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Affordable…….Not Free

Posted By Kenneth Peifer, Sunday, March 5, 2017


Affordable…….Not Free
By Kenneth Peifer

             I have heard the range of comments and sneering towards first generation students from low socio-economic areas (SES) who are struggling with affording their college education. The comments range from, “Students need to stop complaining and suck it up,” to, “All this generation wants is things handed to them for free,” and so on. After hearing this for nearly 6 years as a residence life entry level professional, I tried to pinpoint where this thought process originated. For the students of this generation, it is not something they have time to sit and reflect upon. It is a daily struggle in life. Trying to go to classes, work part time, maintain a quality GPA, and secure a job in 4-5 years to pay debt can seem insurmountable.  I tried to figure out why these comments and remarks bothered me so much. It then became clear, not only do I work with these students every day by supporting and mentoring them to be successful, but it is because I am one of these students just a few years removed. So what was the difference? Why am I hearing these comments so frequently now?

            Every day I work with students who are crumbling under the weight of massive debt that they are compiling in order to get an education. Some students leave school with debt large enough to be a down payment on a home, and cannot obtain a job that is equitable the to that they have attained. Where are the leaders and mentors to help these students along the way? How much of a disservice is being done to students by not having conversations about the field they are pursuing or the efficacy of their degree in accomplishing their goals? I feel these conversations happen, but in most cases it may be too late. At the same time, who wants to crush someone’s dreams? Who wants to tell a student that the field they are passionate about does not provide the opportunities they are looking for? Or that it may not be realistic? Every case varies, but finding the balance when working with first generation students is important.

            In our current climate of higher education, return on investment for students is key, but even more valuable for first generation students from low SES environments. Students deciding between a public or private institution can be the difference between tens of thousands of dollars in costs every year. Institutions spend significant resources to recruit students from all over the country and provide the benefits for attending their institution. My concern is that not all of these institutions possess the resources and staffing to truly provide what these students need to be successful. Yet they recruit ferociously so beds can be filled and budgeted residency can be reached. This is the ultimate institutional dilemma - business vs. higher education. If this balance is not found it can be detrimental.

            The majority of the students I work with who are first generation students who come from low SES areas are minority students. It begs me to question if race has to do with this negative commentary? This could be isolated to my experience but it seems when I work with students who hear this commentary they are minority students. Because of this commentary these minority students feel they cannot win and that it would be best to give up. This leads to these students exiting the institution due to not feeling comfortable or validated in their educational pursuits.

            After a long reflection, I feel that it is a combination of a multitude of factors that causes this feeling toward first generation low SES students. I only listed a few factors that I experience most in my day-to-day work and I am certain there are more that are experienced depending on the educational environment you work in with students. My hope is that as professionals and as institutions that work with students every day that we can do better for the arrival and retention of first generation low SES students. 


Tags:  diversity  privilege  race  White 

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10 Topics on Diversity for 2017

Posted By Kurtis Watkins, Friday, January 20, 2017


MACUHO Diversity Committee


The year 2017 is officially here and marks a time of reflection, resolution, and insightful projections for the next 365 days. Our country is rapidly changing and with every new year we move closer to an imminent tipping point that will dramatically shift our national demographics. In three years, the US Census Bureau predicts that 50% of all children under the age of 18 will be from a “minority race or ethnic group.” Within higher education, cultural competency is the new institutional currency and conversations around of diversity will continue to be at the forefront for administrators and the campus community. Here are 10 areas that the MACUHO Diversity Committee is watching for 2017.


1. Undocumented Students:

In 2012, President Barack Obama’s administration introduced a program that allowed undocumented students additional protections and opportunities in higher education. The Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) has had a major impact on providing access for thousands of otherwise ineligible students. However, with a new administration on the horizon there is a heightened concern if DACA will continue to exist. Many institutions are moving in solidarity as sanctuary campuses, signaling to undocumented students that they are supported. Other schools have eschewed the designation, including several states that have not supported DACA since its inception. Still, several regional institutions such as Saint Peter’s University have responded purposefully by providing advocacy and resources for undocumented students, while working intentionally to erase the stigma and barriers to access.


2. Students and Staff Mental Health: 

Numerous universities have implemented behavioral intervention or case management teams that seek to support students in crisis; yet many campus community members are not trained to help a student in a mental health crisis. Schools such as the University of Pennsylvania have established a task force on student health that includes the provost and faculty senate in collaboration with student counseling to improve mental health awareness and response. External organizations such as Active MindsAmerican College Health AssociationMental Health America, and the JED Foundation are leading the conversation on mental health support and awareness, and are active collaborators with many of our universities. One area that will continue to be discussed in 2017 is how do we as professionals operate with self-care and support when our own mental health is in jeopardy; and how will administrators support both students and professionals with this new awareness?



3. Implicit Bias: We all have an implicit bias that affects our decisions and how we interpret the world we live in. When individuals and communities are adversely affected because of implicit bias, the results can impede campus unification efforts. Bias prevention and bias response teams like at Lafayette College, highlight strategies to address bias and typically involve several campus partners. Institutions must provide spaces to confront bias through meaningful programming along with student, staff, and faculty training. Resources such as the Implicit Association Test can be used as a starting point for measuring individual bias.



