Social Change in Hierarchical Institutions, By: Pat Tetreault

Hierarchical institutions are prevalent in our culture. We grow up within a variety of communities that are often structured with clear roles and a clear chain of command or authority. These include our families, faith communities, educational institutions, and government. All are structurally layered with those at the top of the system having more authority, status and decision-making power in regards to policies and practices, budgets, and resource allocation. Regardless of where we are located in the system, developing the skills to advocate for changes within the system to help obtain more equitable resource allocation, support services, programming, and inclusive excellence is vital. This is particularly true in regards to policies and practices.

Policies and practices differentially impact individuals and groups because we have different life contexts. Over time, structures expand to take into account the differing identities and experiences of the populations we serve. However, many of the structures in place have resulted in the creation of silos (or neighborhoods) as a way to provide space and to help address diversity, inclusion, and equity issues that exist in society and on our campuses. For example, we have programs for students of color; LGBTQA+ students; women; veterans and military members; international students; and services for students with disabilities. These neighborhood resources are important because neighborhoods provide visibility and recognition for the community (aka marginalized groups) to participate in the larger community, access resources and their identity communities, along with providing education and programming for the larger campus community.

One outcome of having these neighborhoods is individuals and groups often have to choose which neighborhood is going to be their primary community. Given the structures and often limited resources (of which time is one), we often navigate the campus environment while having one of those neighborhoods as our home base; addressing multiple, intersecting and mixed identities as needed or we are able. We are often under resourced for current demands. This means we are busy (although that may be a word we are not supposed to use as some perceive we are saying we are busy while they are not). We have also been socialized to perceive the world based on what we see and that often means we categorize people based on one or two primary identities. Societally, we often talk about and frame identities on a binary – woman or man; black or white; straight or LGBTQA+; progressive or conservative; and the identities list goes on. Yet, our identities rarely fit into such distinct boxes. When looking at campus climate, and addressing issues, it is often more manageable to address one or two areas rather than the complexity and challenges that accompany looking at the intersections of identities (gender, race/ethnicity, orientation, ability, faith, age, etc.).  Developing communities that are truly inclusive while allowing space and recognition for individual and group identities and contexts is needed and challenging; particularly when we consider the socio-political context within a country and world where inequity, privilege, and power varies for individuals and groups and there are differing value systems and approaches regarding differential resources and access.

Working in higher education  allows us to advocate for policies and practices that have the greatest benefit for the most people on our campuses in the same way that the constitution of the United States can allow people living at the margins to work with supporters to advocate for more equitable access to the benefits of living in this country. This allows us to build our case for diversity and inclusion and hopefully moves us toward a more socially-just campus community as well as a more socially-just society. While change can be quite slow, and not everyone wants or appreciates change, it does happen. Having worked in Student Affairs for over 25 years has allowed me to witness the progress and resistance to change that has taken place. Some positive changes include adding sexual orientation and gender identity to our nondiscrimination policy; starting a LGBTQA+ center on our campus; the development of a military and veteran success center; changes in policies and practices that include gender inclusive housing, a chosen name option, the ability to change gender markers on records with a changed driver’s license or passport (vs. a changed birth certificate); and the development of a disability club that helps provide community and advocate for a campus climate that moves beyond compliance to inclusive excellence for students of differing abilities.

I have been fortunate to have a career in higher education that has allowed me to advocate for change informed by my education, experience, and multiple, intersecting, and mixed identities.  During my career in Student Affairs, I have worked in positions where I was the first and only professional staff person in the role (Sexuality Education Coordinator; Assistant Director in Student Involvement serving as the Director of the LGBTQA+ Resource Center). Being the primary person in a role where I developed the programs and services has provided me opportunities to define the mission of the programs, which have included a focus on diversity, inclusion, equitable access, and social justice education in programming and services. Being a mid-level management position with students as staff and volunteers has also meant helping students develop the knowledge and skills to help create change through information and skills development. This is where the Social Change Model of Leadership Development (Astin & Astin, 1996) has been a useful tool to encourage leadership that can help foster an inclusive environment where anyone and everyone can develop and utilize skills to help create a system that is responsive to individual and group needs, particularly given our diverse identities and experiences. Leadership as a process encourages the concept of leadership as a behavior that anyone can engage in regardless of their position. The model consists of 7 C’s. Three C’s focus on individual values (consciousness of self, congruence, and commitment); 3 on group process values (collaboration, common purpose, and controversy with civility); and the Community/Societal value of Citizenship. These combined values result in an 8th value (or goal), Change (Astin & Astin, 1996).

Whether aware of this model or not, the process in student development and education can be related to the Social Change Model of Leadership Development. Individuals and groups, knowing their values, acting in congruence, and committed to making a difference, worked collaboratively with others on a common purpose, and managing controversy. This can be applied to a variety of situations. Good citizens working for the common good. This process reflects the importance of individual rights and responsibilities; and having a concern for the rights and wellbeing of all members of the larger community.

Our changing social and political contexts indicate the need to move in the direction of working at the intersections of identities and understanding the commonalities that impact all of us and working toward social justice education. According to Adams, Bell and Griffin (2007), social justice is both a process and a goal; and “The goal of social justice education is full and equal participation of all groups in a society that is mutually shaped to meet their needs. Social justice includes a vision of society that is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure.”

