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So on Friday afternoon I read that there's a Student Occupation going on at one of the colleges of my alma matter, SU. It's not the college of Arts and Sciences that I was in but another another college that's kinda the headstart program for other catholic schools and the school for the Humanities. I read their List of Demands and I'm really, really torn. In some cases I say "you go kids!" and I'm in solidarity with them in other ways thier demands make me laugh, cringe and, at worst, make me really fucking angry.

A bit of background

Though I am not a person of color, and know I speak from privilige in not having that experience, I felt isolated by class while I was there for undergrad (also isolated by geogrphy becasue I didn't live on campus, but that is a symptom of the former becasue I was living with the folks as a way to save money). SU was (and I imagine still is) a school of weathy, predominitly white kids, many of whom were not signing on for the massive debt I signed my future off to as their parents were able to pay the 20k-22k a year. I checked recently, out of curiosity, what tuition is now for undergrad and it's doubled since I graduated in 2005. It's now like 45k-48k a year for UNDERGRADUATE that's like Harvard prices, it's rediculous. I probably wouldn't go there now. No way.

Murky Economis:
Like what i said above, in a way I see, just on an economic level, where the students are coming from. You pay $200K for a bachelor's degree, you have a right to some demands I should think. However, acadamia is different than most other customer service delivery relationships. You're paying x amount of money and only getting out of it what you put into it in effort and in turn deserve fair cirtitisim. It doesn't help for profs to kiss your ass and give you 4.0 grades just to make you happy. So in such a system it's inevitable for conflict to arrise. Some profs are harder than others. Some use tough love....and yes, some are mysoginistic jerks. Where to draw the line on what is exactly the case, if a student is entitled, if the prof is being fair, or being extra critical to motivate and push the kid further, or just being a good old fashioned asshole (racist, mysoginist, what have you) is really a case by case basis and with careers and hundreds of thousands of dollars are on the line, tension is way high!

Perhaps that's what bothers me. I'm so detached from the school I can't make a judgment call on what is what. Here's how I can break it down..

What I can get behind:
I can get behind the curriculum being more inclusive for a wider variety of voices, cultures, etc. I can sympathize with the students having felt isolated (class wise) from my peers and having to read about the problems of Sallinger's Glass Family, I know the plight of having to bullshit about some rich white people shit I didn't didn't give two fucks about. On the whole, however, I felt in my department that we got a pretty culturally well rounded education and I even had the choice of makeing it even more culturally diverse with the classes that were offered. Perhaps, thier school, not so much.

I get behind the plea to not have people of color 'tokenized' and exploited for marketing materials to make the school look more diverse. That's long standing bullshit at all Universities though. On the other hand to play devils advocate, if the marketing materials made the school look as white as BYU I"m sure people would take issue with that too. Surely there must be a happy medium somewhere.

I can get behind encouraging a more diverse faculty. I give props to the kids for seeing through the veneer and some hypocracy of liberalnes where there's more talk than action. Wherein you can talk and talk about social justice and it's still coming from a predominetly white upper class voice. A systemic problem needs action to be taken uppon it to change it. However, there's so much more to this than I think the kids even know, (like you can't really ask people on their resumes about their sexual orientation or race). I commend the spirit of calling out liberal colleges on thier action vs thier talk but I presume from reading their manifesto that they really don't understand laws behind hiring practices.

Issues I have with it:
First of all, they make a demand where they want partial control of the curriculum. Umm, No. That's not how it works. You are the students, you don't know about your subjects which is why your elders, the academics, guide you through was is out there. Seriously, if you want control of the curriculum just read what you're interested in, and save yourself the $200k. And though  I'm all for a diverse curriculum, I'm not in favor of throwing out everything in the curriculum that was written by a white male. I know that the cannon is full of them, but maybe becasue there's still something to what they're saying rather than who they were. Identity politics have consumed this generation and they are so hung up on identity they hold no regard for susbstance. When I was in college you could read, let's say Conrad, and do a a post colonial critisism or femminist critisism--where in you read the material and analyzed it under the specific lens of a certian "ism"--you didn't just not read the material! Nobody wins if you just don't read the ideas of western literature/history/philsophy. I mean just ignoring it doesn't help contextualize anything. Read from a more wide varity of cultures, but don't just toss something and label it as bad just becasue it doesn't fall under your identity politics. Read something for it's substance, and remember that you are free to critique it and critizise it. Have a dialogue with the text don't just refuse to read it, that's just plain ignornat!

