The Brian Lehrer podcast of course resonated with our discussions last week– the brick wall and perpetuation of White Supremacy in another form (a horse of another color), but it also led to me to consider another idea I’ve considered for a while: The University has become so large and responsible so much than it used to be. A place and source for knowledge and education, The University has now become a microcosm of society– students lead their lives in these places, and their existence is tantamount to their intellect. The trace of the growing size of universities can be linked-to Civil Rights, Affirmative Action, Reproductive Rights– as the world has become more aware of oppression and discrimination, the attempts to right these wrongs must be brought forth into The University because individuals subjected to discrimination in the real world have the same potential for discrimination there.
In a freshman Poli Sci seminar, the resident old-school neo-con professor disapprovingly discussed the need for more counselors in the counseling session. “They’re more counselors now than when I started at Kenyon in 1983.” He seemed to see it as a moral failing on the part of incoming students. Meanwhile, in another context, a sophomore put on a one-woman show about the shame around sexuality, and her advisor (a tenured American Studies Professor) discussed his experience being a young man in college and fearing intimacy. Has the daily plight of the college-aged student changed, or are we just having conversations we didn’t used to?
I ask this in part because of the prevalence of Title IX breaches on campuses. Due to alcohol, fraternities, the works, this is a well known threat for young people on campus. On the CUNY website it reads, “Enough is Enough: Combatting Sexual Misconduct” on the bottom of the website above the CUNY emblem. I don’t remember being told this was something I would have to deal with as a person at a college. I remember, in my senior year of high school, reading a first-person account of a student at Harvard who was assaulted in her dorm room. I was simply horrified, believing it was a one-off. Why did no body warn me about this, and why was the school un-inclined to take her side? Then question arrive if it’s even the job of the university to intervene. But if not them who? Is the University not the keeper of its inhabitants? Are there not implied rules of conduct?
Another contradiction, how schools deal with underage drinking. Underage drinking is illegal, but somehow a University is able to provide their own repercussions for underage drinking/drug use, separate from federal law, and the same is true of Title IX despite it being a federal law?
The overarching questions I have: Had conduct, in relation to other people’s civil liberties (race, sex, sexual orientation) changed, or are we just having conversations about it now? Have laws impacted how universities run culturally? Is it the university’s responsibility to ensure that students follow laws? How does a university contend with the larger penial context of America?