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Inclusion: How I Am Reminded It’s a Mindset

Posted By Raymond D. FeDora, III | he, him, his, Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Inclusion: How I Am Reminded It’s a Mindset

Author: Raymond D. FeDora, III | he, him, his | Wilkes University

 

I committed to writing this blog post months ago while attending the MACUHO Summer Summit* and I initially thought, “Ok, October is coming out month. I am gay. This makes sense. I can write about the coming out experience.” However, as so often happens in student affairs and higher education, a monkey wrench was thrown into that plan as a recent experience diverted my attention to a new topic that inspired me in a whole new way.  

Just a few weeks ago, I participated in a University Conduct Board where two international students, one from Saudi Arabia and one from Kuwait, were facing conduct charges after being involved in a physical altercation with a town member. According to the students, this “townie” yelled at them from his vehicle as they were walking down the sidewalk. They yelled back and the townie got out of his vehicle and pushed one of the two students. This resulted in a physical altercation that ended with two staff member witnesses watching the students kick the townie who was on the ground. The townie got up, jumped in his vehicle, and drove away.

In this case, however, I could not help but consider how these students’ social identities and experiences informed how they reacted in this situation. I thought to myself, “Gee, I wonder if this has ever happened to them before? I wonder, if these students were in their home countries, how would they have reacted? Been expected to react?” In that short time with these two students, I could not help but wonder if that would have happened to me. In what ways does my privilege as a white man protect me from experiencing something similar? As a marginalized group, I can only hypothesize what must have been running through the minds of these two students. Would I have responded in the same way?

During the deliberation that took place among the committee, it was clear that these students’ cultural and social experiences were not something the committee had initially considered. We debated for well over an hour about how these students’ international status and socialization should impact our committee’s decision on whether they violated the student handbook and should be sanctioned. I was adamant in helping the committee better understand how these students went into autopilot when they were threatened and that autopilot is influenced by social and ethic identities and experiences. Now, please let me be clear, a student’s past experience, socialization, or cultural beliefs are not a carte blanche free pass to do whatever they’d like on campus. However, in periods of high stress or when a student is provoked, we have to take their cultural and social experiences into account in explaining how they react to certain situations.

I asked the students about their experience. Turns out, these students are verbally assaulted by “townies” on a regular basis being told, “Go back to your own country!” among some other nasty, racially-charged epithets. The remorse on their faces and in their behavior was obvious as they went on to tell us their parents were upset this happened to them and they had their parents’ full support. I probed further, asking about how they would have been expected to react at home. They shared that they were confident the law would have supported them in their claims of self-defense.

I am no expert in Suadi and Kuwati cultural norms, but I can ask. Our diversity and inclusion efforts are incredibly visible in our campus celebrations, cultural food nights, and winter holiday events that try so hard not to be Christmas events. Safe Zone programs and Diversity Leadership Certificates are important initiatives on campus that demonstrate our institutional commitment to supporting and educating students from all backgrounds. However, when the chips are down, are we really ensuring that all of our interactions are sensitive to inclusion and equity? This conduct hearing was a stern reminder that we cannot turn our inclusion and equity efforts on and off when it is convenient. We must be focused on always asking ourselves how a student’s marginalized identities impact this situation and how is my privilege going to erase that experience from consideration?

I do not have an answer based on research and verified through experimentation and scientific practice. I can only encourage you to ask yourself each and every day, in each and every student interaction, “How is my privilege impacting how I am viewing this situation? How has power and privilege marginalized this student in front of me?”

 

*Which if you’ve never been to a MACUHO Summer Summit, you really ought to – it was cool to see how the leadership of MACUHO functions to direct the association forward!

Tags:  conduct  culture  equity  inclusion 

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A Reflection: My Queer-Asian Identity

Posted By Ian Christopher D. Ulep | he, him, his | Rutgers University, Sunday, September 30, 2018

A Reflection: My Queer-Asian Identity

Author: Ian Christopher D. Ulep | he, him, his | Rutgers University

 

College Student Affairs. Hello ResLifers! My name is Ian, and I am currently in the College Student Affairs Ed.M program and serving as a graduate hall director at Rutgers University-New Brunswick. Coming to Rutgers, I’ve been amazed at the cultural diversity and inclusion efforts present here. I didn’t even know about the existence of specific cultural centers aside from aggregate ‘Multicultural’ centers beforehand. I am extremely grateful to have found a campus that is ready and intentionally staffed to support my queer-Asian identity.

