The academy. It claims to stand for inclusiveness and diversity and voices of dissent. But what happens when students decide to vote with their feet—their bare feet—and a professor calls those students "hillbillies"? Well sir, you've got a discrimination problem.
Inside Higher Ed has the story on a raging battle between Appalachians and their elitist detractors at an unnamed university:
On the faculty discussion board, a staff member posted a complaint about a student walking around barefoot in a building. A response is what set off the larger discussion:
One professor wrote: "My approach would be to assure this student that going barefoot is not against the rules because the assumption is that by the time they reach college, students are expected to understand why wearing shoes is expected on campus. If s/he disrespects his or her peers and the college community enough to (un)dress like a hillbilly here, I would say, then s/he should be prepared to be dismissed as one, in whatever pursuits s/he favors, in the preference of someone more attuned to proper decorum and respectful behavior."
A professor who was troubled by that response forwarded the comment to the Appalachian studies email list with the question: "Colleagues, if you read the following on your institutional discussion board in reference to a complaint about a barefoot student, how would you respond to the professor?"
How would you respond? Furiously, apparently. That's how many people felt, as they assailed nose-in-the-air profs who "do not feel the same need to be sensitive to those from poor, largely white, rural communities in Appalachia."
One suggested response was: "Spit on their car."
Well, that seems... a bit... on the nose.
Look, this is a subject near and dear to my heart, as a hillbilly redneck who strives to stand apart from the peckerwoods while still believing redneckedness can be a wonderful thing. Peckerwood culture is a problem, and one that profs should have a right to critique. But it seems more than a little unfair and hostile for Appalachian natives to write "of being asked at colleges and universities such things as when they started to wear shoes."
Maybe everybody can hammer out their differences over a relaxing drink, like Dr. Henry Louis Gates and that white police officer did. Might I suggest:
[Photo credit: Cameron Whitman/Shutterstock]