Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Material Conditions of Life Under Capitalism Suck

~An essay I wrote for my Marxism class back in 2005 that still rings true today (unfortunately)-- of course it had a different title~

By Tina Phillips

When Marx discusses the material conditions of life he is trying to explain the limitations put on humankind to reach its full potential. Marx believed that there was nothing in one’s consciousness that did not come from one’s material conditions. Marx’s beliefs about the material surroundings of life are closely related to the sociological concept of the social construction of reality. The social construction of reality is a theory that says that one’s social reality comes from one’s physical conditions. Marx describes material conditions in order to prove a moral point about how unjust social relations become under certain kinds of material conditions.

Marx says that the first task people take up in life is work for their own survival. People need to get their needs met. In order to do so people must work within their material conditions and work with others to exchange goods and services; setting up a system of social relations. Marx believes that everything must be explained in material terms. Marx thinks strongly that only material is real, and concepts such as the metaphysical are made up to comfort people. He is serious about empathizing how material conditions run people’s lives because he wants people to be emancipated and liberated. Marx believes the only way to liberate people is by getting them to see their material conditions, to see how limiting they are, and to do this as to foster a change agent within them, so that they will seek to change their created reality.

Marx views the world through a system of materialism. Marx explains materialism in two different ways. One is dialectical materialism. Dialectical materialism is when change happens only through a process of conflict between opposing sides and that the resolution results in a new form of social relations- a better form. Further, historical materialism describes Marx’s idea of how the social structure of a given society is created by its material condition. Marx believes that certain conflicts within social relations—especially around who are the owners in society and who are the producers—would result in revolutionary conditions. Marx explains that sooner or later the producers will seek to overthrow their bosses in order to change their material conditions—and thus social relations between them—and all people.

Material conditions create the basis for social relations. Material conditions are “elements of the interaction with nature that confront humanity as given, the exogenous constraints to which society must adjust, the physically imposed requirements of individual and social reproduction” (Mayer, p. 28). A material condition gives structure to the social relations between people and defines what these social relations can look like. The current material conditions the United States lives under give rise to massive inequality in terms of social relations and power some wield over others.

One example of how material conditions set up an unequal power relationship in modern America is the means of production. The means of production are those productive forces that are necessary to produce the existence of a human being. These could include: technology, machinery, a pen, a paintbrush, a musical instrument, or any other material tool that could help one create. In the United States the means of production are concentrated in the hands of capitalists, who own them. Marx believes that people should own their own means of production. Capitalists use workers to exploit worker’s surplus labor value in order to make profit. Surplus labor value is “value produced by surplus labor” which is “labor over and above what is needed to reproduce the laborer plus the tools and materials used up in the process” (Mayer, p. 339). This causes exploitation. Exploitation is when one group of people holds power and authority over another and thus can take away the disempowered group’s productive power (to use for their own economic gain). There is an illusion that the modern worker can choose any job they wish when in actuality material conditions dictate that they must take whatever job is available in order to survive—and whatever job they get will set them up as a wage slave.

In addition, in the modern day United States, the system of capitalism has generated a lot of profit for very few people. Capitalism itself is a material condition of life in America. People are forced to be a player in the game of capitalism—and there are many more losers than there are winners. Private ownership of the means of production, instead of social ownership, has allowed a few thousand people to control the destiny of billions of people. Capitalism, which is the process of buying something and selling it for a higher price and reinvesting that profit, is how people can amass large amounts of capital.

Furthermore, globalization has allowed capitalism to not only exploit people of the United States, but people all around the world. Now any corporation based in America can be a multi-national corporation just by setting up shop in some third world country where labor is super cheap. These third world victims are super-exploited. Not only do they work for pennies, they are over worked, sometimes being forced to work more than twelve hours a day and six days a week, and they also face harsh environmental working conditions, which are unsafe to work under. Many of these workers are also children. The practice of getting cheaper labor outside one’s host country is called outsourcing. Outsourcing is a method that corporations utilize in order to get a competitive edge on others.

