Total Institutions

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Accordingto Goffman, one primary characteristic of a total institution is thatpeople within it carry out almost all of their activities in the samelocation, in the company of other people. This is evident in UMassBoston where students (inmates) and staff (professors) carry outtheir activities in same classes and offices. The inmates and thestaff are also confined inside the school by a school fence.Secondly, the school has its rules and regulations that all inmatesand staff follow. For example, it is a requirement for every inmateto have a school ID and professors to carry a staff ID. The staffsupervises almost every activity of the inmates. This makes UMassBoston similar to a total institution, which places authority onstaff members, giving them the power to supervise and punish theinmates. Going to school needs to be different from the familysetting where one is under the full supervision of a parent. Studentsneed to have a new environment in school. Lives with no supervisionhelp inmates raise their self-awareness.

Anotherway UMass Boston is similar to a total institution is that it has arigid system that provides students and professors with an organizedway of operation. For example, office hours during both fall andspring range from 8.30 AM to 6.00 PM. Lectures have a limited time.These fixed schedules of school events and time make the college atotal institution. The rules and daily schedules set by the schooldictate when, where, and how each student and professor performstheir daily routines. This is different from the outside world. Inthe family, for example, routines are less structured. One is free todecide when to do something and when to stop. In school, timetablesdictate to students and professors when to start a lesson and when tostop. This makes the students not to have an autonomous decisionsince their daily activities are set. Total institutionalism is alsoevident in the school through its set vision, which is also evidentin other colleges and universities. The operation of the universityfalls under a single plan that aims at fulfilling a certainparticular goal, which is making the school a global leader in thedevelopment of students through integrative learning experiences tomake them maximize their success.

UMassBoston is in some ways different from a total institution. Forexample, in total institutions, the inmates are totally separatedfrom the outside world. The school has tried to break this byensuring that they do not provide accommodation for its students orprofessors. This is because the university has no residence hallsneither does it manage any housing complexes. Students and professorsreside outside the school premises, giving them a chance to interactwith the community members. The school also has community activities.This allows the students and professors to interact with membersoutside the school during community works or even sports. The schoolalso invites public members to use their swimming pool and othersporting facilities. The interaction help students and professorsbecome compatible with the basic structure of the society, especiallyfamilies. The interaction mainly helps the professors who alreadyhave families. Those schools that require professors to eat and sleepat work reduce their integration with the outside community. It makesit hard for these professors to sustain meaningful families. Allowingthem to sleep outside the school makes UMass Boston different fromtotal institutions.

Confiningof students and professors inside the school may do more harm to boththan good. People encourage this confinement due to issues likesecurity, but as Zimbardo and Goffman explain, it bringsde-socialization. UMass Boston has set rules and daily schedules thatdictate to students and professors. For example, every first-yearstudent has to attend the student orientation. The fixing of eventsprevents the inmates and staff from making an autonomous decision.They also make professors judgmental. The staff sees those studentswho are late going to lectures as bad and unfocused. The absence ofthe scheduling can help in eliminating judgmental staff. Outsideschool housing by the school has an essential benefit to both inmateand staff. Students are given the chance to interact with societymembers, which help them in maintaining their culture or prevent themfrom unlearning the society values. This helps them from developinganti-social behaviors as suggested by Zimbardo’s de-individuationmodel. Staff, on the other hand, benefit largely from theschool-society integration. It helps them in the maintenance of theirfamilies through meaningful domestic existence. Making the staffsleep inside a school makes their families have a solitary life, butUMass Boston has prevented this by increasing the extent at which thestaff interacts with the members outside the school.

UMassBoston has few practices like lecture and semester schedules thatmake it look like a total institution, but it has tried to break fromthe system by ensuring inmates and staff interacts with societymembers. This is through outside housing. Theschools should try in focusing on the preferences of both inmates andstaff to prevent development of anti-social behaviors. Students go toschool to experience a different environment from that present attheir homes. They suffer from all time supervision, which becomesdemoralizing when they encounter the same practice in school. Thetimes and schedules should be flexible to accommodate the inmates’needs. UMass Boston has failed in this sector. The school onlyoperates on weekdays limiting the staff and inmate by confining theirwork to only five days. It should try on making the inmate and staffto schedule their time to make the school environment less structuredsimilar to that at home. It has however tried in making theinstitution not look like a total institution by ensuring both inmateand staff interacts with the society by sleeping outside theinstitution. This way, the staff has time to build their family whilethe inmates develop socialization behaviors.

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