Women are Very Angry: the Message and the Messenger

metoo

Yes, it’s still only 2018. Really.

How can we tell?

Because the President of the United States, Donald Trump, in the time of the #metoo movement, is still saying the same unbelievable things that he did when he was elected in 2016, regardless of their ridiculous nature. Therefore, each news cycle still feels like a dog year. This time the ridiculous rhetoric came during his press conference last week live from New York while drowning in a sea of questions about sexual assault and reporting regarding his Supreme Court nominee, Judge Kavanaugh. The one statement, of oh so many, I want to revisit is this: “But I’ll tell you this, the people that have complained to me about it the most about what’s happening are women. Women are very angry.”

Yes, it’s 2018 because we still have a President of the United States who cannot speak with any informed sense of the issues of sexual assault, rape, or sexual violence or refer people accordingly to professionals in our country when facing these traumas. Worse yet, is that for this particular President, the messenger of the above message “Women are very angry,” has not the first clue that he has zero credibility to even speak of such issues or women’s anger about them.

TRUMP: I’ll tell you one thing I can say. I’ve had a lot of people talking about this to me with respect to what’s happening, because it’s a horrible precedent. I’m going to have to get other judges and other Supreme Court judges possibly. I could have a lot of Supreme Court judges, more than two.

 And when I called up Brett Kavanaugh, spoke to him and his family and told them that I chose them, they were so happy and so honored it was as though — I mean the biggest thing that’s ever happened. And I understand that. U.S. Supreme Court.

 I don’t want to be in a position where people say, no thanks, no thanks, I don’t want it; you know, I spoke to somebody 38 years ago, and it may not be good.

 We have a country to run. We want the best talent in the world. But I’ll tell you this, the people that have complained to me about it the most about what’s happening are women. Women are very angry.

 You know I got 52 percent with women. Everyone said this couldn’t happen — 52 percent. Women are so angry, and I, frankly, think that — I think they like what the Republicans are doing, but I think they would have like to have seen it go a lot faster.

It would be absolutely mind numbing to relive that press conference for me, or to address the multitude of concerns that I hold for our young people, after seeking to be a good American and listen to every word. I would like to make what I consider to be some basic observations about this angry women complaining the most thing.

 

First, not only is President Trump a man himself accused of sexual misconduct, of how many women I’ve lost track, but he also openly admitted to and bragged about sexual assault on a live microphone, before America elected him over a qualified, competent, and experienced woman who had not admitted to or bragged about sexual assault. We all know what he said. I refuse to write it again because it embarrasses me as a man to write the words of an adolescent boy playing the part of President and others excusing it as #lockerroomtalk then or now #boyswillbeboys.

Second, President Trump, in front of a room full of journalists last week, actually seemed to establish his credibility, if only to himself, by saying “It’s happened to me many times. I’ve had many false charges,” not disqualifying him from saying anything on these matters. That’s right, President Donald Trump in his mind believes he is credible to speak about sexual assault or what women are angry about pertaining to this topic, or even about women getting paid off as if he’s never done it himself. Of course, I don’t recall any journalist asking how or why he believes he’s credible to speak on such matters, at all, but I suppose we could all return to the transcript to double check. http://time.com/5407665/president-trump-press-conference-transcript/

Third, we all know President Trump is lying about the 52% of women who voted for him. There is not much to be said here except that this once again indicates he lies with reckless abandon. In addition to that, President Trump only cares about his base of America, so, he only thinks in terms of his base and we really need to stop trying to convince ourselves otherwise. And regardless of what percentage of women he thinks he is speaking for, I’d stay clear of claiming to speak to their anger as I’m certain that it’s varied, and this President can’t possibly lump all the anger onto this one issue as being the same, even if it’s only coming from his group.

Fourth, this continued strategy of wrapping a perceived angry women narrative around the protection of a man’s career rather than sexual misconduct, and don’t be fooled it is absolutely a strategy devised by someone, reeks of the public relations persistence of power, white privilege, and patriarchy protectionism in our country. Basically, what President Trump and many elected Republicans have adopted as their hill to die on is this: “Mamas’ don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys” (Waylon Jennings), but whether you do or not be sure your white male babies grow up to be on the lookout as they too will be accused of false rape allegations (which critically thinking Americans know is rare compared to those reported or those not ever reported). And yes, I did say white because white identity politics is implied when Trump speaks to his base, despite the common fault of many to never classify identity politics as being painted white.

Also, history does a pretty good job of reminding us that American patriarchy has never been too concerned about using false rape or other sexual allegations against African American men and other oppressed persons when it comes to white women. And despite the comparisons to Clarence Thomas many have used this last week to somehow dispel notions of racism and white privilege, let us not pretend that racism in America is dead and the existence of the absolute white privilege double standard that would be applied if this were a candidate for President or Supreme Court named Barack Hussein Obama, who allegedly sexually assaulted, attempted to rape a women, or acted indignant and entitled while yelling at United States Senators in a hearing. This may seem like a tired game to play still in 2018, but it makes it no less true that for every time President Trump says things like “He (Kim Jong Un) wrote me beautiful letters,” we could easily say and if Obama said it right wing extremists would say what?

Last but not least, I believe women are angry. They should be for many reasons including sexual violence, poverty, health care, education, pay inequity, or having their babies grow up to be gunned down in a school, a street, their cars, or their very own homes. Yet, the volume of audacity for President Donald Trump to bring the anger of women into this conversation regarding sexual assault, attempted rape, or sexual violence of any kind and to never seek to connect, empathize, or not once to acknowledge voices of women angry at being assaulted and raped is beyond maddening. Also maddening is when he’s unable to say no woman or man should suffer at the hands of someone seeking to harm them in this manner. This is a pure and true leadership fail. We took moral leadership for granted, now here we are. In fact, in his United Nations speech last week, President Trump said himself that “America will never apologize for protecting its citizens,” which got him plenty of praise from many. Except, after almost two years in office under the Trump administration, it remains clear America will also never apologize for shaming and blaming, or for not believing or not protecting those same citizens who are survivors.

 

I would just like to end by simply saying the following:  is a lazy and trashy narrative of white privilege, power, & patriarchy and only one of many we must stop using and sexual misconduct & violence of any kind is never OK and should be as easily called out as it is to call out Nazis in 2018. Those of us who are familiar with such topics know that for power, white privilege, and patriarchy to keep the oxygen in the tank two of the words that must not be uttered to risk letting the air and anger out it are toxic masculinity. These are words and behaviors that are a legitimate problems and we should all be educated and angry about it and this is a message our young people deserve to receive.

Peace.

   

 

Picture as found on the website https://www.talkspace.com/blog/2017/10/7-self-care-tips-for-sexual-assault-survivors/

 

 

 

Student Affairs Anatomy: Behind-the-Scenes Desire for a Candid Dialogue We All Deserve

pompeo pic

*This post has a word used on a handful of occasions in context in direct reference to an attached article that may not be appropriate for your work computer, depending on your employer and technology expectations. Read at work using your own discretion.

*This is a deep-dive long form essay blog post in two sections.

*Last, but hardly least, this post would not be possible without so many people who inspire me, but most especially I thank those who helped with the creative process for their contributions and the candid dialogue about a profession we each care for deeply.

  • For fans of Hot Takes and 3 paragraph posts, this is for you: Many professionals desire a needed candid dialogue in student affairs (and extended areas of student services) and we need it to speak to at least the following:
    • Good to great mentorship and advocacy (or ethical sponsorship) is not always equitable, or even accessible to all professionals
    • Power and privilege is a burden student affairs will never unload if it never acknowledges home-grown campus specific corrosive professional politics that counter the values and competencies of the field
    • Professional sustainability in student affairs ceases to exist when reliant upon group-think, selling celebrity status, and perceived success, while hard working professionals, especially those marginalized persons and identities, suffer for lacking these conventions or working to do the opposite of such things, including daring to be frank, speaking truth to power, or being open and sincere as to why

1. Beyond Boston and buzz words

  • Candid – adj. frank; outspoken; open and sincere
  • “Frank talk, spirited debate, laughter, and love. If I could distill a Braintrust meeting down to its most essential ingredients, those four things would surely be among them…that’s how much candor matters at Pixar; It overrides hierarchy.” Ed Catmull, president of Pixar, with journalist Amy Wallace, Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

I know people have the capacity of being candid with one another beyond Boston. I’ve heard it. I’ve done it. I’ve also recently read about it in Creativity Inc. (see the corresponding quotes in this piece from chapter 5: “Honesty and Candor”). I’ve experienced the exact opposite more often. As a Bostonian, I realize that candid dialogue is NOT for everyone, but I and many professionals who have dedicated ourselves to student affairs work (or other higher education non-FT faculty professional staff) desire and deserve a level of candid dialogue, at least equitable to the silence and insincerity used surrounding many significant, but taboo, topics. Candid dialogue may immediately be discredited as mere “complaining” from its detractors rather than seen as an observance of authentic loyalty (it’s telling who those people are). Often, candor is displaced to work cubicles, cafeterias on campus, or conference chatter (unfortunately, sometimes it devolves into complaining, gossip, or the cruelty of retribution vs candor, rather than candid dialogue of empathy).

Candid, to me, is the freedom to say what’s sincerely on your mind at the risk of your shared truth or worldview being considered outspoken or in direct dissent with another’s truth or worldview, with everyone able to still walk away from that dialogue and willing to return despite likely discomfort. Student affairs, from my experience, seems to impulsively react against candor when directed at challenging systems, structures, and supervision that may hold responsibility for oppression, sending mixed messages, thriving on unwritten rules, or playing fast and loose with ethical accommodations for those favored. When there’s anger directed at such candor from professional leaders, educating for inclusion or racial justice and decolonization may land more as buzz words catered to ease complaints rather than affirm needed action in the face of subtle or not subtle systemic injustice. It was stated with candor to me this way by a fellow professional: “student affairs professionals say they want to get their hands dirty, but only in a clean way.”

  • “Candor isn’t cruel. It does not destroy. On the contrary, any successful feedback system is built on empathy, on the idea that we are all in this together, that we understand your pain because we’ve experienced it ourselves.” Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace, Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Ellen Pompeo, star of TV’s Grey’s Anatomy, provided a candid interview recently to The Hollywood Reporter about her profession that could help student affairs https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/features/ellen-pompeo-tvs-20-million-woman-reveals-her-behind-scenes-fight-what-i-deserve-1074978. She referred to her interview as “the personal struggles and advice from Shonda Rhimes that led to a milestone: highest-paid actress on a primetime drama.” Pompeo grew up 20 minutes from me outside of Boston and it’s highly likely that we frequented the same beaches, bowling alleys, or ice skating rinks growing up as teenagers. Beyond our proximity in birthplace and closeness of age our worlds appear mighty different now.

Pompeo has a great professional mentor (and sponsor) in Shonda Rhimes; I have never had access to a great professional mentor (or an ethical sponsor). Pompeo has a 12th grade education; I’m fortunate to be a first-generation college and master’s level graduate. She’s an incredibly well known and wealthy television star; I’m neither a wealthy TV star or well-known as a currently unemployed professional in a field of thousands (challenge the #SmallFieldSyndrome). Lastly, Pompeo presents as a confident, outspoken woman working in a profession still not always woman friendly with career politics, despite working in Hollywood; I present as a confident, outspoken, white, cisgender man (he/him/his) existing in an overly friendly country receptive to my identities, if not always how I choose to challenge them or use them to help others not harm them.

With such a candid interview about her profession and the importance of claiming a place as a woman of value in her industry, it reminds me that throughout my career far too many quality people with candid things to say can’t say them. Even leaders in student affairs/higher education, who appear to possess power and privilege (or status), haven’t been or still can’t be candid because they may worry about people walking away from conversations of dissent, or they still fear their own job security for many reasons, including cultivating a reputation as being candid in dialogue about significant concerns, including staffing the profession itself. In twenty years I’ve heard lots of candid dialogue in private, but not nearly enough in the open. That open dialogue is usually discouraged to many professional educators and done so with no sense of equity.

Aside from learning that Pompeo and I were brought up as Irish Catholics and that we’re both comfortable using the “F” word as ordinary not extraordinary (if only to watch the professionalism police gather to surround one tree in a burning forest), I learned we both desire, appreciate, and initiate candid dialogue that’s so desperately needed in the professions we chose. This dialogue goes well beyond using correct vocabulary alone to convey student affairs is saying the correct things, when I and others want to candidly and legitimately dialogue about whether we’re always doing the better things.

  • “…societal conditioning discourages telling the truth to those perceived to be in higher positions…strong and confident people can intimidate their colleagues, subconsciously signaling that they aren’t interested in negative feedback or criticism that challenges their thinking.” Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace, Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

In 2002, while Pompeo caught Hollywood’s eye in a movie called “Moonlight Mile,” that’s the year I began working at my previous full-time employer. She got her big break starring with Hoffman and Sarandon and I got mine at an up-and-coming university. “I knew I was fucked,” Pompeo recalled thinking at the time of Grey’s (2005) because she thought she was supposed to be a movie star rather than be “stuck on a medical show for five years.” She recounts telling her agent “Are you out of your fuckin’ mind? I’m an actress.” I’ve spoken to many professionals in student affairs who over the years ponder what it would be like if they had agents like a Jerry Maguire. What would that conversation be like between them when expected to do those things in careers or jobs that harm students and staff, or insult or diminish one’s education and intelligence? When a job goes so far as to dehumanize an employee, that conversation with an agent could go like this: “Jerry, are you out of your fuckin’ mind? I’m an educator.”

By 2005, I was greatly enjoying my professional opportunity and unconcerned about positions or projections, only practice. Within a few years and in a new role that I loved I identified that stuck feeling Pompeo invoked when confronted with continued resistance to candid dialogue about things that I not only believed in practice, but the profession said mattered in principle. It was right in the middle of this obstacle that I had a freakish health scare like something from Grey’s Anatomy. That event redirected my pressing questions to mortality and created a cloud cover over my usually sound life judgment. Thus, I began my very own time of personal and professional struggle. I remained confident while doing my job. Though, I did lack a Jerry Maguire or a Shonda Rhimes. I wasn’t confident in my access to equitable support in my discernment to help me anticipate how my creative strength of candid dialogue would ultimately contribute to my moment of knowing I too was fucked.

  • “Believe me, you don’t want to be at a company where there is more candor in the hallways than in the rooms where fundamental ideas or matters of policy are being hashed out. The best inoculation against this fate? Seek out people who are willing to level with you, and when you find them, hold them close.” Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace, Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

Brene Brown.True Belonging

I did not have a sports agent, a great mentor, or ethical sponsor accessible or available to me and suddenly my exemplary work product was not receiving equitable treatment. I did not share the same desire to be part of cliques and my career priorities were less directed on specific roles and five-year goals, so, less opportunities I needed came my way. The biggest challenge was how my practice of using candid dialogue to create credible connections, achieve innovations in my work, and raise legitimate concerns to support the profession was still consistently sidelined and silenced. Those absent these challenges were more readily accepted thanks to political perception, true or false, that they were “not going to rock the boat,” “would play the game,” and “they’d not be too candid.” My prior cloud cover blurred my anticipation of these challenges, but it didn’t blind me to my priority to remain true to my calling of doing for those who can do nothing for you, which I still saw as the noble career spoken of by Dr. King.

My calling and my candor co-existed, and they were in direct conflict with the messages I received: spend more time climbing and competing with colleagues; care more about others’ perceptions of your work than the reality and reputation of your work (the first I could not control, the second I could); and don’t risk saying the wrong things (based on whom?). The messages I received were to hide my best self and my strength as a practitioner of candid dialogue. It saddens me now to reflect on how I carried fear and shame alongside being part of the profound joys and successes as a student affairs professional. The unfortunate truth I discovered of this unwritten rule of student affairs was that my success and how I achieved it seemed to matter far less to my career than doing for those who could provide power in the form of protection, prosperity, and unethical sponsorship, all at the cost of candid dialogue.

