Monday, May 2, 2016

The Tampons of Higher Ed

By Professor Doom

     There is no doubt that higher ed has lost its way. I know, change is inevitable, but the campuses of today get less recognizable every year. Core to the changes is the “student as customer” paradigm that has warped every decision on campus.

      We wouldn’t have campuses devoted to sportsball except, hey, the students love sportsball.

      We wouldn’t have multimillion dollar recreational centers on campus except, hey, climbing walls and lazy rivers make students happy.

     We wouldn’t have college courses redefined to sub-high-school level material except, hey, students don’t like to study.

      The end result of all the decisions is that higher education, on many campuses, is a joke. Students get their 4 year degrees in 6 years now, and it’s well documented that many college graduates are indistinguishable from high school graduates, when it comes to trying to tell any difference in cognitive, writing, or other skills.

     The gentle reader should understand that our universities and colleges all have mission statements, statements which indicate the purpose of the school and, to get accredited, have to promise to make decisions to honor that mission statement.

      You won’t find any mission statement of any school that says the school exists for the purpose of creating a winning sportsball team, to have the best campus amusement park, or to focus on teaching the material that any 10 year old can learn.

      And yet, that’s what our schools are doing now. With each one of these digressions from a school’s mission, I can’t help but wonder: how long until higher education snaps under the weight of all these diversions?
      The latest campus offering in opposition to the mission statement might not be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, but it’s definitely something:

     Most campuses offer free condoms—way back when, this wasn’t an issue on campus because the sexes weren’t allowed to mingle. The “customers” didn’t like that, so the policies were changed, and free condoms followed soon after. I actually rather see providing condoms as part, kind of, of the university mission (more than lazy rivers, anyway)—it’s harder to study when you’re suffering from disease and/or have a pregnancy.

The University of Minnesota began providing free menstrual products in restrooms nearly a decade ago, and the University of Nebraska at Lincoln began to do so in September. Last week, Columbia University announced that it would begin providing free tampons in its health center after spring break.

     Our campuses are predominantly female; endless “for females only” scholarships, “females only” hiring policies, and a campus environment that is quite often hostile towards males (both students and faculty) have rather warped the picture of our classrooms. Our leaders in higher education are making yet another decision in the interest of making the customers happy. Students, that is to say, customers, have been demanding free tampons…and so it shall be.

     I’m not trying to be a jerk here, I don’t want to cut into other people getting free stuff (and, honestly, I’m not upset about never getting, nor having need for, the free condoms) but, honest, the students will pay, and pay dearly, for those free tampons. A tampon-fiefdom will be set up, a Vice President of Tampon Diversity will be appointed (at $100,000 a year, probably more, along with half a dozen comparable staff), and every dollar of “free” tampons used by students will, inevitably, lead to many dollars’ increase in tuition.

      I want to get back to the student demands, because I want to talk about how an administration with intelligence and a spine would respond to a typical student demand. Here’s the demand:

“While this may seem like a peculiar addition to the average student council meeting, that these requests needed to be made indicates the university’s utter lack of support for people who menstruate, a group that includes a significant portion of the student body,” Courtney Couillard, a junior at Barnard College, wrote in the Columbia student newspaper after the meeting. “Sure, I can easily find a free condom on Barnard and Columbia’s campuses, but why can’t I find a free tampon in the bathrooms? Why does the administration care about my sexual protective rights, but not how I handle my monthly menstrual cycle?”

     There are so many ways to respond to this juvenile rant, I hardly know where to start. I guess I could respond in kind:

“People who menstruate? But what about transsexuals? Don’t you think it’s unfair to provide a service to you that won’t be provided to them? That’s not fair. Do you really hate transsexuals that much?”

     Ok, enough silliness, here’s a straight answer that an actual leader would provide:

“Of course we care about your sexual protective rights, condoms are irrelevant to that, we simply provide those as a public health issue, as we are a government organization with responsibilities to support our community. That said, we also care how you handle your monthly menstrual cycle, and encourage you to engage in good hygiene practices. We also care that you mature into a responsible adult, and thus encourage you to take responsibility for your own hygiene practices.”

      And that’s really as far as it goes. If all that is necessary for the university to provide a service is the customers want it, why not provide free clothes, free housing, free cars? Where would it end? Where should it end?

“…an organization that advocates for making feminine hygiene products free, 79 percent of women over the age of 18 have started their period unexpectedly in public without the needed supplies…”

     Wow, only 79%? Hey, I’m sure it happens…why not have vending machines? Does anyone else see a problem with providing this particular product for free in the restrooms? There’s an upper limit to how many condoms one can use (bear with me on that), but what’s to keep someone from driving onto campus, loading up, and going home? Put ‘em in vending machines like we do the test booklets, writing supplies, and other things.

     Ok, I’m not exactly the first to first to think of such vending machines, but the students just can’t handle the responsibility of having money on hand:

“If you’re lucky, a friend has you covered. If you are not so fortunate, you find yourself fin the bathroom stall of Mears Cottage, friend- and quarter-less, with your very large, very expensive supply of tampons on the opposite side of campus.”

The student later used two bobby pins to break into “all the tampon and pad dispensers [she] could find” on campus, stacking the products on top of the machines for others to use. The machines were not permanently damaged, and Rennick's protest got the attention of campus officials.

“I freed your tampons kept behind lock, key and quarter,…” 

     I have to tie this to the student loan scam: should someone who not simply forgets something she needs, but also doesn’t carry a little change and can’t even be on good enough terms to ask anyone for a quarter, be able to sign up for tens of thousands of dollars of irredeemable debt? 

      Does anyone else see the disconnect here? “Yes, we’re providing tampons for free because we don’t think you’re responsible enough to care for yourself. But we have no problem thinking you’re responsible enough to take out endless loans that ultimately make administrators much wealthier. Please, just check this box…” I just don't see how someone who can't be trusted to act responsibly with a quarter should be trusted to act responsibly with tens of thousands of dollars.

      I can’t emphasize strongly enough how laughable these requests are:

When we menstruate, however unexpectedly, we should not feel fear in the pits of our stomachs because of your lack of foresight.

      That’s right, it’s the university’s fault that the kid forgot her own tampons and change. I admit, I don’t use tampons, but I don’t know if I’d want university-provided ones for free in the restrooms. I imagine many of my gentle readers have never had to go to a university restroom, but the “free” toilet paper is amazingly bad. As near as I can tell, the reason we split the atom was the better to develop a way to create thinner toilet paper for our university bathrooms.

     I’ve used administrative restrooms, by the way…they use better toilet paper there. Of course. 

      I don’t even want to know what an atrocity “free tampons” would be like.
      Of course, I don’t have the insights of Poo Bahs:

Raynard Kington, president of Grinnell, said that while he does not endorse Rennick’s method of raising awareness about the issue, he agreed with her argument.
--note: the student provided no argument, just a demand.

      Of course he agreed with her “argument”…that’s the Poo Bah’s job nowadays: agree with the customers and give them what they want. I’ve never seen a Poo Bah advocate anything about education anymore, but I’ve sure seen them undermine it.

      The comments section rightly rips schools for caving in. One sums it up best:

Universities have the advantage that they deal entirely with uneducated people. And, if they do things right, the people exit without any increase in knowledge, so they not only don't realize they've been ripped off, they recommend the experience to their ignorant friends.

It's great work, if you can get it.

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