In August, the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies were updated for the profession. Training camp season of summer was over and the regular academic season was upon all professionals. These competencies and their noted changes regarding Social Justice and Inclusion, as found in the section titled “Summary of Changes,” “aimed to frame inclusiveness in a manner that does not norm dominant cultures but that recognizes all groups and populations are diverse as related to all other groups and populations.” This section goes on to state that “Bell’s (2013) definition of social justice further necessitates that social justice include ‘a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. This definition subsumes the construct of equity as more than a goal, but a precondition of a larger good.’”
Just over a year ago I wrote a widely read blog post called “If It’s broken and we don’t talk about it, is it still broken? The #SAsearch” (http://bit.ly/1oxAxxs). The questions I posed then, as I continue to do today, address this very same vision of society, and profession, in which the distribution of resources is equitable and that this equity is more than a goal, but a precondition of a larger good. Therefore, what is the social justice and inclusion responsibility of this profession as it pertains to what many including myself consider to be broken recruitment, interviewing, and hire processes within many organizations and institutions of higher education, or those supporting higher education? My belief is that employment is a social justice issue and one that is infrequently framed or spoken of as such, because that causes potential discomfort and poses challenges to power and privilege within these same organizations and institutions. Instead, staffing is treated as a game by far too many with tricks, tips, and diverse human beings known in some instance as either red flags or celebrities.
Employment is not a game; it’s a real life significant matter to each of us for different reasons. Among the surface problems of not ever hearing back from employers to unprofessional/unethical behavior of interviewers, there is one example of a deeper social justice and inclusion problem corroding credibility in the profession. This injustice is what I call the “fraudulent search” process. I define a fraudulent search as when a position in student affairs is available on a university campus and that university’s human resources, ethics and compliance, equal opportunity, or other designated university officials state that for available positions an “open search” must be conducted and the individual division, department, or hiring manager has already predetermined the hire, conducts the search process, and hires that predetermined candidate as always intended.
This search process is one that intentionally deceives and breaches a confidence with all applicants seeking out a posted position. To employ the competency of Social Justice and Inclusion directly, I believe the fraudulent search is directly opposed to what CSJE members and all professionals are being directed not to do in order to be considered a competent professional. This specific competency is “…defined as both a process and a goal that includes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to create learning environments that foster equitable participation of all groups and seeks to address issues of oppression, privilege, and power” (ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies, 2015). Improving the practice of conducting searches that removes deceit from the equation and relies upon “representing the department and institution honestly and accurately” (ACPA Ethical Principles and Standards) to me is one of those things we can disagree about the how, but most certainly one we have to talk about consistently. Creating an entire competency for Social Justice and Inclusion gives all professionals the safe space to have the conversation, as well as to hold one another accountable when professionals are not being socially just in all instances, especially in the recruitment, interview, and hiring of staff, be they students, graduates, or professionals.
I believe that other competency areas that inform this social justice matter also include Personal and Ethical Foundations and Organizational and Human Resources to name just two. With these new competencies, and these three in particular, student affairs professionals should find greater affirmation in being successful practitioners and those served by such professionals can bring the “fraudulent search” into the transparency of the light of day and be clearly in line with keeping with the “spirit and intent of equal opportunity.”
- Organizational and Human Resources: “Assess the costs and benefits of current established political alliances, in particular, their relationships to fostering collaboration and organizational transparency.”
- Personal and Ethical Foundations “…competency area involves the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to develop and maintain integrity in one’s life and work”
I have observed this practice from the college/university side of the search table and I’ve appropriately raised such concerns when I have. I have also experienced it as a candidate myself during my own job searches. It’s been reported to me through the experiences of numerous professionals who I have assisted in their professional job searches over a fifteen plus year career. When matters of social justice and inclusion are not spoken of on the staff level and the questions of power, privilege, and politics are not permissible to be asked as a professional educator, then how is it possible to “do better,” in the words of ACPA’s president, as advocates for equity, inclusion, and social justice for students and communities and for search processes if professionals sense danger in the doing?
“…a hiring manager will be breaking institutional policy regarding an equal opportunity for full consideration by giving some indication beforehand that a specific candidate will be selected even if the others walk on water. That hiring manager’s manager ought to discipline for such a declaration, as failure to follow policy.” – anonymous head university diversity officer
A “fraudulent search” does not include a fair and equitable outlined promotion procedure or succession plan, when done ethically and with all stakeholders and employees appropriately instructed as to how such matters happen and how every employee remains eligible for such opportunities, when permissible. No, the “fraudulent search” is one that does the opposite by obstructing fair and equitable, while hurting professional access, opportunity, and career mobility on all professional levels in addition to hurting the veracity of the job search itself and any possibility for a professional or the organization to be an authentic champion of social justice and inclusion work. These hurts do often end up resulting in encouraging professionals to treat employment and competencies as a game. They may promote dishonesty or lack of authenticity, or lead a caring profession to commit other unethical behaviors to succeed. On a fundamental level it violates the very principle of “Do no harm.” “But it happens all the time” people will say, without ever calling it what it is – a “fraudulent search.” Student affairs as a profession possesses strong ethical professional values and standards and competencies espoused by the field, so, that is the fertile soil to grow from and what everyone else is doing simply doesn’t matter. This profession has higher standards crafted and created in order to influence social justice, not merely imitate it for a brochure, sound bite, or a position description.
Shane is originally from Boston, Massachusetts and graduated from Stetson University with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Vanderbilt University Divinity School with a Master of Theological Studies/Pastoral Care and Counseling, and he possesses a professional certificate in Human Resources. Shane is an inclusive, innovative, and integrity inspired leader with 15+ years of success in higher education and student affairs organizational leadership. He coaches and consults with graduate students and professionals on effectively connecting one’s authenticity & meaning-making in work and life, while he is actively in pursuit of his own next great full time professional contribution. Shane is fortunate to have once lived and worked in both Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park, and he currently lives in Winter Springs, Florida. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @scaddenFNL.