Tonight I participated in one of our residence hall’s “dinner in a dorm” events. This is actually my second time, but it was different because I was invited by one of my lovely students. Previously, when I — along with other new faculty — attended a similar event, I was paired with a hall official. Such arrangements are referred to as “blind dates” by the students.
The premise behind the event is that faculty get to see the students “other side” by touring their dorm, learning about the traditions, and talking outside of the classroom. Inevitably, I learn a lot more than just this. Most of all I learn just how little students know about the “other side” of faculty’s lives. Until occasions like this, they often don’t realize that we have children and partners or that we actually live in this city year-round ( believe it or not!) and (gasp!) work during school breaks. Those little TCE’s (and yeah, that’s what the year-end course evaluations that look a little like standardized tests are called) should not incite maniacal laughter as students think about how they used one to really “stick it to that jerk.” In fact, they aren’t at all funny to us and, at least as the local lore suggest, actually matter. The students don’t know what tenure is, why we want it, or what we have to do to get it. They are adamantly opposed, though, to any policy that doesn’t allow people to get fired (‘cuz that just isn’t right!). They also know very little about the city, other than where the airport, Target, Chipotle, and the bars are.
Although most “real” blind dates are more comfortable than these awkward affairs, I’ll keep going to them if I’m invited. It’s important to me that, at the end of the night, they’ve learned as much about us as we have about them. Of course… that assumes that they’re the kind of blind dates who aren’t too wrapped up in themselves to listen (sigh).