I Stood Up To My Professor And This Is What Happened

I Stood Up To My Professor And This Is What Happened

I knew that this was my moment, this was my time.
53
views

It was a typical day in my large lecture class. I'm a history major, but this class was from a different program of study, one I was not too familiar with, but a subject I was interested in all the same.

My professor was in the middle of a lecture when a student piped up. She asked why we weren't looking at women's contributions to the field. The class was silent for a moment until our teacher explained that there simply weren't that many. The lecture continued until the girl raised her hand again and explained that she just Googled women in that field during the relevant time period, and there were at least 20 results that came up from her first search. When faced with this challenge, the professor explained that there were indeed some women who were involved in the field, but they were not influential to our subject of study, and therefore are not, essentially, worth the time to look into.

Days passed. I wrote to a former teacher and expressed to her my belated thanks that she had included narratives of women and other marginalized groups in her class, and explained what was occurring in my lecture class.

Noticing the concern that his students expressed, my professor offered the class a vote to see if we wanted to have a day devoted to women in the subject. About a week later, the final results were in — and it failed, with about two-thirds of the class voting against such a lecture. My professor had, so far, only briefly mentioned one woman who was involved in the field, giving her a discussion that lasted no longer than couple of minutes. On one of the final days of class, however, he discussed one female at half-an-hour’s length.

After that class, I talked with some of my friends and expressed what I believe to be important — that we start taking a holistic look at these subjects. I understand that the women in this field were not influential. Part of it has to do with the time period in which we are studying. Women simply did not have the opportunity to get involved in this field — another issue in itself — and those who managed to find themselves in it could not achieve the great success and accomplishments of their male counterparts, for a variety of societal reasons. But what is wrong with acknowledging what they did produce, whether or not they were “influential"? Isn’t there something there that we can learn, if only for context and understanding of a time period? My friends listened and supported my position. They encouraged me to go to my professor and talk to him.

I was nervous. I’m not a confrontational person, and I’ve never been one of the students in my classes to speak up about this sort of thing. I knew that if I talked about it, I would cry. But I realized that those women — and everyone who was part of a marginalized population — deserve to be remembered for what accomplishments they were able to make in spite of their struggles. I knew that this was my moment, this was my time. The next day, I came up to the professor and asked him if I could stop by his office to discuss women in the subject. He looked a little surprised, but said yes.

I walked into his office and told him that I would have loved to have studied women alongside the men we were studying. I asked him how he chose which people to study.

It was a rational, civil discussion, but I cried the whole time. He said, "I can see you're passionate about this.”

I said that, "if we treat women as a separate issue, we perpetuate the dominant narrative that exists today." And there are so many issues that could be fixed if we can learn to liberate ourselves from the current mindset.

He said that his approach is to look at the influential people. He said that he didn’t want to study women simply because they were women — a valid point, in my opinion. And he said that it's not worth our time to look at the very tiny percentage of women involved in the field because that was simply the reality of it. He believes life isn't fair, so he is just teaching to that reality.

I said I could see his point, that that was indeed the reality of it, but again, that only maintains the dominant narrative and affects today. He said he could see that I was trying to give a voice to the voiceless, but he is trying to focus on a group of elite men who had influence in their field.

I told him that I thought it would be valuable to look at just the lives and experiences of everyone during the time period — for context and for learning. Those women have contributions that can map onto the topics and themes we’re learning and would offer a richer experience and understanding.

He said that if I'm this passionate about something, it's not something I should let go. He expressed that he wants to hear what we have to say, and that I shouldn't feel defeated, but that I need to be resilient.

I told him I could see that we disagreed on what was important to study but thanked him for listening to me.

He told me to not feel defeated and stay resilient. Then I left into the rain and pulled my hood over my blotchy face and walked back to my room, feeling defeated and proud and sad and frustrated and strong and bitter and relieved and at peace all at the same time.

I think he understood my general point, but I don't think he really understood that I was seeing this as an intentional act toward equality and justice — equality and justice for my contemporary peers, as well as for all the souls who we ought to remember. This tiny step I took certainly made me realize how much I've taken my rights for granted. Power is an interesting thing.

While my professor and I disagreed in this discussion on how to approach studying women and other underrepresented groups, it really wasn’t a defeat. I had held 40 minutes of my professor’s undivided attention, and we had engaged in a discussion of ideas that he admitted had not ever come up to him until this year. He later followed up with an email, which tells me that I got him to think seriously about this. I’ve sent a response that acknowledges the points he made yet also expresses my position in a way that draws on some of the themes from his class. We’ll see what happens.

I think my professor is valid in some of the points he made and I do think he’s a fair and good person. But it was important to me to challenge the way he is teaching, to challenge the way we approach looking at these subjects and matters, and to defend the narratives — however small or big a role they played — because we can learn so much from them. It was thinking of all the brave suffragettes, all the women who defied the standards of their day, who gave me the courage to speak up. If those stories aren't shared, how can any change happen?

