In all my experiences in higher education and more specifically, Student Conduct, the prestigious quote “Is the Juice Worth the Squeeze?” has contributed greatly to my ethical foundation both personally and professionally. Might I be so bold to say it is the keystone to that foundation? I came across this quote in a very unlikely place at an unremarkable time. I wasn’t searching the web for “inspirational quotes.” It wasn’t unearthed at some point during my coursework. It wasn’t the result of attending a conference. No, it weaved its way into my life via the critically acclaimed movie “The Girl Next Door.” Huh? Gasp! Wait, what?
To give you some perspective and maybe more importantly, regain some credibility, this movie came out in 2004 when I was a professional RD in my mid-twenties. Although that was likely a futile attempt at a qualifying statement, I can honestly say that I cannot confirm nor deny if I would still enjoy the movie. (Student Conduct humor.) Alas, I digress. Getting back to the quote; I don’t recall how or when it became a mainstay in my Higher Ed. repertoire but I do know that when it did surface it stuck.
I’ve come to believe almost all behavior boils down to a choice between identified options. Providing a person is operating from a place of mindfulness (not always the case) they find themselves in a position to assess the identified options. They must decide which will be “worth the squeeze”. Ideally, the choice that is ultimately best for them would involve little to no squeeze. But when wearing my “Student Conduct Hat” I rarely meet with students for making decisions that are best for them AND the institution. And let’s face it, true growth comes from testing one’s mettle when faced with making tough decisions.
As we unpeel (ba-dum-bum-ching) this idea let us look at a scenario where a student has weighed their options and decided that despite the possible consequences, engaging in the behavior is worth the squeeze. Yes, we want students to make “good” choices and thus avoid brushing elbows with the Student Conduct Office. But I would maintain that this is where we want students to be when making decisions. We want them to stop and evaluate the circumstances they intend to put themselves in. We also want them to feel empowered as they navigate college life knowing that there is a network of support on and off campus to help them learn from their choices.
These are golden opportunities for us as educators if we take the time to sit down with students to gain insight as to why they made their choice. Conversations from this approach can assists students with making better decisions in the future. I encourage all of us to empower our students by providing a structure that facilitates exploration. An empowered student is more likely to take ownership of their behavior knowing it’s an opportunity to grow.
Something that goes hand-in-hand with this notion is the ever-perpetuating idea that it’s not OK to “fail.” I put that word in quotations because I believe that it is limiting in nature. As with many things, it boils down to a matter of perspective. The word “fail” does not express what I see as the truth of the experience. I offer that if one were to view life and its many experiences as a journey in which you are constantly evolving into the person you hope to be, you might be able to integrate the idea that every experience is one that helps you to learn and thus grow.
You may not have completed the desired task. But you have successfully discovered an opportunity for you to reallocate your efforts in new and creative ways. Essentially, you would “rinse and repeat” this process until you accomplish the goal you’ve set. If a student knows they have a supportive environment in which it is OK to “fail,” they might be more inclined to take risks and really push themselves in their various levels of interest. I think my man Thomas Edison would agree. Almost every quote that I’ve seen attributed to him is a gem. Curious? Google is just a few clicks away.
OK, “so now what?” you ask. Well, let’s talk about putting all this juice to good use! I define good choices as those that are aligned with what one values. Two of my values are empathy and sincerity. I’ve been very mindful during my career to never lose sight of what it’s like to be a student (empathy). I’ve also remembered how important it is to be genuine and practice what I preach (sincerity).
In order to stay true to that endeavor, it has been imperative for me to be able to constantly be aware of what my own ethical vantage point is. This has required consistent soul searching and some trial and error. More importantly, there have been many invaluable life-shaping conversations with mentors, friends, students, family, and colleagues. I know that my vantage point will continue to evolve over time. But there will always be the same nuggets that consistently settle as part of my Personal and Ethical Foundation. It is that foundation that I consistently stand upon when assessing if the “Juice is Worth the Squeeze.”