239 visits. 180 hours. Office Hours.

I continue to really love office hours (and even thrive on them!), and I had another semester of wonderful and very busy office hours, even busier than last semester! Here’s the data breakdown for the Fall 2019 semester. (Added 11/29 10:15 AM: Unfortunately, you might not be able to see the full data correctly unless you’re on a regular computer.)

This semester I was in the office available to meet with students a total of 132 hours (Mo/We 12:00-3:50 and Tu/Th 10:30-11:20). Students were present for 103 hours or 78 percent of this time. There were 239 office hours visits from 96 unique visitors totaling 10,821 minutes (180 contact hours – due to multiple students being present at once most of the time). 21 of these visits were by appointment and outside of regular times. 

 

The following table breaks down each class I taught (or group, in the case of students working on Honors College projects) and how many came to office hours at least once.

Group in group came at least once total visits
Women’s Studies 29 22 45
Queer Theory 29 16 85
GLBT Studies 32 21 30
GLBT Studies 29 10 17
“Heathens” 18 14 32
Honors 3 3 16

Total, I had 138 unique students. (2 students took me for 2 classes.) 62 percent of these students came to office hours at least once. Additional visitors included 10 former students not taking a class this semester and 5 non-student visitors. 

 

The following table breaks down session lengths.

The average visit lasted 45 minutes.

Length of visit # of visits
Less than 15 min. 47
15-30 min. 52
30-60 min. 83
More than 60 min. 57

 

The following table breaks down how many times each student came.

Of special note, 2 students came 16 times and 1 came 22 times.

# of visits # of students
1 70
2 16
3 5
4 1
5 5
6 1
7 1
8 1
9 or more 5

 

The following table breaks down why people came to visit. 

Reason for visit # of visits 
General Visiting 134
Class Questions 58
Paper Review 24
Honors College  18
Program Information 5

 

Office hours are one of my very favorite parts of teaching! I don’t understand why so many professors report having empty office hours all semester. Creating an inviting space and welcoming students works magic: They come and come again! 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

Notes on Invisible and Unpaid Labor 

I regularly think about invisible labor and unpaid labor–it’s everywhere. 

For invisible labor: We don’t see the people who empty our office trash cans. We don’t know the people who pick our fruits and vegetables and who deliver them to our local stores. What if grocery stores had a picture of who picked our fruit on the packaging? On the opposite side, invisible labor also applies to whatever it is CEOs do and other people who make enough money for life in 2019! 

For unpaid labor: The vast majority of professors in the United States are not paid for office hours, for planning, for grading, for answering emails, for attending meetings, or for mentoring: They are only paid for the 45 or so hours in the classroom face-to-face with students. Such unpaid labor, totaling in the thousands of hours per year per professor, often goes unacknowledged or unnoticed by the institution despite its importance and partial visibility to students.  

An example I recently learned about is “aesthetic labor” (see, Invisible Labor: Hidden Work in the Contemporary World). Have you considered the time and the cost–the invisible and unpaid labor–society generally expects of people who have a job? People are expected to uphold certain grooming standards. Women are generally expected to shave any visible hair other than hair on their head (excluding the face) and to wear conventional makeup. Frequently, employers also require a certain type of clothing–be it very casual or very formal, very fitted or otherwise. All of this is invisible and unpaid labor expected by companies and/or customers. Employers want their subjects to appear “pleasing” to customers. Body type/shape is policed at some businesses, as well. 

And then there is “emotional labor” as another important type of invisible and unpaid work. This is relevant in all jobs. People have bad days. A boss psychologically abuses them. A customer (or patient, or student) physically attacks them. Work–whether good or bad, whether fun or stressful–takes emotional tolls on people. Don’t you feel bad for the people who do road and bridge construction? They are directly in the middle of exhaust from hundreds and thousands of vehicles, as are workers at fast food establishments who take your order face-to-face in the drive-thru. People have their de-stressing techniques. Such emotional labor might include seeing a professional therapist, taking a hot bubble bath, or talking to loved ones. And don’t forget the therapists and educators who are vulnerable to Secondary Traumatic Stress from caring about and listening to the difficulties other people face. 

