I’m thinking over an idea for submitting an open letter to UC Santa Barbara in regards to the severe harassment of one of their postgraduate students. I spent two of my undergraduate years at UCSB and many years later, unrelatedly, I engaged in some online gender critical discussion with this woman being targeted, via a set of mutual friends (all of us mothers) who share concerns about the adverse impact of gender ideology on children—especially teenage girls, it seems (most especially those who are lesbian, and those who otherwise don’t conform to stereotypical gender associations).
So I was rather shocked to hear about this happening both at an institution I attended and to an online acquaintance of sorts. And not surprised that this sort of locus for student outrage is within feminism department, aimed at a feminist scholar, at a lesbian woman who is also a mother, at a female engaged in challenging ideologies that perpetuate the subjugation of the female body and mystify the sex-based (biological) nature of female oppression.
It seems stupid and pointless to maybe risk my future career before I’ve even finished my master’s or done hardly any paid work in the field (or greatly restricting the possible pool of readership of my blog before I have more than half a dozen followers, for that matter)—and while I’m actively seeking employment, too.
But I’m thinking about it. And quite honestly, hardly anyone is paying attention. I could send a letter to UCSB and it would more than likely make it as far as the nearest trash can. But maybe imagining that to be so is an even worse case of shooting myself in the proverbial foot than imaging I might wreck a career I don’t have yet.
Student empowerment, elevating students to something better than mere university consumers, has been important to me for a long time now. However, this particular growing trend, one that perhaps seems like student empowerment, is so terribly detrimental not only to the universities and their staff, but to the students being given free reign to such mutually destructive behavior: it undermines students on the level of their character, as well as their professional, academic, and even their personal development. Where are the mature leader figures who can help guide the student expression of grievance without permitting any compromise in the integrity of the student’s professional and scholarly decorum on such a serious matter? Is there no one at the school who understands what a disservice this is to everyone involved or cares enough to do something about it?
That doesn’t even begin to touch on the impact it has on the teaching assistant herself, and the university’s failure to ensure she (also one of their students) is treated with dignity by the undergraduates even while they challenge and oppose her views: its failure to protect her ability to engage in very very fundamentally basic academic critical analysis—a failure of academic rigor. Students essentially having what amounts to a vitriolic temper-tantrum because they disagree with someone else’s views is not grounds for the university to back-pedal on standards of excellence. And in this case, we can set the bar lower than excellence and aim for simple perspective: the customer isn’t always right and we know it. We all know it. That’s why there’s an idiomatic social epithet for a person who demands that things go their way and is incited to outbursts of vehement indignation when the objective reality of a situation bursts their tenuous bubble of expectation: Karen.
And we may as well drop the pretense of analogy and be plainly transparent about discussing the Academy in terms of customer service.
I have more thoughts on the matter. If I can gather enough articulate wordage from all these thoughts worth reading, I’ll compose (and send) an open letter and post it.
I’m linking three articles here: the first is a thoughtful piece on a related and also troubling trend manifesting in this case at a public high school: the removal of artwork based on student “sensitivity” and a lack of understanding about what the mural is actually depicting and how the students might benefit from a better understanding of it:
I have said (and will continue to say again and again) that universities should be paying far better attention to the debilitating, stunting impact of the K-12 education system on children’s well being, creativity, critical thinking, personal independence, basic cognitive skills, socio-emotional resilience and flexibility, and their developmental maturation—all of which dramatically effects the learning environment and quality of scholarship once these students enter university-level discourse; affecting, impressing, and undermining in turn the creativity and scholarship of professors, faculty, and older students as they work and connect with the incoming.
And, here are two links detailing the above-mentioned incident that began in June of 2019 at UCSB: