Fri Fun Facts: Academic Privilege and Making a Difference

Today’s Friday Fun Facts continues my discussion about the Occupy conversations. I’m thinking about academic privilege and my own responsibilities. I’ll end with some points about how I’m reminded how faculty make a difference.

There are different units and levels of privilege on campus. Even though I am pre-tenure, I know how lucky I am to have my teaching-focused regular faculty position. Regardless, in some respects on campus, I am the 1%. Off campus, I am also part of the 1% by virtue of my college education. I might not fit per the income guidelines as a Senior Instructor at UVIC does not get paid $170, 000 or at least this one does not! I’ve been grappling with my political commitments. I marched to the legislature and then back to Centennial Square. But, I only officially visited the encampment twice during the month long “occupation.”

I did speak to this movement in other venues and feel that my work in the classroom and office hours mentoring students is important. Is it enough, though? I know that some days when office hours and teaching have drained me, I have felt that it is more than enough. Yet, on other days I wonder if I am doing enough to make a difference in my students’ academic lives and experience on campus and in the larger community.

Just as I wonder this, as I wander from one meeting to the next, I check my email and see emails from two former students thanking me for making a difference in their lives. The timing was perfect. Students telling me that the readings and lectures are influencing decisions or used in their daily lives reminds me that teaching and mentoring is important.

1. Office hours. It’s in office hours where I hear about successful classes. I hear so many positive statements about colleagues in Political Science or other departments. I wish I could bottle up these statements and send them to colleagues on rainy, cold days. They would warm up with the enthusiastic statements, “Her class made me change my major.” Students can be effusive with their statements. I’m not sure they always remember to let the instructor know.

2. Walking across campus. It’s amazing to see how some students light up seeing an instructor. I’ll meet a colleague for coffee and a student will see us and it’s nice to see the positive reactions.

3. Communication. Facebook messages, emails, and cards make their way to our mailboxes and students thank you for a class or a letter.

I can add to the numbered points, but I won’t. Enjoy the weekend.