Thursday, December 03, 2009

Orwell versus Ostriches at PCC

At Portland Community College, where I occasionally teach, a huge e-mail debate recently erupted among the faculty.

The topic was: ID badges

Yes, you read that right, ID badges.

Not academic freedom, pay for part-timers, grade inflation, health benefits or parking passes (which we pay for).

A couple weeks ago, out of the blue, PCC’s president announced that faculty would be required to wear badges for security reasons. Apparently the tags would come in handy in “shooter incidents," alerting cops and shooters alike to avoid targeting teachers. (Students, apparently, are fair game.)

The campus e-mail reaction was immediate.

Why weren’t we consulted?

Have we been unsafe all these years?

Utterly Orwellian!


Someone worried that badges might electronically monitor faculty work hours.

The badges, far from protecting faculty from shooters, actually single out teachers as clearly identified targets.

Badges promote a “culture of fear” in “the spirit of George W. Bush.”

Someone in the communications studies department crafted the following, in jest, I hope.

“…in my opinion, the content of (the president’s) communiqué to us fails to contextualize in academic, instructional, and pedagogical terms the need to wear badges when, as he states, wearing such will serve students best and would provide them with greater safety and security while on campus.”

An instructor in the metals program flatly refused to wear the dangling badges “for safety reasons.” (Picture being dragged into a metal press by your ID badge.)

After a few days of withering attacks, pro-badge forces counter-attacked.

Badges needn’t dangle. They can be clipped to clothing.

Name badges are a good way to let others know — your name. (They say, "I'm here to help, and by the way, don't shoot!")

Corporations have used badges for years.

As for the “culture of fear” argument, one person suggested that by not wearing badges would promote the “culture of ostrich.”

Finally, in desperation, someone wrote: “Are there not more important issues? Who really cares about wearing badges or not?”

The debate fell silent after that; a few days of calm ensued.

Then someone wrote to say he had just received his new badge. He wasn’t happy.

His first name was in big letters. In much smaller letters, under it, was his last name. He was concerned that his students would start addressing him by his first name and cease referring to him as “Professor.”

Apparently there are all kinds of fear in a “culture of fear.”

As for me, for years I have insisted my students call me by my first name. My fear has been that they might "contextualize" me as "Professor."

Now, if they forget my first name, they can refer to my badge.

How convenient.

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