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Satish Kolluri | PACE UNIVERSITY

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"The Chronicle of Higher Education" featured Pace University's Dyson associate professor of communication studies Satish Kolluri in "‘This Is Much More Important’: How Professors Taught the Kavanaugh-Ford Hearing"

10/01/2018

"The Chronicle of Higher Education" featured Pace University's Dyson associate professor of communication studies Satish Kolluri in "‘This Is Much More Important’: How Professors Taught the Kavanaugh-Ford Hearing"

Satish Kolluri, an associate professor of communication studies at Pace University, often shows students in his political-satire course clips from The Colbert Report and The Daily Show With Jon Stewart.

But the Senate Judiciary Committee hearing he streamed during his class on Thursday, looking into whether the Supreme Court nominee Brett M. Kavanaugh committed sexual assault in high school, was a break from the usual. It was a historic moment that, in itself, could relate to his courses.

“Yesterday was very serious, extremely somber,” Kolluri said. “Although Colbert and Trevor Noah did their best to make light of it last night. Satire doesn’t work best all the time.”

The discussions prompted by the hearing have extended to campuses across the country. While some professors canceled their classes so students could watch the hearing, others incorporated it into their courses to help students understand the proceedings, and watch history unfold together.

Some professors, like Kolluri, ditched their lesson plans altogether. He also showed the hearing in a public-speaking and cultural-studies class he taught later that day.

“I basically threw the lesson plans for the day out of the window, and I decided that this is much more important,” Kolluri said.

The structure of the Kavanaugh-Ford hearing worked in his favor, he said. Kolluri used the breaks between sessions to open the class to discussion, which he framed around his course subjects.

Two weeks earlier, his “Satire as Political Critique” class had discussed Anita F. Hill’s testimony in the 1991 hearings to confirm Clarence Thomas to the Supreme Court. At the hearings, she accused him of sexually harassing her while he was her supervisor.

In one of the breaks on Thursday, Kolluri discussed parallels with the 1991 hearings, including how race, privilege, and class might have played a role in each.

Christine Blasey Ford, who has accused Kavanaugh of assaulting her when they were both teenagers, is considered a “class traitor” because “she comes from a very wealthy Republican family in the suburbs of Washington, D.C.,” Kolluri said, citing a New York magazine article he had read. “Her own parents gave her very lukewarm support.”

Students offered their own insights about the hearing. For example, one student said he thought it was “cowardly” that the Republican members of the Judiciary Committee, all men, had hired a female lawyer, Rachel Mitchell, to question Ford, instead of doing it themselves, as they did with Kavanaugh.

Interest in the hearing extended outside the classroom, Kolluri said. “The kids were all tuned in,” he said. “It was incredible just to see them in the corridors, sitting outside in the courtyard, people watching on their mobile phones. It was quite electric yesterday.”

Read the full article.