4. The Words We Use: Language is not fixed. Students, scholars, activists, and others are redefining the language we use to articulate issues on equality, inclusion, and social justice practices. This evolving verbal landscape requires a comprehensive use of welcoming language that avoids stereotypes, evades jargon, and eliminates microaggressions. The words we use are being reconsidered in all facets of our institutions. ADA compliance officers implore that we look at the person first, not the disability, and to use language that is person-centric. LGBTQ+ thought leaders and human resources continue to shape the evolving language in describing identities within a rich community. Student affairs professionals must be engaged in the dialogue that is taking place within our communities around race, gender, and other critical areas, but must equally be aware of how language can be used to divide our campuses. We also cannot use our voices as professionals to continually marginalize communities and claim negligence in our conversations, meetings, presentations, social media, or other areas. Likewise, there is a need to be kind and understanding to individuals who may not have the full knowledge and vocabulary to articulate critical concepts.



5. Food Security: For an increasing number of college students, the ability to have consistent meals is a luxury they simply cannot afford. Student hunger has become a significant issue as students navigate financial decisions based on growing tuition cost, books, fees, transportation, and reducing or eliminating meal plans when possible. Many institutions are joining an emerging movement of supporting students who experience food insecurities or gaps in meals through campus pantry programs. The College and University Food Bank Alliance (CUFBA) partners with over 400 member institutions, including several in the MACUHO region. At schools like Montclair University and Rutgers University, students are very appreciative of the service.



6. Non-Traditional Students: According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) non-traditional students are classified as students who work full-time, are enrolled part-time, have financial independence and/or meet other criteria. Yet the population of non-traditional students entering our institutions at places like Shippensburg University are rapidly increasing, thanks to an increased community of veterans at schools like the University of Pittsburgh, and working professionals returning to schools like Rider University for continuing studies certificates. Non-traditional students must be fully embraced and welcomed to our campuses, with the support services they need in order to be successful. Reconnecting with point #4 on language, the term non-traditional student is one that is in flux and may soon be replaced as criteria and definitions shift, and criticisms of its categorization stigmatize students.



7. Class and Affordability: Study after study has indicated the value of obtaining a college degree for social mobility and career attainment. However, a person’s socio-economic status (SES) can affect if they go to collegewhere they can go, and how they ultimately navigate the college system. A person’s SES, though no fault of their own, can potentially eliminate the one opportunity that can improve their lives and change their class status. Students with low SES and first generation college students have the most to gain with a college education. When access to college is linked to affordability, institutions limit the students that can attend due to financial limitations. Many students finance college through loans and the ability to secure loans and repay debt is a challenge that far too many students face. Our government and organizations must continue to keep access to higher education as a top priority.


8. Intersectionality: Working directly with students requires an understanding of their multiple identities including ability, age, ethnicity, gender, race, religion, sexual orientation, and social economic status. A truly student-centric institution will, through its mission and services, offer multi-levels of intentional support and strategies for every student. Higher education must continue to provide high impact practices and inclusive experiences on campuses through residential education, reformed policies, student advocacy, affinity groups, and ongoing campus-wide initiatives. Progressive institutions are working towards inclusivity in areas such as gender inclusive housing at schools like Stockton University, and Bloomsburg University; and gender inclusive bathrooms at schools like Ramapo College of New Jersey. Where as race and sexual orientation tend to dominate conversations on diversity, we must equally consider religion, ability, and other factors that resonate with our students.



9. Social Justice: Students will continue to react to current eventscampus culturefundamental rights, and politics as a means of voicing their concerns and seeking justice. With student activism at an all-time high, colleges are looking for ways to support and manage student dissent. Schools like New Jersey Institute of Technology and several other regional institutions are keeping pace by either creating or modify existing policies around free speech and students right to protest. Yet as vibrant as student activism has been nationally, there is growing movement to curtail demonstrations, even banning social justice as a campus practice. Students and administrators will need to consider where they stand on social issues, and be willing to have meaningful conversations on both ends of the spectrum.


10. MACUHO Resources: The MACUHO Diversity Committee is developing new resources on diversity education, programs, and more for our members to utilize effectively on their campuses. Visit the link below to view the MACUHO Diversity Resource Guides at

 Attached Files:

Tags:  African American  best practices  Black  body image  challenges  civic engagement  communication  dialogue  diversity  engagement  ethnicity  identity  language  LGBT  multicultural  organization  privilege  race  social justice  stereotype  training  White  who am i  words 

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Food For Thought

Posted By Devon Marie Purington, Monday, February 29, 2016

Stating the Obvious:

Students come to campus with different backgrounds and experiences that give them various levels of understanding of what it means to have privilege—or to lack it.  Some students have been exposed to the reality that there are people who benefit from the structure of our society while others are oppressed by it.  Others live blissfully unaware, not yet recognizing their own position in the social hierarchy of society.  Knowing this, student affairs professionals often want to rush in and educate the students all about various forms of prejudice, discrimination, and privilege.  While I, too, want to challenge students’ current patterns of thought and open their eyes to social issues that they don’t yet understand, I also recognize that it is very important to consider the way in which students are introduced to these concepts.  Before planning an educational experience, it’s important to go back to the basic questions: What do we want students to understand about prejudice, discrimination, and privilege?  Why is it important that they understand these things?


