In the course of our everyday lives, we as humans utilize the art of bartering. This daily exchange can range from the purchase of our breakfast to a prospective negotiation for a job promotion. As humans, it is common to makeexchanges for purposes of convenience. Convenience is defined as something conductive to comfort or ease. Some may argue that not all exchanges are an attempt to lessen a burden perhaps, if the exchange is completed out of necessity. Despite that fact, I encourage you to consider one of the leading industries in the United States, the fast-food industry. The U.S. Department of Agriculture tells us that much of their revenue is from people who wanted easy and quick access to food, people who sought after convenience. While we could discuss the ins-and-outs of the agriculture industry, that example revealed how often people seek out convenience. A subset of people who are frequent to act out of convenience are students, for common cases such as plagiarism. Colleges are aware of student’s habits and to counteract inappropriate behavior, they create a rulebook to which students are bound and may face consequences for violations of these rules. SUNY Geneseo was no exception when they created the Geneseo Student Code of Conduct, specifically Article 4: Proscribed Conduct which outlines that if students violate the rules, they may face consequences up to suspension determined by the Conduct Board. So, this begs the question, “What are students willing to exchange for convenience?” Some may see the conduct board as a sort of punishment, but in Article 4 it is noted that, “a college conduct proceeding is not a trial; any attempt to make it similar would seriously impair its educational function.” Having a student take “The dangers of alcohol” course could reduce the risk of an excessive drinking habit or stop them completely. Thus, distinguishing it as a learning process for the student.
The learning process for the student is comparable to that of Gan’s in “Bloodchild” by Octavia Butler because like Gan, as students we must peel back the surface layers to gain a deeper understanding of the situation to eventually learn from it. Before we seek to understand the learning process of Gan, we must first understand the world in which Gan lived. Gan and his family were identified as the Terrans, or humans. Although there was a presence of humans, the planet that the Terrans inhabited was not Earth. In fact, this planet inhabited an alien-like species known as the Tlic. The Terrans were desperate for a place to live and the Tlic were no longer able to reproduce their own species. Considering the situation, the Tlic government and Terrans entered an agreement. This exchange provided the Terrans with a home and protection among Tlic families. In return, the Terran families would give a child to act as a host for the Tlic children so they could continue their reproduction.
In this scenario, Gan was responsible for hosting a child and was partnered with a Tlic government official by the name of T’Gatoi. Initially Gan was excited to be a part of T’Gatoi’s life, and even saw it as an honor. While this may have been true, Gan had a different interpretation of this situation compared to his other family members. On page 6 it says, “T’Gatoi’s limbs closed around her… I had always found it comfortable to lie that way, but except for my older sister no one else in my family liked it. They said it made them feel caged.” With this Gan reveals to the audience that he didn’t feel trapped with T’Gatoi, in fact he was accepting of his relationship with her and in turn was ready to become the host for T’Gatoi.
Gan’s belief that he was ready to be become “pregnant” with T’Gatoi’s children was short lived, as he bore witness to his first Tlic birth. Gan and T’Gatoi had to aid the birth for Bram Lomas as his Tlic was not available. It was during this process that Gan became aware of its gruesome and painful nature, as noted on page 15, “His body convulsed with the first cut… I had never heard such sounds come from anything human” This process frightened and scarred Gan, “I knew childbirth was painful… but this was something else, something worse… closing my eyes didn’t help.” At this point nothing could reconcile Gan’s feeling about the childbirth. In fact, directly following the birth, he entered an argument with his brother Qui. An argument that allowed anger concerning T’Gatoi and childbirth to arise in Gan. An anger that followed him into a conversation with T’Gatoi.
Allowing anger to enter the conversation obscured and clouded its original purpose.
The anger that Gan felt clouded his true emotions in his argument wit T’Gatoi. In the argument Gan struggles with the possibility of childbirth and considers allowing his sister to fill his place. Although Gan ultimately decided to have T’Gatoi’s children, he carries some of his reservations into the impregnation process. During this process, he made an inadvertent movement that harmed T’Gatoi, “I expected to be caged… When I wasn’t, I held on to her again, feeling oddly ashamed.” (Butler 27) This reveals that even with no prior experiences of feeling caged by T’Gatoi, he was holding on to his perceived notions that ultimately left him feeling ashamed of himself.
Have you allowed your preconceived notions to corrupt life experiences?
After this process, T’Gatoi and Gan have a conversation that reveals Gan’s true feelings. “It wasn’t hate. I know what it was. I was afraid.” (Butler 28) Upon further reflection and allowing himself to think about his feelings, Gan was able to peel back beyond the surface to reveal his true feelings. It is also important to consider that Gan’s realization about his true feelings emerged from a conversation he was having with T’Gatoi. This process is strikingly similar to a student’s typical learning habits as we frequently engage in discussions with both students and our professors.
It is important to never understate the power of a conversation in which both parties are listening and are willing to delve deeper.
Through Bloodchild, we were able to bear witness to Gan’s learning process which included the convenient measures Gan was willing to take. Regardless of its subconscious or conscious nature, by not initially unpacking his feelings and settling for what was at the surface, Gan embarked on the easy path. Some of you may be asking yourself, “Is Gan responsible for his subconscious behavior?” The answer is yes, because when you plan to engage in an agreement, you owe it to yourself and your partner to reflect on every decision you make and every emotion you feel. In this case, Gan, out of convenience, avoided his true feelings inadvertently hurting T’Gatoi with his actions which were derived from his preconceived notions. Ultimately, as the consequence Gan was forced to have the conversation that he attempted to avoid earlier.
The Geneseo Code of Conduct outlines the same process that Gan and T’Gatoi embarked on. The Conduct Board represents the best situation for learning as noted in Article 4, “The conduct proceeding requires an open discussion rather than an adversarial debate.” The conduct board reveals that Geneseo creates an environment where the students and the board can have an open discussion. Even if the student’s actions do result in a consequence, the conversation was had that will promote deeper thinking and deeper reflection on behalf of the student. To the naysayers that still see this as a burdening process, I implore you to consider the statement, “The College is committed to providing due process to all students involved in the College conduct proceedings.” Due process is defined as the right to be heard. If the college truly wanted to punish its students, it would not create a space of open discussion where the student is encouraged to paint their side of the story. The lesson here is that you must be willing to take the less convenient route in life if you want to develop a deeper understanding of your feelings and the world around you. After all, we aren’t here to do what is easy, we are here to do what is right.