When it was time to depart on my own terms for my next full time professional experience a part of me held to the same narratives thrown out for years “there will be opportunities here,” or that “there are so many jobs opportunities elsewhere if willing to relocate and transfer functional areas.” I was once an English major. I should have been far more discerning about the idea of unreliable narrators who tossed out those clichés like school swag, especially at TPE, but I still wanted to trust the essence because I, like Pompeo, ultimately LOVED THE PROFESSION I CHOSE, and I knew my value to it.

Instead, The Placement Exchange (TPE) was the ultimate sunny day to that previous cloud cover as it drove home for me through observation and participation how perpetuated narratives and practices keep the profession stuck for so many. My value was my willingness to identify and engage on practices that keep the profession stuck: ethical and equitable mentorship and sponsorship, corrosive politics preventing progress, and the favor shown to those who are shamed into sameness rather than celebrated for difference, especially when candor is someone’s desire and strength. I’m not the first, middle, or last to identify this desire and need for candid dialogue. Because I belong among those who have been professionally harmed and marginalized by having the candor to say so, I will not sacrifice my WHY. Student affairs should not sacrifice its capacity for functionality for its WHY either by banishing candid dialogue (or radical candor?) to only behind the scenes.

  • “Lack of candor, if unchecked, ultimately leads to dysfunctional environments.” Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace, Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration
  • “…candor is only valuable if the person on the receiving end is open to it and willing, if necessary, to let go of things that don’t work.” Ed Catmull with Amy Wallace, Creativity, Inc. Overcoming the Unseen Forces that Stand in the Way of True Inspiration

2. Moving from student affairs silence to “good notes”

In the interview I’ve referenced with Ellen Pompeo, she describes how in 2017 she signed a new deal that will make her the highest earning actress in dramatic television, as well as the inclusion of numerous benefits to her personal and professional life. Immediately, she credits her boss and mentor (and sponsor) Shonda Rhimes, a talented force of nature, who reportedly just signed a huge deal with Netflix. As any great mentor would, Rhimes empowered Pompeo to overcome her doubts about her worth and “demand the best possible deal.”

  • “As a woman, what I know is you can’t approach anything from a point of view of ‘I don’t deserve’ or ‘I’m not going to ask for because I don’t want other people to get upset…And I know for a fact that when men go into these negotiations, they go in hard and ask for the world.” Shonda Rhimes
  • “Decide what you think you’re worth and then ask for what you think you’re worth. Nobody’s just going to give it to you.” Shonda Rhimes

Pompeo possessed leverage for herself in a deal with multibillion-dollar Disney being the star of a show with 12 million viewers, 300 episodes, and the number 2 drama on ABC. Student affairs professionals don’t have the luxury of leverage with numbers like those, or the ensuing payday that will be afforded Pompeo. That does not mean any student affairs professional should be intimidated by not having this kind of leverage as a sign of no leverage, or that anyone should undervalue their own worth, not prioritize their compensation package, or to expect less, especially as a woman, simply because it’s all about the students. Whether or not this nature of candid dialogue is foreign to professionals, my hope in writing this post is truly that candor can make a dramatic comeback as an act of professional loyalty and empathy, especially if this is or was a strength, or you’d like it to become one. I hope it can also make at least an equitable appearance on the stage of student affairs going forward regarding those things that matter to professionals as a talent to be celebrated not as a practice to be retaliated against because someone lacks power and privilege, or the right kind of either.

  • Speaking of candor, here are two examples from last year’s ACPA, although presentations not dialogues, that demonstrate the capacity of the profession to do it. My question is why is such candor reserved for conference events when it can be integrated into daily working and learning back among campus and organization Braintrusts as Ed Catmull, President of Pixar Animation calls such spaces for candor?

I have both the desire for candid dialogue and the confidence of candor. I now know this is among my greatest creative strengths and to some it will forever be perceived as weakness. Ellen Pompeo demonstrates her confidence in candid dialogue in her interview and is hopefully empowering others to do the same in her industry out of a love for profession, but also a love for possessing a confidence in one’s career. Pompeo, who grew up in a neighborhood not too far, inspired me to use what privilege I may exercise through my confidence of candor not to destroy, but in hopes of building better dialogue and inspire or empower others who won’t or can’t write what I’m choosing to write. This comes at a cost, I realize. I’ve paid it and still do in my experience as this resistance to candid dialogue has not departed or given me a hall pass. I just hold on to hope and the known courage of others braver than myself that there are lots of professionals like Ed Catmull, the president of Pixar, that know constructive criticism from candid dialogue are “good notes” and that as he and journalist Amy Wallace write in Creativity Inc. that “Frank talk, spirited debate, laughter, and love” are essential ingredients to Pixar’s Braintrust and there’s no reason they shouldn’t be essential in student affairs.

Mentorship and Sponsorship

What other frank talk takeaways from the Pompeo interview did I see as relevant to student affairs? I start with at least three. Great mentorship (or ethical sponsorship) should be accessible and equitable to all working talent no matter the organizational chart guiding you on any given day. Whether that can come from “status” leadership specifically or not is more a question of time, ability, and what the mentee is seeking. Pompeo’s article addressed Rhimes’ mentorship more than her sponsorship, but clearly she had both, which was used to foster some equity. Mentorship and sponsorship in student affairs often jump over equity and maintain elitism, which is why I have consistently referred to at least the latter as ethical sponsorship in this post. If a mentor talks with you and a sponsor talks about you as the saying goes, let’s all seek to candidly acknowledge not all of either can or want to speak to or about everyone, either equitably or ethically.

In the instance of Grey’s Anatomy, Pompeo is the star. She was mentored and sponsored by Rhimes who was the boss. A question for a Rhimes interview would be how capable she was to mentor or sponsor others beyond Pompeo, because this is the question for student affairs. Most universities or colleges are not named after any one person. Therefore, mentorship or sponsorship are not obviously going to go to one person, nor should they as that would make them inaccessible and inequitable to a whole lot of people seeking either or both. Mentorship or sponsorship in student affairs should not be gifted to the leader’s favorite, the person most likely to succeed in the functional area, or for doing for those who are perceived can only do something for you.

In just one department, of say 200 employees, with one executive, one director, and maybe three associates, the mentorship or sponsorship will not exist for all those wanting and needing it. Student affairs has a supply and demand problem when the same professionals with status thanks to power and privilege continue to talk with or talk about who may best suit their narrative rather than empowering the professional narratives of the many. A legitimate question in a candid dialogue would be how are mentors or sponsors generous with their time and referrals to all talent in student affairs? The reality now is that good to great mentorship and advocacy (or ethical sponsorship) is not always equitable, or even accessible for all professionals.

  • “In Shonda finding her power and becoming more comfortable with her power, she has empowered me. And that took her a while to get to, too. It was part of her evolution. It’s also why our relationship is so special. I was always loyal to her, and she responds well to loyalty. So, she got to a place where she was so empowered that she was generous with her power.” Ellen Pompeo

Corrosive Professional Politics

Ellen Pompeo shared actors typically hate discussing their paychecks. Student affairs leaders do as well. She chose to talk salary in the hopes of “setting an example for others as women in Hollywood seize a new moment of empowerment and opportunity.” No professional in student affairs will expect a 20 million dollar deal like Pompeo’s, but what is politically clear is the continued silence and salary shaming of women and any professional is a mechanism of control not empowerment. I’m going to go out on the limb and speculate that if a professional is choosing to work in student affairs they do so because they may love the work, but that they also expect to be paid the value of their worth. This may be seen as a political issue, but it surely shouldn’t be a corrosive one. An #SApro can love their job and prioritize their salary equally. That professional doesn’t have to feel bad for the latter. Another point about salary is, whether it’s a graduate student seeking a first job or a career professional seeking their fifth, that money and benefits likely matter a great deal no matter the passion for doing the job and to penalize someone for prioritizing getting paid well is simply out of touch. Negotiating for an equitable compensation package as a new hire, or as a current employee seeking a raise, in some circles is even seen as politically fatal to one’s career.

The practice of charging a candidate for interviewing with a college or university, even when turning the job down, also ends up in the corrosive politics column from fights within the college regarding funding sources to punishing candidates for not choosing them. Candidates run the risk of political retribution for not being that into you after a campus visit and the cost of interviewing may result in the same folks accepting fewer interviews. This is incredibly problematic when the reasons they may not choose you are due to not being permitted the candor to say aloud things like “the search committee chair demonstrated sexist tendencies.” The stress and silence that surround these political opportunities for candid dialogue are UNBEARABLE for those who have experienced the consequences (as is the very fear of #CareerSuicide, another hugely problematic term for another day).

If corrosive Hollywood politics is now forced to be more candid about salary and pay equity (See Octavia Spencer and Jessica Chastain) does the politics of student affairs/higher education really need to be forced into leading? It’s even political about providing an honest salary range for a job in downtown Chicago, so professionals don’t waste time preparing for an application knowing they could NEVER afford to interview there, or even live there. Let’s not forget, many professionals will spend money and use resources for a partner to make the campus visit too, since decisions are not always made by one person in the relationship, and surely there is no time for the partner to visit the area after the offer to decide. We also know it’s political and privileged when scaring individuals with narratives to “behave” at a conference or placement, without any implication employers are responsible to the same, or held to a higher standard. Some professionals feel good about recent signs of being BOLD regarding issues of power and privilege we face in 2018 (even recommending books like Kim Scott’s Radical Candor), but there is still far greater uncertainty when folks know that power and privilege is a burden student affairs will never unload if it never acknowledges home-grown campus specific problems with corrosive professional politics that counter the values and competencies of the field.

passionate not starving

  • “I should also say this: I don’t believe the only solution is more women in power, because power corrupts. It’s not necessarily a man or a woman thing. But there should be more of us women in power, and not just on Shonda Rhimes’ sets. Look, I only have a 12th-grade education and I wasn’t a great student, but I’ve gotten an education here at Shondaland. And now my 8-year-old daughter gets to come here and see fierce females in charge. She loves to sit in the director’s chair with the headphones on yelling “Action” and “Cut.” She’s growing up in an environment where she’s completely comfortable with power. I don’t know any other environment in Hollywood where I could provide that for her. Now I hope that changes … and soon.” Ellen Pompeo

Professional Sustainability

Ellen Pompeo says of actors, “Here’s the thing: You have a choice. You can hold actors down and try to control them, but it kills their spirit and they resent being there.” I can say the same of the student affairs professional or other staff working with a college population. The sounds of silence in this caring profession can be deafening to those who are suffering in spirit or safety. Will the profession create an environment where people are comfortable with power existing in an equitable manner, or will it remain the appearance of elitism, dominant narratives, or an advocacy of the few, who benefit from group-think and celebrity status? I ask this specifically in relation to a recent candid exchange that I was fortunate to see on Twitter about how the narratives of power harm professionals like the #SApro advised to “suck it up,” “tough it out,” or “suffer through a job that harms their well-being/sanity for 1 to 2 years before moving on.”

suffer in a job

There are professionals, new and seasoned, that are fed the only means of professional sustainability is to do what harms you to please others’ perceptions of those who don’t know you, or think they know you because they’ve seen your name, met you once at a conference, or “heard” something from one other person. Where is the candid dialogue and corresponding condemnation about environments and individuals responsible that allow for the continued convincing of a 24-year-old transgender student affairs professional and person of color, for one example, to stick with a job through the first year so as not to be seen as a “job hopper?” In this example the individual’s supervisor is also bullying the person, which is harmful and damaging the performance and physical and mental health of the employee, but the same supervisor is perceived in the profession as known and successful. Does any critical thinking professional believe advising that 24-year-old to suffer in silence is a wise piece of career advice because it holds to convention? Does anyone really think that in every environment that 24-year-old is believed by everyone, or can even risk being believed by anyone? How are those same successfully perceived professionals advising graduate students or undergraduate students suffering in the same manner? At what cost comes retention these days?

What will a professional hold against the person in the future more as a candidate? Will it be the fact they were only in a job for one year? Will it be the fact that the individual openly and sincerely explains that it was not the healthiest environment, something both possessing candor and not specifically “bad mouthing” a former employer (which is a whole other candid dialogue as to professional complicity in allowing injustice to go unidentified, and often at the expense of ourselves)? When incidents like this persist without plans to responsibly eradicate them, this demonstrates like thunder that professional sustainability in student affairs ceases to exist when reliant upon group-think, selling celebrity status, or perceived success, while hard working professionals, especially those marginalized persons and identities, suffer for lacking these conventions or working to do the opposite of such things, including daring to be frank, outspoken, or open and sincere as to why.

choose candor

I’ve had nearly twenty years of exposure to the student affairs and higher education work environment and to those who sacrifice so much for the love of the profession. I know words and actions have a human cost and whether power or privilege permit us to see it or not it rests with us. My invitation in writing this is for more professionals to find empowerment with capacity to seek candid dialogue. I invite more to provide “good notes” regarding silence or the overdone vocabulary of “professionalism,” politeness, and positivity, which may deter or completely end the creativity or innovation discovered in being outspoken, frank, and demonstrating candid dialogue. I have both the desire for candid dialogue and the confidence of candor. If you’ve read this far you know there is distinction between complaining and candor. If you’re still here, you likely consider equitable capacity for candor a refreshing concept. If you needed these words to both comfort and challenge, you may know in your heart that you are not alone in needing either. Find those people. Find me. Find a candid dialogue near you, or craft ones far and wide that we all need and deserve. #Lifes2Short4BS

The Last Jedi Told Us It Wouldn’t Go as We Thought

“This is not going to go the way you think.” Luke Skywalker

(Very light spoilers if any and this was after one viewing and most definitely I reserve my right to change my mind, because it’s that kind of movie that requires multiple viewings and much processing.)

Picture from Vanity Fair special on The Last JediRey VF May2017

Well, whatever misdirection or perceived misdirection was found in the marketing leading up to The Last Jedi, the part about Luke saying to Rey (or Rian Johnson to us) that things were not “going to go the way you think” was both clear and clever, both for Rey from (nowhere) Jakku and the audience. As a lifetime Star Wars fan since the 1970s, I listened to Jedi master Skywalker and went into this movie with one hope and avoided any news, reviews, or spoilers beyond the trailers we received in marketing.  I thoroughly enjoyed The Force Awakens this way and that was my expectation going into this movie. Under Rian Johnson’s direction, I can say loud and clear that I’m glad I did as that was definitely the most unique and bold movie of any of the now eight episodic films.

That being said, as not just an audience member but a true fan (regardless of what haters will call me because I too did not hate the movie), I will find myself talking about this movie for days, months, and years. However, it will not be as I talked of the prequels, which I have always been a vocal critic of any of those movies, the first two I find unwatchable, despite the fact I recognize people loved them and they brought in a number of new Star Wars fans into the fold. And I will not talk of this movie as I did The Force Awakens in the same manner because as much as I loved it, I loved The Last Jedi for completely different reasons.

The easiest way to think about it following just one viewing is this: I would equate it to The Force Awakens is like the bliss filled days of dating and falling in love again after your most recent bad breakup (the prequels) and The Last Jedi resembles the maturity and complexity of choosing marriage or a life partnership with a person you love. I thought many of our collective hopes as Star Wars fans after the previous movie was to see a move away from the nostalgia and grow the universe, if you followed all the grief J.J. Abrams received for playing it safe by having that movie resemble too much the original trilogy (OT). Now, there is a population of Star Wars fans who hate this movie for daring to break the mold of the OT, despite some wonderful nostalgia moments and call backs here as well. Again, there is a difference between having fun dating where maturity and responsibility are not necessarily required and choosing to live in a healthy committed relationship, marriage or other, where it most certainly is. The Last Jedi can be enjoyed as can The Force Awakens, but there is far more complexity to consider and commit to and in this movie goers experience that is far from a bad thing.

