Lee Skallerup Bessette, writing from Kentucky in the USA
Almost a year ago, I decided to start blogging and got on Twitter. A few months after that, I responded to a call for submissions from the University of Venus. The collaboration with the writers I’ve met and interacted with online has been amazing. Writing about issues in higher education that I care about has been incredibly liberating and empowering. And being calleda role model, well, kinda rocks.
But this is all well-worn territory for me (and for you if you’ve been reading me at all). The point of this post is to try and convince you why you should blog, specifically for the University of Venus. UVenus was founded on the premise that the university was ignoring an entire generation of new voices. This is an opportunity to have your voice heard about your thoughts and experiences in higher education.
Our narrative? It has essentially been taken over and written for us. Professors and administrators are being spoken for and spoken about; for an example, look no further than the angry backlash when news that undergraduate students don’t learn was released. We are facing massive budgetary shortfalls (at least in the public system), increasing pressure from the government to increase graduation rates and other measures of accountability, and watching as an increasing number of young people, particularly non-traditional or minority students, are pushed out or pushed aside.
The university as a whole is under siege. Public universities are losing state funding. Adjuncts make up more than half of the professoriate. Undergrads are, apparently, not learning anything. Professors are receiving death threats for their writing and research activities. Students are defaulting on their student loans at an alarming rate, or sacrificing their physical well-being in order not to. The change has come, and so many of us are sitting idly by and letting the change happen to us, rather than being the change. Blogging is one way, albeit small, that we can come together, write about our real experiences, and work for change that isn’t dictated to us.
Mostly though, we need to start talking because we need to confront the bullies; that’s what the media, the politicians, administrators, and even a number of academics are, bullies. They intimidate and manipulate our behavior, they dictate the terms of engagement constantly to their benefit, and they disregard or misrepresent just about all attempts to authentically stand up to them. So many academics seem to have developed a sort of Stockholm Syndrome; not only do we identify with our overlords, we seek constantly to please and appease them. It’s the only reason I can think of why people have called me “brave” for blogging as myself.
At the risk of being accused of appropriating and/or trivializing, please allow me to quote Chris Colfer in his acceptance speech at this year’s Golden Globes: “Well, screw that, kids!” Having been bullied myself as a child, I know how painful it is. I also know how liberating it was to say, screw that, and hit send on my first blog post as myself. Stop standing on the sidelines and blog for yourself and blog for the future of higher education, whatever form it may end up taking. Our voices aren’t just for lecturing undergrads and writing endless articles and monographs. Our voices belong to us and we need to start using them.
And let me end by anticipating all the ways my writing here will be dismissed. I am writing from a position of relative privilege, which is why we are trying to create a space where people who do not have privilege can speak up for themselves. And as for being naïve? I’ve been accused of that my entire life. Doesn’t mean I can’t also be right.