The Risks of Academic Partnership

Goal Setting Essay

“If we’re not your animals, if these are adult things, accept the risk. There is risk, Gatoi, in dealing with a partner.”

The quote above is the course epigraph for INTD 105, section 3. This quote is from Octavia Butler’s story, “Bloodchild”. Upon reading this quote I began thinkING about the current state in which many of my peers and mainly myself find ourselves as college students. “Bloodchild” alludes many times to themes that I find tie into my own experiences as a college student.

Butler notes in the afterword of “Bloodchild” one of the themes that the story exemplifies. “It’s a coming-of-age story in which a boy must absorb disturbing information and use it to make a decision that will affect the rest of his life” (Butler). “Bloodchild” tracks a story of a young man’s struggle in deciding his future, not dissimilar to the decisions I face as a college student. This decision the bay must make is not described in this quote, but what is important to note is the fact that this unknown decision will “affect the rest of his life”. I personally find myself generally content with the academic partnership I have with Geneseo. However, I can, to the best of my ability, describe my brother’s college experience, which was one of discomfort.

My brother was not the best student in high school. Although a social savant who could make everyone his friend or follower, he did not take to studying or doing school work. He saw more value in making personal connections and making allies with those around him. This is not to say my brother is unintelligent by any means, no, my brother is vastly smarter than me in the social arena. My brother had a formidable mastery of social dynamics, and social chemistry.

Despite his social genius, he did not know what he wanted to do for a living. My brother decided to take a risk and spend money to go to college, not sure footed in what he wanted to study. A year or so later, my brother was failing classes, flexing his social-muscles at parties, and on his way to leaving without a degree. My brother dropped out and started working in the restaurant industry, where he climbed his way to the top of a series of fine dining restaurants in the city of Rochester. My brother is debt free, managing two successful restaurants, and making much more than many of his college educated peers. My brother knew people, so an education in statistics, or any number of other courses, were not valuable to his skill set. My brother took the risk of going to college and starting an academic partnership, but it was not worth it for him.

Some time after seeing my brother’s tumultuous path, it was my time to make a decision about my future. I knew that if I wanted to go to college I needed to know what I wanted to get out of my education first. I spent some time thinking and determined that I would like to go into English teaching. My thought process was that I would have summers off to pursue music, I would have a job out of college based on connections I have, and by going to a great SUNY school like Geneseo, I wouldn’t incur a great deal of debt. These reasons combined with my love of language and literature led me to my decision, which so far seems to be a good one. I had the benefit of being able to see what my older siblings went through, and learn from their successes and mistakes. For many college students, they are the first people in their family to go to college, or at least the first of their siblings. Many students are encountering a world they may not be totally prepared for. 

The word “risk” is one I noted in the course epigraph. It prompted me to begin thinking about the risks I face as a college student myself. I find myself in the unique position of being tied to college contracts, and financial agreements the second I enter “adulthood”. Despite being fresh out of the nest, I am expected to take that risky leap of faith, trusting that college is best for me, without any evidence to look to. For the majority of my life I have never signed a contract that has such drastic consequences financially should something go poorly. 

On the syllabus for this course Professor McCoy provides the Mission Statement, and the Community Commitment to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Most importantly, however the values that Geneseo advertises are provided. 

“The Geneseo campus community is guided by our beliefs in and commitments to the following values:

  • ◦ Learning: embracing high expectations for intellectual inquiry, scholarly achievement, and personal growth;
  • ◦ Creativity: affirming a spirit of innovation that inspires intellectual curiosity and problem solving;
  • ◦ Inclusivity: fostering a diverse campus community marked by mutual respect for the unique talents and contributions of each individual;
  • ◦ Civic responsibility: promoting ethical local and global citizenship;
  • ◦ Sustainability — advancing just principles of ecological, social, and economic stewardship.”

These resources, although valuable for a student when searching for the goals of a university, fail to provide a broad picture of many of the things I am signing my name to. To commit to a binding oath such as a collegic agreement must be a commitment rooted in understanding. By reading these values there are many grey areas of interpretation. Some of these are as simple as: what is the school’s standards of what respect is? When Geneseo states: “Inclusivity: fostering a diverse campus community marked by mutual respect for the unique talents and contributions of each individual”, what does that mean? What does the school consider respect? If a student throws a bible or a koran in a toilet, is that student at risk of punishment or suspension? Many of these questions I have for the school are based on the fact that I wish to know exactly what the school means by their broad statements. It is one thing to say a school values such and such, it is another to actually do those things.

An example of one of the many risks of academic partnership that has come to pass in recent days, is the closing of Geneseo’s Milne Library. For those who do not know, Geneseo’s library was recently closed due to an asbestos problem. I personally have no problem with the library being closed to take care of a health and safety issue. It is another thing to do what Geneseo has decided, which is to close the school for my entire college career, to expand and cosmetically tweak the library. When I signed up to go to Geneseo, this contract was signed based on many contingencies. One of these contingencies, is that I as a student would be provided a facility to help me thrive academically. This facility was the library. However, this aspect of the partnership has been broken, as now I do not have a facility that was promised to me. Even if Geneseo has their reasons for closing the library, this is inarguably a break of trust between the administration and the student body. I must now go my college career without a library, something which is a basic resource for many colleges. 

Many of the ideas “Bloodchild” raises discussing coming of age and risk, in conjunction with my own personal experiences of academic partnership made me think of the allegory of the cave. For those of you who do not know, the allegory of the cave, is an allegorical theory by Plato that discusses the “effect of education and the lack of it on our nature”. In summary the allegory is as follows: prisoners are chained in a cave, unable to turn their heads. All they can see, from where they are chained, is the wall of the cave in front of them. There is a fire behind the prisoners that casts shadows on the wall they are facing. Between the fire and the prisoners there is a walkway, along which people can walk behind the prisoners, casting shadows on the wall. The prisoners are unable to see these people, in reality, only seeing what the shadow depicts. Because the prisoners can only see the shadows, they only understand this to be their reality, when in fact it is just what they can see. Plato notes that if somehow, a prisoner can free themselves and walk out of the cave they can either become blinded by the light of true reality and return to the cave, or their eyes will adjust and they can accept the sunlight. The analogy here is that the cave is ignorance, lack of knowledge, and education is the process of freeing oneself from the chains of ignorance. The sunlight is knowledge of reality, which we can accept and live in the light of day, or reject and return to the cave.

Please excuse that long tirade of explanation, but it is a mistake to assume everyone’s knowledge of Plato’s allegory. You may be asking, “who cares?”. I will try to answer that for you to the best of my ability, giving it the “old college try”, as it is said. Right now I am at the edge of the cave. I must decide for myself whether or not an academic partnership is worth the risk it may cause, whether I should step out of the cave into the light that is academic partnership. For myself, the answer to this question can only be obtained through experience and time, but hopefully this course can help me come closer to the answer to this question. Is the risk worth the reward? I hopefully will find out soon enough. My goal in this course, is to determine if my future must rely on the academic partnership I have signed myself to with Geneseo.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.