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Office-Hour Habits of the North American Professor

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  • by aeinome (672135) on Friday May 23, 2003 @07:57PM (#6028257) Journal
    I can't wait to see the documentary of the North American Professor on the Discovery Channel, even though it would probably be the most boring thing ever aired.
    • by unicron (20286) <unicron@t[ ]et.net ['hcn' in gap]> on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:01PM (#6028289) Homepage
      This week, on a very special "North American Professor": Professor Smith grades last weeks tests.

      AH FUCK change the channel anything I'll watch Touched by an Angel just change it.
    • by Samari711 (521187) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:16PM (#6028353)
      a much better documentary would be on students who actually go to office hours:
      the brown noser - doesn't really need any help with anything but are compelled to make sure the professor knows exactly who they are and how smart they are. in class they're usually the ones in the front row answering all the questions.

      the hoplessly confused - shouldn't have ever taken the class, but is determined to not drop it. is the bane of just about every other type who has a grasp on the subject who needs just a little clarification on something.

      the testers - the only time they show up is right before a major test, on breed doesn't even come to class except to turn in homework. his friends even forget that he's in the class with them sometimes.

      the reluctant - it doesn't matter when the office hours are, the reluctant usually try to avoid having to ask for help at all costs. a mixture of ego, high self expectation, stubbornness, and pride drive the reluctant to overachive. if the professor ever starts the answer with "oh that's easy", the student will never be seen in his office again. (note: this would be me)

      • by pz (113803) on Friday May 23, 2003 @09:40PM (#6028726) Journal
        You missed a dreaded one:

        The potential career-ending mistake -- the bouncy young co-ed who comes by, closes the door, and suggests, "I'll do anything for an A, *anything*."

        (Yes, it happened to me, and no, my career is intact.)
        • by lexDysic (542023) on Friday May 23, 2003 @10:51PM (#6029011)
          The potential career-ending mistake -- the bouncy young co-ed who comes by, closes the door, and suggests, "I'll do anything for an A, *anything*."


          (Yes, it happened to me, and no, my career is intact.)
          Don't tell me you passed on this great opportunity...for a punch line:

          You: Anything?
          Her: ANYthing!
          You (in a whisper, close to her ear) : Would you...
          (Pause. Look nervously around for observers.)
          ...study?


          Think! It ain't illegal yet!
          -George Clinton
        • by pongo000 (97357)
          Yes, it happened to me, and no, my career is intact.

          And is she?
        • I was the only female (and very obviously female - read that as busty and not fat) in the comp sci division. After consistently getting the highest grade in all my core classes, my favorite instructor and I got investigated to see if I was actually doing the work or performing some other way. My own boyfriend started the uproar after he stole pieces of my code and didn't get the same grade. Somehow he missed the objective to write everything with the least lines of code. It was obvious he had programme
    • by cosmosis (221542) on Friday May 23, 2003 @10:25PM (#6028923) Homepage
      When I was in physics college back in the 80's my professor wrote a computer program in which he plugged in all of his students class hours, and with a few seconds the program would generate his office hours precisely when his students would be least likely to be able to attend without missing their other classes. I actually saw him plug this data in his computer and laugh. Planet P Blog [planetp.cc]
  • So true (Score:5, Funny)

    by Dachannien (617929) on Friday May 23, 2003 @07:58PM (#6028265)
    I've known quite a few Early Birds during my tenure as a student, and upon accusing any of them of this practice, I have in every case been met with a grin of non-denial.

    • Re:So true (Score:5, Insightful)

      by BWJones (18351) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:41PM (#6028454) Homepage Journal
      However, most of the "early birds" I have known in the hard core basic sciences are typically very productive in their research AND publications AND teaching. Some of the professors I have always had the most respect for spend more time in the lab than some of the graduate students and post-docs and are in the lab early in the morning.

      In the clinical setting, mornings are traditionally the time you spend in rounds educating your students before patients are discharged, while in the basic science setting, mornings are good times to deal with student issues so that you don't have to take time out of your schedule in the day when you are either 1) in the writing groove or 2) in the middle of an experiment. It also shows to the professor or instructor that the students will make the effort to get their asses out of bed to meet with them when they themselves are "at work".

    • My first year tutor scheduled our weekly tutorials for 9am. That lasted a whole week, after which he decided he had no chance of making it in that early, and rescheduled.
    • I've occasionally gone down to the CS department at 9am and found every single door shut, as the faculty hadn't rolled out of bed to come in to work yet. At 1am, meanwhile, you'll always find at least one prof. still there...
      • oh man... not true at all. I can't tell you how many CS courses I've had at 8:00am (this semester included).