Another material condition in modern America is competition. Everyone is forced to compete with everyone else in order to survive. Corporations stop at nothing to exploit people and natural resources. Unfortunately, not everyone is on a level playing field either. Some people are born with privilege. Many factors could influence how much a person is able to make. It is also material conditions, which set up this system of inequality based on race, class, sex, etc. In fact, a new social order is being built around the worship and continued success of capitalism: Neoliberalism. Under neoliberalism “wages are driven down, safety nets are being destroyed, regulatory oversight is being eliminated, tax systems dismantled and rebuilt around new priorities, and civil and criminal law systems are being transformed in the direction of removing any government responsibility for the welfare of society and its citizens” (The People’s Tribune). Social relations are being reformed and reshaped as capitalist globalization spreads through out the globe—integrating markets. Economic conditions are giving rise to a superstructure—which are non-economic institutions, which are influenced directly by economic conditions (Mayer, p. 339). Yet these institutions function to serve capitalists, profit makers, and exploiters. The dominant ideology in the world today—Neoliberalism—fosters a worldview that freedom means the unrestrained opportunity to make profit. Marx says that the unrestrained opportunity to make profit is close to the opposite of freedom. In fact, Marx says that to be free one must not be able to make profit at all. Marx believes true freedom means the abolishment of the profit system altogether. Marx believes that abolishing the system of profit would allow people to use their productive force to create and live up to their full potential.

Marx believes the best thing human beings possess is their own productive force. Productive force is “an instrument, raw material, human capacity (e.g., strength, skill, knowledge), or anything else that can be used for purposes of economic production” (Mayer, p. 335). Marx thinks strongly that human beings deserve to utilize their own productive force for not only producing their own existence, but to create. Marx feels that every human being has the capability to produce something of value in society. Not the value that a capitalist market would give something—the value of its exchange and ability to produce capital—but its social value to other human beings. Marx urges people to act to change their material conditions and social relations—so that they can have the resources at their disposal to reach their own full potential. Current American material conditions have served to alienate people because they have been turned into commodities.

Alienation happens when a worker is denied of the ownership of their means of production. When owners control the means of production and also use products produced by workers to sell and make a profit they deny the worker the satisfaction of owning that creatively made product. Instead of creating a product and being able to exchange that product for another, capitalism sets up a system whereby workers get paid a wage to produce. This produces alienation, because workers are no longer intimately connected with the fruits of their own labor and have no control over their own creative abilities. Commodification happens when social relations, products, culture etc. are being bought and sold on the market. For example, a job where a worker produces a table used to be made in the worker’s own wood shop. The worker produced the table and then exchanged it for other things he needed. Now the table is produced in a factory assembly line, where no one person produces the whole table and may never get to see the finished product. After the table is made it is bought and sold for profit of the owner, and does not return its true value to the worker. The division of labor also comes from alienation. Capitalists claim that the division of labor is efficient and produces more wealth for more people, but Marx asks at what cost? Marx believes there is a better way to live and work.

The current material condition in the United States also includes the agent of fear. Marx says that when you live under a capitalist system, you invite fear and terror to rule. In order to keep profits rising, owners have to make people work more for less. This is not usually very popular and citizens may revolt. In order to curb revolts, capitalist government’s must instill fear tactics in order to keep control and authority over its citizens. An example of this is the “war on terror” which was a war created to use fear in order to invade countries and threaten countries into submission to American foreign interests. American citizens are so afraid of being attacked by terrorists; they are willing to be subjected to the removal of their own civil liberties in order to have the illusion of security.

Another material condition the modern United States lives under is mass illusions. The United States must keep up façades in order to convince people that everything is okay and to just keep working. The more society starts to fall apart, the more the capitalist government must expend in its own resources to stop people from over throwing the government. An example of this is the illusion of security. Citizens are told that they are being protected via National Security agencies and Homeland Security, but the truth is there is no guarantee of safety, especially when it spends more money bombing people, than feeding people.

