I have never met you, Dr. Higgins, but I am taking this quite personally.
When news broke of you being fired by The Claremont Colleges’ Queer Resource Center, it shook me. As an academic and practitioner, I felt compelled to write and share a bit of reflection. I write this not as the Chair of ACPA’s Commission for Social Justice Educators, but as Vu Tran, a 32-year- old doctoral student who occasionally finds it difficult to remain hopeful in the power of education in light of the current sociopolitical landscape.
I don’t know enough about your situation to provide any specific commentary about it, but I will speak candidly about my perspective on it. You symbolized all the individuals who have been catalysts in my journey as an educator. I think about my 18-year- old self, walking across the metaphorical university gates for the first time and being immediately inspired by a speaker at an orientation event who called on us first-year students to become more politically engaged. This person was not a professor or a campaign worker, but a Dr. Higgins.
I reflect upon my 22-year- old self as I began a graduate program and learned quickly that my undergraduate experience only exposed me to a small fraction of perspectives about life. I was given endless amounts of support as I grew and developed into my educator identity, all in thanks to the tireless support of many Dr. Higgins’.
Social justice educators like you and I are not simply just being challenged for our ideas, but also harassed and bullied by individuals, organizations, and administrations. Your termination is not just about you, but a message being sent to all other educators who feel like they have something to speak up about. We cannot let this incident shake us in our resolve as educators.
Many people who enter the field of student affairs have had their own Dr. Higgins, and we are likely a Dr. Higgins to someone else.
I have never met you, Dr. Higgins, but I am with you 100%.
Vu Tran (He/Him/His) is a current Ph.D. student in Ohio State University’s Higher Education and Student Affairs program where his research focuses on matters of age identity, adultism, and social divide. He identifies as Asian American, college-educated, currently able-bodied, English-speaking, heterosexual, man, male, middle-class, millennial, raised Catholic, United States citizen, and Vietnamese. You can follow @VuderTran on Twitter or e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.