“That’s Not My Job. . . Is It?”

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.

4 Replies to ““That’s Not My Job. . . Is It?””

  1. Katie, I enjoyed reading your post and agree with so many of your points. Challenge zones are a great idea, isn’t that what we are supposed to be doing in education? I also think that we need to help students learn how to be comfortable when their perspectives/opinions are challenged. This can be difficult at first, especially when our perspectives have deep emotional or cultural origins. When we open ourselves to new ideas however, we allow for real intellectual growth to occur.

  2. I agree. Students come from different experiences, and faculty members must not stifle this conversation in the classroom. Students can only tell their story from their reality. It is the job of the professor to help facilitate a dialogue that promotes growth and learning for all students in the classroom. Not only must we have open discussions about tough conversations, but students must also be open to listening to the conversation. In today’s contextual environment, everyone is talking past each other. So, the question then becomes how to get people to listen to others? Yes, faculty members must prepare their students for this open dialogue in such a way that students do not shut down.

  3. One: I love the way you write.
    Two: I love your points. You bring up a great concept that we need to create environments where students can flourish…..and where do those happen? Where there are not so many boundaries! I think we do need to create safe spaces, but if we don’t give students the opportunity to be challenged, ask difficult questions, or create tough environments where students can grow, than we are not doing our job as educators! I think we live in a world today, especially recently, where topics and areas are feared due to the repercussions and I think it is more important, now more than ever, to break those walls down and speak our minds (in moderation) 😉

    Great blog and love the way you write 🙂

  4. Katie,

    Your ethics blog brought me here. What an interesting read I have to say.

    I can give hundreds of examples where faculty members spoon feed information to students without really challenging them. I understand there are tools and techniques to foster creativity in a classroom but why isn’t it already the traditional way of teaching classes?

    I also think it requires a certain skill set from faculty members to be able to promote that kind of environment. Maybe we need to set standards before we hire tenure track faculties?

    Thanks for opening my eyes to this topic.

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