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  • Kristin Van Tassel

Campus Internet Help: Automated Reply

Updated: Apr 10, 2023

By Kristin Van Tassel

Your wifi is neither balanced ecosystem, nor tragedy-free

commons. Your wifi is no generous airy mix—nitrogen,

oxygen, other molecule portions in service to humans—

inhaled free and whole through the sleek bodies of your

5-to-7 devices and those of your roommate and your

roommate’s neighbor and your roommate’s neighbor’s

neighbor. No, you need to reboot your assumptions—

recognize the invisible gigahertz waves as finite resources

chopped into chunks with a giant cleaver. You don’t get to

smish cubes together to get double. Think of all campus

space as fenced by walls topped with broken glass bits in

concrete grit: when you drag some of the wifi to your side

from the other side, there will be blood. Yes, this is nature

red in tooth and claw, and this is college, where enemies

and allies hunt available hertz supply with flashes of light,

beep, and whir—scopes trained on the narrow slice to which

you in your foolish innocence have laid impossible claim. Do

not look to us to provide a stable habitat for all the 5-to-7

devices devouring wifi with perceived impunity. The problem

is one of appetite, conquest—your devices teeming en-mass

across campus plains and borders as marauders eating air.


Early Dismissal

a found pantoum

Please excuse the following student athletes

from class at 10 am today for our away game.

And please excuse the following athletes at

2:30 the day after that. Following Monday’s

home game, excuse from class at 10 am away-

game varsity participants on the roster below.

Then at 2:30 a day after excuse junior varsity

players, along with the following managers

and injured varsity team members also on the

list. On Wednesday please excuse the men’s

soccer team players, along with the following

women’s team injured players who will keep

stats. Excuse, too, the following students who

are representing our institution as seasoned

supporters of the uninjured players who plan

to compete in an out-of-state golf tournament.

Congratulate those representing our college

at the off-season softball tournament held for

two days in a state two states away from here

and to which we’ll be driving. We thank you

for supporting our off-season baseball players

who have missed class days in order to sleep

after playing all weekend and driving all night

to get back in time for class. We’re proud you

honor early departures and missed class days.

We applaud all advanced accounting required

to keep track of missed class days and learning

outcome cost-benefit balances which take into

account the advanced extracurricular skills of

our thirteen teams whose performances meet

outcome costs: class time minus missed class

time divided by your time squared by the total

emails we send each week. Cheer our teams—

all of them, including those with athletes whose

names we’ve added to rosters from which they

were missing in the notices sent at 10 am today.


Campus Governance Structure in Triplicate

Curriculum Committee

a watchmaker’s triolet

We caliper curriculum

for each discipline, each program—

we carve threadcuts to class outcomes

within all school curriculum.

We measure pitches, make them plumb

with our mission—we diagram

click and tick in curriculum,

listen for the whir we program.


Faculty Senate

a rondelet, doubled

We discuss things

like policies with problems—then

we discuss things,

like strategies for how to wring

out the problems, re-envision

ways we might revise how and when

we discuss things.

We unpack things

like solutions to problems when

we unpack things,

like recommendations we bring

forward and vivisect again—

which our skills require of us when

we unpack things.


Cabinet Meeting

in fib form



each week

to postpone

or decline funding

you might have had your heart set on.


Criteria for Assessing the Value of a College Education

What is this breathing creature an institution simultaneously has, holds

gives away, sells? The one the student discovers,

buys, works for, achieves?

Provide a rubric and evidence for how

this works. Include a curriculum map

tracking the costs of vending it, investing

in it, for everyone.

Map the gains and losses for one semester

of a college education versus two semesters,

versus four, six, full matriculation.

What’s the required currency of this transaction?

As in hard cash or signed collateral? As in a heart’s pumping

capacity, the mind’s river system, the spirit’s holding dimensions?

The rubric should include categories for

faculty, staff, students, alums.

What’s the gamble against the allotted space-time

life-saunter for each? Where in the educational vault

is its feather-lined cache of human flourishing?

Measure: lifetime earnings, responsible

citizenship, overall life satisfaction.

Factor in: alumni and drop-out

debt load, faculty and staff salaries,

taxpayer approval ratings, donor

feedback, parental support.

Data should bear witness to:

homesickness, roommate troubles, broken down

vehicles, break-ups, overall bad days,

cuts to on-campus mental health care,

administrators absent without leave,

students misplaced, staff and faculty

gone missing—

acts of God and human.


Cartography of Return

Even this return to where I’ve been

(in course number, title, book, reading)

is less a known route than a sweeping

of piled pink eraser shavings within

previous boundaries—penciled landmarks

of my last time through. Yes, these springy

bits shaped like lost parentheses give me

away (I still write by hand, hard

as it is on my well-worn wrist) but

students know it’s me there asking for

directions. Where are we? and why are

we going this way? and help me with what

comes next? Even destinations change—

students come, take me down their own trailed page.


Kristin Van Tassel lives and teaches in rural Central Kansas. She writes essays and poetry about place, travel, and teaching. Her work has appeared in World Hum, Wanderlust, Whale Watch Review, Capsule Stories, The Land Report, About Place, and Ecotone.

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