Professor ‘Rejects’ the Status Quo: A Case Study

The professor, who is she?

When she first walked in to teach Intro to Gender Studies, students knew she was going to be an engaging professor. She wears scarves in bright colors and prints–a shorthand for collegiate rebellion.

“We need to be critical of the status quo,” claims the white, straight professor. “That’s why, for this course, I’m banning a few words. ‘Society’ is one of them.”

Students, squished at desks that are too small for them, pencils poised, scrawl: “Society is a banned word” at the top of their notes.

Tearing Down the Institutions

Students, paying several thousand dollars to sit in this room, should know that Professor stretches their minds in new and exciting ways. She is only a little emblematic of the capitalist hell scape in which we’ve contained learning. She sends her children to private schools, because public schools–though good enough for everyone else–are not good enough for her precious babies.

Though she believes in free higher ed, she can’t do anything about it. She can only lecture at her students about their privileges. Her own lack of privilege–as a woman, as a white lecturer in a discipline that (necessarily) criticizes whiteness–exemplifies her teachings.

She knows that she strikes the perfect contrast to her student’s entitled attitudes.

Image result for gender studies class

(From The AAUW Gender Studies Symposium)

Inappropriate Student Feedback

Even a perfect professor, however, sometimes receives unnecessarily aggressive feedback. One problematic student, a black woman named Katherine, made the professor’s insides squirm with white guilt. Katherine once called the professor a hypocrite. In front of the class. 

The incident occurred a few months back, when the professor mentioned that she felt that white privilege erased the uniqueness of European cultures, making her feel directionless. “I just feel sad that…white culture is just a kind of void in America.”

Katherine, moved by thousands of years of colonial history and, indeed, facts, interrupted. “Wait. Your ‘white culture’ actively erases other cultures. It’s done that for hundreds of years,” Katherine said, staring at the professor. “…What are you teaching us?”

The professor replied, “Katherine, you’re thinking of this in the wrong way. I’m saying that racism hurts everyone.

“But it hurts some more than others, ‘professor.’ We’re a classroom of mostly white students in a mostly white state–should we maybe try to understand racism before we try to tackle white suffering?” Katherine countered.

“Let’s hear from someone else,” the professor suggested, glancing at the twenty or so white faces in the room.

Then came that word, that awful word, which cut the professor like glass. “You’re a hypocrite,” Katherine said, packing her bags. A few students, following Katherine’s example, exited too.

To the professor’s relief, Katherine dropped the class. Even the best professor can sometimes just have a bad student.