DISCLAIMER: Do you have thoughts and opinions? I would hope so; otherwise you'd probably be a very dull person. Well, the following blog contains thoughts and opinions that are mine, and mine alone. They are not reflective of any institution I am employed by. As this is my blog, I reserve the right to express my opinions in a manner of my choosing and I choose to do so in a way that may be humorous to some, but offensive to others. If you do not like what you are reading or are offended by it, you reserve the right to stop reading, leave the site, and read something else more to your liking. Thanks for stopping by, and thanks in advance if you choose to continue reading!
Care to share your thoughts and opinions with the author? Email them to affairswithstudents@gmail.com. Fan mail will be read, printed, framed, and displayed on the refridgerator. Hate mail will be scoffed at and deleted.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Breaking Confab

If you're like me, you sometimes feel the need to ruin your otherwise benign day by reading comments to political or current events articles on Facebook. You may have been the one to post said article, or perhaps you are reading an article a friend, distant relative, or even more distant acquaintance posted. Regardless of how it made it to Facebook, this article, which may or may not validate or support a stance you have on a particular social matter or policy, has spurred a catalog of commentary. Naturally, the quickly-evolving dialog and its participants will rapidly fall into one of two groups; Side Yay or Side Nay, both of which are completely fucking ignorant and woefully misinformed according to members of the opposing team.

How do I get to the highway?
Not only is your stance on the issue wrong, but you're also likely to hear why it makes you a bad person for having that particular viewpoint. Luckily, you'll receive this personal critique in a calm and insightful manner. Hah! Just kidding! It'll be the most heated, vitriolic feedback that a human being can possibly offer. Sometimes, this type of exchange is meant to offend, or belittle; other times it's meant to insight an equally antagonistic retort. Eventually, the seething masses cool off, return to their corners and everyone goes on with their day, at least until the next provocative piece is posted. It's almost as if the state of online discourse has begun to resemble the behavior of Chain Chomps from the Mario games.

Like this, just slightly more intelligent.
Having witnessed (and having previously undignifiedly participated in) this type of idea exchange online on almost a daily basis, I am frequently left wondering, what in the hell happened to civil rhetoric? Whatever happened to the thoughtful, considerate expressing of opinions without deteriorating into scathing attacks against another's character or views? While I admit I have let my emotions get the better of me when trying to passionately defend a belief, I eventually reflect on my behavior and analyze how I can better approach a similar situation in the future. I think about how I can be more respectful of the opposing viewpoint and its proponent. I seek to try and understand why that particular individual may have that particular stance. I aim to find a way to clearly convey my stance without it seeming like I'm trying to demean or convert my counterpart. Will I always succeed in my next attempt? No, because I'm human, and therefore I err.

True words of leadership!
Why do I bring this up here? Why talk about it in a Student Affairs-ish, blog? I talk about it, because we must talk about it. On several forums (granted all online) I have encountered this type of "debate" with other Student Affairs professionals. From discussion forums on The Chronicle of Higher Education's site, to numerous, and not so anonymous, Facebook groups populated by fellow administrators. How can we call ourselves educators, if we cannot rise above the very same tactics we discourage our students from using? How can we be viewed as role models, when we cannot even model the behavior ourselves? If we can't, or just choose not to, then we should look no further than ourselves, with regards to culpability, when discussions of race, inequality, gender identity, social justice, sexual misconduct, inclusion and other crucial trends deteriorate into palpable campus tensions. If we are indeed mentors of future leaders that we like to imagine we are, then we need to be the example for civil discourse. If our students mimic our bad behavior now, just imagine the type of divisive, combative leaders they could evolve into.


Tuesday, April 26, 2016

I believe introductions are in order...

Hello there! Sorry if you investigated this link hoping to find explicit images and videos of co-eds engaging in intimate activities with one another. This is not the kind of site; I merely wanted a catchy title which seemed to have worked if you got here looking for pornography. Anyway, welcome to my blog. If you haven't read the disclaimer yet, please do so. Go on; I'll wait. ... ... ... Good? Great! While there is an 'about the author' section over there to the right, it doesn't paint the most complete picture of me. Speaking of which, here's a headshot of me:

Attractive, aren't I?
I'm sure as you've probably figured out by now, I'm using a pseudonym and the above picture is not a true likeness of me. Why am I doing this? I am doing this because I want to maintain a veil of professionalism. While I'd like to think that I'm an affable person and professional, I know that my sense of humor, eclectic as it may be, can sometimes be construed as abrasive or offensive. As such, I don't want my opinions, as humorously as they'll be expressed, to compromise how colleagues and students perceive me as a professional.

I know what you're thinking, "if he's abrasive and offensive, how does he manage to keep employed within the field of higher education?" That's a valid question, one that I'm sure any insightful student affairs professional would ask. To your question, I would respond, "I'm a human being with a fucking personality who happens to work in higher education, so chances are something about who I am or what I think is going to upset someone." Does this mean I'm going out of my way to come across as abrasive, or offend you? Unless you're a 'Trump for President' supporter, probably not.

I'll still wave and say "Heil" though...

I'm sure I just lost some readership after that joke. Which is perfectly fine, because chances are if you are a Trump supporter, you have an adverse reaction to people who make jokes about the candidate you're choosing to back, and I have so little tolerance for people who preach and support hate. In fact, while I may come across as abrasive and offensive, don't lose sight of the fact that I stand for just causes. 

I identify as a feminist. I'm a proponent for diversity and inclusion, not just on college campuses, but extending beyond into the greater social and professional realm. I am an ally for the LGBTQIA community. I am a compassionate person who is eager to help those in need, whether they be a long time friend or student I met for the first time. I'm open-minded and always willing to learn how I can be more welcoming towards others. I'd like to think I use my abrasiveness and offensiveness for good, by being a stern, gruff voice for progress and advancement.

That being said, I am far from perfect. I am going to make mistakes in terms of language I use to identify other people. I'm going to misspeak when it comes to matters I know very little about. Although I will make mistakes, I will never set out to be intentionally, aggressively ignorant. While these errors may seem off-putting at first, know that I will also seek to rectify my errors and grow from them. 

Like an ugly gosling into a beautiful swan. Ugly ducklings grow into ducks, duh.
Now that you have a sense of who I am, let me tell you a little bit about what I am. I'm a heterosexual Caucasian male. In the higher education field, I feel like this is almost equivalent to saying "hi, I'm the enemy." While I do sometimes feel like the enemy (a post for a later day), I am aware that my status comes with a great deal of privilege. However, knowing that I've been afforded a lot of privilege, I try to use it to help others who aren't extended those same privileges. I also know that while I may never be able to fully understand the struggles of those groups to which I do not belong to, I try to educate myself at every opportunity in an attempt to learn how to support those groups more effectively.

This is a more in-depth introduction to me, and by extension, this blog. Although I will be addressing trends in higher education and stories developing on college campuses, I will also have some "just for fun" posts that will examine life in general. Fear not, this will not be your typical student affairs professional blog, if such a thing even exists. I will probably incorporate scholarly references from time to time, but for the most part, this will be a casual, yet hopefully insightful examination of our field.  As I have hopefully conveyed to you by now, I'm not your typical student affairs professional.