Friday, October 08, 2010

Insomnia sucks

Why am I still up?

I went to bed about three hours ago, but woke up worrying about the current shitstorm involving SGA and ILSOC. I got up to get a glass of water and hammer out a short list of talking points I'd like to address when I meet with the SGA Academic Affairs Committee's chair tomorrow afternoon. I want the points on this list said, not mis-said. I want to be clear and forthright, I want to be honest. I want no more bullshit. I want continued and ongoing discussion between our respective groups. That's all I want. I don't think it's too much to ask for.

I realized earlier this evening that I've gotten older and wiser, and concomitantly more pragmatic and less idealistic, than I once was: fifteen years ago when I was these students' age, I was just as impetuous and hot-headed, just as incapable of seeing things in anything other than black and white. I was just as committed to lofty, unrealistic and unattainable ideals. I was much more excited by storming the castle walls than I was by sitting in the boring committee meetings taking place in the castle's keep.

Case in point: it was much more exciting to deliver my valedictory address in high school than it was to serve as a student representative on the committee to hire a new principal for my high school (a position that was no doubt granted me on account of said valedictory address).

More context? My valedictory address wasn't the standard saccharine "here we all are now and now we're off to somewhere else to bigger and better things, but wasn't it fun, y'all?" It was essentially a scathing report on what I felt were shortcomings in the public educational system I had gone through. (It's worth noting that, knowing much more about the state of K-12 education in this country now than I did then, I feel even more strongly about some of those shortcomings now.)

After delivering this opus magnum to the assembled crowd of a thousand or so students, friends, and family, I was given the chance to serve on the committee I mentioned above. Not having been overly involved in many student organizations in high school (I am what I am, and I have no regrets, but I wish I'd been more involved back then), I was unaccustomed to committee work, and I found my day-or-two-long involvement with this hiring committee to be dull, dry, and uneventful.

However, as I realize now, it was a far more effective means of enacting change than delivering a rousing and rafter-raising speech to a bunch of pimply-faced teens and their parents. As a member of that committee, I was getting involved meaningfully in the institutional process; I had a role, and I had a voice.

There was an interesting parallel that took place yesterday: on my way from a conversation with a colleague who's visiting my department to study our program's successes, I walked past a walk-out sponsored by Students for a Democratic Society (yes, they still exist). The walk-out's organizers stood on a stage at the foot of the library steps, shouting slogans with which I agree ("education is a right, and not a privilege!") and calling for laudable goals ("Affordable educations! Reasonable demands on faculty!").

I couldn't stay and listen, though I would have liked to: I was on my way to the first of three discussion sessions whose purpose is to decide on our school's QEP (Quality Enhancement Plan...Number 7 in this sampler; you'll be seeing me write much more about it in the coming months). The QEP session was not fantastically well-attended. There were perhaps twenty people present for most of the session, and most of these (12 to 15) were students involved with SGA. I was happy to see them there, but I was chagrined that there weren't more faculty present.

About ten minutes into the session, we heard shouting outside in the halls: SDS had moved their protest to the student union.

Here's where the parallel begins: the folks who had assembled in order to help identify and reify what meaningful institutional change looks like, with the ultimate goal of enacting that change (and we will, because we must!) were getting drowned out by people shouting about their desire for change. I respect the point of view the SDS students were expressing, and for the most part I agree with it. I feel, however, that they could have accomplished more by joining us in our relatively stodgy and conventional discussion than by shouting in the halls.

Maybe I'm just getting old.

Meh. I'm going to have another crack at sleep. I'll see you on the sunny side.


Chrispy said...

Its not that your getting old, It's that most folks do not seem to understand that standing around and demonstrating in such a way is relatively meaningless around here. Yes, educational reform would be nice, but marching about on campus and walking out of your classes for a bunch of students to tell each other how much they do not want to pay more for school seems too self serving to be useful. They seem merely content to roam about disrupting those of us trying to make the most of our $7,000ish tuition. For example, this happens every semester or so and when it does they make an obnoxious riot turning otherwise good ideas into a painful cacophony of noise that hinders actual learning. If you want to enact change, take it somewhere where you wont disturb those that wish to do that which you support. Hell, one semester we had one guy run up and down the halls of Rhodes Robinson screaming into a megaphone to walk out of class... the only reason I would have left class would have been to shut him up so class could continue. I do not disagree fully with their message just their method. /rant end


PS... insomnia sucks

Bret Benesh said...

Not "old," but rather "pragmatic."

Of course, I might think that because I am also getting old, too.

Megan (Stone) Hutchins said...

I was also in class when a student ran up and down the halls of Rhodes Robinson screaming at us to walk out of my class. That was about 2 and a half years ago. It was horribly disruptive, and ended up ruining the entire dynamic of my class that day.
I'm glad that SDS is passionate about educational reform, but maybe they should use all of their energy to encourage their fellow colleagues to vote in the upcoming election for candidates that will actually push for the kind of educational reform that they desire rather than disrupting the very thing they are fighting for.
Or better yet, become involved in the same meetings or discussions that you were trying to engage in while you being disrupted.