Screwed at Emory

Students at Emory are being very Orwellian:

We demand that the faculty evaluations that each student is required to complete for each of their professors include at least two open-ended questions such as: “Has this professor made any microaggressions towards you on account of your race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, language, and/or other identity?” and “Do you think that this professor fits into the vision of Emory University being a community of care for individuals of all racial, gender, ability, and class identities?”

I’d be screwed with a provision like this because of the “language microaggression” that I commit in every class I teach. And as for providing care, even the words make me cringe.

Emory’s administration is, of course, happy to oblige because this is a great tool for abusing and exploiting faculty members. This is playing right into the corporate administrators’ hands, just like all of these bratty protests.

38 thoughts on “Screwed at Emory”

      1. “It does sound like a senior living facility.”

        Actually, it DOESN’T! Have you ever heard of a senior living facility where the worries are about feelings and micro-aggressions rather than physical needs and comforts?

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        1. As for physical needs, we have quite a few disabled students on campus, some with serious disabilities, and I’ve never heard any complaints about hurt feelings from them. They must have other things to worry about.

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  1. I will never understand this insistence on being comfortable 100% of the time. I thought when you are young you are supposed to want to learn about the word and right all wrongs and whatnot. Not be in a hurry to become a corporate-cog suburbanite, which is what I sadly see in many of my undergrads. 20 going on 50?

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    1. “I thought when you are young you are supposed to want to learn about the word and right all wrongs and whatnot.”

      The definition of a wrong now seems to be “whatever makes me feel even slightly uncomfortable.” The most hilarious part is that these protests are called “the social justice movement.” Because that’s what social justice is in a society of consumers: giving everybody a big, tasty pill that makes all unpleasantness fade.

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      1. This is totally unrelated, but I just came from a party and have been fuming again because of the stupidity and discomfort that always arises when people ask where I am from. It doesn’t help that I tell them where I am from, because most don’t know where it is. Today’s gems: a woman thought I am a refugee from a country in Central Africa, because that’s where she thought my country was in, although the fact that I have blond hair and green eyes might have been a dead giveaway. Another one said “Oh, I always thought you were from Russia!” (I am not, and neither am I from FSU).

        These questions always really, really upset me. I ended up leaving the group conversation and after the presents at the baby shower were opened I just snuck out without saying goodbye because I was so upset.

        Do you mind being asked where you are from? Does it upset you? How do you deal with them not knowing what to actually do with that information? I feel they ask to let me know they noticed something was “wrong” with me (the accent), that one of these things is not like the other. I always wonder if I had a huge scar across my face, nobody would ask me where I got it (I hope!), because it’s rude. Why does everyone feel it’s paramount to find out where this ambiguous accent of mine (that I can’t lose any more than I already have) comes from? (Sorry to derail the thread, I am just very upset and felt like chatting online with someone who likely faces the same stupid question all the time… Thanks!)

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        1. That makes me feel bad. Both my parents are immigrants and so when I notice someone with an accent, it gives me a friendly feeling towards him/her. So I frequently will ask someone where s/he is from. I suppose I am just trying to connect on some level and I think it’s a genuinely interesting topic of conversation.

          And I wouldn’t ask somebody about a scar because I understand a scar can be sources of embarrassment. I guess I have never thought that someone would find it embarrassing to reveal his/her country of origin.

          I suppose I operate under the assumption that people like to talk about themselves and appreciate having someone take an interest in them? But I certainly don’t mean offense and I would be very sad if I offended someone by asking s/he is from.

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        2. Yes, it’s the same for me, so you don’t have to apologize. I don’t have a strong accent at all but everybody I meet feels the need to point it out triumphantly, praising me for my good English. And after I respond to the question of where I’m from, I always, AND I MEAN ALWAYS, hear that somebody knows somebody who met a Ukrainian girlfriend online. The girlfriend usually taught them how to make borscht but cheated on them. After which revelation everybody stares at me. And I never know what to respond because it doesn’t seem like a proper response to say, “Yes, I’m also a borscht – making cheating wore like all of us Ukrainians.”

          It’s so aggravating. I’d just rather be treated like a normal human being and not a circus freak.

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          1. Thank you! This, so much:
            “I don’t have a strong accent at all but everybody I meet feels the need to point it out triumphantly…”
            “I’d just rather be treated like a normal human being and not a circus freak.”