On Being Asian-Pacific Islander. Growing up, I’ve had a consistent battle of how to identify. Per United States identifications, my Filipino-Chinese identity counts as Asian, and Asian only. This means every standardized test, application, and formal communications should reflect that. In recent years, I realized that submitting to that mentality mutes so much of my upbringing.

My mom was born in the Philippines, and immigrated to Hawai’i as a child, where she met my dad. Together, they moved to Virginia after my dad became a proud member of the United States Marines Corps. In Virginia, they molded my childhood homes into places of Hawaiian & Filipino culture. We were very much in contact with all of our relatives still on Hawai’i and had found a small population of Pacific Islanders in Virginia. These are the people who have influenced the Ian Christopher D. Ulep that will enter the field of Student Affairs in 2019 (i.e. #HireMe2019).

Filipino Identity. Through various accounts that I’ve heard through conversation, or even light psycho-social studies, Filipinos are always navigating an extended identity crisis. Some call us the Blacks of Asia, the Latinos of Asia, not Asian at all, and the list goes on. These are to say, that while there are similarities in our cultures, we [relatively] don’t have an individual culture, but a culture to be solely compared to other cultures. In all, we as Filipino-Americans are usually given a narrative or mold to adhere to. We as Filipino-Americans must learn our heritage to give voice to our own authentically Filipino counternarratives in American society. I am also Chinese, which is widely regarded as a definitive Asian identity [if not the identity that all other East Asian identities are compared to]. In the ways that I was raised, I see my Chinese identity as an extension of my Filipino identity, in ways similar to how the Hawaiian culture and landscape have influenced my family dynamic. These identities have informed what it means to be authentically Asian by being able to define it as an individual identity from what American society solely classifies as Asian, Pacific Islander or the [insert non-Asian identity] of Asia.

Queer Folk. The one salient identity that I did not grow up with was my queer identity, which I have proudly owned since 2014. I don’t believe I would have found the passion to explore my Asian-Pacific Islander identity if not for my queer identity. It didn’t come without risk and coming out was the first time I told myself to live authentically. As I’ve continued my personal development journey, I have found so much healing and self-empowerment in standing up to dominant and oppressive narratives that are so widely perpetuated in media, social roles & beyond. Providing counternarratives as equally valid narratives is what I strive to do.

The Old Dominion. Who I am is heavily influenced by those around me, and as such, growing up in Virginia is also a part of who I am. I’ve always seen myself as the other. APIDA (Asian-Pacific-Islander-Desi-American) SA role models were almost nowhere to be found in the South. In a way, I couldn’t connect being Asian-Pacific Islander, and being in Student Affairs until I became involved with professional networking organizations. That is why representation matters; that is why mentorship matters. I couldn’t see the connection until after my undergraduate institution paid the way for me to find these organizations, and subsequently the racial identity groups within them. While there is a lot of work to be done in being able to recognize the plethora of identities and experiences in both the APIDA and LGBTQ+ mega-aggregate groups, we can start that work [for our students] by providing authentic counternarratives and genuine allyship to further their own identity development.

 

Tags:  Filipino-Chinese  Queer 

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The African American Resident Assistant

Posted By Reverend Najee Evans | He, Him, His | Centenary University, Tuesday, August 21, 2018

The African American Resident Assistant

Author: Reverend Najee Evans | He, Him, His | Centenary University

 

Centenary University is a small institution located in Hackettstown, NJ that is known nationwide for its Equine program. Because of it being comprised of about 44% white students, and African American students only making up approximately 8% of the student population, it can be considered a predominately white institution. Due to these statistics, it is often evident that there is much culture missing from the historical foundations of the educational makeup at Centenary.

Like many campuses, African American students unfortunately experience systematic racism and outright discrimination, as well as economic and social stereotyping that can have an effect on their success. However, the purpose of this post is to not discuss the ill-starred circumstances but to highlight the “in spite of” moments I’ve personally experienced. In September, I will begin my senior year with a 3.7 GPA, will serve as a Lead Resident Assistant, Transfer Counselor, Head of Club and Organizations, Chapel Service Leader, and Chaplain for the Black Student Union. While I may have frequently faced racism and stereotyping, I refuse to let those events hinder my growth as a student, a leader, and a person.

