A guest post by Elizabeth Grant
—Elizabeth Grant received her PhD. in Architecture and Design Research from Virginia Tech and now serves as an Assistant Professor in the School of Architecture+Design at Virginia Tech. Her ongoing research, teaching, and outreach interests focus on environmental design, the building envelope, and building systems integration. Grant is a recipient of the National Roofing Foundation’s William C. Cullen Research Fellowship Award and her work has been published in the Journal of Architectural Engineering, the Journal of Green Building, Professional Roofing, and Interface.
I agree, though I think your argument presupposes the strong faculty presence and support that must exist before the community can hope to develop. I took two friends out to lunch yesterday and as usual, once we got past the small talk, the conversation turned to their persistent disenfranchisement and lack of community as doctoral students. They still are the only students without reserved desks in their department, so many of them hunt out greener pastures in other buildings, and therefore don’t see each other too often. They do now have a windowless room, with some boards and sawhorses to share, which is a huge improvement over what they had before, which was nothing.
I feel quite lucky that I had the EDP colloquium when I was in the program, even though it often did deteriorate into collective whining. Having that infrastructure present helped set up friendships that led to the outcomes you suggest— I think I’ve told you about the Mad CAUS, our all-female power team/research group. We did present our research to one another along with all the other fun stuff, like eating and drinking coffee (or in my case, brownish cream and sugar) together. I know I certainly benefited from a friendly practice audience prior to my first conference presentation and prior to my defense.
Much of this occurs in the natural process of taking the same classes together, and that doesn’t happen too much with my students. There’s just not a critical mass of them, moving together in the same direction. I think they’re working on getting together more often, though, and I’ve tried to encourage that.
For my own part, I have definitely noticed a generational component to this Tea Party business. I have a Tea Party-esque relative whose forwarded diatribes started arriving around the time of the Obama campaign, and which I have long since stopped reading. I also am getting sick of the anti-Obama jokes which are, unfortunately and undeniably, at least tied to if not completely motivated by racism and have almost nothing to do with politics, much less policy. I’m afraid that there is a bit of plain old fear of the “other” involved here, which blinds people to any consideration of the issues before they even get started. I have another relative who I used to treasure but now find I can’t abide by since she’s started angrily defending, without provocation, her right to drive a minivan (yes, angrily!) and told me that she doesn’t want Socialism like “you young people do”. I’m sure you read Michael Kinsley’s “Real Patriots Don’t Have Tea Parties” in the June Atlantic Monthly . He summed up what I dimly felt might be true, that the partiers’ gripes are mostly self-interested (your spernere mundum, with none of the spernere sese to balance things out).