Thursday, November 3, 2005

Thanks a Lot, Herma Williams

Well, I lost my battle with Herma Williams, the Associate Provost. She called me and arranged a meeting in her office. I knew she was going to deny the petition; I had basically known from the beginning of the whole process. When I arrived (she was 15 minutes late, by the way), she told me that she had decided to deny my petition. Her reasons were something like this: the course I participated in is not on my transcript (it was a program for the summer prior to my freshman year), it is not through an "accredited institution," and then some vague blather about how there are "different leagues of schools" and another course similar to Discovery couldn't possibly offer the "breadth and depth" of Discovery itself. She went on about leagues for some time, basically insulting Biola (the program I participated in was loosely affiliated with Biola) and saying that Gordon "as an accredited institution" (she loves that phrase) can't just accept any course from any school. I finally took advantage of a pause to say that she should realize that every course I took at Biola was accepted for transfer credit at Wheaton, and, "if you want to talk about 'leagues,' frankly, Wheaton is in a higher 'league' than Gordon." To which she hastily said, "Well, Wheaton and Gordon are in the top league together, yes, of course." (I guess she draws the lines between the leagues wherever she wants to, which must be convenient for her; she can make the first division right under Gordon so she can put it in the top 'league.' Clever!) Anyway, then she finally said, "Well, maybe league isn't the best word to use. Let's just forget about that." It was weird. I don't have some kind of superiority thing going on with Wheaton, but I really couldn't resist pulling the Wheaton card on her since she was being so belittling about other courses I've taken at other schools - and let's face it; Wheaton is widely considered the 'superior' school.

After breaking the news to me that she was denying my petition, she promptly started talking about a variety of largely irrelevant things. It was very odd. She started out by saying, "Now, I want to talk to you as a woman. You're a woman, I'm a woman... let's talk woman to woman." Now, this struck me as strange. After all, being a woman isn't that rare. I mean, we make up at least 50% of the population of the earth. So if it had been something like, "You're a hermaphrodite; I'm a hermaphrodite..." - well that's something I could understand I suppose. But two women speaking to one another is hardly rare enough to merit calling the fact to attention. Then she started telling me about how difficult life was for her, growing up as a "person of color" - and I am sure that she did encounter some very difficult discrimination and harsh mindsets, growing up as she did in, I'm guessing, the 60's. But she went on to say how God uses situations in our lives that we don't understand to help us grow, and that maybe He was going to use her decision to make me take Discovery, in some way that I can't see yet, to help me grow in the long run. (???)

Finally, she started affirming and empowering me as a woman. She told me that from my very first emails and conversations with her, she had realized that I was a "very articulate young lady" (or something like that), and she said, "you have leadership written all over you." No one has ever really told me that I'm a leader before, so I fluctuate between being surprised and vaguely flattered by her perception and skeptically thinking that she says this to every woman who walks into her office. She's all about empowering women. She told me to stay in touch with her and let her know where I get my masters and doctoral degrees and how I go on to change the world. Whee.

After she finished her rabbit trails, I asked for a moment to summarize my thoughts before leaving. I said something like this: "I'm sure you believe as I do that the end or goal of any course offered here at Gordon is not the course itself but the character developed, the information learned, the maturity gained through that experience. I have demonstrated to you that I have participated in a program very similar to Discovery, and I have attempted to show you also how I benefitted from those experiences and how I have emplemented what I learned in my life since that time. While I do not have Discovery on my transcript, I believe very firmly that I have already gained in my personal life the same goals that Discovery has to offer, and I regret your decision very much, as I wish I could be permitted to use my time and finances in a more beneficial way during the remainder of my time at Gordon College. Let me give you a parallel example. If you examine my transcript, you will not find a Philosophy course listed anywhere. However, when I transferred here, I went and spoke with the head of the philosophy department. I demonstrated to him the books I had read, the papers I had written, and the programs of which I had been a part, and he was able to realize that I had already gained the end results that a philosophy 101 course could offer me. He waived the course requirement. I think that this situation with Discovery is very similar, and I regret that the administration was not able to examine the situation in a more unbiased manner and see that the overarching goals of Discovery have already been reached in my life. Thank you so much for your time in considering all of this; it's been a pleasure to meet you."

And we shook hands and I left. It was a long battle, this. It involved petitions, more petitions, emails, phone calls, meetings, more emails, phone calls, and meetings, and lots of gathering my thoughts. I'm annoyed, because I feel very strongly that the administration had already determined to deny my petition before they even read it, and I believe they never gave me a fair chance to demonstrate anything to them. However, in spite of this, I'm glad that I went through the whole process. I had to be articulate, well-prepared to present my thoughts in writing and in person, and most of all, I had to be really patient and polite when I wanted to scream.

Goodbye, $500.00. Goodbye, my precious time - 3 hours a week plus one whole weekend plus one whole Saturday. Hello, team-building exercises with a random group of students. Hello, contrived and false sense of "community."

So I spent the past weekend hiking on trails that our leader Aimee hadn't bothered to hike ahead of time (they turned out to be riverbeds and swamps, and we all got our feet completely soaked and freezing cold), freezing my toes off outside while our leader tried for an hour to light a fire (my Mom can light a fire with one match without fail), sleeping in a cabin, being dirty (the cabin had showers, but we weren't allowed to use them; I suppose being dirty helps us Discover ourselves and Discover God better), and bonding with ten other randomly-selected Gordon students. My life is totally changed.

My favorite part about Discovery so far is probably the rule they seem to take the most pride in - when you're outdoors, if you drop some food, you have to pick it up and eat it. It doesn't seem to have occured to anyone that this is very dangerous and foolish. As if a raisin can possibly harm a squirrel! Yes, raisins come from grapes, which are DEADLY to nature and all things natural! But we do know that eating food that could have come into contact with animal matter of any kind can be very harmful to humans and spread disease. I love the outdoors and believe in preserving and respecting our natural environment, but this rule displays the mentality that animals are more important than people... hardly Biblical.

I love Discovery. I'm Discovering so much. And best of all, I get to keep a little blue journal about it all, so later I can look back and reDiscover all that I've Discovered. Whee.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Sarah! *Pulls out his hairs in sympathy* Hang in there; what a mess! I've been through the exact same things with my administartion at school, although it wasn't over giddy Discovery courses. (sarcasm) I must admit I'm so jealous of the opportunity they grant you to discover yourself (end sarcassm). I hope that it goes by very quickly, to say the least. I also hope for you that this is the last you have to put up with administrative nonsense and institutional snoberry.