Without going into too many specific details, I can recall more than one instance where I’ve received pictures and screenshots of myself being called out of my name by the most degrading of terms used towards Black and African American students. If I had to categorize what I felt during those moments, it was not only belittling, but also embarrassing. To think that we still live in a society where many refuse to accept our diversity and embrace the wonderful attributes our different characteristics bring is unsettling. But times like these allow students of color to unify and fill the voids that we notice within our schools. We take on leadership positions to gain a seat at the table to make a difference. We stand up and point out inconsistencies that may have otherwise gone unnoticed, until someone listens and works with us to make a cultural shift.

One only has to glance at the news or social media to witness what goes on with police brutality, racism, cruel treatment of people of color, and oppression. I would lie if I said that while in school I have faced similar situations. While attending college and shopping or dining in Hackettstown, I have dealt with micro-aggressions and various forms of intolerance. Surprisingly, these experiences have not destroyed my college experience. Yes, I have been discouraged, disheartened, felt devalued and dismayed, but I have never given up. Some students have chosen to leave Centenary because of experiences like these, however I have not. I have not dropped out because I choose not to give those infiltrated with ignorance any power. I am determined to be a strong, educated, and successful Black male. I learned how to love myself, because self-love protected me when I was called names or made fun of. Black students are intelligent, driven, and passionate. They share the same qualities as other students on campus, but are often forced to deal with the obliviousness of those around them when they choose to attend schools outside of their race and culture. I do not regret attending Centenary, for it has forced me to experience living outside my comfort zone and to poses integrity and grit when it is the hardest thing to do. 

Tags:  leadership  microaggressions  PWI  racism  resident assistant 

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The Benefits of Lavender Housing

Posted By C’era Michelle Banks | She, Her, Hers & Dr. Evita Nicole Oldenburg, Ed.D | She, Her, Hers, Monday, July 23, 2018

The Benefits of Lavender Housing

Author: C’era Michelle Banks | She, Her, Hers | Delaware State University

Co-Author: Dr. Evita Nicole Oldenburg, Ed.D | She, Her, Hers | Delaware State University

 

 “Diversity is being asked to the party, but Inclusion is being asked to dance.”

-Verna Myers-

Imagine finally getting accepted into college after four years of hard work, trying to survive through high school, and all of the things that today’s high schools encompass. My smile was wide, my stride was confident, and my excitement was unstoppable walking onto my college campus for the first time. Becoming adjusted to a new atmosphere is always challenging, and I welcomed every challenge.

However, I did not expect that the first battle I would encounter would be in my new living space. Residence Life is usually the first stop of college life. I received my room assignment, met my Resident Assistant, and my roommate. Everything was going great until my identity as a Lesbian and support of the LGBT community had my roommate “shook.”  I remember walking into my room with my friends during visitation, where I endured long gazes and glares from my roommate and her friends. I am an open book and have always been welcoming to any questions about my identity. When answering these questions, I thought hardly anything of it, since being a Lesbian has always been my life and a part of my identity. In a new environment, you ask questions about people. You might ask where they are from, what their interests are, or other subjects to get a better understanding. However, when it comes to answering questions that they themselves would not even answer, that is when the conversation must take a step back.

Even the programming put on by my Resident Assistant was not relatable to me. Although the Resident Assistant had diverse programs, they had nothing geared towards the LGBT community. I figured the mission of the college talks about diversity and inclusion, but there were not any diverse or inclusive programs for the LGBT community. For me, in the words of Verna Myers, “Diversity is being asked to the party, but Inclusion is being asked to dance.” More and more, I had feelings like I did not belong. Therefore, I decided to take the opportunity to become a Resident Assistant. In that role, I could leverage change and help others who went through similar experiences. I went on to have some of the most notable and engaging programs that became traditions to host on campus.

Thankfully, this college had its own multicultural center— a critical piece to have on a college campus. When most people hear the term “multicultural,” they assume this is a center for race, ethnicity, religion, or country of origin. Although it includes this, multicultural centers embrace all people from all backgrounds and all communities. Therefore, this is a center where everyone can feel a sense of belonging and connectivity. At this college, I was on the Strategic Planning Committee to implement Lavender Housing. Lavender Housing is housing geared towards the LGBT community. On most college campuses, Living Learning Communities have become prominent to put groups together and create inclusive spaces. Lavender Housing allows LGBT students to have a safe space to live where they do not have to alter who they are just to live in housing. It provides an actual atmosphere that allows you to be who you are. Rather than debate, protect, and defend, you are able to educate, uplift, and befriend others like you. Lavender Housing allows for a peak in enrollment and inclusivity by fostering a place to live, learn, and grow. It is a place to help students show who they are.

