Disclosure: I have not yet read the demands. Now, I want a pony, dammit. And world peace. For the children.
I did just read it, and I can say it is at least mostly well-written.I wish the "Student Assembly for Power and Liberation" luck, especially luck after graduation, as it seems they will need it.For example: ...we demand a cluster hire of ten tenure track faculty to teach at the college. Until those searches are approved and complete, we demand faculty buy-outs to fulfill CPL class needs that will continue as part of the CPL budget once the cluster hire searches are completed. The Student Assembly for Power and Liberation will have direct input and decision-making power over the hiring of faculty for the College.
The Revolution eats its fathers.
Read through the demands. This stuff really gets to me. These guys are the bane of my existence. Thankfully, I've figured out how to really, REALLY get into their heads.One of them confronted me a couple weeks ago. I was unfortunate enough to be wearing a suit when I passed one of their protests at my university (also I'm white, mea culpa).She basically shouted a rant at me more or less calling me a privileged asshole. Normally I'd let it go, but I lost it and launched into the logical construction I'd thought up months prior."Okay, what's your major?""African Studies.""And what's that about?""The empowerment of persons of color.""Okay. Do you think they have African Studies in universities in Ghana and Nigeria? I'll save your time. They fucking don't. They teach engineering, business, science, mathematics. Do you know why? Because studying privilege is the biggest fucking privilege there is. It ONLY exists in wealthy, capitalist nations with an enormous pyramid of farmers, laborers, retailers, wholesalers, engineers, and businessmen, with you and your friends at the tippy-top of the pyramid. YOUR major is built on the backs of businessmen and engineers who contribute to a prosperous economy by working and producing value so that we can AFFORD to support people who sit around and think about their feelings all day."I know that some of you folks might be pissed that I say/think that, but... sorry. I'm sick and tired of these people telling business majors and engineering majors that WE'RE the privileged ones. Fuck them. We work. They just sit around and have their feelings hurt. THEY'RE the privileged ones.
2 things spring to mind reading Conan's experience & WWU's (early April fool?)activism:Pratchett: A philosopher might have deplored this lack of mental ambition, but only if he was really certain about where his next meal was coming from. Clearly, these guys have their meal plan sorted.Wodehouse: Her pupils were at once her salvation and her despair. They gave her the means of supporting life, but they made life hardly worth supporting.Wodehouse hadn't seen anything yet.
I've loved every one of your responses. This one is no exception. Am I silly to think that the Pratchett quote is Terry Pratchett? It really sounds like him.
Producerist bullshit. You think African universities don't have history departments, literature departments, Asian studies faculty, and politically motivated do-gooders? I'm out.
I'm sure they do. It was poorly phrased. My point is that humans have a hierarchy of needs.First we need food. Then we can worry about shelter. Then, hey, we can start worrying about better shelters. Eventually we can have cooks who specialize in making food taste more delicious. Then we can have people like engineers and scientists who dedicate their time to figuring out better ways to do things. Then we can have businesspersons who try to figure out who needs what and how to get it to them in the best way possible.We work our way up this pyramid of needs and students like the ones in this protest are at the very, very top of that pyramid. Being able to subsist by studying feelings and privilege is, itself, the ultimate privilege. And it's only possible because of the legwork done by a lot of people whose professions they decry.
As a bit of context, there is a ton of overlap between the gay circle that I kind of have to be a part of and these circles. It's just the nature of the beast. So I have to be exposed to students like the ones above. There's just no avoiding them.I honestly don't know how much you actually interact with these specimens, but they're redrawing the battle lines. There's a lot of anti-gay white male hate going on that's very difficult to explain. We basically get accused of being sellouts by these people (don't ask me about the logic).Then there's the hate for anyone who isn't a humanities major. I've had people refuse to date or even associate with me because of my major. And others who have refused to do so because my politics don't have "rad" in front of them. I've been shouted down by a room of my peers for having the audacity to say that violence is inexcusable except in avoidance of violence.I do have a malicious bias against the groups of students such as that portrayed above, I'll admit. But it wasn't organic. They planted it there.
I don't think people are sitting on top of "an enormous pyramid of farmers, laborers, retailers, wholesalers, engineers, and businessmen". I think most people have lost control over their own economic destiny or never had it to begin with. Instead of owning land or a small business that directly supports them and their families, they have to go through intermediaries such as employers and banks to get some money and access to it. Those overlords can simply cut off their cash flow.
