September 12, 2016
I’ll just say I did not get home at the time I thought I would but I did get home that day. That was good enough for me.
I’ll be honest I am writing this post a few days after returning home because time just got away from me but as I write this post now I am keenly aware of a few things with regards to my experience that I need to share.
First, my experience is my own. I may have loved most of my time at the Gehring academy but that does not mean that my experience was the same as everyone else’s. I can only speak for myself and so I would like you all to remember that as you read my words.
Second, I did not see a face like my own at the academy. It has just hit me that I did not see another Indian student affairs professional at the academy. I must clarify that the term South Asian may resonate more with many of you rather than Indian but I have always called myself Indian. That is how I identify. So for the remainder of this post I will refer to my racial identity as Indian. I don’t mean an Indian student affairs professional who is a woman, I mean any other Indian student affairs professional. I am now uncomfortably aware of the fact that I may have been the only one. If I am wrong, please correct me. I’d like to be wrong.
There have been far too many times that I am acutely aware of the fact that I am the only Indian woman in the room. This has become the case far too often as I do the work I do in Title IX and student conduct. Why am I the only one in the room? Is it because of the geographical location of the conference or training? Is it because I’m not running into others that come from my cultural background? I know I am privileged to be able to attend the academy so maybe that’s it. Or maybe it all has to do with financial resources and institutional support that others do not have. But there is a gnawing feeling in my gut that says that’s not it.
That gut feeling tells me it has to do with the fact that others that look like me may not be working within Title IX.
Now I’ve seen others like me at the annual ASCA conference but I’ll be honest it’s not as if I see a room full of Indian student affairs professionals. I see a few. I may not see enough of us but I know there is a need for representation.
How do I know this you ask? My students tell me so.
One of the statements I heard from an Indian student this semester within my first 4 months at Rutgers was, “I’m glad there is a familiar face doing this work”.
That statement has stayed with me. I remember that statement on the days I question why I do this work when most of it breaks my heart. I do it so that my fellow #desi students can see my face. I do it because although I may not fully understand all the cultural identities within the term “Asian” I can relate to them better than others can because I am one of those identities. So yes the work I do is important but the fact that I am the person doing the work may be just as important. Who I am and what I bring to the table is just as important as the work I do as a Title IX Investigator at Rutgers University.
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Juhi Bhatt currently serves as the Investigations Specialist at Rutgers University-New Brunswick in NJ. As the Investigations Specialist Juhi serves as the lead Title IX Investigator for the campus, investigating all reports of sexual violence, stalking and relationship violence involving Rutgers students. Her educational journey includes a BM from The College of New Jersey in Music Education, a Master’s in Counseling with a concentration in Student Affairs in Higher Education from Montclair State University and she is currently pursuing a Doctorate of Education in Higher Education Administration from Saint Peter’s University. Professional involvement includes her work in the Association for Student Conduct Administrators (ASCA) and NASPA. Follow her on Twitter @jbhatt12.
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