Profiling is an ugly thing. Back in January, I was asked for my ID at the Peabody Commons late one night when I went to get a snack because I didn’t fit the “typical student profile.” I know I was profiled because when I asked the guard if I was being profiled, she said, “I’m doing all that.” After filing a complaint, I haven’t seen her there again. It appears she’s “doing all that” somewhere else now.
It is frustrating and anger provoking to be treated that way. It is particularly anger provoking to be treated that way on the campus of a university where I have paid $43,000 a year to attend. Capitalism lesson: service and respect flows in the opposite direction that the money flows.
I am happy to report that this is the opposite treatment that I have received at Owen and from my fellow Owenites.
Now, what I’m about to say is going to shock most of my classmates. I know because of the way I act, the music I listen to, my warped sense of humor, and my rugged and youthful appearance, most assume that I am about 16 years old. I am actually 47. Yes. 4 and 7, 47.
I started my return to school in January of 2007 at the age of 42 at a community college south of Nashville and thought “What the **** am I doing here?” I had that thought occasionally almost all through my undergrad days. Though I was very lucky to make friends of all ages along the way in my undergrad years, there were of course moments of bigotry that would come up.
A snide remark made directly, a rumor spread about, and passive aggressive insinuations that I was coming to college just to chase younger girls (apparently I couldn’t find a cheaper way of pursuing it other than to throw $100,000 in tuition money towards the effort).
Then I left that world and came to Owen and it all changed. With the exception of one moment before our orientation where a classmate suggested he and I should go “Cougar hunting” together, I cannot remember anyone making a big deal about my age.
Last year a classmate asked me, “isn’t it great that everyone accepts you?” This was an interesting question because I can happily say that it had not occurred to me until she mentioned it.
One of our classmates announced that she is transgender last year and I was delightfully surprised when there was seemingly no change in the atmosphere or acceptance of her. But looking back, I really should not have been surprised at all. The ignorance that occasionally darkened my undergrad days was left at the door at Owen. I have felt no bigotry aimed toward me.
If there are people that dislike me, it is for the same reasons they would hate someone like me that is 20 years younger. That’s cool with me.
I want to thank my friends and my fellow Owenites for this experience. We all rolled up our sleeves together, studied and ‘stratergized’ together to all hours, and pulled each other along. Owen is the best example of teamwork and utilization of talent that I have had, and the best example of genuine inclusiveness as well.
Though there are several demographics of people that suffer prejudice from other members of society, the last form of prejudice that is almost universally considered acceptable is age bigotry. A person’s age is held as an attribute that can be used to assess what someone’s tastes should be, what their ability to contribute is, and what the proper roles for them in society are. It is insidious and it is most likely going to be one of the most difficult for society to correct.
Owen is a shining example of what society would be like if it were to make that correction one day.
In my next post, I’ll talk about why I decided to go back to college later in life. I hope it helps anyone older that is thinking about going to school again, and I hope it answers any questions that may have been in peoples’ minds during my time here…