D Who? Dystopia University.

Since starting this course, the definition of a dystopia has evolved just as the experience within higher education has shifted. Our definition of a dystopia has shifted to become a place real or imagined in which those in it may live a restricted and oppressed life enforced by their government. Some of the characteristics of dystopias that create oppressive lifestyles include rigid conformity, propaganda, surveillance, and social inequalities. The American system of higher education is broad and expansive with realms starting from junior colleges to terminal doctorate degrees. Looking at the four-year university system one can see a shadow of dystopia as a member of this space. Gaining admission into a university develops a level of inequality amongst students through different school rankings which offer certain schools better resources and face value. This inequity is seen when comparing minority-serving institutions (MSIs) to predominately white institutions (PWIs), public to private, and even liberal colleges to research institutions. As one climbs amongst the rank of higher education either in school prestige or the number of degrees, they experience more pressures of conformity and distrust amongst their peers through competition. These ranks intentionally boast low acceptance rates and a certain type of student. For those who possess levels of individualism or deviant to the norm in these spaces are often ostracized or even rejected until they conform. Conformity can look like people with curly hair straightening their hair for admissions interviews, constantly dressed in professional attire, or even changing one’s dialect to sound more “professional”. Even after accounting for all this one has to account for continually being a representative of their university. Thus meaning even during one’s personal time any type of behavior can be bought forward to the higher education community’s judgment resulting in punishments ranging from a warning to expulsion. This excessive surveillance and conformity in higher education have resulted in reports of suicide due to stress and pressures. In reflection, sections of higher education operate as elite mini-dystopias that attempt to crank out students who fit the reputation of their institutions even if that requires cutting off the pieces of them that don’t fit the mold.

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