Recently, the topic of discussion on #sachat turned to the failed consolidation of ACPA and NASPA. During the course of the discussion, it became clear that there are still hurt feelings out there among those in our profession. There is hurt from the people who voted for consolidation who felt that the result was a rejection of their ideas. There is hurt that populations were left out of the election process entirely. I know that there is likely hurt for other reasons that I cannot recall.
When we were asked for our final thoughts at the close of the discussion, though, the above idea resonated with me. If we can support personal growth and development and serve as allies for our diverse student populations, we must do the same thing for each other, no matter what organization we choose to join. Otherwise, we risk losing credibility as professionals and as a profession. The field of student affairs has a reputation for embracing and advocating for values like respect, empathy, diversity, and civility. We embrace these values in our missions. We offer programs for our students that teach the practical application of these virtues and how to best display them toward our fellow human beings. We are the experts in involvement, in advising and mentoring, and in support and caring.
But, as Mother Teresa said, “Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do…but how much love we put into that action”. The time when we should be exhibiting our values the most is when we are communicating with each other. We need to show respect, empathy, and civility toward each other, no matter what our organizational affiliation is. If we cannot extend these virtues toward each other as student affairs professionals, how can we ask our students do to the same? What kind of examples would we be providing for those who need a positive influence?
Additionally, there can be ramifications for those who are considering becoming a part of our profession. For a new professional entering the field, seeing conflict between two “sides” is neither inspirational nor attractive. It tends to drive people away more than draw them in. Further, for a new professional looking for a job, it is frustrating to spend time worrying about organizational affiliation (i.e.: a “NASPA school” v. an “ACPA school”) when a person’s membership and conference attendance may depend more on which one our bank accounts and travel budgets allow us to be a part of. We do not need to follow a path of self-destruction. What we need to do is remember that, no matter what our organizational affiliation is, we joined this profession because we love our students. When our students receive the fruits of our efforts, that fruit comes from the garden of our profession. The way that we tend that garden determines the quality of fruit that is produced. If we tend our garden well by treating each other with love and respect, our profession will grow strong and the fruit will be good. Otherwise, the fruit rots on the vine and may harm more than it helps.
I heard a story once of a communication studies department that had both a national leader in support communication and a national leader in the study of forgiveness. Ironically, they both hated each other with a passion that engulfed the department. As a result, the image of the department suffered because people who were experts in these interpersonal communication skills could not practice what they taught. Fewer graduate students stayed in the program and those that did lived in fear of being seen as part of the “wrong side”. A department full of promise became rotten fruit.
FT: If we can support growth & be allies for students, surely we can do the same for each other, no matter which org we belong to. #sachat
— Dr. Jacob Isaacs (@JacobIsaacs) January 23, 2015
Right now, we have two organizations that speak for our profession….and I’m okay with that. Each organization is slightly different from its counterpart and attracts people for different reasons. There is no reason why both organizations cannot exist and work together for the love and benefit of our students. No matter what your preference is, I hope that you find a home within the profession. I am also looking forward to seeing the positive fruits of our profession’s future and tasting sweet success with each one of you.
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Podcast With Stacy Oliver-Sikorski on Professional Development