Punitive University

A punitive university takes pride in turning learning opportunities into punishments for its students, faculty and staff.  Public safety is highly visible throughout the campuses’ green space.  Any deviation from normalcy is punished. Not only are very public spaces, such as the classrooms, lounges, and departmental offices policed, but so is the concept of knowledge.  Knowledge produced by local groups, street-scholars and quotidian intellectuals hold little significance within the campuses’ learning communities.  Individuals that speak truth to power or the people are automatically met with resistance.  Groups learn how to just “fit in” without instruction on how to analyze, critique, or change the system.  

Newly emerging ethnic and LGTBQ+ studies are automatically placed within more traditional anthropology or sociology departments.  Individuals rarely ever question this placement; in fact it seems completely logical due an unquestioned hierarchy amongst the academic fields. Whenever questioned, a litany of  labor and budget restraints are spit fired, like a machine gun by divisional deans & department chairs to reinforce austerity norms.  These newly forming academic programs aren’t able to remain connected to their communities of origin while developing into well regarding fields.  Finally, they’ve grown so far apart that the people can no longer access nor understand the jargon found in its academic journals.

4 thoughts on “Punitive University

  1. Janan Shouhayib

    This is a really interesting point. I think you’re right about how more critical fields are “tucked away” under the umbrellas of larger departments. At my undergrad, our Gender and Women’s Studies department was in a dilapidated house about a 15 minute walk outside of campus.

  2. Katina Rogers (she/her)

    Thanks for this thoughtful reflection, Dennis. Can you go one level up and think about the prompt question(s) that would lead you to write such a response? Sometimes the act of generating questions can point to broader patterns and possibilities of which the response is one part. Would be curious to hear what this sparks for you?

  3. Matt Brim


    Are you thinking too about the militarization of universities? This can mean the militarization of campus police but also formal military presence of any sort on campus. I ask this because you stand at an interesting intersection. My question is really this: did the repeal of don’t ask don’t tell enable two campus presences to buttress and support each other: on the one hand the presence of military recruiters on campus and on the other hand the more visible presence of LGBTQ people and cultures on campuses. In other words, does the acceptance of LGBTQ people (in the military, but also increasingly in police departments) create a rational for having police on campus? This is a version of homonationalism, i.e., using acceptance of LGBTQ people to reinforce other modes of domination.


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