I couldn’t resist commenting on this one – from the Wall Street Journal‘s Best of the Web:
“What if it was ‘Oh, the gay one,’ or ‘Oh, the Asian kid?’ ” asks Maggie Kwok, head of the Penn State Veterans Organization in an interview with the Daily Collegian, PSU’s student newspaper. She is referring to a “training video,” prepared by the university’s Counseling and Psychological Services office, depicting “worrisome student behavior.”
The office swiftly removed the video when it prompted a kerfuffle, but the PSU College Republicans preserved it on YouTube. It’s a fascinating documentation of academic prejudice.
Why bring this one up? I find the video not only bizarrely condescending in the generic sense, and for all the cogent reasons James Taranto elaborates on if you read the whole piece.
But there’s also the personal connection. For two years I worked as a teaching assistant at none other than (you guessed it) Penn State. Sure, it was before 9/11 and the Iraq invasion, so one could almost say my experience hails from a different era — though it was less than a decade ago.
The video brought back bad memories of teaching assistant orientation, where they made us watch videos on sexual harassment. Can’t say I ever faced in real life any scenario like those portrayed in that video. But the one depicted here on YouTube is a different story.
Like the instructor portrayed in the video, I graded my share of essays and blue book exams. I never had “The Veteran” come to me and complain about the C-plus he received when he needed a B in the class. Strangely, though, I once had a female student come to my office hours to complain about the C-plus she had received instead of the B she insisted she needed.
It wasn’t an angry confrontation. Instead she tried to play the sympathy factor, turning on the faucets and crying for most of the nearly 30-minute meeting. As the “office” I had was actually a semi-open room shared with several other graduate students, I later received a fairly deserved razzing for the incident. But I stood my ground. The C-plus I had given her was actually quite a generous grade as it was.
On the other hand, I shared some of my time in the Penn State history department with two fellow graduate students who were active duty military (one Army, one Marine). They certainly were the most mature among us, and probably the hardest-working, most honest, and most courteous of the lot, too. I also had the privilege of leading recitations for several ROTC students, and similarly found them to be some of the most polite and diligent undergraduate students I had a chance to work with.
All of this added up to a sense of ironically rehashed memories watching the Penn State training video. As usual, I love the way James Taranto concludes his analysis:
In the video, The Veteran behaves inappropriately–but he also accuses the instructor of inappropriately bringing her politics into the classroom at his expense. We are meant to think the accusation is preposterous. But at a university that produces such a video, is it hard to believe that such things actually go on?
Just one of the reasons I decided to bail from the academic world. Now look where it left me.