I asked a question and received 40 comments: “Where are the Radical Practitioners?” One of the interesting themes was the idea that people couldn’t be radical (as they defined it) for fear of losing their jobs…couple that logic to another theme: because I am no longer a fulltime student affairs practitioner, I am no longer qualified or credible when it comes to asking about or asking for radical practices in student affairs. Seems like I am in a prime position to add radical commentary as I am not in a position to “lose” my job. Although, some (and I would agree) would say that I am in a far riskier position as a consultant who generates controversial critical conversations. And, while I was employed fulltime, I would like to point out that that was when the majority of my radical writing took place. In fact, I remember when I got raked over the coals after this post came out about student affairs and technology. That particular post, in my view, was fairly benign in terms of its “radical” nature. However, it was perceived by some as too provocative. That’s me….a thought provoker.
Radical Student Affairs Practitioners … Do they exist? Does our profession allow them to exist? Do we nurture them or isolate them? Are they leading our associations or quietly leading from the periphery? Does Student Affairs deconstruct the status quo or do we sustain it?
I like to think of my blog as my virtual living room. It’s where I sit and ponder and engage with folks on a myriad of issues. Sometimes my posts on social justice issues have resulted in horrid comments being submitted to my site. I moderate all comments from first time commenters so that epithets, hate speech, aggressive hyperbole, and spam does not get to a published state. Recently while I was on vacation, an anonymous commenter left a number of comments on a few of my posts. I decided not to publish their comments because I didn’t want to engage with this person. People who comment without using their real name or email address are almost always visiting my site with mischievous intent. I deleted the comments and continued to enjoy my vacation. Unfortunately, this particular anonymous coward decided that their comments were so important to the world, and to my blog, that they tracked down my work phone number. I received the following email from one of our awesome student workers:
Just to give you a heads up I got a call today from an angry guy who was complaining about his comments being censured from your blog and that it was unethical. I took a message but I just wanted to let you know.
I spoke with the student who had to endure the phone call. I thanked her for being professional and I apologized to her. She should have never had to take that phone call. I was really upset that this had happened. I suppose that due to the nature of my writing that the potential for this has always been a possibility. I was so proud of my student for how she handled herself.
I have never had an official comments policy on my blog. I have never felt that it was necessary until now. Here goes: If you comment on my blog and I decide to delete or spam it, that is my choice. This site is “EricStoller.com.” It’s my virtual living room. I get to decide whether or not you get to hang out on the “couch.”
Bill Gates and I don’t often disagree. However, at the recent Techonomy conference, Bill was predicting the future of higher education. I took umbrage with some of his comments. Per his usual rhetoric, Bill positioned technology as the panacea for the future of higher education.
Here are some of Bill’s comments:
“The self-motivated [college] learner will be on the web and there will be far less place-based things.”
“College, except for the parties…. needs to be less place-based.”
“Place-based activity in that ‘college thing’ will be 5 times less important than it is today.”
“The room for innovation, thank God for charters, there’s no room for innovation in the standard system.”
The interesting thing is that the quote that’s being passed around on Twitter as originating from Bill Gates seems to have been actually just the post title from TechCrunch. I wasn’t able to find video or text where Bill Gates actually said what is being attributed to him by a lot of folks on Twitter.
The disturbing aspects of Bill’s quotes from the video are that he seems to have a negative attitude toward the physical spaces of higher education. Bill constructs his arguments around cost and access, but fails to adequately critique his own points. “Self-motivated learners” generally do not include students from traditionally marginalized groups. Bill Gates went to an exclusive preparatory high school and attended Harvard College. His is not a story of overcoming obstacles. Access issues are pervasive in higher education. Socioeconomic status catapulted Gates to where he is today. His arguments around access fail to include awareness of the digital divide in terms of both class and disability. Simply offering more web-based opportunities for learning will not improve access issues. And don’t get me started about the bit about “parties” being the only rationale for “place-based” institutions.
Bill’s rhetoric is consistently anti-student-involvement. Gates approaches his arguments from the position that every student is coming out of an innovative charter school and where self-motivated learners roam the higher education sphere. What Bill is forgetting is that involvement is crucial to student success. Can a student be successful when there primary involvement opportunities take place via the web — absolutely. However, most of our students benefit tremendously from their involvement and interactions within the brick and mortar activities of their educational institution.
Student involvement theory is a foundational element for student affairs professionals. Research has shown that increased involvement leads to higher amounts of persistence and greater academic success.
[S]tudent involvement refers to the amount of physical and psycho- logical energy that the student devotes to the academic experience. Thus, a highly involved student is one who, for example, devotes considerable energy to studying, spends much time on campus, participates actively in student organizations, and interacts frequently with faculty members and other students.
Astin (1984) concluded that “the greater the student’s involvement in college, the greater will be the amount of student learning and personal development.”
I wish that Bill Gates would offer a blended approach. Why can’t we have both? Amazing opportunities can be created to support students in both the virtual and physical spheres.
Astin, A. (1984). Student involvement: a developmental theory for higher education. Journal of College Student Personnel, 25(4), 297-308.
Shirky argues that women should stop caring, be more arrogant, and act more like men do when it comes to securing career “opportunities.” Women are framed as being less skilled in the art of being jerks than men. Being a jerk, according to Shirky’s bizarro world view, is a good thing. In other words, women should be arrogant jerks in order to succeed. How twisted is that? What about changing systems so that no one has to be a jerk in order to succeed? Why settle for the current state of affairs? Mr. Shirky’s argument only thrives if we believe that things cannot be changed. The system, and the “rules” that currently govern it, need to be rewritten.
