Tuesday, November 30, 2010

A tangled end-of-term rant.

There will be no paragraph divides in this post, because I feel like torturing you the way first year essays sometimes torture me. Not that I blame the students 100%, not even close. Right now, in a single class I've got several students that are writing pretty medium to well papers. They exist on a range of "pretty okay argument that you maybe should have thought about a bit longer so your ideas would be better organized" to "this is an excellent thesis, great work!" Their writing ranges from "I can understand what you are trying to say, and this excites me!" to "once you develop stylistically your writing will probably be pleasurable to read." It's great. Why, you ask, have I grouped this wide range of students together (I forgot to mention that I am only including a small portion of the class). Because they are all consistently telling me about "the kings hat" and how "three king's went to buy a hat." Do you see the problem? They all know that there is a rule here, and they are all messing it up consistently. This wouldn't be so bad, if the rule were not to end a sentence with a preposition. This rule sometimes makes writing more terrible. Yes. It can make writing terrible-r (my ipad actually won't let me do this without the dash). Example (courtesy of a lovely friend and lovelier conversation yesterday): "That is something up with which I will not put." Yeah. Because so many students are going to read something as convoluted as that and think "that's way easier and clearer than writing "that is something I will not put up with," thanks grammar handbook!" How will these students tell the difference between "students work" and "student's work?" Most important to this particular rant, how did a whole group of students coming into university at the same time learn this mistake so well? I am suspicious that they may have all had the same high school teacher, and this makes me sad. In other news, I am reaching the end of my term as well, and am hammering through seminars, papers, and research that I should not have put off so much earlier in the term. Lesson learned! I am also sliding into procrastination mode, but it is a very new kind of procrastination for me. Rather than cleaning the house instead of doing work, I have been rewarding myself for doing work by giving myself breaks with which to clean the house. Is this an effect of grad school, or simply a sign that I am getting old?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Mouse: Remixed

So our very humane trap caught a mouse within an hour. Yay for us, being so smart and loving! Yay for hippies! Yay for coddling the smug bastard of a mouse into a new home... or... not.
Apparently the husband killed the mouse. I was very upset about this, but did some reading about it- you can't catch and release a mouse unless you are going to release it miles and miles from your home, and it was past 1am and below -20 when the husband came home. I understand not wanting to sit beside mr. smug supreme in the car so that he can be let go. I was still very sad (and took the opportunity to remind the husband that I still need to learn how to drive again- I have kept paying for my license, but haven't driven seven years, and never in the city. Plus our car is standard, and all of my driving experience, except my initial few weeks of training, have been on an automatic)- I was already contemplating letting it go just because it clearly didn't know it was caught. It oscillated between grooming itself and throwing itself at the top of the cup to get more cream cheese. And pooping. I probably should have just knocked the cup over and told the husband that the cup wasn't heavy enough. As far as modes of execution go, the mouse froze to death. Apparently this is one of the most humane ways to let them go, which made me a bit more happy.

This happiness was crushed shortly after when I dragged my lazy bum out of bed an hour after the husband had left (to be fair, I usually stay up quite late working, and then sleep until ten or so) and found that he had re-set his trap. I say "his" trap because we had both made humane traps- he had made the glass trap, and I had made a bowl trap (a ramp for the mouse to get up into a metal bowl that has been oiled- the mouse can get in, but can't climb back out) . So, he has reset his trap, which leaves me a bit hurt. We we had agreed to leave my trap up to give it an equal change at mouse-catching, mostly because we had bet each other a massage that our trap would catch more mice, and here he was mocking me by trying to catch way more mice because his trap is better. Unfair!
And then, I noticed the mouse poops. I immediately put more cream cheese into the glass (it is the more effective trap) so that it would be fresh and attract this other mouse.

How many can there be? Will this trap be successful a second time, or does it now smell like mouse-leader death? internet, if you have a god/dess, please pray for our mouse problem. Pray that I learn to drive in time for our next mouse release, and also that we catch these mice before they give us all the red death. This effects you too, internet. That is how plagues work.