Establishing Goals:

The specific intended learning outcomes may vary based on the students, the time of year, the climate of your campus, etc.; however, the over learning goal is likely rather simple: We want students to (1) understand what prejudice, discrimination, and privilege look like in today’s society (2) recognize their own identities, prejudices, and privileges and consider how these concepts shape their view of the world (3) make choices in their words and behaviors that include others and (4) advocate for the target population when they identify as a member of the privileged group.  Those goals, though they may sound a little formal, boil down to the simple idea that we want our students to be self-aware and respect other people. It’s important that students achieve these learning goals so that our college campuses can be places where people are respected, differences are celebrated, and intolerance is confronted. 


Common Mistake:

Because student affairs professionals know what they want students to learn and they know the importance of the goals, they often rush to share all of their tremendous knowledge and passion with the students.  As allies and advocates, student affairs professionals often push to bring students up-to-speed so that they are all well-aware of the social structures that are in place and so that they feel their responsibility to advocate for social justice.  Hey, there’s no judgment here! I get caught up when I am passionate, too! And we’re talking to college students! They’re adults in an institution of higher learning.  Surely, they can understand, right?

Well, some of them can, yes.  But many of them are just not ready to hear that they were born with privilege.  Those students who have heard of privilege before often feel accused or a sense of guilt that makes them uncomfortable when they hear the word.  Those students who are unfamiliar with the term find it hard to digest.  How do we ease their discomfort and make the conversation palpable?


Bite-Size Success:

While there are likely countless learning strategies that can break down the concepts related to identity and privilege for our college students, I’ve found one particular program series, which I’ve called “Food for Thought,” to be successful in reaching students.  This program is a monthly event held in a heavily trafficked public area of the campus with a unique theme that highlights a different aspect of identity and privilege.  The program’s format is simple; we provide students with small amounts of information regarding the theme, ask students to engage in a series of questions related to that topic, and reward them with the small incentive of a piece of punny candy.  For example, when we discuss size-ism, we share information about what size-ism looks like in day-to-day language and behavior with the incentive of whoppers and miniature candy bars.  Other identity factors include:  Sex (Pay Days for Equal Pay Day), Sexual Orientation & Gender Identity (Skittles to represent the LGBT Flag), Socio-economic Status (100 Grand Bars to discuss class), Ageism (Now & Laters to discuss age discrimination), and Education (Nerds & Dum Dums to discuss access afforded by education).

Because a student can interact with a staff member for a two or three minutes to gain a little bit of information and reflect on a question, students are generally happy to engage as they pass through our common spaces.  Many of them don’t even realize that we’re offering them free candy; rather, they are intrigued by the topics and willing to offer up a couple minutes to chat. Because of the setting and the style of the program, the conversation becomes more casual and less intimidating.  Students also tend to find the information about real life examples of privilege in day to day life particularly interesting.  Their interest allows us to offer them with questions that challenge their perspectives, invite reflection, and provide opportunities for transformational learning.  

Students on our campus are much more willing to engage with the topic and take a few moments to reflect on their own privileges, biases, and oppressions than they are willing to attend an advertised hour-long program.  Understanding and accepting that reality has been important in reshaping how we think about our learning strategies; we are now better able to meet students at their level and create brief activities with which students can relate.



A one-size-fits-all model for educating students about privilege doesn’t exist.  The cheesiness of “Food for Thought” may not be embraced on your campus.  However, I think you will find that if you can reflect on the types of interactions with which students are willing to engage, you will be able to use those best practices in your efforts to break down the conversation around privilege into more manageable pieces so that you can move students along towards a culture of social justice.  

Tags:  privilege 

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REC Committee Student Story Teller Series 1

Posted By Liz Tuturice, Thursday, February 18, 2016

The REC Committee kindly shared their Student Story Teller post with us.  Please read two amazing Res Lifer's stories below!

Hannah Bowman's story

“I grew up in Columbus, Ohio with my mom. It was just the two of us, so things weren’t always easy, but deep down, I always felt privileged. Since we had each other, nothing seemed insurmountable. Two weeks into my freshman year at WVU, my mom was diagnosed with early-onset Parkinson’s disease and everything I knew turned upside down. “Real adulthood” hit me like a ton of bricks and trying to balance being a provider, care-taker, and college student felt like a never-ending amateur hour. I’m not ashamed to admit that I struggled with just about everything that came my way. At the end of the day though, however difficult things became, I still had what mattered most.

When I became an RA at Bennett Tower, I found my second family in my boss and coworkers. Very few people are as lucky, and it struck me that this was my chance to make a difference. Whether it’s making blankets for the homeless shelter or fundraising for medical research, I feel as though it is our responsibility to advocate for those who cannot do so for themselves. There’s an expression I love that says “Do for a few what you wish you could do for many.” The fact is that everyone deserves someone who cares about them and I am all too honored to have the opportunity to try and give that back to the community who gave me so much.”

Hannah Bowman

Resident Assistant

West Virginia University - Bennett Tower


 Johnny Kocher's Story

“One of my most cherished memories of being in the military while being in Student Life was two years ago when I returned from six weeks of military duty in Oklahoma. A lot had changed at West Virginia University while I was gone and I was sure my RAs had continued with business as usual not giving me a second thought halfway across the country. How much could students really care? However, when I walked into Bennett Tower at 11:30pm after the 15 hour drive from Ft Sill and my RAs ran to me and gave me hugs telling me how glad they were that I was back I, with tears in my eyes, knew I was home and that these RAs were my family. After hours of catching up I went to bed that night thinking how I had no clue how much they appreciated what I did for them through my military service and how much I had missed all of them.”

