A Steep Price To Pay?

According to the Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU) integrative learning is “an understanding and a disposition that a student builds across the curriculum and co-curriculum, from making simple connections among ideas and experiences to synthesizing and transferring learning to new, complex situations within and beyond the campus”. In simpler terms, it is making connections between different curriculums. One can look at it as a through line between different academic fields. This type of learning accomplishes many things. At first glance it simply connects different academic fields, but if one looks deeper it can reveal through lines between seemingly unrelated topics. For example: the through line between Octavia Butler’s story Bloodchild and SUNY Geneseo’s facility staff. Although the story of Bloodchild and facility staff are literally worlds away there are important connections that Integrative learning reveals. There is a through between the lessons of academic partnership learned from Bloodchild and the Tlic, and how it can be applied to real world partnerships, such as the facility staff. This through line is in the vital services both the Tlic, and the facility staff provide, and the price their services cost.

Geneseo’s Facilities Services webpage features a video that illustrates the services that Geneseo custodians, locksmiths, and others provide and illuminates their experiences at Geneseo. It is here that locksmith Rick Canarvis says, “I also like the satisfaction that when I come to work, I have a part in the safety and security of the students that work here”. Here one can see the community mindset, and care that the facility service community has for Geneseo. Canarvis continues: “Even when I was a custodian, I knew that just my little part that I was doing helped”. The care and dedication which the facility services provide is vital to the success of the student body. If doors were left with faulty locks, rooms were not clean, grounds left unkempt, the success of Geneseo students would be at great risk. Students would be forced into an academic community that cannot foster academic success purely because the facilities are falling apart. The care that the facility staff conducts while performing their job is a perfect example of how if one gear is busted the whole machine will not work. That is to say that Geneseo could not function if the facility staff was conducting their services without the care and attention to detail that they possess now. Canarvis himself recognizes the importance that his role plays in the success of  the entire school community when he says, “I have a part in the safety and security of the students that work here”. That “part” that Canarvis plays exemplifies the community mindset that is required when performing the not-so-glamorous jobs that custodial, construction, and other jobs entail. Although some of these jobs may not be glamorous, they are a vital lifeline to the success of the students at Geneseo.

Geneseo’s Heating Plant is also a vital part of the success of Geneseo’s students. According to Geneseo’s website, the Geneseo Heating Plant is responsible for “for the management and operation of the Central Heating Plant, Campus Satellite Boiler System, campus-wide energy consumption and conservation, and the operation and maintenance of utility distribution systems throughout the College Campus”. In simpler terms the Geneseo Heating Plant provides all of the energy (heated water, electricity, etc) that a student may require while living on campus. This lengthy list of critical responsibilities requires competent and dedicated staff. This is something that Geneseo’s site itself acknowledges. According to Geneseo the Heating Pant staff is composed of highly trained engineers who are on site “twenty-four hours a day/seven days a week”. This kind of dedication is crucial in the pursuit and maintenance of the type of academic partnership that Geneseo attempts to offer. If academic scholarly work was attempted to be conducted in an unheated, unlit room, then the scholarly pursuit would be compromised. Some of this is speculation, but if students were told that they would not have working electricity, many of them would find themselves lacking in the motivation required for academic success. One can see this is the response to the news that Geneseo’s library was closing. Heated and powered facilities are a necessity to make a successful academic partnership, because without such things the balance of commitment would be skewed. Students would be expected to commit themselves to a school many times living there, put in hours of scholarly work and then never being provided warm water, power, and heated buildings. Without the heating plant and those who dedicate their lives working as a part of it, a successful academic partnership would be nearly unobtainable.

 The services that the Geneseo facilities provide are related to Octavia Butler’s Bloodchild. In Butler’s story, the Terrans (humans) have long ago moved to a planet inhabited by a native species called Tlics. There is a partnership that unfolds between the Humans and the Tlic; in exchange for working power, land, and protection the Tlic asks that Humans become hosts for their children. The Tlic can no longer have children themselves so they must use other creatures to harbor their child as it develops. In exchange for this service the humans are allowed to remain on the Tlic planet and live their lives. One Tlic named T’Gatoi strikes up one of these deals with the narrator, Gan. “ Only she and her political faction stood between us and the hordes who did not understand why there was a Preserve – why any Terran could not be courted, paid, drafted, in some way made available to them”. It is clear that T’Gatoi offers a great service but at a price, Gan’s body. This partnership, though unconventional, has a parallel to the facility staff here at Geneseo. The men and women who work in the heating plant, and the other general facility duties, provide a great service to the student body at Geneseo. Without these workers Geneseo, and its student body would not be able to function. In a similar fashion, without the work and protection of T’Gatoi, the Terrans and Gan wouldn’t be allowed to live their independent lives. However, there is a cost to these services, for Gan he must become a host for a child, for the students of Geneseo it is the price of tuition. One might ask: is this steep price to pay?

By asking this question one risks going down a much more complex discussion on whether collegiate education in the U.S is worth the bill one must pay. However, if one looks at this education within the context of Bloodchild it is a small price to pay. Gan had to pay for his family’s safety by giving his body to T’Gatoi, that is a much worse price than paying in cash. We have the privilege to have an excellent education for a reasonable price here at Geneseo. Although this education is still expensive to the average person, the fees are necessary in order to pay people like Rick Canarvis, and the other facility staff to perform excellent, and dedicated work. It is clear that the lesson learned from Bloodchild is a lesson that can act as a through line to public education. Every service comes at a price.

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