I soon graduated and became an Assistant Resident Director at a college in the South that was Safe Zone certified and continued to advocate for Lavender Housing. My hope is that Lavender Housing be implemented at all colleges and universities. Being a gay, black woman, I have faced and continue to face an array of obstacles and challenges just for being myself. I seek to encourage comfortable living spaces for students in the LGBT community who already face the pressures of college, the backlash of critics, and the closed-mindedness of some of their peers. I seek to create these spaces so that students can have a place of tranquility to call home while in college. Being a Safe Zone certified professional, I have encountered countless students who are struggling with their identity, who are petrified to be themselves because of the responses they have received or those who feel they will not be well received. There needs to be more conversations centered on preferred names and not just pronouns. If someone prefers to be called Melanie and not Mike, then this should be comprehended. Now, if someone wants to be called Krypto-Chronic Spartan that might be pushing the envelope. Ultimately, there are students who should not be put inside of a box and who are in need of a safe space.

I am now a Resident Director at an HBCU and I was recently recertified in Rochester, New York by the OutAlliance program, which I highly recommend. In the future, I want to be able to implement Lavender Housing to create a safe space for LGBT students. It is my strong recommendation that institutions allow for more professionals to become Safe Zone certified. In addition, it is my hope that Lavender Housing becomes a part of the Housing atmosphere across the country.

 

For more information on Safe Zone: http://www.gayalliance.org/programs/education-safezone/safezone-programs/

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Can We Ever Be Safe? Questioning Safe Zones/Spaces Trainings…

Posted By Brian Medina | ze, hir, hirs, hirself, Thursday, June 28, 2018

Can We Ever Be Safe? Questioning Safe Zones/Spaces Trainings…

Author: Brian Medina | ze, hir, hirs, hirself (but I shouldn’t have to share that, so don’t expect others to do the same) | Marietta College

 

I am queer and genderqueer. Yes, I just outed myself in my first sentence. Not everyone would be so bold, or feel like their staff, friends, family, or others in their midst would accept their multifaceted identities.

Let me be clear; my being out does not make me safe. I am never safe. I have friends and colleagues that, to varying degrees, support and understand my queer and genderqueer identities. My partner and I have had many, many discussions about the impact of my identities on our relationship. Most of my biological family is not a part of my life, but if they were, I am absolutely positive that they would not accept my gender and sexual identities.

Over the last 15 years, I have attended, then trained, then trained trainers for Safe Spaces and Safe Zones. I’ve trained RAs, Hall Directors, faculty, administrators (even a President), and local community members who wanted the coveted rainbow sticker. While there are no universal templates or expectations for Safe Spaces/Zones trainings, the sticker has come to symbolize at least some modicum of support for LGTBQIA community members. Well, let’s be honest, most workshops really focus on the L and G, sprinkle in a B (but rarely a P), Q confounds most presenters, and my TIA folx are largely ignored or further marginalized. If you just understood what I said, then congrats! However, just as much racism, sexism, transphobia, and many other issues exist within the community as on the outside.

So, does the sticker REALLY symbolize that an office or person is safe? I am doubtful, though I cannot say that it does or doesn’t for everyone. I have to hold out some hope that people really mean well and want to support someone’s coming out experience or challenges with their religious beliefs and sexuality. However, with so many language changes and layers of our identities, saying that a space is ever truly safe gives me pause.

But Brian, how are we ever going to train our staffs to be inclusive!? Without the stickers, how we will ever incentivize people to take training with us? Can’t we just love everyone?

Answers: it’s complicated, stickers are a weak incentive, and no, I don’t love everyone. Trump sucks and doesn’t deserve my love.

