Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Coffee on a Student-Centered Campus

Why are there faculty members
littering the hallway
in Boyden?
In many ways -- most ways, even -- my academic life is charmed. I define my own agenda for teaching and scholarship, with a lot of latitude (and longitude!) to teach what interests me and to teach creatively. This does not just mean teaching with and about coffee, but that is really a big part of it.

In some ways, though, my colleagues and I work in an environment that needlessly saps our strength. Since the English landed at a nearby rock in 1620, we have had about 105 governors, none of whom have been much interested in public higher education. The current generation of state legislators does include a few dozen who have attended public colleges, but they have not been able to steer the Commonwealth in the direction of responsible funding. So per-capita funding lags behind 48 or 49 of the other states in a typical year, causing students to pay more than they should while faculty and librarians receive less. But we love our learning and our teaching, so we do what we must, and we become New Englander enough to tighten our proverbial belts.

A younger Coffee Maven confronting the
BHE years before I was even
teaching about coffee. And my
 colleagues were at it years before that.
Still, every time our contracts are ready for renewal, we have dozens of bargaining sessions with political appointees who care not one whit about academic performance before coming to a belated and paltry settlement and some semblance of academic freedom.

And then ... then the real fun begins, because the bargaining teams operating on behalf of Miles Standish or whoever currently serves as governor do not let him (it's usually a him, though the her we had before Prince Romney was no better) know what they have agreed to, and we have to start all over again. Not in hammering out the details -- the governors do not care enough even to harass us on specifics -- but in simply making the case that we should have contracts.

It is embarrassing for all concerned and a testament to the disdain with which our students are viewed by public officials, but we do it. And sometimes it means we have to show up to work in matching t-shirts, and stage pickets or sit-ins -- just to keep the university going.

Today is such a time -- the 481st day we have worked without a settled contract, just two weeks before the next gubernatorial election, in which the incumbent is confident that voters simply do not care about this issue. Because we have work to do, we picket as we work -- writing lessons, grading papers, even holding office hours -- in the hallway of our well-appointed administrative building. 

And finally I get to the point of this post -- even the best buildings on our campus lack a decent coffee shop, so I brought coffee to this work-in. Our campus is publicly committed to sustainability and social justice and is currently exploring ways to be more student-focused (getting more out of our 168-hour/week faculty will not be easy), but the coffee situation reflects none of this. Even though hundreds of BSU students have studied coffee -- and more than 100 have even picked coffee, it is hard to find a decent cup on our campus. Unless I'm in the room, of course. 

As the Coffee Maven, I like to share the bounty that is fair-trade, organic coffee. Until we are able to do so systematically and routinely through campus cafes, I will be seen showing up to meetings -- or protests -- with a carafe (or 2 or 3) of coffee to share.
Students have worked with me to suggest better approaches, but so far we have not succeeded. I invite BSU community members to read more about the Ben Linder Café proposal (denied but not forgotten), to "like" it on Facebook, or to watch my TEDxBSU talk on a 2040 vision for ethical, sustainable coffee across the entire BSU campus.

Sunday, July 1, 2018

Coffee for Mandela Fellows

For the third year in a row, Bridgewater State University is hosting young professionals from many countries of Africa as Mandela Fellows in a enrichment program supported by the U.S. Department of State. I am fortunate to participate in a couple of ways with the program.

During their first week, I helped to host a visit with EarthView, EarthMap Africa, and EarthMap Massachusetts. In the second week, I am providing coffee during their classes (four days because of the Independence Day holiday in the middle of the week).

I invite the Fellows -- and anybody else who is interested -- to learn more about these coffee selections on Environmental Geography.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

MCSS 2018 Resources

I am sharing the following links without much elaboration, for the benefit of educators who may wish to follow up on either of the sessions I led or co-led at the Massachusetts Council for Social Studies Going Global one-day conference at Bridgewater State on March 9, 2018.

Those who were not present may nonetheless find some of these links useful. I hope so!

Teaching Coffee

My Geography of Coffee web pages are available for exploring, and include my theme song. The coffee slides I used on the day of the presentation are available as well.

Climate Change

The climate slides I used at the end of the climate-change panel include images related to most of the links below.

One indication of the inadequate state of public understanding of climate change is that the problem is often conflated and confused with ozone depletion. I begin many of my courses with a Global Atmosphere Pre-test, in which students are asked to associate each of 18 items with one problem or the other. It is quite common for respondents to do little better than random chance would predict. I follow the exercise with a Global Atmosphere Post-test document that provides a short explanation of each of the answers. I use the two documents on successive days, and find this combination effective at drawing students into further exploration of one or both of these problems, and the differences in public-policy responses to each.

Carl Safina: All of my blog posts mentioning Carl Safina's essential book The View from Lazy Point and my Goodreads review of that book. This is one text that students often thank me for assigning.

Leonardo DiCaprio: The official trailer of Before the Flood and my blog post, which includes a map of every place visited in the film.

AAG Atlas Awardees: Primatologist Jane Goodall and Human-Rights Commissioner Mary Robinson (and my post about her message).

My own climate introduction page and climate entries on my Environmental Geography blog, especially Frosty Denial, Climate Attack, and Climate Foxholes.

In reply to the often-repeated suggestion that climate scientists have somehow shifted their descriptions as evidence has "proven" them wrong, I include a link to the very first article on the subject in my post Early Warning.

Finally, teachers -- and others -- who want to learn more may wish to take our course, Geography of Coffee & Climate Change. Dr. Rob Hellström and I offered it in July 2017 but did not get enough participants. We hope to offer it in another July session in the near future.