And So It Goes, But Where Its Going No One Knows

“Bloodchild” Essay

While researching Geneseo’s Student Code of Conduct (SCC), a document that has ample regarding what a college student at Geneseo is expected to do and how they are asked to behave, I found a link to the school’s policies and procedures. Under the school’s Privacy information, there is a specific section relating to CIT and their access to the personal information of students. It is here that Geneseo states that any information the school retains (such as name, email, phone number, and academic standing) can only be accessed by school officials and only for the purposes of administering “our relationship with you”. This information is fairly routine and expected on a college campus, however, it also states that while on Geneseo’s wifi connection, the school can monitor a student’s interests, by tracking where and for how much time they spend on the Geneseo campus website. “SUNY Geneseo may also use Google AdWords to advertise across the Internet. AdWords remarketing will display relevant ads based on what parts of the Geneseo website you have viewed, by placing a cookie on your machine”. Geneseo’s CIT not only has personal information of every student (which is to be expected in an institution that is being held accountable for the well being of thousands of people), but is also tracking the habits of their students while on their website in order to further market ads to the students. When I first decided to go to Geneseo, I did not realize that they would be farming my data, in order to advertise products which they would profit from. My gut reaction to this fact was one of disgruntled annoyance, and a sense of betrayal. Many questions are raised by this privacy policy Geneseo has stated. One of these being: When engaged in academic partnership, or even simply considering academic partnership, what must a student do to make sure they have balanced the risks and rewards of academic partnership? 

In the quest of answering a question such as this, and in the quest furthering my own thinkING, I turned to a text my INTD 105 class read earlier in the semester. This text is Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild, which Butler describes as “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”. The story itself follows a young human- whose race is referred to in the text as “Terrans”- named Gan as he and his family live on a planet alien to Terrans in a reservation. One of the natives of the planet, and in many ways a guardian of Gan and his family is named T’Gatoi. T’Gatoi is a respected, and important political figure on the planet which they reside, and offers Gan and his family protection and residency, in exchange for one thing. T’Gatoi only requires that Gan be the host for her eggs, so she can maintain the population of her species, known as the Tlic. This is actually something somewhat commonplace on the planet, Tlics engage in agreements with Terrans that entail that a man becomes “pregnant” (or more accurately a host) for the Tlic’s young. 

At the beginning of the story, Gan is actually content to be a part of this social contract, to which he was born into. Although his sister wanted to be selected for the “honor” of being the host of a Tlic child, it was Gan who was selected. Gan notes that whenever he is asked whether or not he is scared of T’Gatoi and the idea of being a host by Terrans he responds in the same way: “I’m told I was first caged within T’Gatoi’s many limbs only three minutes after my birth. A few days later, I was given my first taste of egg.”(Butler 8). Gan explains that he is not afraid of T’Gatoi and the nature of his social contract because he was indoctrinated at such an early age. Further, Gan notes that if his brother had been immersed in the life of a Terran host at a young age as well, he would be more comfortable with the nature of the social agreement. “Even my brother who had somehow grown up to fear and distrust the Tlic could probably have gone smoothly into one of their families if he had been adopted early enough.” (9). 

This content opinion quickly changes when Gan witnesses the “birth” of a Tlic from a host named Bram Lomas. It is on this occasion that Gan sees the full scope of what his social contract entails. “I felt as though I were helping her torture him, helping her consume him. I knew I would vomit soon, I didn’t know why I hadn’t already.”(15 ). When faced with the scope and severity of what he would go through, Gan is forced to reconsider the contract he was so blindly indoctrinated in. The new found information that Bram’s labor entails adds an unseen clause to Gan’s future. Gan must make careful consideration of his options: go through this terrible ordeal to make sure his family is guaranteed safety by T’Gatoi from the other Tlic, or run from the pain of the ordeal but risk the safety and security of his family. Although Gan inevitably chooses to become T’Gatoi’s host, there is an important lesson which can be learned from either choice he should make. 

The lesson in the story of Bloodchild is that when engaged in social contract it is essential to make sure you know every facet of what you are agreeing to. If the contract is agreed upon prior to an understanding of the contract itself, the person agreeing is put at severe risk of being taken advantage of. For example, if Gan had known the realities of the gruesome nature of his born future when he was younger, perhaps he would have taken different measures in his life and had his position replaced. Of course this is purely speculation, but Gan himself notes the significance of timing when it comes to the release of information when he explains why he wasn’t afraid of T’Gatoi, and his own social contract. Consider this as the “So what?” of this essay. Through the experiences Gan faces in the story, it can be seen that the dissemination of information is essential when engaging in a contract. This idea answers the question raised by Geneseo’s data farming. As a reminder the question was: When engaged in academic partnership, or even simply considering academic partnership, what must a student do to make sure they have balanced the risks and rewards of academic partnership? The answer to this question is the lesson derived from Gan’s experience in Bloodchild. In the case of Geneseo, although I take issue with their use of data farming, the burden was and is on myself to make sure that I know exactly what I am getting into. In the case of Gan, he couldn’t know what he was getting into because he was sheltered from it. In my case however, Geneseo spells out their policies right on their website. It is my obligation to read the information I am provided, and use it to inform any decision I should make regarding my own academic career, and the social contract I have struck with Geneseo. In simpler terms, do my research, read before I sign.

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