Why partnerships need to be fluid

Why have a mission statement? Merriam-Webster defines a mission statement as “something that states the purpose or goal of a business or organization”. That seems like a great idea. A simple document to outline the values of an educational institution could assist prospective students by giving them a chance to understand what type of campus they are trying to cultivate. Geneseo’s mission statement highlights the importance of education and how the entire college is rooted in that goal. The mission statement states that “[the community] works together to advance knowledge and inspire students to be socially responsible and globally aware citizens who are prepared for an enriched life and success in the world.” In contrast, Biola University’s mission statement is much more pointed. Biola’s statement states its intention “to be identified among the world’s foremost Christ-centered universities — a community abiding in truth, abounding with grace and compelled by Christ’s love to be a relevant and redemptive voice in a changing world.” Biola’s mission statement is much more poignant in terms of a grander world goal. When reading Geneseo’s mission statement in context, it appears incredibly bland. Of course, an institution of higher education would be focused on learning. Be that as it may, the Biola university mission statement is incredibly rigid. This does not allow for growth and change within the partnership between university and student. A partnership needs to be able to be fluid to be used to its full potential, and Octavia Butler promotes this line of thinking in her short story “Bloodchild.” Gan’s reflection on his partnership with T’Gatoi shows the need for people to reflect on the partnerships they are engaged in. That way, partnerships can grow and be the most productive. 

Before it is possible to understand the role of reflection in Gan’s journey, one must understand the world Gan lives. Gan is a Terran, a group of human-like individuals that migrated to a different planet to escape persecution. The planet the Terrans escape to is already inhabited by the Tlic, a people that have been having problems reproducing. Eventually, an agreement was made that the Tlic government would handle keeping the general Terran population safe and the Terrans would allow some of their children to be given to the Tlic for reproduction. Gan is his family’s contribution to the partnership. He is the child that is given to a Tlic named T’Gatoi.

Originally, Gan is pretty happy to be with T’Gatoi. He discusses a working relationship and describes how he was treated to other Terrans. He would talk about his own upbringing “when they ask whether I was ever afraid of her.” This also goes both ways, as he would talk to other Tlic about making their choice. From these interactions, it can be deduced that Gan has some knowledge about what he will be doing. He must know that he is fulfilling some sort of contract. By discussing the partnership in terms of gaining mutual benefits through working together, you’ve just explained the goals of any partnership. That type of language only works without stress. However, things change when the partnership breaks down.

Gan is unfortunate enough to watch T’Gatoi perform emergency surgery to save an impregnated Terran named Lomas. At first, Gan is not concerned. He recalls that T’Gatoi “had shown me diagrams and drawings. She had made sure I knew the truth as soon as I was old enough to understand it.” However, Gan is about to see what the partnership looks like. The simple diagrams turned out to be incredibly incorrect. He says that “I have never heard such sounds come from a human.” Throughout the experience, Gan witnesses some appalling things, such as T’Gatoi licking blood vessels, Lomas getting torn open down the middle, and Tlic larva crawling out of Lomas. Gan was not prepared for this, as he immediately vomits afterward. This shows how the partnership has broken down. If Gan knew what being with a Tlic meant, then he should not have had such a visceral reaction to witnessing it. The defined terms of the agreement were broken and Gan demonstrates this later when he talks to his brother, Qui.

Qui does not respect the agreement between the Terran and the Tlic. Gan describes his brother as someone “who had grown up to fear and detest the Tlic.” It appears that Qui does not see the point of the agreement between the Tlic. Part of an agreement is mutual respect and understanding, which Qui lacks. Gan talks with Qui after T’Gatoi sends them both out. During the exchange, Gan repeatedly thinks to himself that he may have been lied to. During the exchange, Gan repeatedly thinks to himself that he may have been lied to. After every point Qui brings up, Gan is further convinced that he is being deceived.” This highlights another key feature of a successful partnership, trust. It is extremely challenging to work together with someone if you do not believe that they are doing the right thing.

Gan feels betrayed rather quickly. He proceeded to grab a gun, load it, and “brought the barrel up diagonally under [his] own chin.” He has to now make a choice, and the only way out of his partnership is death. However, he begins to truly think about his decision. Can he go back to the partnership knowing that the terms are different now? He ends up deciding to go back to the partnership on the condition that Terrans know the truth about the procedure, and Gan decides that the partnership is worth maintaining because of the new conditions.

Does that mean SUNY Geneseo should adopt a mission statement similar to Biola’s? Should all institutions make rigid statements to declare their purpose? I don’t believe so. The ending of “Bloodchild” makes it clear that partnerships are fluid and the dynamic is constantly changing to meet the goals of all parties. The rigid definition of a partnership would be detrimental to both parties involved, and I believe partnerships, including the partnership between Geneseo and its students, should focus on communication and honesty for the benefit of everyone involved.

In the past month, we have all seen changing partnerships, and the transition to remote learning has led to an unprecedented major change in the student-professor partnership. If the partnership between student and professor was rigid and inflexible, there would be chaos: students would not be able to learn what they consented to learn, and professors would not be able to teach what they agreed to teach. Without a fluid partnership, the learning dynamic would break down. Fortunately, most professors at Geneseo have appeared to embrace the lesson “Bloodchild” provides: for a successful partnership to be maintained, the partnership must be flexible and open to change.

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