In sincerity, we can always work to provide better gender and sexuality training (alongside many other identity-based trainings!). Hosting conference-style workshops whereby many marginalized identities or intersecting identities can be represented will help RAs and other students, staff, or faculty to appreciate a wider array of student experiences and beliefs. Engage your campus religious groups or your counseling center to talk about faith, mental health, and sexuality. Send some of your student-staff to SSLI, presenting on their own identities and collaborating with others in the region to be more inclusive with language and programming. Review your policies and procedures to take out the he/she or freshmen references (I will do it for you, as I hate the falsified binary) and demonstrate that you will do more than a training exercise. Sustained commitment to social justice must go beyond a sticker session hosted once a year.

And now for something just as controversial: do not require Safe Zones/Spaces training for anyone, including RAs. You may have staff who won’t outright say it, but may fundamentally abhor my queer or genderqueer identities. Do you really think that forcing them through a training, where they must accept the lingo and put a sticker on their door affirming me, will ever be done in sincerity? This doesn’t mean that RAs shouldn’t have broader training to learn terminology or to support all marginalized students in their halls. However, you may find that requiring Safe Zones/Spaces for RAs will just make someone MORE resistant than they were before, as they have had no ownership over the decision. Instead, provide optional or encouraged trainings throughout the year, open to a variety of constituent groups and relating a breadth of topics. If you have a good relationship with RAs who are more resistant to embracing LGBTQIA identities, see if it would be worthwhile to engage their beliefs or background (this can be sensitive, so caution yourself on your approach) in order to see if there are ways to individually serve their learning around identities. They will appreciate the personal touch AND they won’t feel ostracized in the public setting of a large group training.

I could go on about the various training exercises (Privilege Walk!) that reinforce and further marginalize individuals, but I will pause for now. In the end, I just hope that training individuals acknowledges our lifelong need to develop and learn, rather than ever portray that we have met a (non-existent) standard with a sticker, certificate, or other visual deception.

 

 

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Tags:  allyship training programs  RAs  safe space  safe zone  trainings 

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10 Feminist Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

Posted By Tiara DeGuzman | She, Her, Hers , Thursday, May 24, 2018

10 Feminist Books to Add to Your Summer Reading List

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

 

Closing is (finally) finished and summer is HERE! That means summer dresses, outdoor concerts, farmer’s markets and if you’re like me- a new book list. Though you’re probably getting inundated with Buzzfeed articles about the top 10 beach books to accompany you on your vacation this summer, I want to offer an alternative book list just for us Student Affairs folks. Many of us are self-identified lifelong learners who love to expose ourselves to new topics and stay aware of what’s happening in the world. So- this summer in between Jodi Picoult and the new John Green, why not add a book or two about one of my favorite topics- feminism!

From #MeToo to #TimesUp to Janelle Monae’s Dirty Computer to the leading ladies of Black Panther (the #1 best selling superhero movie of all time- still in theaters and a must-see), this year women have taken center stage fighting for equal pay, representation, sexual justice and more. More than ever, we are being called to educate ourselves on how to better support and advocate for women. Below are 10 books that can help with that journey!

 

1. The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath

Book Type: Fiction

Major Theme: Mental Health

This classic by Sylvia Plath tells the story of Esther Greenwood- a young college student who slowly struggles to keep a grasp of reality as she endures a psychological breakdown. This is a great story for people who are interested in learning about how women’s rights intersect with mental health stigma, mental health wellness, and resilience. The writing is absolutely beautiful and the story will most definitely grip you from beginning to end.

Quote: “To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is a bad dream.”

 

2. Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Book Type: Fiction

Major Theme: Immigration

Americanah follows the story of a Nigerian student named Ifemelu who moves to America to pursue her education at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA. While there, she struggles to make meaning of her new identity as an “Americanah” (neither fully Nigerian nor fully American) while navigating predominately white higher education spaces. Americanah is part love story, part immigrant’s tale, and part intersectional feminist rant (you may have heard of Adichie by the way from her voiceover in Beyonce’s Flawless!).

Quote: “She had always liked this image of herself as too much trouble, as different, and she sometimes thought of it as a carapace that kept her safe.”

 

3. The Joy Luck Club by Amy Tan

Book Type: Fiction

Major Theme: Immigration

The Joy Luck Club is the story of two generations of Chinese mothers and daughters who struggle to connect with each other and their culture while living in San Francisco, California (you most likely read it while you were in high school). What I love most about this book are the rich descriptions of Mah Jong and the heart-wrenching mother/daughter moments. Tan is an amazing, haunting writer whose words will stay with you long after the summer.

