The Need for Dialog: A response to "An open letter to the Student Affairs Professionals Facebook page members"
There is a need for dialog on many issues and the Student Affairs Professionals group has admittedly struggled with it. I don’t know Ann Marie Klotz well enough to be able to judge her motives or intent in writing her post. However, the problematic impact of the assumptions made in the blog post unfortunately invalidates the opinions and identities of others within the group. Here are a few of my thoughts on the subject:
I hope that my thoughts may contribute in some way to this conversation. If you wish to continue the conversation, please feel free to reply here, or over at https://www.facebook.com/groups/2204795643/.
John P. Sauter Jr. Ph.D.
This is not a time for hate. This is a time for reflection, dialog, and action bent toward to bringing together communities that have been at odds for far too long. It is a time to break down the barriers to communication, it is a time to open our eyes as a country to the plight of minorities and the oppressed. We cannot let privilege, distrust, assumptions, or lack of awareness block our view. It is a time to understand that conservatives and liberals both feel that their way of life is under attack, but political differences are just that. Political division cannot be an excuse to remove the rights of others or worse, to act out of hate. We should build up our country, not tear down those who are different. We can survive political disputes. It is the assumptions and divisions based on identity, racism, homophobia, sexism, ableism, religious intolerance that really damage us. That is why we all need to seek to explore and better understand each other’s narratives.
We are all human beings at our core with lives, families, jobs, rights, and responsibilities. This is true for both ends of the political spectrum. But we cannot go on with our lives as if nothing happened. People are hurting, people are fearful, and if we walk on by without recognizing this, we are sending the message that they don’t matter, that their existence doesn’t matter. It is easy to be upset by very visible acts of violence, vandalism, and hate speech that we have seen pop up in the news. However, we also need to be able to recognize and challenge the more subtle forms of institutional oppression, microaggressions, and assumptions based on privilege. We need to realize that this election offered countless examples of both visible and subtle forms of racism, sexism, homophobia, ableism, and xenophobia. It justifies and inflames the fear, anxiety, and nervousness that many people are feeling about the future of the country, about their own safety. At the same time we must also realize that peaceful protesting is one way that people can respond constructively to this, and we must not denounce or suppress their messages, but listen to what they say. We must learn to listen to raw, emotional, and loud messages without dismissing their message or the messenger as being angry.
It is not easy to learn to do this well, especially if you haven’t been exposed to different cultures or perspectives on a regular basis. It takes time, energy, commitment, and a willingness to stay engaged and explore and question our own identity. It requires us to empathize and imagine ourselves in others shoes. We need to understand the complexity of intersectionality, the influence of overlapping oppression, and the importance of those voices. It requires us to gain an awareness of all types of oppression, knowledge of cultures different from our own, and skills to be able to better interact and challenge these issues constructively. It won’t be easy, we need to reflect upon our own lives and overcome our own hidden prejudices and privileges. We must acknowledge them (including my own in writing this). We must not turn to the one person in the room with a different identity and ask them to explain or justify the actions of an entire community. We must not place the burden on them to educate us. We must do the work ourselves. Often guilt stops us from acting. Not knowing what to do or questioning our own ability to engage on issues of oppression cannot be excuses to avoid the hard work. We will make mistakes, but we must not fear them, we must apologize for them and move forward. We must not replace one form of intolerance with another. As we learn to listen and stand in solidarity with others, we must make sure that it is their voices that are heard. We must make sure that our voices don’t overtake or subvert the messages, and we must stand up for others, even when they are absent. We must also learn when to step back and let others have space. It is important that we be authentic in offering our help and engaging with these issues, but we must also know that good intentions may not be enough. We must realize that we don’t do this for a pat on the back or recognition of our own role in it, but for the common good.
The Civil Rights Movement, isn’t just a piece of history. It is ongoing and will be for generations to come. We have made great strides, but there are still many mountains to cross. This can be seen in the #blacklivesmatter movement, whose core values are those of love and the need to focus attention on specific issues. It can be seen in LGBT activism, universal design, religious freedom, and challenges to wage inequality. We must realize that these are not just problems that have been resolved in the past, but challenges that we still face. We must realize that not everyone has the privilege to choose whether to act or not. We must seek to understand the emotional and physical toll that it takes on others. We must not allow the actions of individuals, or the slights to ourselves dictate how we view entire populations. We must continue the path that those before us have set into motion.
In the end, all the awareness, knowledge and skills are nothing without praxis, reflection and action upon the world. We must engage with the issues and the hard conversations. We must reflect upon the world and our role in it. But most importantly, we cannot wait for someone else to change the world, we need to stand together and take action to help to heal the world. We may not have the power or the ability to change large things, but we can have an impact upon our immediate environments: our homes, our schools, our offices. Let others know that you are willing to have these conversations, that you won’t tolerate prejudice or oppression in those spaces. We must all work to do this, it is our responsibility to make this world better for our children, our families, our students, and all those that come after us. We cannot allow others to dial back the rights of our citizens and still look our children in the eye and say that we were unable to try to stop it.
John P. Sauter Jr. Ph.D.
Bias and assumptions matter to our students.
I encourage you to read Tiffany C. Martínez's post about the cost of assumptions.
Her situation is pure bias and prejudice on the part of the instructor. In an age of intentional & unintentional plagiarism, it is easy to assume the worst. However, there is a fine line between that and bias. I have made mistakes with grading assumptions. One in particular stands out where a student of mine studied journal examples to learn how to write. The resulting paper was better than most published articles I have seen. I went on to encourage that student to publish, but I still regret asking them about how they wrote the paper.
