Letter From Your TA

I’m a humanities graduate student, and sometimes when I’m not thinking about my own dismal job prospects, the sharp decline in University funding or my healthcare-less, job security-starved adjunct colleagues, I’m thinking about you. 
 
I’m thinking about you because some of you have contacted me in a panic about three weeks of work you’re hoping to make up in two days. I’m thinking about you because I see your parents looking very lost as they wander around campus looking for your graduation. I’m thinking about you because you’re thinking about your own job prospects, and I know that it’s a harsh, scary landscape out there for you, too.
 
They call you “entitled.” Don’t worry about it. It’s nothing new, and it doesn’t mean anything other than you’ve been told to have certain expectations that can’t be fulfilled in the same way they were for your parents. My generation, they called us “slackers.” We were such slackers — we made our own movie about ourselves. 
 
While waiting around for good jobs that never arrived, we also revitalized a green movement that had been stuck in anti-nuclear power protests for 20 years. And in between the dot-com bubble and bust, we founded some of the most successful independent music labels our parents had never heard of and re-sparked a revolution in printing and graphic design. It’s funny that such “slackers” were some of the first to coin the widespread use of the term DIY.
 
But I admit it: We’ve lost our steam. And sometimes we get bitter — especially graduate students — and we sometimes use lazy terms like “entitled” to describe you.
 
It’s because we get tired and frustrated that the struggle never seems to be over and as we scrape and scrounge for whatever the boomers hand us, we find that doesn’t absolve us from making sure we leave a better world for you. You are entitled to it, and you shouldn’t forget that.
 
You shouldn’t forget it as you come into my office with questions on your paper and I give you a stare like you’re a gnat in my stew. Remember that you are entitled to my respect, to my answers to your questions and to your legitimate concerns that a hastily meted-out grade could have a negative effect in our certification-obsessed culture. 
 
Remember that you are makers and hackers and tweeters and speakers and that just because we haven’t figured out the impact of what you’re doing yet doesn’t yet mean that it won’t have an impact. The job world is harsh, but you’ll find a way to get along despite that, because you’ve still got your hands and your heads and a whole world of new technology that we haven’t figured out how to use yet.
 
And as the great Molly Ivins once said, “Keep fighting for freedom and justice, beloveds, but don’t forget to have fun doin’ it.”