The Commercial Message

At the start of term, I get a lot of requests from people who want to make an announcement in my class. Usually, they want to talk to my intro psych class, probably because it’s in a huge room. Some of the information is important, like raising awareness of UofA resources available to students, like the Peer Support Centre or student groups like the Undergraduate Psychology Association (I belonged to the UPA, way back when I was an undergraduate). Although this is useful information to first-year students, I’m thinking that a lot of this is redundant with the orientation given by the Centre for Student Development. Plus, not everyone in intro psych is a first-year student.

But then there are others who want to make a presentation about something not at all related to the university, per se. They want to encourage students to Travel Abroad! Get Volunteer Experience! Run Your Own Business! Is this appropriate in class?

I let someone talk the other day; they had arranged for this time weeks in advance. The thing was, the presentation went on and on and on. Eventually, when the person finished, they had burned through five minutes of class time, and left me with a class that was totally not wanting to listen to anything for quite a few minutes. Thanks a lot.

Here are my rules for people who want to present something--anything--to my classes.
  • Don’t start talking to my class without asking my permission in advance. It’s like you’ve taken over my room. Please don’t. Even if I’m not in the room yet. If I get there late and there’s not enough time for you to talk, sorry.
  • I’m not going to introduce you, unless you are a special guest. Special guests may be invited, or have something important to say. Introductions from me may seem to students like an endorsement.
  • Show up early, if you need to ask me for permission. I may say no, depending on what I have planned for that class, or what you’re selling. Best to email me in advance and ask me for permission. I’ll send you a link to this blog posting. (Whoa--recursiveness!)
  • Do not take up any of my class time. I need to log in to the computer and get my lectures set up. You can talk to my class while I’m doing that. If you have lots of information to give, you better talk fast--especially if you’re following someone else who’s giving a long presentation.
  • I’m not going to give you a microphone. You need to talk loud to get the attention of the class and to be heard over the general noise. I need to clip the mic on and get the audio system set up for myself, so you're on your own.
  • You don’t get to use PowerPoint or the projector. If you do, then I can’t log in or set up my lectures, and I’ll have to waste class time doing that after you’re finished.
  • You can email me web links, posters, or contact information, which I may (or may not) post to the class website.
  • Only one presentation per day.
  • First come, first served.
What do you, as students, think of these rules? Do you want to hear commercial messages? Are you already coping with information overload? Do you pay attention to the messages in class?

Why aren’t you studying?

The Paperless (Digital) Office

I just dropped off the paperwork for my Winter term coursepacks. Yes, already. They’ve got to go through copyright clearance before they can be copied, and that deadline is coming up October 1. I don’t want to be, like I was with my Fall term coursepack.

The strange thing about this paperwork is that it actually was paper. Yeah, I did submit a copyright clearance spreadsheet via email, but I also had to lug paper copies of all the forms that SUBPrint needs, the table of contents, and hardcopies of every single reading in the coursepack. It strikes me as odd, because I’ve been working hard toward a “paperless office,” converting as much paper-based stuff to e-formats as I can.

Back in 2000, I was probably one of the first (if not the first) instructor to email my exams to SSDS (Specialized Support and Disability Services). (This is the office that handles, among other things, exam proctoring for students with disabilities.) I had a blind student in my perception class (yeah, that was a challenge to teach), and SSDS needed my exams in a format that could be read out loud by JAWS. I’ve been submitting my exams in PDF format via email ever since--saves me from walking over there to drop off every exam.

With the recent budget cutbacks, I’ve had to reduce hard copies of the syllabus in almost all of my courses. The exception is PSYCO 104: I want students to have something in their hands to read. Those classes are large, so copying is still a big expense. Funny, though, I’ve got nearly a hundred copies left--I guess a lot of students got theirs in PDF format from my website. Maybe I won’t need any hardcopy handouts soon.

