Narayanan, S., Aspinwall, C. et al
In the wake of a tumultuous summer of racial reckoning, patrons of the department coffee lounge were shocked to discover a damning Post-It note inflaming tensions in these divisive times. The “friendly reminder” made clear that K-Cups and other fancy coffees were for “FACULTY ONLY” and students and staff using the lounge should consider getting tenure before touching them. Graduate students conceded that the note, though somewhat aggressive, was concise, impactful, and all-around better written than the department’s recently circulated anti-racism statement.
The note — which also, rightfully, declared that cleanliness is paramount to a culture of shared responsibility– had wonderful use of the asyndeton that “really drove the point home.” Still, while the author masterfully brought light to their frustrations through use of classical emphasis techniques including bolding and underlines, many of the academics noted the author’s failure to consider the sociocultural impact of their hostile tone on the dusty, departmental lounge.
By contrast, the department’s anti-racism statement was full of lip service and empty platitudes, and did little to acknowledge the institution’s long history of facilitating and profiting off of racial inequality. Scholars noted that while the anti-racism statement was vague, alluding to “continued conversations,” the Post-It note detailed clear actionable items such as a rotating chore schedule, and held the department accountable for their failings.
Later that week the writer of the Post-It note, realizing that the elitist message might be seen as insensitive, added a smiley face. The department, noting how the smiley face alleviated tensions between faculty and grad students, later added it to their statement on upcoming budget cuts.