Shirky attempts to draw parallels to the movement amongst men to be more like women. According to Shirky, we “encourage men to be better listeners and more sensitive partners, to take more account of others’ feelings and to let out our own feelings more.” So according to Shirky, being an arrogant jerk holds the same value as listening, sensitivity and empathy. I disagree. This isn’t an apples to apples comparison. Adopting traditional patriarchal values (being aggressive / a “jerk”), from which sexism flows out of, is no where near the same as values (listening, sensitivity, empathy) that are about creating goodwill / creating community.
What if being a better listener, being more sensitive, and being empathetic were grounds for career success / opportunities?
One of my mentors has a leadership philosophy framed around leading from the middle. The concept, while very simple, is ultra complex. If you take a position that is on one end of a spectrum, you alienate those who are on the other end. How do you reach those who you disagree with if you are already miles apart? Leading from the middle means that you don’t get to take sides. It means that you are not going to be seen in a positive light by a lot of folks.
The recent legislative happenings in Arizona are a great example of the strains of what it takes to lead from the middle. Am I upset about everything that is going on in Arizona right now? You bet I am. I am saddened and angry. A lot of people seem to be forgetting what it means to be human. Humanity and dignity are being swiftly stripped away from marginalized populations in Arizona. Is it about racism? I think so. It’s about xenophobia, discrimination and power. Overall, those who are in charge of making laws in Arizona are doing horrible things right now.
How does this relate to leading from the middle? The protests that have been taking place in and outside of Arizona make a lot of people feel good. It makes me feel good to know that movements of people are joining together to fight for justice. However, I doubt that the lawmakers in Arizona are listening. I doubt that those who agree with the new laws are listening. Listening, in the sense that you are really processing, takes an awareness and openness that is lacking right now. Activism is important. Movements need to happen, but I wonder how we move forward when we seem to move backwards so much. How do we lead and live in the middle when things are so polarized right now….
It was almost two weeks ago when the Oregon State University faculty senate voted for furloughs for all faculty (grant-supported salary is exempt) in 2010. It should be noted that the Oregon State University chapter of the American Association of University Professors “came out in support of furloughs provided that a number of important principles be included in the resolution.” I agree with the OSU AAUP’s suggestions. The top income tiers for furloughs need to be modified so that people who make more than $14,000 per month take more furlough days. If you make $168,000 pre-tax, I think you can handle a bit more of a cut. If you can’t make ends meet, then perhaps you should hire me to manage your finances.
Speaking of privilege…OSU Assistant Professor of Entrepreneurship, Robert P. Garrett, decided that the best way to address the furlough situation was to attack Oregon State’s multicultural support programs via a letter in the Corvallis Gazette-Times. According to “Bobby,” OSU’s programs that support underrepresented and/or historically marginalized groups represent a redundant financial burden on our predominantly white campus. In summary, a white male professor on a mostly white campus says that there are just too many campus groups that support women, people of color, and LGBT folks. I wonder how many groups/organizations/offices at OSU are made up of a majority of straight white men. Anecdotally, I would offer that there are a lot…more in fact, than the “redundant” orgs of which Robert writes.
Here are few of the choicest bits from Robert P. Garrett’s letter with a few added thoughts from yours truly:
If you hover over the “All Sports” link on ESPN and click the “College Basketball” link, you are taken to ESPN’s coverage of Men’s College Basketball.
The link to “Women’s Basketball” takes you to ESPN’s coverage of Women’s College Basketball.
ESPN is placing one gender (Men) over another (Women) by placing Men’s Basketball as the normative or neutral “College Basketball”. It’s a not so subtle difference…
Google engages in this gender-preferential activity too…a search for “Texas basketball“* lists the most recent score for the men’s Texas Longhorns basketball team. You have to search for “Women’s Texas basketball” to get information on the women’s team.
Title IX may have increased funding and the number of teams in women’s collegiate athletics. However, the above examples illustrate that men’s collegiate sports are still quite overtly at the “center” of mainstream media. “Women’s basketball” is seen as outside the norm and “basketball” as the domain of men.
The measure was defeated, 58 percent to 42 percent, after a record number of ballots for a student government election were cast in last week’s referendum.
Although most Student Government Association elections have garnered 4 percent or less of the student body vote, 13.5 percent, or 4,895 of the 36,206 students enrolled at UNT, cast ballots in the referendum.
That means that 2,839 students at the University of North Texas voted to uphold heterosexism and maintain homophobia. It also means that 2,056 students at the University of North Texas voted against the homophobic and heterosexist majority.
Google does not always create accessible products (GoogleWave). However, sometimes they do a good job of increasing the accessibility of an existing service. I hope that Vimeo gets the message that accessibility is important.
In the first major step toward making millions of videos on YouTube accessible to deaf and hearing-impaired people, Google unveiled new technologies that will automatically bring text captions to many videos on the site.
There is none so dangerous as the white American who waxes nostalgic about what he or she likes to call “the good old days.” Or, alternately, those “simpler” times, or the era of so-called “innocence” remembered from their childhoods, memorialized in a Norman Rockwell painting, or via televised re-runs of the Cleaver family, or Opie Taylor casting a line down at the ol’ fishin’ hole.
None so dangerous because such persons, through their lamentations about having lost the nation they so fondly remember, disregard as if they were a mere annoyance, unworthy of consideration, the lived experiences of millions of their fellow countrymen and women: peoples of color for whom so many of those days were anything but good, far from simple, and part of an era that can only be thought of as innocent by a people utterly inured to suffering, wholly incapable of even defining innocence, let alone identifying it, and unable, for reasons of their own racial narcissism, to stare truth in the face. In this case, the truth that their recollections are the very definition of selective memory. Perhaps worse, delusion itself.