Let’s Talk About Local Art Schools And “Blacklist” Threats

(For context: A blacklist in this post is about a list of people/students marked because of a serious offense or in this case a misdemeanor, these people/students marked are said to have a permanent record on their name that will affect their chance of employment in an already small industry like the local creative industry.

Apparently, this list is sent to every employer in the industry somehow (whether this is just a scare tactic concept to keep errant students in line and a real blacklist was never generated will be addressed later in this article) much like a permanent record an ex-convict has, the employer can then decide to let this affect their employment choice.

This is NOT about relatively recent cases of racial profiling for diversity numbers by American Universities)

Disclaimer: This happened nearly 10 years ago to me personally, names of persons/schools/courses will not be mentioned, this is my personal experience and opinion. I hope that this is not the case of handling this kind of thing now 10 years later. Things have changed, this incident is a very specific to that era incident, that should not happen in the 2020s. As an educator I wanted to address how inane the incident was, 10 years on.

The 2010s Facebook Incident

This was back in early 2010s, Facebook was taking its hold, nobody knew the social limits of what you should do like perhaps not having all the lecturers of the school be Facebook friends with the students. (They figured this out eventually and made separate accounts for school networking and separation or adding students only after they graduate.) Already a recipe for disaster.

My classmate was going to fail their module unless they gets a “A” for the second part of the module, so in total their results would be a “just pass”, cause their first part was a total “F”, they got angry about this because the lecturer told them about this not in the most gentle way and wrote on Facebook at the time “I will show that b*tch a “A””, a few of the cohort liked the Facebook post like 5 of us and we got called in about it under the disguise of discussing assignments, except the students who were using fake names when Facebook still allowed fake names.

They never mentioned the school, they never mentioned the lecturer’s name, they self-censored the insult, they never outwardly said it was that certain lecturer in that Facebook post, perhaps alluded to it in the comments but my memory says no. We would never have liked the post if it had, we knew who it was alluding to without any names, we sympathize with the anger but don’t condone the insult, that’s why we liked in solidarity.

So, because of that, we were all called in to various degrees of interrogation, my argument/smoke bomb/lie was that like I said, they never mentioned the lecturer by name they could be attending night school, talking about a different teacher from that night school or another situation, and that I liked a lot of posts on Facebook without properly reading to which they said that that was “dangerous” (They predicted likes are endorsements in the future, what if it was fake news and I didn’t knew though), it didn’t help that the lecturer in question and the course coordinator were in a relationship which we felt resulted in an overblown reaction to what we did.

This honestly could have been done in a email, we could have been scolded in an official email with a proper screenshot of the post and explaining it and going any action like this of social media misconduct in the future will be disciplined with possible expulsion and that’s fine. Like ok, understandable.

However, they decided to call us in and bring out this weird traumatizing threat of a “Blacklist”, imagining threatening a 17-20 year old’s (who is just starting to learn in the course of their choice about the industry and the skills needed) future career which hasn’t even started over a “Facebook Post Like”, which again didn’t mention the school, the lecturer in question and even self-censored the vulgar word. Only those who know know, the lecturers and the students.

A misdemeanor on our part of liking the post, turned into some weird extra scolding of “Oh you are not professional for doing this. (Yeah? We are students? Do we need a traumatizing sit-down meeting threatening our career, by three lecturers + the course coordinator, which hasn’t even started to drive the point home?) We need to scold you like this and bring you in individually on the disguise of assignment issues to make sure you don’t all craft a perfect all-in-on-it-together lie to mislead us, make sure you learn your lesson” etc.

We all still remember this incident till this day, 10 years later, one of us broke down and cried over this, (and they now still work in a creative aspect so…) like do we really need the threat of a possible, probably not-real concept of an Industry “Blacklist” to bash barely 20 year olds whose career barely started?

Which is why I really call into question whether this “Blacklist” was A) Still a valid threat used by disciplinary committees in schools now in 2020, B) Was it ever a real thing in the first place. I am sure there’s some general blacklist or impressions of actual working professionals of “oh this person always hands in work late, this person is toxic, etc.” but to apply the same concept to students who are not even done with school yet?

Is it worth traumatizing young students over? Is this concept as a threat a scare tactic concept to keep errant students in line and never a real thing? The trauma is real even if the threat technically isn’t.

The local creative industry is not huge then, it’s still not that huge now, a simple “blacklist” can ruin students’ lives, like the concept of it is enough to ruin them, if this is still a valid disciplinary tactic then I am even more worried about how creative students are navigating their school life today than I was about my own journey last time.

Have you encountered anything like this in your art school? Let me know in the comments below.

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Stay safe~!
JR



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