        On a bright note, most of my profs. seem to schedule their office hours right after class or before class... makes it much easier to get in to talk to them.
        • At my school, only the freshman lectures that everyone (non-cs majors included) has to take are at 8 or 9am (more commonly 9am). Any CS class past that is 11 or later, with 1:15 being the most popular timeslot.
    • I did a couple terms as a TA (before I got my research assistanceship, whoohoo!) and rather than keeping regular office hours (which I found to be generally pointless from the perspective of making my availability jive with the students) I just had an "open door" policy. That was when I learned what 5 AM looked like as a starting instead of ending point for the day, because shortly after adapting this policy, getting to the office before 6:00 was the only way I'd ever have any guaranteed time to get my own
  • by Gefiltefish (125066) on Friday May 23, 2003 @07:59PM (#6028269)

    The Active Techophile. This variety of faculty member, usually an Assistant Professor early in their career, tends to enjoy the pleasures of technology during her or his office hours: browsing the net, casually searching for the latest online manuscripts, and, most critically, engaging his or her fellow Assistant Professors in hardcore LAN gaming. Students tend to like the Active Technophile, as he they sympathize with her or his interests, but they seldom interact except for periodic fragging.

  • That door-closer... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Paddyish (612430) on Friday May 23, 2003 @07:59PM (#6028275)
    I know him, and he has tenure protecting his job. Good thing he'll never get that promotion he so desperately wanted.

    Tenure seems far more detrimental to the North American University than it is useful.

    • by El_Nofx (514455)
      I would agree absolutely. I can't remember how many times I have been told, ohh so and so is tenured in and there is nothing we can do about your complaint. Maybe 10? Maybe more.

      A friend who's dad happens to be the dean of my particular college said that there was a movement a few years ago to start phasing out tenure but it was thought that if one school did it all the professors would flock to the schools that hadn't.

      It's the biggest detriment to the university system today, hands down.
      • Tenure (Score:5, Insightful)

        by pz (113803) on Friday May 23, 2003 @09:05PM (#6028546) Journal
        Tenure is definitely not a detriment however often abused by both granting institutions and grantees. Just because a mechanism is not perfect does not mean it carries no value, nor that it should be abolished.

        What happens with tenure? The non-tenured junior professor works his or her ass off doing what may well be the best work of their career. Once tenured, there is undoubtedly a relaxation, but if the granting faculty have done their job, they selected someone who will continue on at a strong pace. Although my experience is clearly limited, I know of no cases where a tenured professor has relaxed to the point where he has become a burden on the institution. That, dear reader, does not mean it does not happen, just that my experiences at research universities has been otherwise.

        There certainly are times when bad decisions have been made, either for or against granting tenure, but to my experience they are by and large carefully made and good ones. Harvard or MIT, for two ready examples, would not be what they are today were it not for tenure.

        And what are the alternatives? Periodic contract renewal? Northeastern University has phased out nearly all of its tenured faculty in favor of part-time professors (my mother among them). I fear greatly for the long-term prospects of NU, as they will not be able to attract world-class faculty by offering renewable short-term contracts. Remember, a university is NOT a business, and there is no reason for it to be run under a business model.

        Imagine the following difference in job offers: "hey, you're pretty good, stick around for 3 years, and we'll see if we still want you," or "we believe in you, here's a job for life." Which system encourages far-sighted research plans? Which system encourages making good long-term decisions rather optimizing short-term gain? Which system allows development of highly devoted faculty?

        Tenure, frankly, one of the major differences between business and academia, is one of the main reasons my career is firmly on the professorial route.

        The biggest detriment to the university system, in my opinion, is athletics. There is no defensible justification for big athletic programs except greed, and that has no place in the university system. Get rid of professional athletes masquerading as students, get rid of athletic scholarships, get rid of lower standards for athletes, do all this and the American university system will be driven more towards a meritocracy and *then* you'll have something. Get rid of tenure? Either the person suggesting that is just confused, works at a lower-tier school where the long-term future isn't a real concern, or is a bean counter at heart.
        • Re:Tenure (Score:3, Funny)

          by puppet10 (84610)
          Once tenured, there is undoubtedly a relaxation, but if the granting faculty have done their job, they selected someone who will continue on at a strong pace. Although my experience is clearly limited, I know of no cases where a tenured professor has relaxed to the point where he has become a burden on the institution. That, dear reader, does not mean it does not happen, just that my experiences at research universities has been otherwise.