            Exactly! Why does, until the end of time, the main thing about me have to be that I am not from around here? If I were so gaga about where I am from, I would not have emigrated. Ask me anything about my current life — job (love talking about job!), family, weather, sports, any small talk question that you would ask “normal” people, i.e., those who don’t have an accent. For instance, today at the baby shower, normal questions are how you know the mom-to-be, how long you have lived here, do you have kids, how’s this winter going to be, real-estate prices, what one does on a commute… All lighthearted stuff!
            And then this woman has to ask where I am from and ruin it all… You should have seen my confusion when she started rambling about my supposedly war-torn country and how I must be concerned about my family’s safety, and I was thinking “WTF is she talking about? There is no war I am aware of,”until she was like “Oh, you said X, I thought you said XX,” where XX is a country that happens to be in Central Africa, with essentially 100% black population. I even tried to make a joke that, yeah, XX is known for its large indigenous population of blonde people and she just kept nodding… (For some reason, this reminds me of how someone asked Jessica Simpson years ago if she’d tried buffalo wings and she said she didn’t eat buffalo, and someone had to say “Have you ever seen wings on a buffalo?”)

            I am starting to get mean, so maybe I should stop here… Thank you for listening, Clarissa!

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            1. Americans love asking people where they’re from. Someone with an accent that can’t be placed in NAmerica will get the question more often than others but Americans who travel to a place with a slightly different American accent will get it too. But the accent isn’t the reason they’re asking it’s an excuse to ask and lacking the accent they’ll often find other excuses.

              The second stage is to find some connection (no matter how ridiculous or tenuous) with the place the person gives.

              It’s not going to change any time soon (unless it can be added to the list of microagressions).

              I’m assuming that it’s a leftover of the frontier heritage (the frontier is the defining American experience) where people with little in common often needed to make a functioning community in a hurry (and/or newcomers needed to lay their cards on the table in a hurry to be accepted). It hasn’t been part of the European experience for centuries. Also general mobility issues are a factor, with lots of people moving around people like to know the locational history of who they’re talking to. Again, Europeans just aren’t that mobile.

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              1. Cliff, I’ve been in the US for a while. It’s really not that innocent at all and it’s not at all true that other Americans are asked the same thing and in the same way. Those who ask within 20 seconds of meeting you (i.e., an expat) where you are from because of the accent 1) want to make sure you know they know you are alien (i.e., reminding you that you don’t belong where you are) and 2) it kills them that they cannot place the accent and thus cannot neatly put you in a box, so they just HAVE to ask (as opposed to thinking if that’s personal/intrusive/rude/something you must have been asked a million times already). They may not do it consciously, but it’s rooted in xenophobia. (I am not saying Europe is better, though.)

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              2. I can put on a “convincing” mid-Atlantic American accent if I focus a bit, but if I slip, people tend to think I’m actually Irish and then proceed to ask me where I’m from …

                So when I’m in America, I simply cannot win. 🙂

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            2. “Why does, until the end of time, the main thing about me have to be that I am not from around here?”

              If it makes you feel any better, in all likelihood Americans living in your original country probably get sick of being asked “But why are you HERE?” (where no explanation makes sense to or satisfies the person asking).

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            3. Someone else’s stupidity is not really about you. Imagine someone so dumb they don’t know Africa from Europe.

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          2. “The girlfriend usually taught them how to make borscht but cheated on them. After which revelation everybody stares at me.”

            You should totally say “Hey, it’s a Ukrainian thing. We make borscht. We cheat.” (shrug). You could also add “At least we don’t eat the bottles after drinking vodka, like the Russians, that’s one thing to be grateful for” (tilt your head toward N if he’s present).

            Or maybe that wouldn’t be such a good idea.

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          3. “You speak really good English, your accent is so crisp and proper …”

            “Why thank you, and I suppose your American is nicely adequate as well!”