A colleague of mine just returned from a semester teaching in Nigeria, and they certainly do have humanities disciplines there (and sometimes import US faculty to learn from them in them!) and also have students who protest when their learning conditions do not reflect their hope for their college experience. Conan, I don't understand the point of your response. Do you think that things like African studies just shouldn't exist? Or they can exist, but their practitioners should pay more abject fealty to the alleged "producers" whose work makes them possible? Most of the biggest buildings on my campus have names on them that belong to financial industry types, so I question your productive/useless dichotomy. I question it hard.
Conan: one suggestion: if you haven't read Chinua Achebe's Things Fall Apart (and you may well have), I highly recommend it. It's a very moving chronicle (built at least loosely on Shakespearean tragedy) of what happens when the forces of modernization come to a traditional African society (or, at least one time when they come; there have been waves). Such modernization is, of course, "business" and "engineering" activity (as well as "political" activity of a sort), but there's an argument to be made that it takes a novelist to explore all the human dimensions of the experience (and to truly explore them, you'd need to throw in additional novels from a few dozen more African authors, of various nations/tribes, genders/sexual orientations, times, locations, class identities, etc.). I'm not saying that your "rad" friends/acquaintances are forming such a complex, nuanced picture through their studies (sadly, humanities disciplines, like the more hands-on ones, can become reductionist at times; "it's all about power!" (even if true) is no better than "profit above all!"). But it might be interesting to listen for anything with which you can agree with them on, and perhaps offer some things that you believe about your major/vocation with which they might value, rather than trying to win arguments, and see what develops. It may not work (late-adolescent radicals are not known for their nuanced thinking, any more than late-adolescent Ayn Rand devotees), but it probably beats shouting at each other.
Curly: No, I do think they should exist. I do not presume to know better than the economy/society. If they exist, they exist for a reason. Arguing over whether or not things "should" exist seems very trite to me. I can get behind Utilitarianism. Would our society be better if resources allocated to, say, the NFL, were allocated elsewhere? Maybe. But society decided to allocate them there because that's what it wants. So, generally speaking, resources SHOULD be allocated to wherever they ARE allocated.My point was that the ability to have a class of persons who introspect and analyze our society is a pinnacle achievement that would not be possible without the labor of everyone else in society. And as our technology and processes improve, more and more people will be in abstract areas like art and humanities because we'll need fewer and fewer people to produce.In the medieval era we needed like 90% of people to work in agriculture just to support them, a handful of nobles, artisans, and maybe a troubadour here and there. Monks were the only "artists" and they worked like dogs in the vineyards and fields eight hours a day.Now less than five percent of society works in agriculture. Ten years ago, for the first time in history, we had more artists, skilled artisans, writers, etc. than farmers! Which is a huge accomplishment. I don't think it's bad and... homage/fealty is not the right word. But it's only because our society has gotten so good at doing the things LOWER in the pyramid of needs (farming, medicine, engineering, business) that we can now support such an unprecedented number of people at the top (writers, artists, humanities).I am not anti-intellectual by any stretch. I nearly became an English major and I have a profound affection for the humanities. But I feel like people above me in the pyramid of needs crapping on me would be like me crapping on farmers. I couldn't study business if they did not till the soil and the humanities majors could not ponder their society's privilege if I did not study business.Cassandra: I have read it, yes. Its basis on Shakespearean tragedy is interesting news to me. Wish I'd known that when I read it initially, silly high school student that I was.I highly, highly frown upon colonization for a number of reasons, but primarily because I'm a hardcore pacifist and eschew violence as anything but a means to prevent violence. My pacifism shaped my political beliefs insofar as I believe that monopoly on force is violence and forcing people to be part of a state is also violence. And I only need to glance at the fact that wars basically involve dedicating resources to destroy other resources to assure myself I'm right. Anything would be a better use of those resources. Even just throwing them away. If we didn't have war, we'd have nothing to fight over because we'd have enough resources, labor, and technological innovation to live like kings.I swap vegetarian recipes with them. I'm not even joking. You'd be amazed at what they can do with quinoa.
I think the people you see as being "at the top" are not really privileged. They are simply those for whom a productive role, such as in farming, is no longer available. Basically, they are the society's "surplus" people.In the past, they might have been killed in war or retired to a monastery. Our society just has different ways to keep them busy or get rid of them. If they are indeed more numerous (don't forget that the rich and powerful used to keep around a small army of relatively unproductive people), is that really a good thing? Wouldn't it be much better if people could have their own small farms instead of needing to get a job if they don't want to sleep on a park bench?
