Postmodern College, Postmodern Love

http://theothermccain.com/2014/10/24/postmodern-college-postmodern-love/

 

Otterbein University is a small, private liberal arts college in Westerville, Ohio, near Columbus. Like most such schools in America, it began with an explicitly Christian purpose:

The university was founded in 1847 by the Church of the United Brethren in Christ. . . . The university is named for United Brethren founder the Rev. Philip William Otterbein.

Also, like most other small, private liberal arts colleges, Otterbein is fairly expensive. Annual tuition is $31,624 at Otterbein, more than three times what in-state students pay at Ohio State (annual tuition $10,037). So, what is the value-added for the Otterbein students?

Why are parents willing to pay such a premium to send their children there? Is it the tranquil beauty of the 114-acre campus? Is it the promise of “an inclusive community dedicated to educating the whole person in the context of humane values”? Or, perhaps, do parents feel that Otterbein’s small size, suburban location and Christian history makes it a safe environment where young people will be protected from the stresses and peer pressure of a big urban school like Ohio State, which has more than 40,000 students on its campus near downtown Columbus?

Whatever the reasons, girls (and their parents) are much more likely to prefer the small liberal arts college: 62% of Otterbein’s 2,479 students are female and 38% male. One might speculate that there is a symbiotic relationship between the type of curriculum offered at Otterbein and the disproportionately female students it attracts. But why merely speculate, when Otterbein is so eager to tell us all about it?

 

The Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Otterbein is committed to a critical and feminist understanding of gender and power across cultural contexts, social locations, and disciplinary boundaries.
Our program underlines two important and interrelated learning goals:
– A deepened understanding of the history, contributions, conditions, and issues affecting women in local, national, and transnational context
– A broad exploration of the multiple systems and social meanings that construct our understandings of gender and sexuality
We are proud of the fact that we think comparatively and collaboratively about feminist politics, gender categories, and sexual identity and practice.
The program also encourages feminist and anti-oppressive pedagogies in the classroom; supports critical research and faculty development in women’s and gender studies; sponsors co-curricular programming that addresses women’s and gender issues; provides outreach opportunities for the campus community; and offers itself as an ally and advocate for women and GLBTQ students, staff, and faculty at the University.

 

One wonders what the United Brethren — a sect born of the 18th century “Great Awakening” — and the Rev. Otterbein might think about this “gender and sexuality” and GLBTQ advocacy. The faculty of the Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies program at Otterbein is led by the directorTammy Birk, an associate professor of English whose specialities include “Critical Feminist Theories”:

I like any project that is experimental in form or content. I like projects that are hybrid or interdisciplinary. I like projects that sit at the intersection of English and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies. I like any project that creates or critiques graphic narrative. I like projects that foreground critical theory or cultural studies.

As previously explained in the “Sex Trouble” series, Women’s Studies isinterdisciplinary, sharing faculty with other departments. At Otterbein,the program’s faculty includes female professors who are listed as chairs of the departments of Psychology (Michelle Acker), English (Suzanne Ashworth) and Sociology (Heidi Ballard). Thus, Women’s Studies serves as a sort of campus center for an activist agenda whereby this kind of “feminist understanding of gender and power,” etc., is diffused across multiple programs. And the number of students who take Women’s Studies classes is much larger than the number who make Women’s Studies their major or minor, as Daphne Patai explained in Professing Feminism: Education and Indoctrination in Women’s Studies:

At my own university, the University of Massachusetts Amherst, several hundred students a year enroll in Women’s Studies courses . . .  in large part because certain low-level Women’s Studies courses fulfill the university’s general education requirement in the area of “diversity.” The number of majors, however, is small . . . 30 to 35 . . .

So, on the one hand, the interdisciplinary aspect of Women’s Studies makes such programs a means of supporting a feminist agenda across multiple areas of the curriculum and, on the other hand, many students take Women’s Studies courses as electives to fulfill requirements for their degrees in other fields. What sort of agenda is involved in these classes?  Again, from Professing Feminism, here is a quote from “Laura,” a bisexual woman who in the 1990s got a minor in Women’s Studies at an unnamed state university:

The classroom gets divided. . . . There’s always a small group of women who speak out. They always have something to say, they always have a comments on something, and you pretty much get the general feel of all their politics within the first week. . . . It comes down to your sexuality and your political views. It’s like, it seems a lot of times if you’re heterosexual, strictly heterosexual, or conservative, you don’t have the right to say much in Women’s Studies. You’re classified with men.
Sexuality comes up all the time in Women’s Studies class. It’s amazing — it just becomes an issue. People are declaring themselves, what their sexual orientation is, right away. I mean, within a week, you know what everybody in your class is. . . .
A lot of people got triggered by “men men men men men.” I remember somebody just going off and saying, “Can’t you blame anything but men?” . . . In one class this girl said, “All you do is blame men. I happen to like men.” . . . She was attacked. There were mainly three people who jumped in, and they just completely cut her to pieces.

 

That’s how it was in a Women’s Studies program at a state university in the 1990s. Does anyone think the anti-male/anti-heterosexual climate in such programs has changed since then, except to become even more anti-male and anti-heterosexual? Meanwhile . . .

At Otterbein University, the formerly Christian private college in Ohio where tuition is over $30,000 a year and a 62% female student body lives in “”an inclusive community . . . of humane values,” they have sororities on campus, one of which is Kappa Phi Omega. In 2005, the president of Kappa Phi Omega was Alanna Fenton, who also played on the Otterbein Cardinals softball team. And guess what?

We fell in love in college at Otterbein — yea a shocker to us too! Felicity was in Nursing School and Alanna studying Organizational Communications. While Alanna was the president of our sorority Kappa Phi Omega and Felicity was a lowly little pledge the love story began!
Since 5/5/05, we have never been able to get rid of each other . . .

 

In an inclusive community with humane values, of course, the sorority president will become lesbian lovers with a freshman pledge! This is why Felicity’s parents paid $31,624 to send their daughter to that 144-acre campus, so she could study nursing, acquire humane values and have lesbian sex with her softball-playing sorority president. That’s how “the love story began,” and in 2012 . . .

 

Now, let me point out that I have no idea if either of these students of humane values were ever enrolled in a Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies class while at Otterbein. For all I know, Alanna and Felicity were both lifelong lesbians before they ever set foot on the 114-acre campus of that inclusive community. It is entirely possible that these young lesbians chose Otterbein specifically because of the 62% female student body, which offers abundant opportunities for such “love stories” as theirs. Maybe Otterbein has that kind of reputation, sort of Ohio’s equivalent of Bryn Mawr. Maybe Kappa Phi Omega is known around campus as The Lesbian Sorority, so that if a freshman dyke at Otterbein is looking for a place where she will be welcomed into the sapphic sisterhood, Kappa house is it.

Maybe, but probably not. The story Alanna and Felicity tell would lead us to believe that neither of them had any previous inkling of a same-sex orientation until — “shocker”! — they “fell in love” on May 5, 2005. Does that seem plausible? I don’t know. After months of reading feminist books about how sexuality is “socially constructed,” I’m wondering if maybe there’s not some social construction going on at Otterbein and other such inclusive communities, where the one thing definitely not included among the humane values is the kind of Christianity in which the United Brethren fervently believed.

Postmodernism looks suspiciously like paganism, from a biblical perspective, and if Jesus Christ were to show up tommorow on the Otterbein campus, he’d be shunned and denounced as a hatemonger.

“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools . . . And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind . . .”

Given over to a reprobate mind, people do all kinds of foolish things, like spend $31,624 a year to send their daughters to Otterbein.