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.
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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

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Cornell Fraternity Reprimanded For Hosting 'Pig Roast'

"Continuing to allow such students to prowl a college campus rather than face expulsion appears a rather questionable decision set forth by Cornell elites."
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After receiving numerous reports, recent investigations were launched leading to the uncovering of a rather appalling contest used to determine incoming pledges of Cornell University's chapter of Zeta Beta Tau.

The fraternity was found guilty of administering a competition in which pledges were awarded points for initiating sexual intercourse with female students. However, unlike many similar contests popularized through rushes hosted by fraternities across the nation, Zeta Beta Tau coined their particular competition the "pig roast" in honor of their unique tiebreaker ritual. Should two or more pledges find themselves at a tie, the one who sleeps with the largest woman wins.

After the university's investigations confirmed the legitimacy of their reports in January, Zeta Beta Tau has been placed on a two year probation period in which the fraternity is required to employ a live-in adviser in order to enforce the proper conduct of current members and regularly educate them on the issue of sexual assault. In addition, members will be expected to take part in a minimum of two campus events in recognition of Cornell's Sexual Assault Awareness Week.

The question remains, however, whether a slap on the wrist such as this has truly done the women involved justice. Or, perhaps, presuming the acts were consensual, these women were only victimized through the humiliation of being unknowingly chosen for such a ritual rather than the sexual act itself. Therefore, can one lawfully designate this an act of sexual assault?

If a woman consents to a sexual encounter, she has not suddenly fallen victim to her partner. Rather, in this case, she is suffering the consequences of sleeping with a perfect stranger whose motives remained unclear. A brief look at any news source today would prove that this aftereffect is seemingly minor in comparison to the many things that happen to women who make similar choices. Although, this is not to say that the women involved deserved to be used this way by any means.

While arguments from either side of the issue of victimization may very well continue to remain a matter of opinion, it can be universally agreed that the actions of the Zeta Beta Tau members were resoundingly wrong based on natural principles. Another's body is not to be disrespected and sexually exploited for one's gain. Thus, continuing to allow such students the privilege to prowl a college campus rather than face expulsion appears a rather questionable decision set forth by Cornell elites.

Cover Image Credit: Guest of a Guest

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It Is Time To Bring An End To The Hate Between Liberals And Conservatives

The most important thing regarding the human condition is to treat each other with kindness.
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I think it is time to address the lack of respect each political party holds for each other. Neither party is innocent in my eyes.

I will begin by saying this: I currently identify as liberal because that is where most of my political views lie. However, I am disgusted by the behaviors enacted by some of the liberals my age.

Being a member of the University of Washington community has placed me among many liberal individuals who share similar views as me. Unfortunately, from several of my peers I have heard comments such as "I hate conservatives," "Conservatives are so stupid," and "I do not ever want to be around conservatives." I am guilty of saying phrases like these as well. I am sure some conservatives have said similar statements about liberals.

But now, the hate needs to stop.

I was reminded of the violent hatred between liberals and conservatives when the conservative group Patriot Prayer recently came to visit the University of Washington. Naturally, their presence attracted a protest that some UW students attended.

I had no desire to attend the protest because of the possibility that it could result in violence. Additionally, I did not think a protest would be beneficial to anyone.

A couple of my friends decided to attend, however. I remember watching short videos of the protest they filmed and put on their Snapchat stories. One particular video disgusted me.

The video showed a man surrounded by a group of people. He was trying to walk through the group but was repeatedly being shoved by people from several directions, almost getting pushed to the ground. In the background people chanted, "Nazis are not welcome here."

I do not know exactly what prompted some protesters to call the people there, specifically this man, Nazis, but this behavior is unacceptable. I was appalled. Are these really some of the people I go to school with? Are these really some of the people who claim to promote and fight for equality and love for all? I just know this: that kind of behavior is not what love looks like.

It is perfectly okay to disagree with someone else's opinion - there is nothing wrong with that. Disagreements provide opportunities for debate. They challenge our ideas, causing us to consider other perspectives and to reevaluate our own, ultimately resulting in growth. Regardless of whether or not our own opinion changes, we are provided with a more in-depth look at an alternate view.

However, disagreeing with someone else's opinion does not give one the right to harass or assault a person. Nothing gives one the right to do that. Acting in this way is rude, dangerous, and hurtful to people. It also affects the way outsiders view the person committing the harassment, and the group they identify with.

How can we expect to bring an end to harassment and assault if we engage in those behaviors as well? How can we expect to drive out hate by acting this way? I fear we are forgetting how to treat each other with respect and dignity. There should not come a day where we have lost all human decency.

I believe it is occurrences like this that paint liberals in a bad light in the eyes of conservatives, even though this behavior is not representative of all liberals.

Though neither group is entirely absent of violent behaviors, it is important to remember this: the actions of one conservative do not reflect conservatives as a whole, and the actions of one liberal do not reflect liberals as a whole. Both groups have toxic members just as much as both groups have loving members. One member does not define the entire group.

We need to reevaluate our actions. We need to reevaluate the assumptions we make about other groups. We need to consider the reasons why people have the beliefs that they do.

Whether a person's beliefs were instilled in them during childhood from the way they were raised or have been shaped by their experiences, it is important to recognize that not everyone will see the world the way we do. Each person sees the world through their own lens.

That being said, the most important thing regarding the human condition is to treat each other with kindness.

Cover Image Credit: Everypixel.com

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