          Then of course follows the Emeritus stage which they relax further,
        • Re:Tenure (Score:4, Interesting)

          by gpinzone (531794) on Friday May 23, 2003 @09:33PM (#6028698) Homepage Journal
          Imagine the following difference in job offers: hey, you're pretty good, stick around for 3 years, and we'll see if we still want you, or we believe in you, here's a job for life.

          The reason you don't want such a model of employment is because is does not encourage achievement. In fact, history has shown that in most cases, it breeds corruption and neglect. It's why most modern governments don't have lifetime positions for their leaders. Okay, the Supreme Court is an exception. However, the reasoning behind keeping justices for life doesn't apply to professors. At least, they don't anymore. Tenure was meant to keep professors with non-conformists ideas from getting fired. Now thanks to terrorism and political correctness, no professor is safe from firing due to perceived misconduct. Tenure only remains to keep the lazy employed. Sad, but true.
          • However, the reasoning behind keeping justices for life doesn't apply to professors.

            You say that when Bush 43 is basing his appointments to advisory posts based primarily on political stance and an unpopular view caused the dixie chicks to endure a boycott? you sure about that?

        • Re:Tenure (Score:2, Insightful)

          by Slamtilt (17405)
          Harvard or MIT, for two ready examples, would not be what they are today were it not for tenure.

          I agree with a lot of what you say, but Harvard's tenure practices are pretty obnoxious. They don't grow their own talent - it's effectively impossible to go from associate to full professor there - but instead skim the best professors from other institutions.

          There are other problems with tenure as a system, too. Institutions which see themselves as primarily research-orientated often really devalue the work
          • by pz (113803)
            I agree with a lot of what you say, but Harvard's tenure practices are pretty obnoxious. They don't grow their own talent - it's effectively impossible to go from associate to full professor there - but instead skim the best professors from other institutions.

            I'm currently employed as a post-doc at Harvard, and inquired specifically about this when I arrived, as my impression was similar to yours. While there undoubtedly is such an effect, it is not pervasive in all departments, and to a certain degree h
        • Re:Tenure (Score:4, Insightful)

          by kikta (200092) <jason@@@kikta...net> on Friday May 23, 2003 @11:40PM (#6029163)
          You still haven't answered the problem! What should be done about professors with tenure who decide they don't give a shit anymore? How would you fix tenure? You basically said:

          1) Yes, tenure has some huge problems.
          2) But it's good, too!
          3) Periodic contract renewal is bad, too.
          4) Athletic programs cause huge problems, too.

          All of those are true, but are worthelss statements for fixing tenure. If you want to keep it, justify your answer. Employing misdirection only makes me want to classify you in with some of the lesser of your collegues.
      • Tell me about it.

        I had a professor who was hired and given tenure as a photography professor. He was a good, competent photographer and well qualified to teach same. He then decided he was going to teach something called "Visual Dynamics" which was his own pet discipline that he'd invented. The course was a requirement for graduation (otherwise NOBODY would have taken it) and literally consisted of the ravings of a French-Canadian of Greek origin who NEVER changed his clothes, banging away about God knows
      • The reason for tenure *and* academic free speech was that corporations and political bigwigs would make donations to universities in order to silence the professors. That is, they'd say "I'll donate $X if you will not teach ______ subject." Or "Professor Loudmouth is such a pain. I'll donate $X if you'll fire him."

        Deans actually hated this, because once you start down that path, there's no stopping it, and worse, each person thinks that his previous purchase should be enough to last forever, and that h
    • by commodoresloat (172735) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:22PM (#6028383)
      Tenure seems far more detrimental to the North American University than it is useful.

      I realize there are good reasons for getting upset with the tenure system, but I think it's important we keep in mind the reason why tenure exists: academic freedom. Tenure is not supposed to protect an instructor who is incompetent, unethical, or burnt out. And there is nothing in a tenured professor's contract that would imply otherwise. Nonetheless, it does sometimes does wind up doing that, because professors who abuse the system will wave the tenure contract around and threaten lawsuits, and most departments would rather keep things quiet than actually fight these people. Frankly I think that's a failure of will on the part of such departments. But tenure contracts are essential in any occupation where academic freedom is an issue. Otherwise it is too easy to imagine instructors fired for dissenting views or research. This isn't always about politics either -- imagine for example an agriculture professor whose research is critical of factory farming. Imagine that professor teaches at a university in Iowa whose board of regents comprises factory farming interests. I think the academic freedom implications of the First Amendment demand something like tenure in the public university system (and I think all serious universities should have some legal assurance like that).