As stated, I’ve seen the movie once and there is honestly too much going on to give a worthy review, besides saying that, despite the things I didn’t like about it, it absolutely ranks among my favorites in the series, with nostalgic preference and deference still to The Empire Strikes Back (1980) after all these years. My problems with the movie were quibbles like functional elements such as pacing, edit choices, and overall a script that to me was not as crisp or as strong throughout the varied threads as Empire, or even The Force Awakens. As to the storytelling choices that were significant, I give Rian Johnson and the creative team behind them and those who signed off on them praise for stepping outside the framework enough to be innovative. Viewers and long time fans will be challenged by what they saw, including having to confront a key theme of the movie, FAILURE of our heroes, a concept that is as disconcerting in our escapism as it is in life itself.

Because I am a true Star Wars fan, I do want to recognize the complaints, concerns, or outright nasty and hateful comments that are part of our social media culture being directed toward The Last Jedi because they are bugging me as a fan and because God don’t like ugly. Complaints and concerns are fair as all film is subjective and The Last Jedi is worthy of critique as it is yet another flawed film in a series of flawed films, the least of which remaining The Empire Strikes Back, another film that disrupted the force of fans back in the 1980s pre social media uproars, where then it was only playground arguments. As for the outright nasty and hateful comments directed toward the movie, its director (whose birthday was Sunday and was attacked on Facebook as Star Wars wished him a happy birthday), persons of color in the movie, women in the movie, Disney, Lucasfilm, and anyone else who has anything positive to say about the movie, those people immediately place themselves in the twitter troll category simply by being mean and disparaging while bullying others because their ideology and ideas are not agreed with in entirety. Welcome to 2017.

I could get into the weeds on the legitimate concerns and even the nasty, hateful ones that people have but it’s the holidays and I have no space in my life for the latter hate right now, other than to say that obsessive fan fiction and over theorizing can not only make you disappointed in your favorite movies and TV shows, it can simply make you a miserable person. That ultimately rests on the fan, nobody involved in this movie, as nobody was personally guaranteed anything in The Last Jedi. Instead, I will address just seven items in short order.

  • 1) “It didn’t feel like a Star Wars movie:” Yes, it most certainly did for me while at the same time I know people are dying to point at similarities with The Empire Strikes Back. It is not that movie at all. Although, as I indicate above, this is one Star Wars movie unlike any I’ve experienced previously (excluding Rogue One as that is a stand alone). I will agree with someone the other day on twitter who indicated that this movie was distinctive in that every other episode movie in Star Wars in large part felt like “a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” and this one still does. But it also notably has more in its narrative that resonates to us for our times and that can more realistically be seen through our eyes (no spoilers), so I can appreciate those who felt it was jarring to have pure escapism come toe to toe with our very own realities. This movie, besides platitudes about good vs. evil, had a lot to say about a lot of things in text or subtext, which will also stir controversy.
  • 2) “I was unsatisfied with the resolution of my many questions or theories:” I completely understand this one, but I also completely disagree from my perspective. I had many thoughts and theories, too, but I was not obsessed by them. I had only one new hope for the movie in this regard and that hope was more of a systemic concern and it was addressed the only realistic way I believe it could have been. So, beyond that I was willing to accept the answers provided and those not provided much more easily than some. In fact, some of them simply blew me away for daring to think beyond the mystery box alone.
  • 3) “Star Wars is about the Skywalker family, and I didn’t appreciate the use of Luke Skywalker and what this says about the Skywalker lore:” For those worried about lore, they should know the Star Wars universe on the whole is not Skywalker bound, although to the general audience the movies have been. I know there are tons of Star Wars fans that want more crossover between the canon found in Rebels, games, comics, and books to be integrated into the movies. There is simply way too much lore to do that with and still maintain successful movies. Take Captain America: Civil War, nobody expected casual fans or even all comic fans to go and read a ton of comics to have to see that movie. They took a concept and implemented it in movie form and in large part it worked. I recently read Claudia Gray’s Bloodline and Leia: Princess of Alderaan and appreciate this movie more, but they were not required reading. As for Luke Skywalker, I strongly disagree with this point about misuse of Luke Skywalker as this was the best of Mark Hamill in his career, in my opinion. I totally accept the critique of Johnson’s choices of his use of Luke, but I thought it was brave, iconic, and ultimately authentic. Hamill, in Luke, gave us the hero we needed 40 years ago, and he gave us the one we realistically needed and deserved 40 years later. Not to mention, there is a sequence in this movie that is powerful beyond words and I will treasure it forever. It was not at all what I expected, or maybe even thought I wanted, or needed to see, but that made it all the more memorable.
  • 4) “Plot X and character Y were misused or didn’t work for me;” I absolutely agree. There is one sub plot in the movie that was the weakest link and took away from other great scenes that are among the most memorable in Star Wars history. To me, that section of the movie was too much like the prequels and I felt like it needed more work to not feel that way, which is why I was resistant to it. I have zero problems with the characters or actors who portrayed them as much as it just seemed to not clearly communicate the consequences.
  • As for the use of other specific characters Phasma (Christie), Maz Kanata, DJ (Del Toro), Holdo (Dern), and Snoke. Phasma is the Boba Fett of the new trilogy, looks cool and ultimately not as consequential as people first imagined. Although Fett was really more significant in Empire by what he did off screen than on. Maz has super potential and not actualized here in a sensible way at all, so she should’ve returned in nine to better usage, or simply been better utilized here. DJ character was underutilized for talented Del Toro, but if this is setup for possibly having a narrative place in nine, then it may work. I love Laura Dern and I appreciated her character and wanted more. As for the big baddie, Snoke, I was absolutely good on the choices made with him. For people dissatisfied with the level of answers on him, I would refer you to comments by Johnson himself made prior to the movie and mostly a return to The Empire Strikes Back, or even Return of the Jedi, to see we didn’t know as much about the Emperor as we thought we did and we all survived just fine. The primary focus was Rey and Kylo, which is clearly what this new trilogy is about in the minds of Kathleen Kennedy, Rian Johnson, and yes, J.J. Abrams (who is clearly in the loop here as a producer, despite fans who think he showed up and saw a movie he had no idea was coming).
  • 5) “That thing with princess Leia:” Look, if you are coming to a Star Wars movie with space wizards, laser swords, and shooting lightening bolts out your fingernails, then you need to just let go and accept just because it’s innovative doesn’t make it any more outrageous than the rest. I thought Carrie Fisher was honored well in her final on screen performance and surely brought a heavier emotional weight to this film, which was always going to impact people who cared about Carrie or Princess Leia. The one scene in question worked for me and the theater I was in and goes under the “head popping” moments of the movie that gave her the lasting gravitas she earned as the rebel leader from the beginning. If it didn’t work for others it’s fair, but not because you want to debate the science of the Force. Clearly, this movie is growing our knowledge of the Force not shrinking it.
  • 6) “The humor:” Another aspect of this movie from the marketing I did not see coming was the humor. This was one of if not the funniest Star Wars movies, which really it had to be for the depths of the emotional trials and dark places this movie goes to. People complaining about the humor from the get go, I certainly get it, but again I’d strongly disagree. The humor kept me in it and contributed to keeping it Star Wars, rather than making it so heavy that it would be depressing or as dark as Looper. Instead, I felt it overall held the balance where in the end as dire as things may be in many regards, I still had great hope as I did at the end of Empire.
  • 7) “All the women and the diversity:” This critique starts to tip to the dark side of the nasty and hateful comments, but even for those who contend they have logical arguments here, I’d direct you back to film history and Star Wars movies 1-6 and simply recognize that we are slowly, but finally recognizing that our heroes do not always look like us, act like us, or represent our worldviews. That’s a good thing and perhaps the best thing found in this movie and this new trilogy. So, anyone with these concerns I’d recommend asking how you feel about power and privilege in general and how you feel about it when it controls what we see in the movies rather than an actual representation of the world we live in.

Needless to say, I could go on. In summation, The Last Jedi is a must see movie of the year and a must see for any Star Wars fan. Do not listen to other fans or critics. Go in with your own perspective and see what you think. My hope is everyone can enjoy it, or, if not, at least speak rationally to their critiques. It will more than likely go in ways you never saw coming and that in itself says an awful lot about breaking the Star Wars mold and a credit to the film makers, even if we’re not sold on all the choices. Overall this movie can offer a lot to our generation and future ones. Will I rewatch it as often as The Force Awakens? No, because TFA is the reigniting of a film franchise that has been with me my whole life. I will watch The Last Jedi again (and again), however, when I’m ready to sit down and commit my full attention to what’s happening on a deeper and emotional level that requires less of a care free attitude on my part and when I’m receptive to listen to a Star Wars story tell me significant things about hope as an adult, as it once did when I was a child.

http://www.starwars.com/video/star-wars-the-last-jedi-official-teaser

 

Walt Longmire knows “Goodbye is Always Implied”

Longmire the final showdown s6 banner

“We are grateful to Netflix for the opportunity to compose a closing chapter for these beloved characters that inspires lasting memories. Most importantly, we’re committed to delivering a dynamic and satisfying conclusion to our fans that rewards their longtime loyalty,” said executive producers Greer Shephard, Hunt Baldwin and John Coveny. Variety, November 2016

(Mild season 6 spoilers)

Farewell Absaroka County

Following six seasons, it feels like I was just beginning to get to know these beloved characters these executive producers spoke of in Variety. I suppose that sentiment in itself may be the best overall complement I can bestow onto this final season of Netflix’s Longmire and the show as a whole. As much as I felt I’ve known the characters, season six once again let sunlight shine on the traits, behaviors, and the quality of character previously seen and unseen. This is how you want to go out in TV land, with the quality characters who brought you this far, while still leaving room for potential growth for them when the screen goes dark.

I hope my fellow Longmire fans were both satisfied and left wanting even more following that last ironic/iconic image with our sheriff Walt Longmire. That last camera shot was a crystal clear moment not only completing the metaphorical circle back to the show’s pilot episode. It now remains another “quiet” moment of simplicity in a show that has given us many instead of the constant visual and audio stimulation of the modern crime procedural. Of course, it’s also a total wink and tip of the hat to fans who have followed Longmire‘s journey on the show, online, and as it jumped to Netflix after season three.

Ultimately, we have the grief stricken man we first met six years earlier in the pilot, perfectly played by Robert Taylor, who has found peace of mind in a coexistence not only with those around him, but with the forces of the modern world thrust upon him and his county that he’s been fighting for six years in addition to the weekly “bad guys” themselves. Where the writers of this episodic narrative left these humanly complex, consistently compassionate, and regularly fallible individuals remained true to the story. With growth comes pain and consequences and with a little good fortune and good friends maybe some second chances as well. This final season had our beloved characters still doing their best to abide by their own principles in an ever changing world, even when we may disagree with what those principles may be whether demonstrated by Jacob Nighthorse or even Cady Longmire. The season may have given us an end to the ongoing story lines lingering about town, but for the characters themselves, they will continue to do their best to confront the challenges facing Absaroka and their personal lives. It’s just we the audience won’t be around to see how they’ll do it anymore.

Talk about TV

I’ll admit my bias by saying I have enjoyed Longmire from the beginning. Unlike many who found the show due to the works of Longmire series author Craig Johnson, I was among another built in fan base thanks to following Katee Sackhoff from the deep space of Battlestar Galactica to the wide open spaces of Wyoming. Incidentally, Sackhoff throughout season six delivers some of the finest work of her career that in the hands of other writers and actors could have played as mere plot device and inauthentic. Instead, Sackhoff’s Vic Moretti, who comes to Wyoming via Philadelphia, plays to her dynamic just as easily that she may as well be one of my own very strong willed but heartfelt female cousins from “Philly.” Although it took me a spaceship to get me to a western crime procedural, I immediately fell into Longmire‘s western pace of life, as I do when I travel out west myself in real life, no matter how much I may love the “city of brotherly love.”

With the benefit of knowing this was the end, the Longmire show runners in my opinion stuck to the tone and template of how this show works without trying to be somebody else’s show, even while revisiting some places and people in season six and taking the audience to explore new ones, or simply give us the chance to continue to see the characters we know in even closer proximity from the Ferg and Jacob Nighthorse to Bob the rodeo clown, and ultimately to Henry (the great Lou Diamond Phillips), Vic (Sackoff) and sheriff Walt Longmire (Taylor).

While I’m biased in my admiration and affection for this season and the show overall, I’m also honest enough to recognize in television history Longmire and its final season will not likely find itself in the critical debates among the iconic seasons or shows of the age defined by the likes of The Wire, Breaking Bad, (also filmed in New Mexico), Mad Men, etc. And though Robert Taylor’s Walt may not have achieved the infamous status of one Walter White of Breaking Bad, I think the sheriff has created his own niche in TV land he can be proud of. Regardless, the great thing about television, though, is we the audience not only demand variety from the medium (even among our doctor, lawyer, and police procedurals), but we’re all allowed to determine our shows that live on for us personally or as part of cult fan status, even shows that only last a single season or two (see Sports Night, Freaks and Geeks, etc.).

Longmire doesn’t need to be on a critic’s list to have been successful, remembered, and appreciated by its fans. It just needed to be well made, well written and well acted all while remaining true to itself through its final season to honor the story and its characters and reward the longtime loyalty of fans per the wishes of the executive producers. I believe it did right by this in season six, depending on your taste in how much fan service is the right amount. If we’re a fan of the show and debating fan service in a final season right up through those last few minutes under that big blue New Mexico sky standing in for Wyoming, then we probably should consider ourselves lucky as those are the kind of problems that other shows would kill to have. Longmire and season six in particular I believe will continue to be enjoyed years from now and surely will continue to be recommended to friends and family. I would be negligent without mentioning once again that none of this would have been possible without Netflix saving Longmire from the tracks of the oncoming train once A&E left it for dead. It gave fans the time of three more years to enjoy it, to find it, and to even return to or discover the mystery novels of Mr. Craig Johnson of Ucross, Wyoming. Despite Netflix’s own imperfections, fans will always be thankful for more time to say goodbye.

“We are proud to be the home of the ‘Longmire’ series, as so many viewers over the last few seasons have watched and been captivated by Walt’s journey,” said Cindy Holland, Netflix’s vice president of original content. “There has been no better team to work with on this show than Greer, Hunt and John, and their tremendous cast and crew, and we have every confidence that they will have a satisfying conclusion to this revered series. We are grateful to them and our friends at Warner Bros, who have been tremendous partners.” Variety, November 2016

Riding off into the sunset

Rather than binge watch this Thanksgiving, we savored the last of Longmire this holiday week. It wasn’t easy, because goodbyes often never are, even to the fictional characters who inhabit our lives. Sometimes, rather than racing toward the end of a book that is so enjoyable, you may find yourself slowing your pace down to the end because you don’t want to be without the characters any longer. I’ll admit, I find myself thankful now I’m several books behind in the Longmire series currently so I have somewhere to fill the particular void left by the show’s absence and my bucket now empty. Having had the pleasure to meet author Craig Johnson and his lovely wife a few years ago at a book signing, my family found both to be incredibly gracious and thoughtful folks and I will keep them in mind as I return to the books that started it all.

Before moving back to the book series I’ll finish this reflection on season six with four brief observations as I just yesterday watched the Longmire series finale.

