I’ve been riding my bike a lot since I last blogged about it. I ride it almost every day, especially now that school is in session. It’s just how I get from here to there, and since I go here and there, I’m pretty much always on my bicycle. It has been so hot these last couple of months that biking has been a lot less pleasurable than usual. I’m still always happy once I’m on the bike, but if I’m being honest, I don’t always want to get on there.
On Thursday I had to ride up the hill to an appointment in the hot, wet weather, and then zoom fast as a bunny rabbit back downtown to catch the bus to campus for an evening event–the kickoff party for UMBC’s Women and Leadership Class of 2016-21017. This is a joint project with a student group I direct, student life, and the women’s center at the school where I teach. It’s one of many parts of my job, and, if I’m being perfectly honest, not my favorite when it means going to work after hours. When it’s 95 degrees out and I know I’ll have to ride my bike back up the hill only to return less than 12 hours later, well, yeah.
But here’s the thing: once I’m there and doing it, I’m loving it. Students are excited, passionate, smarter than I was when I was a student. We made each other laugh, disagreed with each other, made promises to follow up, and when it was all over, took a group picture–that’s my colleague’s arm as she takes a picture just in front of me. She gave me a ride back to my bike, and we vented about work and students and administration and how overwhelming email is this time of year. Give it a few weeks to calm down, we said, we just have to wait to see what happens. I reminded myself that the best things happen when we set a stage for students and then step back to see what they do up there. Teaching is such a gift.
And then I got my bike and started walking home, pushing it up the hill, so I could talk to my sister on the phone. She is a librarian at LIU Brooklyn, part of the faculty that was locked out by the university’s administration before the union even had a chance to vote on the contract. It is such bullshit, and the logical conclusion to the corporatization and adjunctification of the university. I’m so angry about this–that she lost her job and her health insurance with no warning, that administration thinks they can just put anybody in the classroom with a syllabus and call it teaching and learning, that the university is taking money from largely students of color while offering them a subpar education, that this is the tip of a very large iceberg that threatens to take all of us under, sooner or later.
It’s all terrible, and it’s also amazing to hear my sister tell of organizing magic and the way people are coming together to fight this and to demand their university back. I can hear it in her voice, that part where they’ve figured out there’s power in the people, and there’s no going back. They’re going to win this thing. She’ll get her students back, and they’ll get her, and we will all be reminded again what this is really about: setting the stage and stepping back to see what students do. It’s in management’s court to get everybody back to this very important work, and I hope they do that soon.
And then we hung up the phone, I hopped on my bike, and pedaled up the hill to home, a sweaty mess, as per usual, off to bed so I could do it again in the morning. What a gift.