      But I do not think tenure should be used as an excuse not to deal with professors who have stopped doing their jobs, who are simply incompetent, who constantly prey on sexy coeds, etc. Universities have a post-tenure review process to keep track of what professors do after tenure, but these reviews tend to cover up some of the worst problems rather than rooting them out. It's not a failure of tenure but of the people charged with implementing it; tenured and non-tenured faculty alike should demand better, IMHO.

      • you summed it up, no matter what rules are made they still need to be enforced. The sad part is that every time I've had a crummy professor and tried to do something about it I have gotten nowhere because noone would touch them because they had tenure. They people in charge of that particular department almost admited that the particular teacher was worthless and wasn't doing their job. It's almost like a get out of jail free card from the department. I was literally told that short of one professor ki
        • There is some truth to what you say--it is hard to fire a tenured professor. BUT places that have post-tenure review can be forced to buck up and put sanctions into place for professors that have chosen not to stay active.

          The most effective way of maintaining standards is to require those who are not professionally active to teach more, and to keep pressure on them to teach well. This should happen at the level of the Deans, precisely to avoid the department-level politics.
      • Tenure does not always help either. Look at the university of montana environmental studies program for example. Right now the logging and mining industries are bribing the Montana legisture to cut off funding for the program because the professors are not advocating unilimited logging. Once the funding is cut off it won't matter if you are tenured or not the entire dept will dissolve.

        BTW. The Montana legislature is extrememly cheap. Their votes can be bought for what a NY congressman pays for parking!.
      • But, while you are right, and academic freedom is a very important part of the University system, the amount (at my school, in my experience, YMMV) of people who have tenure that actaully give a damn about their job is just a small number of profs. Most profs with tenure I've run into look at you as a name and number and grade.

        Want to complain about that last test? Want to try and change your grade because your cat died the night of your midterm? Go stuff it, because he ain't budging, after all, what can y

      • by pz (113803) on Friday May 23, 2003 @10:00PM (#6028800) Journal
        The parent posting eloquently raises a number of excellent points.

        The general Slashdot reader might be surprized at how much influence the perceived behavior of a professor has on things like the number of committees he is assigned to, the number of students he is allowed to have, how much office and laboratory space he is allocated, and things of this ilk. While it is rare to a professor to have tenure revoked (which, to my mind, is not unlike disbarring a laywer or decertifying a doctor ... extreme measures which are rare by design), there are a number of lesser punishments, if you will, which can be meted out. Tenure is not the only means of enforcement, just the most severe within academia.

        When a student complains to the faculty about one member in particular, it can have far-reaching consquences. When the student writes a cogent letter to the dean of the school, it can make a big difference. But do you want to revoke tenure for someone who isn't teaching well? No, you want him to teach better. Ignoring his students? Make him pay attention. Violating some student-faculty handbook rue? Make him honor it. Revoking tenure is for eggregious cases such as when a professor sleeps with his students, misappropriates funds, or commits scientific fraud.
    • One of my advisors in undergrad, Dan Kleppner, used to write a column called "Reference Frame" for _Physics Today_. In one column, he suggested granting tenure in 10-year terms; renewal might require review by the dean, etc. The idea is to allow academic freedom while preventing indolence.

      It was before my time, so I don't know it was received, but I imagined it created some waves -- he's rather famous and well-respected, and has been around the block. He argues his position incisively and eloquently, be
    • I agree that it can be misused, but I think tenure is on the whole very positive. It's to protect academic freedom, but this goes deeper than you might imagine. It's not just to allow controversial research to continue without the professor being pressured into reaching desired conclusions (though that is an important part of it), but also to allow important research to happen at all with education and advancement rather than money in mind. Without a tenure system, it's quite likely that professors would
  • Crikey! (Score:3, Funny)

    by JanusFury (452699) <kevin.gadd@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Friday May 23, 2003 @07:59PM (#6028276) Homepage Journal
    We've got here a fine specimen of the North American Professor! He's a feisty little one, so you better stay back.

    Hey little fella, hey there... AGH! CRIKEY! HE'S GRADING ME TERM PAPER!

    No, seriously folks, I'll be here all week. Thank you, no, thank you.
  • by isn't my name (514234) <slash@@@threenorth...com> on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:02PM (#6028297)
    I loved office hours. It was when I knew I had uninterrupted time for pleasure reading. The only time the students would show up was around midterms and during the last two weeks of classes. For the most part, it was a nice block of uninterrupted time.

    • by BWJones (18351) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:17PM (#6028359) Homepage Journal
      The only time the students would show up was around midterms and during the last two weeks of classes. For the most part, it was a nice block of uninterrupted time.

      Yeah, and the common question is......"how much of what we covered is going to be on the exam?" To which my response has always been......all of it. If we took the time to cover it in class, it has all likelyhood of being on the exam.

