Amanda Harvey-Sánchez and Julia DaSilva are making a five-episode series on the U of T campaign, and an intro episode is online already.

All along one of the challenges with volunteer-driven student organizing is that few people can stick around to maintain the group’s memory across the years. Efforts like this podcast series, to document and analyze what took place, will be valuable for the people setting up the next iteration of the climate fight.

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In terms of differences among people, psychological research reveals that people who exhibit lower levels of complex thinking or higher levels of death anxiety or stronger desires to share reality with like-minded others tend to justify existing institutions and arrangements more than others. In other words, people who—for either chronic or temporary reasons—are especially eager to attain subjective states of certainty, closure, safety, security, conformity, and affiliation are especially likely to accept and rationalize the way things are and to embrace what contemporary scholars would recognize as politically conservative ways of thinking. In contrast, individuals who enjoy thinking in complex terms, or who are less sensitive to external threats than others, or who value uniqueness over conformity, are more likely to criticize the social system and to approve of insurgent movements aimed at changing the status quo. Thus, in addition to a general tendency for people to adapt to unwelcome realities, there are individual differences in personality as well as situational triggers pertaining to epistemic, existential, and relational motives that increase or decrease the likelihood of participating in system-challenging collective action.

Jost, John T. A Theory of System Justification. Harvard University Press, 2020. p. 7-8

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As an undergraduate, the UBC Debate Society was a major activity for me, less in terms of attending competitive tournaments in other cities and more in terms of befriending that circle and taking part in rounds during the great majority of club meetings.

As part of my U of T wrap-up (and maybe subconsciously as preparation for the PhD defence) I went to my first Hart House Debate Club meeting today, and took part in my first round under British Parliamentary rules.

As an undergrad, I saw older debaters, usually late undergrads or law students, called ‘dinos.’ At the time my mind would not have stretched the category to include 38-year-old year-ten PhD students who won their first tournament (Pacific Cup, with Greg Allen in fall 2001) before most of those present in the room were born. Now I perceive the possibility for a short return to debate between now and either the successful defence or graduation, whichever is pertinent to holding student status.

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After his thought-provoking podcast discussion with David Roberts, I will need to read John Jost’s two books on how our psychological needs for stability and respected position in the social order drive us to defend the status quo political, legal, and economic order as natural and just, regardless of our personal position in that social order’s specific distribution of burdens and benefits: Why social change is so excruciatingly difficult

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To further develop the student coaching idea:

It would be student-driven, not curriculum-driven. The starting point would be who they are, why they’re at university, and what they aspire to do in the medium- and long-term. That’s the basis for helping them find worthwhile extracurriculars and networks, as well as thinking about course planning and major selection from a holistic perspective.

I would work for the student, not the university. As a TA I have spent many hours with students one-on-one reviewing their written work either before or after submission and grading. This has all been essentially unpaid, as I didn’t have so many hours of student contact in my TA contract. I enjoyed doing it though because it felt like the only time when I was really teaching. Up in front of a tutorial I am doing am improv act, trying to weave together my prepared material with the organic discussion of the students willing to talk. One-on-one we can take our time and establish that the student is really following along. It becomes possible to see if they can repeat back the salient idea to you.

As a TA, I was chiefly paid for grading and administrative hours like keeping track of attendance. Neither is an activity that much serves to educate. They are part of the university’s sorting function rather than its residual educational capabilities. Switching sides to serve rather than sort the students is appealing.

All the student support they get at U of T is a bit like going to an emergency room doctor. Their only priority is to deal with the narrow issue in front of them, because they have no long-term relationship to any patient’s health and need to triage patients by degree of need. This student coaching service would be like a family doctor, reminding you of things it will be important to to before you’ve missed a deadline and it’s not possible, and when to get started in researching each batch of papers.

Personally, rather than pedagogically, I see great appeal in employment where I need to maintain clients but not to report to any bosses.

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