Got walls?

There’s nothing like the first faculty meeting of the semester to disturb one’s peaceful slumbers and steal that most precious time, the final hours just before classes resume. Unless it’s a morning faculty meeting. “Wake up!” hollers so-called Reality. “To be awake is to be alive.” But Thoreau was not in attendance.

And hours later, yesterday morning, we were all clear as a bell on just how little power and influence we faculty members really possess when it comes to the whim and whimsy of our administrative masters.

Even more troubling: an administrator wielding (but not disclosing) “data” alleged to support moves we oppose, and insinuating that a Higher Power (i.e., the Provost) may be “perturbed” with our intransigence.

Self-knowledge is ingredient to wisdom, of course. We tell our students that all the time. So if there was any doubt: we know there’s nothing further we can do to resist the will of the administrative tsar who wants to rob us of our favorite classroom in order to make space (literally) for our newest colleagues.

I think we already knew that, and could have spent the morning more productively than banging our heads on the figurative wall. But it was nice to sit in that room again with old friends, as another term begins, admitting our collective powerlessness and trying to remind ourselves of the real sphere of our actual influence.

“That room,” that grungy old classroom across the hall where the heart of our curriculum has been beating for decades. And where we hold our staff meetings.  So many memories, so many classes and students and conversations and lyceum talks. If the Decider has her way, it’ll be walled and subdivided and reassigned next year. A shiny new “office suite,” perhaps? We’re told we should be grateful, in our impotence. Resistance is futile. All in all its just another brick in the wall, right?

But, what is “power” for an academic, an educator? Surely not the misguided prerogative to defy reasonable requests and impose authority arbitrarily. Our power resides, if anywhere, in our privilege and opportunity to try another semester to influence the thought and lives and fortunes of bright inquisitive young people.  Administrators may tell us where to build physical partitions, but we’re the lucky ones who sometimes get to break down the more divisive walls between people and peoples and their ideas and prejudices. We get to open the space that matters most, the space between their ears.

Can’t resist dedicating this to our friends in Cope Hall:


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