 “The strength of every soldier is the support they receive from their family and friends and the strength I felt from my RAs that day motivates me to this day. Be sure on this Veterans Day to take a moment to thank a Veteran coworker or Veteran student on campus, you will never know how far a simple “thank you” will go.”

Johnny Kocher

Residence Life Specialist, West Virginia University

1st Lieutenant, 1/201st Field Artillery

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“You Are the Dream!” - Don't get caught daydreaming

Posted By Keywuan Caulk, Friday, January 29, 2016

Dear Reader,

This past January 18, 2016, commemorated 30 years since the recognition of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s national holiday.  We celebrate this day in honor of a man who served, fought, guided, and encouraged people through what we commonly call the black struggle for equal rights, or better labeled, the Civil Rights Movement.  I honor all of those who stood with and pushed forward the goals of Dr. King, those who we read about, and those who we will never know their names in order to honor aloud.  This movement was one that turned the tables of power, strength, and equality.  Although we still work to achieve equity, people of color have progressed to heights unseen in American history while setting examples for rights and freedoms in foreign countries.  The work is far from done, in fact, we are in some of the deepest issues yet. Below is the manuscript to my keynote address, given at Rutgers University - New Brunswick (Busch Campus) that addresses the servant leader.  This is a command to wake up the dream inside of you and call forth the servant you are.  Be encouraged to serve others with love and meekness, while assuming an appropriate amount of boldness, bravery, and aggression to fight against the injustices of systems, ideologies, and the world’s perspective of privilege.  Remember that you are the dream that Dr. King so eloquently spoke about.  Put forth action with your dream so that you do not have to label it a daydream, rather a reality!

Yours in social justice passion,

Keywuan J. Caulk

 Title: “You Are the Dream!” - Don't get caught daydreaming

 “We shall overcome someday; …

The Lord will see us through someday; …

We're on to victory someday; …

We'll walk hand in hand someday; …

We are not afraid today; …

The truth shall make us free someday; …

We shall live in peace someday;

Oh, deep in my heart, I do believe,

WE shall live in peace someday.”


Thank you Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley for composing such a song of hope, strength, vision, and emotion.

Let us ask each other these questions in response this evening:

What is it that we need to overcome today?

What is it that we need the Lord to see us through?

What will we have victory over someday?

Are we walking hand in hand?

Is it true, are we NOT afraid?

We know the truth of most matters, are we living and practicing freedom?

Where is the peace that we are striving to live in?


Real questions that require critical and thoughtful answers.


Tonight, we are a room full of servant leaders. People who have desire and passion to give unto others first.  To do in order to make someone else more comfortable or happy.  

The leader in us wants to set the example of what being a servant looks and behaves like. We are a room a servant leaders!

It's cliche to talk about dreams when we reference Dr. King.  So, let us discuss the reality of a dream. The first step is to acknowledge that we dream and have vision because we see greater and we want better.  Better from current format, better from ancient traditions and old policies, and better from what is right now to a manifestation of what could BECOME!

We should opt to acknowledge the injustices of today and the struggle of our society to adequately support families living in poverty, care for those without health insurance, to strengthen the safety for our young men and women of color, to find a balance of compromise between government and sexuality, to hear the cries for those fighting wars for our country, or cities, and individually.  See, war is not only on a battlefield, it is in our minds as well. Dr. King said, “skin may differ, but affection dwells in black and white the same.”  He also said, ”I must be measured by my soul, the mind is the standard of the man."  Your soul is the core of you, the depth of you, the passion of you, the FIRE in you.  Anybody, here, have a soul inside of you? If your mind is the standard, your mind is the place of set expectation.  The place where you get your command from, your values, your example of know-how and to-do.  

Unity is key among us. If we can get on one accord, one mission, and have ONE mind, love and service can be exalted.  Each of us has a responsibility and contribution to love and service as servant leaders.  If you’re NOT putting in on the cause of forward motion consider yourself taking away from strength, from change, from equality and equity, from love and happiness.  Dr. King encouraged us by saying, “Our slogan must not be burn, baby, burn, it must be build, baby, build.” Build yourself in knowledge, shower yourself in courage, stand in YOUR TRUTH!

The TRUTH of you will show through the ACTS you do.  If Maya Angelou could say, “if someone shows you who they are believe them”, that means you have had to do something to SHOW something.  Today, own your space in this thing called ACTIVISM.  Activism is simply participating in the fight or the plight of progression.  Dr. KING said it best:

“If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill, be a shrub in the valley.
But be the best little shrub on the side of the hill.

Be a bush if you can't be a tree.

If you can't be a highway, just be a trail.

If you can't be the sun, be a star.

For it isn't by size that you win or fail, BE THE BEST WHATEVER YOU ARE!”

Take your place in progress. Dr. King possessed a quiet influence of leadership.  He led the masses with such conviction, yet he never needed to be outrageous.  There was a boldness in his character, confidence in his charisma, and attraction to his delivery.  What is your place in the progression of mankind?  What is your place in the uplifting of your peers?  How do you stand when you stand with others?  How do you show up on the scene?  