  1. I’d gladly welcome continued stand alone movies offered by Netflix in the future with these characters #longlivelongmire #longmirefamily. I also believe the way the series was wrapped up this can easily be done in the present, or even past tense. I’d even appreciate a stand-alone series or even a miniseries continuing to explore life on the Cheyenne or Crow reservations as seen through the eyes of Officer Mathias, played by Zahn McClarnon, who along with life on the reservation itself arguably may have benefitted the most from the show’s move from A&E to Netflix with the expanded screen time from 43 minutes to a full 60 minute show.
  2. I continue to appreciate the extended episode length as mentioned above as I believe it can spend time on details, moments, or quiet not afforded to other shows or even earlier seasons of this one. I have seen critiques of the show’s extended length being a detriment to the precision of  procedural storytelling. I prefer the more movie of the week feeling to the show that is unafraid to include smaller details as if you’re capturing those things that would be dropped from a novel and I’m ok with that. Without the move to Netflix I can only assume Jacob, Cady, Mathias, the Ferg, and maybe even Henry would have continued to be lesser of characters than they grew to be with the luxury of more time.
  3. This show is told through the lens of the traditional white American cowboy, but I believe this show from the beginning and especially with the move to Netflix may have created more of a space for an America and Americans we rarely see on TV by exposing its audience to Native Americans and their many cultures. I also hope that with the recent uptick to revisit life in the west, modern or otherwise, there will be more opportunities created for native storytellers, actors, and other entertainment professionals thanks to a show like Longmire that can grow a physical universe beyond black and white thinking or have layered characters like Henry, Mathias, and Jacob who each are very different from one another in both personality and principles. These links on the Montana state home page may be of interest and their format seemed easier to access than on the Wyoming state page. https://tribalnations.mt.gov/northerncheyenne https://tribalnations.mt.gov/crow This related article was also interesting and features Tantoo Cardinal who plays a recurring character in Longmire. Native American Actors Work to Overcome a Long-Documented Bias (May 2015) https://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/05/movies/native-american-actors-work-to-overcome-a-long-documented-bias.html
  4. The other significant thing that must be said after knowing you’re getting a final season to end on your own terms is that those involved in the show have done a great job communicating their respect for the fans. The fans of the show got them through six years in today’s saturated streaming market where millions of people can watch anything, but millions chose to watch Longmire. There are several folks involved in the show active on social media and they have often interacted with fans on social media and continue to do so and they should be applauded for this. Yes, it helps their brand, but it’s still a nice thing to remember the people who contribute to you having a job by being so invested in the characters and the show itself, right down to the bittersweet end. You may find these and others on Twitter: @ucrosspop25 @JohnCoveny @LouDPhillips @kateesackhoff @mamalou8 @ABoneMartinez @cassidyfreeman ‏ @Adam_Bartley @Bailey_Chase @ZahnMcClarnon @TJScottPictures @Rafeolla @Louis_Herthum @tonytost @dshephard and you may find Robert Taylor on Instagram: roberttaylor6677

There are jobs that enrich you, teach you, remind you of the humanity in our Art. This is one of them. Thank you. #Longmire @LouDPhillips

Although this finale seems far less final and more like life will go on in Absaroka County, this is an asset of season six and its last episode not a complaint. In fact this leads to my final observation that among the many things I enjoyed about season six and the finale, I will immediately give Longmire the honor of best series ending title in “Goodbye is Always Implied.” I barely gave it a thought before watching the last episode. But then… I simply love this title, especially in a day and age where we have more access to episode names than ever before with IMDB etc., but all too frequently in our modern world episode titles seem so less a part of the connective tissue of a show itself as they were in the days of The West Wing, E.R. or others when they were presented as part of the episode itself.

In what I consider to be one of the best scenes of the series, Walt Longmire, perhaps more in touch with his own mortality than the hero often lets on, recognizes and states that in the line of work of being a cop, police officer, or Absaroka County sheriff that “goodbye is always implied.” Having never worked in law enforcement or  other careers with such daily dangers baked in the cake I have never heard those words spoken and done so beautifully to remind an audience of the gravity of those who put themselves in harms way to protect others. The multiple meanings here are wonderous for life itself and how we have control over none of it including those of us not in careers of danger around every corner. In reality, goodbye is implied with life itself. Additionally, and more specifically about this finale and final season this expression could not be more spot on about this show or any other. We as fans of television, whether we think about it or not, know that goodbye is always implied. No characters or shows lasts forever, even if it seems they will in the likes of NCIS, SVU, or others that most certainly have already long overstayed their welcome like The Walking Dead.

No matter how long our favorite shows last, we must enjoy them however we define enjoyment. If it’s our favorite TV show or movie we share it with friends and rewatch it. If we have a favorite book we give it as a gift and reread it. Goodbye may always be implied with our stories and even our lives as we know them, but it falls on those who love the stories to keep them, the characters, and the messages alive.

As part of keeping Longmire alive, I have the memories and pictures of my wife and I visiting the Caldera in New Mexico where the show established Walt Longmire’s home and we’ve been to downtown Las Vegas, New Mexico where Longmire, Vic, Ferg, Ruby, and the late Branch Connally went to work, or at least the front office door! I’ve even had lunch at The Mine Shaft Tavern in Madrid, New Mexico which served as the Red Pony on the pilot and was used as the design for the set used throughout the show. These are all great memories beyond the show itself. Most important, Longmire is a show that my family has shared and enjoyed together these last several years that have been rougher than others in my life. For that reason alone, it will always hold a significant place as it may be the only one we have all unanimously enjoyed. For that more than any other reason I give credit and thanks to everyone involved from page to screen and especially to Netflix for not letting that excellent season three finale go unresolved and giving continued life to characters and a place that always deserved a proper goodbye…and with a little hope of “maybe we’ll see you again sometime.” Now that I reached my journey to the end of the final showdown, I will pick up my phone to call my mother who already watched and loved the finale and say “hello” and talk about that satisfying ending.

 

The Santa Fe New Mexican: ‘Longmire’ is wrapping its final season, let’s all have a good cry http://www.santafenewmexican.com/news/blogs/longmire-is-wrapping-its-final-season-let-s-all-have/article_e18d78ca-5db6-11e7-b246-43e55c1dc803.html

Special thanks to all the behind the scenes folks with Warner Bros. and Netflix that make the production quality of Longmire seem so impressive, even if you all are filming in some of the prettiest parts of the country. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1836037/fullcredits?ref_=ttfc_ql_1 especially Hunt Baldwin, John Coveny, Greer Shephard, Michael Robin and Patrick McKee and of course to the man who gave us the characters and the Longmire fictional world Mr. Craig Johnson http://www.craigallenjohnson.com/.

A few other special thanks from a loyal viewer include the following:

David Shephard for the lovely music over six seasons, which contributes so much to the show and the Music Department who have provided such memorable songs to go along with the telling of this story including just these few memorable ones from season six.

Special thanks to the Longmire book produced for fans by @TJScottPictures @Dennydenn which includes these and many more wonderful pictures that my family will enjoy for years to come in our home. http://dennysilic.format.com/male-actors

 Longmire Kickstarter Henry

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And of course to Pamela Ladypn and the Longmire Posse, Official Fan Site on Facebook and twitter @LongmirePosse and others who kept the dream and show alive. Thanks for creating a space for fan support and engaging and advocating for the show many people didn’t know they needed until they found it.

 

Staffing Experiences: Having Them and Sharing Them (Post 3 of 3)

  • Continued from previous post: Staffing Experiences: Having Them and Sharing Them (Post 2 of 3) http://bit.ly/2vMFOcv (Post 1 of 3) http://bit.ly/2vgqsfS

 

Below are two professional competency areas that highlight the many dynamics involved in the questions and responses brought up in these survey questions.

For the purpose of the Social Justice and Inclusion competency area, social justice is defined as both a process and a goal that includes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to create learning environments that foster equitable participation of all groups and seeks to address issues of oppression, privilege, and power. This competency involves student affairs educators who have a sense of their own agency and social responsibility that includes others, their community, and the larger global context. Student affairs educators may incorporate social justice and inclusion competencies into their practice through seeking to meet the needs of all groups, equitably distributing resources, raising social consciousness, and repairing past and current harms on campus communities. – Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators

 

The Organizational and Human Resources competency area includes knowledge, skills, and dispositions used in the management of institutional human capital, financial, and physical resources. This competency area recognizes that student affairs professionals bring personal strengths and grow as managers through challenging themselves to build new skills in the selection, supervision, motivation, and formal evaluation of staff; resolution of conflict; management of the politics of organizational discourse; and the effective application of strategies and techniques associated with financial resources, facilities management, fundraising, technology, crisis management, risk management and sustainable resources. – Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators

 

What follows in section V. are survey questions 11 through 14 with responses, which focus on current or previous employment status, considerations about leaving the professions and this profession, and if staffing is characterized and communicated as social justice and professional sustainability practices overall. The responses are broken down by bar graphs and a pie chart. Comments are presented in section VI. based on 354 respondents. Section VII. includes some brief closing comments.

V.  Employment Status, Sustainability, and Social Justice (Questions 11-15)

11. Have you ever experienced a period in your full-time professional career (other than student or graduate roles) when you would have classified yourself as being unemployed, underemployed (employed at less than full-time or in jobs that do not meet economic needs and/or skill qualifications), or as not seeking employment? (multiple options allowed)

  • No – I would never classify myself as fitting into any of the three categories presented. (41.2%)
  • Yes – I would classify myself as being previously unemployed during my professional career. (30.1%)
  • Yes – I would classify myself as being previously underemployed during my professional career. (31.8%)
  • Yes – I would classify myself as being in a position of previously not seeking employment during my professional career. (6%)
  • Yes – I would classify myself as being currently unemployed during my professional career. (9.7%)
  • Yes – I would classify myself as being currently underemployed during my professional career. (15.1%)
  • Yes – I would classify myself as being in a position of not currently seeking employment during my professional career. (3.7%)

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Survey responses to question 15: If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before your response.

“After being laid off in February 2015 I searched for full time positions in student affairs most were career services positions and a few were student affairs assessment positions. I came away from my search feeling that as a 58 year old African American man, student affairs no longer wanted me. I feel career services in particular wants young, Caucasian women who corporate recruiters will be comfortable with. I am happy with my move to the non-profit sector and the growth potential here. I feel as student affairs continue to practice race and age discriminatory employment policy, eventually some college President will get fed up with this and dissolve a division and have these functions performed by other university personnel.”

“I’ve had bad fortune seeking higher ed/SA work and the upset and pain of never landing a job has been crippling at times.”

“I think there are norms in higher ed that don’t apply to other fields. In many instances the intended salary for a position is not posted. Sometimes a grade will be applied to a position (ex: Salary Grade A) but there is no information posted anywhere else to indicate what that means. The concept of being “overqualified” may be mute if that information was made more publicly available. People are more likely to opt out of a search if they know what the pay range is up front. Conversely, if you do make an offer than it shouldn’t be a shock to the candidate if it is lower than they expect because they chose to apply with all the information.”

“My experience is that it all depends on the institution. I have left professional positions twice due to culture concerning treatment of professional/student staff. I have also stayed “too long”/taken a position for which I am overqualified to be a part of a culture that honors and supports professionals and student staff.”

“I am currently searching and feeling fully defeated as a 53 yr. old 2nd career professional who is passionate about the field. I have been on 14 campus interviews in 2 years and judging from my own data, that I have collected, I am a favorite candidate to bring when there is an inside candidate favored for hiring. I meet all the qualifications, but I am just off the average age and background to justify the hiring of someone who has an “added edge because they are familiar with our campus” I seriously get no poor feedback. Every time, it is not me, it is just that the person hired has more.

“I have had a former employer stop me from taking an on campus interview at another school. The same former employer become a negative job reference without informing me, even though my performance reviews were always excellent, solely because I left employment against her wishes. I was hired at another school for a position that was being replaced by grad students, but not informed at all during the hiring process. They literally were hiring me for one semester. I left that position early and almost gave up on Student Affairs. I am currently under employed in the field due to, I am assuming, the gap in my work history this previous situation helped cause. I also could have cause to bring a suit against the first employer, for harming my career. I interviewed with thirty schools at a placement conference, getting many second interviews, and talks of on campus offers. But, then, they got the damning but false negative reference from this individual and I was out of the running. Let’s be honest. Student Affairs is a very small field. If you get on the wrong or right side of someone it can make or break your career. I love our field. I hate our field. But, I love trying to help students more. So, here I am, under employed 15 years into my career, trying to move forward…I can only pray the field changes for the better.”

“I had a period of unemployment which lasted about 14 months until I finally landed a position in Student Affairs again. This was roughly 4 year ago. I recently left that position that pulled me out of unemployment and recently discovered that I was given an unfavorable recommendation by that supervisor when they called for a reference for my current position. Most of it was our personality conflict. Being honest, I’m more than a bit frustrated and upset by that. I know that a lot places want a “current supervisor” but sometimes that’s not terribly healthy for either party. The things the supervisor charged me with in the reference were the result of both management style and the fact we had differing views on a few things. We could mostly work well together, but really I wish she would have declined when I asked to be a reference.”

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12. Have you ever considered or completed voluntary separation from any full-time professional position for reasons related to what you would characterize as staffing concerns (the selection and training of individuals for specific job functions, and charging them with the associated responsibilities)?

  • No – I have never considered departing a position for reasons related to staffing concerns. (43.7%)
  • Yes – I have at one time considered departing a position for reasons related to staffing concerns. (24.9%)
  • Yes – I have more than once considered departing a position for reasons related to staffing concerns. (13.7%)
  • Yes – I have departed a position at least once for reasons related to staffing concerns. (21.1%)
  • Yes – I have departed a position on multiple occasions for reasons related to staffing concerns. (3.1%)

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13. Have you ever considered or completed voluntary separation from the field of STUDENT AFFAIRS for reasons related to staffing concerns (the selection and training of individuals for specific job functions, and charging them with the associated responsibilities)?

  • No – I have never considered departing the field of student affairs for reasons related to staffing concerns. (48.9%)
  • Yes – I have at one time considered departing the field of student affairs for reasons related to staffing concerns. (21.6%)
  • Yes – I have more than once considered departing the field of student affairs for reasons related to staffing concerns. (20.7%)
  • Yes – I have departed the field of student affairs at least once for reasons related to staffing concerns. (8.9%)
  • Yes – I have departed the field of student affairs on multiple occasions for reasons related to staffing concerns. (.9%)
  • Other(1.2%)

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Survey responses to question 15: If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before your response.

“I am so incredibly much happier being out of student affairs. In my current field, if I question something that happens with a hiring practice, people listen and act to resolve the issue as best they can. In student affairs, speaking up against injustice in hiring cost me a promotion.”

“The field of student affairs seems to churn people in and out pretty quickly — the hours and level of training leave a lot to be desired. Moreover, there seems to be an almost ‘well, that’s the way it is’ attitude that me and my peers have experienced. It has made me question whether a career in student affairs in the long term is feasible.”

“While I have encountered difficulties in my job searches before, my current job search seems to be much more difficult than in years past. I find myself being passed over for interviews for positions I am clearly qualified for, and should I receive an opportunity to interview, I typically receive little to no follow up communication, even if I am the one who initiates the dialogue. This severe lack of communication with regards to status of a search I have entered, or any updates to the search timeline has been extremely discouraging. I do not think I’m entitled to any position I apply to, even if my qualifications are ideal for the role, but I am often left wondering why I was not given notification as to why I did not receive an interview (phone and/or on-campus) or why my candidacy was not pursued. I do not necessarily attribute these frustrations to dubious hiring practices, but on several occasion I have discovered that my candidacy (as a potential external hire) was passed over in favor of someone the institution wanted to promote from within the same department or elsewhere in the same institution. These instances have caused me to feel like the process was disingenuous and I was only brought in for formality’s sake, as opposed to a serious candidate.”

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14. As a current or former student affairs professional, how would you characterize your impression as it pertains to the concept of staffing as a (a.) socially just and (b.) sustainable practice of the profession and whether this practice is appropriately communicated or prioritized? (a. ethical, inclusive, embracing the attributes of economic and employment justice, etc.) (b. equitable access to opportunities and persons, ability for continued professional mobility and advancement, or overall job security, etc.)

