5 things student affairs professionals can do after Ferguson by Kyle and Aerial Ashlee

The CSJE blog seeks to serve as a bridge to relevant conversations happening among social justice educators across the world and we encourage our readers to share useful posts from other sites. This weeks post is a re-blog from Kyle and Aeriel Ashlee, contact@ashleeconsulting.com, originally posted on their site on 8/20/14 as a call to action for social justice educators to engage and support students. For folks looking for a conference opportunity to continue these dialogues, registration is open for ACPA’s Institute on Social Justice 2014!  To register and to learn more about the Institute, please visit: http://www.acpa.nche.edu/events/2014-institute-social-justice. The CSJE Blog encourages you to continue the dialogue about the ongoing importance of the events in Ferguson and to follow the #BlackLivesMatter call to action!

❤ blog co-coordinators,

valerie and Denise

Reposted with Permission – Original post

Here are five ways that student affairs professionals can help ensure that students arriving at their campuses can process the events in Ferguson as well as get the support they need.

1. Create opportunities for students to talk about what happened in Ferguson. Whether facilitating community dialogues in the residence halls, hosting a campus town hall meeting during orientation, or carving out 20 minutes in student staff training, it will be extremely important for students to have time to process their thoughts and feelings about the events in Ferguson. The issues that could be covered are complex, including race, safety, oppression, protest, and community organizing, and will require intentional facilitation to ensure students feel brave to share. Whether they are personally connected to the events or can relate to the frustrations and feelings of the community members in St. Louis and Ferguson, students will need time and space to make meaning of this national tragedy. College is a perfect place for them to do that processing and student affairs professionals are positioned to make those moments happen.

2. Provide support and resources to those impacted by the tragedy in Ferguson. The shooting of Mike Brown in Missouri is a devastating and far-reaching loss. Unfortunately, killings like these are unacceptably too common for communities of color around the country. Many of the students arriving to college campuses this fall may either be personally affected by the events in Ferguson or come from neighborhoods where something similar has happened. These students might be grieving and could need support from across the institution, including counseling services, residential community, identity-based support, and broader campus consciousness. Student affairs professionals need to ensure that these services are available, accessible, and that all students are aware of them. Additionally, the impact of these issues goes beyond our students. Resources for faculty and staff are extremely important at times like these to ensure that the professionals working with students also have the support they need.

3. Invite Campus Security into dialogues about race and identity. The folks who provide safety and security on college campuses often work tirelessly to ensure that students, staff, and faculty are safe in their community. The shooting of Mike Brown in Ferguson is a reminder that all security officers and the communities they serve should be engaging in conversations about race and identity. Many campus security departments across the country already provide diversity and inclusion training, and there’s more that can be done. Whether responding to a noise complaint in the residence halls or investigating campus violence, campus police are likely coming with a lens that is influenced by the same racial stereotypes and socialization that the rest of our country experiences. Its important for campus safety units to engage their staff in conversations about racial profiling, systems of oppression, and how identity impacts their work. Just like the rest of campus, safety and security should be a resource and support for every student on campus, including students of color and other marginalized communities.

4. Engage other student affairs professionals in conversations about race and identity. The world of student affairs is small and the potential to influence other practitioners in the field is tremendous. Whether on your campus or through professional networks, like ACPA or NASPA, student affairs professionals should be talking with each other about how best to support students and provide resources around the tragedy in Ferguson. If your campus facilitated a successful dialogue or has effectively supported grieving students, share your best practices with others who might be able to use similar approaches on their campuses. In addition to providing space and resources for our students to process the events in Ferguson, we also need to hold one another accountable to doing our own self-work. Finding peers to work through your thoughts, feelings, and frustrations will be important to self-care as well as help to ensure that student affairs educators don’t accidently co-opt our students’ spaces.

Here are some ways to connect with colleagues in the field about Ferguson:

Update: On 9/12/2014, the ACPA Standing Committee for Multicultural Affairs (CMA) hosted a virtual round table to discuss ways student affairs professionals can support communities post Ferguson. Please contact Heather C. Lou, CMA Advocacy Coordinator at hclou@berkeley.edu to follow-up.

5. Give students the freedom to react authentically and constructively. The killing of Mike Brown, and the many other shootings like it that happen across the country, can be extremely emotional and triggering for students. Feelings of anger, sadness, and frustration are natural responses to injustices like the one in Ferguson. Student affairs professionals need to support students through their natural reactions, instead of minimizing or condemning these feelings. If students feel compelled to take action, student affairs professionals should encourage them to engage in non-violent demonstration, peaceful resistance, and intentional dialogue as a means to move forward. Building on their authentic feelings, students need the space to explore constructive ways to grieve and heal. Keeping in mind that constructive action isn’t limited to working within systems. Sometimes progress requires challenging existing organizations or what written policies stipulate. The key for student affairs educators is supporting students’ efforts with an eye to their health and safety.

For more information about how to support the efforts and community in Ferguson, donate to the family of Mike Brown, assist protesters, get involved with the Organization for Black Struggle, give money to support HandsUpDontShoot, or organize a movement in your area.

About the Authors: Kyle and Aeriel Ashlee are social justice consultants with a combined 15 years of higher education experience. Learn more about them here or contact them at contact@ashleeconsulting.com.

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