Finding the Signal: Sorting through the Political Cacophony to Best Serve Our Students

Changes in the highest political office of our country frequently result in periods of uncertainty while policy set by a previous administration and/or party is reviewed, revised, and sometimes reversed. While the national and local media scene, including bloggers, podcasters, tweeters, and more, is flooded with news both genuine and rumored, it can be difficult to discern what is reliable from what may be mere speculation. As we all become increasingly connected and news cycles continue around the clock, some student affairs professionals may realize that the effort to sort the signal from the noise can battle with the need to preserve mental energy and best serve our students. This blog post will explain how you can attain clear and concise policy information, specifically developed with student affairs professionals and our students in mind, from NASPA’s Research and Policy Institute (RPI).

The RPI is a core member service and benefit designed to provide research, scholarship, and policy analysis to articulate student affairs contributions to student success, learning, and development; interpret information to advance practice and policy conversations; and promote NASPA members’ research and policy activities to increase the reach and impact of student affairs within the higher education community. RPI staff are engaged in a diverse set of policy-focused projects and initiatives that track the quickly-changing national policy landscape. Of primary focus during the first few months of the Trump Administration are issues such as immigrant and undocumented students, security of free speech on campus and the rights of protesters, maintaining protection for trans student rights and interpretations of Title IX, navigating conversations around guns on campus, and more.  Teri Lyn Hinds, Director of Policy Research and Advocacy, Dr. Jill Dunlap, Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Violence Prevention, and Diana Ali, Policy Analyst, are addressing these issues by  closely monitoring federal and state legislation, federal regulatory changes, and executive actions.

A primary goal is to identify issues and topics that are pertinent to our campuses and students and continuously engage with NASPA members to provide content that will inform timely and thorough decisions. A second goal is to identify and communicate potential changes in policies or regulations that may impact campus conversations. Most policymakers are genuinely interested in improving policies for their broad constituencies, but they frequently lack the depth of knowledge for how particular policy proposals would actually impact campus environments. NASPA’s policy and advocacy work involves frequent communication with representatives from the Public Policy and Equity, Inclusion, and Social Justice Divisions, Knowledge Communities, and other NASPA constituent groups to translate conversations and provide relevant policy analysis and interpretation to NASPA members and public policymakers.

As Kim Grieve & John Howe wrote last month on the Public Policy Division (PPD) blog, “it’s an ideal time for student affairs professionals to become active participants in local, state, and federal policy conversations.” The first step in sorting the signal from the noise is to identify trusted sources of information. The RPI website features weekly blog posts on Mondays that summarize key public policy reports, analysis, and summaries of state legislation from the previous week that are relevant for student affairs professionals. On Thursdays, the blog posts will focus on more specific topics that affect student affairs. For example, the next post will examine “sanctuary campuses” and other ways campuses can work to protect the rights of their immigrant and undocumented students, faculty, and staff. Starting next week, the PPD blog will host a series of posts from PPD Region VI Representative Stacy Heldman-Holguin throughout the month of April with additional tips and strategies to stay involved in public policy conversations with NASPA.