Wednesday, October 8, 2008

20 Years Ago - Inspiration, Hope, and A Reason To Be Involved

NOTE: I am live at the Indiana State Fair today - blogging about the Barack Obama Rally for Change. I'm including just a small portion of it here - just cause it really applies to what I write about on Child of the Fort.

For information on today's rally, check out Fort Wayne Politics later - where my stuff will appear.

This is my first time blogging about anything remotely political but after thinking things over, I felt strongly that not being here today would be a big miss on my part.

Back in my younger years, I was quite the activist. Maybe I wasn't as "radical" as people wanted me to be but in my own way, I stood up for what I believed in and I was all about stickin' it to 'da man'.

I did a lot of that as a student at IPFW. After flunking out of school (I stopped attending because - I don't know - I was bored, indifferent, caught up in teenage angst...)...I decided to go back and try to get serious.

One of the electives I signed up for was Introduction to Sociology. Yawn. Snoozer. I mean really - a frickin lecture class which was three hours in length on some weekday night (I'm thinking it was a Tuesday night).

I couldn't have been more wrong in my assessment of this class.

I had one of the best professors ever - Patrick Ashton. He made me think. He made me care. At whatever age I was 18-19? - I started thinking about things other than myself. Along with my classmates, we took a long, hard look at the world around us....our community...poverty....child abuse....other social injustices. And by golly - that professor guy, he lit a fire of passion in my belly. But not just mine - others were affected as well.

Just when I thought I was home free, he mentioned towards the end of the semester that the chancellor at that time (NOT Joanne Lantz) had not supported his application/petition - whatever it was - for tenure. Seems that that administrivia person thought that he spent too much time teaching and not enough time researching.

James Craig and I, who became friends because of this class, looked at each other. So did Ashton totally blow off his responsibility for research? We did our own research and the answer was NO. There was oodles. And oodles. Maybe he did 10 things and the norm was 12 but then he taught 2x the amount of classes (to underclassmen) as others up for tenure.

It just didn't seem fair.

And I was pissed.

So, naive as I was, I did something that literally changed the course of my life. James Craig and I stayed after class one night and put together a petition. We worked tirelessly for two weeks. There were at least 10,000 students at IPFW at that time and we were able to procure thousands of signatures. I can't remember how many off the top of my head but it was a HUGE number.

I know that we pretty much stunned the IPFW Administrivia team. We hand-delivered a copy of our petitions but then we took it a step further. We got in a car and drove to Bloomington to see President Tom Ehrlich.

He saw us too. We were give 15 minutes with him in which we explained what was going on, why we were very passionate about this professor and how we spent two weeks gathering the signatures of fellow students.

I don't know what happened after that - but the next thing I knew - that Chancellor was gone, Joanne Lantz was in place and Patrick Ashton was now a tenured associate? assistant? professor.

When I saw him (Professor Ashton) next semester, I wasn't thinking at all about what *I* did. I was beaming at him because he made a tremendous difference in my life. And what I did? Oh my - it was the very least I could do.


Beth said...

Pat Ashton is a treasure. Everyone should take one his classes. Even if you disagree with his politics, he'll make you think.

Jim said...

I did not like or respect Pat Ashton, because he abused his position as a professor of a required course to foist his personal politics on hapless students. I took his course not only because it was a requirement, but because I wanted to learn about the science of sociology. What I got was a thrice-weekly diatribe against the Reagan administration.

cufflinks said...

well thanks for these reasons

John Good said...

I failed to comment on this post after reading it several days ago.

Great job standing up for your beliefs and views. If we all stood up in the manner that you did, what a better world it would be!

photoHarvey said...

Interesting! I went to middle & high school with Pat Ashton's oldest daughter. I remember him as being a very fun and amusing guy. I never knew he was a professor at IPFW, but I'm not at all surprised to find out he's a sociologist.