Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Paternalistic Prof

Post comparing different approaches to organizational theory to follow tomorrow, after I get the Department of Sociology.

Today was the Political Science version: Organizational Theory, but with an emphasis on public organizations and administrative theory. Might not be quite what I was looking for, but it's really interesting.

But what really struck me was what he said at the end of the class. The class runs from 6 pm to 9 pm, in order to get three full hours of seminar discussion. This course is intense! There will be common reading and cluster group reading. And so the Paternalistic Prof says that the late end time is fine for now with the long summer days (although by 9 pm, it's already quite dusky). The Prof, who's a lovely man, said that this is cool for now--but as the semester wears on, it won't be so great. So he "called on all the men in the class (roughly equal ratio to the women) to make sure that the female members of our class get home safely, and I know you'll rise to this, and I want you all to know that I'm aware of the situation and how dicey it is for you girls to walk home late alone."

On the one hand, he has a point. Liberal College City is a good-sized city in its own right, and the campus occupies a good chunk of it--and the surrounding neighborhoods are for the most part full of students, faculty, graduates who just stayed, and yuppies. But it's right next door to a Gritty City where the crime and murder rates are extremely high. And we have our own crime problems, and there are plenty of homeless people, some paranoid schizophrenics, living in the streets. Recently there was a spate of rapes in the South part of town. I live in the North part of town. I walk about 25 minutes from my neighborhood and then through the campus to get to the law school and social science buildings on the South end of campus, which is closer to the South/downtown part of Liberal College City, which is closer to the Gritty City. This walk is very pleasant during the day, and is actually much safer than where I used to live--in the heart of South/downtown part. The campus is heavily wooded, and during the day this is lovely--lots of trees, beautiful shrubbery, and a bucolic kind of peaceful walk. But at night, it's all quite dark, and not so pleasant. Not that many blue lights to illuminate the shady pathways and the alleys behind buildings. And as I recall from my time at Bourgie Metro School, those are where the on-campus rapes and muggings would occur most frequently. and Bourgie Metro Law was in a much nicer neighborhood (really, as ritzy as you could get) than Liberal College Law.

I hate the term, but "rape trail" is used often to describe such isolated, poorly-lit, overgrown paths. Bushes and trees are perfect places for predators to lie in wait. Walking alone is never a good idea for anyone, and I usually try to avoid it too late at night by calling a campus escort or waiting for the campus safety shuttles. So I'm well aware of the pitfalls of a night class. And I do appreciate the Prof's sensitivity to this.

Still, it was odd and a bit jarring to hear him call on the men in the class to escort their female classmates. It was a little old school for my modern sensibilities. But why the hang up? I would have asked a friend to walk me to the bus stop anyway in all likelihood. Back in college, I would always walk with a classmate, male or female (the important thing is numbers more than gender) to the parking lot. Actually, we girls in the Honors Seminar always walked in pairs--we never asked our male classmates to "escort" us. (Not that they volunteered, I think I've learned to stop wanting chivalry because I can't expect it and usually don't need it.)

So I wonder if I'm bothered, or just a bit surprised. Surprised at what though? The Prof's sensitivity to our safety needs? Yes, a bit--most professors don't even think about it--the schedule is what it is, and most profs don't really think about what you do after class or outside of class (often they think theirs is the only class you're taking even). I'm also a bit surprised at the paternalistic way the call was framed. He could have suggested that we partner up and walk in pairs or groups, as there is safety in numbers. But more than that, the gentlemen of the class were called upon to protect the ladies.

It's a little old school and paternalistic. But he's a little old school himself, so maybe that's just that. He does have a point, since it's not very safe, but I wonder who should be in charge of taking care of my safety and being responsible for it--I think that the answer is me.

I'm not really all that bothered, but I'm a little bemused.