My office is still filled with lots and lots of paper. One bookshelf has textbooks. But even there, things are moving digital. I can get online access to almost any textbook I need (yes, for free) from, a company set up by five of the largest textbook publishers as a platform for delivering ebooks. I do still like hardcopies, though. The tangible feeling of a book is something I’d miss.

Another shelf has print copies of the journals I subscribe to. It’s nicer to read long texts on paper, but for quick reference, I’ll go to an e-version. Plus, if I’m at home, I’m not about to go back to my office just to look something up in a hardcopy journal. And that brings me back to my coursepack situation.

Due to the UofA’s new copyright agreement, I have to submit hardcopies of my coursepack to the Copyright Office. They clear each work to make sure that it’s legally OK to make copies, and then they send everything to SUBPrint printing, and SUBPrint ships everything to the Bookstore. Even though I now have PDF copies of all coursepack materials, I’m not allowed to submit electronic copies. Why? That’s not exactly clear.

Otherwise, this new copyright scheme is great. A coursepack that used to cost $63.43 under the old agreement in Winter, 2012 costs just $25.50 in Fall, 2012 term--a savings of $37.93! Of course, under the new agreement, the UofA has to pay Access Copyright $26 for each full-time equivalent student. I doubt the UofA will just eat that; they’re going to pass that cost along to students, right? So maybe the savings aren’t so great.

Aside from going from paper to e-formats, I’m also converting everything else analog to digital. I’ve got a set of VHS tapes of a series called Discovering Psychology that I’ve finally converted to DVD because a lot of the newer classrooms no longer have VHS players. (By the way, I bought a licence to make a copies. It's all legit.) In this case, DVDs won’t be the final step. It won’t be long before the computers in classrooms no longer have built-in DVD players. By then, though, we’ll all have bionic implants, so that won’t matter. I’ll just beam the lectures from my cyborg brain-chip to yours.

Why aren’t you studying?

Don't Call Me Professor

Don’t call me professor. I mean, if you’re going to be calling me by titles that I do not hold, I’d prefer “Mr. President,” “Commander, Air Group,” or “Your Highness.”

Technically speaking, I am not a professor. “Professor” is a title that must be earned; the term generally refers to someone who is tenured or on the tenure track.  “Tenure” is often mistaken to mean “having a job for life,” but really means that an academic cannot have their job terminated without just cause (thanks Wikipedia!). The reason this is important is because academics should have free inquiry into facts, “the truth,” and so on, without fear of losing their job. So it really ties into academic freedom.

At the UofA, there are different levels of “professor”.
  • Adjunct Professor: Anyone can apply for this title that you can have for a 5-year term, but you have to provide justification why the University (and a specific Department) would give this to you. Are you a clinical psychologist who wants to teach at the UofA and collaborate with others on research? To apply for research grants, you usually have to hold a position at a university that lasts for a certain number of years. That’s where this title comes in. You get $0 for being an Adjunct Professor.
  • Assistant Professor: No, you’re not the secretary for someone else. It’s just the starting level in the tenure-track stream.

  • Associate Professor: Have you ever worked retail and been a “sales associate”? Yeah, this is nothing like that. It’s the next level up in the tenure track. Salaries are higher than for assistant professors.

  • Professor: Also known as “Full Professor.” This is it: tenure at last. Salaries are again higher. As with the other levels, there are different pay steps within this category, depending on research/teaching/etc. accomplishments. It’s not a “job for life.” Professors still teach, do research, and so on. And they can be fired (although this is really rare).
There are also some individuals who hold the prestigious title of “University Professor,” (or even “Distinguished University Professor”) which, although it sounds generic, is actually bestowed upon those in recognition of superlative accomplishments. Like Dr Thomas M. Nelson, a former chair of the Department of Psychology, who was on my Master’s and Ph.D. advisory committees.

Finally, there are also “Professors Emeritus,” which means that they have retired.

