A gratuitous rant against the hypocritical obscenity of the paedophagocene

https://facultystaff.students.ubc.ca/student-development-services/centre-student-involvement-careers/ubc-orientations-2019

1.

No.

Not now: this is (admittedly one of the several) times of year of greatest faculty stress, anxiety, and intensive work. UBC has an unfortunate habit of sending centralised encyclicals to faculty at the least appropriate moments. I’m sure that they’re perfectly appropriate for someone somewhere at UBC; but that person or office is not an academic or an academic department engaged in the front-line university work of teaching and learning; and the arrogance of this timing is telling, with no thought let alone care, consideration, or respect for faculty work. It could of course be worse, had this been deliberate; but that would be unthinkable. Okham’s Razor and simply not thinking is more probable.

2.

No, because like other faculty I am already doing my bit to welcome new students. Every UBC faculty colleague whom I know is working on syllabus writing right now this very minute. Many are doing other course preparation work. All of this needs to be done before the first day of classes. It is our work. It is an absolute priority. It is also a priority for our students, including new students. We are doing it because it is part of our job. We are doing it as well as we can because we care. I’ve just spent much of the last two days days rewording a syllabus for a course to make it and that first class, I hope, clearer and thus part of a positive orientation experience (rather than other ways of being “memorable”). This is a 100-level course many of whose students are new undergraduates. That kind of writing is difficult. Writing rants like this is easy, and their digression can be welcome light relief.

No, because part of the work associated with writing this particular syllabus and preparing stuff for this course is creating resources and support for new and returning graduate students: those who will be teaching this course.

These things matter and we should care about them. I’m sure that this syllabus won’t be perfect, because it can’t be because I’m human and have the age and life experience to know that errare humanum est; but I also know that it’s better than the last one, and I am now making a mental note to remember to talk about the wisdom of errare humanum est in the first week of classes and about how learning a language as a beginner is all about making mistakes and this is how you learn and it’s also how you accelerate your progression towards achieving wisdom. That kind of idea is fundamental to the student experience; that is, both the academic side and other aspects of existence in a university; how this differs from secondary / high school and from other sorts of tertiary training and education; and how it is building a foundation for an examined life of lifelong learning as a responsible citizen contributing to society, or at least trying to live in such a way as to hope that one would one day be leaving this world no worse than it was when one came into it.

3.

No, because at least one of these “volunteer opportunities” is in contravention of university guidelines on workload and wellbeing.

Applying pressure on employees to work unpaid overtime for free outside their contracts—especially those who are already overworked, in precarious employment, and with other obligations—is contrary to the UBC Respectful Environment Statement, UBC Policy 3 on Discrimination and Harassment, and provincial WorkSafe BC guidelines—and British Columbia’s Workers Compensation Act s.115-117—on Workplace Bullying and Harassment. (The same is true of requests to send feedback for free, or for the chance to win a gift voucher, and doing so in the guise of consultation.)

“Moving items”

There are risks of physical injury to oneself and to others, and risks of making mistakes, when working when tired (as one does, beyond a full load). Adding in that performing manual labour and logistical work without necessarily having had the requisite experience and training is both irresponsible (and potentially dangerous) and disrespectful, as though anyone can do these jobs. As with teaching, research, reading, writing, etc.: we have colleagues at UBC who are professional specialist experts in these areas.

While mandatory training is provided at the start of one’s sign-up 3.5-hour shift, that can’t be much training and I know it is insufficient if you’re taking lifting and moving work seriously and responsibly (we have construction workers in the family and had coal miners in earlier generations), adding professional insult to injury. And it’s less than you’d have with weight-training in a gym.

It surprises me that this (and other things of its ilk) got past Equity and Inclusion, Risk Management, Legal, and our staff and faculty unions and associations.

“Responding to questions”

This, too, requires expertise and training. And knowledge. And knowing how to say “I don’t know, but I can find out who does and can help you further.” And not saying inappropriate, stupid, careless, or damaging things. We have expert colleagues who do this, too, as paid employment: advisors.

You can see how badly wrong that could go on religious or political or socio-cultural lines. Or will volunteers be trained in not being an individual person and only replying from a controlled script? And we have, of course, expert colleagues who do this too: the Legal and Communications departments.

4.