PS: I really enjoyed reading that comment that was mostly me commenting on my own blog. It was great, real satisfying. I know that there are a group of people that are keeping track of when I blog, because there is a flux of traffic here whenever I post. Do you like what you're reading? I am very excited to finally be doing this blogging thing- I think this medium is crazy interesting, effective, and versatile. And I want to keep it up, internet. Tell me what you've liked and haven't liked. And, perhaps answer this question:
Have you had mice? How did you get rid of those mice? How many mice are probably in our walls still if one is dead and one is pooping next to a trap? Were you humane about it? If this were reality TV, would I learn to drive in time to release mouse deux?
Ha! I have fooled you, internet. That was more than one question!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Of Mice and (Wo)men. Yes, this title is that corny.

So we've had a mouse. Not just any mouse, but a mouse(!). This thing is the smartest and boldest rodent I have ever met. Seriously. We've had trouble with mice before, as ours is a hundred year old house with plenty of mouse-doors and such. We've also had trouble with humane traps- mice quickly become too smart for any trap at all, and our mice are organized! We had tried everything- live traps, snap traps, poison (I hate this, btw. This is inhumane, plus it almost killed my aunt's dog the day before our wedding, which is another post for another day. Also, the poison has never killed a mouse). We have tried glue traps. The only glue trap that has ever caught a mouse in this house was the one that my husband forgot about for years. We didn't know this particular mouse was in the house until it started screaming. Don't use glue traps. Just don't. Not only are the inhumane, but mouse get way too smart for them very quickly. In fact, our mouse was all "bitch, please. What do you think I am? A vole?"
Did I mention that our mouse is bold? Yeah, so bold that he started calling himself "sir mouse-a-lot." So bold that he not only stole food from our rabbits, but mocked them. "Oh yeah," said our mouse, "well your mama's ears were so big she couldn't wear fashionable hats!"
(Ophelia, our lop, responded by saying:

and Wolfgang Van Halen the 2nd replied to with:

That's right, mouse. We know all about hats.
Aside from terrorizng our loving and lovable lagomorphs, this mouse was mostly a terror and a pain. And besides all of this, we caught him, and we did it with a trap that was pretty much free, and without killing/torturing him. Heck yes.
Here's how we did it:
Get a glass (about a dollar ten at ikea)
Put something delicious at the bottom (free: anything in your fridge that is spreadable. We used cream chees)
Prop the glass up onto a nickel (0.05$ in Canada)
Wait (also free)

It took less than an hour for us to catch our mouse.
For me, being too squeamish to remove the mouse, and with the husband being gone and all, this meant two hours of mouse-mocking.
I saw him throw himself at the top of the glass to get the cream cheese. I contemplated letting him to and blaming it on a bad trap. I had to leave the room to stop myself from doing this.
Anyways, humane traps, all the way. Also, they are cheap!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

You've been Busy, internet.

There will be another post later today, and it will be better than this one. Right now I am mostly trying to deal with a hangover while also dragging myself to autopac to renew my driver's licence and change my name. Unhappy face. In the meanwhile, internet, we need to talk yet again. I almost had a heard attack this morning, because one hundred and forty five of you looked at my blog. On one day! (<-- there will be more excitment when I am less hungover). So, onehundredandfortyfive, what have you been up to? You can't possibly *all* lurk forever.

Frozen edamame beans= best hangover food ever. Seriously. In five minutes (the time it takes to cook the frozen edamame beans) I went from "kind of nauseas and 100% shitty feeling" to "Hey- I feel pretty okay!" Consult the frozen foods section of your local grocery today!