I once held the title of Adjunct Professor, but that was a few years ago. Right now, I’m a Faculty Lecturer, which means I work full-time and get benefits. That’s means I’m a “sessional” (preferred term: Contract Academic Staff: Teaching), not a professor. I do not have job security or a job for life. Some institutions, like the University of Toronto have teaching-only academic positions, called “Professors of Practice.” I like the sound of that, but we don’t have that at the UofA (yet--there’s some talk of establishing a similar kind of position).

So don’t call me “prof” or “professor” because that’s not a title I presently hold, OK? Here are some other titles that I don’t have: Judge, Sergeant, Pope, Your Majesty, Mrs., The Right Honourable, The Left Honourable, First Officer, Ayatollah, Chief, Prince, Pharaoh, Swami, Darth, Grand Moff, or Grand Poobah. So don’t call me any of those, either.

(You can use the title "Doctor" or even "Mister", I guess. But "Mr Loepelmann" is my dad. And using my first name a bit awkward--it's what my friends call me.)

Why aren’t you studying?

What I Did on my Summer Vacation (2012 edition)

Things were a little different for us this summer, mostly because there are a lot of strange people in our basement. Don’t get me wrong: I want them to be there. After all, they’re working to develop our basement (I’m not exactly handy with a hammer; I don’t know which end is which). To get ready for this, we had to move everything out of our basement into the garage. If that doesn’t sound too hard, well, see, the garage is smaller than the basement...

Anyway, all of this activity affected our vacationing, so we didn’t do all of the usual. Yeah, we still went to Sylvan Lake, but only for one day. The beach is now almost totally covered by the lake, making it a lot less fun for the kids. (Note to the mayor: If you don’t do something about that, we may skip the beach entirely next year; the kids like the fake beach a lot better anyhow.) And we had to see the new Penguin Plunge at the Calgary Zoo. And, of course, Capital Ex and Calaway Park.

But we skipped the local festivals this year--too many mosquitos. My girls don’t get little mosquito bites, they get huge toonie-sized welts. And Canada Day was rained out.

So, with apologies to Harper’s Index, this time I present some data from the past four months. (Yes, I did teach in the summer. And even if I wasn’t teaching, I was working...)
  • Department of Psychology admin staff who were laid off, reassigned, or quit: 5
  • Remaining admin staff: 4
  • New admin staff: 3 and counting...
  • Secret projects I’m involved in: 1
  • Number of times I’ve been named to the Department of Psychology’s Teaching Honour Roll with Distinction (modestly): 101
  • McDonald’s iced coffees consumed: only 3
  • Homemade iced coffees consumer: way too many to count
  • Plates of food I ate at Big T’s BBQ and Smokehouse: 3 (see, it was too spicy/too different/too much for my daughters, so I had to eat their meals, too, OK?)

  • Number of times my youngest daughter slept through the night, uninterrupted: 16
  • Number of times I did: 16
  • Win-loss-tie record of my oldest daughter’s soccer team: 16-2-1
  • Field trips I went on with my youngest daughter’s daycare: 1, to the TWoS (got my tickets to Star Wars: Identities already, woot!)
  • Kilometres travelled to the cottage of our friends (approx.): 209
  • Kilometres travelled back home from the cottage of our friends (approx.): 210 (due to emergency pee-pee break)

  • Total number of anniversaries my parents have had so far: 50
  • Uncles who visited from Germany: 1
  • Colds I had: 2
  • Litres of homemade cherry juice I made: 10
  • Litres of homemade cherry juice I had to throw out because somebody put a Pyrex dish on the stovetop, which exploded, sending shards of glass all over the kitchen, including into the cherry juice: 10 (sob)
  • Litres of homemade cherry juice I made in my second batch, far away from glass-exploding spouses: 10 (our tree grows a lot of cherries; I still had enough cherries to make tarts and a pie)

  • Updates, additions, deletions, tweaks, fixes, corrections, and changes to my courses/lecture notes/websites: 834
  • Percentage of statistics that are made up: 47.3%
Why aren't you studying?

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