As much as people can, people need to demand visibility and demand compensation. 

What labor do you perform that is invisible to others? What types of invisible labor do you know about? What labor do you perform for which you are not paid (and should be paid!)? How might businesses incorporate invisible labor into their employees’ paychecks?

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda

Big Business and the Media that Facilitates Its Lies, Chick-fil-A Edition

In September 2019, Chick-fil-A opened its first location outside of the United States in Toronto, Canada.

The problem — this is a lie. 

Chick-fil-A actually opened its first location in Canada in the mid-1990s but was unsuccessful. Chick-fil-A attempted another, also unsuccessful, entrance into Canada in 2014. In addition, Chick-fil-A opened at least two (possibly three or four – information is very hard to locate) locations in South Africa, also in the mid-1990s, and closed all of these a few years later. 

Its first attempts opening outside of the United States all failed and resulted in closed stores.  

Now, Chick-fil-A is giving it another try and it continues to obsessively announce that this new restaurant in Toronto is its first international location. Its first official press release in July 2018 announced, “Chick-fil-A Selects Toronto for First International Location.”

Screen Shot 2019-11-10 at 10.13.42 PM.pngWhy is Chick-fil-A lying? Chick-fil-A, the “Christian” company (that claims to be) guided by Biblical principles?

The Facebook page for Chick-fil-A Champaign had posts about this “first international opening” that (somehow!) came up in my newsfeed, so I posted a reply asking for clarification since this was inaccurate. They deleted my comment, and they blocked me. For asking a question

What is Chick-fil-A hiding? 

And why aren’t any of the hundreds of articles carrying coverage about the latest launch in Canada doing basic fact checking? The information is not hard to find. And why don’t any of them remember about Chick-fil-A’s previous attempts to operate outside of the United States?

Moreover, in early October 2019, Chick-fil-A opened a location in Reading, England, described as its second international location by media reports.

(And in response to en masse protests by supporters of human rights, the mall where this Reading location is located has already announced the lease will not be renewed beyond the initial six-month terms.)

Based on its history and on the on-going protests at locations outside of the United States, I wonder when (and where) Chick-fil-A’s next “first” international opening will be. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda

What’s Happening at NBC Entertainment? 

NBC Entertainment currently has a number of high-quality, status-quo-challenging programs. 

As previously written, in its twenty-first season now, Law and Order: Special Victims Unit brings attention to the systemic problem that is sexual violence. In contrast to rhetoric spoken and perpetuated by current conservative ideologies, Law and Order takes victims seriously and does not excuse the male, the rich, the powerful when they act immorally.

This Is Us and New Amsterdam just made their respective fourth and second season premiers a few weeks ago and both are continually pushing the boundaries–in wonderful ways.

This Is Us centers around an interracial family in multiple time periods through flashbacks, the present, and flashforwards. Episodes have gone far beyond regular tensions that exist between siblings and significant others. And can we go back for a second and reacknowledge that This Is Us is about an interracial family, a close interracial family. Family members are White, Black, and Brown. Physical and psychological violences are basically absent, as are the “four letter” words so common in most contemporary entertainment. One of the main characters, Kate, is morbidly obese, and her son–a new character this season–is blind. Other characters struggle with addiction to alcohol. This Is Us challenges conservative ideas about what families look like, how families function, how friendships work, and much more. 

New Amsterdam criticizes the United States’s Medical Industrial Complex throughout every episode. It attacks the costs of medical services whether from the hospital or the pharmacy. It attacks insurance companies and pharmaceutical labs that are only interested in increasing profits, not saving lives. It attacks administrators and the system that creates underfunded, understaffed, overworked nurses, medical doctors, and technicians. It advocates for Medicare For All. New Amsterdam also challenges conservatives ideas about what life should be like. New Amsterdam longs for a nation where people are able to get preventive care and are able to live without the burden of cost when medical crises strike. 

