Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Begin Again

Today was the meetings where big shots talked. We have a campus breakfast, and then the talking begins with thanks to the corporate sponsors. It's no accident that the corporate sponsors are all represented by white men. Two banks and a car dealership, all represented by white men. The campus fund-raising folks, another corporate white male.

All but one of the head folks who spoke today, white male. The one exception was a faculty group leader. Go her.

The first meeting was all bad news, as expected. Cuts will be made, but we'll all get input into deciding who/what is cut. I'm guessing the white men at the top figure they'll do this fairly, after all, it's only about merit, right? They'll figure it out together while drinking single malt whiskey on the porch.

The second meeting was equally dismaying, mostly. Why do I even go to these?

We've identified a "new problem" on campus which wasn't recognized as a problem before for us, but is now recognized as a problem, four year graduation rates. Okay, so I can recognize that this is a problem from a couple points of view, but from others, not so much. Evidently the data related to this is one of the big new things colleges and universities are being judged by. I'd like to see the graduation rate data put up next to data about students who work off campus, first generation students, and students who are economically disadvantaged.

I made it through in four years, but I was one of few in my social group who did, even way back when. The biggest factor I could see was that my parents paid for my school, books, and room/board; my summer jobs and a part-time job for a year in college paid for other stuff. My friends weren't so lucky. I left my undergrad institution without debt; again, many of my friends weren't so lucky.

I left campus in a bad mood, and stopped at the grocery store on the way home. What I really wanted was to buy candy, or malt, or something. But I controlled myself.

I came home, took the guest dog out for a bit (she ran off to explore a neighbor's yard, surprising me with how fast her 17 year old self could run), and then sat on the couch to mope.

And while I was moping, I knew that if I could only get myself out on my bike for even a short ride, I'd feel better.

I finally did, planning only to go for an easy ride on the trail, but remembering that half the city streets on the way there and back are torn up and detoured, I decided to park at the swimming pool park and go south of town.

And you know, once I got started, I did feel good. I felt so good that I did ten miles out, and ten back. At the ten mile point, working fairly hard, I had an average of 16.1 mph, which is pretty fair for me. I decided to try harder for a while, at least, until I was too tired, on the way back. But then, about four miles from the end, I saw a biker in front of me, and I decided to try to catch the other biker.

Now, I've been known to put big energy into chasing another biker only to find that it's a fancy mailbox, and I barely caught it anyway. But today, this biker was the perfect pacer for me, and inspired me to push a whole lot harder than I would have otherwise. And just after the crest of the second to last hill, I passed her.

And yes, my bike did make me feel a whole lot less mopey and unhappy for the evening. Thank you, bike.


  1. Fr me it's yoga and a good long walk. I don't know I'd manage without. I'm surprised that the four year graduation rates have only just become an issue. We had this on the agenda in the UK for sometime, although with us it has been more to do with how long people are taking over post-grad. degrees. And you are spot on when you link it to the way in which students have to combine study and work these days. I would not want to go back to by late teens and twenties now.

  2. Bikes are really excellent that way! In fact, I need to go thank my bike by cleaning it up ...

  3. Anonymous6:20 AM

    The whole "four year graduation rate" has become an obsession at my U. too. Some big wig decided that this stat is all that matters in determining our university's quality or parsing out funding ... but it's so out-of-touch with reality. I think very few college students graduate in 4 years any more -- but especially not at my U., where all the students are working class, immigrants, or raising families (or all three).

    This standard is based upon some 1950s fantasy of the student life, where young Johnny goes off to college, fully funded by his parents, and, gee whiz, graduates in 4 years with a nice, cushy corporate job lined up for him.

    These administrators need to get a reality check!

    (Sorry, I hope I'm not bringing you down from your riding high!)

  4. It's retention at our school -- not how many student we have, but how many students we have who have c, b, or A grades at the end of the semester. That's how they're going to fund us.

    Yeah, I don't see any possible problems arising there either.

  5. James Wilk, M.D.4:15 AM

    Oh dear...

    The University of Colorado got dinged because I LIKED it. At first, I declared myself a Molecular, Cellular, and Developmental Biology major and took all the necessary course work. Then it became apparent that for only a couple more courses I could meet the requirements of being a Biochemistry major, too, as there were significant overlaps in the courses.

    And, if I was going to stay a fifth year, I might as well take that graduate level cell biology class and those upper level German and History courses I'd been pondering since it wouldn't cost any additional money (up to 17 hours was one fixed price).

    And so I took a fifth year and enjoyed the opportunity to take classes out of sheer interest and curiosity, without feeling like a cog in a wheel. I recommend it for anyone who has the financial means (at the time a semester's tuition was a little less than $700 for Colorado residents).

    I then went on to the C.U. Medical School, which was more than 10-fold more expensive per semester. Believe me, I got through that in 4 years.