The Underlying Implications of Consent and its Relation to Identity

As graduation is approaching much quicker than anticipated, I’ve been reflecting upon my impact on campus and how much of my heart and soul I have devoted to Geneseo. When I first committed to Geneseo, I was thinking short term; four years and then I graduate. As time went on, I slowly started to realize how incorrect I was. Yes I did sign up to be a student for four years, but at the same time, I also signed up to a lifetime contract with SUNY Geneseo as I will be considered “alumni” starting next month. My G-Number is permanent as my transcripts can be accessed whenever I choose to need them. The college as an institution has power over their students…Does that take away a student’s agency and/or their right to consent?

Administration is constantly observing students to make sure they adhere to the campus’s policies. What I initially expected was to observe faculty in terms of them teaching. The expectation of a one-way street of retrieving knowledge and information from professors and faculty is in reality turning into a two-way street. Students are studied and observed in the same way faculty are; students are turned into numerical digits to calculate grade point averages as well as percentages and ratios in terms of major/minor enrollment, involvement, and demographics as a whole. This sort of data was an aspect I am not sure I “consented” to as a student when first committing to attend college.

Dr. McCoy’s class, in general, has also helped me recognize another crucial aspect of consent which would be names; specifically last names. Last names carry history that may be misinterpreted and forgotten about throughout various time periods. We did not consent to our last names, but nevertheless, they all carry important stories and underlying implications that might not be thoroughly recognized. Or if they are recognized, they may be ignored and not taken seriously.

A crucial and moving poem by Rupi Kaur that demonstrates the importance of one’s name is “kaur a woman of sikhi.” Kaur writes, “it removes the shackles that bind me.” This sense of liberation is powerful as we don’t get to choose the name that is assigned to us at birth, but we can accept how we choose to uphold the name in order to carry its power and history.

This idea of last names directly reminded me of one of the course epigraphs by Sydney Smith from “Who Reads an American Book?” The epigraph states, “The Americans are a brave, industrious, and acute people; but they have hitherto given no indications of genius, and made no approaches to the heroic, either in their morality or character….Where are their Foxes, their Burkes, their Sheridans, their Windhams, their Horners, their Wilberforces?—where their Arkwrights, their Watts, their Davys?—their Robertsons, Blairs, Smiths, Stewarts, Paleys and Malthuses?—their Porsons, Parts, Burneys, or Blomfields?—their Scotts, Campbells, Byrons, Moores, or Crabbes?—their Siddonses, Kembles, Keans, or ONeils—their Wilkies, Laurences, Chantrys?—or their parallels to the hundred other names that have spread themselves over the world from our little island in the course of the last thirty years, and blest or delighted mankind by their works, inventions, or examples?” By providing a list of specific last names, Smith is raising a point about what American culture and identity is. She proposes that Americans do not know where their last names originated from and what connotations they hold. Smith is addressing the juxtaposition between Americans believing they are brave, and yet having no proof of genius.

This disconnect of identity brings up the point of how one chooses and consents to identify and affiliate with–whether it be through a last name sprung upon them or choosing of an institution, for example. Consent plays a role in all actions and can be seen in various instances. By recognizing and being self-aware of our actions, behaviors, and choices (especially when they influence others), then only would we be able to strive for both confidence within one’s self as well as respect and understanding between other “different” individuals with different identities and affiliations.

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