It was amusing to see Southern Miss’ Super Bowl commercial, with its youths waving sparklers and donning face paint over pulsing beats that tell the viewer it is gameday. I have to say it was especially comical to watch this commercial consisting of basically none of the activities that actually put one through college. That might have required footage of USM classrooms, which would have shown prospective USM applicants how the university is happy to pay for sleek commercials and Super Bowl ad time but not so happy to pay for academic amenities.
When I started teaching here last fall as a TA with the English Department, I thought from prior experience that certain items were just commonplace in classrooms: a computer connected to an overhead projector, a document camera, a whiteboard or chalkboard with markers or chalk, maybe even a smartboard—all standardized across campus so that when an instructor mastered the tech of one classroom, they had mastered all. What I encountered instead was a mad rush days before the semester began to get these basics into the classrooms assigned to us grad instructors. One colleague found a projector perched on a roll of paper towels. Another had neither whiteboard nor blackboard, never mind pens or chalk. In my case, it didn’t matter if my rooms had projectors or not because grad TAs are not provided computers, and there were no available adapters for my 2016 MacBook (yes, we have to use our own personal computers for work). Frankly, I’m embarrassed when I describe the situation to colleagues at my past schools. It makes us look bad. (I want to state here plainly that the English department does what they can with what they have; the ad hoc setups they rushed to supply are received gratefully, but the pre-semester madness itself is, I consider, an administrative failing by USM.)
Granted, I am someone who cares enough about school to be pursuing a Ph.D., but if I had been privy to the classroom setups when making a decision about where to go as a freshman, I would have chosen a different college. Leaving classrooms so woefully unequipped sends a message that the school does not care about actually teaching students. I want so badly to believe this is not the case, but Southern Miss’ Super Bowl ad did not give me confidence.
I implore Southern Miss to show its students, faculty and those who are working as both that this school takes its academics as seriously as it takes its image. I ask that they equip each and every classroom with a universalized tech setup, provide all faculty with computers to do our jobs and center academics when appropriating funds. At the end of the day, that’s what we’re here for.
photo courtesy usm.edu