No, because I have a lot of questions about the sign-up system being used. Is the USA-based SignUpGenius compliant and appropriate for UBC / BC use, on personal information matters and on data collection and storage and access? And security, including company and third party persons having access to personal information? Consider, for example, if you sign up for this and you are a person who is at risk of suffering harassment, violence, doxxing, stalking, or persecution and worse from a country or community that you fled as a refugee or from an abusive relationship or family.

https://www.signupgenius.com/about/privacy.cfm 

5.

No, because of the t-shirt.

It’s new that volunteering for Imagine means wearing their t-shirt. It didn’t previously, when I worked on Imagine Day for my department—it kind of went with undergraduate advising, and it was definitely work—and that alone is a good reason not to do this volunteering through this channel. A free uniform for work is nice, but this isn’t work—it’s a “volunteer opportunity”—and it’s a uniform. Wearing the same t-shirt is On Message and de-individualises. You are a Brand Ambassador Clone / Drone. I won’t do this. (It’s instinctual, and I’m trying to get my head around it, it probably has a lot to do with nonconformist dissenting parts of personal and family background.)

An exemplary universally-appropriate t-shirt

6.

No, because “volunteer opportunities” in/for “our community” is manipulative social pressure. Key words: “our,” “community,” “volunteer,” and “opportunity.”

“Our”

If one is, as the “you” addressed, part of that “our” then one will do what one is asked to do. That is in the spirit of being one of us.

If one is not, one might be further alienated or just not care: colleagues often file encyclicals in “read later” and then never read them because, by the time they have read items of higher priority and direct relevance to their work, and done the rest of their work, it it the end of the working day / week / academic year (which for most faculty means into what in other kinds of job would be 10-50% unpaid overtime).

One might be interested in and attracted to the flattering idea of “play[ing] an important role,” and wish to join that “us.” After all, what sensible person would find ostracism and exclusion preferable? We are social animals. (UBC offers interested researchers a rich corpus of rhetorical uses of the first-person plural pronoun.)

No, because I resent the hypocrisy of exclusion pretending to inclusion, disguising conformity and conformism as choice, and compliance culture posing as consent culture.

7.

“Our community”

I am a faculty member. This makes me part of an “us” that is the university. That is my-and-our community. It is in the nature and definition of a university to be a community, a commonality, a commonwealth; a collegium of collegial colleagues; sharing a bond of scholarly identity and service to the greater good that is knowledge. The term “university community” is, technically, redundant. Yet it is frequently used by persons at the university who are not, or are not any longer, scholars: marketing, property development and management, accounting and finances, and executive administrative management and leadership.

An added complication, “the university” is used by executive administrative management and leadership, their official communiqués, and media networks to mean themselves, and themselves as an abstract corporate entity in a corporate (business, commercial, non-university) way: as distinct from “the university” per the University Act, lexicography, semantics, and philology; or what one might call the actual meaning of the thing. This ambiguity is problematic and has political consequences, not least in its exploitation by those in a position of power to increase their new sense of the term, infect general usage through its media presence, reduce the other correct sense until it is redundant and irrelevant, and thereby change the nature of the thing itself. That is, the university. A beautiful case for why philology matters. And, alas, a classic example of an early-21st-century maxim: knowledge is not power, and power is not knowledge.

“University community” is sometimes used interchangeably with “the university,” and sometimes it means “the university + people who live on university property.” Sometimes the latter can be extended, or be vague as to its possible extension, to include those who spend time on university property: those who work here but are not members of the university, contractors, and visitors. There are, as we’ve seen with recent events (and more of the same later here) implications for academic freedom: let it be stated once again that academic freedom is legally distinct from and should not be confused or conflated with the rights and responsibilities of visitors and guests. There is a distinction between (1) academic freedom at this university; (2) freedom of expression in Canada, in conjunction with its Canadian legal limits with respect to restricted (hate etc.) speech; and (3) freedom of speech elsewhere (USA, Chicago principles, etc.).

Given that “university community” is not necessarily being perceived and used to mean “university,” and given that those who use it are not necessarily themselves members of the same “us” and community that is the “our university” to which faculty belong: it is increasingly uncertain that “our community” is synonymous with “our university.” So I am ever less certain that I am part of “our community.” That could make me more amenable to appeals: whether or not I am actually currently part of this “us,” I can be by doing something that is asked of me. The proposed activities promise to help with ambiguities and uncertainties: only someone who is part of “our community” would do them, doing them marks and makes you as one of “us,” and you become part of a virtuous cycle of societal reinforcement.

