Dec 13, 2021

Let's continue with the report from Simmons University.

 Simmons University claims that education should be "gender inclusive.” There are three bathrooms, marked W, M, and GI, of which the third one seems to be used by anyone without concern. The first thing that puzzled me was when I was asked, "What about your pronoun?” The pronoun is added after the name in emails here.

 Pronouns are She, Her, Her. I put “She” after my name. This makes me feel like a declaration that I am a woman. If you claim that you are Caucasian cisgender, you are often subject to criticism for taking your identity as a woman too much for granted and for being a discriminator and oppressor of minorities. Although I am not a Caucasian cisgender, the act of choosing the pronoun She gives off a subtle nuance that I am making a declaration that I am a woman.

Some people use both She and They. Not everyone puts pronouns, though. When I look around at the students, however, they all have the same long hair, so I am reminded that it is impossible to tell sexual orientation or gender identity from the outside.

When it comes to the physical environment, as you can see in the photograph above, there are places for students to study at every corner of the building—at the end of the corridors, everywhere. When I was teaching at the university, I never thought about what students would do in their free time.

But now that I'm a student, it certainly makes sense. They study a lot. They choose a quiet place and study alone. I also have a hideout with a long couch and little traffic. No one cares who is doing what or where.

The total number of undergraduate and graduate students is about 5000, and it is probably one of the middle-rank schools in the US. Since the classes have become face-to-face this fall, all students are required to take a COVID test every week, and masks are mandatory indoors and in class.

 The graduate school has two semesters: the fall semester from September to December (two classes, 2 hours and 50 minutes long each) and the spring semester from January to May. In the spring semester, I will take two more classes.

 Especially in graduate school, there is a grand web system for each class (called Moodle, but I call it noodle) that you set up in your computer. Everything is in the Moodle—a syllabus for each class, numerous journal articles and books to be read.

 The assignments are downloaded and then printed. Students write their thoughts and opinions on the Moodle, and the professor writes responses to them. Since papers and essays can be long, students submit the print-out. The professor writes comments on it and hand it back to us. Anyway, it's computers first and foremost here. No one really writes by hand in notebooks. Because you carry a tablet and heavy books, students can't let go of their backpacks. I wish for a day when I don't have to carry a computer.

 You may say, only two classes? Well, the workload is overwhelming. It is unthinkable to sleep in class or talk in private, which is the case with many Japanese students. University is a place to study—period. Professors also study hard, gathering materials from videos, movies, books, and research journals. In addition to Moodle, we also get email instructions to read additional materials. Do I have to write more of my thoughts on these as well?? Good grief.

Now we finally come to talk about class. I’ll keep it simple. We read books and articles on each of the so-called hot topics at the moment, such as intersectionalism, trans issues, queer theory, fat feminism, crip theory, etc., and after writing in our comments, we discuss them in the classroom. Recently, I read a book called Bi Bisexuality, Pansexuality, Fluid, Nonbinary Youth and was asked to write a review. The book simply says that young people no longer choose their partners based on gender.

Professor Suzanne Leonard

Professor Suzanne Leonard and eight of her students. She's a bit on the large size and does not (seemingly) care about how she looks. She is a good-natured warm funny person, was running for the local school board and wished that everyone in the community would be a little more open-minded. Later I heard that she won the election. She is my mentor who talked with me over Zoom before I was admitted and gave me a permission to join.

 The eight students in my class are from Lebanon, Nepal, Mexico, and me, an elderly student from Japan. Suzanne told me that it just happened that way. Due to privacy reasons, I was not able to take pictures during the class.

 In class, various information and abstracts of the assigned books are shown on the large TV screen. If you need to be absent, just let her know ahead of time so that you can attend online from anywhere. She lets the students talk thoroughly and even handwrites on the white board to share the topics that come up.

Students talk a lot not just to participate in the class but because it is directly associated with their academic evaluation as well. The supportive environment is awesome and very encouraging. It's wonderful to see how thoroughly they take the students seriously. In the U.S., even professors are called by their first names. There is not much distance between them and students but is not excessively friendly either.

 I interviewed Aishala from Nepal and Ceci from Mexico, but it has become too long. I'll leave it for the next time.

(Translated by Miho Tajima)