In order to work at the intersections, we have to be aware of specific topics and needs. We need space for marginalized populations, as well as ways to integrate all members of the community. We need interdisciplinary approaches; and we need equitable funding. We need transparency in budgets and decision making criteria. We also need to be able to work toward achieving balance. We are here for the students. How do we find those who are here for us? How do we achieve a healthy workplace and work-life balance if we are the primary professional attempting to meet the needs of a marginalized population, which also means changing the culture of the larger campus community? It takes time, it takes clarity, and it takes our supporting each other in our work.  We need space, resources, and support. We need to manage emotions, not only others, but our own. We have to recognize that we are impacted by the same minority stress and microaggressions that those we serve experience. We need to take care of ourselves so that we role model for others that self-care is valued. One way to approach our work is to work with primary identities while recognizing and acknowledging that we need to work at the intersections of identities and stretching our own comfort zones. We need to recognize that almost every identity label is more than a primary identity or label; and every identity is incorporated into other identities.

LGBTQA+ people are within other identity categories and need to be recognized in the same way that other identities within the LGBTQA+ community need to be recognized.  Working collaboratively across identity groups will help achieve the common goal of social justice if we can accept and support each other in moving toward equity and social justice for every individual and every group member. Understanding the difference between diversity, inclusion, equity, and social justice is also important (see Dafina-Lazarus Stewart, 2017) because we need to continually strive for moving the conversation from diversity and inclusion to equity and social justice. We need to recognize and claim our own value within the institutions that we work in. This is not a small or easy task. It is an ongoing effort in how we manage our work lives, particularly given the challenges of working from the level of the hierarchy we are in to get the message up the chain of command in order to help create the changes that are needed to shift toward a more equitable campus environment. It is essential for us to build community at work for ourselves as we strive to help create community for students. We need to determine how we can best work at and across intersections of identities while building community and supporting each other in this work, not only with the identity group(s) we work with but across identity groups. We also need to acknowledge and manage the emotional impact of the work we do given that we are also impacted by sociopolitical climate, microaggressions, and inequitable resource allocation.  This takes time, consciousness, congruence, commitment, collaboration, and working toward a common purpose while managing controversy with civility. We also need to celebrate our successes and accomplishments.  It requires acceptance that we all matter.

Recognizing our own privilege in addition to knowing where we lack privilege is another essential component for it is where we have privilege that we can use it to help make the world a better place. Where we lack privilege can help us with understanding, awareness raising, and with advocacy. We can use our stories and our voices to demonstrate leadership from where we are at to the best of our ability.  Having the support of others who do this work is invaluable because there is a commonality of experience and identities. Community is essential, whether it is on our campus or beyond. Knowing and appreciating our commonalities is useful and one area that we all share privilege in higher education is having access to and being a part of higher education. How we use our privilege in this context can make all the difference in the world.

 

Pat (pronouns: she/her/hers) is the Founding Director of the LGBTQA+ Resource Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Prior to opening the Center, Pat served as the Sexuality Education Coordinator for the campus and is in her 26th year as a Student Affairs Staff member. Pat is the 5th of 6 children. Her parents were first generation college students, who were both proud of their ethnic heritage. Pat’s mom was Lebanese American and her father was French-Canadian descent with an English great, great grandmother. Both of her maternal grandparents were immigrants. Having grown up in a Catholic, military family influenced and shaped her views about diversity and social justice. She is a published author (articles and book chapters), has presented at international, national, and regional conferences, and has received recognition for her work over the years on her campus and nationally.

 

References:

Bell, L.A. (2007). Theoretical Foundations for Social Justice Education. In Adams, M., Bell,          L.A., & Griffin, P. (Editors) Teaching for Diversity and Social Justice: A Sourcebook,              2nd Ed. Routledge Publishing, New York, NY.

Astin, Helen S. & Astin, Alexander W. (1996, January). A Social Change Model of                          Leadership Development Guidebook, Version III. Higher Education Research                        Institute, University of California at Los Angeles.

Dafina-Lazarus, Stewart I2017, March 30). https://www.insidehighered.com/views/2017/03/30/colleges-need-language-shift-not-one-you-think-essay

Dear Colleague Letter on Transgender Students (2016, May 13). https://www2.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ocr/letters/colleague-201605-title-ix-transgender.pdf

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A conversation on Wholeness, By: Dr. Stephanie Bondi and Naomi Rodriguez

For many student affairs professionals, our daily work is focused on campus life. However, the growing movement for self-care and the need to balance our professional and personal lives is quickly becoming part of the daily dialogue. Wholeness, defined by a quick google search as “the state of forming a complete and harmonious whole” is a part of the self-care process. The following is a transcript of an interview between Stephanie Bondi and Naomi Rodriguez talking about Wholeness.

N: What’s the concept? I would say metaphorical connecting the mind/body experience. What we are doing physically with what we sense who we are and connecting that with what we do. So, utilizing our minds and our critical thinking skills and our ability to do things in kind of whole hearted way.

S: Yeah, I like that. What I keep thinking about are the moments when I don’t feel whole. I know those moments, where, I can’t fully be myself. Or I feel tension in what I know and how I feel with how I think I should be. And I know what it feels like when I experience that tension– my body is on edge and I don’t trust myself. I have lots of questions. And it generally feels not good.

N: I definitely agree with that. For me right now wholeness is a journey. Finding those other moments where I feel the opposite. I know what my physical feeling is and my spiritual feeling is and what my mind is thinking but I’m not outwardly projecting that. So, how can I connect that and integrate into a state of wholeness? So, I can recognize all those moments when I’m not feeling whole. But hey, now that we can identify that, it’s the first step, right? (Laughs)

S: Yeah! So as I am able to identify it I can figure out what are those different things that are going on. And I can narrow down what is it in myself that needs to be seen in a particular way to meet those external expectations. Then I can start saying: “Well do I want that? No.” And I can start letting go. And when I let go I am finding the more and more that I do this the more and more I can get those moments where it’s like. (Exhales) It’s a sense of relief and there is also an energy. That feels great! Then I trust myself and am very confident because I’m not feeling those divisions and tensions that distract me. Those tensions are a huge distraction. You’re nodding. It’s good to know I’m not the only one.

