The Open Comments: 4

It's that time of term again: I'm marking midterms. So I'm going to open this post up to your comments. Can you hear me okay in class? I SAID, CAN YOU HEAR ME OKAY IN CLASS!?

What about those double screens in the classrooms? Are they driving you crazy? (Do you try to concentrate on one, but then keep sneaking a look at the other one, just to see if you missed something?)

Why aren't you studying?

The Green and Gold Week

With the actual Winter Term Reading Week coming up, here's an update on the proposed Fall Term Reading Week. It now has the name "Green and Gold Week" attached (or, maybe, "Co-curricular Week"). The final documentation was supposed to go to University Governance last month. A recent email was sent around listing some of the main points in the proposal:

  • The break will take place in conjunction with Remembrance Day (November 11th).
  • To achieve the break, two instructional days will be dropped and classes will begin one day earlier (normally on the Tuesday after Labour Day).
  • Winter Term will also drop two instructional days, to ensure consistency between the terms. The timing of these days is subject to discussions with the Office of the Registrar.
  • The break will [...] be filled with academic and non-academic programming.
  • The exam schedule and date of the end of classes should not change.
I'm not crazy about losing instructional days. That will mean cutting out lecture material, which is always agonizingly hard to do.

During Reading Week, I'm not usually around--not even for office hours. (I'm not going to spend more time commuting than I am helping students. Oh, and also: no students show up to office hours during Reading Week.)

What would you do during a Green and Gold Week? Attend some of the academic and/or non-academic programming? Catch up on studying? Catch up on sleep?

Why aren't you studying?

The Bookstore

I've had some problems with the Bookstore in the past, but those were issues with the price of textbooks. This year, I had a whole new set of problems.

As you may have read, the UofA changed how it deals with copyright; the deadline for the old regime expiring was August 31, 2011. This change has meant a great upheaval in how instructors prepare coursepacks. Previously, we'd submit a list of readings to SUBPrint, and they would handle the copyright side of things via the UofA's agreement with the licensing agency Access Copyright. But as of September 1, 2011, that agreement no longer holds; SUBPrint now has to contact each individual rightsholder and negotiate an agreement with them. This is probably just as much fun as it sounds. Yeesh!

I submitted my PSYCO 494 coursepacks for Fall, 2011 in early August, and I was warned by SUBPrint that they couldn't simply print off more coursepacks if more students were allowed into my class in September. OK, fine. I asked if it would be a good idea if I also submitted my PSYCO 365 coursepacks for Winter, 2012 before the August 31 deadline. The response was a very desperate, pleading, "YES!" I'd used this coursepack before and hadn't planned on making any major changes to it, so I submitted it, feeling very pleased with myself for being so darn clever. How many coursepacks did I need? Well, the class is capped at 125, so that's exactly how many copies SUBPrint made, and sent them off to the Bookstore.

September came and I ended up with 29 students in PSYCO 494, just one shy of the cap of 30. Whew. Fast forward to January, 2012. The Department bumped enrollment in PSYCO 365 from 125 to 130, but I was confident there would be enough coursepacks; I knew there would be at least 5 students from last year selling their old coursepacks. So I was a bit concerned to hear from an increasing chorus of students that they could not find the coursepack at the Bookstore.

As I was off campus, I called the Bookstore and asked how many copies they had. The nice person who answered the phone went type-type-type and answered "there are 65 left." What the...? Why can't anyone find them? "Hmm," I hmmed to the nice person, "would you mind seeing how many there are actually out on the shelf?" She went away and I waited and waited. And waited. On hold, I killed time by checking my email. She finally came back, sheepishly admitting that there were no coursepacks to be found. As I was waiting, I'd gotten an email from a student who was told by a Bookstore manager that they had "run out" and that the instructor should "get more copies printed." What the...? That's exactly what I couldn't do. And what happened to the ones that were printed off over the summer?

Dialling the phone like a mad-phone-dialling person, I left messages for the SUBPrint manager and Bookstore manager. An agonizing few hours later I got a response: the coursepacks had been located. Where were they? In a box. On the floor. Outside the manager's office.

This ridiculous episode has shaken my confidence in the Bookstore--to the point of me really not trusting them at all any more. There are consistent problems every term getting enough copies of textbooks in (most recently, it happened once in Fall, 2011 term and again this Winter, 2012 term); they usually blame the publisher for shorting their orders. Although I suppose that might happen, I don't know why the Bookstore isn't wising up to this, if it keeps happening.

There apparently is a new director at the Bookstore. Maybe things will improve. I've been told by one of the Bookstore managers that:

"Under our new director, the Bookstore is working on several course material improvements including an enhanced web-based ordering service."
Oh yeah, the crappy web-based ordering service. Don't even get me started on that. My confidence is at a low ebb already.

What problems have you had with the Bookstore?

Why aren't you studying?

Find It