Old Dogs, New Tricks

A blog for non-traditional students

Motherhood Strikes Again

I’m just going to say this upfront – I am so frustrated right now that I’ve contemplated just dropping out for the quarter.  With that being said, let me set the stage for what’s set me off tonight.

Thursday, as I was leaving a conference about this very blog, my phone rang.  I thought it was my mother calling again to let me know that the bus she had said was late (fifteen minutes earlier) had finally delivered my rambunctious little boy.  If only things had gone so smoothly.  The call was about my son but it wasn’t my mother – it was the principal at my son’s school.  He sort of beat around the bush, sending my blood pressure skyrocketing, as he explained that the school had called the bus back – because three kids had seen my son holding a little tiny screwdriver right before he was called to his bus.  When the teacher asked him about it, my boy – in his anxiety to get to the bus before the other kids did and kept him from getting a seat – lied and said he didn’t have it, then ran out the door.  She overreacted, or just explained the situation poorly to the teacher monitoring the exit to the busses, because he called the principal and said that my son needed to be pulled off the bus because he had a – wait for it – weapon. 

At this point I’m on the verge of screaming, “Where is my son?!  What did you knuckleheads do to him?!”  I understand that people tend to freak out when kids bring potentially dangerous stuff to school these days, but what was really going on here was a little bit of profiling – my son is smart-off-the-charts and not the most socially successful little guy.  I admit it, he’s a little bit of a nerd, and definitely bully-bait.  But the administration took that, combined with his furtive behavior, and assumed that there was loose cannon on their bus.  The end result of all this, that the principal finally got to after ten minutes of blithering, is that my son is suspended for three days.  By the way, for those keeping score, this happened the day after I found out about my apparent-ex having gotten married.

So cut to Friday evening – I’m submitting a paper for one of my Monday evening classes, and added a note asking for permission to bring my son with me, since I don’t have childcare available in time for me to get to school.  In the three years I’ve been at UC, every quarter I have had to bring my son with me at least once.  I always check with my professors before I bring him, even if it’s a quick email dropped that morning when he turns up sick and unable to go to his own school.  In the three years I have been here, I have never had a professor say no – on one occasion, I had to bring him along when we had an exam scheduled; the professor, who was also a parent, said that as long as my son could sit with the TA at the back of the lecture hall, it was fine.  Contrary to what my son’s school thinks, he’s a remarkably well-behaved little boy, as my classmates who know him will attest to.  

Imagine my surprise – or boiling irritation – when my professor responded and said that since it’s not the department’s responsibility to provide childcare and that the lounges are for student use only, I have to make other arrangements for childcare.  He oh-so-kindly suggested that if I couldn’t find a friend or family member to watch him, then I should check with the UC Women’s Services to see if they could help.  If I weren’t a responsible student, I would happily skip class Monday and badmouth the professor by name all over campus – but I’m scrambling to figure out what to do with my son and kindly leaving the entire episode anonymous. 

The irritation here is two-fold.  The obvious part is the completely senseless response of the professor – I mentioned that my son is 11 years old, so it’s not likely that he’ll run around like a toddler and disrupt other classes.  But fine, it’s his right to refuse – this is why I always ask ahead of time.  What really chaps my hide (I just love that turn of phrase) is that UC offers nothing to help student parents in these types of situations.  There is no emergency child care, and the child care that is directly associated with the university a) is expensive, b) has a waiting list and c) is only for preschoolers and younger.  Forget about the fact that it’s located closer to University and Children’s Hospitals than west campus.

So, here’s a lovely example of being a non-traditional student biting me in the … well, you know.  I’ve got to go corral my little pseudo-felon into bed.

*** Danielle

February 28, 2009 Posted by | Generation Gap, Maturity, Student Life, University Policies | 1 Comment

Aftermath (Part II)

I’m exhausted so this will be brief, but chockful of visuals 🙂  My 58-year-old mother and I didn’t get out to the driveway until 3:00 p.m. so we got less done than I hoped, but when all is said and done, I think we did a bang-up job – my aching arms and back agree.  Here’s the results:

two-hours-of-workicy-layerthe-two-layers-of-snowy-badness

darkness-fallsunburied-car

 

So I’m going to veg for an hour and watch American Idol – hopefully, I’ll be able to get up off the couch and get back to work 🙂

*** Danielle

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | Leave a comment

Aftermath

So, after going through freezing rain, sleet and another mini-blizzard, the sun is out now at my house.  I took my first trip out to the front yard once the snow had trickled back to the barest of flurries and look what I found!

 bent-but-not-brokenmy-poor-car

 We’ve gone through plenty of ice storms here, so the bent trees are nothing new – besides, we were without power for a week after the wind storm in September because some of the trees didn’t bend but broke.  What makes me feel completely defeated is that I know once the whole thing is over today, I’m going to have to go out and start trying to dig my way out. 

