Tuesday, March 9, 2010

When something horrible happens...

When something horrible happens, I feel obligated to talk to my students about it. For one thing, they're freshman and easily jarred by bad things. I feel like since freshmen comp students do spend so much time with me compared to their other instructors, I have that sort of duty in my job description. For example, earlier this semester we got texts at 5 AM that a gunman was on campus, and I took the next class period to spend time talking about how safety plays into our campus lives.

Now I'm dealing with something much bigger...If you have been keeping up with the news, you have probably heard that a well-known athlete supposedly sexually assaulted a Georgia College student this weekend. I came into class yesterday ready to discuss this issue with my students. You just can't ignore a giant drooling gorilla in the middle of a room...just like we all couldn't ignore the reporters around campus or big traffic problem yesterday/this weekend... Unfortunately, my students failed to see the gravity of the situation. I heard a lot of things that disturbed me, like "she asked for it". I know that there's not a lot of information out right now, but these kinds of snap judgments from both male and female students alike are really disappointing. I told myself that maybe it doesn't matter what my students believe what they do, so long as I help them think about WHY they believe that.

Thoughts? I'd appreciate hearing from you guys! Hope you're having a good day!


  1. First, I love that you care enough to discuss these things with your students. When I teach next year, I'm going to keep this in mind.

    As far as the GCSU girl and BR, I don't know enough info to make a judgment but even with more info, no woman ever asks to be sexually assaulted, so that can't be the root of the issue. If she was dressed provacatively, she could have been hoping for some attention, but not to be sexually assaulted. If she threw herself at him and then became uncomfortable with what he wanted to do in return, she was not asking to be sexually assaulted. Ugh. I am glad that you are asking your students to think about this stuff though.

  2. I'm glad you're trying to make them think critically about their beliefs, especially dangerous ones like girls "asking" to be raped. I think all we can do is explain why we disagree and try to show them the fallacies in arguments like that. Some might not get it, but some will and that makes a difference.

  3. Man what a difficult predicament to be in, and I mean having to have that discussion and hearing those sorts of things from your students.

    JT I think I am going to save your comments as well as those by Ms. Sushi because they are very fitting and what I'd like to remember if I'm ever in a classroom again.

  4. I listen to NPR a good deal at my job, and I remember this segment on "Talk of the Nation" being very illuminating and jolting. It's about how many college campuses have poor or nonexistent systems for reporting and handling sexual assaults, and this results in instant oppression for any woman who seeks justice.

    Ignorant student comments are disturbing and wrong, but it's downright sinister when "she asked for it" get inscribed in an institution - this segment portrays how that works. I suppose what's especially insidious is that this oppression (like so much structural oppression) operates as a series of absences which people then fill with assumptions about an individual's behavior.

  5. I don't have anything helpful, but I agree with you about needing to talk about these things in the classroom. You're right that for a lot of these students you are the most accessible instructor they have; you're not at the front of a 300 person lecture hall, you're right there and can have a real conversation. Getting them to at least think about the situation, and think about why they feel the way do, is probably the best you can do. Also, I'm sure you did, but encourage them to talk to a professional if they've been victimized or feel traumatized by what is going on.

  6. I'm sorry I'm coming to the discussion late, and even sorrier that you are having to face this, but wanted to chime in and say I agree. I teach T-Th, so I have a little bit longer per class period, but I start every class by asking what's going on in the news, first globally, then locally. I think it keeps us all informed, and it allows us to talk about anything we're troubled by going on in town.

    I'm not sure it makes them better writers, but it does make them think-- which I think eventually makes you a better writer. One of my best undergraduate professors always said, "To be a writer, you have to teach yourself how to think," and I try to implement that, even in comp, as much as I can.


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