  • Excellent – I feel the concept of staffing as a socially just and sustainable professional practice receives comprehensive communication and/or top prioritization in relation to other priorities in the profession. (4.3%)
  • Average – I feel the concept of staffing as a socially just and sustainable professional practice receives a basic level of communication and/or prioritization in relation to other priorities in the profession. (41.1%)
  • Poor – I feel the concept of staffing as a socially just and sustainable professional practice receives minimal to no communication and/or prioritization in relation to other priorities of the profession (51%)

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VI.  Comments from Respondents (Question 15)

15. If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before your response.

Out of 354 respondents over 50 chose to leave some form of comment. Several have been shared in the previous two posts and so far in this one. Below are a taste of many others, although not every single one may have been included for spacing purposes and some have been edited for space, spelling, and or clarity.

“How would we go about finding out if this is situation that other professions experience?”

 

“I wish I had data from other fields to compare my experiences to. Because we say we’re about social justice but then replicate systems of oppression in hiring, it scares me to think about how bad it might be in fields where they don’t even pretend to care about social justice.”

 

“Question 9 – I am currently searching since January. I have received many phone interviews, yet one institution with nearly identical job description for midlevel housing role as all others I’ve applied for did not extend the phone interview and couldn’t provide specific feedback as to why. Another institution announced the search was closed and the position had been filled less than 2 weeks after the phone interview, which left me questioning the integrity. At the 2nd institution they said they do not provide any feedback to professional candidates.”

 

“This isn’t really attached to just one question but I feel there has been more than one instance of me being called to an interview when someone else was clearly already in mind or to diversify the interview pool. In either case I think it is a complete waste of time. Especially when one of the interviews involved me driving 4 hours one way at my own expense.”

 

“I have been in SA for 14 years, I came from industry, my background is MHRM and I have since taken a few classes toward EDd. I will say I have found it easier to work with individuals who come from a diverse background versus those that come straight from achieving a higher ed degree. Understanding the theories is one thing but being able to work in an ever changing environment is key. I am thankful that I have a background in several areas and I am the one most often students seek out, not because I have a degree, because I can relate in different areas and change my thinking on a whim. I would love to see this survey taken in industry. As the same things happen for interviews. It’s not just SA, its everywhere. Looking forward to the results.”

 

“Relating to socially just practices, I feel that it’s not only student affairs that falls short in this area. Institutionally, we rarely turn the mirror back on ourselves and examine our practices and traditions with this lens in mind. It would be difficult for student affairs to solely address some of these issues that are rooted in practices spanning the entire university and that have been in place for a long time.”

 

“In some instances I shared my concerns with professional staff when serving on a search committee though I did not seek external resources. It is unclear to me if my concerns were reported up and lead to any formal investigation. As a chair of a search committee, I have been told by a supervisor who would be hired prior to reviewing candidate profiles. This happened on multiple occasions.”

 

“I felt that question 14 should have been split up into two separate questions. I haven’t run into much socially unjust staffing issues, but I have seen a ton of issues regarding some of the other topics addressed. For example, many institutions seem to always seek and prefer outside candidates, while others seem to always prefer to promote from within, while both types act as if the posting is truly open to all. I am currently stuck at a place which only seems to hire from the outside, and cannot move up. My last school only seemed to promote from within.”

 

“As a whole, our field is TERRIBLE at hiring, but much of this is dictated by HR or the institution. I think most people in student affairs want to have just hiring practices, and are held back by red tape and legal concerns.”

 

“We don’t practice what we preach! It’s very difficult to access student affairs jobs unless you are able to travel on your own dime. It’s also difficult to access the profession if your career path has not been a linear one. Heck, it’s even difficult to switch functional areas if you seek to do so. For all our talk of inclusivity, if you are anything other than a reasonably attractive white woman with a straight and narrow career path, some doors will be shut to you. Just look around while attending conferences, particularly those with many young SA professionals.”

 

“Women are bullies in the workplace, it has happened at every single job I’ve had, including outside higher ed. I think women need to be taught collaboration skills, as well as tolerance of other women who are not defined by traditional gender roles. They exclude me and are rude. I make every few female friends at work, and they “talk.” It often feels like I never graduated high school.”

 

“I believe there are several areas where the field misleads candidates or requires more of a person’s time than they are being compensated for. While yes, salaried jobs do require extra hours on occasion, one should not work 60+ hours a week for 40 hours of salary or 12 out of 15 weekends a semester with no comp time. We don’t make enough to warrant that and no job is that critical.”

 

“I sincerely believe that higher education institutions should be more transparent during their hiring process; and move more expeditiously. The hiring process takes much longer than it needs to. The bureaucracy and red tape are major reasons why there is a high attrition rate among SA professionals. Additionally, we are a field that expects people to be okay with earning $35-40K who hold Master’s degrees, when private industry pays people $70-80K+ for the same level of education. It’s disheartening! Furthermore, for a field that preaches diversity and inclusivity, there are way too many instances of micro aggressions.”

 

“The University of … just went through a job family study that SEVERELY downgraded the employment status of student services professionals (actually, we’re not even considered professionals any more, just clerical workers), where admissions representatives…are considered the epitome of student services professionals with salary ranges way above those doing actual student services work. The job study was demoralizing, dehumanizing, and discounted the valuable work done by student services personnel. We only care about getting them in the door?!? What about those who work with the students to ensure that they stay and finish?”

 

“I have been on interviews where it became apparent that I was the extra candidate as mandated by hr where the supervisor was not even in town for the on campus interview, and have been invited on campus without reimbursement when an internal candidate seemed to be the choice all along.”

 

“I have experienced an institution that promoted from within individuals who did not have the experience required. In this case a person who came from a non AS department was in student involvement for 3 years and did not supervise anyone and them was promoted to director of Reslife having never been an RA or other experience in Reslife after the former director was fired. Proceeded to kick out hires of the former director standoff year with very little warning.”

 

“I recently left Student Affairs to work in the Ed Tech industry and it amazed me the pace at which search processes moved outside of Student Affairs and how well candidates were treated in the process. Within all of my Student Affairs job searches the institution made me feel that I was privileged to be interviewing with them for a $35,000/year position having had previous professional experience and a Master’s degree. Institutions act like they are in the driver’s seat and if you are lucky enough to get offered a job, they will have the expectation that you will be attend weekend and evening events, no questions asked, while receiving no additional compensation. “Flex time” was offered for these hours, but that diminished the availability you would have to students. My experience interviewing outside of Student Affairs has been the opposite. Employers are thrilled you are considering working for their company. Now being on the other side of Student Affairs, I feel fairly compensated, fairly treated and my employers  acknowledge I have commitments outside of work and respects that. I also feel as if I am treated as a professional with a skill set rather than under intense scrutiny at all times.”

 

“The state of …top-tier research universities engage in discriminatory hiring practices as the norm, not the exception.”

 

“I feel a lot of things fall into the category of “fit.” Whether or not you find that just or sustainable, I think sometimes people just don’t mesh well and there is gravity to that.”

 

“As a senior-level professional…the most frequent issue I have seen in searches both as a candidate and an employer/search committee member is the hiring of less-qualified candidates who do not meet the expected demography of positions. I saw this frequently in residence life the concept of “gender-balance” in hiring (or even offering interviews to) less-qualified male or female candidates in order to have a balanced team. This is most common in Hall Directors, but have seen it in all levels. Beyond housing, the most frequent area I have seen issues is in entry-level Multicultural Affairs positions. As a member of a number of search committees, I have seen strong candidates dismissed after first-round (or even paper) review because they didn’t “fit” with the area in question. Candidates with 2 years of intern or practicum experience in Multicultural Offices have been dropped from searches because their resume does not show evidence that a candidate is a member of the group served. If a candidate does not show membership in an NPHC/MGC group or other minority student group, they have been dropped in favor of candidates who the hiring officer “knew” were black when hiring for a BRC. Similarly a lack of GSA/LGBTQ+ org experience or “being LGBTQ+” research or presentation experience can get you cut from consideration. Finally, I worked at one institution that required all candidate pools to be reviewed by Affirmative Action using a form that required the hiring officer to list the race of the candidate based solely on the application materials and, if based on that list, there was insufficient racial diversity, the search would be canceled without regard for the skills and experience of the other applicants. Similarly if the group advanced to phone interviews and on-campus interviews was not sufficiently diverse, Affirmative Action had the ability to fail the search or place additional candidates on the phone or interview list, despite a comparative lack of qualifications and, if not selected, required a statement of justification as to why the minority candidate was not hired. I saw many under-qualified minority candidates hired in order to avoid the endless rounds of meetings and letters which resulted from attempting to hire a non-minority candidate. Often hiring managers looking to fill multiple vacancies would get a search approved through the on-campus phase for a single vacancy, then fill additional vacancies using the same pool, hiring an under-qualified candidate of color in order to be allowed to hire the qualified candidates who were also included in the pool. This usually resulted in VERY high rates of turnover.”

 

“I strongly believe that the interview process for student affairs positions is unrealistic and ridiculous. No other job do they require you to do a full day or more long interview.”

 

“I would consider nepotism a large issue in the field. I have both been overlooked for positions in favor of friends/family of the search committee members (I was an internal candidate and knew my search committee) and been on search committees where the group placed value on candidates who were friends/family of search committee members.”

 

“On boarding continues to be a struggle for many universities.”

 

“Student Affairs is well known for advocating for social justice but is equally guilty of non-inclusive, discriminatory, and nepotistic practices as any other corporatized field. What makes the SA field worse, is the insistence that we are ‘better’ at it and the denial that we engage in the same behaviors under different names.” 

 

VII.  What’s Next?

Social Justice (ethical, inclusive, embracing the attributes of economic and employment justice, etc.)

Sustainable (equitable access to opportunities and persons, ability for continued professional mobility and advancement, or overall job security, etc.)

In the last three posts I’ve shared a lot of information from a lot of people who I thank for giving the profession plenty more to consider in terms of the many substantive parts of the staffing practices designed, implemented, and assessed, or not, by institutions and organizations and how they may or may not be playing a role at a given institution or on the field as a whole, especially related to the practices of social justice and professional sustainability.

I do hope that these posts represent those who took time and thought to contribute to them the best manner they could in the opportunity provided. I hope they help professionals and graduate students who read them feel less isolated and more heard as there are those out there who obviously have shared similar experiences to yours, even if it’s just reflected in the words “excellent,” “average,” or “poor.” At least it’s a starting place for dialogue. I hope these posts show there will be those out there in the profession to believe you when things don’t turn out well for everyone, because they will not always no matter how many times it’s invoked that #yougotthis.

I hope that these posts inspire leadership, integrity, social justice, and considerations of professional sustainability that will demonstrate many people want the best for all professionals and the profession and more professionals will not fear getting to that “best” by talking about, listening to, and asking the hard questions that are requirements of staffing 365 days a year. I hope that those in the profession will continue to seek out where the burdens are for professionals and that more and more people may be generous and self aware enough to meet and greet others in those realities and grow forth from them into even better professional practices tomorrow and the day after that. Peace.

Staffing Experiences: Having Them and Sharing Them (Post 2 of 3)

Staffing – “the selection and training of individuals for specific job functions, and charging them with the associated responsibilities.” (Business Dictionary)

Continued from Previous post: Staffing Experiences: Having Them and Sharing Them (Post 1 of 3) http://bit.ly/2vgqsfS

(Staffing Experiences: Having Them and Sharing Them (Post 3 of 3 found here: http://bit.ly/2vSX2Ww )

stay away from people coelho

IV. Talent Acquisition, Integrity, and Discrimination (Questions 5-10)

What follows are survey questions 5 through 10 with responses, which focus on perspectives or perceptions of integrity of job search processes and discriminatory practice in staffing. The responses are broken down by percentage and corresponding pie charts and bar graph based on 354 respondents.

5. As an APPLICANT/CANDIDATE, have you ever questioned the integrity of a search process for concerns regarding the employer’s potential involvement in discriminatory practices (including race, color, religion, sex-including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation, national origin, age-40 or older, disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.)?

  • No – I have never questioned the integrity of a search process that I was a participant in that included concerns of discrimination. (43.3%)
  • Yes – On at least one occasion I questioned the integrity of a search process that I was a participant in that included concerns of discrimination. (38.5%)
  • Yes – On more than one occasion I questioned the integrity of a search process that I was a participant in that included concerns of discrimination. (17.6%)

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6. As an EMPLOYER/EMPLOYEE ON A SEARCH COMMITTEE, have you ever questioned the integrity of a search process for concerns regarding the employer’s potential involvement in discriminatory practices (including race, color, religion, sex-including pregnancy, gender identity, and sexual orientation, national origin, age-40 or older, disability or genetic information. It is also illegal to discriminate against a person because the person complained about discrimination, filed a charge of discrimination, or participated in an employment discrimination investigation or lawsuit.)?

  • No – I have never questioned the integrity of a search process that I was a participant in that included concerns of discrimination. (35.5%)
  • Yes – On at least one occasion I questioned the integrity of a search process that I was a participant in that included concerns of discrimination. (36.6%)
  • Yes – On more than one occasion I questioned the integrity of a search process that I was a participant in that included concerns of discrimination. (16.2%)
  • NA (11.6%)

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7. As an APPLICANT/CANDIDATE, have you ever questioned the integrity of a search process for concerns regarding your perception of the institution’s unprofessional/unethical behavior (as evidenced by the process itself, employees encountered during the process, or within the culture of the employer), or any other concern not mentioned above?

  • No – As a candidate, I have never questioned the integrity of a search process for any reason. (31.4%)
  • Yes – As a candidate, I have questioned the integrity of a search process ONCE for the reasons listed above. (33.1%)
  • Yes – As a candidate, I have questioned the integrity of a search process MORE THAN ONCE for the reasons listed above. (26.3%)
  • Yes – As a candidate, I have questioned the integrity of a search process, but for reasons not listed. (8.8%)

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Survey responses to question 15: If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before your response.

“I have received very weird interactions as a person with a disability when I disclose. I feel the length of most student affairs on campus interviews are inaccessible to a lot of people with disabilities. I also see a lot of jobs that have requirements like you must lift something or drive but very rarely are those real requirements.

“I wish there was a good place to report concerns or ask for advice about hiring practices that seem sketchy. I worked at an institution where my supervisor stated that we were not to hire any more of a specific type of person of a certain gender and race, and I was furious – but it was definitely a departmental issue. I brought it up to HR but nothing was done so I decided I didn’t want to work at a place that did that (and other sketchy things) and left.”

“I think that unfortunately if you’re a minority (POC, Woman, LGBTQIA, Poor, etc.) you do not have the privilege of having as many connections and honestly, I’ve seen at institutions that they put up a job, but they already know who they are going to hire. It’s very sad and stressful because trying to get a job is tough!”

“There are so many competing political and institutional demands that taint the hiring process. My concern is that these appear to outweigh qualifications often times. I have had to fight inappropriate practices and have left a position due to unaddressed concerns over inequitable practices in hiring and treatment of employees.”

“I see this survey as very necessary and am happy to have provided the information for it. I would even say I’ve seen discriminatory actions at the student hiring level and would challenge student hiring discrimination as well. I was a very big advocate for this at my current institution. So much so that we overhauled the selection process due to the cracks I was able to uncover.”

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8. As an EMPLOYER/EMPLOYEE ON A SEARCH COMMITTEE, have you ever questioned the integrity of a search process for concerns regarding observed unprofessional/unethical behavior (as evidenced by the process itself, employees acting on behalf of the process, or in demonstrations by the work culture), or any other concern not mentioned above?