People will criticize you for OWNING who you are, for building strong character, for fighting against privilege and oppressive systems, for loving beyond the hurt of history, and for STANDING IN THE TRUTH OF LOVE as Reverend King taught us.  It’s important to know that “in your life’s blueprint there should be a deep belief in your own dignity, your own worth, and your own somebodiness.” (Dr. King, “What is your life’s blueprint” speech)  YOU GOT THIS and can’t NOBODY MOVE YOU!

"Yes, if you want to say that I was a drum major, say that I was a drum major for justice, say that I was a drum major for peace, I was a drum major for righteousness, and all the other shallow things will not matter." - Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

This is a charge for SELF-ASSESSMENT, COMMUNITY CONTRIBUTION, for MOVEMENT, for JUSTICE, for PEACE, for LOVE, for YOU!  Take your place in progression.  YOU BELONG HERE!  It’s our time to stand and be heard.  

If not now, when?

If not you or me, then WHO?

“Remember, a vision with NO action is only a daydream.”

·         Don’t get caught daydreaming!

Thank you!


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Using Stereotypes to Start Diversity Training

Posted By Erik Tiernan, Sunday, September 27, 2015

Difficulties in Diversity Training

Diversity training is difficult. Students can bond and work through many issues, but many discussions about diversity can veer into arguments, insults, and bigoted remarks. We don’t expect this from student leaders like Resident Assistants; but when a student explains something from his or her experience and someone dismisses it, the conversation can completely break down.

“I want you to present about diversity,” my supervisor tells me during Resident Assistant training.

“Sure, what part or parts do you want me to talk about?”

“All of it, just a diversity overview.”

“I have an hour and a half max I couldn’t talk about all of diversity if I had a year.”

This was my assignment. I was a little apprehensive. Okay, fine, I was  a lot apprehensive. So I thought back about some activities I did last spring during my course on race and ethnicity (it was called Group Experience a more apt title is Advanced Topics on Race and Ethnicity) and when we had Safe Zone training. I still wasn’t sure where to start. I had all of diversity to try to discuss.

Stereotype Exercise

After giving it some thought I decided to go with something easier to intellectually digest- stereotypes. I chose stereotypes because it provides a good starting point for discussing diversity with students, it goes broad when talking about social interests, and it is a concept I don’t need to teach anyone. I really wanted to talk about white privilege, but that takes more time than I had. The other concern was that I really wanted to handle this topic well and I did not think it would go well during training.

So, the plan was to discuss stereotypes. The activity involved writing about stereotypes and a discussion. I created a list of identifiers: Black, Latino, Asian, White, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans*, Heterosexual, Female, Male; wrote them at the top of large pieces of paper for an easel and randomized them throughout the room. Then every RA and GA was given a marker and distributed throughout the room. They were instructed to write every stereotype they could think of in the time allotted. I began with more time as the students began somewhat uncomfortable and settled on 45 seconds a paper after the first three.  After we finished, I collected markers and had everyone sit while I began a discussion.

I started the discussion asking about how they felt and read off a summary of each paper. Then I asked how realistic these were, if anyone knew people who did not fit into these stereotypes, and where the stereotypes came from. The discussion moved into the difference of knowing or thinking a stereotype and acting on it, then we talked about things to do when a resident says a stereotype. These techniques ranged from asking questions “what do you mean? do you really think all [people of the identified group] behave this way? do you know someone who doesn’t fit that description?”  to pulling a resident aside and addressing the behavior one on one. We also talked about ways to educate students and programs the RAs can create to talk about these issues. The returning RAs shared stories of incidents and interactions they have had about these situations.

We did more, but the discussions you’ll have will match your students and their views, experiences, and discussion styles. One of the best things to do for this exercise is to lay down ground rules. I had three rules for the staff: 1) This is confidential, 2) This is a safe space/ no judgment for any questions or statements, 3) Everyone participates, diversity comes from everyone and having people not participate takes away their voice and an opportunity for others to learn from you. In a group meeting for the first time you may need to add or tweak rules (forcing participation can backfire- I did this during a weekend retreat in our training).

For diversity discussions, workshops, and seminars the rules or expectations play a much larger role than I think many would give credit. Setting clear expectations informs students about acceptable behavior. Ensuring confidentiality and removing judgment helps encourage more honest and open conversations. I focused on participation in the training to help facilitate additional understanding and bonding between the students. For different groups focusing on other goals may value something else or add requirements. It is important that you follow the directions set before the students; not judging is relatively easy for staff, but this includes physical reactions to comments made by students.

Breaking it Down

The best thing for this exercise is that the foundation is laid for later conversations and trainings. Stereotypes are not the be all, end all of diversity discussions; however it helps get students in the right frame of mind for these discussions. In addition, it is something more comfortable for students to discuss rather than diving straight into lived experiences or white privilege. Stereotypes provide a stepping stone to discuss other diversity concepts. This allows us to make sure that the message is being understood and that individual programs are something students can learn from. The individual pieces build upon each other throughout the series. As an added bonus, a discussion like this can be used by the RAs in programs or community building activities with their residents.