      • We ask that because we have classes that have a lot of proofs, and then we have no idea to what detail we are supposed to reproduce them.

        Some classes give you the input, then just ask for the output. Others ask you to produce output+description on how it does done etc.
        Others ask for a complete reproduction formula that you are going to use.

        Also when applying a formula, can we jump about, optimising instinctively, as long as we get the right answer? Or do you want exactly the right layout, like a compute
    • I had a similar experience, as an undergrad TA (my main duties were to run labs & hold office hours). Generally, I could kick back and do some work on my thesis [ithilien.mine.nu] or homework during office hours... but during my busiest weeks (midterms and finals), everyone came in with questions, so I couldn't count on getting any work done.

      Most of my professors are pretty good about office hours. And often, there will be some evening/late-night hours for CS classes; they know that's when the most people will show up fo
    • ...yeah, and after sitting there for an hour alone, you decide to pop out to get a coffee. You return and there are four students standing there.

      There's a clear view of my door from the building's atrium... I think they sit there and wait for me to leave.

  • by kongjie (639414) <kongjieNO@SPAMmac.com> on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:09PM (#6028323)
    Okay, the article was tongue-in-cheek, but I still have to take issue with its take on keeping the door closed.

    1. Students often don't come to office hours.

    2. Rather than sitting there waiting for Godot, I always tried to get some work done.

    3. Depending on the hallway, noise can be very high; door closing may be the best solution.

    4. A sign on the door indicating "Please knock" or clearly showing office hours should be enough impetus for an intelligent student not to hesitate from knocking.

    • 1. Students often don't come to office hours.

      If you have your door closed, how would you know how many students come but are turned away by the closed door?

      2. Rather than sitting there waiting for Godot, I always tried to get some work done.

      As a general rule, teachers don't like students doing homework in their classes. If this is a office hour, perhaps that should be your main focus here.

      4. A sign on the door indicating "Please knock" or clearly showing office hours should be enough impetus for an
      • 2. Rather than sitting there waiting for Godot, I always tried to get some work done.

        As a general rule, teachers don't like students doing homework in their classes. If this is a office hour, perhaps that should be your main focus here.

        Err... there's a rather extreme difference between doing homework in the middle of a class when students and professors (both present) are supposed to be interacting with each other, and office hours when a professor is supposed to be available but may not have any

        • Do you read on the bus? Do you feel guilty about it? 'cause you really ought to be focusing on communting, you know.

          If I read on the bus, and it means I miss my stop, then I need to stop reading and start focusing on my commuting. He is using the work as a reason to close his door, which gets in the way of his office hours.
    • Says the teacher with the closed door policy. :)

  • Black VS. White (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Papa Legba (192550) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:12PM (#6028335)
    A little obsdervation I have made on this subject to add to the discorse.

    My first college was a institution primarily occupied by african americans. It was a school traditionally attended by the poor african american class. Some statistics handed out at orinetation were the fact that 90% of the student body worked and that 75% were the first person in their family history ever to attend college. The thing I noticed in my two years there was that the professors kept massive office hours. Typical was 20 or more a week. The more common occurence was that if the professor was not in his/her class then they were in their office. Of further note was the fact that almost no research was done at this instituion, the primary focus was to teach and that is what the teachers did.

    After my two years there I left to go to a primarily white middle class college across town. When I arrived there I found it nearly impossible to locate a teacher outside of class. Both places I had been folowing primarily an electrical engineering course track. One had been acredited and one had not, the reason for my transfer.

    I was applaled at the lack of teacher availibility at the white school. The indiference that the teachers showed. I would also like to point out the fact that a major focus of this school was research as the school wanted to see itself as a state leader.

    The point is that 10 hours a week in the office for teachers is really silly. A teacher needs to be a mentor also. They need to make themselves available to help advance the students. The black school recognixed this and made their focus teaching, the white school did not, and made their focus research.

    The sad part was that the black school was in an economically depressed part of town and had little money coming in. The white school , which focussed on research, had lots of money coming in. This made the white school appear prosperous, and in a lot of peoples minds, a better school to attend. They could have not been more wrong.
    • Re:Black VS. White (Score:5, Insightful)

      by rknop (240417) on Friday May 23, 2003 @09:05PM (#6028548) Homepage

      The sad part was that the black school was in an economically depressed part of town and had little money coming in. The white school , which focussed on research, had lots of money coming in. This made the white school appear prosperous, and in a lot of peoples minds, a better school to attend. They could have not been more wrong.