  • No – I have never questioned the integrity of a search process for any reason. (26.4%)
  • Yes – I have questioned the integrity of a search process ONCE for the reasons listed above. (30.7%)
  • Yes – I have questioned the integrity of a search process MORE THAN ONCE for the reasons listed above. (25.9%)
  • NA – (13.4%)
  • Yes – I have questioned the integrity of a search process, but not for reasons listed above. (3.7%)

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9. As an APPLICANT/CANDIDATE, have you ever met at least all required qualifications of a position and were not considered for the position, which led you to question the integrity of a search process based upon your perception of any of the following as possible factors in NOT being considered for a position? (multiple responses permitted)

  • No – I have never questioned the integrity of a search process for any of these reasons. (13.4%)
  • Disqualification for being underemployed or overqualified (43.6%)
  • Disqualification for an employment gap, or period of unemployment for any length of time (16.2%)
  • Disqualification for “External status” (missing direct referral to the institution, or being an outside applicant/candidate unknown to the hiring manager) (49.6%)
  • Disqualification for “Internal status” (participating as an internal applicant/candidate) (14.2%)
  • Disqualification for “being yourself” pertaining to personal characteristics or qualities that demonstrate your comfort with your personal or professional “authentic” self (29.9%)
  • Disqualification for concerns that the “open search” post was not truly open for anyone beyond an already decided upon professional (65.2%)
  • Other/Additional perceptions (6.9%) Some other examples provided include:  “lacking skills” or direct experience even though I met all requirements, geographic location, “age and unwillingness to pay appropriate wage based on education and experience,” “wrong” institutional experience – the position was for a community college but my experience has been within the non-profit sector and 4 year (public and private) institutions,” “because I was white, ” “I worked in an office for someone who has been in the news a lot for very negative things and I feel my association with them has hurt me,” “second career nontraditional,” “women don’t like me because I am more of a tomboy. I am not married and don’t have kids, which is rare for my age,” “because I was pregnant,” “because I didn’t have the right SA pedigree,” “fit,” “ageism and weight,” “being “too expensive” for them to fly for an in person interview round (Position was across the country),” “not having far above the required qualifications. ie, I have 3 years experience, but they really want 5 or more,” because I previously interviewed and not hired so not considered on other attempts

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10. Have you ever as an APPLICANT/CANDIDATE/EMPLOYER/EMPLOYEE ON A SEARCH COMMITTEE contacted a professional resource or organization (OTHER than a personally-known mentor) regarding a job search integrity concern in order to obtain guidance, support, ask question or clarifications, or to report a formal charge of discrimination?

  • No – I have never contacted a professional resource or organization regarding a job search integrity concern to pursue any of the above, because I had no reason to do so. (45%)
  • No – I have never contacted a professional resource or organization regarding a job search integrity concern to pursue any of the above, although I perceived I had reason to do so. (40.7%)
  • Yes – I have contacted a professional resource or organization regarding a job search concern to pursue all of the above, except discrimination. (10.5%)
  • Yes – I have contacted a professional resource or organization regarding a job search concern to pursue all of the above, which included filing a report of discrimination. (2.3%)

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Survey responses to question 15: If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before your response.

“In reference to question 10: I have never contacted a professional organization about this issue b/c I did not know that it was an option to do so.”

“Identification and up front approach regarding internal candidates. I’ve sat on too many search committees that spent hundreds of dollars bringing in candidates for positions (operations coordinator to Dean of Students) and knowing from the onset that the search was being conducted as a formality and the internal candidate was going to receive the job. One search in particular, I felt the internal candidate was significantly less qualified for the position but was the successor in the end.”

“Frequently I have felt there are economic reasons for more qualified individuals not being selected for a position in lieu of a less qualified candidate solely on the grounds of pay scale and perhaps the more experienced candidate’s understanding of the demands of a position and the relating undervalued salary figure being offered for that position.”

“From my experience, the experience varies from institution to institution. I’ve found that some areas tend to hire individuals within that same region than other areas.”

“I have never questioned the integrity of a search. The bottom line is you’re going to hire someone you know over someone you don’t. If you don’t know either candidate very well then you’re going to roll the dice and take your best shot with the candidate that you think can do the job. There’s no way a colleague would ask a friend to apply for a job with their home institution and then not hire them if the decision was theirs to make. It’s not just a student affairs tactic but it’s how most people get a job. Employers need to know you’re good at what you do so if they know you from past experiences then you’re good to go. Look at most presidential cabinets in higher education. They pull in their friends and colleagues that have proven to be loyal and hopefully competent in their previous positions.”

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  • UP NEXT: Tomorrow’s final post includes the topic Employment Status, Sustainability, and Social Justice and Inclusion including question 11 “Have you ever experienced a period in your full-time professional career (other than student or graduate roles) when you would have classified yourself as being unemployed, underemployed (employed at less than full-time or in jobs that do not meet economic needs and/or skill qualifications), or as not seeking employment?” through question 15 “If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before your response.”

 

Staffing Experiences: Having Them and Sharing Them (Post 1 of 3)

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Staffing – “the selection and training of individuals for specific job functions, and charging them with the associated responsibilities.” (Business Dictionary)

(Staffing Experiences: Having Them and Sharing Them (Post 2 of 3 found here: http://bit.ly/2vMFOcv)

I. A Professional’s Experience with Staffing in Student Affairs – Survey Responses 2017

*This post and the following two will share results from the recent survey I made available on professional staffing in student affairs. This first post provides some initial introductory context before going into results sharing.  

Staffing is and always has been among the most significant parts of the student affairs profession by what it gets right and by what it gets wrong. Despite this, for the better part of my long professional career the volume of “air time” this significance gets beyond placement enthusiasm or worry and “trust the process” encouragement has never seemed equitable in relation to what I consider to be more specific and substantive layers of staffing itself, especially including social justice and professional sustainability.

I have been relieved at times the last few years as I’ve seen and heard more frequent talk about staffing practices in the profession. This has come in the form of discussing student employment of resident assistants http://ihenow.com/2vLedZR to the costs of being able to be considered for a job as a graduate or a professional job seeker, like the one shared last week in The Chronicle of Higher Education – “Rethinking the Student-Affairs Cattle Call” https://shar.es/1T8GkN by Lee Burdette Williams. This latter post rightfully questions the need, equity, and access issues concerning professional placement conferences.

I am glad to know that more people are sharing their professional experiences and truths (good, bad, and indifferent) and this gives me hope that there is growing self awareness by professionals who can prioritize themselves as employees of organization X as well as prioritizing the job they’ve been hired to do. Additionally, I hope this means there is a higher awareness from organizational leadership about the varied intricacies of staffing and how it’s something done more than a few months (or a season) in a year. The world of employment around us has changed and that does not exclude higher education at all. I also hope this means there is a continued support for those persons and others to share staffing obstacles (and strategies or solutions) facing this profession in a public space without fear they will be labeled as being “negative.” Instead, my hope is they will be praised as wanting to contribute to the profession’s health and well-being rather than detract from it.

Unfortunately, despite my expressed relief by these instances, I am still also disheartened that professionals have to share so many concerns and obstacles to access and professional mobility in 2017 in student affairs and higher education. There are still far too many hurtful staffing struggles in several areas facing professionals wanting to serve in this profession (#thestruggleisreal). Professionals who question, offer solutions, or speak up at all about unethical, unprofessional, or discriminatory matters involved in staffing the field still worry about facing resentment or retaliation, real or perceived. Sometimes in the best of cases it’s authentic constructive criticism and other times it’s legitimate calls for justice in the worst cases (there were several folks who chose not to do the survey even when told their names and emails would not be captured or connected to anything, but thanked me for it being put out there).

Other professionals, with support or not, still share as if they are the isolated canary in the coal mine, an apt description shared with me last week. Among these often discouraged voices I’ve heard from and some of those reflected in this survey include professionals who feel they wasted time applying for a job they believe they were not equally considered for by the employer, those who endured a sloppy job search process, and those disappointed in professional hiring managers who act differently once hired than they did prior to hire. Undeniably, the most discouraged voices I’ve heard from are those who are underemployed or unemployed, those who have felt forced to leave the profession for various reasons, and those professionals who don’t feel believed or taken seriously when they seek to share their experiences and need help or support following average or poor staffing experiences in this profession. This feeling of having gone unheard has been directed at bosses, organizations and institutions, prospective employers, placement conferences, human resources, a college or university’s equal opportunity office, or functional and international professional organizations supporting the profession.

There will be some survey respondent comments inserted in these three posts related to the questions at hand and the remainder will be focused on in part 3. 

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Survey responses to question 15: If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before  your response.

“I have applied to 70+ jobs (95% of which I was completely qualified for) and have received either rejections or radio silence from all of them. It’s hard.”

“I firmly believe we need to take a hard look at the way we structure our hiring processes. Expecting candidates to go through several rounds of interviews, often including paying $1,000+ to come to campus, for an ENTRY LEVEL position, is exclusive and unjust. I also LOATHE the practice of paying for travel up front but then attaching strings (“If we make you an offer and you refuse, we will expect reimbursement.”) To my knowledge, there is no other field that does this, and it is completely unnecessary.”

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For me, part of the significance of staffing over the years has been conducting outreach and listening to individual professional stories, trying to be supportive and a credible referral as I’ve been able, and creating avenues to get more people to share their diverse experiences or fight for equity in the opportunity to do so in the hope that professionals and the profession become stronger. Sharing results from this survey is intended to be a conversation starter and initiator to action, or to simply offer continued encouragement to those already having conversations about the comprehensive nature of staffing, particularly talent acquisition in this first post. Under the category of recruitment and talent acquisition, or the brand management involved, there is often discussion around firm handshakes, what colors to wear to an interview, and inquiring when to check on your application. I don’t seek to diminish those by leaving them from the survey as they each possess a very important role, when discussed in regards to their effectiveness or equity in the staffing process, or lack of equity and promoting unethical or discriminatory behaviors.

What follows are responses to 15 questions that have come to light over the last few years by communicating, interacting with, and supporting graduate and professional staff in the profession who are experiencing their own individual job search processes. This survey inquiry has been the opportunity to create a chance at reflection for the respondents and those who review these responses so they may seek to make sense of them for themselves as individual professionals, as an organization or institution, and as a profession.

This is not formal scientific research, part of a dissertation, or anything more than attempting to ask some questions and spur some dialogue about things that often don’t get asked in order that professionals know they are not alone in thinking them. The survey was sent out sporadically over the summer months of June and July through varied social media sources to people known and unknown and organizations representing and or supporting the student affairs profession. I did this since so much time is dedicated to assessing students, I feel we often forget or don’t take the needed time to assess or talk to professionals about their true experiences beyond the polished ones shared in an interview. This was an opportunity for professionals to report what they wanted to regarding their perspectives on just these questions. The lives of those who work, have worked, or hope to work in the profession desire to serve as professional employees and not volunteers. I’m not always confident we do an equitable job in creating truly safe avenues for people to say what needs to be said to benefit the profession now and into the winds of change ahead.

There is no recorded demographic data as part of this particular survey for one reason. That reason is that no matter what the profession professes it can be rather judgmental toward newer professionals, seasoned professionals, or those professionals from varied walks of personal or professional life or how individuals prefer to identify one another. This is abundantly clear from what I have seen and heard in staffing conversations and in comments related to such stories. Which group of professionals do we point the finger at today? This question seems an all too easy go-to.

Our experiences are shaped by who we are. This one time I would ask that if you responded to this survey or are choosing to read its results that you consider the 354 individuals who contributed to sharing their experiences and comments (found in part 3) as if they were coming from the person in the next cubicle or office, or someone you eat lunch with every day but never thought to ask about such matters. Educators know that each voice matters, or at least we should know that, so these voices who chose to contribute here matter too  in the greater narrative. How would you respond to them, whether an applicant/candidate or employee if they were in your office sharing anything other than excellent experiences with staffing processes and practices? Would you believe them? Would you take them seriously?

Having many years of working on staffing related initiatives and concerns, my mantra has developed into a simple one – Staffing is a social justice practice (ethical, inclusive, embracing the attributes of economic and employment justice, etc.). Additionally, staffing must also be a sustainable practice (equitable access to opportunities and persons, ability for continued professional mobility and advancement, or overall job security, etc.) that continues to expand transparency, access, and equity in opportunities in the profession for years to come, no matter the changes the profession faces. This survey was created with this mantra in mind and just some other components of significance of staffing I’ve discussed above.    

 

II. Talent Acquisition and Organization Brand Management (Questions 1-4)

What follows here are the instructions given in the survey itself. The first four question responses, which focus on talent acquisition and brand management implications of staffing, are broken down by percentage and corresponding pie charts based on 354 respondents.

“This survey seeks to capture some of your professional experiences with staffing in the student affairs profession, where staffing here is defined as “the selection and training of individuals for specific job functions, and charging them with the associated responsibilities.” (Business Dictionary) This survey only includes 15 questions pertaining to staffing, of which I know there are plenty more. *This survey does not address the experience of current graduate student status only (unless referring to previous professional job searches in SA or to those in graduate school while also current active professionals), but does include those recent graduates who have begun, or completed, their first professional job search. I hope to be able to share these results in an accessible format in the near future. I also hope that this survey allows you to connect with the fact that your questions, concerns, and experiences in this profession are appreciated. If you have continued interest in this topic, please feel welcome to contact teamcadden@gmail.com. All contacts received at this email address are considered confidential in nature. Peace.”

 

1. In any previous job searches (INCLUDING your most recent or current one) how would you characterize the communication response you received from your prospective employer AFTER submitting an application as requested by the employer? (For the purpose of this question consider *MOST to be on average >50%)

  • Excellent – Most employers have appropriately communicated back with me (thus far, if needed) with updates and or information regarding the process or my candidacy to each application within 60 days of posting close date. (9.9%)
  • Average – Most employers have appropriately communicated back with me (thus far, if needed) with updates and or information regarding the process or my candidacy to each application within 3-6 months of posting close date. (39.1%)
  • Poor – Most employers have RARELY or NEVER communicated back with me with updates and or information regarding the process or my candidacy to each application. (51%)

characterize communication

2. In your most recent job search (ongoing or completed) how would you characterize the follow-up communication you received from your prospective employer AFTER participating in a FIRST ROUND interview?

  • Excellent – Every employer has appropriately communicated back with me (thus far) with updates or information within a reasonable period of time. (25.2%)
  • Average – Infrequent issues with some prospective employers regarding my progression through their search process and/or my candidacy. (50.6%)
  • Poor – Frequent issues with many prospective employers regarding my progression through their search process and/or my candidacy. (24.2%)

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 *Several people did inquire about the difference between questions 2 and 3 as they do sound similar. They were intended to see (maybe with greater influence of technology and or a better awareness of talent acquisition or brand management) if communication with candidates following the first interview (whatever method – TPE, phone, Skype, HireVue etc.) has improved in more recent searches than previous ones.

 

3. In any previous job searches (NOT including most recent or ongoing) how would you characterize the follow-up communication you received from your prospective employer AFTER participating in a FIRST ROUND interview?

  • Excellent – Every employer appropriately communicated back with me with updates or information within a reasonable period of time. (14.7%)
  • Average – Infrequent issues with some prospective employers regarding my progression through their search process and/or my candidacy. (53.5%)
  • Poor – Frequent issues with many prospective employers regarding my progression through their search process and/or my candidacy. (27.5%)
  • Other (4.3%)

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4. In your job search experiences in this profession (current or completed) how would you characterize the follow-up communication you received from your prospective employer AFTER participating in a FINAL ROUND interview?

  • Excellent – Every employer I spoke to appropriately communicated back with me with updates or information within a reasonable period of time. (37%)
  • Average – Infrequent issues with some prospective employers regarding progression through their search process and/or my candidacy. (44%)
  • Poor – Frequent issues with many prospective employers regarding progression through their search process and/or my candidacy. (19%)

4 survey clip

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Survey responses to question 15: If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before  your response.

“When I do a job search I don’t just search for 1 position. I usually have an open search and look for 3-10 positions and then narrow down my options as they I progress through their process. So in other words, one committee could be very easy to work with while another group is poor.”

 

“I am a highly qualified entry level candidate and was extremely shocked and disappointed by the lack of communication from multiple people I had interviews with in student affairs. I had three separate colleges completely cut off all contact with me after in person interviews, even after repeatedly trying to contact them to see if there were any updates. I know this is not typical and hope that I’m just an outlier, but it is still hurtful and demoralizing to put so much time and effort into traveling and preparing presentations AND to be told by them that I’m an excellent candidate, only to be completely ignored afterward.”