There's a line in there where they complain about the marketing of the college being too vague for saying it prepares students for "a variety of diverse settings." I'm sorry, kids, you're getting a fucking hummanities degree! Hummanities! That's the bottom of the barrel of liberal arts degrees! Creative Writing majors and philosophy majors get a lot of jokes made about our majors for not having real-world opportunities, but at least we had the passion and commitment to follow a particular field of study. Humanities couldn't get around to declaring a moajor, so yeah, the marketing materials are vague! You're in a vague fucking-non-major. This part is laughable. and the fact that you put critical thinking in quotations, goes to show a lot that you don't want to learn how to think critically in fact you're fighting thinking critically by refusing dialoge.

Finally my biggest problem. I have an adverse reaction to the buzzwords going around college campuses these days; "trigger warning," "microagressions", "safe spaces" et. all and this petition is full of them. Talk about vague phrases. I can see these phases used to police speach, police ideas, stub out dialogue, or be used vengefully against professors. There's an excellent article in the Atlantic about this. These words are used to envoke sympathy but can be used a weapons in policing what you don't like or, in the case of these student demands, are used as a cop-out.

For example, the students accuse the school of...

Students have consistently voiced experiences of hostility, condescension, microaggressions, infantilizing comments, and uncomfortable power dynamics in the classroom. Students have shared stories reflecting that they do not feel safe to learn, nor do they feel heard, affirmed, supported, or cared for in the classroom climate. These are often the result of negative interpersonal dynamics between professors and other students, as well as curriculum content that is void of authentic histories and narratives with which students can relate. It is distressing to report that when students have raised these concerns to professors, staff, the dean either in written reviews or through personal dialogue, the student bringing forth these concerns has been minimized, individualized, and pathologized. Therefore, students demand a safe environment in the classroom and in the college overall so that they may engage in open dialogue with regards to the themes mentioned above.

But though they make accusations of such hostility they have absolved themselves of providing specific examples and instead made the gernerizations then hide behind the fact that's it's "emotionally triggering" to use them in thier argument.

Students have repeatedly expressed and recorded specific examples of oppression in regards to our experiences in the College. However, the retelling of these experiences can be triggering and emotionally exhausting; in order to ensure the emotional and mental health of your students, please self-educate and refer to pre existing records.

I'm sorry but that's a cop-out. You can't make acusations then put the responsibility of your accuser to "self educate." That's something that you should be learning in college, that if you make an argument, you need to back it up with specific examples to make your case.

Like I said before, there are a lot of different professors out there that use differnt wasys of getting the best out of thier students. My favorite undergrad professor gave me the worst grade on a paper in English I have ever been given (even when I was a fuck up as a freshman in high school I still pulled out good grades in my favorite subject). That C that I got was deserved. I knew it and he was tough with me becasue he knew I phoned it in and could do better. I had dissapointed him and I didn't like doing that so for the next paper I wanted to knock it out of the park. He told me later that maybe, in hindsight, that paper was more of a B- and maybe he was being a bit harsh but it did it's job and got me to focus and put more effort into the class. These days I feel like with this generation of student (and yeah this is where I sound old) they'd have him on a rail for being unfair, and say it's a microaggresion or that his grading makes him a big meanie and that they don't feel "safe" in the clssroom. What the hell does that mean, anyway? Are you really being threatened? Are you being raped? How are you not "safe"?I mean, hey I could be wrong. I could need to check my priviliage and see that my expereince 15 years ago has no bearing on what these kids are experiencing today. However, the have absolved themselves of providing specific examples of the treatment they are recieveing so I really can't make an informed judgement call and have to either take them at their word, or draw form my own experience.

Pro-tip kids; the world is full of people that you have issues with that you're going to have to deal with. You're going to have to deal with people of higher status than you who weild power of you that you have learn how to work with and adapt to survive. The real world will not bend to your sensibilites. We will not all fall in line. There are people that are assholes, people that having something to say you don't agree with but it's not your place to silicence what you don't like or tune it out. It's your job to learn how to argue against them and make your case.

All in all, since I really don't know the specifics (it being 11 years since I've been in SU, it being a different school, and not knowing what the student's specific complaints of abuse are) I'm reminded of the David Mamet play Oleanna. In act one it doesn't take long to recognize that the professor is a pompus asshole weilding power unfairly over his students and you feel bad for Carol his female student who is confronting him. Then as the play evolves Carol plays her hand at power and, totally unfairly, makes demands to change the curriculum and makes false accusations.  You see that ultimately both of them are assholes when weilding thier power. This is similar (without the rape accusations, I can assume) to what I'm seeing from where I sit. But then I'm an English major who tends to relate the world to literature to help understand it. Mament, a mysoginist for sure who didn't write women or about women very nicely, a white guy, whose real life personality might not be my favorite and whose identity these kids would surely take issue with, managed to write about this 25 years earlier and kinda hit the nail right on the head. 

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