N: No.

(Both laughing)

S: So we talked about this before and you mentioned your family. How does your family play into your experiences of coming into wholeness?

N: I think part of this wholeness journey for me is analyzing who I am. Again, the spiritual and inner core part of who I am. And when I was thinking about it I realized so much of, you know, of what each individual has comes from the ideals of our parents, our families and those closest to us. Oftentimes, tensions and insecurities we have can go back to when we experienced it as kids or our parents struggled with the same things. And maybe they didn’t want to tell us that because they were parental figures, and they were trying to be strong and be role models for us.

But  part of coming into wholeness was of going back and identifying what that was. After I brought things up from my childhood, my mom said: “When you talked about that, I looked back when I was young. And I realized a lot the things you talked about have been so important for me now.” So my mom will tell me she’ll go through parts of the wholeness process by thinking about: “Why do I feel this way? How have I felt this way before?”

S: I see that you’re talking about that with a lot of emotion. And I can relate to that because my mom would tell me too about how I would get very emotional about things and for me I knew that that wasn’t always welcome. And the message that I always got was “Ok, well you’re fine.” A piece of wholeness for me is, I guess, being okay with the fact that I am emotional about things. And maybe things matter to me that don’t matter to other people. I’m realizing how often I use other people’s values and ideas to judge myself. And so, over time I think what that has taught me is that the feelings that I have are not as important as going along with how things are going. Or what other people’s need might be.

Part of your story was in sharing your own process of coming to understand wholeness with your mom then she’s considering that in her own life. And I’ve kind of wondered if that had an effect on your relationship because I feel that relationships are so important in social justice work.

N: I would say that it has been positive. Leading up to now, my relationship with my mother has been up and down. Now, I’m far away, it has been a great help. My mom, she will say “All I had was my kids. Raising you and making sure you found your way in the world.” But now, she is having that moment where: “Both my kids are adults. What about what I’m doing and what’s my role now in this world?” I think in a lot of ways it has helped her a lot to talk with me about my journey for wholeness.

S: Do you have any recommendations for Student Affairs Professionals?

N: If we think about it, we fulfill so many roles. We’re counselors, leaders, motivators, supporters and encouragers. When I look at wholeness, sometimes it’s about not getting lost in all those things. If I have a hectic day at work, I’ll go home still thinking about all the things I have to do. Then, I’m not being a whole person because I’m just thinking about the stresses of being at work, what went wrong that day and what I wish I could do better the next. So lately I’ve been thinking of ways to spend “me time.” I found that if I just take the bus for five/ten minutes, I get to sit there and enjoy life for a moment. Like how the suns out, the scenery is beautiful and watching the people walking by. Those moments just appreciating who I am and where I am in my journey.

S: You know when I hear you saying that “I need to do this and I need to do that.” It’s like you’re a robot or like a machine where you are supposed to be cranking stuff out. That doesn’t sound very human to me. So thinking the importance of paying attention to the fact that we’re human and we’re living a life. I think people could really benefit from just paying attention more to what’s going on in their mind, body and spirit. I’ve heard some yoga instructors say “Let go of anything that doesn’t serve you.” I found in my own life the more I can let go of the things that don’t serve me, the more whole I feel. For example, if I’m trying to have a conversation about a social justice issue. I’m often worried the person is going to say “I didn’t mean it that way.” Which will feel like a conflict to me, and I avoid conflict.  I’m finding moments where I can let those kinds of anxieties go. The energy changes, and it’s so hard to describe but I feel lighter, more excited, and I feel happier. When I have that energy, gosh! I could move mountains! I could be so productive and check all the things off my list! And, I have so much compassion and capacity for other people who are dealing with their own stuff.

Are there certain things that you found to be really helpful in trying to prioritize wholeness in your life?

N: Being very intentional about what my goals are and planning for the day. If I’m going to ride the bus for instance, it might take longer in my day instead of walking. Or another example, intentionally setting aside 45 minutes to practice piano so I’m not going to think about “Well, if I maybe skimp on practicing, I can get back to my busy schedule.” No, I have 45 minutes. So I’m feeling the moment and enjoying a spot of wholeness in my day.

S: Any last thoughts?

N: I think a lot about what wholeness feels like, and it’s such a self-exploratory process. It is really not going to be the same for every single person. So for me, the process is like what you said. When I’m being whole, I’m stepping away from that high emotional person that I am. I recognize that, but instead saying “Ok, I don’t have to protect myself right now or worry about all the things I’m doing wrong.” And that’s what wholeness really feels like for me. But for other people who always feel cool as a cucumber and detached, being whole might be in an emotional movie and a good cry. But either way when you come out, you just feel so good. You feel so invigorated with life. And now I just want to hi-five everyone and give everyone hugs. When I think about wholeness the ultimate goal is connecting with others’ wholeness and changing the environment.

S: Yeah, it would be nice to feel that way more often than not.

N: Yeah!

S: Well, I’ve enjoyed the conversation. And I feel like we should hug now?

N: I know right? Make the world a better place!

 

Stephanie Bondi (She/Her/Hers) is a faculty member in the student affairs program at University of Nebraska – Lincoln. She keeps her family in mind as she works towards wholeness.  She studies dominance and oppression and student affairs preparation.

Naomi Rodriguez (She/Her/Hers) is a Los Angeles native with a B.A in Graphic Design. After a chance job opportunity at the student union of her undergraduate school, Cal State University Northridge, she has steadily taken the career path into student affairs. She is currently studying at the University of Nebraska – Lincoln in the M.A Educational Administration, specialization in Student Affairs Administration program.

