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Teaching Critical Leadership: Challenging Student Assumptions About Leadership

Posted By Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers , Saturday, March 10, 2018


Teaching Critical Leadership: Challenging Student Assumptions About Leadership


Author: Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers | Assistant Hall Director | The Ohio State University


Though we had been talking about the surface level things for a bit (how our days were going, what the weather was like today, etc.), I was surprised when the student in my office suddenly admitted that she doesn’t view herself as a leader. This surprised me, especially, because the student was in my senior seminar leadership course.


“I just don’t see myself as a leader like everyone else in the class. I work 40 hours a week as a manager at a retail store and I work as a Wellness Coach on campus part time... but, I’m not a member of all these clubs on campus or the president of anything.”


This is not the first time I am hearing this. When I asked a student why they ran for Secretary of a club rather than President, the student shrugged her shoulders and said “I’m not a leader like that.” Prior to that, a black, female student said that she wanted to get involved on campus but never had time so they just worked as an Office Assistant rather than doing all the campus clubs and “leadership stuff.”


Our society constructs leaders as being upper-class, extroverted, assertive white males in positional roles of leadership. Students with these identities have not had the chance to define what leadership means for themselves, and students outside of these identities have a harder time recognizing their leadership ability at all.


What are some ways that we can support our students to develop their own definitions of leadership that are in alignment with their values, strengths, interests, and personal identities?



Get Them to NAME Their Assumptions


When the student told me that they don’t consider themselves a leader, my first questions were “Who do you consider to be a leader? What personality traits do you think all leaders must have?” Immediately, the student began to list off qualities like assertiveness, extroversion, and a positional role on campus- all identities that the student does not hold. Ask reflective questions that will help your students to become critical of their views of what leadership can be. If time permits, consider meeting regularly with the student to see how their concept of leadership changes over time. If not, suggest that they have conversations with past supervisors and mentors about defining leadership, and continue to engage in reflection as they develop their understanding of leadership.



Hold Yourself Accountable for Creating an Inclusive Leadership Environment


We must focus our efforts on student leadership development for positional leaders and non-positional leaders. This is not a practice that many of us are used to, so it is important to reflect on our own identities and practice before we try to hold these conversations. Consider these questions:


(1)  What are your own personal biases about leaders? Where did you get those ideas from? Do these ideas align with your leadership style? How can you help students to develop their own leadership definitions when you hold different identities from them?


(2)  How often do you engage with the members of your Hall Council or residents in your building to talk about their leadership development? Are there opportunities for them to gain leadership training?


(3)  How are you collaborating with other offices in your division to gain knowledge of the needs of certain populations? Are there ways to create programs and initiatives in your building that help students to re-define what leadership means to them?



Expose Students to Different Ways of Practicing Leadership


For a long time, my concept of leadership was based in stereotypical masculinity. Though I wanted to be bubbly, humorous, creative, and empathetic in my professional life- I felt that I had to be assertive, strategic, and stoic to succeed. This changed as mentors provided me with books, films, and connections that changed my understanding of leadership. Eventually, I began to seek out my own leadership representation which helped me to realize that my style of leadership was valid! What kinds of leaders are we inviting into our Residence Halls to speak to students? What kinds of leaders do we constantly refer to in our work? How can we help to expose students to leaders who have similar identities, values, and interests to their own?




At my institution, we recently held our 2nd annual Sophomore Inclusive Leadership Retreat. As a facilitator, I got to work with two colleagues to lead a group of students through activities that helped them to recognize their privileged and marginalized identities, and develop their understanding of leadership. One student identified as Latina and was very vocal about her Puerto-Rican upbringing throughout the day. By the end, I was glad to hear that the retreat had helped her to reconsider her understanding of leadership.


She said: “You know that old quote ‘It doesn’t matter where you come from, it matters where you’re going?’ I think that leadership is often framed like that... but after this workshop I am realizing that it should be both. It really matters where you came from AND where you’re going.’”


Though leadership is rarely tied to social justice work, I think it is important to know that when we help students to define leadership for themselves, we are affirming their experiences, their backgrounds- who they are. This re-writing is an important component of social justice work that I know all students can benefit from.


Tags:  critical leadership  inclusive leadership  leadership  leadership stereotypes  social justice 

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Beyond Sighs and Heartbreak: White Allyship Fatigue vs. Racial Battle Fatigue

Posted By Aislinn Strohecker | she, her, hers , Tuesday, February 20, 2018


Beyond Sighs and Heartbreak: White Allyship Fatigue vs. Racial Battle Fatigue

Author: Aislinn Strohecker | she, her, hers | Lehigh University


The morning of October 2nd, I walked through my university’s student center and looked up at the television screens mounted on the wall. Seeing the news of another mass shooting, this time in Las Vegas, I let out a sigh. I did the same when Donald Trump announced his plan to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) initiative. And when the Minnesota police officer who shot and killed Philando Castile was acquitted of manslaughter. And countless times since.


