ABCs of PLU: U is for University
I was the co-editor of a Matrix edited volume that, in the fashion of a child’s alphabet book, used a different university/social justice word for each letter of the alphabet as a jumping off point for further reflection. My contribution was “U is for University,” which I have replicated below. You can read the whole volume online here.
“I think that every student, every faculty member, and every administrator should ask her or himself everyday, ‘what is a university for?’ […]
I always thought what was supposed to happen was something called ‘education,’ which is a kind of transformation and (from educare in Latin) a ‘leading forth’: [your teachers] lead you out of your state, and you leave University different, as someone else, other than theyou who came in. […] We may be shifting to an idea of universities as ‘expressive’ spaces, where students come in and try to discover and express their identity in a supportive environment. […]
I tend to think that’s a fundamental misunderstanding of what a university can, let alone must, be in a free society.”
– Dr. Teresa Bejan, Associate Professor of Politial Theory at the University of Oxford
(Virginia Review of Politics, April 2017)
I have had a few professors laugh at me recently when I mention that Ithink I have changed a lot since starting at PLU. It’s a knowing laugh, a “no shit” laugh, a “thank god” laugh. It’s an acknowledgement that I take longer to think before I speak and that the words come out a little slower, a little quieter. It’s a recognition that some of my impatienceand insecurity was left on the hairdresser’s floor with the faux hawk that accompanied me that first September.
This laugh is also their awareness that I have only reached an early benchmark, foreshadowing much more learning and changing and transformation.
I think it is tempting to think about a college education (following Wendy Brown’s Undoing the Demos) in a neoliberal way: how much more incomecan I make because I took these four years off from the labor market? Following this line of thought, the growth I found in my four years atPLU only mattered if it resulted in a boost to my lifetime income.
I want to explore a concern I have about this impulse as it intersects with the popular word “belonging” on campus. Surely, it would be easyfor a university simply interested in turning profit and pedigree through students to emphasize belonging as a feeling of comfort — a lack ofunease, a lack of discomfort with the status quo.