 

 “As far as communication goes, I had one instance in which I made it through the final round of interviews. I was one of two final candidates for the position. The employer called and left a voicemail requesting that I call them back about the status of my candidacy. No other information was provided in the voicemail. I called back multiple times, left 2 voicemails, and sent 2 emails over the course of a week…I also wanted to show that I genuinely cared about the position and made an attempt to get in contact with them…I was ignored. This mostly was upsetting because they specifically asked me to call them…I never got a call or email back. I didn’t even get the template rejection letter. The only way I found out that I didn’t get the job was through them updating their website with their staff bios a month later. They ended up choosing an internal candidate. It ultimately felt like I went through a fake interview process just to promote that individual, which I had to take time off of work to get through three rounds of interviews.”

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III. Conversations: Starting Them and Continuing Them

As I wrote above, my goal at this time is to share results of the experiences provided by respondents to create an opportunity for reflection and dialogue, not for me to dissect, analyze, or provide strategies or solutions to any of the information here. That’s not to say I don’t have my own ideas, additional questions, or further desires to continue to explore this topic of staffing that I see as holding such great significance in the present and future of this profession, as well as an indicator of how and why staffing the field has contributed to organizational and institutional systems being the way they are today.

My hope is that the information provided in this snapshot by these respondents will allow for some consideration and reconsideration of HOW and WHY things are done and more reflection and official research can be inspired in the future. Every professional has had their share of staffing experiences, but are they sharing them and if so how are they sharing them? Why and how would they share if they could transparently do so about these questions and so many more? This profession prioritizes social justice and inclusion as a major identified competency, which is a direct connect to having a sustainable profession, and it most certainly involves practices of staffing that cannot be fully explored by these fifteen questions alone.

The student affairs profession claims to care about the people doing it. Therefore, it must consider all the people and their varied experiences, especially those that may exist beyond the positive ones, if the profession is willing to learn and continuously do better. This consideration or reconsideration must involve starting conversations and continuing them. Author James Baldwin was remembered for his birthday last week (August 2). I will end here and lean into the next two posts of experiences with this quote for two reasons. First, I believe it can speak to staffing practice. Second, the quote reminds that it will continue to be incredibly hard as a profession to tackle social challenges like race, gender identity, and others facing higher education if the profession still struggles in identifying, listening, and responding to staffing questions and concerns in its own profession.

“We are capable of bearing a great burden, once we discover that the burden is reality and arrive where reality is.” (Baldwin) Is the profession capable of not only bearing the burdens of the realities of staffing the profession, but are professionals unafraid to discover them and go where they are by asking questions and hearing answers often only thought but not spoken? As Lee Burdette Williams did in her piece noted above, are other professionals prepared and willing to exist in discomfort with many of the realities presented by staffing? Do professionals have the courage as she did to apologize for past choices, consider changes, and have the will to undergo transformation of staffing practices that honor social justice and sustainability of the profession itself?

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  • UP NEXT: Tomorrow’s post includes the topic Talent Acquisition, Integrity, and Discrimination including question 5 “As an APPLICANT/CANDIDATE, have you ever questioned the integrity of a search process for concerns regarding the employer’s potential involvement in discriminatory practices…” through question 10 “Have you ever as an APPLICANT/CANDIDATE/EMPLOYER/EMPLOYEE ON A SEARCH COMMITTEE contacted a professional resource or organization…regarding a job search integrity concern…”

*This three part blog series would not be at all possible without the 350+ respondents who took time to answer questions and those respondents who left written comments about their professional experiences. I also thank the professionals and organizations who shared this survey in the hopes that it may provide an avenue of voice and or support for others who may often think they are isolated within their own experience. These posts would also not be at all possible without the hundreds of professionals and graduate students who have humbled me over the years by sharing their experiences in written and non written form so that I may better understand their individual journeys as professionals and people so I may better advocate for and with them. Last, and certainly not least, I thank a small dedicated collection of diverse professionals who assisted me in putting this brief snapshot survey together with the hope that this is just one opportunity that allows professionals to connect with the fact that questions, concerns, and experiences shared in this profession are appreciated and necessary. I know these fellow professionals consistently advocate for others as an ongoing priority of this profession and their own sense of humanity. They know who they are and they know my gratitude and loyalty is always present. Peace to all. s.

A Few Nasty Women

 

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*I wish I could give credit to the person who first shared this, but I absolutely don’t remember and it had to be shared here.

“Don’t mistake politeness for lack of strength.” Sonya Sotomayor, first Latina to serve on the Supreme Court

“I’ve learned over the years that when one’s mind is made up, this diminishes fear; knowing what must be done does away with fear.” Rosa Parks, civil rights pioneer

 

I sought to resist the urge to write any more blog posts about this year’s election. In retrospect, it’s really a wonder I could keep my blog posts about said election to only three, including this one with oh so many concerns regarding matters of religious freedom, racism, bullying, xenophobia, etc.

Now, with just a handful of days remaining in what still feels like an eternity, I am writing my last post about this historic but strangely hollowing out of elections. I say hollowed out because although I have joy and enthusiasm to live in the days of history when we have the first major female presidential party nominee, I have also witnessed how Secretary Clinton and other women have been spoken to and or treated over the last year plus, and really my whole life.

Watching this unseemly behavior toward women in the world in which I live and breath continues to be unacceptable to me as a man. In this media saturated time we all live in I on many occasions have felt myself reaching the point when I feel as though someone with an ice scream scoop is literally carving parts of my soul right out of me. I write this as a man who is disappointed in my country and my fellow alleged men. I don’t need to write this as a husband, son, cousin, godfather or any other qualifying reason. Those qualifying relationships do matter, of course, as I seek to be a loving human being after all. However, I simply write this as an adult man who doesn’t need to be told how to feel about my own sense of integrity as it pertains to showing respect to and advocating alongside each living person, including women.

This will not be some extensive post on the examination of sexism, misogyny, or women in our society. There are plenty of those that are more worthwhile to read and written by far more qualified persons than myself. I simply felt as though this had to be written, as a “one more time with feeling response,” as my high school English teacher used to say, to those who tweet me or others with truly the most reprehensible, or deplorable, of words. Here goes my brief observation about two items that this ugliness makes me consider as something to stop that ice scream scoop feeling.

Whether an American voter likes, dislikes, votes for, or votes against Secretary Clinton, we are still living through pages of a soon to be written history of election 2016. That is undeniable and if you’re a fan of America this should make us all proud after well over 200 years. Unfortunately, what is also undeniable is that at this pinnacle moment in our country’s history Secretary Clinton is not competing against a senator, war hero, and former presidential nominee in John McCain, or former governor and presidential nominee in Mitt Romney. No, Secretary Clinton is running against a reality TV star and businessman named Donald Trump, who in his spare time specializes in bullying, sexism, and misogyny just to name a few problematic behaviors for a man, not to mention a presidential nominee.

Sexism: prejudice or discrimination based on sex; especially :  discrimination against women; behavior, conditions, or attitudes that foster stereotypes of social roles based on sex. Merriam-Webster

Misogyny: a hatred of women. Merriam-Webster

*There are so many articles to choose from, but here is just one that brings to light some of the above. Trump’s history of flippant misogyny http://wpo.st/6QlA2

 

For well over a year, candidate Donald trump has been pretty clear how he feels about The Russians, Mexicans, women, and so many others.In the final presidential debate of 2016 Donald Trump finally succumbed to his most truthful moment of all when he interrupted the first female major party presidential candidate for the last time, following so many in three debates. In each and every debate candidate Clinton got under Mr Trump’s thin skin and in each and every debate he found many ways to seemingly display exactly who he is and how he really feels about women (not to even mention in this post the whole Access Hollywood #sexualassault fiasco). In this debate, candidate Clinton basically reminded everyone watching again that Mr. Trump believes he is smart to not pay taxes. He then called her a nasty woman for pointing out what he had already confirmed, the truth.

Since the final debate (see below), any time I see some ugly form of bullying, sexism, misogyny, or other online abuses about candidate Clinton or any women, or men, (see #notokay #whywomendontreport #imwithtur #muslimsreportstuff as examples of courageous responses back to such behavior) my mind scrolls through the movie rolodex in my head to Rob Reiner’s A Few Good Men. There is a famous scene in that movie that everyone who has ever seen it can probably recite. This scene is exactly what I thought about at the time of the debate and have since as the parallel for that final debate when candidate Trump says of candidate Clinton “Such a nasty woman.” 

“It is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.” Eleanor Roosevelt, first lady during President Franklin Roosevelt’s time in office

“Every moment wasted looking back keeps us from moving forward.” Hillary Clinton, first major party female presidential nominee 2016

*adult language

 

Like Donald Trump, Colonel Jessup’s own unapologetic nature, bullying, and crystal clear narcissism is on full display as he condescendingly talks down to Tom Cruise’s Kaffee. Colonel Jessup doesn’t believe he has anything to apologize for, but for PC appearances has to talk around the issuing of a “code red” in a way that will make everyone feel better. He just wants to return to doing his job he sees fit, even if it is one that is unacceptable by the standards of the Marine Corps. This moment now in A Few Good Men will always be linked in my mind as A Few Nasty Women moment following this election.

Candidate Clinton does to candidate Trump almost exactly what Kaffee does to Jessup in this courtroom scene foretold by Kaffee to his legal team the day before: “And nobody’s going to tell him how to run his unit least of all the Harvard mouth in his faggoty white uniform. I need to shake him, put him on the defensive and lead him right where he’s dying to go.” Kaffee believes, as Secretary Clinton may have as well, that Jessup/Trump simply wanted to say whatever he believes he can get away with because of his privilege of race, role, or gender and without having to be ashamed, make excuses, or be wrong for saying it.

 

JESSUP: You want answers?

KAFFEE: I think I’m entitled to them.

JESSEP: You want answers?!

KAFFEE: I want the truth.

JESSUP: You can’t handle the truth!

(continuing) Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? You, Lt. Weinberg? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives. (beat) You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You want me there (boasting) We use words like honor, code, loyalty…we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use ’em as a punchline. (beat) I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I’d prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to.

KAFFEE: (quietly) Did you order the code red?

JESSEP: (beat) I did the job you sent me to do.

KAFFEE: Did you order the code red?

JESSEP: (pause) You’re goddamn right I did.

Like Colonel Jessup, Donald Trump doesn’t like living in a PC world, except for when he is questioned or under attack from other people “saying it like it is.” Well, if this is our world now of saying it like it is, then we need lots more than a few nasty women. We will need an entire corps of them to finally put a plug in the hole of the blatant, rampant, and sinister sexism and misogyny still present in 2016. This clip below from the show Scandal is another good current reminder  of what Donald Trump the presidential candidate actually has done for women. He underestimated them. Now, nasty women have opened the stadium gates coming from near and far to come into the public and or political sphere to be seen, heard, and voted for in elections this next week and in the many years ahead. Sit back and watch out world as this will be a pretty great and long overdue reality and one that I will gladly be a champion for in any way that I can and I hope these nasty women run up the score whenever they can.

“I know what prejudice looks like. It’s not about experience James, it’s about gender…don’t interrupt me when I’m speaking.”

 

“Somebody said we never know what is enough until we know what’s more than enough.” Bille Holiday, Jazz singer and songwriter

 

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American Autopsy

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*Note: obviously this post post November 2016 will be subtitled – From Autopsy to The Walking Dead

“2 Corinthians walk into a Trump casino and died there”  

Autopsy: an examination of a body after death to determine the cause of death or the character and extent of changes produced by disease – called also necropsy; a critical examination, evaluation, or assessment of someone or something past

In a lot of ways a presidential election in the United States of America is kind of like a regularly scheduled physical examination, dermatological check up, or in 2016 we can now go so far as to officially use the word autopsy. I use the term autopsy now (as a former divinity school graduate) because at the time when Mr. Trump spoke his infamous “2 Corinthians” words I literally said to myself as if a set up to any ordinary bar joke you’ve ever heard in your life, “2 Corinthians walk into a Trump casino and died there.”

For all the innovation, integrity, and overall goodness we find in much of our country, there is undeniably a rotting corpse somewhere in our American house, or likely more than one, in dire need of critical examination, evaluation, or assessment. In this case, I will specifically refer to the political campaign of Donald Trump for presidency. There will be thousands of such autopsies in the coming weeks regarding his campaign and again for the Republican party. What this autopsy highlights, though, is more the culture that developed around him from average American citizens to celebrities and those in the media themselves. It’s an autopsy using the lens of Trumpism, but it’s really an autopsy on our sense of decency, dignity, and overall sensibilities.

I have been sharing the following article in Psychology Today recently because of its direct relevance to the Donald Trump campaign and candidate, in my opinion: Dangerous Cult Leaders-Dangerous Traits of Cult Leaders https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spycatcher/201208/dangerous-cult-leaders

This article may provide a great deal of guidance in correlation to our examination, evaluation, and assessment of what we’ve witnessed over the last year plus, but only now seem willing to admit fiercely following the #trumptapes scandal that really shocks nobody. Thankfully, talk of predatory behaviors that indicate and or suggest sexual assault is a line too far, finally. Below includes the United States Department of Justice’s definition of sexual assault for those who persist in using “banter” and “locker rooms” as continued excuses as to not stand up firmly for all women everywhere.

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Why it took us this moment in time to officially lose our collective minds is a whole other blog post or book, but for now I want to focus on this article and its traits that are highlighted, which speaks to dangerous cult leaders. Much like the author I am not going to get hung up on the word cult right now as there are different ways to have this conversation about the appropriate nature of that word in this or all instances that are derogatory, but I will use it in keeping with the premise of the article. Whatever the term that people use to refer to a group affiliation that causes abuse, alienation, harm, or outright danger is beside the point when people’s lives are subject to these traits that for many people could cause serious psychological damage for years, whether they realize it or not.

In determining the cause of death of our latest version of American decency, I’d like to do so by considering these traits in light of Mr. Trump and the cult of personality that has grown around him. Below are just some examples of the many “typical traits of the pathological cult leader” we should have been on the watch for in order to approach with caution, get away from, or avoid if possible before it became too late so that we are now in retrospect talking autopsy rather than anticipation. By the way, an autopsy takes time. This exercise took hardly any time at all as it practically wrote itself, also not a shocking fact to anyone I’m sure.  I must admit as I found example after example I ultimately did not use an example for each trait as I felt like the point was made and to be honest it became depressing. Review below and reconsider the thoughts and credibility of anyone who claims to have not seen this coming.

He has a grandiose idea of who he is and what he can achieve. “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.”

Has “magical” answers or solutions to problems. “We have 41 days to make possible every dream you’ve ever dreamed.”

Has an exaggerated sense of power (entitlement) that allows him to bend rules and break laws. #Taxes. Enough said.

Takes sexual advantage of members of his sect, or cult. #trumptapes. Enough said.

Sex is a requirement with adults and sub adults as part of a ritual or rite. #trumptapes. Enough said.

Publicly devalues others as being inferior, incapable, or not worthy.“An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud”

Habitually puts down others as inferior and only he is superior. “basket case,” “wacko,” “incompetent woman,” “crazy,” “nasty,” “disgusting,” “disaster.” “Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.”

Needs to be the center of attention and does things to distract others to insure that he or she is being noticed by arriving late, using exotic clothing, overdramatic speech, or by making theatrical entrances. Live tweeting during your own VP debate as if he’s not potty trained and can’t be let out of the house alone, when in fact he’s more qualified for office than Mr. Trump himself

Has insisted in always having the best of anything (house, car, jewelry, clothes) even when others are relegated to lesser facilities, amenities, or clothing. “My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.”

Treats others with contempt and arrogance. “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.” 

