Freedom of speech on campus

by Sky

Two incidents involving freedom of speech on campus have made the news in recent days:

Yale:

October 28: Dean Burgwell Howard and the university’s International Affairs Council sent an email to students, discouraging students from wearing costumes that featured feathered headdresses, turbans, blackface, and war paint, noting that “while students…have a right to express themselves, we would hope that people would actively avoid those circumstances that threaten our sense of community or disrespects, alienates or ridicules segments of our population based on race, nationality, religious belief or gender expression.”

October 30: Wife of the Silliman Master (the faculty adviser who lives in one of the undergraduate dorms) Erika Christakis sends an email to Silliman residents in response to students’ questions. The key excerpt:

Even if we could agree on how to avoid offense – and I’ll note that no one around campus seems overly concerned about the offense taken by religiously conservative folks to skin-revealing costumes – I wonder, and I am not trying to be provocative: Is there no room anymore for a child or young person to be a little bit obnoxious… a little bit inappropriate or provocative or, yes, offensive? American universities were once a safe space not only for maturation but also for a certain regressive, or even transgressive, experience; increasingly, it seems, they have become places of censure and prohibition. And the censure and prohibition come from above, not from yourselves! Are we all okay with this transfer of power? Have we lost faith in young people’s capacity – in your capacity – to exercise self-censure, through social norming, and also in your capacity to ignore or reject things that trouble you? We tend to view this shift from individual to institutional agency as a tradeoff between libertarian vs. liberal values (“liberal” in the American, not European sense of the word).

Nicholas says, if you don’t like a costume someone is wearing, look away, or tell them you are offended. Talk to each other. Free speech and the ability to tolerate offence are the hallmarks of a free and open society.

Protests erupted on the Yale campus, and a confrontation with Erika’s husband Nicholas was filmed and posted on YouTube. The undergraduates surround Christakis and yell obscenities at him over his wife’s email.

Despite the efforts of the administration to quell the outrage, the protests continue and the students involved are now demanding that the university hire black psychologists for the campus health center and adopt more ethnic studies curricula. (Yale recently announced a $50M effort to hire more ethnically and racially diverse faculty.)

University of Missouri:

September 12: People in a passing pickup truck allegedly shout racial slurs at the student government president, who is black.

October 5: A drunk white student allegedly yells a racial slur at a group of black students. The university chancellor posts on a blog in response, condemning racism on campus.

October 8: Mandatory online diversity training for faculty is announced.

October 10: Black protestors block the University president’s car in the Homecoming Parade, demanding he talk to them about the incidents.

October 21: A student group called Concerned Student 1950 issues a list of demands, including an apology from the university president and his removal; diversity training for all faculty, staff and students; and more funding for black faculty and staff and for social justice centers on campus.

October 24: A swastika drawn in feces is found on a dorm bathroom wall.

November 2: A graduate student begins a hunger strike until the university president resigns. Students protest.

November 7: The football team announces that it will not participate in practices or games until the university president resigns.

November 9: The university president and chancellor resign.

* * *

The atmosphere at Yale was described to me as a “witch hunt,” even before the Halloween email controversy.

In My Day – which was not so long ago – even the most progressive students gave lip service to the value of diverse views. What has changed? Is this a return to the campus activism of the 1960s, or something different?

Getting the chores done

by Sky

What systems do you use to keep your household running smoothly?

I’m starting to think about going back to work, but will need to streamline the household work first. We have a once-monthly housekeeper, but the rest of it is my job. DH expects the house to be clean and organized when he gets home at 9 PM, but his participation is limited by his work and commute. (His own stuff is always impeccably neat, at least until the children find it.)

For chores, I’ve just assigned each day of the week a time-consuming chore:
Mondays = Laundry
Tuesdays = Baking & dusting (I have to do a fair amount of baking due to kids’ food allergies)
Wednesdays = Floors & errands
Thursdays = Laundry again
Fridays = Meal planning & grocery shopping
Saturdays = Yard work

About a month in, this seems to be working, except that with sports practice and games on Friday, Saturday and Sunday I often have to throw in another load of laundry on Saturdays.

