Wednesday, August 18, 2010

On Being Loud

It’s often pointed out that Case has a sort of hierarchy (or caste system, if you prefer), in which faculty and grad students are viewed and treated as employees, and undergrads are treated as customers.

If there’s one thing I think I could’ve done better for Case while I was there, it’s this: I should’ve used that fact to my advantage. Being a customer places you at less privilege than the “employees”, but it gives you some advantages. As a customer, your service is directly proportional to how aware the company is of you. Further, you’re paying Case—not the other way around. Case can’t fire you if they don’t like you; literally the worst thing they can do without resorting to legal action is tell you to stop paying them money. You are under no obligation to do anything else they ask you to do unless you want them to give you a degree—and degrees are at once easier to come by and less differentiated by institution than you might think.

So if there’s stuff you’re unhappy about—say, lack of access to academic buildings, lack of flexibility in the general education program, or a broken organizational structure—then be loud about it. Figure out who owns it, and make it impossible for them to ignore you. If you don’t get the results you desire, then either be louder or find more powerful people to be loud at. Don’t be afraid of starting email threads with people with scary titles—or of sitting down in their office till they listen to you.

If a small, dedicated collection of students advocated for change in this way, it’d be done by the end of the academic year. If that group maintained cultural continuity, then it might stand a chance at turning Case back into a university that the world took seriously.

(Caveat: don’t be a dick just to be a dick, and don’t assume that the people you’re being loud at are idiots; they’re not. But you knew that already, right?)