Monday, November 22, 2010

On Marking

*warning: this is a really heavy post, all about grading and stuff. There is fluffier content at the bottom, if you don't feel like reading my thoughts on grades*

Many grad students will work either as student markers or TAs, who have grading of their own. My school only has seven MA programs, and no PhD students, and so many undergrads get to do these sorts of jobs as well. I have had the good fortune to have two and a half years of experience as a student marker under my belt, and I want to take this opportunity to talk about it.
Grading is not as simple as a letter at the top of an essay, though in a lot of ways it is fair to say that this is really what it amounts to. Having marked for four professors in the same department over a relatively short period of time I can say with confidence that most professors both love and hate rubrics. Those professors that I have worked for that have given me rubrics in the form of complex, organized charts loathe the essays that refuse to fall into their neat little boxes. I don't mean to say that these professors desire to categorize and label their students (though I am certain that there are some out there that do), but mean to comment on the mostly arbitrary nature of the rubric itself. Sure, a rubric is designed to be a set of guidelines for assigning grades, and many are highly organized into someone's professional opinion of what makes an A thesis, a B thesis, a C thesis, and how to discern which arguments are an A and which are a D. Most rubrics of this sort are based on experience. They are formed around the types of papers that have been received by a professor in the past, and are modeled to reproduce the same distribution and standardization of grades in relation to one another that is already occuring. Still with me? The standards for an A paper are based on A papers gone by, and this differs from professor to professor for a wide range of reasons I don't have the energy to think about. These charts are problematized by papers that don't fit easily into a letter grade range, by the students with "A" ideas but only "C" communication skills, or by those that have a "D" thesis, but prove it like an "A" student. This is frustrating. More frustrating, in my experience, is how difficult the damned things are to interpret. I once marked for someone that moved the grades I assigned to students up or down an entire letter grade routinely. I was initially hurt by this (the third year, anxiety ridden form of myself was, anyway), and so I asked about it. The professor and I sat down and went through a few examples, and we both gave our reasons for choosing the grade we did. In the end, either of us could have been right, we simply had different ways of reading the rubric.
I know what you're thinking. You're sitting there, all smug in front of your screen going "yeah, but I worked for a prof that didn't have a rubric. She hated them, and called them useless. What about that? Where's the love/hate in this one-sided relationship of ... erm... hate?" Well, internet, you see, I have also worked for this professor. Twice. All I can say for these professors is that I strongly believe that they adhere to the rubric that haunts academia. The vague concepts of "standards" and "ideas" that make up the illusion of higher learning. Do I mean to say that these professors don't know what they're doing? No way. Many of them know exactly what an A paper (a C paper, etc) looks like. They could likely articulate exactly why they've given any grade to any paper (I've never asked), but they don't dissect each essay and examine its parts in the same way. In fact, many of these professors, in my experience, are better at placing those essays that I mentioned previously, the ones that don't quite fit into any single column of the grading scale. This is likely because they consider each essay as a whole, and evaluate how each piece works with the others, rather than each piece by itself. (Also, this is a simplistic division. There are other teaching and grading styles. If you know about them and feel I need to be better informed please comment, I would love to learn more.)
So, if the rubric is a construct that can be interpreted in any number of ways and also functions in the grading process even when uninvited, what is the use of this discussion? Here it is, get ready: I believe that the most useful place for a rubric is in the hands of the student. How many of us have struggled and slogged through a year of two of university without any concept of expectation? How many of us have written papers and gotten them back with feedback that doesn't really tell us how to get a better grade, but mostly tells us what we did wrong? As much as there are many ways to interpret anything, I really think that having some concrete way of dividing "bad", "medium", and "good" (in the eyes of one particular professor, that is) is probably more useful than a hunch and a few hours of caffeine driven panic.

And Now for Something Fluffy:

