the “fuck” heard ’round the world

Sometimes I really wish I were at a less-conservative university. Really at any other University of Califuckingfornia. For as much as I love my department, I am sick to death of the ultraconservative, education-as-a-consumer-activity (i.e. "we work for them"), over-coddled contingent of the student body. Yes, I know you pay (far too much) tuition for your education, but that does NOT mean that as such you immediately deserve a degree; I realize that the idea that education works differently than other things you pay for is a little foreign to the Orange County student ("When I buy a double-ice-blended-nonfat-vanilla sugarshock at the Coffee Bean, I deserve to GET IT, not have to work for it!"), and that as a lowly instructor I am little more than a maid or nanny or domestic servant…but still, fuckin’ A, it gets to me sometimes.

Wherefore this tirade? Well, I’m in troubs with my job, which ordinarily I love and for which I am summarily enjoyed by both students and senior faculty alike. But here’s the trouble: last quarter I said "fuck" to a student. I KNOW, HOW DARE I, RIGHT? THE WORST WORD EVER! Here’s the situation:

The LECTURE begins and a STUDENT is, instead of taking notes, FUCKING AROUND ON FACEBOOK.
REBECCA (31, ornery) notices this.

REBECCA (sotto voce): Psst! Stop fucking around on Facebook and pay attention to lecture!

The student nods, looking confused. Rebecca feels bad for saying that but figures hey, everyone here is an adult, it’s just words, etc. Rebecca promptly forgets about the episode in favor of fretting about her own 18 ornery students.

CUT TO: The student emails the course director, livid.
CUT TO: The student includes my transgression in her evaluations, self-righteous.

Now, I realize that I am not completely in the right here–I shouldn’t have said that, NOT because of the inherent "badness" of the word "fuck," but because I kind of lost my cool and because controlling students’ internet slacking in lecture is not really part of my job description. So I realize it’s OK for me to be in some minor amount of trouble.

On the other hand, the kid was fucking around on Facebook instead of paying attention to lecture and I call ’em like I see ’em.

The idea that I could potentially have my job or future jobs (via negative recommendations) in jeopardy because I said "fuck" once is terrifying to me. This is supposed to be America and I am supposed to be in its MOST permissive job, first-amendment wise. I should not have to answer to ANYONE about saying "fuck" as long as I don’t use it in a hate-speech way (and I DIDN’T! I used it in its "PG-13" way, and this kid was definitely older than 13), and this kid should have no recourse to me calling HER out on something she was doing wrong, no matter what ill-advised language I chose to fucking use. The idea that as a college instructor that I could have my language censored is…well, it’s really fucking rusty-trombone, dirty-sanchez, rim-job FUCKED.

FUCKGATE ’08 UPDATE (now THAT rhymes): in the last 2 hours alone, I have received no less than five adulatory emails from my cohort, some saying my confession "made their day," others saying I am their "heroine" and one even admitting an "awe-inspiring respect" for my brave bravery to say "fuck" to a student. Times they are a-changin’ indeed…Bob Dylan must be rolling in his grave (and yes I know Bob Dylan isn’t dead–but COOL Bob Dylan is, dead in the same sense that Mick Jagger is dead and Robert Plant is dead).

Let’s just hope that when I get thrown in UCI Swearing Jail they all bake me cakes with files.

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