Oberlin Blogs

Think one person can change the sociology department?

December 6, 2009

Alicia Smith ’10

I wear many hats. Not literally--I actually look really terrible in hats 98% of the time I try to wear one. It may be in part because of this large forehead I've inherited. Figuratively, though, I have a vast hat collection. Student, sister, blogger, goddess, office assistant, friend--these are all some of the hats I must wear and roles with duties I must fulfill. In addition to all of these, one of the hats I put on from time to time is that of sociology major representative, and I must say it looks pretty darn good on me.

Me and my fellow rep, Cindy, carry this title with pride and dignity. Generally, the sociology major representatives are chosen based on who expresses interest in taking on the position. The department chair sends out a mass e-mail asking who is interested and then the powers that be make their decisions after hours of deliberation. Or perhaps they just granted the title to the few who showed interest. I like to think the first scenario is true.

I was a representative last year as well. There were three of us; the other two were seniors who have since graduated. We would occasionally meet the department chair for lunch at the Rat[hskeller] for fine dining and sociology-related conversation. We'd discuss what changes we'd like to see in the courses, how we could improve the department's reputation on campus, what we thought of our salads, and how we could bring majors together for bonding activities. We organized a few bonding events--lunchtime lectures by faculty members, graduate school presentations, and even a birthday party for Durkheim [okay, I made that last one up. Sorry, Emile].

This year, faculty members from other colleges as well Oberlin faculty have evaluated our department to help them improve. Every department is evaluated from time to time to help them stay on top of their game. After all, no department wants to fall to proletariat status. Bourgeoisie is what we aim for. This week I met with a couple of Oberlin faculty members who were given the task of evaluating the sociology department. We discussed what I viewed as the strengths and weaknesses of the department, but mostly it was just me expressing my undying love for being able to get a degree in learning about people. Why would you want to study atoms, numbers, computer chips, trees, or painting when you can study people? I'm not the person to ask.

Although being a major representative is not a paid position, it's worth it. Last year, when I was invited to attend a sociology faculty meeting, I felt like a VIP. I mean, I already knew that I'm a VIP [duh], but being able to be in the presence of my instructors while being viewed as an equal was an awesome feeling. The highlight of the meeting came when Backstreet Boys started blasting from the speakers as they revealed the cookie cake with my name on it and lifted my chair up in sociological glory after announcing that they would raise my GPA to a 4.5 just for attending [ok, that didn't happen either].

Part of the beauty of Oberlin is being able to have a voice in the education you receive. Sacrificing a few lunches with my friends every now and again to chow down with faculty and express my opinions on how major requirements can be changed is awesome. I can't wait to see if any of my suggestions are ever put into action. When that day comes, I will probably request that I receive some sort of compensation in the form of flex points, a lecture hall named in my honor, or pizza slices. Or maybe even an appointment with a hat maker that will accommodate my fivehead. I'll give them the choice.

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