Tag Archives: academia

Happy Birthday Abraham Maslow!

Maslow was a psychologist, famous for ordering human needs in terms of priority, but sociologists aren’t too picky, and this was too hilarious to pass up:

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At GeeksAreSexy. Thanks Dolores R!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Should There be Trigger Warnings on Syllabi?

Apparently universities are issuing guidelines to help professors consider adding “trigger warnings” to syllabi for “racism, classism, sexism, heterosexism, cissexism, ableism, and other issues of privilege and oppression,” and to remove triggering material when it doesn’t “directly contribute to learning goals.” One example given is Chinua Achebe’s “Things Fall Apart” for its colonialism trigger. This from New Republic this week.

I have no desire to enter the fray of online discussions on trigger warnings and sensitivity. I have used trigger warnings. Most recently, I made a personal decision to not retweet Dylan Farrow’s piece in the New York Times detailing Woody Allen’s sexual abuse. I was uncomfortable shoving a very powerful description at people without some kind of warning. I couldn’t read past the first three sentences. I couldn’t imagine how it read for others. So, I referenced the article with a trigger warning and kept it moving.

But, I’m not sure that’s at all the kind of deliberation universities are doing with their trigger warning policies. Call me cynical, but the “student-customer” movement is the soft power arm of the neo-liberal corporatization of higher education. The message is that no one should ever be uncomfortable because students do not pay to feel things like confusion or anger. That sounds very rational until we consider how the student-customer model doesn’t silence power so much as it stifles any discourse about how power acts on people.

I’ve talked before about how the student-customer model becomes a tool to rationalize away the critical canon of race, sex, gender, sexuality, colonialism, and capitalism.

The trigger warned syllabus feels like it is in this tradition. And I will tell you why.

In the last three weeks alone: a college student has had structural violence of normative harassment foisted on her for daring to have sex (for money), black college students at Harvard have taken to social media to catalog the casual racism of their colleagues, and black male students at UCLA made a video documenting their erasure.

It would seem that the most significant “issue” for a trigger warning is actual racism, sexism, ableism, and systems of oppression. Cause I’ve got to tell you, I’ve had my crystal stair dead end at the floor of racism and sexism and I’ve read “Things Fall Apart.” The trigger warning scale of each in no way compares.

Yet, no one is arguing for trigger warnings in the routine spaces where symbolic and structural violence are acted on students at the margins. No one, to my knowledge, is affixing trigger warnings to department meetings that WASP-y normative expectations may require you to code switch yourself into oblivion to participate as a full member of the group. Instead, trigger warnings are being encouraged for sites of resistance, not mechanisms of oppression.

At for-profit colleges, strict curriculum control and enrollment contracts effectively restrict all critical literature and pedagogy. We elites balk at such barbarism. What’s a trigger warning but the prestige university version? A normative exclusion as opposed to a regulatory one?

Trigger warnings make sense on platforms where troubling information can be foisted upon you without prior knowledge, as in the case of retweets. Those platforms are in the business of messaging and amplification.

That is an odd business for higher education to be in… unless the business of higher education is now officially business.

In which case, we may as well give up on the tenuous appeal we have to public good and citizenry-building because we don’t have a kickstand to lean on.

If universities are not in the business of being uncomfortable places for silent acts of power and privilege then the trigger warning we need is: higher education is dead but credential production lives on; enter at your own risk.

Tressie McMillan Cottom is a PhD candidate in the Sociology Department at Emory University in Atlanta, GA.  Her doctoral research is a comparative study of the expansion of for-profit colleges.  You can follow her on twitter and at her blog, where this post originally appeared.

Sunday Fun: “I Blame Society”

When a sociologist’s dog eats her homework…
2Thank you, genius artist Gemma Correll!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Happy Birthday, Simone de Beauvoir!

Source: Stars Portraits, by ci-fij.

Have a scholar we should commemorate?  Send us a cool pic and we will!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Judith Butler Wishes You a Merry Christmas

1Thanks to Blingee.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Happy Birthday, Noam Chomsky!

Source: Robert Pereida Illustration.

Have a scholar we should commemorate?  Send us a cool pic and we will!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

College Photoshops Black Man’s Head into Marketing Material… Again

UPDATE: I may have been wrong about this one and, if so, I apologize.  The Univ. of Alabama has released a statement saying that the image is not photoshopped, including a quote from the student saying “It’s kind of funny, but people are blowing it out of proportion a little bit.”  If anyone has further information on this story, please email it to socimages@thesocietypages.org.

In 2000, the University of Wisconsin – Madison was sued by a man named Diallo Shabazz.  Because the college wanted to present itself as a diverse place, Shabazz, a black man, had been featured in university marketing materials for several years.  That year, however, his face was photoshopped into a picture of a crowd at a football game.   He complained, but was blown off.  He’d had enough.  In his lawsuit, he asked not for a settlement, but for a “budgetary apology”: money dedicated to increasing the actual diversity of the campus.

Today @EricTTung sent us another example of this kind of doctored diversity, currently the first slide on the homepage of the University of Alabama.  Do you see it?

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How about now?

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Note the skin color of the African American man’s hands.

As I’d written in the post about Shabazz, this teaches us both that colleges believe that diversity is a useful commodity with which to market their institutions and that, “if real diversity isn’t possible, cosmetic diversity will do.”

Recruitment of minorities to a mostly white campus: tricky.  Addressing the systematic educational underinvestment in minorities prior to arriving: expensive.  Retaining minorities in that environment: challenging.  Photoshop: easy.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Happy Birthday, Louis Althusser!

Good day, Louis!  You may or may not have played leapfrog with Karl Marx:

Image borrowed from HubPages.

Have a scholar we should commemorate?  Send us a wacky pic and we will!

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College and the author of Gender: Ideas, Interactions, Institutions, with Myra Marx Ferree. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.