Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical (hermionesviolin) wrote,
Elizabeth Scripturient (the delinquent, ecumenical

Continuing the "I'm back" thread.

Had lunch in Tyler. I'm definitely back at Smith because it was salad on bread. There were also chips and cookies and grapes, which was nice. [Also, could i be more of a Smithie? I plugged in my stereo last night to have music while putting my pictures in my mini-album -- and Mommy, that's done now! yay me! -- and what did i put in but Tori's Little Earthquakes. I'm not even a big Tori fan.]

Turns out Comstock is open for dining as well. Why don't they give us a nice list of which houses are open for dining? Yay for the convenience of Comstock, though.

Am in Washburn for the first time in my life as everything closes at 5 [After that, well, you just got the bars, /Dar, "The Ocean"].

Spent some more time in the campus center. I neglected to mention that the 3 big TVs on the wall really annoy me.

I absolutely cannot handle the decorating scheme. Except for the red room with the free-standing fireplace. Isabel said it's "how the 70s imagined the space-age" which is exactly accurate (though Gillian says it's more late 60s). I may have to take some pictures to show people at home. *cringes at the idea of anyone visiting me here*

Training was blah blah blah for the afternoon. Amanda said last year they arrived when the regular first-years arrived and orientation was packed into 2 days. Having training spread out would be nice except that everyone else is in training all the time and i don't have my real room set up, so the free time is not so great.

We have t-shirts, but i don't understand the front design. It's these little colored houses with various labels. College Hall and Campus Center and some student houses (Cutter, Capen, Lawrence, something else). Why?

I managed to make it through my first year (and sophomore as well) without ever meeting Tom Riddell. Gonna be seeing a lot of him these next few days, though. He talked about the campus center for a long time. It's been something he's wanted to have happen for ages apparently. And it sounds like he had some major say in the decorating scheme, though he also seemed to be implying that he didn't want to claim responsibility for the architectural design itself.

He talked about the budget, which seemed odd for an introductory SAA meeting, and he talked about how last year they cut down on spending $2million and the plan for the next 3 years is to cut down $9million. Some of us at least looked around at the vast space we were in and thought that perhaps Carol Christ's obscene salary could be cut down. Isabel later mentioned that paper-less week thing we had last year, and i would be a big fan of that. If stuff got sent on e-mail instead of on paper, it would be much less hassle for everyone and we would save a fortune as well. Anyway, Tom mentioned "enhancements" -- basically financial incentives for people to retire early. About 30 people took advantage of this last year, all in Phys Plant, RADS, etc. I was relieved because i don't want to lost faculty. He said that's 30 jobs that have basically disappeared. Wait? So we're not just hiring new people in those positions at starting wage? Yeah, because having fewer people to maintain this campus is a good thing. Then he starts talking about the student:faculty ratio -- 9:1. Apparently this is largely the result of increased hirings in the past 5 or 6 years (new engineering department, growing interest in sociology, etc.). "We want to bring that ratio back to 10:1," he says. I start doing math in my head. That means either fewer teachers or more students. They can not admit more students. The housing crunch is getting insane as it is. And fewer teachers? You cannot start firing (or not hiring replacement) teachers unless they suck. The academics are the point of this place. Yes i'm all about taking advantage of the surrounding area and making lasting friendships and spending way too much time online and all that, but the real point of Smith is the academics. That should be the last thing they start fucking with. And why mess with the student:teacher ratio? That's one of the things that gets people coming to Smith. "What makes Smith different from Harvard?" as Isabel put it. *fumes*

