I spent the better part of Wednesday sitting on the couch. Dazed and confused you might say. I felt sick to my stomach. I watched the speeches made that day. I watched Jerry Maguire because it was on one of the channels. Cuba Gooding Jr. made me smile.
I had tried to do the normal things I would have been doing on that Wednesday. I tried to edit some personal statements. I tried to read some applications. Instead I found myself walking around campus aimlessly, not really wanting to be anywhere. That’s why I found myself on the couch, the next best place to be when you don’t feel like you belong anywhere.
I have a half-written blog post about the excitement of interviewing new scholars for McNair. I haven’t been able to finish it, and darn it, I should have just done that and posted it last week before this all happened. I was in much better spirits then.
I can’t stop myself from being on Facebook and reading about the fallout from some of the more thoughtful and grounded observers out there. I’m not sure what I’m looking for but it’s probably hope.
I’m listening to our scholars and I’m not sure how to engage. I don’t know quite what to say except I’m sorry. I’ve been though some intense times when McNair was in jeopardy. That happened two grant cycles ago when we didn’t even know if or when we were going to be writing for another round of support, we didn’t know how much money was being taken away, and then ultimately we lost 50 of our programs, many of which had been long-standing, very successful McNair programs over the past decade. We made it and I felt relieved and lucky to be able to continue the important work that we do with our scholars.
I’m not feeling that way now. I’m feeling scared and deeply saddened. We’re going to be in for the fight of our lives. We’re supposed to be writing for another five years of support in the next couple of months and we’re supposed to be doing this when I’m reading articles suggesting the U.S. Department of Education will be dismantled.
I have Ph.D. students questioning whether it’s even worth it to get their Ph.D. in a time when there might not be funding for research that is so needed. I have scholars barely making it though college with full Pell grants and I can’t even begin to imagine younger low income students trying to make it though with even less.
So what to say here? I don’t know honestly. Except that we’re going to be in for the biggest fight of our lives. That is certainly clear. I already had scholar graduates texting and asking what they can do. It’s going to become even more pertinent that we tell our stories to as many people that will listen and can hear.
It’s going to become even more critical for our McNair community to support one another and be strong. We have no other choice as I see it.
I’m scared for the future. And I’m feeling pretty helpless right now. My family can’t afford for me not to have a job and it might come to that. My heart hurts to think that I might not be able to do this work with students like our McNair scholars. This work is deeply meaningful to me and it’s helped to define me as a person. The thought of that being ripped away is something I can’t even think about.
But really, it’s not about me, it’s about our students and their chance to pursue their dreams through education. I can’t bring myself to think this might all be dashed. So I won’t.
We’re going to need our entire McNair community to become vocal. Way more vocal than we have ever been. We’re going to have to share the stories of our students, the challenges they face and the obstacles they have overcome with assistance from programs like Trio and McNair. We’re going to have to present a united front to those who might not understand or want to listen. We’re going to have to help them listen and understand by sharing the compelling stories of our students.
That’s all I can say for now.
Our scholars presented their research yesterday and Alyssa so eloquently posted this afterward:
My passion for social equality is obvious in many ways, but one thing I don’t talk about as much is my passion for education. To me, those two things go hand-in-hand. Being a McNair Scholar has allowed for me to dedicate my life to social equality by means of education & I cannot thank the program enough.
“Education is the most powerful weapon with which you can use to change the world” – Nelson Mandela 💕
Let’s keep going McNair. Dr. McNair wants us to, that’s for sure. It’s not going to be easy and it’s not going to be pretty. But we must continue. We must.