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Op-Ed: Lessons in Dissent


American Voices

Professor Chris Craig

I will tell you something about stories. They aren’t just entertainment. Don’t be fooled. They are all you have, you see, all we have to fight off illness and death.”

– Leslie Marmon Silko

Chris Craig once told me “we are all text.” He was trying to explain the idea that we, as people, are language. So much so, that it’s the alpha and omega to our existence. We learn the world around us through language, which at its most bare skeleton, is an alphabetical pattern in various groupings. The world can only be given meaning through these groupings, after all a tree really is not a ‘tree’ until defined as such. From this, I thought, we can derive such an understanding for what it means to study English. Through its evaluating, poignant, and precise nature, the study of the English language transcribed through mediums allows for an exploration of an unseen winding world of depth and complexity.

So what did it mean when Professor Craig said that we were text? If we are text then we are language – also a continuum of characters that come together to represent ideas. When that language is transcribed into a text, it is a story and each story can give us perspective. The quote that Craig had chosen this September morning explained the mysticism in the stories of those that represent ‘American voices’. It also served as the cultivation of the idea that if we were all text and text consisted of language then every individual not only has a story but is a story.

If that is the case, and if stories are all we have to fight off the harsh realities of life then as humans we have a responsibility to hear as many of these stories, or individuals, as possible. Our eyes, ears, and hearts must be open to the boundless amount of perspective that floats through our universe because it allows us to understand the human experience for better or for worse. It is on that very foundation that Craig seems to build all of his courses on and allows him to be defined as such a distinct educator.

As he brilliantly selects texts to illustrate the commonalities and complexities in the human experience, he pushes students to understand the importance of both illuminating oneself in the perspectives of others as well as conjuring your own. Craig is different, there can be no doubt about that. Yet it is his pedagogical dissent that inspires me to have my own, a spirit which has only been forged stronger through recent events.

As the voice of students continues to be stifled in matters that threaten to alter their own, our own, education it is Craig’s teachings that invoke me to hold myself, the administration, and the Student Government Association accountable. Our voices are not mere meaningless complaints but rather stories of perspective that are monumentally important. When our perspective is not heard, whether it be by the administration or a Student Government that refuses the value of one student, a terrible disruption occurs and we are stripped of the capabilities to fend off the illnesses of apathy and the death of educational illumination.


Street Democracy

Professor Christina Kulich-Vamvakas

Ordinary women and young people who speak collectively may be perennial irritants, but mobilizations are necessary to keep the channels of democratic debate open.”

Temma Kaplan

Professor Kulich once told me that political systems only have as much legitimacy as its citizens put into it. She was trying to explain that governments at their core only exist to serve the interests of its citizens. If its citizens do not put stock in their own government the system has failed at its most initial level.

Fascinating isn’t it? How much power citizens actually have in the determination of success respective to their own governmental system. As a political science student, I began to see this framework everywhere: governments, businesses, and more relevantly, administrations. All embody this idea of existing only for and through the individuals which they were originated to serve.

This quote embedded within Taking Back the Streets, a book listed on the Street Democracy syllabus, corresponds with the consequences that arise when individuals deem a system illegitimate. To put it plainly when what the people want from their government, and what their government is willing to give don’t add up, people may respond with attempts to take it back.

However, attempts are not always successful and it must be said that not all attempts for citizens to hold their systems accountable are worthy. As Kulich so often says, “it depends.” Every cause is different and social movements resulting from civil unrest are powerful tools that can either help or hurt a cause. Therefore when wielding such powerful devices it is vital that a cause is in fact worthy.

Which brings me to what we are doing here: for the first time in a while in my Emmanuel College career students are deeply stirred about something, yet, their opinions and concerns are not only being ignored but belittled. The legitimacy of all the channels that students have thus far attempted to use to express their concerns – be it the administration itself or the Student Government Association – have been rendered illegitimate as they answer with practiced rhetoric or circumventions.

The decision to not renew the contract of Professor Kulich is indicative on many levels; the political science department as it currently stands is lacking in the breadth of courses that it offers, the rigor that its courses maintain, and in the diversity of its educators. Yet despite these departmental inadequacies the answer was to eliminate one of our most prestigious, challenging, and revered professors. The dismissal of Kulich immediately degrades the quality my department of study and alters the course of my education going forward. However, it is fitting that my courses with Professor Kulich have revolved around matters of political unrest, marginalization, and social movement theory as what better way to honor such a scholar than by displaying elements of what she has taught me.



The S.A.I.N.T. Push


We have and will be continuously asked whether the S.A.I.N.T. push (Students Acting for Institutional Transition) is about the denied tenure of Professor Chris Craig or the non-renewal of the contract of Professor Christina Kulich. Our answer is that it is not. Undeniably, our movement is inspired by these events and most emphatically our movement is in honor of these two great professors, but our movement extends beyond the employment of any one individual.

The S.A.I.N.T. push is about the quality of education we, as students, deserve. A comment on an earlier article here on The Hub stated that Emmanuel College, “is either the reach school for kids that should not be in college or the net for those that were denied their top choices.” Is this how Emmanuel wants to continue to be regarded? If the answer is no then perhaps the institution and its departments aught to re-evaluate the professors it chooses as educators, the way in which courses are structured, the degree to which they include their students, and how they utilize their funding.

Professors Kulich and Craig are two individuals that have aided enormously in the development of students in becoming adults. And it is while keeping in mind their lessons that I respectfully ask the administration to listen to the concerns of its students about the course of their educations. We are not a dislocated, unorganized, or unintelligent group of teenagers – we are budding scholars that are deeply concerned with the decisions being made by the institution and their lack of embracement of our appeals. We know what it means to be a S.A.I.N.T. but we ask Emmanuel College, do you?    



-Kyéra Sterling ’15

Posted by on March 27, 2014. Filed under Opinions & Editorials. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.