Letter to the Editor: “Empowerment”

Given that the insane rise in tuition rates over the last few years is, by ASG polling from last November and by anecdotal consensus, the most important issue for students, how tuition money is spent should be an object of foremost concern for BC students. How is that money being spent? “Empowering students” is something you, reader, are paying into.

If you are wondering what “empowering students” means, exactly, you probably aren’t alone.

There are two answers to the question. The eloquent, rhetorical answer can be more or less anything you want it to be. It’s empowering students, after all, and you’re a student. It can be doing more for the oppressed minorities on campus (one can’t help but notice their numbers multiply daily), or promoting sustainability on campus, or offering verbal support to political or religious groups, or even fostering democratic values in future citizens. I almost fell for that last one myself.

The second answer is the one that students who don’t go to conferences in Maryland to “get empowered” should care more about: “empowerment” is tuition money spent on non-curricular activities. Imagine the round-trip ticket prices to Maryland, for instance. It is money spent on “safe spaces” for various clubs in student programs. By “safe,” I mean equipped with comfortable couches and massive flat-screen TVs to watch non-educational movies and shows on. It is money spent on advancing political agendas and paying a steadily increasing number of administrators at the price of students and teachers, whose salaries are a pale and gasping shadow of what they should be. This is all to “empower” you.

Given the economic bind of most college students, it’s hard to imagine them voluntarily saying “Yes, I’ll happily pay to let the LGBTQ Resource Center watch ‘How I Met Your Mother’ on a TV I can’t afford for myself.” It’s even harder to imagine them being willing to go into predatory debt to do so. And by “them,” of course, I mean you.

The two places I learned the most at BC were in debate club and writing for The Watchdog. “Adversity” was the appropriate descriptor. Being challenged on everything, being forced to defend your position, or change views accordingly, learning to think for yourself; that is true empowerment. Though these were funded through school money, they could easily have existed without it. I continue to participate today in both of these pro bono, as it were.

School-sponsored “empowerment,” by contrast, breeds dependency and a childish lack of self-reliance by lavishly funding just about any desire of the right students, at everyone else’s expense, and describing any failure on a student’s part (so valuable to learning!) as some kind of victimization. In other words, it dissociates the conscious actions of students from their outcomes and trains them—us—to externalize failure instead of rising to meet challenges.

Feeling empowered?