Quote:  “I will use this sharp pain to penetrate my daughter's tough skin and cut her tiger spirit loose. She will fight me, because this is the nature of two tigers. But I will win and give her my spirit, because this is the way a mother loves her daughter.”

 

4. The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Book Type: Fiction

Major Themes: Sexual Assault, Sexual Orientation

Before The Color Purple was a hit film (starring Whoopi Goldberg, Danny Glover and OPRAH no less), it was a book written by womanist writer Alice Walker. The novel is written in a series of letters written by the main character Celie, a fourteen year old girl in the South who is forced to marry an abusive man. In the letters, Celie writes about her hopes, dreams, and how much she misses her sister, Nettie. Fair warning- this book will make you cry a ton!

Quote: “I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple in a field somewhere and don't notice it.”

 

5. Redefining Realness by Janet Mock

Book Type: Memoir

Theme: Trans Identity, Intersectional Feminism

In Redefining Realness, Mock tells the story of how she is able to step into her trans identity while growing up as a young girl in Hawaii. The memoir is a story of hope and resilience that calls each of us to be our true selves and live our deepest truth. While you read this, you will find yourself highlighting and underlining many of Mock’s awesome one-liners.

 

Quote: “I believe that telling our stories, first to ourselves and then to one another and the world, is a revolutionary act. It is an act that can be met with hostility, exclusion, and violence. It can also lead to love, understanding, transcendence, and community.”

 

6. Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Book Type: Essays

Major Theme: Sexual Assault, Sizeism

Through a number of poignant essays, Roxane Gay (famously known for her book of essays entitled Bad Feminist) takes on the topic of sizeism. Gay encourages us to consider why we are so obsessed with size as a culture, and tells stories of how size has personally affected her as a professor and feminist. This book will definitely check you a ton so get ready for learning!

Quote: “This is what most girls are taught — that we should be slender and small. We should not take up space. We should be seen and not heard, and if we are seen, we should be pleasing to men, acceptable to society. And most women know this, that we are supposed to disappear, but it’s something that needs to be said, loudly, over and over again, so that we can resist surrendering to what is expected of us.”

 

7. Zami, A New Spelling of My Name by Audre Lorde

Book Type: Memoir (Biomythography)

Major Theme: Sexual Orientation & Ethnicity

Audre Lorde is a prolific feminist writer who is most widely known for quotes like “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house” and “Caring for myself is not self-indulgence, it is self-preservation and that is an act of political warfare.” Lorde’s prose is just as poignant. In Zami, Lorde tells us the story of growing up as a black (West-Indian) lesbian in New York City and eventually moving and living in Mexico. Zami is a coming-of-age story and a love story that focuses on communities of women who support and nurture each other.

Quote: “I remember how being young and Black and gay and lonely felt. A lot of it was fine, feeling I had the truth and the light and the key, but a lot of it was purely hell.”

 

8. Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype by Clarissa Pinkola Estes

 

Book Type: Nonfiction

Major Theme: Feminist Spirituality, Mythography

Estes is a Jungian analyst, storyteller, and poet who utilizes mythology to uplift women and help them to gain greater clarity in their lives. Each chapter of this book starts with an ancient myth and ends with a message on how it can apply to our lives as “wild women.” The book talks about everything from motherhood, to sex, to dream interpretation. I’d recommend it to anyone who is interested in thinking about global womanhood and feminism.

Quote: “I hope you will go out and let stories, that is life, happen to you, and that you will work with these stories... water them with your blood and tears and your laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.”

 

9. Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

Book Type: Poetry

Major Theme: Intersectional Feminism, Love, Sexual Assault

Kaur has become THE poet of this generation offering up hundreds of poems that encourage readers to think about love, loss, abuse, longing, violence, and womanhood. Originally known for her popular Instagram poems, Kaur has reached international acclaim by performing her relatable poems around the world (she recently even made a stop at my institution!). The poems in Milk & Honey, accompanied by small gorgeous drawings, are perfect for those of you who may be at a loss for time and want to read something short and sweet.

Quote: “Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself.”

 

10. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson

Book Type: Fiction

Major Themes: Sexual Assault

Let’s end with a little teen fiction (no vampires or werewolves, I promise)! Speak is a book that has stuck with me since I was a teenager. It chronicles the story of Melinda, a high school student who stops speaking after being raped at a party by her classmate. Melinda struggles to cope with what happened, but is able to seek out healing and freedom by expressing herself in her art class. This book is definitely a tear jerker (let’s be honest-all of these are), but it is also a powerful story of resilience and hope that will remind you how important it is to speak and live your truth.

