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OPINION: Stop colonizing our break

October 16, 2020

This piece represents the opinion of the author.

Fall break, for some particular reason, always falls around Indigenous People’s Day (formerly known as Columbus Day). However, this piece will not be about how most American holidays are centered around European-Americans and Christanity; the thing most present on my mind after this four-day weekend was the fact that I, for one, did not get any rest or an actual break. Some professors at Bowdoin actually assigned quizzes and exams and papers to be due right after the break, knowing that we would have to use those extra two days to remain caught up or risk falling behind, given the amount of work to be done.

So here we are, a few days post-break, and I wonder: who did this break truly serve? Most students have been burnt out since week two (based on no data, just a plethora of conversations with other students), noting that the amount of work assigned this semester far exceeds the work done during an in-person semester. Now, I am not one who tells someone how to do their job, but given the pandemic and the amount of re-traumatization that is occuring, I think it’s OK that the faculty extend a little grace. As much as I bet you all would like to grade a few less assignments, the student body would appreciate the time to rest, connect with others, sleep and eat.

Many of us are missing meals to get to class and are staying up later and waking up even earlier as we try to “do school” across many time zones. Our sleeping schedules are out of whack, our nerves are shot and the last thing any of us want to do is respond to a European American’s discussion post on the use of Blackface in minstrel shows.

Thus, I now pose a question to the student body: when are we going to do something about it? We’ve had quite a few pieces in the Orient come out noting that this is anything but a normal semester, and yet after this “break” we are still burnt out and stretched thin. On a more radical campus, I think the word “strike” would be getting thrown out a lot more, and we’d see it come to fruition. Just 50 years ago, under the leadership of President Howell, Bowdoin students organized a strike in support of Kent State University students after the Kent State Massacre and to protest the Nixon administration.

The Bowdoin strike of 1970 was pivotal in bringing President Howell into conversations regarding the changes students wanted to see from the College. This resulted in women being admitted and the College establishing an Environmental Science program as well as the Afro-American Studies program and African, Asian and Latin American history courses. The willingness of students to put their assignments on hold in the name of creating an institution that would better serve the world around them is something I wonder if current Bowdoin students are capable of.

Our current culture of complacency combined with the performative white feminist activism that is the norm here in Brunswick makes it hard for me to believe that any true radical movements can occur here. DeRay Mckesson ’07 was a key figure in the “8 Can’t Wait” campaign, a movement campaigning for eight comprehensive law enforcement reforms to become standards across the country. The only two parties that get any recognition in our country are practically the same, and they refuse to do the work that actually helps the people who need it the most. And, most painfully, there are people on this campus who believe that capitalism can be reformed (spoiler alert: where there is capitalism, there is exploitation and corruption).

The need for breaks has never been greater, and it is time for Bowdoin students to reclaim their time through force. If a professor is refusing to budge when it comes to deadlines, then act accordingly and turn in the assignment if and when you can. Most of my professors who’ve had me in the past know that I consider deadlines arbitrary; we both know these papers aren’t being read right away, so why create unnecessary anxiety for students who are doing their best to get out of bed everyday?

Institutions like Bowdoin aren’t forever as much as our tour guides would like you to think. 200 years really isn’t that long in the timeline of the universe; even the ancient Romans couldn’t have foreseen the fall of their empire. We can not wait until the fire and devastation is in our faces. Institutions that are not providing for their people, institutions that lock up their people for petty offences that were done in the name of survival, institutions that require respectability from everyone but white men and those who uphold white supremacy are institutions that deserve to burn.  If you aren’t afraid because you think your money will save you, you should be. Last time I checked, paper makes great kindling.

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8 comments:

  1. A policy debater says:

    The title of this article should be given the Tuck and Yang treatment. I respectfully implore you to read the academic paper, “Decolonization is not a metaphor” by Tuck aand Yang:

    http://clas.osu.edu/sites/clas.osu.edu/files/Tuck%20and%20Yang%202012%20Decolonization%20is%20not%20a%20metaphor.pdf

    • Safiya Osei says:

      Thank you for this piece! I will read as soon as I can. I really did not like the title and struggled to come up with something else and before I could think of anything else to name this, it was time for the story to get published.

  2. Safiya Osei says:

    Author’s Note: In Paragraph 6, the statement about Deray isn’t how I originally wrote it, however the way I wrote it originally did not properly convey how I feel about Deray. I want to be clear the the 8 can’t wait campaign is not something I support as it was started right as conversations about abolition had begun, and I feel that this call for “reform” rather than tearing down these structures that have caused so much harm was a calculated move to silence the most radical of us. Since so many of the 8 reforms have already been adopted around the country, especially in the cities that had the most protests this summer, I wanted to make sure it is understood that reform will never be what we need to stop state sanctioned murder and violence from the police. No matter how many bills or laws are signed, as long as the systems of policing and incarceration and “justice” remain how they are today, they will always be in favor of white property and white supremacy.

  3. A concerned citizen says:

    In regards to the title of this peice, the first line of Tuck and Yang’s “Decolonization is not a metaphor” is:

    “Decolonization brings about the repatriation of Indigenous land and life; it is not a metaphor for
    other things we want to do to improve our societies and schools…[these calls] turns decolonization into a metaphor”

    • Safiya Osei says:

      Thank you for noting this as well! Wasn’t really pleased with the title as it was sensationalist and not the correct name for what I’m calling for in the piece nor is it really connected to the overall theme. I’m still learning!

  4. Anonymous says:

    What is this opinion piece trying to accomplish? It’s so focused in drawing attention with things like the provocative title, the topical subject, and all the common identity politics “woke” buzzwords; however, it lacks substance. It basically boils down to “fall break sucked and students won’t do anything about it because identity politics (also capitalism sucks)”. It tries to give an opinion on so many things without any sort of justification or argument. It honestly reads like satire at some points (like that false equivalence with the Kent State Massacre). God this college can feel like such an echo chamber sometimes.

    • Safiya Osei says:

      I think my main focus was letting professors know how burnt out students are, while also calling students to demand better from these institutions. Not going to lie, this was very much a draft and could and should have been crafted better, but I think the main point still stands. However I am curious about what the false equivalence you see in my mentioning Kent State? I directly tied it to the strike that happened here at Bowdoin as a result of Kent State and in doing so wanted to call for a strike to protest the amount of work being piled on during a time of social unrest and uncertainty regarding our futures. It is hard to fully fight for liberation when my academic standing is on the line. On echo chambers, how about you submit a piece about your opinion on the state of affairs (hopefully you can do so without labeling human rights violations as political)?

  5. Kent Hikida says:

    Times are stressful in higher education, society and the world at large.

    If the college made a statement that there would be no work assigned over fall break, then the faculty should honor that pledge. If such a pledge was not honored, then there should be recourse through governance to file a complaint against any faculty who broke the promise.

    If no such promise was made, then the fact that it is a non-academic weekend is irrelevant, and faculty are free to assign work over the “break”.

    And by the way, as an educator, the deadlines I provide my student are not arbitrary, they are real and with consequences just like deadlines in the professional world.


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