Al Filreis reminisces about a seminar on literature & the 1950s that collectively decided to value dissensus. One of the students was moved by the experience to write an “undergraduate bill of rights,” which he reprints in part:
You have the right to conduct undergraduate research, and have its intellectual content taken seriously.
You have the right to prioritize teaching in the tenure process. You have a right to protest that lack. You have a right to expect that your concerns matter.
You have the right to organize class dinners and parties, and to invite the professor to attend without feeling you’ve overstepped the boundaries of propriety by mingling social and academic pursuits.
This contract is in danger of being dissolved by the “University” at all times. You have not just a right, but a responsibility, to see that the academic community includes you at all times, and a responsibility to fight like hell when a Provost or Undergraduate Chair or tenured professor defines that community without you in it.
It’s Miriam‘s turf to say so, but Ivy League models don’t export to regional comprehensive schools. Nevertheless, it is interestingto contemplate what such a bill of rights would look like, and the modes of engagement its authors would envision.
One of the hardest things to do is to entice large numbers students to embrace different pedagogical models, models wherein the primary responsibility for the course content lies with them, rather than with their Teacher. They’re comfortable with the latter, which is of course why it needs to die.