Quote: “You have to know what you stand for, not just what you stand against.”

 

Though I’m sure you’re ready to add all of these to your list, I know that 10 books is limiting. If none of these interest your fancy, check out the links below to discover other feminist books. Happy reading!

 

https://www.refinery29.com/2017/03/142549/best-feminist-books-for-modern-women

https://everydayfeminism.com/2015/04/queer-trans-women-books/

https://www.bustle.com/articles/93246-69-books-every-feminist-should-read-from-mary-wollstonecraft-to-roxane-gay

Tags:  feminism  feminist  intersectional  summer reading 

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Jesus, Easter, and the Walking Dead

Posted By Brian Medina, Sunday, April 1, 2018

Today, many in the United States will be celebrating fertility in the form of a bunny who somehow expels pastel colored eggs. Just as many will celebrate the life, death, and rebirth of a God turned man named Jesus of Nazareth. For billions of Christians, Easter demonstrates the conquering of death, of sin, and literally ascending in the flesh despite a torturous crucifixion 3 days prior.

 

Myths of demigods or of overcoming death are as ancient as human language. Crossing into the underworld only to rise above it demonstrates the human desire for immortality in this life or the next. What many Christians do not know is that the physical embodiment of the resurrection has been hotly debated from the outset, most often attributed with the Council of Nicaea in 325 CE. It was during this meeting that many wealthy men of stature rejected the competing Gnostic narrative which focused on a spiritual awakening, devoid of bodily interference (see also: Irenaeus and Justin Martyr). This meeting also established the preferred date for Easter and what is now referred to as the Trinity, among other matters.

 

And yet Easter espouses that our bodies are an essential component of who were are. When Jesus leaves the tomb, he interacts with Mary Magdalene and then later with his disciples. The infamous doubting Thomas is asked to touch his wounds, clearly distinguishing the physical nature of Jesus’ existence. Jesus’ ascension in Acts was seen from many of his followers as a physical lifting into the air, taken away by the clouds (presumably to go back to God). There are many more scriptures that reaffirms the body of Jesus (and not just a spiritual figure) and the importance of our bodies after death. While plenty debate surrounds Revelations, the ‘final coming’ of Jesus is said to be a corporeal one and not simply a spiritual return. In the end of days, Jerusalem is said to be reborn and remade physically, for all time.

 

Similar by degrees, The Walking Dead portrays another overcoming of death alongside an apocalyptic world. Most would believe zombies a myth of science fiction, yet the Centers for Disease Control released a guide to prepare for a zombie outbreak. While it may have been more for fun than in anticipation of zombification, there remains a wide variety of similarities with zombies and the diseases humans continue to encounter. Besides, most of the films and shows about zombies are making not-so-subtle jabs at the human condition whereby most of us have become a bit mindless, seeking after our own all-consuming desires, ostracizing those different than us as worthy of killing. Zombie lore varies greatly, but the common core of the death of a human only to be reborn in the flesh remains the same. For those encountering the death of a loved one during a zombie outbreak, there is both fear and awe for their resurrection, knowing that their rebirth is a blessing and a curse.

 

Further, the breakdown of civilization during a zombie apocalypse illustrates the best and worst of humanity. People become possessive and primal, untrusting (perhaps understandably so) of those wanting to get to safety within an encampment, and the distinctions of ‘us and them’ become essential for survival. Weapons, food, water, and the protection of walls become far more important than the classist luxuries that currently divide us. However, the ‘haves’ and ‘have-nots’ are still pervasive among survivalists, as those who can conquer others and enslave them for their own gain will likely live far longer than those who try to survive alone or in a small group. In this eschaton, you are not just fighting zombies, but other people, hunger, dehydration, weather, and disease without the assistance of active hospitals or clinics.

 

Perhaps Jesus of Nazareth was the best zombie in history, finding a means to communicate with those around him and encouraging them to serve him rather than the selfish human leaders in their midst. Jesus clearly found himself an impressive following, with nearly 2.2 billion humans alive today calling themselves Christians and countless more from over the centuries.

 

And so, in the spirit of Easter, I wish for you lots of chocolate, good seed, and a fantastic bodily experience when you die.

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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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