Bluff City Law had its series premier last month. While not as emotionally-gripping (thus far, at least) as the aforementioned programs, the first few episodes use the courtroom to attack conservative ideologies in the United States that allow big business and power-hungry prosecutors more power and more humanity than actual people, that allow such members of the Imperialist White Supremacist Capitalist (Heteronormative Ableist Theistic) Patriarchy to lie and destroy evidence and to use their authority to bully people into anything. Characters even stand up to judges who too often too quickly make partisan Opinions. Bluff City Law advocates for a legal system that gives justice to everyday people, that actually makes wrong-doers act right or pay up, practices that conservative powers actively fight against in 2019.

These four programs give life to important social problems that are currently posing special challenges. How these problems are solved or ignored or made worse in life beyond the screen will have profound consequences, of course.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda

I’m an Ordained Minister.

In my Secularisms and Atheisms class, students are reading Living the Secular Life. In one place, the author talks about the Universal Life Church that allows people to easily become ordained.

Curious, I Googled “Universal Life Church.” The website asks people to give their name, email address, country, and state. With this and a confirmation that this person is 18 years of age or older, the personal is immediately deemed an “ordained minister.”

It’s weird.

Being a minister with a click of the mouse.

But what does that really mean? Not much. At least not necessarily or immediately. The “Universal Life Church” is not a regular church—it’s a secular organization. It’s reputable and dates to 1962.

I quickly realized that such an organization has important purposes. In order to for two people to get married, for example, laws across the United States require that a minister or a judge (or in a few cases, an elected official) preside over the ceremony. People who don’t want to be married by a stranger or by religious doctrines are out of luck!

Enter the Universal Life Church, which certifies anyone as a minister and which works as an effective and legal way around theoretic laws. In the one week since I became a minister, I’ve heard over a dozen stories from friends about being or knowing someone who is a minster through the Universal Life Church in order to marry friends in non-religious ceremonies.

A need for people to help with important rituals in our society but focused on humanisms instead of theisms clearly exists. Maybe, I’ll get to help with that. 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda (or should it be Rev. Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda)

Waiting Room Conversations

I just wanted to make a brief post about an interesting waiting room conversation I overheard while at M.D. Anderson recently. 

An older White man was talking with another older White man and said: 

Trump has done what he can but the rapture is still coming soon. If Hillary had been elected, it would have already happened. And the democratic candidates for president are butch of squirrels.

I want my ashes thrown in my backyard so I’ll already be with my family with the rapture happens and we’ll be reunited easier. 

He made so many more interesting comments, too! 

Like others, his finds no cognitive dissonance between his implied moral beliefs and Trump’s absolutely horrific behavior. 

He’s notions of eschatology seem more informed by the Left Behind fictional series than other more credible texts. 

He equates a group of people—which includes women and People of Color—to animals. 

He seems to think Yahweh isn’t actually that powerful, since his remains need to be placed in his backyard.  

He has an oddly US centric view of the world, especially for when thinking about “end times.”

And he didn’t care that other people around him would find these ideas, especially about Trump and Democratic politicians, highly offensive, especially given Trump’s push to continue concentration camps in the United States.

(And potentially being sick, given the setting, is absolutely not an excuse for his behavior toward fellow humanity.) 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda

An Ode to the Chicken Strips at the Cheesecake Factory

A for fun post! I’ve been eating at the Cheesecake Factory for about a decade. I’ve always gotten the same thing–Buffalo Chicken Strips, no buffalo! People laugh at me, but I’m telling you…they have the best chicken strips available. They are so good that I’ve been collecting pictures of them! Look at those portions! Look at all of those yummy flavors! The portion today was the best ever! 

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda 

Asking Students How They Are Really Doing Should Not Be A Rare Occurrence

Asking students how they are really doing should not be a rare occurrence.

For several years now, I have scheduled a day mid-semester for wellness in almost all of my classes because I have seen my students arrive more and more stressed every semester for several years. The results are always amazing.

In hopes of encouraging more professors to adopt similar practices, the following recounts what part of our wellness lesson looked liked back in March and how students responded.