Framing Selfcare as not Selfish, By: Wayne Glass

Self-care, as we continue to know it, is framed as a mental, physical, and/or spiritual pause that the millennial generation (my generation) is grasping onto more-and-more, in efforts to preserve a sense of self. An act of preservation as a result of times where there is and continues to be a plethora of inconsistencies, injustices, and systems of oppression impeding on folks’ abilities to simply live a life that is right for them. Furthermore, self-care as we continue to know it, can even be framed as radical actions that communicate that is perfectly OK to advocate for self so that we can remain engaged in work, family, friends, and community. Now, you may be thinking to yourself, “Wayne, why the intentional use of ‘radical’?” Great question. Thus the catalyst to the framework of this post begins to emerge.
Self-Care as Self-Ish
To begin, I think it is important that we spend time dissecting the association with self-care as ‘selfish.’ Self-care, in some personal and professional circles, remains this idea and practice that if one is making / taking time for self, they are being selfish, self-centered, lazy, and, ultimately, do not care about others around them. For me, all of these ideations are capital ‘F’ False. I say this because I think and feel that we continue to live and work in self-sacrificial environments. Environments where if one is not giving 110% of themselves all of the time, they are not good enough, not competent, not professional, should feel ashamed, and the list goes on. What an awful, toxic reality this is that continues to persist in what can be said most environments.
Secondly, I think it is essential to name that taking / making time for self-care is a privilege. There are an insurmountable amount of communities that do not have the time, efforts, energies, and/or luxury to pause and breathe, reflect, and do something that may not directly correlate with serving as a caretaker for a family member, taking care of siblings or children, or working multiple jobs to provide some type of stability for self and/or others; to name a few examples. Access in relation to education, jobs, affordable housing, affordable healthcare, and affordable nourishing foods can all contribute to whether or not folks have the privilege of taking / making intentional time to physically, emotionally, and/or spiritually step away from life’s daily trials and tribulations.
Self-Care as Self-Less
The concept of “self-care as selfless” is something I learned from a fabulous colleague and mentor, Coco Du, who serves as Macalester College’s Director of Residential Life. Therefore, how I have come to understand this concept is that, in order to remain an effective member of society; personally, professionally, both, we need to do the best we can to briefly (a subjective term) disengage with what takes up most of our physical, emotional, and spiritual energy. I say ‘ briefly’ disengage because I do not think it is helpful and appropriate, pending the situation, to completely disengage. Temporarily disengaging may be framed as taking a trip away from home and/or work to enjoy a change of pace, reading a book on the couch with all technological devices living in the ‘Off’ or ‘Do Not Disturb’ mode, or spending time moving one’s body at the gym or in nature. Examples of when it is not appropriate to completely disengage without proper support from colleagues and/or the department is when one works in a high-touch, service-oriented functional area within Student Affairs, such as Residential Life.
Building on this example, being that I serve as a Residence Hall Director, folks in Residential Life work hand-in-hand with students navigating multiple, intersecting challenges, triumphs, and hardships. As a result, these items can, and a lot of times do, have an impact on the professional and paraprofessional (student staff). Consequently, I think it is absolutely imperative that folks are able and empowered to take time to “replenish their cup(s).”
As student affairs professionals, we need to continue to challenge self and others to critically think and act on how we can sustain and remain in a field where it is highly unlikely that the world’s trepidations, which are having significant impacts on the students we are serving, are going to simplify or ‘go away.’ If we do not, I think that we will continue to experience high-burnout and high-turnover rates. Student affairs professionals, in my mind, are not robots that are hired to be all things for all students. Although there is a lot of love and care for the populations we are serving, we cannot remain at full-throttle at all times without having moments of intentional pause.
Self-Care in Action
Self-care, as I have come to know it, has been a practice that took me until I was in my Mid-Twenties to internalize. Like a lot of folks, I lived what I identify as a ‘self-sacrificial’ work and academic lifestyle. A lifestyle where I would work on schoolwork and/or work-work all day, every day because I genuinely cared more about those around me than myself. Now do not get me wrong, I have a lot of love, care, and compassion for people in-and-out of my life. However, giving my whole self 24/7 is / was not healthy. I was reaching moments where I loathed my jobs, school, self, and, at times, would take out all of this loathing on close relationships in my life. This loathing and, essentially, ‘hating’ everything became a huge ‘red flag’ for me and I came to realize that I needed to make some changes in my life.
My (ongoing) self-care journey truly began my second year of graduate school with me taking intentional time in the mornings (5:00am) to go to CrossFit classes at gym close to my apartment. Come rain, shine, snow, or anything in between I would trudge myself out of bed and hangout with who would become amazing people in my life. Unbeknownst to me, CrossFit would become not only an integral part of my mornings but an integral part of my life. So much so that I established a chosen family of caring, passionate, hardworking, and diverse group of individuals. These individuals empowered me to utilize my body as a strengthened tool to navigate the uncertainties of life, to eat food to fuel my body as opposed to framing it as a inconvenience and chore, and put on notches of resiliency with life through enduring several tough workouts.
Prior to discovering CrossFit, I was struggling with establishing harmony with work, academics, and life, suffering from debilitating depression, and experiencing a relapse with an Eating Disorder. My mental health was deteriorating and I was not finding fulfillment with every-day life. Everything, for a lack of better words, sucked, and I was giving up.
My commitment to CrossFit is something that I would have never imagined. How can an effeminate gay boy ever workout or connect with, in some instances, a predominantly hyper-masculine group of individuals? I found that through slowly “testing the waters” and coming into a new community more reserved, which is not my “typical” approach to anything, I began to realize that CrossFit is not, from my perspective, a community that needs to subscribe to a “one size fits all” approach. Additionally, since moving to a more Queer-affirming city, I have found that I can (more comfortably) navigate the intersections of being Queer and effeminate while also lifting heavy weights and physically competing with more masculine-presenting individuals.
Final Thoughts
All of this to be said, I have learned so much about myself as a person, the importance of self-care, and why we should not be framing it is selfish. I have learned about how resilient I have become in tough moments, while also recognizing that there will always be areas for growth and improvement. I have found a new sense of purpose and meaning outside of school and work. Something that allows me to disengage and then re-engage with a revitalized commitment. I have learned that my body is a machine capable of doing so many things that are necessary. to navigate daily life. Things that require adequate and appropriate nutrition and rest. Finally, I have learned that in order for me to be an effective an effective son, brother, friend; an effective student affairs professional; an effective athlete; an effective aspirational change agent, I need to spend time focusing on a piece of life that is completely unrelated to my day-to-day professional endeavors.
Self-care looks differently for everyone. My hope is that we can continue to work to shift the culture of self-care from actions that are selfish to actions that are necessary to live a healthy, meaningful, and harmonized life. How do we do this? Great question. There is not one finite way to shift the culture, but for me, I think sharing lived-experiences where acts of self-care have fundamentally changed one’s life can be powerful for folks to hear; particularly those who are in positions of power. Also, I think that continuing to share the importance of self-care for self-preservation is essential. We cannot continue to survive (and not thrive) in environments where self-sacrificial ideations and practices flourish.

