Mr. Marcy & Coward the Couragely Dog
Mob psychology at UC Berkeley has been dormant for far too long, and tonight, it’s back in full swing. Facebook, Yik Yak, even bCourses (just kidding) have been lit up with Alexander Coward’s new diss track. If you aren’t aware, part-time serial e-mail writer and occasional math lecturing aficionado Professor Coward put together an exposé on how shitty Cal’s math administrators really are. It’s an entertaining read for a Monday morning, but the ensuing firestorm of public opinion has been disconcerting, to say the least.
What’s mildly troubling is the premature sharpening of pitchforks and our love of napalm-smell this late at night. In all likelihood, Coward – a seemingly fantastic lecturer and person by all accounts – is telling the truth since he has nothing to lose, but it was an easy argument to buy into. Of course students are going to agree that any department sucks when they’re looking for an outlet to channel their bad midterm grades into (I’m no stranger). Of course tuition-paying teenagers are going to resent being compared to a fast food joint #allburgersmatter. Of course they’ll react to buzzwords like ‘money, status, and control’ and ‘bullying the weak’ with all the rage against the machine. But it’s gotten to the point of calling for people’s jobs – a protocol that would have me fired from being a student because I suck at it – when there are several great professors in the department, like Stankova and Fitzpatrick. It’s reached a peak where everything Coward said has been taken as face value without even waiting for the department’s counter. And it’s currently a mindset where we’re all relying on the idea that distinguished middle-aged men have all the insecurity and pettiness of a middle schooler who’s just been picked last at a pickup basketball game.
What’s actually troubling is that we apparently just now realized that it’s not a research university’s foremost responsibility to care about its undergraduates. And while it’s being preached that Coward should be the rule (not the exception), the incessant bitching about the rest of the department really puts a damper on Cal students’ supposed ability to thrive amidst the circumstances – regardless of what students deserve, we’ve had plenty of time to adapt to hit-or-miss teaching. Again – all of what was said is possibly and likely factually accurate, but it’s worth keeping it in our pants, before we end up looking like the typical millennials who believe everything they read on the internet.
What’s incredibly troubling is that the other major Cal story of the last week, Geoff Marcy’s mild Bill Cosby-ish tendencies, has not only been forgotten by all of us knee-jerk-inclined students (a fantastic potential name for the eventual Marcy biopic), but by anyone important enough to do anything about it. To recap, he engaged in touching, massaging under the clothes, kissing, and groping with female undergrads. After being outed by not only the victims, but also his grad students and other faculty, he promised he’d never do it again in an open letter and that was that. Huh? Did I just waste half a day taking sexual harassment training back in Freshman year that some dick professor apparently didn’t? Barring the usual commentary on power dynamics, gender parity, and general consent, as George W. Bush once intelligently said, “an accountability system must have a consequence… otherwise it’s not much of an accountability system.” The current system is more of a how-do-I-get-away-with-it instructional manual, which Marcy didn’t even follow! Sorry, I was still worked up over having to call a Bush comment intelligent. Anyway, this has the same ingredients as in the Coward issue – immature misconduct mixed in with governing oversight, with just a soupçon (I’ve been using Rosetta Stone, okay?) of dick swinging (metaphorical in Arthur Ogus’ handling of Coward, and probably more literal in Marcy’s handling of anything with breasts). But this story had the corroboration and actual human consequences that the first one didn’t – yet it was the first that had defenders, shows of public support, and campaigns/petitions within minutes.
It’s almost as troubling as the fact that I couldn’t find a better word than ‘troubling’ to open each paragraph.