It’s emotionally draining to read these headlines day after day. Activists fighting for social equity feel even more fatigue when it seems that despite their efforts, nothing has come to fruition. Though we all may feel some form of weariness, there’s a distinct difference between the experiences of people of color and of white people.  


From birth, I have experienced many privileges as a white, middle-class woman. One of the greatest privileges I’ve had is that I have not had to face systemic barriers as countless others have. People of color navigate a world full of bigotry, biases, microaggressions, (threats of) physical danger, and institutional racism. This happens day after day, in an exhausting cycle. Maneuvering in such a world takes a heightened sense of awareness and hypervigilance, which takes a toll on physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing. This stress and anxiety is labeled as black weariness or racial battle fatigue and can only be experienced by people of color.


While I may sigh at the disheartening news stories we see on a daily basis, my white allyship fatigue is nothing compared to black weariness. So how can I be an ally when I feel this way?


1.     Be a full-time ally

            It can sometimes be too easy for us as allies to distance ourselves from our allyship when experiencing fatigue, especially when we do not face systemic obstacles on a daily basis. But being an ally isn’t a part-time job where I come home and hang up my ally hat at the end of the day. My favorite definition of allyship comes from my institution’s LUally training program: “We believe that allyship is an active, lifelong commitment to showing up for and advocating alongside historically marginalized communities. By leveraging power and privilege, allies practice ongoing learning, embrace challenges, & own their mistakes in order to create a socially just world for all.” I’ve made a lifelong commitment to being an ally and I must continue to engage by examining my own privilege and whiteness, as well as working to eliminate oppression.



 2.     Listen and validate others


            I remember being in high school the first time I learned and thought about active listening. One of my teachers quoted Stephen R. Covey: “Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Though I realized I was often guilty of listening to reply, I didn’t realize the importance of the distinction and brushed it off. Then came college. Nearly all of the discussions related to social justice issues I’ve participated in during college have started with setting ground rules and expectations for each other during the discussion, and most of the time “active listening” or “listening to understand, not to respond” have ended up on the list. Participating in thoughtful conversations about current issues and how to address them gave me a newfound appreciation for active listening. Now, I often find myself silent during these conversations as I mentally unpack what has been said.


            As allies, it is imperative that we step back and actively listen to marginalized individuals and groups. This not only gives allies a chance to understand, but it gives targeted individuals and groups a platform from which to speak. And when people of color share with us their experiences of discrimination, institutional racism, or any number of barriers, and their resulting weariness, just listen. Listen without the intent to reply and validate what is being said and felt. Sometimes listening speaks volumes.


 3.     Learn and educate

            As a lifelong learner, it is my duty to continue to gain knowledge of inclusive practices. Many of us are privileged to have opportunities to learn about diversity and social justice issues, so take advantage of them. Take a class, visit your institution’s multicultural center, attend a lecture or forum on issues of diversity and equity, talk with marginalized folx about their experiences. Often times, I find myself staying silent in discussions of race and ethnicity, for fear of saying the wrong thing. Though it may be intimidating, allies should share their thoughts because even if we get it wrong, a friend or fellow ally can point us in the right direction and towards a greater understanding of the issue at hand.


            When possible, allies can educate others on racism, discrimination, and systemic barriers. It doesn’t have to be standing in front of a class full of students, it can simply be drawing attention to the issues that exist as we see them. For instance, at a recent family gathering, my cousin and I described the ways in which the yoga my aunt practices may be culturally appropriated. We had a thought-provoking dialogue on if “yoga is racist” (a news headline my aunt saw that sparked this conversation).


            On the evening of February 14th, I once again walked through my university’s student center and looked up at that same television screen on the wall. I felt my heart constrict at the news of another mass shooting, this time at a school in Florida. I thought back to that sigh I let out in October. As I reflect on these guidelines, I will still give myself space to sigh at the next headline that breaks my heart. I will take a moment to validate my own feelings, just as I did this week. It is what comes after my fatigue and how I cope with it that matters most to me. We have a lot of work to do as white allies, and my disapproving sigh doesn’t make a dent in that.


Tags:  allyship  black weariness  racial battle fatigue  whiteness 

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Three Ways to Support Students with Invisible Disabilities

Posted By Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers , Saturday, January 20, 2018


Three Ways to Support Students with Invisible Disabilities

Author: Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers | Assistant Hall Director | The Ohio State University


Last semester, I got the opportunity to interview a few students with invisible disabilities for a class project. In the interviews, I was astounded to hear that these students often feel erased in their daily experiences on campus.

