Every now and then on the Student Affairs Professionals Facebook group page, there are examples of dissent, erasure, and every -ism. If you are reading this and you are a member of the SA Pro FB group, I want to challenge you to think critically about some of the disputes and patterns that you notice online. Some of what happens online is also practiced at your institutions.
For example, we as professionals get stressed out and we look for outlets to help us relieve that stress. Sometimes that shows up on the page as pictures and GIFs of cute little dogs and cats (please note that I also appreciate these posts from time to time). However, in comparison to other posts that are shared that center on issues which include, but are not limited to, police brutality, racism, transphobia, sexism and islamophobia, there is noticeably less discussion and less engagement with posts.
I am very aware of the arguments or opinions that some members of the group have in regards to engagement in the Facebook group. In fact, I’ll provide some examples:
You can’t tell people how they should engage with the Facebook group.
Most of us do not check the page all the time.
You can’t assume that people are not talking about these issues just because they are not talking about them in this group.
Yes, these are valid points. Kind of. From my point of view, the reason why these points are kind of valid comes from my (and others’) engagement with the Facebook page. I am pretty sure that I could analyze posts in the SA Pro FB group from the last six months and I could find the above statements expressed, verbatim or paraphrased. This reveals a pattern and it is noted.
For the student affairs professionals with marginalized identities (myself included), we have to prepare ourselves when visiting the SA Pro FB group page. We have to prepare for our identities to be talked about as if they are not attached to bodies. We have to prepare for our realities to be disregarded and devalued because some professionals do not realize the multifaceted world that they live and work in. It’s mentally taxing and it causes people to pull away and to give up.
Now let’s consider the students on our campuses. Let’s consider the students who may identify as trans, Black, Latinx, Muslim, may have a physical and/or mental disability, and/or share some of these identities. How do you actually engage with these students? Are you one of the professionals on campus that they come to when they need someone to talk to? Do you feel uneasy when you engage with students that do not share similar identities to you? That is okay, the best relationships begin with being uncomfortable. But are you actually moving past the uncomfortable feelings? Do you recognize that your support and allyship is not going to be perfect?
It takes conscious effort to be better, but you must do better in order to be better. Your students and SA Pros with marginalized identities continue to raise concerns and to share posts not only to educate professionals on how to do better, but also for their mental health, improved safety and advocacy, and ultimately for the liberation of all.
So while this is a Facebook group of student affairs professionals that talks about functions, practices, and programs, know that societal issues are absolutely relevant to our work and need to be respected and discussed.