      Your observations are all good ones-- but I suspect they have more to do with "teaching focused" than "research focused". There are a number of high-end, highly-focused, full-of-rich-kids schools out there which consider teaching their primary mission, and as such both select professors more for that than for research, and set up the rewards system for professors based on their teaching. (In contrast, many research-focused universities almost don't care about teaching when it comes to granting tenure. Research reputation and funding is it.)

      I'm talking about the Swarthmores, the Haverfords, the Oberlines, the Claremont Colleges of the world. All of these are relatively "rich" schools, but feature excellent teaching.

      The real pity, as you note, is when excellent teaching at "poor" schools is overlooked.

      -Rob

    • Re:Black VS. White (Score:3, Informative)

      by Unregistered (584479)
      it's not black vs. white, it's college vs. research university. I'm sure large black schools have the same problems and small white schools are more student oriented. Not everything relates to race.
  • It's not that bad (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Rosco P. Coltrane (209368) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:13PM (#6028339)
    It might be hard for students to meet with their professors on a one-to-one basis, but at least US students get to be legally able to. In France, apart in expensive semi-private schools or high-visibility public schools, in public universities, teachers come into 700 student amphitheaters just in time (often late), do their classes as fast as possible and bugger off as soon as the bell rings. If you want to catch the teacher, you'd better be seated in the front row and run after him before he disappears. I'm not saying it's a rule, but most of my university years were spent like that, in different universities in different cities. These guys are often researchers who are forced to teach against their wish to justify the expenses related to their research projects, and some tend to hate it so much they are unpleasant to talk to and downright bad at teaching.

    But I suppose US students have a right to see their teachers and receive quality tuition, given the outrageous amount of money they leave to their colleges ...
    • ...But I suppose US students have a right to see their teachers...

      How true. At the college I went to, a prof cancelled a couple of classes so he could attend a conference. One of the students sued, because the had paid for the class. He won. After that, profs weren't allowed to cancel classes, they had to find a substitute prof.

    • Re:It's not that bad (Score:4, Interesting)

      by gad_zuki! (70830) * on Friday May 23, 2003 @09:06PM (#6028551)
      Before this turns into a "private vs public" debate, you perfectly described most of my classes at both public US universities I attended. Public doesn't equal free either, just affordable/possible.

      TA's (graduate students) teaching most of the classes, professors well hidden somewhere campus with notes on their doors claiming to be elsewhere or "be right back," etc.

      This is far from an isolated event in the US. Private school is a bit better, but then you're taking a loan the size of a house to get a a degree or degrees worth anything of economic or intellectual value.
    • A French prick? No, couldn't be!

    • These guys are often researchers who are forced to teach against their wish to justify the expenses related to their research projects

      Maybe all of the lower-level courses should be taught by grad students or full-time lecturers. There's no need to have a serious researcher teach you how to do a FOR loop in Java.
  • what? (Score:4, Funny)

    by Tumbleweed (3706) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:16PM (#6028352)
    Profs have office hours?!
  • by drink85cent (558029) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:17PM (#6028362)
    Where is the example of the completely clueless foreign professor who stares blankly at the student and spends 20 minutes with a student before the student realizes its time to give up and let someone else in line try to get the same problem solved. Typically students visit this professor in packs and go at it one at a time hoping one student will crack the language barrier.
    Or the CS professor who looks at the desk the entire time and feels awkward talking to his students almost expecting them to just get up and leave before he feels too overwelmed.
  • The Absent. (Score:5, Funny)

    by Faust7 (314817) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:24PM (#6028392) Homepage
    These are never in their office, even during office hours. Occasionally they tape a piece of paper to their door politely explaining where they are, which is always nowhere within reach. They are likely to have a couple of chairs outside their office with boxes for delivering and picking up homework. They are never available immediately after class; the only way of contacting them is through e-mail, which they discourage for long-winded homework questions. On the rare occasion when one actually manages to catch one of these in person, there is nothing actually unpleasant about them, indeed they are often very amiable. They benignly take no notice at all of their unavailability, and gently manage to teach their students the art of complete reliance on textbooks and classmates.
    • Re:The Absent. (Score:3, Interesting)

      by diggitzz (615742)
      I graded exams for a couple of *large* freshman classes taught by a "Dr. Absent" last semester ... the Absent is not only missing from his office, but he seems to be missing from most of his life. Worse, he appears to have absolutely no control over this, and doesn't notice it happening unless someone points it out. At that time he'll sincerely apologize (and he means it!), but it's not something that bothers him.