One student talked about how embarrassing it was to disclose their invisible disability to others. Another student talked about the anger they face from people who assume they are abusing handicap parking spaces or other accommodations because they “look fine.” Many students even mentioned how their other identities (like race, sexuality, size, etc.) affect the way that people perceive their disability. For example, a black, female student I talked to often had to miss class because it was too painful for her to walk there in her condition. Though she presented her professor with doctor’s note after doctor’s note, he continued to ask for more proof. She wondered if he couldn’t bring himself to believe her because she was black, because she was a woman, or because he just couldn’t understand that her disability was invisible.

Typically, when we discuss disability issues in higher education, we center our conversations around access for students with physical disabilities. Though these conversations are still needed, and should be valued in our practice, we need to also explore how we can better serve students with invisible disabilities. Below, I have gathered a few starting tips on how to support students with invisible disabilities based off my conversations with these students, but I also highly encourage you to connect with the Office of Disability Services at your institution as they can help to provide you with even more information!


Tip #1: Educate yourself

The term “invisible disabilities” encompasses a whole array of disabilities that range from mental health disabilities like anxiety and depression, to medical conditions like Crohn’s disease, Lupus, or severe IBS, to learning disabilities. There are so many that I can’t list them all here; for this reason, it is necessary for us to continuously educate ourselves on how to best support these students.

Like all social justice work, the first step will always start with educating yourself about yourself. What is your present knowledge of invisible disabilities? Do you have an invisible disability? If so, how does that shape your practice? If not, how does that shape your practice if at all?

Next- it’s your job to listen. Read articles about how students navigate campus with depression or attend an event that centers students who have eating disabilities. Listen to students when they express their concerns about accommodations and figure out ways to create discussion around invisible disability in your Residence Halls.

Though Netflix and other media portrayals can be good to educate you on certain topics (shows/movies like 13 Reasons Why, To the Bone, and Atypical for instance) check the information you receive with critical, online responses by people with invisible disabilities. Connect with offices like Office of Disability Services and Mental Health Services before you utilize media portrayals like this for programs because they can often be triggering for people with these disabilities.


Tip #2: Make Your Practice Inclusive

When you host fun programs or retreats for your staff, do you typically choose bonding activities like laser tag or kick ball? How can these types of activities other students with invisible disabilities? Are there possible accommodations that you could provide for students with invisible disabilities for laser tag or kick ball? Or, can you have just as much fun if you do a Chopped-style cooking competition or a karaoke night that could be more inclusive? Are there ways to make my last examples more bearable for students who may have unhealthy relationships with food or anxiety about singing in front of others?

Though I understand it’s not possible for every event to be completely inclusive of all students every time, we need to think about how to practice inclusion in every experience we provide for students from staff meetings to trainings to bonding activities. The first question that each experience should start with is “How can we do our best to make sure that we are including all students in this space?”


Tip #3: Validate their Stories

Many of the students that myself and my group members talked to were hesitant to identify with the term “disability.” A student with severe IBS said that he felt like he was taking power away from students with physical disabilities by identifying himself with disability. Students with mental health disabilities have been told so often to “suck it up” and just “get over it” that many even wonder if their disability is real. Disability, in our culture, has been tied to physicality, and this binary of “physically disabled” or “able” has led to the oppression and erasure of many students.

Students with invisible disabilities have their own coming out process where they are forced to continuously disclose their disability to receive accommodation and validation.

When we are confronted with that moment, it is our job as professionals to offer comfort and assurance that their stories matter. It is our job as professionals to accommodate their needs as much as we can by being inclusive in our practice and continuously educating ourselves, our staff, and our peers about invisible disabilities.

So much of Residence Life is about creating homes away from home. If we are really dedicated to that mission, then we have to foster belonging for ALL students whether they “look fine” or not.

Tags:  access  disabilities  erasure  intersectionality  invisible disabilities 

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The Life of a Dreamer

Posted By Evita Oldenburg | She, Her, Hers | Delaware State University, Sunday, December 17, 2017


The Life of a Dreamer

Author: Evita Oldenburg | She, Her, Hers | Resident Director & Adjunct English Professor | Delaware State University

Co-Author: Tania Hernandez | She, Her, Hers | Student | Delaware State University


 Below is a personal account of one student’s experience as a DREAMer. We share this story from our region to honor Tania’s story, and to bring light to all undocumented folx regardless of their conditions and/or choices. We uphold the value of all people, hold the truths of multiple realities, and pursue justice alongside our undocumented students, colleagues, and community members.


