Well. A friend teased me yesterday, “How goes the war, General?” And I was feeling quite optimistic because I had just gleaned some info about how things “used to be”. Also, Phee’s comment about the shock and dismay of reading “an attitude of suspicion and antagonism” was helpful. I will reiterate again that I was reporting what I’d heard. Then I woke up to the comment by “anonymous”, who certainly reflects more than just his/her own opinion. I’m sure anonymous is absolutely correct that I am “in” my “report”, as noted, with “an unavoidable effect on the things that we observe”. (I’ve been thinking I should have taken a journalism class as this has the feel of investigative reporting….with qualifications. I’m not out to get anyone and I don’t have a specific desired outcome in mind beyond surviving questioning departmental norms as I’ve experienced them.)
There have always been at least two student discourses in the department since I’ve been here, which could be roughly glossed as a generally satisfied one and a generally dissatisfied one, sometimes engaged by the same individual and sometimes “located” more strongly, respectively, in certain people and not others. I’ve been exposed to both, and have been frustrated that there hasn’t seemed to be an outlet or avenue for addressing the disaffections on a systematic basis. There are avenues for addressing individual complaints or concerns, which sometimes “work” and sometimes don’t. However, I learned yesterday that there used to be a mechanism for systematic concerns that may just need our recognition to be reinvigorated.

The catch of course, is whether there really is a desire to address systematic departmental functioning by anyone but me. Which I think may also be part of what anonymous was intimating, and it could be accurate. If this has really been only a completely selfish, utterly unreflexive endeavor on my part, my apologies are due to everyone. I’m aware of the various forms of distancing from me currently operating, and the attempts to “police” me into line, as well concern for my “health.” Since I’m now “here,” however, I choose to play out the role by continuing to “report” what I’ve heard from sources who don’t want to be named.
That does seem to be the norm of the department as far as conflict goes. I’m obviously deviant. Or careless? The warnings about conformity are pretty intense. 🙁
At any rate, what I’ve learned is that the representatives to the Grad Studies Committee and the Personnel Committee (which this year is Li and me, respectively) represented grad student body concerns to the faculty. The trick is that, it used to be, most of the grad students would get together at least once/semester to talk about whatever was going on and channel information back and forth. Joanna did this via email last year re the new hires. And Gordon or Jolane shared GEO news last year, and Srinivas is doing that this year. I think Joanna did try, and maybe even did have (?), a few face-to-face meetings with grad students? So, some communication has continued to occur.
BUT, in the four years I’ve been here there hasn’t been a general grad student meeting to air concerns, and that’s the gap I’ve been hoping to address. There is no doubt that the wave of reaction to the “overenrollment policy” provided an opening to try and broach this conversation, since it was an issue that there was a lot of feeling about by more than just one or two people. Again, maybe my framing skewed things terribly, but I was just trying to be descriptive and a bit light. HOWEVER, maybe it was “just” emotion that needed to be vented and nothing to have anything “done” about, and I jumped off the wrong side of the ship. If so, here I go, learning by trial and error. (I have been trying to perfect my abilities at telepathy and psychic prediction. I scored 18 on this test, which – according to them – is, “Not bad. Even if you don’t see the future you’re probably very telepathic.” Dandy! But obviously not good enough! {sigh}
Back to the point. The thing that really DROVE the grad student meetings in the past was that fact that lots of students were psyched about putting on conferences and publishing a journal. Now there’s “nothing going on” at this level to draw people together and create the opportunities for a lot of face-to-face interaction, which (historically) facilitated communication between students as a body and the faculty/administration.
The energy for this kind of group effort faded with a changing student population that had different interests. As anonymous mentioned, “We all have our projects.” I don’t know if there is any (or enough) interest in these collective kinds of endeavors, or if they are even possible now under current budget and political conditions. I have heard hints and ruminations of desire at various points, but nothing has substantialized (is that a word?!). I know that someone did try to pursue the journal idea (last year, I think) and was turned down. I think the conference idea has floated in a few places…. But, besides a major event that promotes enough interaction to coalesce issues or concerns into some kind of consensus, there doesn’t seem to be another way to do that.
Maybe I’m some kind of “magnet” for people to complain to and I need to divest myself of the energy that comes along with that WITHOUT trying to address it? When it’s solo (individual) that’s not so difficult, but when there’s a pattern I tend to think its indicative of something we’d be better off by addressing.
As far as researching Reflexivity goes, to address anonymous’ other point, I’ve always intended this weblog as an experiment and object of study. In the grand scheme, it will be interesting to reflect on this “moment” and whether it stands out as a marker or juncture for anything in particular – a change in my own consciousness or values or enactment of activism, as an instigator of a productive dialogue in the department that becomes open and crosses boundaries (students-faculty-admin), an implosion of civility (“death to Steph!”), or simply a “non-event”. Those are the Ideal options I can imagine right now. As to a specific targeted study of this event in particular? No. I wouldn’t do that without consent. My hope is simply to create a place where at least some views on the department’s institutional history can be accessed by anyone who wants to know it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.