In order to change our material conditions, and thus our social relations, we must begin, according to Marx, to change the way in which we work. Marx advocates that people overthrow the system of capitalism and set up a new way of relating and working with others so that we can stop alienation, commodification, and exploitation, and be free to create and give to each other to the fullest of our capabilities based on need, not on greed. Marx suggests people can have freedom—only when they are allowed to do as they please and not be forced to produce for the means of profit. If people are given freedom to do what they truly want, Marx argues all our needs would be satisfied and people would naturally fall into a balance of self-sufficiency and mutual dependency. People could reach self-actualization and produce for the collective good as well as to satisfy their own dreams. People would relate to each other on cooperative terms, instead of being competitive. Marx suggests that all human beings can fully be realized as humans and live humanely with each other.

Sources Cited:

League of Revolutionaries for a New America. The Global Economy and US Policy Debates. “December 2004 Steering Committee Report” <http://www.lrna.org/docs5/docs_pol1.html>.

Mayer, Tom. Analytical Marxism. Contemporary Social Theory. Volume 1. Sage Publications. International Educational and Professional Publisher. Thousand Oaks, London, New Delhi. 1994.

The Hope Is You

by Tina Phillips
June 9, 2011

Previously published in The Pioneer

As I wind up my educational pursuits at Cal State East Bay I reflect on all that I have accomplished. I am going to receive all three of my degrees from this university, two BA's and one Masters in Social Work. Some people ask why I would get three degrees from the same school. I ask: why not?

While some look down on the city of Hayward, I view Hayward with pride. I have also enjoyed my experience here. I liked most of my classes, professors, classmates, and liked being able to go to college in my own community. I also find that education is what you make of it. I have involved myself in many student organizations, was active in campus life, and engaged myself in working for various causes I believed in. Once I helped register 400 students to vote. I helped organize student-lead walk outs against budget cuts. I helped create and put on many of the QueerFests on this campus which continue today. After I graduated I co-advised student organizations too. I was on the Alumni Board. I helped create the Diversity Center on campus. This year I wrote for The Pioneer. These are all ways I helped contribute to improve the campus community and gave back.

As I graduate I wonder what is in store for me as I shift my focus to the boarder community and transition into the world of work once again. The issues I have addressed in the past year while writing for The Pioneer weigh heavily on my mind and on my heart.

Will I get a job? While some keep saying we are in a "recovery" the jobs have not come back, just the record corporate and Wallstreet profits. Some are now saying we are going into what economists are calling a "double dip" but from my perspective there was never a rebound to begin with. Others are calling this a Depression.

We are entering a scary time in American history where the redistribution of wealth upwards is fundamentally stagnating the ability of everyday people to survive. The top 10 percent of all households are now the ones buying 60% of all goods and services. Which also translates into less jobs in the service sector. This turns into a viscous equation. No jobs = no money to buy things = no jobs because no one is buying. The situation is more dire than anyone wants to admit.

While I am able to stay afloat on left over student loans for a while, eventually the financial aid runs out and then what? It is replaced with a student loan repayment notice. This is a daunting prospect. Many college students are not able to repay their loans, leaving less money for future generations to borrow. This is just one reason why colege should be 100% tax payer funded, yet instead we are seeing the systematic privatization of our university system. We need to ensure that the "people's university" remains accessible to all.

Moreover, many college graduates are moving back home. As many as 85% of college grads are moving back in with their parents. Not that that is inherently bad, but it can have its pluses and minuses. I have successfully been able to live independently of my parents for four years now and reject the idea that I should be forced to go back. It appears the idea that a college degree equals a job is no longer true. Unemployment is double for young people ages 16-24, than that of the general population.