I clean the bathrooms and kitchen and tidy up the kids’ toys every day.

My kids all have their own chore lists – even the toddler. There is a small cash incentive for each chore completed, because my kids are not motivated by stickers.

The chores for the younger two include making their own beds (with help), wiping the kitchen table, putting dishes in the sink, sweeping the floor, and putting away toys.

The oldest (6) is expected to make her own bed and lunch. I’ve heard that some of her friends can do laundry and cook breakfast, so we are working on those. With the return to school and sports, the incentive system is not getting me the amount of work I would like – DD decided this morning that she would rather watch Curious George than get 25 cents for making her bed.

How have you gotten your kids to do their chores? What kinds of chores do you expect them to do?

Pets and More Pets

By Sky

We already have a cat, but my kids have decided we also need a dog. Luckily the pleas of the youngest are still limited to pointing at dogs and saying “woof woof” plaintively, because the other two bring it up every time we see one.

I think I have persuaded DD and DS1 to settle for some betta fish for now, but I started to wonder if I should have campaigned for a virtual pet when I started reading about tank cycling and betta sororities. I manage sibling fighting all day as it is!

What pets have you had? What low maintenance pets would you recommend? Have you had any exotic or unusual pets?

What about pet care? How much do you think is reasonable? Does your pet get holiday gifts and go on the family vacation?

And most importantly, who does the work? Are there any Totebag children who walk the dog and clean up the mess, or is it all on the parents? (I know what the answer will be in my house, so we are not getting a dog!)

The Course Not Taken

By Sky

What class do you regret not taking?

While in graduate school in a non-medical field, I had the opportunity to take an EMT course for free, as long as I committed to a certain number of volunteer hours. Back then, I had the time for the class, but not enough to be sure I could do the volunteer hours.

Now I wish I had taken it, even if I had to pay for it.

I have had to deal with all sorts of minor medical kid emergencies, and I really have no idea how to tell a sprain from a break, or the start of anaphylaxis from bad hives. I’ve spent much more in unnecessary co-pays than I would have on the class – today’s jaunt to the x-ray for a possible broken ankle will cost me $800.

What class would you have taken if you could do it over again?

What would you take now if you had more time?

Flying Alone

by Sky

At age 8, my father took the train alone over 100 miles, and transferred trains in New York City, to get home from summer camp.

At age 14, I flew cross country by myself, with transfers, in the days before cell phones.

When do you think kids should be allowed to travel alone?

When would you (or did you) allow your child to fly, or take a city bus, subway, or train without an adult accompanying them?

What limits have you set with your tween/teenage kids about traveling by themselves? What were you allowed to do?

What We Owe Our Elders

by Sky

My husband and I both come from large families with several childless aunts and uncles. Over the past few years, we’ve learned that some of them have put us in charge of their affairs as well as our parents’.

For geographic and professional reasons, we are the obvious choice to be someone’s executor or to hold the power of attorney.

But they are all within a decade of each other, and the prospect of managing the care of 6 or more 80-somethings across a few states is daunting. Better than the alternative, of course, but still daunting.

What have you needed to do for your older relatives? Other than making sure the documents are in order, what recommendations do you have?

Fast Dinner

by Sky

I’m a poor cook with low standards that probably disqualify me from the Totebag, but I’m trying to improve.

Several nights a week my daughter has practice that ends at dinnertime. I’ve been coping by buying dinner at the restaurant in the same complex, but this is not doing the waistline any favors.

What reasonably healthy dinner can you prepare in 15 minutes or less?

Assume ownership of all kitchen appliances, including an Instant Pot and sous vide, but lots of distraction while cooking and limited toddler palates that aren’t going to eat sriracha :)