As bell hooks (1994) writes in Teaching to Transgress, “This is the oppressor’s language yet I need it to talk to you” (p. 167). We often teach and reward students who write in the language of academia, rather than in their own voice. In doing so we can lose the value of their narrative and their language, something I have come to appreciate greatly. bell hooks' own writing is a prime example of how to blend language with scholarship. Yet, even when students use such academic language, our assumptions can still make it oppressive.
This is something that we need to consider, the next time we are grading, evaluating, or even offering feedback for our students. What are the messages we are sending? What are the assumptions we are making? What are the implications for our students?
John P. Sauter Jr., Ph.D
Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs
Niagara University, NY
Cross Posted at WNY Advising
Now what? Next steps for getting the most out of #NACADA16, #CSPANYS16 & other conferences once you get back home.
Each year I attend the NACADA Conference, I come home more energized with ideas that I can't wait to put into practice with my students. Of course, returning to work provides a variety of other challenges given how many inbox messages have accumulated while you were on the road. But using those first few weeks back is critical for taking advantage of all that being a NACADA member or a member of another organization entails.
Connections & Collaborations:
The NACADA conference is a great place to connect with advising professionals and exchange contact information (assuming you don't forget to bring enough business cards). If you did pick up business cards, make sure to write a quick note on the back to help yourself remember the context in which you met that person, which greatly helps when you want to collaborate later. Also be sure to follow other NACADA members on social media that have had a strong presence on the #NACADA16 back-channel. This is similar for #CSPANYS16 or any other conference back-channel.
The value of such social media connections, especially on Twitter, is often a missed opportunity for those who aren't aware of the hashtag. But it isn't too late to take advantage of them. Thankfully, those hashtags don't disappear, so you can always hop in your Delorean, Tardis, or phonebooth and check out any you missed
Time Travel Back In Time
Such connections set the groundwork for a variety of new collaborations. This year I was blessed with the opportunity to present four sessions with colleagues from around the nation, several of whom I had only met online or in person at one of the last conferences. Those connections helped us to develop the following presentations.
The NACADA conference is a great place to connect with advising professionals and exchange contact information. However, even for a seasoned professional it is not always easy to figure out how to get involved, once we get back to our busy schedules. Be sure to follow up with the chairs of the commissions and interest groups and offer to help in any way you can. They always need help with reading proposals, so that is always a good way to start. Also if you know people who are involved with any of the steering committees, let me know your interests and ask how they got involved. In my experience, these relationships, where you can ask question, help out considerably in breaking down the barriers to getting involved.
Don't Forget to Download Relevant Handouts:
I made this blunder last year, and forgot to download some of the handouts before the conference page expired a month or so after the conference. If you didn't have much room in your carry-on on the way home because of all the Atlanta swag, if you missed some great sessions that you want to catch up on, or if you weren't able to make it to Atlanta, you can still check out the handouts. If you miss it some presenters will forward their slides/handouts if you contact them by email or on social media.
Keep the Momentum & Excitement Going:
Entering into our busy schedules makes it seem like there isn't enough time to keep the momentum and excitement going when we get home, but don't be afraid to
I hope that these tips and hints help provide a basis for getting more out of your next professional conference. But most importantly, I hope that you realize that you that geography, time and budget don't need to limit your access to quality professional development
John P. Sauter Jr., Ph.D
Assistant Dean for Academic Affairs
Niagara University, NY
Cross Posted at WNY Advising
Nov. 3: Eric Fingerhut: Asking Big Questions on Campus: The Challenge of Building Communities that are Diverse, Activist and Welcoming
Please Join Us for a Special Luncheon Featuring
President & CEO of Hillel International
Asking Big Questions on Campus: The Challenge of Building Communities that are Diverse, Activist and Welcoming
Thursday, November 3 - 12:15 -1:30 PM
UB Center for Tomorrow
Flint Road Entrance off Maple Road
University at Buffalo North Campus
Former Congressman Eric Fingerhut has devoted his entire professional life to public service and higher education. As Chancellor of the Ohio Board of Regents, Fingerhut led Ohio’s system of public universities and colleges. He was also an Ohio State Senator, where he worked on initiatives ranging from higher education to human services and economic development.
Hadar Borden, Program Director, Blackstone LaunchPad at University of Buffalo
Charles Kenyon, Dean of Students, Buffalo State College
University at Buffalo, Buffalo State University, Niagara University,
WNY College Connection, Bureau of Jewish Education, Buffalo Jewish Federation
SPACE IS LIMITED
Tickets: $25 per person, or $200 per table of 10
RSVP by October 27
Call Joan Kwiatkowski @ 204-2242 or email@example.com
Posted by John Sauter
Cross Posted on WNY Advising
CSPA-NYS posed a great question leading up to their annual conference. If you count words alone, I would say the writings of bell hooks, which we just featured in our Advising to Transgress session at #NACADA16, have impacted me the most. However, I wish to thank the following people, that have knowingly or unknowingly, impacted my professional life.
The question of who has had the most impact, is rhetorical, but if you ever want to discuss it I could give you many reasons why these people have influenced my life and practices.
Of course Amanda Pielecha Sauter and my many colleagues, peers, and students from institutions, WNY Advising, #ADVTech and #NACADA that have equally impacted me. However, that list would be far to long to fit in one reflective post.
What about you? How have mentors influenced your professional life?
John P. Sauter, Jr. Ph.D.
Through this blog, I hope to share some of my passion for higher education, academic advising, student affairs, professional development, social media, and social justice with a little geek culture thrown in for good measure.