Alright, internet. Let me begin this fluff by saying that I don't believe that it is my right to police the body of anyone else. As long as you are being respectful of others, do what you like and like what you do. That having been said, I have a terrible history with diets and eating disorders. I hate them. I hate getting ads on facebook that remind me that I could be twenty pounds slimmer. I already know that facebook, and I don't like myself twenty pounds slimmer. The me that weight twenty pounds less than the me now has no energy, obsesses over calorie counts and exercise schedules, and is all bony and gross. Even if the twenty-pound-lighter-than-me me wasn't all bony and gross, she would still be sick and unhappy, and this is not okay. Winter is an especially difficult time for me. There are fewer opportunities to be active in my daily life (I prefer walking to work over going to the gym, biking to school over going for a run), and I have this desire to eat wonderfully fatty baked goods constantly. And so, in order to combat the guilt that I am always fighting, but even more so during these cold and blubber(in the traditional keep you warm sense, not the fatphobic sense)promoting months, I would like to make a list of celebrated winter foods. Here it is:

candy canes (peppermint!)
stuffing (only twice a year!)
tomato aspic (most normal people find this gross. it is tomato jello with olives, celery, and onions. it is fantastic!)
mashed potatoes (these happen all year, but I crave them way more in the winter. with garlic and butter!)
OMG baked brie (no event tastes more like Christmas than one that includes apple cinnamon brie)
mandarin oranges (in your stocking!)
sweet potatoes (we only have these at Christmas!)
white wine (it goes well with turkey. the rest of the year can have red wine. i don't eat turkey, but refuse to allow this to make me a hypocrite.)
fudge (all kinds)
creamsicle fudge (the best kind)
sugar cookies
egg nog (homemade! one egg and one nog- and a whole bottle of rum!)
spiced rum (see above)
pancakes (on Christmas morning!)
honey (I do not use honey as topping or sweetener most of the time. And then it is Christmas again, and honey just seems like the best thing ever)

What are your favourite winter foods, internet?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Are you always watching?

Okay, Internet. We need to talk.
Here's the scoop. I haven't posted in like ten days, for the reasons that I told you about. I also did not expect to post, go away for the day, and come back to find that nine people had looked at my blog. Nine. That's possibly the most internet popular I've ever been. Do you know what all nine of you failed to do? Leave me any comments. That's rude, internet. :( Remember back in high school, when you used to write on your desk, and then the person who had that desk in the next class would write back, and then you'd have a little conversation with an anonymous stranger that lasted weeks and had several day long gaps between entries? This can be like that again, but without the waiting!

In other news, last week I realized that a professor of mine is 100% brilliant. There are many brilliant people that teach in universities, and I have had the great privilege of learning from many such brilliant folk. In this instance, however, I was beginning to doubt the brilliance of this particular professor. Now, let me be clear about this: it is never okay to think your professor is stupid. This happens, often (I've even overheard students in the class I TA for remarking on their professor, who is a friend of mine and, more importantly, a superstar academic who is incredibly intelligent and also did her PhD in three years. THREE YEARS!!!), and it is not okay. Do you know why, dear Internet? Because the professor is always an expert in their subject. Your professor may not always be a good teacher (remember, profs don't often get teacher training), but they do have a PhD. They've PUBLISHED in their area. They are contributing to scholarship in their area. They may even be a leading scholar in their area. The book you're reading in class? They may have written it. These are not stupid people. Getting back to my point, I was beginning to doubt my professor, and was frustrated with myself.
You just read my little rant about professors not being stupid, and I believe every bit of it. Again, I was frustrated. She seemed disorganized, and like she wasn't focused on the material or structure of the course. She missed two days at the start of term due to illness, and once left early. BAH!! Frustrating, right? Well, for starters, this was more frustrating for her, I am certain. After having an excellent talk with her the other day I realized I had been neglecting her own academic work- this incredible woman has been all over the country doing surverys and interviews on homophobia in high schools with the eventual goal of bringing her findings to people who have the power to change policies. Yeah. She's doing the legwork to try and make high school more livable for gay teens. Be stunned, internet, because not only are you reading the very blog of someone who KNOWS THIS PERSON, but she exists, and is doing work that may benefit you, your friends, siblings, cousins, or your children. Okay, so I neglected to think about the fact that she is doing astounding work and also teaching. This was a terrible mistake on my part, clearly. AND THEN, I realized that she has been teachign us two classes (!). Hear me out, Internet. The class she teaches in the terrible requirement course, "Research Methods for Cultural Studies." It is boring, and though she picked the most exciting textbook she could find it is still dated and dry. However, she's also been teaching us a much more practical class (in secret!, the "hey listen up grad students, this is how the real world of academia works" class. And it is amazing. We've practiced "blind" (it's hard not to know whose paper you have in a class of ten people in which only one is interested in psychoananlytic theory and you've got a paper on Lacan) vetting at two stages, and are participating in a mock conference complete with panels, chairs, discussants, and snacks. It has been eye opening and rewarding.
Thus, dear Internet, I will leave you today with two posts, a very happy tale, and this question:
What must I do in order to get comments?

