Memo I will Not Send to Students, on Proving “Academic Presence”

Dear Students,

I am not sure how to say this without sounding like an idiot. However, Kent State university, under a federal mandate, is requiring us to play a game called “academic presence,” which is related to children’s game of charades. You can read all about it at the following web site:

If I cannot prove you have been “academically present” in the class, you will lose your financial aid eligibility. As we are in an all-online class, you cannot prove your “academic presence” by showing up in a physical classroom. However, you can prove that you have been “academically present” one of several ways: writing a discussion board post, sending the syllabus quiz, taking the reading quiz at end of three weeks, watching my class lectures or slide presentations, posting the blog at end of three weeks. If you skip everything in class for 3 1/2 weeks, I will not be able to show that you have been “academically present,” and you could lose your eligibility for financial aid. Just logging into the online class is NOT enough to prove academic presence. Just reading assigned texts in anthology is NOT enough. But as syllabus explains, I will contact you long before “academic presence” criteria kick in, because we are in an actual class, even if it is online.

This game of charades is serious in the following sense. If Kent State were a fake university and taking your financial aid, not offering classes, and later handing out a piece of paper with a credential printed on it, falsified data about “academic presence” would probably be a crime, and students at charade-playing universities would be ineligible for federal financial aid. I suspect all faculty at legitimate universities will be playing some version of this game of academic charades so that the feds (in theory) can go after fake educational institutions. Those fake educational institutions will simulate this game of “academic presence” charade with paperwork, because if they are willing to perform charade of holding classes, having assignments, receiving student work, etc., they are probably willing to perform charade of academic presence verification too.

But in a real sense, this game is an absolute waste of everyone’s time, because a sensible option would look more like this. The Education Department would hire 200 well-qualified professional investigators and systematically hunt down obviously fraudulent educational institutions and turn over names of executive officers for prosecution by the Justice Department. Unfortunately, that would upset members of Congress who get campaign contributions from fake educational institutions, and would also upset former congressional and executive department colleagues who serve on boards or lobbying firms and are paid handsomely by fake educational institutions, which defraud students and the government. So instead, we shall waste the time of 10s of 1000s of faculty members and several hundreds of administrative staff nationwide at legitimate colleges and universities. Doing things the sensible way, with enforcement actions against fraudulent educational institutions and their administrators, is simply too hard, so we shall do this nonsense of “academic presence” instead.

The reason I am not sending you this memo is that I am already furious that I must fill out an asinine database form after week 4 of classes. 45 minutes of my time will be wasted, but I will not waste 5 minutes of yours. But you are paying for this game of charades, indirectly, with your tuition dollars, so I thought you should know.

Wesley Raabe
Associate Professor
Department of English
Kent State University

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