As we graduate we are filled with messages of inspiration and hope for the future. But what do we have to be hopeful about? Our government is not being forward thinking in the policies it is pursuing to change the devastating course we are on as a society. It has looked to cost cutting instead of revue producing, which is taking away essential services that we need as we struggle to make ends meet. Instead of reversing the tide of wealth flooding into the pockets and bank account's of the richest among us, our government is yet again reaching into our pockets to keep giving tax breaks to corporations, paying for prisons and the drug war, paying for the unsuccessful military interventions around the world, and keeping taxes low for the rich. Sooner or later we are going to reach a breaking point where we will have literally nothing left to lose.

These times are incredibly frustrating, and often times downright discouraging. Most people do not think their children will have a better life than they did. As a country we are struggling with whether to move forward or go backwards. Will we socially, politically, and economically progress forward, or will be go back to reactionary and regressive policies of the past? Have we learned nothing from the past or are we doomed to repeat painful mistakes? When will we realize we need to fight back and and move forward?

It is us young people (and the young at heart) graduating from college, who are inheriting this country. We are more diverse, more open minded, more culturally exposed, more savvy, and more conscious than any generation before us. We have the power to create a better future and we can contribute in so many ways that fit our passions, abilities, assets, knowledge, interests, education and experience. We cannot let apathy get to us and be an excuse not to do what we can to defend our families, our communities, and ourselves. We cannot afford to allow ourselves to become jaded and cynical, for the stakes are too high. We have to embrace the future and find our place in it.

We have to manifest the society we want to live in by realizing we are mutually dependent on each other and coming together to develop a vibrant community. That is the kind of community we want; one in which we are able to create meaning, contribute, and do good in the world. In the short term, we are struggling. In the long run, we can overcome our challenges and face the struggles by demanding progress.

It all comes down to one question: will we do what it takes to ensure the success of the future? Will we strengthen safety nets, invest in education, invest in job creation, protect the environment, invest in renewable energy, and promote peace, civility, diplomacy, equality, liberty, and justice? Will we demand that every person has the opportunity to reach their full potential and be supported in this endeavor? Will we shift our economic and social policies to match our priorities and our true values as a country? Or will we let Wall Street, the wealthy, and corporations dictate our future?

The hope lies in the actions of courageous people who have decided enough is enough. The hope is that we demand better of ourselves and each other. Hope is not a campaign slogan, a promise of a better tomorrow, or a catch phrase in a speech. Hope is what we latch on to in the most desperate and adverse times in our lives. We must reject pessimism and nihilism. We must believe in our own ability to not only survive, but thrive. People are strong and resilient. People can and will dare the seemingly impossible and achieve it. Against overwhelming odds, do not give up hope. Hope will sustain us as we struggle through to better days. Those better days are not a promise nor a guarantee. They will only come if you will it and make it happen. Always remember the hope is you.

The Time to Evolve is Now

by Tina Phillips
June 2, 2011

Previously published in The Pioneer

He was for it before he was against it. Back in 1996, when he was running for the Illinois State Senate, Barack Obama answered a 1996 Outlines newspaper question by saying, "I favor legalizing same-sex marriages, and would fight efforts to prohibit such marriages." In 2008, he said he was a "fierce advocate" for gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) community. Fast forward to 2011, and he says he is against it but that his opinion is "evolving." What is that supposed to mean?

Well, first off it sounds like he is trying to get re-elected. It appears he does what many politicians do; change their positions depending on the electorate's whims.  But also it sounds like he is in the same place many of Americans seems to be in. Americans are "evolving" in their view and attitudes about same-sex marriage.

Several polls have now shown country wide support for it is above 50%. Although 28 states have constitutional amendments or initiatives that define marriage as "the union of a man and a woman" and the federal government will still not recognize it, same-sex marriage is still a hot topic of debate.

The Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), signed into law by president Clinton in 1996, is still on the books. However, recently the Obama Administration has come out publicly in opposition to it, calling it "unconstitutional." However, there is no current federal legislation being considered to overturn the law. Obama's position remains that DOMA should be overturned and the decision to allow same-sex marriage should be left to the states. He has come out in favor of civil unions, but not marriage equality.

Meanwhile this issue is being fought state by state. Here in California we saw the Supreme Court recognize same-sex couples’ constitutional right to marry under article 14, the equal protection clause of the constitution. Only to see it taken away again, when Prop 8 won by a small margin of only 3% of voters in 2008. Then in 2010 a decision by the U.S. District Court in Perry v. Schwarzenegger ruled Proposition 8 unconstitutional and it has been tied up in court ever since on appeal. It was as if my right to marry got lost in a black hole.

I will not pretend I have no stake in the outcome. As a gay person who has been with my loving partner for five years, I am ready to get married. I could have a ceremony in front of all of my friends and family, say I "do" and hear the words "spouses for life," have a first dance, cut a cake, throw a bouquet, and go on a honeymoon, but I cannot get a piece of paper that gives me all the legal protections that come with marriage. I cannot get the title and status of being married in the eyes of the law. I do not need the government to recognize my marriage in order to feel like I am married. However, as a gay person it feels like what I am being told is I am a second class citizen. In California there is a civil union for me and a marriage for heterosexual person. I may have to hire and pay a lawyer to draw up several contracts to give my wife and I the protections an opposite-sex couple can get after one night in Las Vegas.

Civil rights should never be put up for a popular vote. Courts are charged with protecting minority rights against majority tyranny. That is what courts have done in the past for many minortity groups, including for interracial couples who wanted to marry in 1967, even when the majority of Americans had not quite caught up in the social views yet. However, the court process has been slow and cumbersome in regard to this issue. Moreover, to date there have only been five states that recognize same-sex marriage: Massachusetts, Connecticut, Iowa, Vermont, and New Hampshire.

However, slowly Americans themselves are coming to realize that gay people are people too. As more and more LGBT come out, more people can now say they know someone who is LGBT. As we share our stories, folks are realizing we have partners, children, and families. Whether straight people support same-sex marriage or not, many are deciding it is not their decision to make. The decision should belong to same-sex couples.

It was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. who said, "the moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends towards justice." As a gay person I can see it bending but waiting for it to reach justice is painfully slow. I can see that someday soon LGBT people will be able to get civilly married but why should we have to wait any longer? The time has come for the U.S. Supreme Court to put this issue to rest once and for all. The time has come for you, President Obama, to evolve. We should not have to wait any longer for our rights as citizens and fellow human beings to be recognized. I demand the freedom to marry, now.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Many Childhood Disorders are Only a Symptom

by Tina Phillips
March 26, 2011

Previously published in The Pioneer 

One in ten children in America today is diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

ADHD is characterized by problems paying attention, being hyperactivite, and behaving impulsively.

Also, six to eight percent of children are diagnosed with Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD), which is characterized by disobedience, hostility, and defiant behaviors toward authority figures. Between 40 and 60 percent of children diagnosed with ADHD are also diagnosed with ODD.

Both of these disorders can have significant impacts on educational attainment and the emotional and psychological well-being of the children diagnosed with them.

The diagnosis of these disorders in children is sharply on the rise. Some argue that because there is more awareness about these disorders, there are more children diagnosed. But, this cannot account for the magnitude of the increase.

So then what is driving the rise in these disorders?

According to Dr. Gabor Maté, these impulse disorders are being driven by increased stress in a child’s environment, particularly due to their parents. Many parents who are stressed are also depressed and this has an impact on children too. When a child picks up stress and/or depression in his or her caretaker, they often internalize this stress, and it comes out in various behavioral issues.

Parents who do not have enough time to attune themselves to meeting their children’s various needs and work on building a strong attachment will often find their child acts out. If the parent blames the child for what looks like misbehavior and attempts to shame them or punish them, this can worsen the problem.

