Forgive the infrequent posting of late; I’ve got a good excuse: I’m fresh off my honeymoon. Candace and I took a trip to the Bahamas after our beach wedding (nine days ago) in Tybee Island, Ga, where we celebrated with family and a few close friends. Back now, I’ve spent the morning on our quiet campus, earnestly planning for my next class (a new installment of Oulipo that begins a week from today) and plugging away at ongoing research projects, including my ongoing study of the effects of disappearing the university’s writing-intensive course requirement as part of the curriculum overhaul we put in place about two years ago.
To the latter: my initial analysis of enrollment data (performed last summer) suggested that the removal of the WI requirement has led to a slight but statistically significant drop-off in enrollment in historically writing-intensive courses, in turn leading to a decrease in students’ exposure to intentional writing instruction in the disciplines. Just now I put in a request to our institutional research office for updated and expanded enrollment data, hoping to get a clearer picture of the impact of WI’s going bye-bye. I’ve also started to code the transcripts of the interviews I did with several of my colleagues this past spring. The most surprising result so far? Three of the twelve folks I interviewed mentioned, without prompting, the connection between critical reading and disciplinary writing. Despite the undeniable link between the two skills, I didn’t think that I would have seen that link feature so prominently in interviews about disciplinary writing instruction.
To the former: I’m excited about playing with some constraints and constructions I’ve never used before in class. In addition to some classic favorites, like the n+7 algorithm and Canada Dry (e.g.: “He slavered, ‘have wit, and oddly parley,’ ponderously.”), as well as my own mathematical constraints based on finite-state automata, I’m going to get the students to play with Boolean theater, homosyntaxis (e.g.: “They wrote, ‘be energy, but quickly quiz,’ quixotically.”), and intersectional literature, a new constraint of my own devising in which two classic works of fiction are collided and the constituent parts in common stirred together. And I can’t resist: I’m going to open the term with a rousing round of Read one, write two, which should serve as a good ice-breaker. This class should keep me entertained. I’ll post samples of student writing as we go, always with permission, of course.
Meanwhile, I’m off to get some reading done. Candace and I made it about two-thirds of the way through Taiye Selasi’s riveting Ghana Must Go (which we’re reading for the Western North Carolina Post-Colonial Reading Group meeting in a few weeks), but I’ve yet to get started on Stanilas Dehaene’s Consciousness and the Brain, which I’m also reading for a faculty learning circle that meets for the first time in a week or so…and I should probably start my rereading of Georges Perec’s Life A User’s Manual so I can stay ahead of my Oulipo peeps.
Oh, one more thing…a political update!: UNC President Margaret Spellings has finally come out with a definite statement on the system’s stance on HB2. Namely, the university will NOT enforce the law’s requirement that transgender people use the bathroom of the gender assigned to them at birth. Um…yay…? I’d like to think that this pronouncement is the result of a heartfelt belief that trans folks are worthy of respect and equitable treatment, but it’s hard not to think that Spellings and the UNC Board of Governors are simply responding to the federal government’s threat to withhold a substantial amount of funding.