We watched Cheaters. We kinda talked about it afterward, but i felt like the way the movie was set up it didn't lend itself to real discussion about cheating. Mostly i wanted to take apart some details of the movie, but i felt that would be inappropriate. Okay, first of all it's the "skinny white girl" in a class of non-Anglo kids who's intelligent and well-spoken. (Save The Last Dance?) She's the one who convinces the white male teacher (Finding Forrester?) to really work hard on this. We end up with a team of all white kids, mostly male. They're working really hard and it's impressive and we see the frustration about sports being prized over academic competitions by the higher-ups. Then it's crunch time and one guy has to go to work and one girl has to go home and take care of her niece. The teacher's all "You can't give up on this dream" and one of the other kids is all "Sometimes you have to wake up and realize it's just a dream." So the fight is "Do the kids have what it takes to win?" No talk about how when you have a baby living in the house and no money for a baby-sitter that has to take priority over academics and then you don't do well and can't go to college and get a good job to pay for the baby and it's a vicious cycle. No, it's all about being committed to the dream of winning this stupid academic decathalon. No wonder later Jolie tells the teacher that he taught them "Winning isn't everything, it's the only thing."

They make it to State. One of the kids acquires a copy of the test. Teach says either they all use it or they none do, that they have to be in agreement. The immigrant girl says "Isn't cheating wrong?" Obviously the teacher has made up his mind, because he takes her out for a drive and explains how they're just evening the odds and all that. (The school which has won 9 years in a row has fantastic funding, etc., while their school is a general enrollment school in Chicago). She acquiesces. Turns out the book doesn't have the answers. Instead of treating it like a detailed study guide, which i could at least respect a little, they divide it up amongst them, figure out all the answers, and devise elaborate systems of programming into calculators and such. I stopped having any respect for them at that point. Later the teach was all "I think you could have won anyway, it was just a matter of having the confidence." I don't believe him. They also cheated so badly it was insane. They won all the medals, purposely messed up on only some of the questions. The viewer could see earlier on how they would get ratted out, but now it became obvious that the statistics would do them in as well. Later we learn that the favored winner had scores that went down from Regional to National while this school's scores went way up.

They showed some of Stand and Deliver, which pissed me off, largely because those kids didn't actually cheat. In both, the kids are asked to take a retest. I understand where Escalante was coming from, saying that people are only suspicious because it's minority kids from a poor neighborhood, but in that case it's an AP Calc class, not a whole group of students in a wide body of knowledge. In S&D the kids worked really hard in one subject and learned it really well. If they took the retest there would be results similar to the first time. In this case the students are trying to be all high and mighty but they really did cheat. The statistics show that their score jump as well as their high percentage of correct answers in relation to the history of the decathalon must be the result of cheating. Everyone's saying "They're not smart enough to have done it without cheating." They made it to State without cheating, but then to win State they felt they had to cheat. They just proved everyone right. Okay, it sometimes makes points about level playing fields (interestingly, in defending the cheating when they first see the opportunity, "skinny white girl" Jolie from the beginning says "it's the ultimate affirmative action") but mostly i was not taken with the movie or its attempts to portray the complexities of the ethics around cheating. Cheating is usually due to extenuating circumstances or a complete lack of interest in a class. The latter, which is the real cheating concern, gets us into issues about students being forced to take classes which they feel have no real relevance for their lives. Another big cheating issue is the importance placed on standardized tests. Yes it was interesting that it didn't end with a straight-up moral lesson either way (they all get into college and Jolie is thinking of becoming a teacher, says if she catches a kid cheating she'll bust him but if he can get by her he has what it takes to get by in the world, and a couple people interviewed in the film say similar things: the lawyer making 700grand who cheated his way through school or the guy who said that if the kids are lying they're the best liars he knows and he'll hire them) but mostly i was disappointed in the way it was done given the ethics dilemma it was billed as presenting.

Oh, Maureen Mahoney talked a lot about the Honor Code, and she mentioned that schools which have an honor code rather than just a dean who threatens you have much lower rates of cheating. Being my father's daughter, though, i wonder if that causal understanding is accurate, because perhaps it is just that student bodies less likely to cheat are more likely to create a working honor code.

Other interesting details from the movie:

The kid who ends up cracking (because he's the one who originally got the test) is a Roman Catholic, the only one of all the kids whose religion is ever mentioned.

The reporters often lapsed into "Disciples of Darkness" rhetoric, which was interesting given that it was Chicago -- not exactly the Bible belt. One money quote from a reporter: "Is it true that one of the students is a bisexual witch?"

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