A child needs a nurturing and supportive environment, one in which there is quality time spent with parents. In addition, parents must have appropriate structure, limits, and boundaries with their children and use positive parenting techniques such as praise, rewards, and encouragement.

The attempt to control children has not proven to be successful, whether it is through consequences or through medications.

Giving children what they truly need to enrich their emotional development has proven elusive for many in our society. We need to invest in relationships, not behavioral control. Children are desperate to connect. Why don’t we connect with them?

The answer is “we don’t have time.” As busy individuals living in an increasingly more difficult society to survive in and make a living in, we barely have time to put food on the table to keep kids fed, let alone give them what they need on an emotional and developmental level.

One in eight people now collects food stamps and 21 percent of the children in one of the richest countries in the world lives in poverty. Many so-called “middle-class” families are struggling, and unemployment and underemployment still remain high, especially among ethnic minority.

Parents are not the only ones who are not meeting the needs of children. Most schools are not able to meet children’s needs either. There has been a long and about to best reform education. I would argue that we need an entire systems change. While there are many arguing that education be privatized, I suggest privatization and the profit-motivated business model is actually a huge part of the problem. Will education only be made a priority when it makes people money? The answer to changing public education is the same answer for creating competent parents for children.

We need to change our priorities as a nation and change how we relate to each other. This starts with switching from a fast-paced competitive society where we are pitted against each other to fight for crumbs, to one of cooperation and collaboration to fulfill mutual needs of an interdependent society.

Capitalism has created a society where parents often cannot be parents, where teachers cannot teach, and where, consequently, children often cannot be successful. Everything is about money instead of being about love, learning, growing, discovering, and connecting. Life should not be such a struggle. This is not an environment conducive to productivity, happiness, or raising healthy children.

It is as if the system is set against us. We are falling behind as a nation in so many ways. We are becoming more distressed and our children are being harmed in the process. Our children are manifesting the sickness in our society and are not able to thrive. Many are getting in trouble and are not able to graduate from high school. What kind of life will they have? 

It is up to us to ensure they have a good quality of life. In order to do that we must change the way in which we live, work, and learn. If we are going to relate and connect to one another as the social beings we are, we need to decrease the hours we work each week, and get paid more.

We need to focus on building relationships, not teaching to standardized tests.It means taking money out of budgets for wars and prisons and investing them into our communities. It means stopping the redistribution of wealth upwards—no more tax breaks for the rich. It means increase the rich’s taxes and giving it to those in need. This is just the start of a formula for rebuilding our relationships and getting back in touch with what it means to be a human family. If we do not do this, we are facing the systematic destruction of our society one child at a time. It is already in progress. It is up to you to stop it.

Professors Need Checks and Balances Too

By Tina Phillips
May 18th, 2011

Ever noticed how egotistical some professors can be? How they use their power to intimidate you or hold a grade over you to make you bend to their will? How they talk to you (in person, and especially on e-mail) in a degrading way? Well, I have, and it’s not right.

I have been told before, “They earned a Ph.D., so they have the right to teach however they want, grade however they want and treat you however they want.” Really? Or have we just accepted mistreatment and abuse from professors over the years because we mistakenly believe the myth that dealing with professor’s misconduct is part of the price we pay to earn our degrees? Many accept this “tradition.” Well, I, for one, reject it.

Our university has a Student Code of Conduct policy but nothing like it for faculty. So what recourse, as students, do we have? If a professor discriminates against you or harasses you based on a protected category such as: age, ancestry, citizenship, color, disability, gender, immigration status, marital status, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, or veteran’s status (and you can prove this) then you can file a complaint with the school’s Equal Opportunity office. If you are being sexually harassed you can report that. You can file a petition to have your case reviewed by the Fairness Committee (although this is an arduous process that many of us would not have the time nor patience to go through). But what if the professor is grading the whole class unfairly, not just you? What if he is offending, annoying, intimidating, and/or threatening you and causing a hostile learning environment?

