Appendix to THE RULES (2016)

There’s one other thing, not in THE RULES proper but on any syllabus this year.

Not this, tempting though it is as a reminder of what a university is and what it is not:

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(Dublin 1917: after the failed 1916 uprising, in the middle of World War I, a quintessential distillation of the colonial-imperialist-military-industrial complex)

I was happy, ridiculously happy, that I worked this paragraph into the FREN 101 syllabus:

If in doubt, if you have any questions or worries about anything, please ask! This course, your class, your instructor, and your coordinator are a safe space and here to help. If we don’t know an answer—we’re human—we’ll help you to find someone who does. This is a community of care.

A friend asked: “What is going on that suddenly people seem to be thirsting for communication, for knowing it is safe to come talk to professors, doctors, experts of all kinds?”

Well now. That is a very good question or three or four. I’m very glad my friend asked (she does ask good questions), as it took me a while to formulate that paragraph and re-expanding it is something that it would be good for me to practise as I’ll have to explain it to colleagues (including new graduate-student colleagues) in our beginning of the year meeting tomorrow.

1) It’s not sudden: this goes back to January, and to colleagues talking and meeting last December, and to before… https://metametamedieval.com/2016/01/08/radio-canada-interviews-notes-english-version/ excerpts:

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2) I’m happy to be able to include these ideas in the FREN 101 syllabus as it is a huge class, mostly of first-years; and they talk to other students; and this time last year was before news about sexualised violence here became big.

This is how cultures, ethos, systems (can at least have some hope to) change. Individual by individual, friends, acquaintances, colleagues, good neighbours.

3) This is also a course mostly taught by new grad students: again, talking to each other; again, possibility of cultural change.

Bear in mind the big scandalous cases here were against grad students.

4) One of the terms we’d (co-conspirators) been bouncing around was “community of care” back last December, then through the year on Twitter.

In reaction against the dehumanising corporate pseudoliberal pseudouniversity & its NewSpeak slogans.

(And yes, in reference to Margaret Thatcher’s “care in the community.”)

5) And yes, you’re absolutely right, [my friend], to be surprised that knowing it’s safe to come talk to people even needs to be said.

6) Also in reaction against all that silly American nonsense about “safe spaces.” All spaces, everywhere/thing/one, should be safe. It’s the ****ing definition of a civil society in a state of peace.

It’s been an odd experience, rereading things from back in January and February. There’s a lot about community, duty of care, and service; it’s uncanny to see resonances (fore-echoes?) of our new university president’s ideas, ethos, and principles and practices in “service.” Service has become an increasingly important word here. Principles, values, ideals, and ideas are no longer laughed at. That is good.

Less good: that this change had to come through a figure of authority. That makes me wonder how far change by others—in middle-management positions of power, administrator would-be strategists and policy-makers—is a genuine change towards doing and being good, a deep change in style; and how far it’s mere superficial political courtly fashion. (Forgive me. I am a medievalist. We meet a lot of hypocrisy in our work. And I also work in French language, culture, and literature. French invented plus ça change.)

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There is still work to be done, though a recent return to the old university motto tuum est and to a b**** identity that’s simply the name of the university are welcome moves.

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There’s a lot, back in January and February, about values and principles (not value and principal), about interests (not interest) and the common good. An old piece of medieval(ist) allegory is now back in circulation:

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On a lighter note…

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 … and concluding on a very heavy note indeed: 

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