Disruptive Technologies

Course site for Disruptive Technologies. Exploring identity, community, & design.

What We Want From Faculty

A pop up WordPress site from students at UVA in the wake of the Martese Johnson incident. That’s a terrible word, incident, to describe what happened to this young man. Even in the absence of an appropriate word I felt it was an important site to share for lots of reasons. Through the lens of both community and identity I feel there is much to discuss. What in these words can you relate with?

 In class on 3/19/2015, our class discussion touched on the lack of support students feel from faculty in the aftermath of the brutalization of Martese Johnson and at other times of crisis here at UVA, especially when those crises center around race. We took the last ten minutes of class and wrote out what we wanted to tell our faculty. These comments are excerpted from those 27 students’ in-class responses. Who are we? We are women and men. We are Asian, black, Latino, white and multiracial. We are from a variety of cultural, national, ethnic, socioeconomic, gender and sexual identities and backgrounds.

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  1. I can relate to these words:
    “I need you to make your classrooms not only a safe space, but also an open and welcoming space. When there is an event like this, please talk to us about it…”
    There are so many situations that happen in the national and local news, and in campus communities – many times it’s hard to know how to talk about the brutal, racist, sexist, violent, degrading behavior that we witness.
    A safe, opening, and welcoming classroom can provide the context where students and teachers can address these complex issues and hopefully come to a deeper understanding of what’s going on in our communities; maybe such discussions could be a step towards healing.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Jay. I remember when September 11th happened I was teaching a class — and while PSU did not cancel classes I recall lots of faculty doing so. Class was later that afternoon and I emailed my students and said I’m willing to cancel, but that I would also come to the classroom and just hang out and talk with them. They were mostly freshman and they were terrified. Almost all of them showed up that day and while I certainly didn’t have the emotional energy to do it, I felt like they needed a grown up to talk to about one of the most horrific things that will happen in this country. Not the same as the context above, but as a teacher I feel an obligation to help my students navigate all sorts of complex conversations.

      • Chris Williams

        March 26, 2015 at 3:28 pm

        I think the faculty the students are talking about are the ones who do not take the mentor role frequently. Cole, what you did for your students that day is that extra everyone wants but either don’t have the time to give.

        • Hi Chris, I hear you … but let me add this — you make time, you don’t have time. My days are consumed with helping to run a University (and I teach on the side). So much of it is about what we think our roles are as an individual and a member of a community. That day when we were attacked I saw a room full of kids who were far from home (many from the NY/NJ area) who needed an adult. I don’t see it going above and beyond, I see it as a core responsibility that we as educators/administrators/staff/whatever owe to our students.

          I like that the students at UVA are saying out loud. That goes a long way.

    • If we can’t talk about sensitive issues in a classroom, then we have no reason to be in a classroom. The cornerstone of learning is transformation and the essential ingredient of transformation is discomfort.

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