With the end of school year looming, HESA students far and wide are immersed in final papers and projects–most likely knee-deep in the sacred text we all (admiringly) call The Big Green Book. And chances are, you’re basking in the wisdom of those legendary names we’ve been taught to revere (and repeatedly drop). Names like Schlossberg, and Chickering, Renn and Kegan. Names that are synonymous with our profession.
These people have shaped our lives; and in some cases, saved them.
Allow me to drop some names:
What breaks my spirit are the subsequent responses I see from our colleagues in this field. Some are the typical statements: filled with buzzwords and empty language. Others offer inspiring quotations from Dr. King and Mahatma Ghandi, or rally the troops to join together in solidarity. I’m both astonished and terrified to learn that some of us don’t say anything- because it’s not our place or we want to be intentional.
And then there’s the repeatedly-re-tweeted message that always emerges:
I don’t want to cramp your Cool Passion, or kill your Kholberg, but if I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times: My life is NOT a hashtag.
The first time I made that statement, I thought I broke Twitter…. or at least my phone. So many favorites, re-tweets, adamant responses of YES! THIS! (and my personal favorite) SO MANY FEELS! I appreciate the affirmation.
But I’m afraid you missed the point.
You see, hashtags aren’t human. You can’t hurt them, they don’t have feelings, fears, or thoughts. They don’t have families or loved ones. You cannot microinvalidate a hashtag, or make it feel isolated or hopeless. But you can do those things to humans, and it happens to students of color on college campuses a lot.
Don’t believe me? Just watch.
Grab a picture of your student government or orientation staff, and then reflect on how hard you have to squint your eyes to find the student(s) of color who feel empowered or frankly, welcome enough to get involved. Think about the last time you had a professor or colleague that wasn’t of the majority population (and just for fun, let’s eliminate multicultural student services, custodians, maintenance staff, and campus dining). Or, just click on the names I dropped. This isn’t an ice-breaker, folks. For many of us, this is real life. And no simulation or case study analysis is going to do the trick.
What does this mean for you, the #SAPro? Until someone concocts a magic formula for diversity awareness, it’s on us to create a positive multicultural campus climate. But rest assured, it’s not going to happen because you’ve read every page of Pascarella & Tierinzini, or facilitate the Stand in the Circle activity during Diversity Day at R.A. training.
We need more.
We deserve more.
We want you to be yourself.
Treat us like you would treat anyone else. When you engage with us, look us in the eyes. Take time to actually listen and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Most importantly, get over your “Savior Syndrome.” For many of us, trust is most important; and will not engage with you until you’ve earned it. When students come to you it’s because they trust you, not the paper you wrote on Vincent Tinto, or the powerful quotations you can recite ACPA. Stop trying to save us, and just… be… YOU
YOU are vulnerable.
YOU are flawed.
YOU don’t have all the answers.
YOU ARE JUST…LIKE…ME!
That’s what draws us to each other! The best way to relate to people is to just be a person. It’s messy, it’s complicated, and it’s scary; but fundamentally, it’s what makes us good at our work. Nobody gives a damn about reflective questioning when we’re scared to walk across campus at night BECAUSE of public safety. Nobody’s interested in your desire to challenge and support when we have no one to trust or confide. There are no best practices for the moments when it’s clear that we don’t belong.
It’s time to open your eyes, SAPros, and realize that the lens by which you see the world is only 1 of about 7.2 billion (take that, StrengthsQuest). Remember, while very important, the material you’re learning in your grad courses is just that, material. Another layer to compliment your natural instincts and abilities. You may not work in this field forever, but you will always ALWAYS be human.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Dave Kerpen on Authenticity/ Branding on Social Media