s interesting about it?  As usual…

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Announcing PeoplesHub: Skills for a Local Revolution

The Revolution Where You Live

An online platform to unleash the power of grassroots genius.

Screen Shot 2017-10-30 at 1.22.11 PMMore than 20 years after co-founding YES!, I am launching a new project.

The idea came to me when I was on the road trip that resulted in my new book, The Revolution Where You Live. As I traveled, I met people who were doing amazing things in their communities. Some were starting cooperatives and other institutions of the new economy, while others were working to heal their city’s legacy of racism, resisting fossil fuel development, or transforming their local food system. These innovations are, I believe, the seeds of a more just and sustainable world.

But a question kept nagging at me: Why isn’t there more of this?

The question became even more pressing with the election of Donald Trump. On my recent book tour—in cities from Portland, Oregon, to Madison, Wisconsin—people asked some variation on this question:…

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Director’s Corner (NeMLA Blog Post #22)

On conferences and the unaffiliated or precarious profin a changing professoriat

John A Casey Jr

IMG_2188 UIC East Campus Quad (photo by John Casey)

Greetings from Chicago!

After an extended period of warm weather, fall has made its appearance in the upper midwest.  It’s now the tenth week of the fall semester on campus and this semester has been an incredibly busy one for me.

As usual in the fall, I’m teaching four courses instead of my usual three to meet the greater than anticipated demand of undergraduate enrollments.  All four are Composition I courses and focus on analyzing genres of writing and formulating arguments.  My students are finishing up a group project on a Code of Conduct for students on campus and are now beginning an Opinion Piece on immigration law.

In addition to my undergraduate teaching, I also spent seven weeks working as Interim Program Coordinator for Graduate Studies in English, helping graduate students prepare for preliminary exams and the job market.

These commitments…

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Best practices? Best for Whom? The U of Arkansas Edition

by tenured ally, Seth Kahn. Attending MLA 2018? Catch Session 482, “What Tenured Profs Can Do about Adjunctification.”

Here comes trouble

Or, “Who Does This Help, v. 4”

And, fittingly during (just barely!) Campus Equity Week 2017–

Apparently, the braintrust that runs the University of Arkansas system has decided that the system’s post-tenure evaluation guidelines (and the consequences thereof) are out of line with somebody’s (never says whose) “best practices.”

Without getting too deeply into the policy specifics, which are only interesting if you’re a policy wonk–or a UA tenured/tenure-track faculty member–let’s just say there are two issues here that strike me as problematic.

First, although best practices is a term that gives me hives, I have some extra questions about the basis for applying it in this instance. Best practices are supposed to emerge from systematic, rigorous (often defined simply as quantitative) analysis. Where’s the research here? What’s one shred of evidence indicating that making it easier to dismiss tenured faculty improves anything except the power-mongering fantasies of managers…

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We’re All Mad Here: Weinstein, Women, and the Language of Lunacy

@PennyRed on being called crazy and the social power of language to label, dismiss, excuse, condemn


Laurie Penny | Longreads | October 2017 | 13 minutes (3,709 words)

We’re through the looking glass now. As women all over the world come forward to talk about their experiences of sexual violence, all our old certainties about what was and was not normal are peeling away like dead skin.

It’s not just Hollywood and it’s not just Silicon Valley. It’s not just the White House or Fox News.

It’s everywhere.

It’s happening in the art world and in mainstream political parties. It’s happening in the London radical left and in the Bay Area burner community. It’s happening in academia and in the media and in the legal profession. I recently heard that it was happening in the goddamn Lindy Hop dance scene, which I didn’t even know was a thing. Men with influence and status who have spent years or decades treating their community like an all-you-can-grope sexual-harassment…

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Dialectic of innovation

View from a hovel

In the most general sense of creative and inventive thought, innovation has always aimed at liberating us from destruction. Yet this technologically progressive world is hurtling us closer and closer to oblivion. We are disenchanted by myths and fanciful illusions yet imagine the science fiction of full automation. We have subjected everything natural to close microscopic scrutiny seeking how to regain mastery of a world radiating disaster.

On the one hand, innovation furnishes us with the conditions for greater justice; on the other, those who administer the technical apparatus are afforded disproportionate superiority to the rest of the population. Each individual is devalued, reduced to millions of on online gestures; mined, fracked, drilled, data sold as fuel for the transnational magnates. We as individuals are disappearing before the technical future, reduced to our multiple parts designed for the multiple medias. Nevertheless these systems have provided for us as never before.

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Corporate Academia 2017: It’s Full of Adjuncts!

The Adjunct Crisis

Have a consciousness raising, satirical, ironic, laughing, not crying, carnivalesque Campus Equity Week!

87% adjuncts at San Diego Mesa College and growing…




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