Why I've been away

My family is pretty tight. We're all close, and there's a lot of sickness in my family, particularly cancer. My mom and my dad's sister are both survivors of various cancers, and make frequent trips to the city I live in for related checkups and appointments. So the other day, when my aunt's daughter gets a phone call informing her that my aunt should have next of kin with her at the appointment because she will be getting some very bad results on a few tests she's recently had done everything stops. We went out for dinner. We rented movies. We played games. I handed in two essays late, and all of my professors understood (because I have wonderful, understanding professors). Imagine how frustrated we were when my aunt's results were clear.
Our initial responses were joyful, as they should have been. And then we got thinking, and when my mom had her appointment (half an hour later), she asked the doctor about what might have happened. You know, because news like that is really hard to take, and can really influence life decisions. People take trips they can't afford to take when they think a relative might be dying. In this instance, my aunt's daughter (my cousin) did not travel the 10 hours she would have had to travel to see her mom, but sent her daughter (my second cousin) to my aunt's hometown for a visit and was planning on making the 15 hour trek to visit her mom at home after the appointments. What did the doctor think? That someone thought they saw something that wasn't there on her lab samples, and really, really felt for the family. So, after all of that, we're grateful.

In other news, I gave my second guest lecture. Let me tell you, internet, that this class has restored my faith once again, but troubled my allegiance to the academy. I wrote a quiz for them (it has been the habit of the prof to give them quizzes on the last day dealing with a text, and left that as optional for me), and told them they didn't have to take it if we could, instead, spend the allotted ten minutes discussing pedagogy and assessment. And then we did. !!!!! They had amazing things to say about learning styles, about how some small assignments are useful and others are simply not. Many of them expressed their own difficulty remembering ten random details from a text they had spent a week and sometimes more reading, and feeling disheartened at having to do so to prove they had read the text. Some of them enjoyed the effect of the quizzes, and said that because they knew the quiz was coming they found themselves taking more time for reading. We got into complexities, we did. And then, there was forty minutes of lecture and discussion, and they were incredibly engaged! Do you know what I noticed, internet? I noticed that every student that felt comfortable speaking up yesterday had something a little bit different to say about the text (and its relation to life, culture, politics, literary analysis, course themes, the real world, etc) that we could have had an entire class on. I cannot begin to tell you how encouraging this is, to see people excited about reading texts. On the other hand, I cannot begin to tell you how frustrating it is, having to say (not exactly like this, there was more tact in the classroom, but the overall message is:) "yes, the final fight scene is very childlike, a direct reference to the childhood fights between the two characters. But this lecture isn't on that, and now we have to move on to talk about language as a colonizing force, because that's what my notes are on and we only have fifteen minutes left. Good point though, really."

And I was left with a beautiful dream about a class structure that allowed professors the freedom to let their students discuss whatever elements of the text they've latched onto (with guidance, of course), instead of one that makes professors anxious about organization, structure, and, I hate to say it, but, legitimacy.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Not the post I meant to write.

Often during the day I think about what I will blog about, and usually have a pretty clear outline ready when I get home. All day today I planned a post about retired white man entitlement in the service industry. All fucking day. And then, at the end of my shift, I overheard this:

"Sometime, in certain company, I am ashamed by the colour of my skin."