There is a lot that needs to be changed, I believe, in the way some things are taught. I'm glad that I went in to talk to my professor about what I believe needs to be considered and addressed. I'm glad I didn't let my emotions stop me from coming in to talk about it. I was nervous, but I knew that doing what was right and defending my position was something I'd never regret. I'm so grateful to the friends and family who I can lean on for support. Imagine what change could happen if everyone felt emboldened to speak up for what is right.

Cover Image Credit: Unsplash

Popular Right Now

It's Time To Thank Your First Roommate

Not the horror story kind of roommate, but the one that was truly awesome.
899002
views

Nostalgic feelings have recently caused me to reflect back on my freshman year of college. No other year of my life has been filled with more ups and downs, and highs and lows, than freshman year. Throughout all of the madness, one factor remained constant: my roommate. It is time to thank her for everything. These are only a few of the many reasons to do so, and this goes for roommates everywhere.

You have been through all the college "firsts" together.

If you think about it, your roommate was there through all of your first college experiences. The first day of orientation, wishing you luck on the first days of classes, the first night out, etc. That is something that can never be changed. You will always look back and think, "I remember my first day of college with ____."

You were even each other's first real college friend.

You were even each other's first real college friend.

Months before move-in day, you were already planning out what freshman year would be like. Whether you previously knew each other, met on Facebook, or arranged to meet in person before making any decisions, you made your first real college friend during that process.

SEE ALSO: 18 Signs You're A Little Too Comfortable With Your Best Friends

The transition from high school to college is not easy, but somehow you made it out on the other side.

It is no secret that transitioning from high school to college is difficult. No matter how excited you were to get away from home, reality hit at some point. Although some people are better at adjusting than others, at the times when you were not, your roommate was there to listen. You helped each other out, and made it through together.

Late night talks were never more real.

Remember the first week when we stayed up talking until 2:00 a.m. every night? Late night talks will never be more real than they were freshman year. There was so much to plan for, figure out, and hope for. Your roommate talked, listened, laughed, and cried right there with you until one of you stopped responding because sleep took over.

You saw each other at your absolute lowest.

It was difficult being away from home. It hurt watching relationships end and losing touch with your hometown friends. It was stressful trying to get in the swing of college level classes. Despite all of the above, your roommate saw, listened, and strengthened you.

...but you also saw each other during your highest highs.

After seeing each other during the lows, seeing each other during the highs was such a great feeling. Getting involved on campus, making new friends, and succeeding in classes are only a few of the many ways you have watched each other grow.

There was so much time to bond before the stresses of college would later take over.

Freshman year was not "easy," but looking back on it, it was more manageable than you thought at the time. College only gets busier the more the years go on, which means less free time. Freshman year you went to lunch, dinner, the gym, class, events, and everything else possible together. You had the chance to be each other's go-to before it got tough.

No matter what, you always bounced back to being inseparable.

Phases of not talking or seeing each other because of business and stress would come and go. Even though you physically grew apart, you did not grow apart as friends. When one of you was in a funk, as soon as it was over, you bounced right back. You and your freshman roommate were inseparable.

The "remember that one time, freshman year..." stories never end.

Looking back on freshman year together is one of my favorite times. There are so many stories you have made, which at the time seemed so small, that bring the biggest laughs today. You will always have those stories to share together.

SEE ALSO: 15 Things You Say To Your Roommates Before Going Out

The unspoken rule that no matter how far apart you grow, you are always there for each other.

It is sad to look back and realize everything that has changed since your freshman year days. You started college with a clean slate, and all you really had was each other. Even though you went separate ways, there is an unspoken rule that you are still always there for each other.

Your old dorm room is now filled with two freshmen trying to make it through their first year. They will never know all the memories that you made in that room, and how it used to be your home. You can only hope that they will have the relationship you had together to reflect on in the years to come.


Cover Image Credit: Katie Ward

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

Our Leaders Need A 'Time-Out'

We all learned a few essential rules as children.

109
views

As I look watch the news, I can't help but wonder if the lessons we learned as children might not serve our leaders well. They seem to have forgotten these basic lessons. I am reminded of the book by Robert Fulghum "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten."

Watch out, hold hands, and stick together.

I think this could be useful in a couple of different contexts. First, the current divisiveness in the country doesn't serve us well. We are first and foremost, a part of the family of humankind. Differences in politics, religion, and so on come in far behind that one important attribute. What happened to the notion of agreeing to disagree?

Second, when leaders get off a plane in another country, they should remember who they came with and who they represent - "watch out, hold hands, and stick together."

Clean up your own mess.

Trump seems to take great pleasure in blaming everyone else for their "mess." The government shutdown was someone else's fault – any Democrat. When the stock market went up, he happily took credit, but when it went down, he quickly shifted gears and placed the blame on the Federal Reserve Chairman. Daily and hourly tweets out of the White House place blame on someone else for his "mess." Sadly, he still likes to blame Obama and Hillary for his mess.

Don't lie.

Politicians have always had a bad reputation when it comes to honesty. Still, the number of lies that we hear from Trump (and members of his staff) is unprecedented even for a politician.

We all learned these lessons when we were little more than five years old. Now more than any time in history I think our leaders need a " time out" to re-learn these lessons.

Related Content

Facebook Comments