I often get great comments, but if you don’t go back to older posts to see who has checked in, look at comment number eight on my last blog entry. It is from a former Zenith student, who I am happy to say, has finished graduate school and has a job. It offers a thoughtful perspective on all of the issues my post, and the comments, raised about student debt. It also discusses the ways faculty can assist students in need without stigmatizing any individual who is underfunded. I particularly like the part where she uses the teaching of economic history to help students think about the ethical dimensions of being in a debt relationship, and her mentoring of students trying to become more powerful and knowledgeable in relationship to debt. But as she also points out, faculty need to take an ethical stance in the debt situation as well, and we can make choices in our teaching, without compromising high-quality pedagogy, that support students who are trying to keep to a budget. We can also be alert to how student services of various kinds are, or are not, actually meeting the needs of underfunded students and, in the spirit of a queerer analysis, not presume that the “normal” student is able to meet the financial obligations of an education without formal and informal help.
And the part about not having enough food is something that I had honestly never thought about. If that is true — and I have no doubt it is — then I would add that another thing department chairs like myself can do is make sure that when we have receptions, make sure the food is good quality, so that students in need are not living on potato chips, soda, cookies and pizza. Always make sure students are invited to take extra food home with them after events. And be very aware that it is at the end of term, when students need their energy most, that the money for food may be running out.
One of the issues this comment also raises implicitly, which I did not talk about in the earlier post, is that students can be very focused on the present, and have very little concept about what it means to repay a debt that is larger than a mortgage, perhaps larger than the income their parents see for three or four years running. They are, in other words, sitting ducks for predatory lenders.
Very smart, and a very highly developed ethical sensibility. And if I am not mistaken as to who this former student (now colleague) is, you should have your own blog, Girl. The Radical glows with reflected joy at your obvious accomplishments as an intellectual at this stage of your career.