The school says to take it up with the Department Chair of your individual department. As someone who has complained about a professor before, I can attest that this is often futile. The Department Chair seems to refer you back to the professor to try to “work it out.” They want the problem to go away on its own. Often, they defend the professor, not you. Sometimes they will want you to meet with the professor and offer to come with you as a witness and/or mediator, if you’re lucky. If this does not work you are told to go to the Dean. I have been to the Dean before, and I can tell you that was also a waste of time. I even had a petition of students in my class who shared the same concerns about the professor. What was I told? As long as the professor is treating the entire class the same way then it is not deemed to be unfair treatment, since one person was not being “singled out.”

I came to learn that there is something called “Academic Freedom” which allows for professors to not only teach what they want and how they want to, but assign grades however they want to. In my case, the professor had unreasonable and ridiculous standards for grading our essays—expecting us to write essays that contained particular information (even quotes that he deemed important) and marking us down every time we did not include specific information. Over half the class received F’s even after he curved the grades!

In 1940, representatives of the American Association of University Professors and of the Association of American Colleges (now the Association of American Colleges and Universities) agreed to a statement known as the 1940 Statement of Principles on Academic Freedom and Tenure. Part of it states: Professors should “speak or write as citizens, they should be free from institutional censorship or discipline, but their special position in the community imposes special obligations. As scholars and educational officers, they should remember that the public may judge their profession and their institution by their utterances. Hence, they should at all times be accurate, should exercise appropriate restraint, should show respect for the opinions of others, and should make every effort to indicate that they are not speaking for the institution.” One would think this means that professors ought to think carefully about what they say and how they treat students but apparently this is not always the case.

There is also a Statement on Professional Ethics adopted in 1966 which speaks to the responsibilities of professors. Part of the statement says that professors “accept the obligation to exercise critical self-discipline and judgment in using, extending, and transmitting knowledge.” Furthermore, it goes on to state that professors should, “demonstrate respect for students as individuals and adhere to their proper roles as intellectual guides and counselors. Professors make every reasonable effort to foster honest academic conduct and to ensure that their evaluations of students reflect each student’s true merit. They respect the confidential nature of the relationship between professor and student. They avoid any exploitation, harassment, or discriminatory treatment of students.” This statement dictates the ideal but what is the reality? What happens when a professor abuses his power and does not respect their student? Often times, nothing. That student learns to deal with it, drops the class, drops out of college, and/or moves on with life. This is process can be very damaging. We should expect more from professors.

If professors have an ethical duty to treat students with respect why is it they get away with mistreating them? Why is it that a professor can grade any way he likes, even if it meets no reasonable standard? Why is it that a professor can be a dictator in the classroom instead of a collaborator, a mentor, a supporter, and an encourager? Why is it that unless a professor is discriminating against and/or harassing a student based on race, sex, etc. there are no formal ways to address the student’s concerns? What ever happened to a professor being a teacher—someone who inspires a person to want to learn and helps them to learn better? We need to reclaim standards and quality of teaching as well as adopt new standards for faculty conduct. If our school had such a policy, professors would be held accountable to not only proper instruction and grading, but in the way they do it and the way they convey information and communicate with students.

In a university community, it is not only the students who need to maintain appropriate respect for others. Faculty must also be held to the same standard of civility. A professor must be a professional in every sense of the word and hold that professional standard in all interactions with their students. We must reject the notion that students must bend to the will of their professors, give in to all their demands, and kowtow to them. Accepting this type of environment creates an inherently imbalanced and coercive relationship between professor and student that can easily lead to abuse. Professors need checks and balances to ensure they do not abuse their power. The values and vision of our university demand we use collaboration, effective communication, and that the academic environment is inclusive and student-centered. There is no ethical excuse for a lack of a Faculty Code of Conduct—only resistance to changing the status quo from those that like it the way it is.