When my students opened their daily quiz, they saw the following:

Picture1.png

At first, I saw looks of mild confusion and shock. And then one-by-one, they started smiling and reaching for their phone. Some stayed seated. Some walked outside. And they came back with the brightest smiles that I have ever seen.

Then we sat in one big circle so that we could all make eye contact with each other. I explained that I wanted to take time to go beyond everyday pleasantries of how things are going. I asked them, “How are you really doing?” How is school and work? What family member is driving you crazy? How are things in my class really going for you?”

After waiting a few seconds, if even that long, students began to naturally share their thoughts one-by-one for the next 30-45 minutes. These comments opened doors for conversations about privilege and oppression, as well as imposter syndrome and student loans and on-going illnesses. People shared examples of being hungry, of having extreme debt, of struggling with dependence issues, and of fearing the federal government. I learned yet again that 90-95 percent of college students today are extremely stressed–far beyond anything I experienced in my undergraduate days from 2005 to 2008. We talked about coping mechanisms, but mainly, I have always found that students benefit from and enjoy speaking about their struggles, being heard, and hearing others share that life is on-going struggles for them, too. As always happens, a good portion of the class cried at least once.

While acknowledging that I am readily able to spend class time doing this because I teach women’s, gender, and sexuality studies; religious studies; and first year writing with no more than 30 students per class, such a wellness day easily belongs in other subjects. A calculus class could talk more specifically about the emotional and psychological struggles of learning math or about how various life issues present challenges when thinking about equations and formulas. Twelve years of teaching have taught me again and again that “off-topic” lessons are sometimes more meaningful than “on-topic” lessons and result in more effective teaching and learning in subsequent classes.  

I got an idea of how much students needed this mental health check-in day after reading their responses on the next quiz. One of the questions asked for thoughts about the wellness discussion. I share a few representative examples to tangibly show how important students internalized this exercise. I also share these responses because they indicate how seldom such conversations happens, a reality that makes me sad. Asking students how they are really doing should not be a rare occurrence.

WOW. Powerful! That was pretty amazing, Dr. Pegoda. I have never experienced anything like that in any of my courses. It was nice to watch people to get things off of their chest. We need more of this.

This Tuesday was heavy for me. I don’t think I will ever experience something like that in my college career again. To sit in a classroom and listen to people open up so freely and there was no judgment, just listening was a really awesome experience. I think the environment that is in this class is a unique bond. All of us are really different, but issues and struggles are all very similar. We can all relate through one life struggle or another and that’s something that people don’t normally talk about. I liked it a lot. Felt better. So thank you. 

That was one of the most valuable experiences I have ever had in a college-level course. I cannot thank you enough for that. My oldest sister is pregnant and due any second now, and I have been really cramming for school lately. I didn’t realize how much I really needed that time to talk to her because it has been months since I have last seen her. I cannot thank you enough.

The check in earlier this week made me feel better, not to say I see my life in a higher place than anyone else because that’s off from my idea. I constantly feel like as humans we forget that we aren’t as alone in struggle as we might think and I could relate to a lot if not all the students who spoke in their highs and lows because not all days are bad and not all problems are mine but the feelings have been shared. Earlier in the semester you said your classes tend to get close and I often hear this but always think it’s a joke, but I actually care for these people I consider them my friends as do I consider you my friend even though you are my professor this class made me feel safe, a safety I don’t think students often get in college.

Our check-in earlier on Tuesday was well needed because it made me realize how many real-life situations that people go through and we would never know because they’re always smiling and happy. It’s great to have a professor who actually cares about his students and checks up to see how we’re doing.

I really enjoyed this approach to the class. I found it refreshing that for the first time it seemed that a professor actually cared about the well-being of their students and I really appreciated that. It was a bit hard listening to the hardships everyone is going through at the moment, but in a way, it was relieving to hear that I am not alone in some of my feelings and that everyone has a way to relate to each other.

So, what are you going to do?

Are you going to make some time to allow new connections and conversations to happen? Or, are you going to continue a traditional march through the curriculum? We have much needed opportunities to create (brave) spaces for students to truly see and know they are not alone. Let the magic happen.

Dr. Andrew Joseph Pegoda