Joshua Alvarez, NASPA IV-W Membership Coordinator
January 30, 2018
This past fall semester was the toughest semester I have ever experienced. I wasn’t the only one that felt this way. I spoke with colleagues that have been working for a decade or more who shared my same sentiments. We saw increases in mental health hospitalizations, well-being concerns, and hate or bias incidents. We weren’t alone. My colleagues across the country were seeing a similar trend. Faculty and staff were stretched thin working to support students and problem solve complex incidents.
What stood out to me the most this past semester were the number of hate or bias incidents. Swastika graffiti, marching white supremacists, and racist comments riddled 2017 and our college campuses. These incidents got me thinking. Were we and are we now prepared to handle incidents of bias on our campuses? If we weren’t prepared, why? What are we going to do to make 2018 better for our students? What role does higher education play in preventing incidents of bias? Where is the empathy?
Higher education is a place for civil discourse and it’s our job to make sure that these conversations take place in a safe and supportive environment. LePeau (2015) reasons that gadflies help to propel institutions forward through persistence in challenging people in positions of power, the status quo or the popular position of a group. Propel your institution forward towards equity and social justice. Stewart (2017) argues that through equity and social justice work, we have the opportunity to create transformative institutional change. This is because diversity and inclusion rhetoric asks fundamentally different questions than equity and justice. Where “Diversity asks, ‘Who’s in the room?’ Equity responds: ‘Who is trying to get in the room but can’t?’” Where “Inclusion asks, ‘has everyone’s ideas been heard?’ Justice responds, ‘Whose ideas won’t be taken as seriously because they aren’t in the majority?’” (p. 3). Be an equity and social justice gadfly.
As educators and student affairs professionals, we have to be better in preventing and responding to incidents of bias. This work starts with our own education and self-reflection. How are you showing up in your work to combat hate and biases?
This semester, I will be engaging in conversations with other men on my campus to talk about toxic masculinity and how men can work to create healthy, safe, inclusive environments for all genders. I encourage you to engage in conversations about gender as well.
Learning and relearning about the nuances of the first amendment should be on your priority list as well. Understanding what constitutes as free speech is vital. Free speech covers incidents of swastika graffiti or controversial on-campus speakers.
NASPA Region IV-West has also been hosting the Critical Conversations series. The upcoming Critical Conversation will be covering incidents of bias and hate. This is a great way to learn from our NASPA colleague’s expertise on the topic.
This work is never-ending. It’s exhausting. It’s not easy. But we didn’t get into this work because it’s easy.
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