       There is something beautiful about acknowledging and celebrating cultures across the world. College/University Campuses are encouraged to embrace diversity. It is important for institutions to know just who their students are and the challenges that they face daily or even nationally. An opportunity called the DREAM Act provided DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) students the chance to attend higher education institutions. These students, better known as DREAMers, have had outstanding success in their journey through college. However, DACA students are facing a variety of challenges now that revisions to DACA have been suggested in the United States. Challenge is nothing new for a DREAMer. Tania Hernandez is a student who is a DREAMer at Delaware State University. She shares her heartfelt story and why she advocates for her rights by lobbying when she can. Here is her story:

       “My name is Tania Hernandez. I am a 19-year-old freshman DACA student at Delaware State University. I am originally from the country of Mexico and was brought to the United States at the early age of six years old… one hour I was trick or treating with my friends, and the next I was dressed in warm clothing and on a bus with no clear destination. There I was in America where people around me spoke differently, looked and dressed differently, and did things differently than the people back home.

       However, I would only notice these differences for about a year. My parents told my brother and I that we would need to learn to act like the people around us because we would be here for a while and we needed to blend in. Soon, I began to forget everything about Mexico and learned how to live as an American. At school, we recited the Pledge of Allegiance every morning and had morning prayer. I began to speak fluent English and even began dressing like my new friends from school. A year later I could no longer see the differences; to me I was a regular American child.

        I learned what immigration was when I was in the seventh grade. In history class, we were discussing how the Europeans had immigrated to the new world and then one of my classmates said “yea, like Tania did.” Normally, I would have been alright with being used as an example, but from his tone of voice I could tell that this was neither a pleasant one, nor did I want to be the center of the example. I asked my teacher to further explain immigration to me after class and later that evening I went home and asked my mother if we were immigrants. She said yes and explained that we were one of those many families that the news crew kept reporting on when they were separated. From that moment forward, I felt like there was a giant bullseye marked on my back telling everyone that I was unwanted here. The issue was more like the elephant in the room all throughout high school. Many of my classmates suspected my status but would never have the courage to ask me upfront.

        My senior year, my world came crumbling down. Up until that point, I had been able to mask my status due to my approval for DACA since it granted me the opportunity to work and receive my driver’s license just like all the other teenagers. However, my dream career has always been to join the military and I passed all the requirements except one: my citizenship status. Recruiters wanted me to join their branch, since I had received an 87 on my most current ASVAB examination. They would take me through the whole pre-requirement screening and then be puzzled when the system would reject my social security number. They too were confused that I had a valid social security number but that because I was classified under DACA, the system would not clear me for enlistment. I was heartbroken five times, and each was harder and harder. I could not wrap my head around the fact that I was there willingly volunteering to serve and fight, so someone else’s child, husband, or brother would not have to. All I wanted was the chance to repay the country that had become my home and given me so much just a little bit by fighting to defend it and the freedom it offers. I close with this: allow me the chance to live my dream just like you have had. I want to repay this country that I have come to call home, because it is the only home I can honestly recall.”

       It is imperative that we understand our DREAMers, who they are, what they stand for, and why it is important for us to stand with them. Martin Luther King once said, “Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic. Power at its best is love implementing the demands of justice, and justice at its best is power correcting everting that stands against love.” The DREAMers deserve to be able to embrace the rights of the only Country they know. A Country filled with opportunity and that allows for the voices of others to be heard. The DREAMers are stronger with the support of others. Only together can we help a dream come true!


For more institutional context, please visit:

For more national context, please visit:

For resources, please visit: or

Tags:  DACA  DREAMer  immigrant justice  liberation  undocumented 

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Thoughts on Pronouns

Posted By Kevin Castiglioni | He, Him, His | Graduate Hall Director, Rutgers University, Wednesday, November 29, 2017


Thoughts on Pronouns

by Kevin Castiglioni


       I think about respect for trans people a lot, and much more recently since my sibling came out as trans a few years ago. In a Higher Ed context, I think a lot about pronoun use when it comes to a classroom setting or a setting where there is a facilitator. Often the person leading the group will ask the group to share their pronouns during the introduction. Announcing names and pronouns at the beginning of a gathering is always a complicated issue. On one hand, the facilitator asking everyone to share their pronouns is beneficial because it creates a space where the facilitator is seen as progressive and cares about gender differences. On the other hand, the vast majority of the people in the room are probably cis-gender and have most likely been exposed to mainly other cisgender people. The addressing of pronouns for them is either arbitrary or a way for them to be conscious of their own gender identity.

       What really troubles me is the experience that trans people could have with this. It could either make them feel more comfortable because they are in a space where gender identity is seemingly accepted, or it could out them. Trans people may not want to share their pronouns with a large group of people for fear that people may treat them differently or exclude them altogether. Although I do not think there is a right way or wrong way to approach this, I do think that much consideration must go into the process of asking a whole group of people to announce the pronouns they use.