      He usually has 3 or 4 phone numbers, at least 2 of which are answered by a secretary of some
    • I'm an "Absent", but it's a variant known as "make an e-mail appointment". I explicitly tell students up front, "I have no office hours. If you want to talk to me, I'm happy to make an appointment to meet with you almost anytime." I do encourage long-winded homework questions, although I sometimes don't get around to answering them :-).

      Positive consequences: the student can count on my being there; e-mail questions, once stated, often can be resolved without a meeting; I can work around student schedule

      • I feel sorry for your students.
        • Wow, why? I prefer the Profs who are willing to schedule outside of office hours. The ones that won't can be a pain in the ass if, for instance, they're during times you're working. It's much easier and more convenient to just find a time when you're both available.
  • professors..... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by benny_lama (516646) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:31PM (#6028415)
    To this day I can't understand why professors think that I should give a crap because they are a prof. It has been my experience so far that professors don't think that they need to follow the rules. I'm not sure where this attitude comes from, but I don't see it in any other profession except for politicians, and professors are usually too anti-social for politics (or too left-wing radical).

    I just took a class at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and the prof decided not to lecture for the last month of the course.....and the school let him get away with it!

    I thought that professors were supposed to be at a school to teach. Most of the ones that I have dealt with have done everything in their power to avoid as much as possible of their teaching responsiblility.

    Why do we tolerate that?
    • Re:professors..... (Score:3, Insightful)

      by CaptainCarrot (84625)
      I thought that professors were supposed to be at a school to teach.

      No, not usually. Professors are at a school for a variety of reasons, and it's not uncommon for them to regard teaching as the least important of them. Often they're there mostly to do research. Publication enhances their prestige and that of the school, which is why successful research and publication is so important in achieving a professorship. Less so actual teaching in most cases, although one of the the burdens that must be shouldere

      • Heh, who's the sucker now? I go to a crap school [ucfv.bc.ca] because it's cheap as hell, and the professors here are more than happy to help (with the exception of some of the hard-science instructors). I have my phil 230 and political science 311/312 instructors home phone number. His office is usually barren, but he tells all his students to call him at home and unless he's busy he'll have a meeting. In fact, just a couple weeks ago, he had the entire class over to his house for dinner and booze (lots of booze... ser
        • If you want a very good education, as opposed to merely "decent", you find a school that offers the best one you can possibly afford. There are many other criteria to consider besides monetary cost, if you're making a wise decision. Stevens is focused on engineering, and the work you do there to earn a degree is comparable to what you would go through at Caltech or MIT even if the place isn't so well-known. (So much for "prestigious". Prestigious places are well-known by definition.) This is also a place wh
    • Re:professors..... (Score:4, Insightful)

      by DougJohnson (595893) on Friday May 23, 2003 @11:37PM (#6029153)
      I thought that professors were supposed to be at a school to teach.
      You thought wrong.
      It all depends on the school. This is especially true of research oriented schools where a fair portion of a professors salary is paid out by that professors research grant(s). If you want to go to a school to get taught, go to a technical college/trade school. If you want to go to learn, go to a university.
  • by cosyne (324176) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:44PM (#6028465) Homepage
    We finally got some webcams set up so we could see his parking spot and the desk he likes to work at. For a bit we had one in his actual office. And it's _still_ impossible to track him down...
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:51PM (#6028489)
    I propose another "subspecies":

    The Be-All: This individual pretends that s/he can satisfy all needs of all comers, be they students, other faculty, or administrators. Almost no request for help or information is turned away, regardless of how busy they may be. They are involved in all manner of teaching activities, advising, research projects, and innovative technology initiatives. They live in terror of being faulted for any shortcoming.

    These individuals are typically on the tenure-track and eager to please. Consequently, they are well-liked by students, skeptically admired by colleagues, and occasionally praised by administrators. They secretly sneer (though with jealousy) at other more established faculty who actually know how to set limits, manage their time, and handle all the constantly shifting pressures inherent in the job.

    Sometimes, though, Be-Alls fall victim to their optimism. Too many early mornings, missed lunches, and late nights take their toll. A few gain wisdom in time and become more focused on that which is needed to obtain tenure. Some, however, become physically, psychologically, and emotionally exhausted and migrate to a normal life.

    "Tenure decisions are made at the time of hiring." Or so it has been said.
    • When monkeys fly out of my butt.

      no really. I went to a major US university for over 5 years, and talked to a "door-closer" once, for about 5 minutes. During that time, he informed me which path I should take, without even looking over my records (which he downloaded and printed out during the first 3 of the 5 minutes).

      My experience is this: professors purposely make themselves hard to find because they would rather spend time sucking up to higher-up professors. Unless you are a female with a nice ass, you
  • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:55PM (#6028501) Journal
    In the UK we don't have such a system. Lecturers are expected to be in the department most of the time, and students can corner them during this time.