 

 

My name is Wayne Glass (He, Him, and His gender pronouns). I currently serve as a Residence Hall Director at Macalester College where I work with and oversee two first-year Residence Halls.

Navigating the realm of social justice and inclusion has, and will forever be, a priority and emphasis of every personal and professional endeavor I embark upon. Thus, my student affairs endeavors have been to continue to advocate, educate, and support the importance of intersectionality and how identity shapes and plays and role in how we live and breathe in society. As an aspiring social justice educator, I strive to encourage and empower myself, students, faculty, and staff to go outside of our “comfort zones” and fight for equity for all humankind.

If folks are interested in getting (or remaining) connected, I can be found on Instagram | @WayneGlass, Twitter | @WayneGlass1, Facebook | https://www.facebook.com/wmglass2, and/or through E-Mail | wglass@macalester.edu. Feel free to reach out!

Some Evangelicals Still Have Neighborly Faith, By: Kevin Singer and Chris Stackaruk

The rise of Donald Trump and his allies on America’s social and political Right has brought renewed attention to Evangelical Christians. After all, a poll that made headlines demonstrated that 81% of White Evangelicals voted for the Trump-Pence ticket (Renaud, 2017). It can seem that most Evangelicals are right-wing culture warriors, seeking to “Make America Great Again” in their image (Burleigh, 2017).

While this can be true of some Evangelicals, it is not true of all. Many are shocked at the current state of affairs and are actively working to make a difference. We (Kevin and Chris) recently interviewed a handful of such Evangelicals that are modeling what we call a “neighborly faith” by striving to be good neighbors to people of other faith and non-faith traditions.

We interviewed five Evangelicals in higher education: two professors, a chaplain, a scholar, and a student leader. Each held traditional faith convictions, but were living them out in non-traditional ways when it comes to being a good neighbor.

All Christians highly regard Jesus’s teaching to “Love your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31). Yet, we all know that not all Christians live this out as they should. Evangelicals have been good at doing this in some ways like, for example, caring for disaster victims (Stetzer, 2017). However, many have been slow to adopt this neighborly love to a new multi-religious America. Fears of the religious “other” are common, short-circuiting the benevolence of even the most sincere Evangelical (Baylor Religion Survey, 2017).

The people we talked to are trailblazers that were finding new ways to live a neighborly faith. We were impressed to see the variety of ways they were doing this.

Most of the people we interviewed told us that they lived in a place of tension between their faith-based convictions to proselytize others and to love them. Some of our guests expressed that proselytization is a tad outdated and especially inappropriate for their contexts as leaders in higher education. Instead, they live out their faith by being hospitable to those who are different.

A common theme during our interviews was people’s desire to find public ways of being hospitable–a sharp contrast to the xenophobic Evangelicals we read about in newspapers. All were upset about the current political ethos, and were taking small, personal steps to be a change.

Two of our interviewees who work in administration at public universities voiced something very interesting: that their public offices gave them the opportunity to apologize on behalf of Evangelicals for abuses, either ongoing or past. They are aware that their group is not perfect. However, being a part of this faith, they want to say: “I’m sorry. Tell me your story. How can I change to be a better neighbor?”

These interviews were enlightening and refreshing for us–however, we know they do not represent all Evangelicals. There are things that need to change among us who share the handle. Yet, we remain hopeful that Evangelicals can change course. The primary reason why we started our podcast was to provide Evangelicals with models of neighborly faith that they can aspire to be like. In our experience, we’ve noticed that Evangelicals are the most willing to trust voices and perspectives from within their fold. Our hope is that the podcast will gain traction with persons of influence within Evangelical communities (pastors, thought-leaders, scholars, etc.), because they are in the best position to make a lasting difference.

Launching our podcast with a spotlight on higher education professionals was a no-brainer. Evangelicals working in higher education are playing a formidable role in shaping the next generation, which will likely be more hospitable to worldview diversity. A 2017 Pew Research study found that millennial Evangelicals are more socially conscious and politically progressive than older generations of Evangelicals (Diamant & Alper, 2017). Furthermore, the Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS) included 3,200 incoming Evangelical students from 122 colleges and universities across the country. IDEALS found that 82% of respondents identifying as Evangelical felt it was important that their colleges and universities “provide a welcoming environment for people of diverse religious and nonreligious perspectives” (Crandall et. al, 2016). Moreover, 71% scored highly on the IDEALS “Goodwill/Acceptance Scale,” signaling that a majority have positive attitudes toward people with different worldviews and believe that interreligious understanding will make for a more peaceful world.