       I also want to highlight “pronouns used” because many times “preferred pronouns” get brought up. The word “prefer” assumes that there are other pronouns that may be used on me and I am directing which pronouns you should use to refer to me. Saying “these are the pronouns I use” gives power back to the person who uses those pronouns. When thinking about the acknowledgment of pronouns by cis-gendered people in a large crowd it is critical to explore the effects that this may have for a transgender or genderqueer person who may be in the space.

       All of this being considered, I believe there are some ways in which we can be more inclusive around pronouns. For example, one way is for the facilitator to announce their pronouns when introducing themselves and state why they think pronouns are important. This allows them to be transparent when asking the group to share their pronouns if they would like, but reminds them that this should be a conscious decision. In the end, there is one clear reminder for me-- It is a privilege not think about your pronouns and to forget to say them as a result.


Kevin Castiglioni
Pronouns: He/Him/His
Graduate Hall Director, Rutgers University



Tags:  gender  genderqueer  privilege  pronoun sharing  pronouns  trans 

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Domestic Violence: A Community Solution

Posted By Brian Medina, Saturday, October 14, 2017

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and while it may be heavy to talk about, I think it important to support identities often hidden by harsh realities and pain.


You should know that I am a volunteer on the national crisis hotline, RAINN (Rape, Abuse, and Incest National Network). I actually just finished a 5-hour shift, assisting survivors of violence from all around the country and world who need to talk to someone about their experiences. I volunteer through the Online Hotline rather than the Phone Hotline, which means that I am using a chat window to communicate support and care. While it is certainly convenient to help someone while at home in my PJs, I have the added challenge to be without verbal or non-verbal communication to rely upon. It often means that comforting words such as “I am here for you” or “you are not alone” can make a huge difference.


The truth is that for many survivors of violence, self-blame can be pervasive. We all want to understand why someone would hurt us, and yet we often are left with few answers. Sometimes, a survivor of domestic violence will get their answer in the form of further pain. You may have heard of the ‘cycle of violence’ so often experienced by survivors. Attached to this post is one version that I pulled from San Jose State University that aptly demonstrates what is so challenging about the cycle of violence.


I have spoken to many who say, ‘why don’t they just break up with their partner?’ The reasons are complex, but it often comes down to this: when you love someone, you want to see the best in them rather than the worst. Add kids, financial dependence, and maybe a house or car to the equation and you can see how difficult it would be to simply walk away. Realize that domestic violence often isolates someone from their close friends and family, or at least hides the scars (physical or emotional) from them. People will often say, ‘their relationship is not my business,’ forgetting that all of us need one another to support us through life. Not everyone has the means or training to insert themselves into an abusive relationship, but there are ample resources available to those in need.


For starters, be a listening ear and an observant eye. Survivors may not share anything with you if they think they will be judged or blamed for their abusive relationship. There are a plethora of signs that a relationship isn’t going well. The obvious fighting or yelling may be telling, but there are plenty of perpetrators of abuse that are quieter with their control so they don’t raise suspicion. If your friend used to be able to hang out with you regularly but their partner now doesn’t ‘let them’ go out, keep that in mind. It may simply be that they want a private date night once in a while, but consistent isolation is surely a sign of inappropriate control.


Domestic violence takes time to develop. Rarely does an abuser show their anger and violence in the first few weeks or months of a relationship. It may take years for someone to groom their partner into expecting increased fear when things aren’t ‘how they like it.’ The challenge is that abusers can be quite nice and charming during the honeymoon phase, making it look as though they can genuinely change for the better. Apologies, gifts, even short term peace can all be a part of the cycle, only to be interrupted by some argument or small area of concern that continues to escalate.  The major eruption (physical, emotional, or otherwise) often creates an environment whereby the survivor would be in MORE harm if they tried to leave than if they stayed. Sure, they may be beaten, but at least they are alive.


If you think that someone has been experiencing domestic violence, it may not be the best idea to ask either party directly. Rather, read up on the literature and share it with the potential survivor. Letting them know that you are available to listen if they need can go a long way in building trust. Researching local crisis centers or counselors may be a more confidential avenue they would like to take rather than one that could involve friends or family. Often, a survivor will be controlled financially, and so simply moving out and getting a new place to stay isn’t practical or possible. Many crisis centers have emergency shelters for temporary use, and they can connect with lawyers or police if someone wants to file a protective order.


For some survivors, isolation means that they have to stay in the house most of the time. While some perpetrators monitor computer and phone use, it may be worthwhile for a survivor to know of the national domestic violence hotline:


Other helpful links are:


Not everyone will reach out online or by phone. It’s hard for a survivor to think of themselves as such, convinced that the person they first started dating may resurface if only they wait patiently. And while it is true that people can change, domestic violence situations rarely improve significantly. Some learn to manage through the pain or wait until the perpetrator dies or decides to break up on their own.