Tags:  diversity  learning  stereotype  training 

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Creating a Multicultural Organization

Posted By Dustin Rollins, Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Creating a Multicultural Organization is often the goal of social justice educators in public and private corporations or organizations today. In many housing organizations this is difficult due to the complex nature of the various functional areas within the organization having different daily tasks and projects that need to be completed.

Often, Residence Life and Education units of the housing organization tend to provide educational programming, workshops, guest speakers, and expectations for staff and residents that help move us toward an inclusive environment. This, however, is not enough when it comes to building a multicultural organization where students feel welcomed, invited, and a sense of true belonging. On a regular basis our students interact with facilities staff, information technology staff, accounting and finance staff, desk staff, and assignments staff among others. In addition, the environment must start to be built among the staff within the organization which then allows us to better educate students and create high-impact inclusive practices.

I would challenge all areas of the operation to think about ways they can be more inclusive and attentive to diversity and social justice practices in their work. Below are a few ways that readily come to mind.

Within the Department and Among Staff Peers

  • Require an onboarding orientation for all new full-time staff on basic concepts of diversity and social justice within the first two months of employment.

  • Regular (monthly, quarterly, etc.) professional development opportunities around issues of diversity and social justice.

    • A semester or year-long series on race, ethnicity, disability, veteran status, gender, sexuality etc. that meets once per month for an hour or two.

    • Frequent webinars or guest speakers that are open to the department staff. Allow staff time away from their desk to attend.

    • Service learning opportunities around issues of diversity or social justice in the university or local community. Schedule time for the department to participate in large or small groups.

  • Provide opportunity for dialogue around current events or social justice topics affecting community members and /or the university.

  • Create an online space (e.g. on Microsoft Sharepoint, e-learning platforms, through departmental website, etc.) where resources can be posted regularly for staff to read or engage with as they have time or desire.

  • How do we recruit and promote vacancies to underrepresented, qualified candidates?

  • Does the organization have a diversity or social justice statement of principles?

  • Are staff members encouraged to set goals each year that increase their multicultural competence?

Through Departmental Units in Service to Students

  • Administrative Services, Assignments, and Operations Functional Area

    • Assess the viability of sliding scale pricing for those with financial need.

    • Examine the pricing tier of various facilities.

      • Can only certain economic classes live in newer or more amenity-laden facilities? Is that fair to students overall?

      • Is there a new or different way to spread the pricing over the current inventory so as to allow flexibility by student need without losing revenue in the big picture?

      • Can some of revenue lost be re-captured through the Conference Services and guest housing operation during the summer?

    • Is your contracting and room selection process designed to work with students outside of the gender binary? Do you maintain gender neutral options?

    • Is your contract and room selection process accessible to those with disabilities without them physically having to come into the main office?

  • Facilities Management Units

    • Are facilities management professionals aware of diversity and inclusion concepts?

    • If facilities have been retrofitted to simply meet ADA requirements, are they truly easily accessible for all students?

      • Are all of your facilities ADA compliant? Should they be – legally or philosophically?

    • Are facilities inviting to an array of students in their design and the products or furniture used?

    • Are walkways, breezeways, and sidewalks navigable for students with various disabilities?

    • Are electronic lock systems set up for students who may not have full use of their hands?

    • Does signage within the buildings only speak in heteronormative of gender binary terms? Can this be addressed?

  • Front Desk Operation Units

    • Are materials at the desk available in alternative and multi-lingual formats?

    • Is the cost of processes (e.g. lock changes, package shipping, loan keys, etc.) readily available and transparent to students; in various formats?

    • Are services available to help students get packages to their room if they can’t carry them?

    • Is furniture available in the lobby that is universal in nature so that those with various ability levels can easily utilize them?

  • Finance & IT Services

    • How do students know that they have been billed? Is the method in which they find out accessible to an array of ability levels?

    • Do we offer payment plans for students who may not have the funds to pay an entire semester’s rent at the beginning of the term? If so, how do we advertise it?

    • Are the computers and computer programs needed for the operation to function available in accessible environments and formats?

    • Do budget processes discuss the need to be inclusive in the overall operational process? Is there money budgeted for various inclusion methods, development activities, facility needs, etc.?

  • Marketing Unit

    • Is the website navigable for those with varying levels of ability?

    • Does the website and other social media products utilize inclusive language and take into account various identity groups, stereotypes, and perceived bias?

    • Does the website have a page or section devoted to the department’s commitment to diversity, inclusion, and/or social justice?

      • Is there a link to the university’s method of reporting bias incidents?

    • Are pictures and graphics on the website representative of the diversity in the department and university’s community?

    • Are efforts made to market to non-traditional identity groups regarding housing contracting, offering information about living in campus housing, or the policies of the housing organization?

    • Can the website be viewed in multiple languages?

  • Residence Life and Education Unit

    • Are staff members – professional and paraprofessional – trained around issues of diversity and social justice regularly?

    • Programming should reflect more than basic identity based programs

      • Who should be doing these programs? Professional staff? Graduate staff? Undergraduate staff?

    • Does a member from the unit serve on the campus Bias Incident Response Team?

      • What is the bias protocol?

    • Is restorative justice and social justice principles instilled into the conduct process?

    • Can some RAs or other paraprofessionals receive additional, expertise training in diversity and social justice?

    • Is there a staff member in the unit coordinating social justice initiatives and education?