One of the professors we interviewed was recently invited to join a committee on religion that was organized by the president of their large public university. The purpose of the committee is to support worldview diversity on campus and coordinate activities that promote a pluralistic community. This is how our interviewee characterized their experience on the committee so far:

As a group of students, faculty and staff from all over campus, we’ve had some difficult conversations at times, but we’ve learned to listen closely to each other rather than make assumptions about each other. At the beginning, if you would have asked “What is [the Evangelical] going to think about x, y, or z issue,” I think there would have been a lot of assumptions made. We’ve learned to trust each other, to respect each other, and to not jump to assumptions. It goes to show the value of building relationships in these initiatives (Personal Communication, August 1, 2017).

This testimony is a far cry from those that Evangelicals are used to hearing from polarizing figures like Liberty University president Jerry Falwell, Jr., who made national headlines in 2015 for making flagrant remarks about Muslims at an all-University assembly. Unfortunately, the detailed critique written by student leaders from Wheaton College didn’t garnish nearly as much press, which exhorted Evangelical leaders to take seriously the “opportunity and responsibility to guard our words and protect the pillar of unity and love of neighbor which the [New Testament] gospels command us to pursue” (Heath & Horton, 2015).

This is precisely why we’re so excited to share the testimonies of our interviewees through our podcast. There are Evangelicals that are seeking the welfare of their religious and nonreligious neighbors, and they are hoping for opportunities to contribute positively to the religious and nonreligious diversity on their campuses. This may require some campus gatekeepers to set aside their presuppositions about Evangelicals, like the president’s committee on religion that invited our interviewee to participate.

We recognize that this is easier said than done. Many of the reservations that people have about Evangelical Christians are completed warranted. However, we hope that our podcast can dispel the myth that all Evangelicals are as described in the first paragraph of this article. We’ve met some that are poised to be good religious neighbors, and are eager to display neighborly faith. If you are interested in listening to our interviews, please check our website: NeighborlyFaith.org. We are releasing them this Winter and would enjoy your feedback.

Kevin Singer
Pronouns: He, His, Him
PhD Student, North Carolina State University (Higher Education)
Graduate Assistant, Interfaith Diversity Experiences and Attitudes Longitudinal Survey (IDEALS)
Adjunct Professor of Religious Studies, College of DuPage and Waubonsee Community College
Co-Founder, Neighborly Faith
Contact: Kcsinger@ncsu.edu, Twitter: @kevinsinger0

Chris Stackaruk
Pronouns: He, His, Him
PhD Student, Theology, University of Toronto (St. Michael’s College)
Co-Founder, Neighborly Faith
Contact: Christian.Stackaruk@gmail.com

 

REFERENCES

Burleigh, N. (2017, October 06). Does God believe in Trump? White evangelicals are sticking with their “Prince of Lies”. Retrieved December 09, 2017, from http://www.newsweek.com/2017/10/13/donald-trump-white-evangelicals-support-god-677587.html

Crandall, R. E., Snipes, J. T., Staples, A., Rockenbach, A. N., Mayhew, M. J., & Associates. (2016). IDEALS Narratives: Incoming Evangelical Students. Chicago, IL: Interfaith Youth Core.

Diamant, J., & Alper, B. A. (2017). Though still conservative, young evangelicals are more liberal than their elders on some issues. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2017/05/04/though-still-conservative-young-evangelicals-are-more-liberal-than-their-elders-on-some-issues/

Findings from the Baylor Religion Survey Wave 5: American Values, Mental Health, and Using Technology in the Age of Trump. (2017). Retrieved December 09, 2017, from https://www.baylor.edu/baylorreligionsurvey/doc.php/292546.pdf

Heath, N., & Horton, C. (2015, December 10). Opinion | Why we, Wheaton College students, are condemning Jerry Falwell Jr.’s remarks on guns and Muslims. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/acts-of-faith/wp/2015/12/10/why-we-wheaton-college-students-are-condemning-jerry-falwell-jr-s-remarks-on-guns-and-muslims/?utm_term=.9917ca0fb150

Renaud, M. (2017). Myths Debunked: Why Did White Evangelical Christians Vote for Trump? | The University of Chicago Divinity School. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://divinity.uchicago.edu/sightings/myths-debunked-why-did-white-evangelical-christians-vote-trump

Stetzer, E. (2017). Remember teachings of Mr. Rogers and the Good Samaritan in Harvey relief efforts. Retrieved December 01, 2017, from https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/2017/08/31/harvey-relief-efforts-remember-teachings-mr-rogers-and-good-samaritan-ed-stetzer-column/615904001/

The Hidden Messages in Leadership Theories, By: Daria-Yvonne J. Graham

Leadership, as a concept, is not an unusual topic in higher education; it is often referred to in multiple ways and areas within colleges and universities. Marketing materials, student affairs programs, and academic courses often refer to leadership development as a learning goal or learning outcome. The concept of leadership varies greatly and is presented through multiple models and theories that refer to positionality, skills, abilities, and preferred human characteristics. Admittedly, most leadership frameworks seem constructive and claim necessary qualities and steps to being catalysts for positive social change and progress, but in order to validate these claims, an assumption must be accepted that the formula for “good” leadership is universally applicable across social identities. Popular leadership theories, such as Servant Leadership (Greenleaf, 1977) and the Leadership Challenge (Kouzes & Posner, 2012) offer guidelines that name behaviors such as being of service to others, gentleness, and challenging the process as necessary habits for good leadership. Similarly, Gallup’s StrengthsQuest (Clifton & Schreiner, 2006) and Transformational Leadership (Bass, 1990) are leadership approaches that are situated as foundations for understanding leadership styles and the implications on organizational health and individual influence.

