Additional Blog Post #2
I found this week’s reading extremely interesting as I had never before heard to term academic freedom. I initially thought it means the ability to study whatever we wanted, but the reading from the AAUP website defined academic freedom as “the indispensable requisite for unfettered teaching and research in institutions of higher education.” (Protecting Academic Freedom, retrieved Feb 26, 2017 from https://www.aaup.org/our-work/protecting-academic-freedom). I appreciated how they emphasized the quality of work and the ability to have equal access. I have seen before how certain professors put their interests above individuals, or put the university’s reputation over giving their students high quality classes. I think that the ferocious need for tenure can really hold instructors back by making that the priority, and actually teaching students a secondary goal. After all, why call yourself a teacher if you don’t even care about teaching?
One of the readings that I found most interesting was that of trigger warnings. I agree with the assessment that they can sometimes be counterproductive to the classroom. While I understand the need in certain situations, if we consider everything to be a trigger, how can we be challenged by differing viewpoints and grow as individuals and academics? I think that faculty need to take their own personal opinions into consideration and try to create a space that is free of blatant bias one way or another, and help foster creativity, academic expression, and still keep necessary safe spaces for at-risk students without “babying” them. As faculty, I think our job is to help students learn, and if we are cutting off information because it could be considered inflammatory, we are hindering that process.
Take into consideration past implications of the word “queer”. Twenty years ago, that would be considered a derogatory term and would likely be something “triggering”. However, it is integral to the LGBTQ+ community to understand the history of the word, as well as how the community effectively took the word back, and took ownership of something perviously considered offensive. Rather than being triggered, we as a community challenged the current state of the word, learned about the circumstances, and used our abilities to change the societal meanings. I think that this can be applied in future circumstances to address certain triggers- this is not to say that an individual with PTSD doesn’t deserve a heads up before we show a screening of Saving Private Ryan, however I think that open discussions about tough topics will help students enter an uncomfortable space where they are challenged.
I have only been a GTA for a semester and a half, yet I have already had about five students that consistently came to my office hours to discuss academic concerns as well as personal ones. While I tried my best to always direct them to the proper resource (Cook Counseling, for example), I think that there is a certain duty to GTA’s to recognize our own limits. So how can we, as professionals in higher education, truly build a strong community, mentor students, and still maintain a sense of individual growth? I’m glad you asked! In addition to traditional safe spaces, I think we as faculty we should be encouraging safe “challenge zones” where students can consider new perspectives, learn about studies in other fields, and expand their current worldview.