They produce value or else they wouldn't have jobs. Someone, somewhere is paying them to do what they do. They don't make a LOT of money, activism and such, but they do make money. For the first five hundred years of "artist" being a profession, artistry was being sentenced to poverty. The idea of artists being patronized and becoming incredibly wealthy was centuries away. Because the first artists basically were just buskers.I put a great deal of faith in the economy and the marketplace of ideas to winnow out dumb, useless shit. And if their role is growing more prominent, seemingly without state intervention, then I imagine they are the "next" "artists". They're in the same "busking" phase that artists went through, that's all.Who are we to question where value is produced? If people want to pay someone to stand on their head and they get value from that, who's to say that's not better than paying someone to make precious jewelry or whatever for you? By merit of their existence, they are value producers.
Here's what I don't understand: they call for a new building and a bunch of tenured faculty lines. That's millions of dollars. Great kids, swing for the fences! Then they ask for $45K to support what sounds like scholarship that counts. $45,000?! That's the upcharge for the university president's executive council flying first class on a flight to San Francisco. The table settings at the last capital campaign fundraiser cost more than $45,000. This makes me think that their demands are not well thought out.
I think it's pretty common for undergrads to be massively clueless about money and costs. (I'm reminded of one of my freshman comp students from last semester, who was sincerely under the impression that the average person earned about $5,000 a year. No, it wasn't a typo for $50,000. I checked.)
I don't consider them privileged, just spoiled or really, really, immature and not too familiar with some really harsh parts of the world. Actually, I detest the word "priviledge" on the campus now because it is used more often by someone as a scoldish admonition who demands, You! Bad person! Stop talking! You, shush! rather than a discussing an idea with real possibility of learning from one another. And it's become such a cheap parlor trick. I never thought about avoiding or resisting exposure to people like that; I've dealt with worse. There's just a lot of silly, immature shit on some campuses these days. I keep my cool and look forward to learning some things. As for the gay white male hate you're experiencing or you're not rad enough, I can't speak too much on that--I'm not male or gay, but I have been scorned as a "breeder." Don't get me wrong, I didn't suddenly demand a safe space when that was uttered, but I refuse to be malicious in response. Funny, harsh, yes. Humanities helped teach me that.
I apologize; I wasn't replying to Beaker Ben's post but Conan's one before that. But while I'm here, how about a real living wage for adjuncts? And some health care insurance?
Yes, please (I have both, but if my adjunct colleagues don't get both soon, I'm afraid I may eventually not have adjunct colleagues -- which would be one way to revolutionize the university, but probably not the best way).
It's there school too.
Certainly it's their school, and they are there for at least 4 years, and their voices should be heard. On the other hand, the faculty, the citizens of Washington, etc., etc. have some interests in the students' learning critical thinking, and at the moment they seem to be in "we've found a hammer; everything's a nail!" mode. They have the opportunity to learn something about a lot of subjects -- negotiation, budgets, the results of adopting and combining various modes of inquiry -- as they work this through with the president et al.; I hope some of them, at least, will benefit from that experience, and that some good new programs and/or initiatives will come of that interaction.
Some of their demands sound like good ideas; some sound positively Orwellian. I'd like to propose that the organizers take a good course on the Cultural Revolution and/or post-Revolutionary Russia before proceeding further. Good intentions do have a way of going awry.
Oh, I thought the obvious explanation for the raw meat was that's what the Donald eats. Are you telling me that he doesn't?
Everyone keeps talking about the meat. Look, every time I'm at one of these things, three people come up to me and say "What about the meat? Is the meat raw?" And I just don't know the answer. But I'll be honest with you, the meat is an issue. It's a problem. We need to deal with it. And when I'm president, first thing I'm gonna do. Boom. Cook the meat, whether or not it's raw.
My retirement cannot come soon enough. Good God! It would be so fun to see these snowflakes have to deal with the real world, the one in which their bosses don't give a sis-shit about their "feelings" or "safe spaces" or "micro-aggressions." Shut up. Get the job done. Or get out.The Gog has spoken
Sorry, I read this and am reminded of a for-profit university with a "social justice focus" (is that oxymoronic?) They are patting themselves on the back for recently becoming a "public benefit corporation." Now we are supposed to believe they subscribe to "don't be evil," yet the vast majority of their faculty are adjuncts and they are cutting their hours so as to not - gasp - actually have to provide health insurance benefits under the ACA. Students are drawn in by the claim that the organization is predicated on the concept that "education is power" and "can change the world" but, in practice, it is little more than a consumer model institution where faculty are pressured to "find a way" to pass (exorbitantly) paying "customers." Perhaps THAT should be a focus instead of "micro-aggressions."