It is understandable why many of the programs and topics of higher education are connected to the goal of producing leaders.  By infusing leadership concepts into multiple aspects of universities and colleges, students are called to academic excellence, reminded of the importance of self-care, and the effect of their behavior on others. In referring to leadership as a foundation, universities can point to the importance of congruence, center living and working as a community as a value, and challenge faculty, staff, and students to work together towards a common good.  With such selfless and productive concepts at the core of the messaging and structure of colleges and universities, it is no wonder why leadership models and theories are not better interrogated before they are espoused and bolstered. Like most things in life, there is another perspective to consider.

When considering the role that social identities play in society, the assumptions that prescribe leadership concepts as universal is faulty. Social identities and the intersection of those identities have multiple effects on individuals’ experiences, and prescribed responses and plans of actions could likely have dire consequences. One population to consider would be women of color who work in higher education.  While 55% of higher education faculty and staff are women, members of underrepresented populations represent only 21% in upper administration (Chronicle, 2016).  Due to the demographics of our institutions and the social identities of those in positions of power, expectations for behavior and meaning-making typically reflect the race, gender, culture and value systems of those in senior leadership. Indicators of “good” leadership are often coded for “White, heteronormative, misogynistic, hegemonic, cisgender, and financially privileged”. Leadership tenets such as “anticipating the unknown” or healing others before healing self (Greenleaf, 1977) must be considered within the United States’ historical context of White privilege, genocide, and slavery. The residue of the history of the United States is evident as there continues to be acts of violence motivated by hate (https://www.splcenter.org/hatewatch/2017/02/10/post-election-bias-incidents-1372-new-collaboration-propublica), the statistical representation of Black and brown men in incarceration (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/299788997_The_New_Jim_Crow_Book_Review, and the lack of people of color in upper administrative roles, particularly at private White institutions (https://nau.edu/COE/eJournal/_Forms/Fall2013/WolfeandFreeman/). Leadership theories cause harm by erasing the historical context for underrepresented populations, by denying the harm that may result when a leadership tenet reaffirms a racial or gender stereotype, and by increasing feelings of taxation for those who see leadership tenets as methods of survival.  For example, as part of the Servant Leadership model, Greenleaf (1977) states that leaders must use the tenet of withdrawal from a situation or relationship as a tactical defense or prioritization process. By strategically withdrawing and re-entering, leaders are able to rejuvenate, reassign resources, and take time for self-care. Members of underrepresented populations experience taxation because of their inability to see the tenet of withdrawal as an optional strategy.  While members of majority populations can be mindful of this tenet as a tool when appropriate, the act of withdrawal by some individuals will be (mis)interpreted as shows of anger, hostility, disconnection, indifference, hostility, a disinterest in collaboration, or at minimum a lack of investment. Society has inherited a perspective that believes members of underrepresented populations should work despite the need for rest and to do so with minimal complaint for as long as necessary to complete the task at hand.  Withdrawal is not a viable option for a “good” leader who has marginalized identities.  This discrepancy illuminates one example of how Greenleaf’s (1977) prescription for “good” leadership is not universal as power and privilege make blind application problematic.

Some consider executing leadership techniques as welcomed opportunities for growth, but others, particularly members of underrepresented populations, interpret a university’s leadership message as reaffirming a historical posture of servitude.  With such dire possibilities for members of the university’s community, it is incumbent upon faculty, staff, and students to critically examine leadership theories that are often written by White men and from a White perspective.  By silencing a possible counter narrative on leadership – through ignoring the counter narrative or negating it – the use of popular modern theories can negatively impact individuals and the institutions for which they “serve”.

 

Daria-Yvonne J. Graham (she, her, hers, herself) currently serves as the inaugural Director for the Office of Student Leadership Programs and as an adjunct faculty member for the department of sociology, anthropology and social work at the University of Dayton (UD). The Office of Student Leadership Programs supports the leadership development of all students by providing support, programming, and leadership tools.  Daria has been affiliated with UD for over 27 years, where she received her bachelor of science in business administration, her master of science in education and allied professions, and anticipates completing her Ph.D. in higher education in May 2017. Her dissertation study uses the experiences of black women in student affairs to interrogate leadership theory. She has presented on social justice, diversity and inclusion, collaborative strategies and initiatives in higher education, and mission-informed practices in higher education. She is a member of ACPA – College Educators International and served as a directorate member for the Coalition for Women’s Identities from 2010 – 2013.

 

References

Bass, B. M. (1990). Bass and Stogdill’s Handbook of Leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications (3rd ed.). New York, NY: The Free Press.

Clifton, D. O., & Schreiner, L. A. (2006). StrengthsQuest: Discover and develop your strengths in academics, career, and beyond. (G. Organization, Ed.) (1st ed.). Washington, DC: Gallup Organization.

(2016, August 19). Gender, Race, and Ethnicity of College Administrators, Faculty, and Staff, Fall 2013. Chronicle of Higher Education. p. 16.

Greenleaf, R. K. (1977). Servant leadership: A journey into the nature of legitimate power and greatness. Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press.

Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2012). The Leadership Challenge (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey Bass.

What Do You Have to Offer? Establishing A Social Justice Vision That Matters! By: Gregory Fontus, M.Ed.