            🙂

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  2. Where’s their care for me? I’m not comfortable being continually criticised for expecting them to be capable of greatness, suspected of nefarious motives for being a somewhat oblivious middle-aged frumpy academic focused on advising them on how to write better and understand some scientific concepts,

    Nor am I comfortable being forced to see their tight purple underpants (males) and whaletails (exposed thong underwear straps on females) when they wear very baggy or low-slung trousers and sit leaning forward when I am walking around the class, or their multi-coloured lacy underwear when they choose see-though, low cut or just cutout tops matched with innappropriate lingere – it must be REALLY awkward for some of my male colleagues at times. Also, I find those spikes in the lower lip many of them wear totally distracting. I have to work really hard to listen to them and not cringe at the involutary sensation of the inside stud bit banging on my front teeth and scraping my gum, or being distracted by wondering what happens when they eat raspberries and the pips go astray. And tongue studs! I heard or read somewhere that they were an oral sex, um, accessory, and I can’t forget that or stop it from sliding into my head when talking to these CHILDREN flashing luridly-coloured anodised metal as they speak. Isn’t this almost elder abuse??

    But as an ADULT, working somewhere with a very casual dress code, as long as the genitals are covered and the students are not dressed inappropriately for an activity I am leading (forbidding those wearing short-shorts to come on trips to mosquito laden swamps or wearing heeled sandals from joining the class for a walk up a mountain on a rainy winter day is a matter of safety not judgement), I say nothing and focus on behaving professionally and managing my own reactions. Probably horrifying and traumatising THEM by wearing old-fashioned wide-legged trousers, hiking sandals with socks, a wide-brimmed shady hat and long-sleeved blouse in hot weather, but there isn’t a box for ‘dress sense’ on the evaluations yet (although it doesn’t stop them writing things like “please someone buy this man a new sweater the red blue and green one he wears every Monday is so loud I can’t hear his lecture” in the “any suggestions for improving the module” section).

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    1. For instance, when a student says, “la mapa” and I correct, “el mapa.”

      Or when a student says, “This Golden Age poetry is stupid and boring” and I say, “Well, let’s see if we can find some value in it anyway.”

      Or when a student says that the US invaded the Iberian Peninsula in 711 and I say that is not true because the US didn’t exist at that time.

      Or when a student says that learning about the Inquisition offends his religious and ethnic identity.

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      1. I’m missing something, because 2) and 3) don’t sound like microaggressions, 1)doesn’t sound like a microaggression because it’s a language and grammar class and 4)facts don’t microaggress all by themselves.

        As for the article correction, I’m sure learning languages dredges up all sorts of weird feelings in people because when was the last time most people learned about grammar and articles and oral sentence construction?

        Just because something causes you upset and confusion upon reading or viewing it doesn’t mean it’s a microaggression. For example, for one class I had to read “The Hitchhiking Game” and Measure for Measure It would have never occurred to me to formally complain about reading either one of them, even though I seriously loathed both works and the class discussion that came up around them.

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        1. The problem is that it’s not like there is an official definition of microaggression that everybody agrees upon. That website where people go to list the microaggressions they suffered has all kinds of things and what they have in common is that these are events that make people feel something vaguely negative.

          It’s a meaningless term that allows people to fill it with any meaning they choose to assign to it. That’s why it’s so bizarre that it’s actually appearing in official documentation.

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        2. “As for the article correction, I’m sure learning languages dredges up all sorts of weird feelings in people because when was the last time most people learned about grammar and articles and oral sentence construction?”

          • What the student said was, “When you correct me, it makes me feel stupid.” What can I possibly say to this that will not be further traumatizing?

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          1. “Nobody learns a language overnight. You continue to learn a language throughout your life, even if it’s your first one.”

            “Language is built by correct repetition. If you don’t use it, you lose it.”

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          2. ” What can I possibly say to this that will not be further traumatizing?”

            I’d try “There are no stupid people in this class and no matter how smart a person is they’re going to make lots of mistakes while learning a foreign language. You should hear some of the things that I came up with… no, maybe you shouldn’t”

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            1. I use a form like “if you already knew how to do this perfectly, you wouldn’t be in this class” or “if it was totally easy, it wouldn’t help you earn a degree, would it?” – students complain to me a lot about feeling stupid, or apologise for getting things wrong, and I treat this as if both responses come from a place of fear/uncertainty/worry about failing rather than being in any way an accusation about someone making them feel that way (sometimes it definitely is the latter, but I have discovered that pretending to be oblivious to that agenda and talking to them as if they are anxious, smart kids who are encountering a learning challenge and are perfectly capable of overcoming it – and in a way that shows that it’s completely normal for students to not get it perfectly right everything, that making mistakes is where they SHOULD be at this point in their learning, often calms them down anyway).