The more we learn to support one another in having healthy boundaries and relationships, the more an abusive relationship and its warning signs will be made clear. Families will work up the courage to confront the situation and provide housing and financial support for the abused. Workplaces will provide counseling to all of its employees at low cost and gently assist their employees when they see signs of physical trauma. Crisis centers and emergency shelters will be funded and staffed according to their needs, rather than scrape by to barely keep operational. Doctors, lawyers, and politicians will be better trained to understand cycles of violence, ensuring that immediate medical care, legal options, and institutional or governmental protections improve our society overall. And while it may never be easy, the route toward healing and recovery may soften and shorten. Perpetrators can be held accountable and survivors can be given opportunities to live anew, among loving and supportive people within their community. 


If you ever want to talk to someone or want more resources than what I've provided, let me know. My private email is





Tags:  dating violence  diversity  domestic violence  perpetrator  survivor 

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Navigating Accountability in our Allyship Journeys

Posted By Amanda Slichter (She, Her, Hers) | Lehigh University, Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Is it tough being an ally? Are you exhausted from calling out your well-intended cisgender coworker, your blatantly racist family member, or your institution’s weak efforts to make your campus more accessible? 

I know that I am. It’s okay if you are, too.

But allies don’t get a gold star, and we certainly don’t get to give up. 

Allyship 101¾ If we have an identity that warrants us privilege, we should do our best to leverage our words and actions to realign the scales by addressing harmful language and behaviors. It might be uncomfortable or “cause conflict,” but it pales in comparison to the discomfort of active oppression for those who hold the marginalized identity. Furthermore, is your response to the injustice causing the conflict, or does the inherent conflict lie in the harm being done by the oppressor? This is a rhetorical question, because your magnifying glass is not the weapon.

With that reminder about basic expectations for allyship as a verb, I do want to recognize that the time and labor invested in active allyship can feel exhausting at times. I’m not denying that. I’m simply asking us to be accountable in knowing the difference between convenience and comfort, as opposed to safety. I’m simply asking us to truly, fully, and publicly live out the values we tout.

Putting parameters on your engagement, or taking a purposeful period of self-care that allows you to re-engage at a more productive point? Absolutely fair.

Ignoring your aunt’s racial slur because it will make the conversation awkward? Not fair. There are a plethora of ways to handle this racism, and you know it. Mentally assess the situation, decide on your strategy, and be an accomplice in dismantling white supremacy. Remember, “The lines of oppression are already drawn… we’re in a fight, so be ready for confrontation and consequence.”(Indigenous Action Media, 2014).

I say all of this knowing that we will often fail. In the last year, I can think of specific instances along my own allyship journey that are marked by moments of shameful inaction. So when I ask for more accountability, don’t think that I exclude myself from this plea.

In fact, to move beyond the abstract and into something more tangible, I’m going to name three specific allyship expectations I’ve struggled to consistently uphold, summarized from this article. If you need an accountability buddy, feel free to join me in re-focusing your own allyship journey.

I’m going to ask friends and colleagues to hold me accountable if…

               #1) I fail to engage.

As mentioned above, stepping up and living up to our values is the crux of allyship accountability. White silence is violence, and human lives are not something to be complacent about. We have a lot of work to do, so engage in responsible call out culture by addressing the issues. But beware of one pitfall¾ The “all opinions are welcome and valid” troupe. Um no, some “opinions” are violent and do not deserve equal space and consideration. (Example: We are NOT here to debate the humanity or worth of trans+ folx. Shut that down.)

               #2) I fail to work WITH marginalized communities.

I need to stay in my lane, because most times it is not my truth to speak. As allies, we need to better recognize when to simply shut up and listen. This will allow us to work on genuine understanding before aimless action and misplaced intentions cause further harm. It’s about working alongside communities and lifting up silenced voices¾ not doing things “for them.” To check in with myself on this, I should internally ask, “What assumptions have I made about this community?” or “What voices or causes are already in place for me to amplify?” The last thing a grassroots cause needs is a well-intended white savior misplacing resources or drowning out community voices.

               #3) I fail to give credit.

Although this can be more challenging, a little extra thought or research goes a long way. If I don’t automatically remember where/who I got the language, idea, or resources from, I need to take the time to loop back and find the source. I can google it! Information is abundant, and whenever possible we must attribute the work to those who have done the labor. We should not co-opt a movement to re-center our own community’s needs. We should not profit off of black or queer creativity. We should not colonize intersectionality by erasing its roots in Critical Race Theory, or fail to give credit to Dr. Kimberlé Crenshaw. Instead, we should take the time to read up on the activists who have come before us. We should come up with our own intellectual property while supporting preexisting liberation movements.

