“Dark sarcasm in the classroom”

At 3pm today a group of students gathered in a public space at the University of Lethbridge to discuss the recent comments Stephen Harper made at the G 20 summit in Pittsburgh on September 29th, 2009.

Both aboriginal and non-aboriginal students spoke about the affect the comments had on their communities and their person. Eloquently, expressions of disappointment and confusion were made by many of those who spoke out. The audience listened, relating to the personal opinions of these individuals. Personally, I felt proud to be a member of the STUDENT community that came together to openly discuss the comments of our Prime Ministers, the individual elected to represent the country of Canada on the world stage.

As I looked around at the attendee’s, I felt a notable absence. There was not one faculty member present.

Professors lambaste undergraduate students for not being an active members in the academic community. Student apathy, they cry out is a shame and a disappointment to them. Students just don’t care anymore.

Blatantly untrue. Student do care. They care enough to form clubs and go through the rigmarole of dealing with the bureaucracy that comes form both the Administration of this community and the Students’ Union (…I should know). They care enough to create an OPEN forum on comments made by Canada’s Prime Minister. Comments which effect every Canadian. Students care, but do Professors?

Where was our academic faculty at this discussion? It was hardly difficult to get to, being held in the largest and most visible building on campus. It went on for over any hour so I can’t see any reason why five minutes would have been so disruptive to their office hours and most importantly, it was THEIR students who came together to discuss. It was not partisan, no one was crying out to bring down the government. In fact, there was almost no political element to it all. It was merely a way for the University of Lethbridge to come together, and promote dialogue about our country.

I have had an enduring internal battle with my disappointment in faculty involvement in our campus community and an understanding of the need to distance oneself from controversial topics. However, when a forum of this nature is held, it genuinely blows my mind that not a single faculty member could be bothered to show. Not even to support the students who were not afraid to put an opinion to their face, not even to support open dialogue within out academic community.

To me this speaks of the quality of support that many academic faculty members offer towards the UofL community.

I have been an active member of this community since coming to the UofL. My experience here is notable because of my professors yes, but also because of CKXU, the Students’ Union, our independent media, clubs, and the academic-social gatherings such as the one today.

I had a professor last year who wrote – on the return of my final academic paper in his class- that involvement in student government will only lead to a future of working in wine stores or selling used cars. Firstly, the elitism dripping from this comment conveyed his opinion that both those jobs are second class and below him, leading me to wonder just what he thinks of himself. Secondly, discouraging students from actively participating in the betterment of their academic community sickens me. This is a respected member of the academic community and the only time I see him outside of a classroom is walking in the hallway, head down, not even saying hello to his students.

This is not an individual case.

I hardly expect members of the academic community to read this blog, nor do I expect them to recognize the value of my plea but I offer it all the same.

Care. Please.

Students do, and all we’re asking for from our mentors, our guides into critical thinking, and in many cases the people we admire most is to support us in our efforts to ameliorate this community.

Is that just too much?

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4 thoughts on ““Dark sarcasm in the classroom”

  1. J,
    This professor should give his head a shake, but maybe it’s too far into a place that the sun doesn’t shine.
    “[I]nvolvement in student government will only lead to a future of working in wine stores or selling used cars. . . .”
    Give me a break: I recall a string of SU presidents from when I was a student who went on to top careers in politics, business, government. From before my time, Peter Lougheed was U of A SU president 51-52, Lou Hyndman (Alberta Treasurer was U of A SU pres 58-59, to name only a few.

    I would go so far as to say that being in student government is almost a _requirement_ for a career in government or politics and not a bad choice for a career in business.

  2. Richard Westlund says:

    Regarding the comment that working in student government won’t amount to anything – that is completely untrue. I have met a number of former-SU leaders who are now leaders in different capacities – gov’t, non-profit, industry, community, etc.

    I think back to when I went to school and I have to admit I was a student that was fairly apathetic. I am constantly impressed with those who put their name and time forward to improve the greater good – especially at a young age. What gives me hope is that people I went to high school with (early 30 types) are town councillors, community organizers, business leaders.

    Make no mistake, the torch is being passed, and in most instances it is being enthusiastically accepted by younger generations.

  3. Bruce says:

    Just list the skills you are developing and the experiences you are having while being a student politico: analyzing, writing, thinking, arguing, presenting, networking, organizing, planning, scheduling, problem solving, and being an agent of change (I’m sure you can add more). What employer would not want someone with demonstrated experience and success with this skill-set? (Probably not an employer you’d want to work with.) Good employers will see the value of your experience and skills. Just be sure to put those details forward; the degree on its own will not be enough.

    That being said, though, I take the criticism about lack of faculty involvement and resolve to do better!

  4. J pro says:

    Thanks Mark, Richard, and Bruce for reading and making your thoughts on this matter public. I appreciate your support and know that all three of you go out of your way to support student initiatives.

    PSE is an incredible opportunity, no matter how you use it and I am just very thankful for the opportunities it has afforded me. For better or worse academically, I feel strongly that my experience has been incredible and will be nothing but beneficial to my future. I am sure many other past, present, and future student government types would say the same.

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