 As I watched the ice piling up on top of the three inches of snow we already had on the ground last night, I kept hoping that the freezing rain/sleet/whatever-it-was – can someone please explain the difference between all those words? – would let up.  I have had to shovel out this driveway more times than I care to remember, but the worst was last year after the horrendous snow/ice storm we had in February.  Multiple inches of snow are hard enough to shovel, but when you sandwich a layer of ice in between the snow, the job goes from an hour and a half to five or six hours of back-breaking labor. 

premilinary-measurementMy son wanted to know exactly how much snow we had gotten, so we tried to measure the depth of the snow on our back porch – but when I tried to stuff the ruler into the snow, we discovered that the ice layer was too thick to penetrate with his little wooden ruler.  So we just measured the snow above that rock-hard ice – three inches.  When I went out front to take those pictures, I grabbed our yardstick and managaed to stab through the ice – all told, it looks like a little over seven inches of precipitation.

Here’s my dilemma:  I have a ton of major projects due next week and at least one of them requires me to interview people in person.  That means I have to be able to get out of my driveway but in order to do that I’m going have to spend the rest of the day today and probably a couple of hours tomorrow (since sunset is only four hours away) to even think about getting my car out of the driveway.  I hate asking for special consideration from my professors, but I’m at the point where I either need a deadline push or a little flexibility in my interview format – accepting email or phone interviews instead of in-person ones.  And of course, other courses need my attention as well, so I’m going to have to carve out time for those as well – add on top of all of this that my son is sick – he had a fever last night of 103.5 degrees and that means he won’t be able to go to school tomorrow, even if they are open.  Oh, how I love winter quarter.  On the bright side, I got my email notification that I can register for spring classes on Friday – so, at least I have warmer weather to look forward to, lol.

Well, I’m off to grab a quick bite to eat before I start my herculean effort – wish me luck!  🙂

*** Danielle

January 28, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | Leave a comment

Isn’t It Ironic?

Given what I’m working on right now – this commuting thing – today’s weather may provide plenty of fodder for my classmates to contribute.  I have to laugh at the ridiculousness of UC cancelling classes until 10:00 a.m.  It’s a little after 9:30 right now, and I just took these pictures of my driveway to give you a feel for the absurdity of the idea that I’ll be in class today.buried-drivewayburied-car

 

The best part is that it’s still snowing heavily enough to make shoveling a complete waste of time; by the time I got to the top of the driveway, the bottom would be re-covered already.  And of course there’s the predicted wintry mix that will make driving all the more exciting later today.  So, I apologize to my classmates and professors, but I’ll be staying home today – and maybe tomorrow if this precipitation doesn’t let up so I can dig my way out. 

Anyone else want to share photos of their snow-covered adventures in driving?  Email them to me and I’ll toss some up here – I’ve got the time today 🙂

*** Danielle

Just a little postscript:  Does it seem odd to anyone else that the city of Cincinnati declared a snow emergency and UC still opened at 10:00 am?  Or how about the fact that Xavier, Mt. St. Jo and NKU all closed today, but not our beloved institution?  As I’ve been fervently keeping abreast of the weather from the safety of my basement bedroom, I have stumbled across articles speculating that Nancy Zimpher might possibly be leaving us for the State University of New York’s vacant chancellor seat – I’m pretty tempted to say, “Hallelujah!” and call it an answer to prayer. 🙂

January 27, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | 3 Comments

Snow Daze

From the top of the driveway to the garage and back up to the street

From the top of the driveway to the garage and back up to the street

This weather is driving me nuts – it waits to start snowing in earnest until I’m getting ready to leave for school, regardless of what time of day that is.  I spent two hours Monday morning and an hour and a half this morning cleaning off my ridiculously long driveway (see photo collage), just so I could get my little front-wheel drive Cavalier up to the street.  There is no time of the year worse for commuters than the winter.  And of course the university’s policies on cancelling classes reflect one more way we non-traditionals are discounted or ignored.  My normal 35-minute drive to campus has been as long as two hours when the weather was nasty; the stress of driving in that kind of mess makes it feel like days of white-knuckling my way across a frozen bumper-car course. 

It’s not that I expect classes to be cancelled every time a white flake hits the ground.  I understand that missing even one class meeting can lead to as much as 10 percent of expected material being passed over in a course – in the case of those classes that only meet once a week especially.  But I wonder if the professors and administration ever think about how dangerous – or potentially expensive – it is to expect students who live off campus to make it to Clifton in awful weather.  I’ve lived in Cincinnati most of my life so I’m not unfamiliar with driving in the kind of slop we get in winter but now that I’m a mom I find that it’s a lot more nerve-racking – all those grown-up worries like paying for damages to my car if I slide into someone or off the road into a tree, or what would happen to my son if I were seriously injured (or killed).

