Wednesday, September 29, 2010

How adults do it

I'm pissed.

One of my colleagues on ILS (Integrative Liberal Studies) Oversight Committee with me met with a student representative from SGA (the Student Government Association) about two weeks ago. He met with us because he "had some questions about the clusters [topically clustered courses] as they're implemented" as part of the ILS program. Lexi (my ILSOC colleague) and I left the roughly half-hour meeting suspecting that the kid was looking for some dirt.

Since then it's become apparent, from the minutes of their meetings and various other campus goings-on, that SGA's sending its student representatives to a number of faculty and staff on campus trying to get information on the following components of the ILS program: Humanities, the LSIC colloquia, the ILS Clusters, and the Writing and Diversity Intensive programs. The minutes I've read make it clear that the students are hoping to bring about change in these components of the program. The minutes don't make clear exactly what issue SGA has with these components.

This is what's pissing me off.

The child Lexi and I met with (I'm sorry for the condescension, but that's how he acted, and not at all like adult he was trying to be) had an obligation to speak up and be forthcoming about his purpose for meeting with us. He had an obligation to let us know that the student body has concerns about various aspects of the ILS program, and that they would like to dialogue with us about possible ways to ameliorate any shortcomings they think need addressing.

He was not at all forthcoming about his motives, even as Lexi and I pointed the way to every bit of information about the ILS program that SGA could ever want to read...even as I invited him to the next meeting of the WI Subcommittee (we meet tomorrow morning; I suspect I'll have something more to say after that meeting) and said, in nearly these words precisely: "we have nothing to hide. Every step of the process is transparent. I hope that you'll take a look."

Apparently there is to be no return of the favor.

Pardon my French, but let's cut the juvenile, passive-aggressive cloak 'n' dagger bullshit. You're adults now...or at least that's how we'd prefer to deal with you. Institutional change is not best affected by sneaking around, "gathering evidence," and dramatically confronting your opponent with that evidence in a highly public place. Rather, such change is affected by openness, plain-dealing, and compromise. If you have a problem with the system as it stands, tell us. Tell us, so that we may meet and discuss it. So that we may meet and hash out a plan to deal with your concerns. So that we may make our concerns and motives plainer to you, in the hope that you can see our points of view as we begin to see yours.

Why all of the secrecy and sneaking around? Maybe they're suffering from a romanticized notion of "fighting the good fight" or "leading a revolution"? Committee meetings might be boring as hell, and change at the university level may be glacial in its slowness, but the compromises hammered out in such meetings are far more lasting than ramrodded fiats and ultimatums.

Look, I have problems with the ILS program. It's not perfect, and I can admit that. It's a system designed by dozens of people, overseen by other dozens, and implemented by literally hundreds. Though I feel that for the most part it's working quite well (better than comparable programs at other universities), it's got its flaws.

What do I do about those flaws? I meet with my colleagues, I brainstorm ideas of ways we might address those flaws, I work with my colleagues to workshop a few of those ideas into more robust plans of action, and I help to implement those plans. In other words, I work with everyone else on campus together in order to fix the flaws I and others might see in the system.

That's how adults do it.

To be continued, I'm sure.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh, SGA. How we all disapprove of your strange actions and unexplained decisions! Good luck, Dr. B!