              There again, the concept “microaggression” has not actually apparently made its way to my campus yet – we only just discovered “unconscious bias” very recently, and the Women’s Group were very excited about that one…

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              1. We all have our limitations and one of mine is that whenever I hear “you made me feel XYZ,” I simply check out of the conversation. This phrase doesn’t even have an exact translation into my language and the concept is entirely alien to me. I could maybe deal with it in a personal context but professionally it’s an impossibility. I get very resentful because this, to me, is a signal that people are trying to get from me what I’m not selling. I refuse to deal with emotions at work or do any emotional caretaking. I see students as adults and it looks very strange to me that adults would approach a virtual stranger like myself and start sharing their feelings.

                Besides, I do not believe that anybody can “make” anybody feel things.

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              2. I generally do the same things fluffymog does.
                Except I think one has to take correction for me being a male. I hope it is not sexist to assume that, at least statistically, students are more inclined to manipulate the female professors into the role of emotional caretakers in the first place.
                Nevertheless, I guess I do some emotional caretaking anyway. I usually say “I am sorry you feel this way, but this is part of the deal. There is a progression from not knowing or not being able to towards knowing and becoming able. If you could already do this perfectly…” I openly acknowledge student’s feelings (that may piss them off if the feeling is not genuine, but they cannot admit it… so they get a message that they cannot mess with me like that) but refuse to change anything in my behavior or my standards (with the exception of the rare cases when I indeed wronged the student somehow… but it is my own consciousness that is the judge of that, not the student).
                Based on my observations, very few students are consciously manipulative. Most seem to have mixed feelings. Somewhere deep inside they feel there is something wrong with those expectations of eternal comfort, but on the other hand they feel encouraged to expect it. If the professor respectfully pushes back, they back off.

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  3. It was only a matter of time until the successors of the Organisation Man arrived at Emory …

    They may as well be asking the students the questions, “Does the employee always follow organisational rules and guidelines?” and “Is the employee a good ‘company man’?”

    These are not appropriate questions for students to answer because it is not appropriate for students to be giving professors their organisational evaluations.

    That this is happening at all indicates that the administration has lost control and has allowed, in a manner of speaking, the “inmates” to run the asylum. Weak leadership would rather kow-tow to the sentiments of the students because that weak leadership believes it’s essential to their keeping positions of power.

    Gasset would not have been at all surprised — after all, he predicted this sort of thing roughly 85 years ago with “The Revolt of the Masses” …

    Of course, when elite students go bolshy toward what they perceive to be “the Establishment”, it might be because they simply haven’t been given sufficient challenges.

    I would also suggest this is a function of the incompetence that comes from weak leadership.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. The administration can’t let go of the model where students are consumers and professors are sales reps, and consumers have to be kept happy at all costs. It’s painfully ridiculous and very counterproductive. I don’t know how anybody can be expected to teach students one is afraid of disturbing in their certainties, identities, or belief systems.

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      1. I have to argue from Gasset’s point about the holding of opinions with incredible cynicism at this point …

        Do these students really have “certainties” or “identities” in the sense that they hold actual opinions, and are their “belief systems” anchored in something that resembles actual beliefs? Or are these conventions that have been put in place to entertain being comfortable (whilst being comfortably entertained)?

        I suppose in a sense I’m arguing that if these things are more or less simulated, it doesn’t really matter whether you offend or praise these people, except that the former threatens some residue of identity that they’ve been able to simulate.

        Teaching these people would consist of opening them up to the “monstrous possibility” of holding actual opinions, and of course once that’s done, they may decide that the “possible worlds” of self-delusion should be promptly sacked …

        No, no, it’s much more convenient to continue to phone it in from the comfort of the sofa, since it’s the seat of power of consumer choice …

        [… meanwhile, Curtis White and John Searle have trained the Pavlovian dog to chase simulated frisbees as part of a simulated reward system that is one of many possible variations of nightmares Jean Baudrillard had as a child …] 🙂

        [… also, I am imagining the inner dialogues of these students to the sound of Röyksöpp’s “Poor Leno” for what should be fairly obvious reasons …]

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        1. “Or are these conventions that have been put in place to entertain being comfortable (whilst being comfortably entertained)?”

          • Yes, absolutely. These labels are supposed to conceal one’s inner emptiness. To hear people rattle off their identity labels with completely empty eyes staring at you is disconcerting.

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    2. I like this analysis. But I am told that the weak leaders have won, and that it is nostalgic to think faculty have any rights. Do you think this is true?

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