In recent months, I’ve noticed this thirst for accountability more than ever. I want it for myself, for my peers and colleagues, for my institution, and for Student Affairs as an entire field. A lot of harm is being thrown around without consequence. In fact, simply calling ATTENTION to harm seems to hold more risk than actually CAUSING harm via racism, xenophobia, or transphobia. (I see you, Dr. Higgins.)

We can do better. Our colleagues and our students deserve to see accountability when harm occurs. To start, we need to hold ourselves accountable. How will you intentionally look inward to focus on this? Simultaneously, how can our institutions and colleagues be held accountable? There’s a lot more to explore here, and work to be done. How are you serving up justice and accountability, MACUHO? I hope it starts within yourself and expands into all the circles you inhabit.



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Tags:  Allyship  identiy  marginalized  privilege 

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[New Webinar] MACUHO Diversity Committee Presents...

Posted By Kurtis Watkins, Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Greetings Colleagues,

Join the MACUHO Diversity Committee as we launch a new initiative titled, "In Practice: A Webinar Series on Diversity, Inclusion, and Social Justice at MACUHO Institutions." Our first webinar will take an in-depth look into the new Inclusive Communities Committee (ICC) at Towson University. The ICC promotes initiatives for creating inclusive and welcoming residential communities by improving awareness, knowledge, and skills in the areas of social identity, advocacy, allyship, and cultural competency for staff, students, and residential communities.  


The webinar will take place on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at 2:00pm EST. This is a free webinar for all student affairs professionals, but you must register to access the webinar. See attached flyer for details, and please feel free to share with your colleagues

Free Registration Here:


Tags:  diversity  equity  inclusion  social justice 

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Stretching through the Mental Health Marathon

Posted By Amanda Slichter, Monday, June 5, 2017

Stretching through the Mental Health Marathon

By  Amanda Slichter, Lehigh University




At a time in the semester when the proverbial finish line is near, we sprint. We are moving as fast as we can, for as long as we can. We race against deadlines, and we hustle to every last banquet, meeting, and program. Whether it’s on spreadsheets, through housing software, or in our most comfortable pair of closing shoes, we are laced up tightly and putting in WORK, y’all.

But did you stop to stretch? Did you give grace to others trying to stretch?

Before this metaphorical end-of-year race, how did you take care of yourself? Did you prepare your body and mind for the marathon month of May? Or, is it possible that your performance of self-care has fallen flat?

In many ways, the cycle of a year can be visualized as a mental health marathon with many parallels to running a race. Here’s my quick synopsis before the longer tangent:

Ideally, (1) everyone has stretched beforehand and (2) is willing to pass the baton if they’ve gotten a head start. The race would also be more inclusive if (3) we removed inequitable roadblocks, and (4) lifted each other up regardless of our respective PR times. In this mental health marathon, your pace doesn’t determine your self worth. And *disclaimer* that’s where this analogy fails. Because we are all just trying to get there. Lastly, (5) every race needs a cool-down. How are you going to Retta-and-Tom-from-Parks-and-Recreation “treat yo self” this summer and give folks space to do the same?



We tell our students the importance of wellness, and we’ve exhausted words like “holistic,” “destress,” and “mental health.” But do we stretch ourselves to take our own advice? Or if we have achieved the eternally sought-after, contentiously regarded state of “work/life balance,” are we stretching ourselves to share that privilege? Because just as with most facets of life, privilege comes into play here.

That’s why this is relevant to MACUHO’s Diversity Committee. If I haven’t outright named it, let me be clear now. Broadly, access to self-care and the perception of that care is going to be impacted by our identities and power dynamics. More narrowly, many us struggle with (or proudly embrace) an often unnamed facet of our identities— our mental health conditions. (Credit due here.)

Knowing this, have you passed the baton? If you have privilege in this arena, are you assuming that your colleagues do as well? Although we all need to be better about checking our assumptions in general (myself included), this busy time of year implores us to be mindful of mental health conditions. Pass the baton by supporting coworkers’ time off and respecting their self-care strategies. Pass the baton by calling out the ableist microaggressions that are thoughtlessly socialized into our vernacular, like “crazy,” “shoot me,” or “wanted to kill myself.” (Credit and much more depth can be found here.)

Lastly and most importantly, in order to pass this baton, you have to first recognize that someone might be behind you in this race. Mental health conditions are often invisible, so you might not see them behind you. But here is one assumption you can make— please assume someone needs your allyship. Work to make spaces more inclusive and less ableist for them.