I’ve got to wrap this up so I can start preparing my dogsled for the trip to Clifton – I have one evening class today, just in time to drive in rush hour both ways if I’m really unlucky and traffic is bad.  For all the commuters out there, non-traditional or not, drive safely and good luck this winter – here’s hoping we won’t have to miss any classes this quarter, unlike like the three or four days classes were cancelled last winter (which only happened after I was either already in Clifton or done for the day 🙂 )

*** Danielle

— Postscript to the story:  It was snowing like it meant it when I left for class Wednesday afternoon, so I left early.  By the time I got to Northside, it had completely stopped – at least until it was time to head home.  Between the break I took at 5:15 p.m. and when class was dismissed at 6:45 p.m., it had snowed enough to cover the sidewalks and parking lots in Clifton, making for an exciting drive home.  Thankfully, the roads were well treated – for the most part – but none so nicely as my own, which is pretty far off the beaten path.  Today’s ridiculously cold temperatures will provide a different kind of challenge – how to stay warm outside without broiling in class.

January 15, 2009 Posted by | Snow Days, Student Life, University Policies | 2 Comments

Bed-Time

Maybe it’s just me, but it feels like older students are getting the short end of the stick these days at UC.  The loss of dependent coverage in student health insurance has certainly put students with families in a tight spot.  Those who have small children and need accessible childcare will likely do better to check into their neighborhood daycare center – there is a waiting list for the UC Early Learning Center, which is not exactly conveniently located for West Campus students (see map).

But the final straw came last spring when UC announced their plans to close Morgens and Scioto Halls, the on-campus graduate and family housing.  While no one could argue that the buildings needed to be revamped to meet modern safety standards, the head shaking and grumbling really began when we found out that BOTH of these halls would reopen as traditional dorm housing, being rented on a bed-by-bed basis.  Even though I don’t live in Clifton, I was left scratching my head at the conversion from apartments to dorm rooms in buildings that have been home to graduate, international and non-traditional students.  The university is encouraging these student populations to return to Morgens and Scioto when the renovations are completed, but I have to wonder who thinks that is either a good idea or likely to occur.

When I returned to UC in the fall of 2006, I considered moving on campus.  The apartment-style housing offered in Morgens and Scioto was the only one I considered, since I wanted to bring my son with me.  Ultimately, financial constraints – more commonly known as being flat broke – kept me from relocating to Clifton.  I’m now at the point where I might have been able to afford the move, but the idea of trying to live in the communal setting of a dorm with my eleven-year-old boy is laughable at best.  Even if I were alone, I think I would find living with that many of my younger classmates to be too distracting.

Thankfully, the kindred spirits of non-traditionals – graduate students – are trying to rectify the situation.  The Graduate Student Governance Association (GSGA) surveyed 1,071 graduate students about the proposed changes to housing and the consequences of the rather late announcement in March 2008 that the halls would need to be cleared out by August 2008.  Based in part on the results of the survey, the Graduate Student and Family Housing Task Force submitted a housing proposal to President Nancy Zimpher on Dec. 1, 2008.  While the public version of the final report has not been made available yet, I obtained a copy of an earlier version through the GSGA’s website. 

          For an overview of the situation check out Madison Galster’s article on the report.

Not surprisingly, 96 percent of the survey respondents preferred apartment-style housing over the “bed-by-bed” model.  The bed-by-bed model would mean significantly higher rent compared to what residents were paying in Morgens and Scioto prior to the renovations, according to the report.  The increased rent would make this style of housing exorbitantly expensive for students with families.  In response to the cost issue, the task force offered two recommendations; rents in the new model should be equivalent to what residents were paying before (with a separate pricing scheme for students with families) and that students should be informed as to the required occupancy of their rooms before they sign a lease.

The second recommendation also relates to the concept of roommates, another consequence of the new model.  Common sense drove the recommendations of the task force in this regard; students should be allowed to select their own roommates, while students with families should be exempt from sharing their space at all. 

With the recent announcement of Stratford Heights becoming an official part of UC housing, rather than simply affiliated, I wonder if the plans for Morgens and Scioto might be altered at this late date.  Next year there will be a phenomenal increase in on-campus housing for undergraduates interested in dorm-style living.  But the websites for undergraduate and graduate housing at UC illustrate which group has higher priority – there are only recommendations for the graduates, either affiliated housing or private rentals.

All of this led me to wonder what other local universities offer their graduate students.  Xavier, Miami, Mount Saint Joseph and NKU seem to operate on the same presumption that those pursuing post-graduate degrees can take care of their own housing needs – affiliated housing and rental listings are all they have to offer on their websites.  However, heading an hour north on I-75, the situation seems to improve; both Wright State and the University of Dayton offer on-campus housing to graduate students that takes into consideration their needs – apartment-style rentals rather than bed-by-bed.

While I talked a lot about graduate students here, it bears mentioning that we non-traditional students generally suffer from the same issues and have a lot of the same needs.  In fact, I have found that in general I have more in common and am more comfortable with grad students than some of my younger classmates.  But I think it is obvious that we need to speak up about these decisions that negatively impact our college experience.  I worry that the recent changes in housing and student health insurance are just a sign of a larger change in priorities – it feels a lot like we’re getting the brush off here, and I think it’s high time someone explained why the university is focusing on the needs of traditionals and shutting us old farts out in the cold.

*** Danielle

January 11, 2009 Posted by | Student Life, University Policies | 2 Comments