And instead I decided to say this:

The struggle to end racism cannot only be the struggle of people affected by it. In order for racism to end, actually end (as in: no one is affected by the colour of their skin, their accent, their hair, etc in any way, ever, and especially not negatively) it must be a struggle that we all participate in. Just because you might be white or present as white or pass as white does not mean you are not involved. Do not be complicit in racist behavior: if you see something going on that is racist, and you don't do anything other than watch, you are allowing it to happen. Be aware of white privilege. Think about how being white allows you to move through certain spaces, or to say certain things (or not say certain things). Do not feel shame or guilt (these are not useful), but think differently about how you interact with others, and about what it might mean to not have white privilege. Do not ever use your privilege to hurt anyone, to disempower anyone. Do not lord it over anyone. These actions, which happen all the time, unconsciously, are racist.

Was this preachy? I hope so. Was this the post I meant to write? Not at all. It is better.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Rant and Ramble

I just got home from seeing a production of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" with my husband and another couple. How do I feel? I'm not sure. I think the text makes some very interesting and valid commentary on the manner in which power is distributed, and the tendency of current western society to pathologize that which is non normative. Despite racist language, I thought the play's treatment of Chief Bromdon was moving, compelling and hinted at a progressively critical reading of treaties, reserve and welfare systems, and racism more generally. I really felt like the play lacked a female character to counter Nurse Ratched. The only female characters present were the tyrannical bitch, the silent and sexually abused nurse who walks around with her head down and/or in fear, and the "cheap" women that are mostly eye candy (one of whom is named Candy). Is there something critical here that I'm missing? Possibly. I found the party break up scene, in which Ratched and Candy are together on stage very interesting- Ratched demeans Candy to the point of not allowing her to leave, and does not allow her to speak. Is there a possible reading here, other than that the powerful woman destroys the really problematic sexualized woman who is clearly the type preferred by the men of the play? Is this (<<--) reading complicated by the fact that the "men" of the play have all been pathologized? What do other people here think?

In the spirit of being confused and sad I am drinking a beer (a St. James Pale Ale, which gives away my location and also shows I have excellent taste!) and remembering other points in time in which I felt the same way, Such as the time that I was student teaching and brought in "The Laramie Project" for my 9/10 double credit English class to read. We had previously studied the "Maus" books, and they responded in really mature and empathetic ways. How did they respond to this? By arguing and generally being quite angry about this text being toted around as fact (!). They refused to believe that this could possibly have happened in 1990, and shut down critical discussion immediately. Why? I have no idea. Maybe they were outraged that something so terrible could happened in 1990, or today, or maybe they identified very closely with a young teen in a middle-of-nowhere kind of place who doesn't quite fit in, and were outraged that he could be treated so... terribly. I really don't know.

Bah, do other people have stories like these?

On Teaching: wherein I ask you questions, internet.

Alright. Pull up a chair, and ponder some stuff with.

While sitting in on the class that I TA for, I witnessed an exchange between the professor and a student that just didn't sit right. Basically: the student brought up something related to the current text but outside of the prof's expertise, and the prof said something (very politely) to the effect of "sometimes we have guests that experts in those things, you should save your questions for those times."
Now, I don't think that either the prof or the student meant anything negative in this exchange, I just wonder (as someone who wants to be a prof someday) if there is a good way of getting around situations like this when they arise. I mean, let's face it, students... wait... EVERYONE synthesize information all the time. We all know how awesome it can feel when we make a connection between two things we hadn't seen as related before- in this case it something high-tech (and beyond my own capacity, can I indulge a bit and say it made me really happy to have this high-tech thing I can't explain come up from a female student?) that all of a sudden made sense as related to a text. Cool beans! How do profs/teachers/role models address things like this in a way that lets the student have that "wow, neat" moment but doesn't overtake the class or take the discussion into unrelated tangents?
Let's break it down:

Good Things that Happened in this Exchange:
*the student felt comfortable speaking out about something obscure (though connected) even if it might have made them look like techo-nerd (which, btw, I was super jealous of. OMG, you understand how my computer's BRAIN works!!)
*the teacher addressed that the classroom would (at specific points in time) have space where those things could be explored by people who are actually able to engage.

