Monday, October 10, 2011

Occupy University

I was reading this article about Occupy Wallstreet (read it) and it inspired me to start my own movement.

It might be too easy to dismiss the Occupy University movement as a first-world problem.

Just because you go to class it doesn’t entitle you to a good grade, some people grumble. Why are you protesting? Why aren’t you studying? What are you doing here? Next you’ll surge onto campus to complain about the decline in the quality of ballpoint pens!

But that would be unfair.

I’ve seen some of these students before – at the rally to bring back Beer Gardens, when we poured beer into our university mugs and cheered.

Now the stakes are higher.

“I did everything I was supposed to do: went to some of the classes, skimmed through the assigned readings, handed in my homework relatively on time. 3 month later I have nothing but a C to show for it,” complains one person while checking her twitter.

“My professor said that if we work hard we can get any grade we want. Well my paper might not have been the best but I told him how hard I work and what a good person I am but I didn't get the grade I wanted. I didn't want… the B-,” writes another.

This is not our fault.

Growing up, we were told: you are unique. You are special. You are brilliant. Apparently professors are unaware of this. "You must rewrite this paper. Go the library, do some research, use correct citation."

Half an hour later, look at us. Paper still not good enough. This is not what it said on the syllabus.

Is it our fault the professors try to talk while we are texting? Is it our fault the university can't recognize our brilliance? Is it our fault our moms are not here to wash our clothes so we don't smell like nachos and too much AXE body spray?

We did what we were told to do.

Now we need someone to tell us what to do next because we can't think for ourselves.

The students of University are mostly twenty-somethings. Most of those I spoke to were in the failing range. Some had a  “marginal pass.” They aren’t rebels without a cause. They’re rebels with a surplus of causes.

“Give me the grade I deserve,” reads one sign, “End the Madness.”

"Legalize marijuana," read another, who might have confused this with the rally two streets down.

If you're looking for a coherent message, you won't get it from these students. Instead of testing us on what you think we should know, a student is saying, test us on what we actually know. When I walk away from the group, one is arguing in favor of no grades, another suggesting that there should be no classes till noon. Some are just plain lost and looking for their next class.

Lucy, a self-described genius, is delighted that the protest is happening. “When I was in elementary I was totally an A+ student,” she says. “We used to get stickers as well. It’s a shame professors are so mean when they mark – it hurts my feelings, makes me feel terrible about myself."

“This whole thing is basically a big discussion, dude,” Andy, the dreadlocked skater of Liberal Arts, tells me. “It’s about getting together a bunch of people who realize that there’s a problem and trying to figure out what the solution is, man.” Easier said than done. The protesters I talk to agree on three things. They are not sure what the point is yet, but would like to find out. The system is broken. And the profs, they feel, are ignoring them.

We are angry that professors pretend they have lives or somewhere to be. Something to do other than help us at a moment's notice. This is about fixing the system, “building a university that caters to the student's needs. That gives us the grades we need to get our degrees,” another protester, Chad, tells me. Or something like that.


AdjunctSlave said...

Nice, dude. Is there, like, beer at the protest? But cereously, this is like way over due. I've gone to the library twice for this one paper already and the prof's still, like, "Dude. Those aren't scholarly sources and you need, like, verbs and stuff in your writing." And I'm like, "Dude!"

The Contemplative Cynic said...

My sign reads: "Wikipedia is TOO a credible source."