Campus Internet Help: Automated Reply
Updated: Apr 10
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.
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
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.
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.
in fib form
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
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.