Bad Things that Happened in this Exchange:
*the student may have felt brushed off.
*possibly the prof addressed the student in this way because there was only a small amount of time left in the already short (50 minutes) class.

So. What next? Where do we go from here, is there something that could have been done differently, and who, really, is the most important person in the classroom? Does it all go back to the idea that the teacher has some know-how, and will then put that know-how into words that you can either listen to or not? Anyone?

Monday, November 1, 2010

Trigger Warning, and also Political Stuff

On October 28th I was thinking about writing this post, going over what points I would cover in my head and stuff like that, when I came across this, which led me to this, which led me to not writing this post. I was afraid, because suddenly the thing that I had planned on writing about had become topical. It took me a few days to get over that, and I'm back and ready to tackle this. That having been said, if you're reading this and thinking that I missed something and would be way less ignorant if I saw it, post it, please.

This came up in my personal life before it also came up in the discussion/cute cartoon video I reference above. Before I say anything about anything I want to clarify:
*I do not dislike the discussion or the video mentioned, nor do I mean to suggest that I think the stuff being said here is wrong. I think that, for the most part, it is absolutely right.
*I do not mean to attack any single person here. The issue I have is with a trend and a phrase.

Here is my issue:
I have heard TAships called "slave labour for the university" often enough that I am certain that this is just a phrase that gets said sometimes. By that, I mean one of those things you say without thinking critically about. This is a problem, and it is a problem mostly because it is coming consistently from people within academia, the same people that I hold to the very high standard of trying to be politically correct because they understand the power of language. I am not (NOT NOT NOT NOT NOT!!!!!) aligning myself with the "Just Be Grateful" crowd that is mentioned over at Shitty First Drafts. In fact, I understand where the phrase, and the though process comes from. Academics work stupid long hours, are under the pressure to publish or perish (which means doing a shit ton of your research and writing in addition to teaching classes and doing hours of class prep and grading), and are expected to do all kinds of committee work (I've even probably missed things that are par for the course, I'm still in grad school so I can't speak to this reality yet) , all without any guarantee of job security, and, according to the discussions mentioned above (I say according because I can't speak to this experience, but I do trust these sources) are being expected to do more work for less money all the time. When the phrase in question came up in my personal life it came from a professor that I work for who was encouraging me to keep track of every hour that I worked, and to make sure not to work more hours than I would be paid for (at my school research and teaching assistants are allotted a number of hours per term, and must claim those hours throughout the term to be paid for them). I am certain that she did this 1.) because it is common for student markers to work more hours than they will be paid for in the interest of getting all of the marking given to them finished (I do not think that professors do this on purpose- it is probably really hard to keep track of the number of hours your TA has worked, especially since you can only usually estimate this, but it is really easy to know how much marking you have left), and 2.) to make sure that I don't get into this habit, which can only lead to worse and worse situations.
That still does not make it okay. Why? Because there are still people involved in slavery. Human trafficking is, as far as I am aware, currently the most commonly reported form of slavery, but there other manifestations out there. There are real bodies being affected by slavery in real, damaging ways all the time, people that are forced against their will to continue to work in bad conditions for little or no pay. .
Do you know they call it when someone leaves slavery? Escape. Liberation. Freedom. When someone leaves academia we call it leaving. This is the crucial difference.
Does this make everything in the university system okay? No. Does this mean that all professors, even those on contract work can pay their bills and live comfortably? No. In fact, I'm pretty sure that the system is set up to make grad students feel like working overtime as a TA is a privilege, because having the opportunity to do that work is really good for your CV and might increase your chance of work later. Maybe. If you do a good enough job, get a good enough reference, or make enough contacts. You know what you don't mean in your academic future? A contact that perceives you as lazy because you didn't put those extra hours in, and even if this isn't likely the way professors will actually view you I think that fear is still present and motivating. I know it is for me. Again, it is not slavery. I can leave if I want to. Professors can leave if they want to. They should be paid more, and have a more reasonable workload, (yes, yes, yes!!) but are not slaves.