BS-ing When BS Is Hard

It’s a 9 a.m. discussion section the Monday after Harvard-Yale, and Sever 102 is filled with bleary eyes, fresh cups of coffee, and a musty aroma.
By Eden A. Getahun and Mariah M. Norman

It’s a 9 a.m. discussion section the Monday after Harvard-Yale, and Sever 102 is filled with bleary eyes, fresh cups of coffee, and a musty aroma. Greg, the TF, wants to be in bed just as bad as everyone else does, but he has a job to do.

He fakes a smile and gets to work. “Okay y’all, let’s get started. I understand everyone had a busy weekend with Harvard-Yale, but I hope you had some time to devote to this week’s reading. What are some initial thoughts on the piece?” he asks.

“Well, Harvard-Yale was a blast! I didn’t make it to the actual game because … but I saw my family friend’s cousin at the afterparty and … you know. How was everyone else’s weekend? I want details,” Emily begins brightly.

Greg scrunches his face in confusion at this off-topic admission of a drunk hookup, attempting to steer the conversation back in the right direction. “A pleasure as always, Emily, but let’s save the Harvard-Yale talk for the end of section. Okay everyone, thoughts on the book? Let’s hear ’em.”

“Well,” Charles drawls. Multiple people in the class sigh in unison. “I felt that there was an absence of certain perspectives in the piece.”

Greg takes a deep breath before forcing himself to continue. “Feel free to elaborate.”

“Well,” Charles resumes, “I wish there was more of an epistemological reconstruction of the power dynamics exemplified in the racial hierarchies established by the author.”

The class goes silent as everyone tries to break down what the hell was just said.

“What an interesting perspective! Could you explain that some more?” Thomas asks.

“Well, I personally did not feel as if my personal stakes in this piece were as high as they should have been,” Charles replies.

“Personally, as a Black woman, I couldn’t disagree more. The assumption that white men have to be at the center of everything is the problem with the world, Charles,” Tanya bites back.

Thomas nods thoughtfully, “Piggybacking off of that actually, I was wondering if anyone else felt the same way?”

Emily closes the Shein tab on her laptop and jumps in. “In this case, I feel as if representation isn’t the key factor in debates such as these. The earth is warming up, people. Let’s do something useful, like talk about climate change instead. Now, I heard —”

“Thank you Emily!” Greg interrupts abruptly. “Anyone else have something to say? Preferably about the readings? Max, you’ve been a bit quiet, do you have anything to add?”

Max stares at Greg blankly. “Nope.”

The class is silent except for the cough of a lone freshman who has been meaning to buy cold medicine for three weeks.

“Really, nothing? It can be totally unrelated,” Greg continues.

Greg looks across the room at Emily with her hand up, bursting at the seams ready to make her big contribution.

Greg knows what is coming, but he’s all out of options.

“Yes, Emily?”

“What’s the ethical implication of a room full of Harvard kids talking about this? We’re all trapped in an ivory tower of academia anyways, it’s not like it will have any effect. Meanwhile, climate change —”

“Okay! Next person!” Greg exclaims.

“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Tanya replies. “Speaking from personal experience, the notion of valid intellectual thought only being derived from archaic institutions is elitist, classist, and inherently racist.”

“Building off Tanya’s comment, I find it intriguing how we are able to question our role in upholding elitist institutions from within the most elite institution of all ...”

As Thomas trails off, Greg reaches his breaking point. “Okay, let’s go ahead and call it. I get it, Harvard-Yale, Yuck Fale, all that crap, but this is the most useless section I’ve ever been in. Did a single one of you do the readings?”

The class stares at him wide-eyed, their silence an admission of their guilt.

“Yeah, I could tell,” Greg continues. “Emily, find something to talk about other than climate change — seriously, it’s exhausting. Charles, no one knows what you are saying, and the little that is understandable is elitist. Do better. Thomas, ask one more question and I’m failing you. Max, have you ever had a thought in your life? Tanya … um … maybe let’s ground our ideas in the readings a bit more? Great work though, love the insight.”

The class sits there frozen, unsure of if they’ve really been excused or not.

“What are you looking around for? Get out and recover from the weekend. You all look a mess. Let’s try a bit harder next week, alright?”

— Magazine writer Eden A. Getahun can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @edengetahun03.

— Magazine writer Mariah M. Norman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @mariahnorman03.