It may be because I’ve been so intrigued by the hot button issue of college athletics or because I’m currently pregnant and haven’t been able to have a craft cocktail in eight months, but I was influenced by yesterday’s commentary by National Public Radio contributor Frank Deford comparing college athletics with the speakeasies of prohibition.
Full disclosure: I neither particularly care about sports nor follow one specific college team – my athletic career ended with third grade soccer – but Deford’s piece resonated with my want to strive for a more inclusive campus. His analogy related the blind eye we turn to many of the illegal or detrimental recruiting and education practices used with college athletes with the regulatory ease of keeping a speakeasy afloat during prohibition.
This got me thinking about other embedded cultural practices we repeatedly turn a blind eye to on our campuses, even though we are fully aware they can be damaging to student success and development. Coming off of another ACPA convention, my thoughts turn to the many discussions and motivational messages at convention around our responsibility to provide a more diverse, supportive, inclusive campus to all. Now back at my home campus, even as I surround myself with the many colleagues at my institution who strive for the same goal of inclusion, I realize how much work is left to be done.
This idea of working towards institutional change can be so overwhelming and easily gets lost in the day-to-day as we engage in the details of our work, put out fires, or simply don’t feel empowered to implement change. However, when I teach leadership to students, my message revolves around everyone’s ability to lead and make a difference in their own way, something I believe translates to our own professional roles. Everyone has a sphere of influence, no matter how small, and can have an impact through simple and small changes. The difficulty is making time for and prioritizing this when the demands of our job responsibilities clog our days and turn our attention elsewhere.
In his contribution, Deford talks about the legacy-obsessed culture of college athletics. When a new regulatory infraction or violation impacts a prestigious coach, much of the discussion turns to how this will impact the legacy of the coach. Similarly, I ask us to become legacy-obsessed in our own profession. If we could all work to think about what positive mark we want to make on our institution, what positive change we want to effect on student success and inclusion, what hidden speakeasies we want to unveil, a gradual impact can be made. This doesn’t need to be a grand movement but rather bite sized nuggets, small adjustments that help us to work towards a larger impact, towards leaving our part of the world a bit better than before.
Ultimately, isn’t this our primary role as student affairs professionals: to do our part to provide a more inclusive and welcoming campus environment to all?
This post is part of our #SACareer series, addressing careers in student affairs, careers outside of student affairs, and the work of career services professionals. Read more about the series in Jake Nelko’s intro post. Each post is a contribution by a member or friend of the Commission for Career Services from ACPA. Our organization exists to benefit the careers of career services professionals, student affairs professionals, and anyone supporting students in the career endeavors. For more information about how to get involved with the Commission for Career Services or the #SACareer blog series, contact Jake Nelko at email@example.com.