SSA higher education workshop empowers students

Marc Bousquet

Social Justice activist Marc Bousquet (above) speaks to students on the issues of higher education as well
as gathering thoughts on what the students believed should be done, what could be done and how and
what should be changed among some topics. 
The Lion’s Roar / William Schmidt

Students came together to discuss in a safe environment the issues that have been bothering  them or dealing with problems of higher education. 

On November  5 at 9:30 a.m. the Southeastern Sociological Association held its student organizing workshop “On the Corporatization of Education” in Student Union Room 2207 with guest-host of Cornell University Professor Marc Bousquet. 

Upon the beginning of the workshop, Bousquet had the students form a circle and asked if any students wanted to share about their college experience. From there, and open discussion began with Bousquet moderating and asking students for their input. The students were pleased that in a way they were given power in the open discussion. 

“The workshop was this safe space for students to vent what has been bothering them about their experiences without the fear of someone shutting them down,” said applied sociology graduate student Sarah Basile. “Students get tired of hearing that things could be worse, they want others to agree that they could be better. To see others putting forth their experience in a way that allowed them to feel like a human and not a robot was amazing. A lot of students were silent, but the ones that spoke up, you could [tell] that they enjoyed being able to express themselves. That was the best for me, seeing student becoming empowered.”

One of the topics of discussion that came up was statistics, and though some were common knowledge, others were surprising. 

“Only 20 to 25 percent of American adults hold college degrees surprised me,” said sophomore English major Edmund Jenkins. “It kind of contradicts the narrative put forth in the media that there’s this glut of American degree-holders and that a college degree is somehow devalued.”

Other statistics saddened some students who attended the workshop and they hope that their peers begin to think about issues surrounding higher education.

“I learned that ‘some college’ is the fastest growing level of education among adults,” said freshman social studies education major Jessica Robinson. “Only about 20 percent of the people we currently attend school with will complete their degree. This statistic is surprising and saddening because we’ve all worked so hard to get here and very few of us will actually see that effort pay off in the end. Bousquet provided us with a place to discuss ‘the system’ and how it’s taking advantage of us. We all face many of the same fears and issues. I think people should be concerned with the state of higher education and what students have to deal with while taking part in it.”

Some statistics students remembered learning from SE 101 such as the statistic of completion rate at Southeastern. This statistic not only shocked the students who either did not learn this or forgot about it, but Bousquet was surprised as well.

“I take for granted that I am familiar with SELU’s statistics,” said Basile. When the completion rate statistic was dropped and to see half the room and the speaker surprised by it was interesting. The fact that it surprised the speaker was what really surprised me. [Bousquet has] been all over the place presenting on this topic and to see him surprised was a walk-up call. It makes me think we really should do more to help students finish, which worked out well with what the workshop was about: How can we, as students, make this work for us?”

Along with talking about statistics of higher education at the workshop, students realized how difficult it is for their peers who attend college while maintaining other obligations.

“The thing that stuck out the most to me is that so many other people are feeling the pressures of maintaining a high GPA while also participating in extracurricular activities and having a social life,” said Robinson. “I also realized how easy I have it. Other students have to throw a job and familial responsibilities into the mix. I have a great respect for those who are financially supporting themselves as well as attending college. It sucks that it’s so hard for them to get the help they deserve while trying to improve themselves.”

Through the enlightenment of the workshop, students were able to leave with more knowledge as well as the hopes of creating and finding a solution for the current issues dealing with higher education as well as the realization that the first step in change begins with one’s self.

“I believe that changing the nature of our public education institutions begins with understanding the system itself, and being able to understand that as individuals who are part of the campus economic complex is the first step to realizing that the power we hold as a conglomerate holds more weight than we can imagine,” said senior sociology major Jarett Aucoin. “As the awareness of this unfair system continues to spread across campus, we will draw closer and closer to a solution.” 

Students engage in SSA workshop

Students (below) listen intently to Bousquet and take notes before asking questions or
putting in their personal thoughts and opinions on the topics of discussion.  

The Lion’s Roar / William Schmidt