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[Xmca-l] Re: managerialism in academia: a critique of "against students"

Jacob, thanks for sharing this provocative piece. It would take a week to address many of the points, so I'll confine myself to one that follows from a gross overgeneralization about university faculty in this essay. That is not to say that there aren't many spot-on points worthy of development. But I think that there's a clarification that's critical to make here. (I'm copying this note to Ahmed as well.)

The author writes: All of these ways of making students into the problem work to create a picture of professors or academics as the ones who are “really” oppressed by students. This is what it means to articulate a position or a view “against students.” One US professor speaks of being “frightened” by his liberal students. He blames so much on “identity politics.” And indeed so much is blamed on identity politics: that term is used whenever we challenge how spaces are occupied. It has become another easy dismissal. We are learning here about professors (their investments, emotions and strategies of dismissal) more than we are learning about students.

I think I know the "one US professor" essay to which she refers to here. I can't find it, but the author was a vulnerable faculty member--untenured or temporary (adjunct, etc.). Sara Ahmed (the author of the essay Jake forwarded) presents university faculty as monolithic, tenured, and hierarchical in relation to students. But the "one US professor" was none of the above (though a male). His concern was that if he didn't pander to students, he'd get bad evaluations and not be rehired. That's quite a different kettle of fish from the secure, predatory professors Ahmed suggests characterize the profession. If anything, the neoliberal model is replacing tenured faculty with less secure, more easily terminated teachers who work on annual or by-the-course contracts. I think that their concerns are worth listening to, along with those of students.

All this is NOT an endorsement of callous, predatory professors, of whom I've met too many in my 25 years in higher education (and many before that in my studies). Rather, it's a clarification of what I consider to be one important misrepresentation by Ahmed.  

-----Original Message-----
From: xmca-l-bounces+smago=uga.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu [mailto:xmca-l-bounces+smago=uga.edu@mailman.ucsd.edu] On Behalf Of Jacob McWilliams
Sent: Friday, June 26, 2015 10:20 AM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture Activity; eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: [Xmca-l] managerialism in academia: a critique of "against students"

>From time to time on this listserv, I've seen posts about the struggles 
working within the shifting politics of academia.

This morning I came across a post by Sara Ahmed: "Against students":

In it, Ahmed takes on:

   - The phenomenon, rearing its head again recently, of professors feeling
   censored by students and the culture of "identity politics" in higher
   - The tendency of some academics to feel a nostalgia for a past that
   they see as characterized by perfect freedom and pursuit of ideas
   - The issue of trigger warnings in college classrooms, and the critique
   of students as being "oversensitive"
   - The challenge of addressing issues of sex discrimination and sexual
   harassment in academia

This article is a brilliant feminist critique of dominant discourses around these issues, and in my view well worth a read, and a discussion, by members of this listserv.


Jacob (Jenna) McWilliams
Educational Psychology and Learning Sciences Program University of Colorado Boulder j.mcwilliams@colorado.edu http://www.jennamcwilliams.com