Last week, I had the opportunity to hand out US Constitutions to Aggie community members who may or may not have had an interest in this country’s (no matter how disgraced) foundational document. This was for Constitution Day. I looked forward to tabling on campus. I hadn’t done so in a year, and it would allow for socializing with my peers during a time in which social interaction is looked down upon. Our current educational environment has taken a toll on many hard-working students, but there are small bright spots that make this environment tolerable. Last week’s bright spot was this event. I held these feelings closely, before the event was so incorrectly criticized and disparaged by a faculty member who should aspire to lead students in their department, rather than to criticize for criticism’s sake.
Last week’s opinion piece penned by Professor Neal Rosendorf of the Government department, stated that Constitution Day was just an exercise to “inculcate American students with an uncritical fealty to a founding document that has been responsible for the disfranchisement and suffering of many millions of Americans”. I took this statement personally, as did many other Government Graduate Student Organization members. To imply that participation in this event is a representation of my personal beliefs, which may be antagonistic at times and critical of the government, is an attempt to strip me of my agency. This implies that as graduate students we are easily swayed and instilled with ideals that we may not believe in or understand. I have great respect for the pursuit of higher education. I have been doing so for nearly 7 years, and not once have I blindly accepted fact without reflecting and critically engaging the material provided to me. The opinion piece in question reads as if the author is not a faculty member of the Government department. It reads as if the author doesn’t have the resources to reach out to GGSO executive membership and collaborate on an event that may be in line with valid views concerning the history and flaws of the Constitution. Instead, it reflexively criticizes.
This opinion piece also came with a racial microaggression, although it just felt aggressive. It was a slap in the face from a faculty member who esteems themselves on being on the ‘right’ side of history quite frequently. The opinion piece suggested that one might ask any “African-American” about their opinion of the failures one might find within the constitution. It implied that one would likely find the same response from said African Americans. Sorry to break it to you Professor, but Black people are not a monolith. We aren’t a homogenous group. Quite frankly, I am tired of being lumped in with every other Black person. Frequently, it seems that our opinions are only valid when they exist to prove points held by those who don’t value us and what we think beyond the marginalization and adversity that we have faced. If you were to ever wander into the sphere of general Black discourse, you might notice that Black individuality is criticized, or worse, co-opted and marketed to shame us and esteem others. To equate one opinion with a collective Black opinion is a failure of one’s own. And I expect you to own that.
I expect you to realize that in failing to consult a group of students about the activities they engage in while on campus, you exemplify the exact ‘failures’ of the Government Department that disgust you. I hope in the future you can think about the difference between intent and impact, or the differences between intent and implementation. Releasing an opinion editorial is light work. Doing what is necessary, the requisite work to push and challenge your students to do more is where the real value is. I hope you try to engage in this work sometime soon. Writing convoluted hot takes about student activities is ineffectual.
I also hope that the publishing of last week’s letter does not set a dangerous precedent where Professors feel free to disparage their students in a public forum without consulting and interacting with said students, without the required mentorship, and without compassion.
Last week’s article is nothing more than a distraction from a real constitutional tragedy–the staggering loss of one of our Nation’s greatest Constitutional defenders and advocates for justice, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Justice Ginsburg once stated, “Real change, enduring change, happens one step at a time”. May she rest in peace, as we carry on her commitment to enduring change and progress, one step at a time, with or without the compassionate mentorship that should be expected at this University.
Government Graduate Assistant
Black person with agency