Not doing so, be that by silence or by saying “no,” separates one from this “us” and its invitation to join or to reinforce one’s connection to it. That could seem like an individual thing, making one (in “our” terms, deliberately and perversely making oneself) into an outcast. Doing anything individual is also rather “non-u” as it’s anti-group and anti-community. A lone outcast. A loner. Lonely.

But I say: say “no.” Be a feminist killjoy. Lonesomeness isn’t bad; only within the prejudices a.k.a. value-system of gung-ho noisy jolly-hockey-sticks neoliberalism. We’re scholars in a university. Sure, we’re also people and we might occasionally spend quality time with other people; but solitude, individual thought, concentrated stillness in isolation, and quiet are also part of us. To a greater or lesser extent. And they’re necessary to scholarly work and existence. Universities and analogous communities of scholars have always known this. It’s part of our history. It’s how universities start. (Most of them; this one here has more of an angle of colonialist exploitation and training frontiersmen and their support services at its start.) A university is, fundamentally, a community of solitary individuals. They remain solitary individuals while also being a community. It’s extraordinary, when you think about it. How on earth can that work? Has it ever worked in actual practice? Yes, it has. Often. Worldwide. Often in sustainable communities and for a long time. See: The Rule of St Benedict and everything to do with it (and happy Wikispelunking).

Say no. Dissent. Question. Do so as individuals and as scholars, who in so doing reinforce our community, that is, the university. Refuse, reject, and recycle as a community of solitary dissidents, critics, sceptics, and intellectuals.

Say no. Niggle about language being misused and abused. Be unashamedly tedious in insisting on the importance of knowledge and history. Meaning matters, especially living in times where it, and we, are under threat from meaninglessness and ignorance. Bore people rigid on the history of a word, semantics, and etymology. Be a radical philologist. Return “the university” to its actual sense. Resist exploitable ambiguities and exploitative abusages like “our community.” In the name of what I like to think of as “us, the radical university.”

8.

“Volunteer”

Reread the original statement above. The “you” that is faculty is not necessarily a part of “our”; you’re not fully “us” unless and until you do more. And that has to be more by someone else’s—non-scholarly—criteria; so, for example, my writing a long-winded grumpy blog post about philology and close reading doesn’t count. “Our community” is not “the university” or “the university community”: while these categories may intersect, this one is a new category. It is people who do more. Who give. A community of super-good super-citizens, an exemplary élite who show publicly, or make a public show of, the sort of most highly virtuous behaviour to which others—newcomers, ordinary citizens, and outsiders—ought to aspire. True leadership.

Volunteering can be a way in to an organisation or other social group or system. A “volunteering opportunity” can be a first step for the meritorious to join “our community.” Let us not lose sight of capitalism’s essential grand delusional myth that is meritocracy, with its tantalising prospect of promotion into the mythical illusion that is a middle class as a place of comfortable belonging; well away from any extremes or margins, safe and secure in middling-ness.

It is significant that the invitation comes from the Student Services part of the university. Their relationship with students is often one of pastoral care, wise counsel, and support. This is most evident in inter-personal interactions between individuals. There are individuals working in Student Services who save lives. You don’t see them listed on a website. Too often they are unknown soldiers, nameless saints, and unsung heroes.

But this is also one of the university’s non- and para-academic units that is most clearly in a customer/customer service relationship with students. In the neoliberal corrupted pseudo-university, it’s not clear what faculty are doing here: also customer services? Service providers? Sub-contractors or consultants, in relation to a corporation that sells a product to clients? Confusingly, we’re also clients in turn, in this multidimensional network: I’ve seen academic departments referred to as “clients” in correspondence from those parts of the university that deal with another “the university” that is physical space and built structures.

It’s either assumed that faculty are part of this system, because that is all that there is, these are the only values that there are, and that is only way to be; or faculty are being invited to become part of it.

We should not. (Nor indeed should others.) And we should reject and take every opportunity to rage against the thoughtless conflation or deliberate confusion of merit, quality, worth, value, and virtue with certain commodifying consumerist capitalist specific senses. There are other values, including other merits. Fun tip: last time I was looking at the neoliberal NewSpeak lexicon (which is a while back and I’m not looking again because I have other things to do, but this might be a research project for someone else), “quality control” was more important—frequency of use, influence—than “quality.”

Neoliberal merit is for those who are able to volunteer, those who can afford to. It excludes those who cannot. Residence Move-In is on two Saturdays, the 24th and 31st of August. Need movers? Hire some professionals. Need campus to look lively and welcoming? To create the “right” atmosphere for new students and their families? Faculty in their Saturday leisure-wear, as a tourist attraction? Nope. BC has, after all, recently banned certain mammals being kept in captivity for the purpose of performing and entertaining, for which spectators pay, and this for the financial profit of others.

