In a recent article posted in the Brown Daily Herald that reads more like it’s from the Onion, the Internet was blessed with a peek into the minds of so-called student activists at a top-10-ranked Ivy League university. In this world of politically correct protests and unreasonable demands from students (re: Ithaca College and Yale), perhaps the only surprising thing about the article is that it has taken this long for such complaints to arise.
According to Ashley Ferranti, assistant dean of student support services at Brown,
This work [activism] is an ‘important part of the academic learning experience,’
Without a doubt, the extracurriculars to which we devote ourselves during our short time at college are an essential part of the experience. Spending time outside the classroom participating in meaningful activities connects us to the community, gives us a sense of belonging, and an outlet to release stress from exams and homework. However, students in any other group or organization would not receive nearly the same preferential treatment that these self-appointed martyrs are expecting.
A student quoted in the article stated:
“I remember seeing all the tears in the room — that was traumatizing — and then not being able to focus on my homework,” she said. “Homework was the least of my worries.”
Taken out of context, this statement could easily apply to anything ranging from a particularly poignant theater performance to the day the first are handed back in freshman chemistry. Would either of these events warrant notes from deans of activism excusing students from work that is essential to the curriculum? Why should the University commend students who place their classwork at the lowest priority?
A suggested call to action proposed by Ferranti is that notes from deans of activism delaying deadlines for students are made more “accessible” and “serious,” as they are currently effective a little more than 90% of the time. Is it not enough that almost the majority of professors already accept them? It seems that the only difference between these notes and having parents call their students in sick to middle school is that the middle school children are held much more responsible and accountable for their actions and schoolwork than coddled students at a top-tier university.
“There are people breaking down, dropping out of classes and failing classes because of the activism work they are taking on,” said David, an undergraduate whose name has been changed to preserve anonymity.
These misdirected priorities call into question the entire purpose of going to Brown University to acquire a high-quality, Ivy League education. Do students expect that while they are throwing themselves into often inconsequential or trivial protests, their academic responsibilities can be put on hold? Had they not been accepted into Brown based on their academic merits, these students would not be there in the first place. Perhaps these protesters should take a hint from those in the prior decades, before whining about a lack of time management skills got you out of classwork and there were genuine rights issues to conquer.
The only silver lining of this shockingly non-satirical article is the comment section. One of the more humorous posts states,
“Time to change the school mascot from a bear to a jellyfish.”
While I certainly appreciate the sentiment behind this commenter’s statement, it doesn’t nearly get to the root of the issue. While we can all agree that poking fun at our Ivy rivals is a good time, campus culture is truly sad when we’ve gotten to the point where this lack of respect for the incredibly talented professors we have is acceptable.
When these students who refuse to prioritize or take responsibility graduate and are hit by the real world, one can only hope that they will realize the need to act like adults. In the meantime, keeping up with a never-ending stream of meaningless protests unfold on campuses across the country will continue to be an amusing pastime.