Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Stop Violence Against Women

Today is International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. It begins a 16-day period of activism against Gender Violence. In such a large, global battle, it can be difficult to know where to begin. Luckily, there are organizations out there specifically devoted to these causes. You can see what is being done and add your name to a list of people in support of ending such violence.

Also, after recently reading my January post when Obama came into office, I have become much more active in getting on the phone and calling or writing my state rep. It is so easy to say that we don't have the time or the money or the know-how. However, it doesn't take long, and as a woman, it is my responsibility to actively represent those who cannot, for whatever reason, speak themselves.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

White Male Privilege

I'm sick of it. I've really been examining my own privilege as a white, middle class, hetero female, but I've experienced a lot of the above lately.

Today, I finished teaching classes and walked into the department chair's office. He asked if the student interested in dropping my class had found me. I stated that I had just finished class and that no, I had not. Another instructor said that the student has been there for hours. I advised that had the student checked my schedule, she would have been aware that I was in class. The chair informed me that her father was with me and named the student. I said, "Ah. The student who stopped coming a month into class. Now she wants to drop a week and a half before finals." The instructor stated that he was actually related to the girl and that she had been ill and that she was "just a freshman." I informed him that I had many freshman and that I had talked to other ill students who had dropped in a timely manner. The chair was very supportive and said it was totally up to me as to whether or not I would give her a "Q" or fail her.

I walked back to my office thinking about it as, according to my syllabus and policies, the girl has already failed in my mind. Within minutes, the girl and her father stepped into my office. I invited them to sit. The girl did; the father did not (notice body politics at play here). I advised that she had already failed my class. She explained that she had "messed up" and just wanted another chance. I advised that she could petition for a grade replacement and that it would not affect her GPA if she took it successfully. Her father then broke in, respectfully but forcefully, stating that she was having problems with depression and that he wasn't even aware that she wasn't attending class. Well, a. I don't believe him, and b. it doesn't matter. Figure it out. Get your stuff together. The point, however, is that I signed the drop slip: I signed it with a "Q."

I am furious with myself. I'm angry that another (male) instructor would comment on my policy or the student. I'm angry that the student's father came down here. I'm angry that he tried to play on my sympathies. I'm angry that I gave in. I'm angry that as a young teacher, I felt compelled to give in. I don't like it at all. I'm most upset with myself, but I am also furious that I should have to feel somehow wrong (because her father was there) for wanting to fail her. I'm angry that he came as a white middle class, well-dressed male and laid his privilege out on my desk, and I'm angry that I succumbed to that privilege.

I'm ready for the semester to be over, and I wish I could take it back.