Do not try to guilt-trip faculty into giving time from their Saturdays in the next two weeks, or time in the first week of classes.

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An encyclical like this is voluntarassment. Like a related portmanteau word, voluntourism, it’s part of assumed privilege and neocolonialism and the important role that they play as neoliberal pseudo-values in the memorable orientation experience that is a welcome to systemic social injustice.

How about those who have been at work all week for whom Saturdays are when they shop for food, do laundry, clean, do any other maintenance work at home, and then maybe catch up with family and friends and engage in some leisure activities? How about people with kids, getting them ready for the new term, perhaps including kids who are going to university or other wise leaving home? How about care-givers? What if you are already volunteering elsewhere: what does that say about your priorities? What if that time is time that you could be working at another job, or being paid overtime, which you need to do so as to have a roof over your head and food on the table? If you need to work every hour in the day to work off debts, avoid defaulting on loan repayments, for fear of jail? What if you are tired? Sick? Injured? Disabled? You are and always will be a second-class citizen. Yes, the first class may patronise you and pat you on the head and say that it’s OK, it’s not expected of you, you’re an exception, you’re excused, they understand. But super-goodness and super-citizenship are not for you.

Voluntarassment exerts pressure on those who can’t or shouldn’t whose inability or disability is not obvious. Many disabilities are invisible anyway. Many matters of mental and physical health are not visible and some people might want to keep it that way and not want to draw attention to them, to be labelled, to become their condition. (This is your condition and this is you. It must be up to you whether you say anything about it, and if so to whom, and what and how and when and why. Or not. It is up to you how you live and are and **** anyone who says otherwise).

It pressures those who are in a more fragile state and more open to persuasion about normative expectations; that they ought to be perceived to be performing in a certain way: being cheerful, noisily energetic, and evidently enthusiastically engaged; giving of time and energy showing that you have so much to spare. Putting on a show that is putting on a brave face. While gnawed by worry about what you ought to be doing instead, what you won’t have time for, how far you’re falling behind on all of the things on which you were already behind or only just managing; and just look at how much more cheerful other people look, how in comparison you’re failing at cheerfulness and engagement and at your feigning them.

Say no to anything that exacerbates anxiety, and say why you’re saying no. I know that anxiety is contrary to health and wellbeing, and that it contributes to ill-health and can cause and aggravate illness. I know myself, to some extent, and I know that I am anxious and have suffered the damage of not acknowledging that anxiety, of overworking, and of not saying no to things. I’m hereby saying no. And I’m saying it because harassing people—however gently, nicely, and with the best of intentions—into volunteering is not a good. It causes harm. It exploits people like me, and people weaker and more damaged than me. I’m saying “no” for those who can’t say “no” yet. (That’s a curious kind of speech act.)

Voluntarassment is coercive, exploitative, and abusive. It’s wrong to take advantage of goodwill. It’s harmful, this pressure to encourage people, out of a sense of duty and engagement, to give more than they can or ought. In an unmeasured way that is unsustainable and destructive. And no, “Volunteer for as few or as many shifts as you’d like!” (on the residence move-in volunteer application form) does not help. Because of social conditioning, worry about what your peers are doing and about a whole invisible community of actual and imagined abstracted peers pressuring you in your head, imposter syndrome, competitiveness, and how human beings tick.

Unlike such unworthies, the virtuous member of our community will have surplus time and energy and they will donate it to the common good and in so doing they will strengthen the community. It’s a sign of virtue that you have more to give, because it’s a matter of willingness and it’s down to you to will yourself to #BeBest. If you put your mind to it, and exercise will-power and work at it, you can do anything. Will is key. Volo, volēns is the linguistic point that connects volition with volunteer, and where an extremist Protestant work ethic enters into conflict with benevolent inclusion, even if the latter allows for charitably patronising those less able.

The more you give, the better you are. Because that is what one does with surplus: it must be reinvested to increase productivity and profit. Whose profit? In theory, that of a community. In practice, anyone except the very person who has given of the eight hours of rest and eight hours of leisure fought for by generations of workers, worldwide, over a long labour history. Rights that many colleagues elsewhere do not have; that are under threat and being eroded even within this country; and that are unthinkable and for some unspeakable, and dangerously so when even the ideas and events of social revolutions two centuries ago now seeming impossibly alienly futuristic, in a country right next door.