    That's the theory, anyway. During the last term I came to the conclusion that my supervisor was actually fictional, and the department was drawing a salary from the university to fund some kind of secret project (probably involving alcohol in some way). Eventually I suggested to the Dean of Science that he (my supervisor) should be electronically tagged. This idea was not met with nearly as much scepticism as I had expected...

  • by pjdepasq (214609) on Friday May 23, 2003 @08:58PM (#6028515)
    Anything is better than the fsck'ing psycho next door to my office. This idiot lives in there (no shit), and his department chair knows it. (No he's not a grad student, he's a tenured Math prof). No one from his department wants to do anything about it, though my advisor and I have reported it several times.

    He bathes (reportedly) late at night in the bathroom, and is constantly seen at all hours of the day and night cutting veggies in the sink, making food in the department, etc. The moron thinks he's being clever and no one knows.

    $5 says you'll be reading about him in the papers some day. Thank God I'm leaving this summer. Dr. Spooky is just too much for me anymore.
  • by jemartin (636867) on Friday May 23, 2003 @09:22PM (#6028642)
    Between the Door Closer and the Counselor, he neglected to mention the quantum physics prof who believes that his door is simultaneously open and closed.
  • I find my professors all the time, sometimes at 10pm, sometimes at 1am. They're likely to be in their office at the very least anytime 10am-5pm except during lunchtime and when they're actually teaching classes. Of course, I go to a college [hmc.edu] with no grad school and hence no TAs to do their teaching for them (or big research grants to take up their time)...
    • Last time I looked Harvey Mudd was rated one of the best universities in the country. The reason why was as to claim great student/teacher ratioe and the professors are always available.

      Now its pratically considered an ivory league school.

  • Professorship positions, especially in prestigious universities are filled in on the basis of the research publications and professional contacts, while the educational aspects of an academic career rarely do make any difference. This, perhaps, might be unfortunate in some cases, but that's how it works.
  • Deep hack mode... (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Goonie (8651) * <robert.merkel@benamb r a . org> on Friday May 23, 2003 @10:15PM (#6028883) Homepage
    One thing I've discovered is that it's impossible to do research for an hour at a time. To get anything done, you need to devote at least half a day (and preferably the whole day) to working on it. A student interrupting you for "just a couple of minutes" every hour or so is likely to lead to you achieving 3/5ths of bugger-all.

    That's why I'll hide if I want to get any research done.

    • Re:Deep hack mode... (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Idarubicin (579475)
      That's why I'll hide if I want to get any research done.

      For many (most?) researchers in the sciences, it just isn't possible to do research in the office. It is possible to write grant proposals, draft manuscripts, and grade papers, and when those tasks are being performed, one may find the scientist in the office. Otherwise...

      "I have a timepoint in four minutes. I can talk until then. Then I need to collect data for seven minutes; then you can talk to me for another six minutes. Is that okay?"
      "I

  • by NeoPotato (444954) on Friday May 23, 2003 @10:19PM (#6028900)
    The Senile Tenured actually are in their office during their declared office hours, and often for most of the day, sometimes including when they should be in class. Often, when a student comes in with a question, they will begin answering, but trail off into a rambling story, then forget what the student asked (this behavior is often also seen during lectures). Sometimes they will ask students what their opinion is of the class, but remind them that they probably won't remember what they said after they leave. And they usually don't.
  • I rarely went to the professors' office hours (I'm a senior... almost done!). In fact, I only went *once* by choice when I was actively enrolled in a class--and that was to drop the class (my calculus skills are... lacking:)

    Other than that, I visited with my two favorite professors (both are psych. guys) after I finished taking their courses, and I still visit periodically.

    For what it's worth, at my institution, the office hours tend to be *short*. I was surprised when I saw people talking about 10-20 h

  • The article was very entertaining, but I noticed something that no one else has seemed to.

    10 hours? Ojala I had such a window of opportunity. It's 4 hours per week, if we're lucky, and usually right after class when we haven't had time to formulate enough of an opinion to ask decent questions.

  • I'm American, but teach Econometics ('Forecasting Financial Markets' this term) one night a week at a University here in London.

    I haven't quit my day job, it pays the mortgage and I actually enjoy it!

    But in terms of office hours, my employment contract calls for two hours a week, at a time and place of my choosing. That means saturdays 9AM to 11AM and yes, I'm posting this on /. while waiting for folks to drop by. Door closed but not locked, and I don't talk to my office mate and she doens't talk

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