    • Are opening and closing procedures inclusive of varying identities and abilities?

    • Is Social Justice a focus in any of the living-learning environments and communities?

Overall, many of these questions, suggestions, and processes are incredibly complex within a bureaucratic and multi-layered organization. Not all campuses will be able to embrace or utilize all of the practices mentioned above, however, any steps that can be taken are steps that will enhance your organization and move diversity and social justice forward.

Creating a multiculturally competent organization is always a work in progress. If the work were easy, it would have been successfully completed many years ago without need for this blog post. It takes the work of the whole department and for far too long it has rested solely on the shoulders of the Residence Life Educators to ensure an equitable environment. Without shared responsibility, we may not reach the goals our students need us to reach to best serve them.

Tags:  multicultural  organization  social justice 

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“From Diversity to Civic Engagement”: Creating dialogues through social issues

Posted By Nu'Rodney T. Prad, Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Presented by Nu'Rodney T. Prad from Temple University 


Recent events occurring around the country ranging from racialized protests to homophobic practices have sparked dialogues to begin on college campuses. Such events have led many housing administrators to equip Resident Assistants or other designated staff with appropriate training(s) for having higher level conversations on diversity and components of social justice. As we are working with millennials, some of our students may not be as culturally savvy than others, and could perhaps communicate the existence of a colorblind society due to personal experiences or privileges associated with their identity.  Additionally, the role of technology has increasingly presented challenges in being able to formulate conversations that do not meet the maximum of 140 characters. The main question at hand involves framing how these discussions, dialogues, and programs are presented.


The occurrences noted in the introductory paragraph provide a platform to speak with staff and students about methods on voicing their concerns about any injustices they witness as well as becoming more civically engaged. Identity development is an important portion of the work that student affairs professional and Resident Assistants do to further accentuate life skill development for students.  Framing dialogues in a civic engagement manner will allow individuals the opportunity of having an open mind when engaging with one another about sensitive topics involving traditionally marginalized groups. Moreover, the consequential events leading to a broad range of media coverage can be utilized as practical case studies or staff meeting topics to begin untangling social issues that students encounter on a daily basis.


Diversity and social justice work comes along with a level of being uncomfortable when discussing provocative topics. It is through consistent dialogue (framed in a constructive manner) that staff will have the necessary tools to have diverse and unbiased conversations with students. Furthermore, we should remove a level of the ‘veil’ in which causes individuals to be politically correct at all times. This expose risk of being unauthentic as well as not deriving to the root of the problem. The caveat of having such authentic conversations is grounded in establishing sufficient ground rules and maintaining a level of objectivity.


Lastly, I want to point out that many of the aforementioned protests and legislation have embarked students to insert themselves into the political arena through voicing their opinions to either university or government officials.  This gives credence to a resurgence in how we are incorporating “self-advocacy” into many of our programming models or educating on life skill development. The events that have unfolded in the United States over the course of the last year provides a foundation towards the developmental work we do as practitioners. Perhaps a useful solution in thinking and teaching about social justice and diversity concerns involves preparing a civically engaged student. As such, a student that is aware of civic principles will generally be able to understand the basic levels of oppressive systems at play in which have driven a need to assembly and voice concerns involving power and privilege.

Tags:  civic  civic engagement  dialogue  engagement 

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#MenInSA – When the Path isn’t Clear: Being a Black Male in Student Affairs

Posted By Sinclair P. Ceasar (Ceasar) III, Tuesday, March 24, 2015
Updated: Tuesday, March 24, 2015

I had the hardest time writing this article. I didn’t want to make general statements about all men in student affairs, and even wondered why we needed a month. Among all this talk about male privilege and male dominance, it felt it a slap in the face to my female identifying colleagues. Then I realized how refreshing it is to hear someone voice issues and stories I can relate to.

Young. Black. Male.

I don’t know about you, but I often have this tiny voice in my head telling me I’m going to get fired or incur a lawsuit (or both) if I make a wrong move. Part of it stems from being a Black male who chooses to work at predominately white sectarian institutions. My awareness of my identity is inescapable. Inevitably colleagues and individuals in other departments will ask me how I’m really adjusting, or if I’ve encountered any issues in town.

Some children hear war stories and tall tales from their grandparents. When I was growing up, my grandfather’s main message was to be careful not to make waves or upset white people. It was a hard lesson, and my grandfather wasn’t telling me this during the heart of the Civil Rights movement – it was more like during the late 1990s. Time passed, and at some point I heard stories about friends and family members being racially profiled, discriminated against, and even threatened because of their skin color. It didn’t feel so safe being a Black male anymore. I encountered direct accounts of racism during my 3 years volunteering in Oregon (I was called the N word and told I was anomaly compared to the other Black people “who eat watermelon and act ghetto”). It didn’t help to return to Philadelphia to watch news reports laden with Black male suspect mugshots.

As part of my professional development, I began to work harder at not becoming the “Angry and Scary Black Man” that would end up losing his accolades on the account of intimidating everyone around him or making a wrong move out of anger and feelings of oppression. Nevertheless, those feelings of oppression – whether valid or not – have come up when I hear things like “Sinclair, you’re sassy” or when folks tell me I’m overly assertive or tone deaf. It’s nothing new to me – my tone that is. Many of the African Americans I grew up with were direct and honest. So, when colleagues check me for my tone, I feel like I’m just being me – it’s not personal. But it sure as heck feels personal. I’ve even been met with looks and scoffs of disappointment by other Black colleagues who don’t approve of me watching shows like New Girl or having had a dating history of dating white women. Sometimes, it doesn’t feel safe to just be me. Yes, even in our field.