Giving is good. Giving as publicly and as bountifully as possible is better. Going beyond the call of duty, without measure, giving when you cannot, is the greatest gift of all. That’s true passion: imitatio Christi martyrdom.

We’re moving now into the domain of virtue ethics, Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics and De anima, and medieval Aristotelian thought on the noble soul. (See elsewhere on this blog, for example, about William of Aragon / Guillelmus de Aragonia, De nobilitate animi.) There’s nobility and then there’s true nobility: not that of inheritance; nor that of conquest and possession and success; or of growth; or power or prestige, reputation, image, “personal brand,” influence. Similarly, value and worth are to be dissociated from money: greed is not good, and success is not about accumulating money, commodities, capital.

The mark of true wealth, even staying within the limited world of a capitalist system and its terms, is not how much you have but what you do with it. What you do with it: how much you give. (Eventually, the very best and noblest would have nothing and yet everything, as true riches are not worldly.) Goodness does reflect economics in that the more you give, the better you are. To some extent: you could do better, even still in the realm of other kinds of nobility; we’re nowhere near true nobility of soul yet. 

Nobility is a quality that is associated with giving generously: not overdoing it, not to show off or for appearances or for other selfish reasons to one’s own benefit and in one’s own interests (with consequences for charitable tax breaks, patronage, investment, and ethical-washing). Magnanimitās should be distinguished from μεγαλοψυχία.

True nobility is sensible and sensitive intelligent responsible giving, in such a way as to share and spread wealth and increase others’ potential to give in their turn, in mutual aid and solidarity, in a way that is supportive and sustainable and that shapes a whole ethos and culture. People who teach do this every day. It’s heart-breaking and soul-destroying. (Eventually, the most truly noble person would not know whether or not they had this quality during their lifetime, as the nature and extent of their nobility would / could only become knowable in later history and cultural influence. Acting in the expectation that you will receive no acknowledgement may be what distinguished the truest nobility. Thinking outside of and beyond the self.)

So. Whether or not it does involve true nobility and a move from virtue to excellence of soul, this is a volunteering opportunity to give of one’s labour capital so as to increase one’s social capital and thereby one’s merit, worth, perceived and publicly-acknowledged quality, and goodness. (And usefulness, relevance, and value as a unit of productivity. But we all knew that.) The path is clear for those who have the will to become a citizen and to be a good citizen.

This kind of good citizenship is a very familiar idea to any reader of dystopian SF, for example recent episodes of Black Mirror or some of our neighbouring countries.

 

9.

“Opportunity”

It’s understandable that it might not be enough, or it might not seem relevant, to attract you using the ideas of volunteering and of contributing to our community and to strengthening that relationship, those ties that bind us together as an “us.” This is also an opportunity that—hypothetically and in theory, and perhaps in practice—profits you.

An opportunity to build C.V. Points. I now add anything voluntary that goes beyond contracted work to my annual report for merit. Why would or should one perform free labour that, directly or indirectly, enriches someone else who has no done that work? For example, extra support and services can be used to the benefit of an institution’s image and to defend high student tuition fees and to encourage their increase. Look how much you get for your money! And therein lies a grave injustice and a great hypocrisy. Much of that money from tuition fees does not go into actual tuition. I have yet to see any increase in tuition fees be accompanied by a decrease in class sizes, which would directly benefit the quality of teaching and learning and the student academic experience.

Meanwhile, I have seen increases in spending on mechanical and electronic inferior substitutes that are not even properly ersatz as they don’t actually do what the real thing does.

Spending on expensive narrowly-specialist tools and gimmicky toys: experimentally applied willy-nilly as universal elixirs. Spending on exciting fashions: mysteries not necessarily fully understood by their gurus, priests, acolytes, and missionaries; sold to us as magical panaceas. Hans Christian Andersen warned us about this in one of his most famous works, The Emperor’s New Clothes back in 1837. It was already an old and well-known tale then—14th-c. Don Juan Manuel, 13th-c. Jinaratra, 11th-c. Jineśvara, undated African and Chinese and Persian tellings—so one wonders why, after a good century or so of universal free compulsory formal public primary education, and millennia of “informal” education in human social groups, educational leadership remain in ignorance of this story and of what it teaches us.

