Copyright © Louis Schmier and Atwood Publishing.
Date: Fri 7/25/2003 7:36 AM
For little over two months I've been e-chatting with Majorie (not her real name)who is attending another institution. I've resisted sharing her initial "smoking" message that started our conversation although she has urged me more than once or twice to send it out. Every time I read it I'm reminded that there may be more than a grain of truth to Parker Palmer's assertion that there aren't many places where people feel less respected, less sacred and less in community than they do in higher education. Maybe, as the fall semester approaches, now is the time to hurl her words into cyberspace. It should give each of us, whatever be our position, cause to pause and listen to this voice on the other side of the desk and podium. With Majorie's expressed permission:
"Hey, Dr. Schmier. You don't know me, but I know you and I'd like us to get to know each other. I started reading you for a ed-psych class assignment about a year ago and haven't stopped yet. Mind if I vent on you and let off steam? I've got to let it out. Talking with my friends isn't enough. It's like complaining to a mirror. All I get is a bunch "yeah, I agree, but you can't do anything." And, my adviser thinks I'm too sensitive and unreasonable, is too afraid of his job to say or do anything. The same goes for a young prof I spoke to who won't do a thing to threaten her race for tenure. No one here really wants to listen. Their advise is to do what they do: shut up, grin, and bear it. I feel like I'm being sacrificed at the altar so they don't have to buck the system and protect their precious academic asses. That means keep their jobs."
"And, you can share this with anyone you want. Just leave off my name and university. The s.o.b.s (my abbreviations) around here would probably take revenge on me--after denying or rationalizing everything--and I don't believe anyone would stand up for me. Maybe it will get someone to think and knock some sense into someone higher up."
"I've had it. I don't mind being told I'm smart and going places, but I've had it with being treated as a smart nobody with no place to go. You know, here I am at ......... University. It's written up in all those 'you should go to' school articles. I've been here three years. I'm what they call "a good student." I'm "little Miss Honors Student." My GPA is 3.77. But, that's all I am around here, a walking GPA, someone to brag about to get a ranking in some magazine, but they don't know who this someone is--or care to know. Boy, is that especially true in those huge, cattle-call classes. It's even in my small classes that's true. Hell, you don't have to go on-line to have distance learning around here. Just walk into a regular classroom. All my professors talk about me like they know who I am. Hell, they don't even know who "me" is. Some don't even know my name. To most, I'm just a name in a roll book or a statistic to brag about. I don't think they really care. I mean really care. They say they do, but they don't mean it or it has a bunch of conditions strung to it. They don't show it except by going through some motions. They don't work at it. They don't listen. They control by talking. Can you imagine how they think about and treat the students who aren't honors? I've seen them treat those students as almost vermin and they are exterminators. I think sometimes they're afraid to get to know me because then I'll get to know them and get a peek behind their mask. They'll slave over their precious research, but they won't sweat one drop to make the effort to really know what I need as a person. They say they don't have the time but they'll find time for the lab or the archive without breaking a sweat or one complaint. I've got to fit into their precious, pinned-to-the-door schedule and they make no effort to fit into mine. They sure aren't the kind of doctor you'd call in time of need. They think they're God's gift to mankind and we ought to be so damn appreciative that they allow us to sit in their presence while they go on and on and on and throw crumbs at us."
"I mean how can so many supposedly deep thinkers be so shallow and thoughtless? They look for all sorts of clues in their experiments, and outside the lab are clueless. I think educating me should be a very personal thing. But, no, they have this image of me that has nothing to do with the real me. They don't care if I have to work my ass off at a job to help pay for their huge salaries, which I do. They don't care if I have to worry about paying bills, which I do. They could care less and don't want to hear if I'm distracted at times because my mother is very sick and my little brother is having a hard time handling it. If someone happens to fit their image of being what they want and doing what they want, they have their arms around his shoulders and are patting them on his back. Otherwise, they couldn't give a damn and give a bunch of reasons why they're right. They push those student who they don't think are students away and kick them in the ass. Or worse, they just plain ignore them. Ever been treated like a piece of cellophane? They read their precious books and don't read one line about me. They just don't want to work at knowing me because they're too lazy or they think it's not important."
"Well, I wish I had the guts to stand up and shout that it's damn important. I'm important. I know no one else will. They think this school is theirs. Well, someone ought to clue them in that without me there's no university. Without me, they'd be on the unemployment line. Without me this place would be a ghost town. Don't tell me that I'm not important enough to get to know, to at least listen to!! All they want to think about is how frustrating we students are to them, how our needs inconvenient them, and how much time we take them away from their precious books that are usually unreadable if anyone cares to open them. How about them to us? God, If they were on the radio, I wouldn't have one reason to tune them in. If they were salesmen, I wouldn't buy a thing from them. Most of them couldn't sell a heater in the dead of winter."
"You know I've heard profs bitch that they have to do things that have nothing to do with the classroom. They don't have time. Blah, blah, blah, blah. Well, la-de-dah. It's part of their job. They talk to us about excellence when it comes to academics and then are mediocre to poor when it comes to relationships. They don't create a positive connection with us or give us a positive connection to their classes. You know, a lot of them don't have a hook to be in the classroom. They call me an adult when it suits them and at the same time treat me as a child when it suits them. They always want to have it both ways. I have lots of friends at other places and I've met a lot of other students at conventions. Let me tell you something. It's not much different from here. Respect is not really a going word in these places. And if anyone thinks I'm the only student thinking this way, they've got another think coming. Of course, I don't think they want to think about that. They may have to admit they have to change and come down from Olympus and walk among us common students. God forbid they would have to admit that they just might have to change a tad."
"I want to go on and get my Ph.D. to teach at the college level. But if teaching at the college level means I have to become like most of them, I'm not sure. Grrrrrr!!!! #$%*&%@!!!!! I know I'm rambling, but I am spitting mad. It's been building up subtly, but after yesterday it all came to a head and I got to explode like Mount St. Helens. Let me tell you what happened......"
That's all I'm comfortable sharing. I know that our knee-jerk reaction is to say, "not on my campus." Nevertheless, what I shared should be enough to give each of us cause to pause and be mindful. I know it was for me.
Make it a good day. --Louis-- Louis Schmier firstname.lastname@example.org Department of History www.therandomthoughts.com Valdosta State University www.halcyon.com/arborhts/louis.html Valdosta, GA 31698 /~\ /\ /\ 912-333-5947 /^\ / \ / /~\ \ /~\__/\ / \__/ \/ / /\ /~\/ \ /\/\-/ /^\_____\____________/__/_______/^\ -_~ / "If you want to climb mountains, \ /^\ _ _ / don't practice on mole hills" - \____