Being in an office that focuses on all things social justice, diversity, and inclusion can be quite challenging, all things considered. Right now, there is a president in the White House who blatantly seeks to daily infringe upon the civil liberties of underrepresented groups, thus causing social justice offices to have to focus on addressing and responding to the rise in student mental health issues and student activism that’s becoming the new norm of the collegiate experience. Additionally, there is, of course, the everyday invisibility that historically marginalized groups continue to face while trying to survive in a society that often relegates them to its margins. With all of this, how does one implement a social justice vision that addresses the white supremacist culture embedded within the fabric of our country, invites meaningful and fearless dialogue of opposing views, and creates opportunities for underrepresented groups to feel welcomed?

It wasn’t until I began to champion the philosophies of the late Howard Thurman that answers to these questions began to appear. In Jesus and the Disinherited, Thurman asked a provocative question regarding religious institutions that I found to be metaphorically quintessential to the foundational impetus of developing a framework for a social justice or multicultural office. Thurman wrote:

“The masses of men live with their backs constantly against the wall. They are the poor, the disinherited the dispossessed. What does our religion say to them? The issue is not what it counsels them to do for others whose need may be greater, but what religion offers to meet their own needs. The search for this question is perhaps the most important religious quest of modern life?” [1]

Thurman challenges and invites us to self-reflect not upon what we are doing as an entity, but rather what we are offering to communities that identify as the disinherited. It’s my argument that social justice and multicultural offices at higher education institutions need to establish visions that focus on what they are offering the communities they are purposed to serve. At Vanderbilt University, the Office of Inclusion Initiatives & Cultural Competence (IICC) offers a comprehensive service model vision that focuses on 5 competencies of A.C.C.E.SS.

A: Advocate

The first competency of A.C.C.E.SS. is to Advocate. To advocate is to intentionally advise and holistically support the needs and issues surrounding and affecting multicultural, international, and underrepresented students and groups. Being at a PWI that serves over 40 undergraduate multicultural organizations and has increased its efforts and resources towards social justice and identity, the obligation to advocate for students is critical, both academically, politically, and socially. Often times, the work of social justice is rooted in dismantling the negative representations, historical legacies, and institutional patterns and practices that have been perpetuated and upheld by generations of white supremacy. To advocate within the A.C.C.E.SS. model is to focus on celebrating diversity while confronting ideological frameworks that have rendered groups of people invisible in efforts of fostering a campus community of recognition and respect.

C: Critical Dialogue

The second competency of A.C.C.E.SS. is to engage the campus community in Critical Dialogue. Within the IICC office we offer a catalogue of cultural competency trainings, modules, and workshops to the entire campus community in efforts to deepen the level of authentic and inclusive dialogue across difference. This need for critical dialogue is key for social justice and multicultural offices to participate in because it is through this modality that the self-exploration of ideologies and identities can be addressed. The ability to dialogue promotes and nurtures the practical communication and leadership tools necessary to effectively navigate diverse communities with sensitivity, empathy, and confidence.

C: Culturally Relevant Programming

The third competency of A.C.C.E.SS. is to offer Culturally Relevant Programming. It’s imperative that social justice offices create programming initiatives for various identities of race, faith/religious traditions, nationality, class, gender, sexual identity, ability, and other social identities to meaningfully engage with one another. Relevant programming initiatives allow for multiple communities to be heard, opportunities for faculty engagement, personal storytelling, and the social/identity development of students to take place. The more we offer culturally relevant programming, the more we validate and humanize the voices and experiences implanted within our various campus communities.

E: Environments of Reprieve

The fourth competency of A.C.C.E.SS. is to offer Environments of Reprieve. What can be forgotten in the work of social justice is the space for people to kickback and take mental breaks from the racial, political, and academic fatigue often times presented. Social justice and multicultural offices should be identified as environments that engage in healthy wellness and well-being initiatives for their students. Offices need to be spaces where students don’t have to be victims of pretension or in competition with their peers. Social justice and multicultural offices should be a place where the full and complex humanity of each individual is acknowledged and authenticated.

SS: Strategic Success

The final competency of the A.C.C.E.SS. vision is to offer Strategic Success. As offices are charged with sharing the narratives of various cultures and dismantling the notions of white supremacy, we need not forget that practitioners are here to serve the holistic student need. Therefore, strategic success plans should be established in which offices collaborate with university and community partners to build a diversity network that offers learning and leadership opportunities for all students. This allows for underrepresented students to have access and exposure to opportunities that they would otherwise be slighted from because of the unfortunate realities of white supremacy (i.e. internship opportunities, exposure to job recruiters, and networking with key university alumni). Instead of students seeking out opportunities, our offices should be bringing the opportunities to them!

When Howard Thurman inquired about what religious institutions had to offer the disinherited, he did so with the mindset of re-envisioning what community means. Leading from a mindset of what your office is offering allows for underrepresented students to centered and validated within your office. We should be willing to offer them the access to opportunities, experiences, and resources that their human right has granted them. When we begin to do so, the work of social justice then becomes reality.

 

Bio

Greg Fontus (he/him/his) is the current Assistant Director for the Office of Inclusion Initiatives and Cultural Competence (IICC) at Vanderbilt University. He began working at Vanderbilt in June 2012 after graduating from the University of South Florida where he received both a Bachelor of Science in Finance and a Master of Education in Instruction and Curriculum. During his time at Vanderbilt, Greg has received certifications from the National Coalition Building Institute as a diversity and social justice workshop facilitator (Fall 2012), was named the Dean of Students New Professional of the Year (2012-2013), attended the Social Justice Training Institute (Fall 2013), and was named the OHARE Staff Member of the Year (2014-2015). Greg has conducted many social justice workshops for all parts of the Vanderbilt and Nashville community in hopes of contributing to a community where all people understand the importance of celebrating other groups of people. His passion for diversity and social justice stem from his desire to dismantle systems of oppression that have historically rendered people invisible. To connect further with Greg, please use the following:

[1] Howard Thurman, Jesus and the Disinherited, 3.