Spending on anything but investment in proven quality teaching and full deep long-term learning. Not spending on people, time, and quiet. People: hiring faculty and improving their working conditions: smaller classes, paid leave for continuous training, remembering that our teaching conditions are students’ learning conditions. Time: time for all of us, including students so that they can actually spend all of their time between the start and the end of their degree being full-time students. Quiet: essential to working, thinking, and learning conditions.

Yet ever more spending not just on obviously non-academic areas (finance, accountancy, highly-paid CEOs, that sort of corporate executive thing) but in parasitically para-academic areas and their personnel (some are technically staff, some are somewhere between staff and faculty or both, some are postdocs); all of which is otherwise known as administrative bloat.

An opportunity to volunteer is good citizenship in a capitalism that’s posing and posturing as a false gift economy, of engagement and “we are committed to …” language, of promises and debts for future exchange; so, still based on an exchange economy. An opportunity that might lead to a job. An opportunity that might, like low-paid and unpaid internships, be a job in a gig economy. This could translate to good things in certain forms of anarchism. Corporate late-capitalist neoliberalism is not one of them. And therein lies the greatest obscenity: For faculty in a university who are conscious of living in the anthropocene—I can’t speak for all faculty, but The University Strategic Plan values and prioritises sustainability—to perform, and thereby model, the worst vices of the capitalocene. Adding insult to injury, the irony is that what could be one’s first teaching contact with a new student would be welcoming them to the paedophagocene.

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10.

Invitations such as this are not community-minded and -spirited, and they are not—consciously or otherwise—about creating and contributing to community. This is not collegial and collaborative. Or engagement. Or an opportunity. It is not open to all, yet it forces itself on all through the manner of its communication. This is a known problem, to which there is no known solution. I would far prefer to be in a university that errs on the side of over-information, which is why I still receive such missives, in my main inbox, and read them.

You could of course not read such missives, remove yourself from blanket email lists, have your email system automatically move any such material automatically into the trash so that you are not even tempted to read it—or even just rapidly skim-read it—while clearing your inbox of near-spam. You can’t afford to do this, as such missives often include communication that is actually interesting, might affect you, and is sometimes even vital.

It’s dangerous if no-one reads such missives but everyone either receives them (this is true of some kinds of central communication) or has the option to do so (this is true of others, which are also published on the UBC website).

Knowing that no-one reads—or only an insignificant minority—opens up a way for a corrupt entity to go about political régime change, with or without a take-over, and political conversion to authoritarianism: abusing power, demolishing checks and balances to exercising and increasing its powers, and destroying democratic rights. (I’m an anti-capitalist anarchist, but I have to live in this world, and I accept that social democracy is a compromise in the defence of the open society and the anti-fascist fight against totalitarianism.) One of the steps along the way would be to use the provision of Missives From On High to prove due diligence in informing people and to claim to have engaged in consultation and obtained consent. It is 2019. Time to get with the times. Time to join the 21st century, or at least to catch up with the 20th. Time to read Octavia E. Butler, William Gibson, Ursula K. Le Guin, China Miéville, Terry Pratchett.

We have a responsibility to read all official missives.

The timing of this invitation to faculty and staff is curious. The webpage was dated 24 July. The email was sent on 20 August. It includes a link for Imagine Day volunteering that closed on 9 August and is addressed only to staff. Perhaps it was supposed to have been sent sooner, included on a previous encyclical, but wasn’t. Errare humanum est isn’t just for faculty and students. Perhaps it was added to a periodical newsletter as a last-minute appeal for volunteers if there have not been enough so far. Perhaps that is causing stress and anxiety. Perhaps? Of course it is. Faculty aren’t the only people who worry. Anxiety is for everyone. Staff colleagues experience stress at the beginning of the academic new year, whole realms of stress that are barely perceptible to others such as faculty. Staff are under more pressure than faculty are to “look professional,” and that isn’t just clothes, it means putting on a brave face no matter how much you are suffering, testing the limits of endurance.

UBC faculty colleagues: however it is that you are spending these last two weeks before the teaching term begins, however angry your correspondence might make you, keep reading it and think of the structures and people behind it (which might make you angrier) and the people behind, and below, that. Be angry. It is good and virtuous to be angry, in any decent respectable humane sustainable values. Be constructively angry, angry for others. For your fellow workers throughout this institution. For our staff colleagues too. This is “our community.”

My final “no” is in collegial solidarity. Because for a philologist, anarchist, feminist, and general social justice bore: “volunteer opportunity” is an obscene contradiction in terms.

P.S. Happy Academic New Year. Tune in again on the 31st for the annual Ken Campbell Radical Education pilgrimage.

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