We can advocate for self-care, without shaming those who struggle. We can celebrate someone’s day off without throwing shade at another coworker who refuses to take a sick day. We can like or retweet someone’s #SAfit post without judging someone for their lunch meeting or their late night at the office. Ideally, a community of professionals should respect folks’ various journeys and strategies— not compete over which mile marker each of us is at. Maybe you haven’t started stretching for your mental health marathon yet, or maybe you’ve suffered a serious injury (figuratively or metaphorically). No one should shame you for that. Share your mileage and your progress if it motivates you, but also respect that that your mental health marathon is unique and can’t be compared to others.



Another question to ask: How can your office, department, or institution stretch itself to make self-care more realistic? Sometimes when thinking of mental health as a personal journey, we brush aside the institutional barriers that may be impeding progress. These roadblocks, if you’re still humoring my marathon analogy, can take a runner out of the race. If a campus has too many of these barriers, marginalized runners might find another campus that’s easier to tread. Maybe that campus has better healthcare benefits for counseling, therapy, and prescription treatments. Maybe another institution has more robust offerings for wellness programs, or a general culture of care that posits employees’ mental health as integral to the fabric of student success.

Chief Housing Officers, are there roadblocks in place preventing your team from practicing and role modeling self-care? Examine both the written and unwritten rules about comp time, flexible schedules, working from home, etc. Re-envision an office that has more options in place that are inclusive of those with mental health conditions.

If you’re a supervisor, now is also a good time to ponder whether your supervision style has been an unintended road block. Are people on your team feeling supported as just that… people? Or have you unknowingly impeded progress on their mental health marathon?



At the end of any race or marathon, it’s wise to do cool-down exercises. How will you reward yourself for reaching the end? Take time to do whatever works for you.

But there’s a small catch here… the end is a myth. This mental health marathon is an ever-repeating cycle of self-care that requires dedication to your wellness. We might run through all these stages, or just some. It’s fluid like that. For many of us, it’s hard and imperfect work that can either be impeded or accelerated by those around us.

After this marathon, you won’t get a medal because there is no finish line. The milestones of progress on your journey might not always be apparent, but somewhere along the route, I hope you build resilience for yourself and find solidarity in others.



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Tags:  acceptance  best practices  love  self-esteem 

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Reclaiming Spaces to Reaffirm Ourselves

Posted By TIARA DEGUZMAN, Monday, June 5, 2017

*I write this article in Camden, New Jersey, which was once home to numerous Native American tribes, including the Lenni-Lenape. We recognize your struggle, and will fight to honor you.

**I write this article in Camden, New Jersey where numerous enslaved people were forced to work under Marmaduke Cooper and other slave masters. We recognize your struggle, and will fight to honor you.

I’ve recently been thinking about our relationship with space as marginalized people. If you are disabled, you grew up in spaces that deny the existence and validity of your body. If you are black, you are used to navigating spaces that demonize or fetishize your body. My question here is a healing one: how can we go about reclaiming spaces that have historically been oppressive to us?

This was the question I asked recently at the 2017 MACUHO Inclusion Summit, which took place at Delaware State University.

I attend a predominantly white institution in South Jersey, so as I walked on the historic grounds of Delaware State, a historically black university, I immediately felt a sense of deep peace. I felt comfortable. I wasn’t afraid.

This space, I knew, was one of the few in the US that was created for my body and just knowing that gave me a sense of freedom.

However, the land wasn’t always meant for my freedom. It was originally meant for my destruction through the institution of slavery.

Yes- in the early 1700s, Delaware State University was a plantation where a wealthy family owned numerous slaves.

I couldn’t believe it.

A land that was once home to whippings, depression, injustice and chains could turn into a space where black students learn, where black students dance, and where black students are freeing their minds and spirits.

That experience was a beautiful reminder of how there can be restoration if we build spaces for our bodies ourselves.

Today, I encourage you to reclaim space. Acknowledge the history of the space that you exist in, and create a way that other marginalized people can thrive there. For you, that may mean creating a club, starting a non-profit, holding a webinar, or actively pushing for equity in your workplace.

But, that can also mean starting an online support group, or simply acknowledging the history of oppression that exists where you stand.

At the summit, keynote speaker Catherine Kellman, the Assistant Director of Residence Life at Syracuse University, asked us to start off the day by acknowledging and honoring the Delaware Native American tribes that founded the land we were on.

Before the Constitution, before slavery- Native Americans were murdered and driven away from the land that they cultivated. We honor that land by acknowledging that history, and by making it our mission to connect in our struggle, and thrive as much as we can.

Because the truth is- when we reclaim space, we reclaim pieces of ourselves that were once lost. We reaffirm the fact that we’re here and we matter, and that is truly the best way that we can practice self-care.

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Tags:  African American  Black  development  dialogue  diversity  ethnicity  identity  language  multicultural  privilege  race  social justice 

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