Sexversations or #canweNOTgothere

Conversations with colleagues are one thing. Being a Black male in Student Affairs presents challenges when I have private and developmental conversations with students. I’m vigilant of every word that comes out of my mouth because I don’t want to end up having a parent call and complain about me offending their student. I’m confident others can relate to this fear. The most daunting is when students broach the topic of sex. I’m tempted to call a co-worker and have them on standby in case the conversation becomes too uncomfortable or I begin to hear that voice telling me one wrong move will get me fired. It shouldn’t be this way. I’m a trained professional with positive intentions: to help get our students to where they want to be. Yet, I’m often afraid of getting called into my supervisor’s office because I took a conversation in the wrong direction. It doesn’t matter if it’s a male or female student complaining about the private details of their roommate's relationships - the student’s request is for help. During my career, I’ve heard many student accounts of uncomfortable sexual situations they need help navigating.

Barriers in Connecting with the Female Gender

I've felt excluded because of my gender, and it's seem to have occurred often in a seemingly predominately female field. It has usually manifested when my female staff members have chosen to confide in my co-workers or bond better with my co-workers than me. I shouldn't take it so personally. I’ve tried to combat this with having guy’s nights of my own whilst feeling hypocritical and exclusive. I had a difficult time adjusting to my new living arrangements at one particular job assignment. All of my co-workers were women. It got the point where I blurted out, “Why doesn’t anyone text me to hang out?” One of my co-workers explained she wanted to spend time with her boyfriend. The other co-worker said she wasn’t used to hanging out with guys on a 1:1 basis. These were people who I’d done more ice breakers and team builders. On top of that, we experienced difficult and heartbreaking situations together. So, why then did I feel like the unapproachable and off-putting bachelor who only wanted platonic and light-hearted fun with his co-workers? Some may say the issue was they didn’t want to mix work and personal time. If that was the reason, they could have said that rather than the explanations they provided.

I’ve faced similar issues at a different job assignment where it felt uncomfortable for a few of my co-workers to spend alone time with me. One day I accepted they didn’t want to mix business and personal lives, when two of my female co-workers started hanging out exclusively and came back to the office with tons of inside jokes. I couldn’t help but think the common denominator in both instances was me: a male.

At the End of the Day

Being a male in Student Affairs can burn at times. But I get to create connections with countless male students with ease. I’m not worried each day about being taken seriously or not get promoted because of my gender. I don’t worry about colleagues calling me sweetie or undermining me because they don’t think I’m qualified. There are benefits that come along with my gender.

Moreover, it’s going to take me realizing I continued to get hired based on my competence and achievements, and that getting fired or in trouble is contingent on poor performance, not on the color of my skin. It’s going to take continued self-awareness, honesty, and a willingness to move past my barriers to foster and sustain connections in order to effectively serve my students and build trust with my various teams. I just need to believe all this each and every day.

Note: This article was originally published on the Student Affairs Collective (November, 2014) as "part of a month long series #MenInSA, which looks to highlight men working in student affairs. Contributors of diverse backgrounds weigh in on what it means to be a man in student affairs, the challenges and opportunities, and their personal experiences within their career. For more information, check out the intro post by Sean Eddington."


Tags:  Black  challenges  diversity  issues  learning  male  new professional 

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Diversity in the Classroom

Posted By Liz Tuturice, Friday, March 20, 2015
Updated: Friday, March 20, 2015


As a first time course instructor for the students looking to be Resident Assistants for the next academic year, some of the course discussions have been more “touchy” than others. Recently we discussed the topic of “Privilege, Race and Identity”. The campus I am currently at has a very diverse student body with a handful of international students, the class fits this mold. During the class period one particular activity really seemed to help the students grasp the concept of stereotyping. The students were in a heated debate about what certain individuals may look like. I took this as an opportunity to show them that one person’s view of another may vary significantly from another’s. I asked the students to help me “design” what a guy from a certain location would look like. I started by asking them to give me a location of where he was from and what race he was going to be.  I had them tell me; his height, build, what clothing he was wearing, from there we jumped into what belongings he kept with him at all times. They discussed electronics, credit cards vs cash and one student stated the person would have a weapon. Instantly one gentleman was offended. I took this as an opportunity to have them express where their thoughts come from. The gentleman who stated he would have a weapon was not from the location the class selected, he had only visited once or twice and based his opinions off of what others had told him. The gentleman who was offended had lived in the location for some time and felt that this was not an item he would have constantly, maybe just once in a while. I explained to the class that this activity was done to show that everyone’s views of one another may differ. From an outsider’s perspective, your view of something is going to be different than someone who may have been engrained in the culture for a while. I could see the light bulbs going on in their heads. I explained to them that as RA’s it will be their job to encourage residents to not believe in the stereotypes they may be used to, but rather dive in and get to know who other students are as people not as an individual of a certain color or someone from a certain place. Once you label someone you negate them from being anything else so negate the stereotype, not the individual. 

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