The word “I” dominates his conversations. He is oblivious to how often he references himself. “I alone can fix it”

Hates to be embarrassed or fail publicly – when he does he acts out with rage. A week long disparaging of former Miss Universe pageant winner after getting demolished in the first presidential debate #debates2016 #debates

Doesn’t seem to feel guilty for anything he has done wrong nor does he apologize for his actions. Following #trumptapes fiasco he allegedly apologizes not once, but twice, because he didn’t apologize right the first time. I would also contend he didn’t apologize the second time either as apologies require wrongness and owning it and not involving others in your wrongness.

Believes he possesses the answers and solutions to world problems. “I know more about ISIS than the generals do, believe me,”

Behaves as though people are objects to be used, manipulated or exploited for personal gain. #trumptapes. Enough said.

Believes himself to be omnipotent. “All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.”

Uses enforcers or sycophants to insure compliance from members or believers. Mr. Giuliani. Mr. Christie. Mr. Lewandowski. etc.

Sees self as “unstoppable” perhaps has even said so. “The media and establishment want me out of the race so badly – I WILL NEVER DROP OUT OF THE RACE, WILL NEVER LET MY SUPPORTERS DOWN! #MAGA

Is preoccupied with fantasies of unlimited success, power, or brilliance. “My IQ is one of the highest – and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure; it’s not your fault.”

Makes members confess their sins or faults publicly subjecting them to ridicule or humiliation while revealing exploitable weaknesses of the penitent. “The newspaper’s going to hell. They’ve got a couple of reporters in that newspaper who are so bad with, I mean, lack of talent. 

Refers to non-members or non-believers in him as “the enemy.” “My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth.”

Has isolated the group physically (moved to a remote area) so as to not be observed. Trump Tower for the true insiders or the nearest basket for others

Has ignored the needs of others, including: biological, physical, emotional, and financial needs. “Dwayne [sic] Wade’s cousin was just shot and killed walking her baby in Chicago. Just what I have been saying. African-Americans will VOTE TRUMP!”

Has a sense of entitlement – expecting to be treated special at all times. “I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose voters”

Is deeply offended when there are perceived signs of boredom, being ignored or of being slighted. “Oh you better elect me folks, I’ll never speak to you again. Can you imagine — can you imagine how badly I’ll feel if I spend all of that money, all of this energy, all of this time, and lost? I will never, ever forgive the people of Connecticut, I will never forgive the people of Florida and Pennsylvania and Ohio. But I love them anyway, we’ll see. I think we’re gonna do very well.”

Anyone who criticizes or questions him is called an “enemy.” “There is something going on with him that we don’t know about” re: President Obama and terrorists

When criticized he tends to lash out not just with anger but with rage. “I’d like to punch him in the face” Trump said regarding a man disrupting his rally

Demands blind unquestioned obedience. “How stupid are the people of Iowa” after talking about a poll showing Ben Carson was beating him in Iowa

Believes himself to be a deity or a chosen representative of a deity. “I’m not sure I’ve ever asked God’s forgiveness.” Only he can answer this one but…

In summary, this cult of personality has been growing for various reasons which people will debate in political circles forever and probably should to keep our democracy and its citizens safe. In the end, the following statement probably sums it all up pretty well after this weekend: “One of the key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.” Well, Mr. Trump has said this before and I suppose he wanted to make this point loud and clear by seeking to go into government and making it the very disgrace he said it was. Congratulations. Mission accomplished.
http://www.marieclaire.co.uk/entertainment/people/donald-trump-quotes-57213

Donald Trump quotes: The man behind the mouth

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/spycatcher/201208/dangerous-cult-leaders

Dangerous Cult Leaders-Dangerous Traits of Cult Leaders; Posted Aug 25, 2012 Psychology Today, Joe Navarro M.A.

When Nonsense Replaces Nuance – The Reality TV Campaign

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Let Bartlet Be Bartlet

If historians don’t someday call the 2016 election campaign the nonsense versus nuance one, then I will gladly coin the phrase as that’s how I will refer to it, #NonsensevNuance. This will forever be so for me following last week’s disastrous Commander-in-Chief Forum as interviewer Matt Lauer was deservedly criticized, in my opinion, for seeking and obtaining sound bites from our two party system finalists in a half hour each format, rather than obtain and allow for nuance while discussing some of the most important parts of the job of the Commander-in-Chief.

This significant forum opportunity which was both needed and excellent in concept suffered from poor preparation and execution, while doing a disservice to all involved including the American people voting this November. Following this televised event, and the continued ridiculous Reality TV style election cycle that televised media has provided for us, I got to thinking about sound bites as I did again this weekend following the story and accompanying hashtag #basketofdeplorables concerning Hillary Clinton’s remarks about “The racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, Islamaphobic—you name it” who happen to support businessman and Reality TV personality Donald Trump for president. So, this weekend got me thinking about The West Wing, the television one at if not the real one.

During season three of The West Wing, the reelection campaign of the president is a major storyline. In “The U.S. Poet Laureate” President Josiah Bartlet, played by Martin Sheen, is caught making an alleged gaffe while doing a series of TV flash interviews from inside The White House. A television reporter lingers on camera after the formal interview to bait Bartlet regarding an opponent, as it’s implied the nine interviewers before her tried as well. Previous interviewers failed and President Bartlet said nothing, but while speaking to a TV network in Philadelphia President Bartlet said the following when the interview was over, but with the camera light still showing green (i.e. he was hot and the station had him on b-roll):

  •  “I don’t know Leslie. I think we might be talking about a .22 caliber mind in a .357 magnum world.” President Bartlet

Throughout the ensuing episode the viewer comes to learn that the campaign of Bartlet’s opponent keeps the story alive in hopes of embarrassing the president or getting him to apologize for the remark alluding to his opponent’s lack of intelligence. Instead, the opponent’s campaign persists in drawing attention to that very substance of the comment itself, that the opponent is deemed not to be intelligent enough to be president, but easily digestible by the American public because of his personality.

By the end of the episode we learn in a conversation with Press Secretary C.J. Craig (Allison Janney) that President Bartlet’s intention all along was to create the sound bite because he knew the campaign and the press would keep the sound bite and story alive and thus without realizing it forcing the coverage to be about the substance, or the nuance required in being the president.

  • BARTLET: Didn’t turn out too bad.
  • C.J.: No sir, it didn’t turn out too bad at all. In fact, the whole country’s talking about whether Ritchie’s smart enough to be President. And you didn’t take hit, ’cause it was an accident. You know, it occurs to me that even your choice of language was interesting.”A .22 caliber mind, in a .357 magnum world.” That’s unusual for you, a gun metaphor…Toby mentioned to me that when each interview was over, all the interviewers wanted to talk to you about was Ritchie, and you took a pass each time. Until Philadelphia… Mr. President, is it possible you saw that the green light was on? 

President Bartlet used nonsense to get to nuance and refocus the conversation on the substance of the individuals rather than the sound bites that make up a news cycle. That episode debuted in 2002. Fourteen years later our news cycles are even more immediate and quite often dictated by the inane in the hopes for better ratings than an opponent over better news for our citizens.

This political strategy of turning directly into the pitch about President Bartlet’s intelligence as his major asset ultimately derives from a conversation two episodes earlier that provides one of the series’ best exchanges in the seven season run of the show, one between President Bartlet and Communications Director Toby Ziegler (Richard Schiff).

  • Toby: You’re a good father, you don’t have to act like it. You’re the President, you don’t have to act like it. You’re a good man, you don’t have to act like it. You’re not just folks, you’re not plain-spoken…Do not – do not – do not act like it! 
  • President Bartlet: I don’t want to be killed.  
  • Toby: Then make this election about smart, and not…Make it about engaged, and not. Qualified, and not. Make it about a heavyweight. You’re a heavyweight…

The two discuss what the campaign should be about, smart, engaged, and qualified, not simply what the voters are fed that it should be about. And although The West Wing was a fictional political world that had not yet experienced the juggernaut of Reality TV, as the first episode of Survivor had arrived on American televisions in 2000, this exchange between Toby and President Bartlet regarding how campaigns should be about substance over sound bites is alive and not well today. The West Wing (1999-2006) was and will remain brilliant television because it mirrored politics and The White House then, now, and will again tomorrow, which is what makes it relevant, a classic, and significant.

Let Clinton Be Clinton

I return to this moment in television history as a fan of The West Wing, but also of our country’s goodness, and the people that create and share that goodness worldwide. I also do so not as a Democrat, but an ordinary voting citizen concerned with nuance, not nonsense, and I believe this fictional TV moment in a Reality TV campaign possesses great informative value on where we are today.

I have to believe that someone or more than one someone in the Clinton campaign, or Secretary Clinton herself, has had to make a calculated political strategy that this election is different. So, previous political strategy may not work the same way in 2016, although that depends on who is talking and which candidate they are talking about as to when the old rules apply or the new ones. It’s usually an accepted rule to not disrespect the voters, your own or others, which Secretary Clinton is being brought to task for this weekend by some and being praised for by others. Yet, her opponent in Mr. Trump arguably doesn’t respect a whole lot of American voters or people from other countries and has communicated as such from day one of his campaign, but these points are for journalists to report more upon and they should continue to do so.

Deplorable: Deserving strong condemnation; shockingly bad in quality.

Nuance: A subtle difference in or shade of meaning, expression, or sound; to give nuance to.

Nonsense: Spoken or written words that have no meaning or make no sense; foolish or unacceptable behavior.

Considering this televised West Wing moment, there is honestly a part of me that even wants to believe that the sound bite from a woman usually very particular in crafting what words she uses (both fans and haters alike would usually even agree on this) was made strategically to get voters to consider the actual substance over the sound bite between now and the election. Maybe Hillary Clinton took a page out of the Josiah Bartlet playbook. Yes, Secretary Clinton has since clarified her remarks, or “regrets” her generalization of “half” of Mr. Trump’s voters, although she did use the words “grossly generalistic” in her initial remarks anyway. However, let’s also remember that she apologized for the percentage used, “half,” the sound bite, not the substance.

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She almost immediately had another opportunity to revisit her remarks and I’m sure she’ll have more. I cannot help but wonder if that’s not what she wants is to take back the microphone from the loudest person in the room. She may want to remind her opponent that whether liked or not, she is smart, engaged, qualified, and that she’s the political heavyweight and Mr. Trump is simply dead weight on an election and on a political system where both Democrat and Republican elected officials in different ways allowed this Reality TV campaign to be possible.

The “news” or  commentary (often entertainment) media obsessed with sound bites over policy and nuance has surely helped that, as has our cultural obsession with Reality TV over a generation. Exclude how our media works now and how our viewing habits have been shaped by RealityTV, in the past in my lifetime at least a Trump candidacy never gets off the ground because he is historically unqualified and almost everything he says is a campaign killer. This will upset some people, but it doesn’t make it untrue. Others will accept it as true and admit that’s why they are voting for him because he’s not qualified the way those in the established political world are and that is seen as a benefit.

I’m sure Secretary Clinton wanted to run another campaign on the road she hopes will make her the first female president in our country’s history. She could have very well been in that room with Toby and President Bartlet seeking to run a campaign on smart, engaged, and qualified. Unfortunately, for her, and for us, that’s not the campaign we’re getting or that we surely deserve as America in 2016. We are in 2016 and instead of The Celebrity Apprentice we’re getting The Presidential Apprentice. Secretary Clinton, a policy wonk, clearly wants this campaign to be about that because she believes that is what matters substantively, regardless of whether people agree with her on policy or not.

Now, in September before a national election she finds herself in a street fight where either accidentally or purposefully she will have to find a way to make sound bites into substance and nonsense into nuance. This weekend that fight finds itself under the hot street light talking about “isms” in our culture. Secretary Clinton better hope that the media and the electorate are smart enough and engaged enough to make sense of nonsense and maybe even enter into an authentic dialogue about racism, sexism, and the like rather than have these hateful beliefs and behaviors remain in the shadows.

As I write this post it’s literally in the hour of the fifteen year mark of time since 9/11. Oh the places we’ve gone and shouldn’t have gone since that early morning of September 11, 2001. My desperate hope is that we as Americans can return to the essence of that ‘bullhorn moment’ of George W. Bush following the events of 9/11 when most Americans stood beside a president and remembered it’s in our very fabric that we are “stronger together.” There are many that mock the Clinton campaign slogan now for various reasons, but it doesn’t make it untrue just because it’s her slogan; it really is an American slogan no matter who we vote for, which is exactly why one man, or woman, can’t fix Washington. If one person could fix it all we wouldn’t be such a mess. Democracy by its nature is messy, but it’s most certainly messier when we have “become inured to the incivility, exhibitionism, and celebrity obsession caused by the narcissism epidemic”  (The Narcissism Epidemic by Twenge and Campbell) that makes us think one person or one party has all the correct solutions all the time.

There are plenty of actual policy critiques to make of presidential nominee Clinton and Democrats which are fair, and must continue to be made, but stronger together should not be among them. But the nonsense contingent will keep the drumbeat alive on this recent sound bite because she said ‘half’ while the nuance contingent will stop and consider the entirety of the context and who she was actually taking to task. She was very clear that she is talking about racists, sexists, homophobes, xenophobes, Islamophobes, and a candidate who cradles those who hold such beliefs and practice such behaviors rather than seek to understand who they are and call them out himself and challenge them to knock it off, otherwise America cannot be great.

Mr. Trump cannot do this because the shelf paper of his entire campaign has been lined with these beliefs and behaviors ever since he came down an escalator and called more than “some” Mexicans criminals and rapists. Mr. Trump began with deplorable and only a week ago finally gave voice to the expression “a new civil rights agenda.” Perhaps, he should have led with that message from the beginning and this campaign would have been one to make Toby and President Bartlet proud.

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Graphic borrowed from The Huffington Post

What Kind of Day Will It Be?

Whether we like it or not these are some facts. We are living in a country in 2016 where both leading candidates are seen as unpopular and untrustworthy, for entirely different reasons. We are enduring a campaign that is absolutely painful to most of us whether Republican, Democrat, Independent, or other, also for entirely different reasons. We are living in a country where people are fearful, hopeful, and sometimes both. And we are still receiving political and policy talking points from all directions that often times are nonsense rather than nuance delivered through a media glad to give it to us that way in between a constant serving of Viagra commercials, or now campaign advertisements.

On The West Wing, a consistent theme of both moving on to bigger and better things while in the fast paced world of work in The White House came up in the form of a question, ‘What’s next?’ Unfortunately, during this election cycle in our history many of us begrudgingly ask ourselves that very question in a different way, ‘What in the holy heck can possibly be next?’ Unlike life on The West Wing we’re not usually eager about the answer, because we’ve all become involuntary participants in this season’s long con known as The Presidential Apprentice. What should be next should be a dignified campaign and debate about substance over sound bites, nuance over nonsense. Spoiler alert: that is not what we will be getting these next two months as that’s not what we’ve had from the beginning. Why start now?

@scaddenFNL If ppl of #faith defend #BasketOfDeplorables behaviors: racism, misogyny, xenophobia etc what are we against? #AMJoy #religion #theology

On this one issue of comments about those voters who are racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic, or Islamophobic, whether it was a gaffe or not, it will be called a gaffe, because the media needs it to be one for their very survival. What the media will have a hard time digesting is that we can still respect the voters’ right to think and believe as they choose while at the same time not respecting their actual beliefs or behaviors that perpetuate acts of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, or Islamophobia. Personally, I would respect an individual more (their candor, not their belief) if he or she said I’m racist and here’s why, rather than deny it because it’s the politically correct thing to do. For supporters of Mr. Trump who are offended by the remarks because they consider themselves none of the above, then I would suggest at least equal outrage be directed at those fellow supporters who are giving them a bad reputation, as well as demand that their candidate have substantive conversations about such issues that are required of a “civil rights agenda” he suggested last week.

What kind of day has it been in this incredibly strange election year in this incredibly and often great country that remains deeply flawed? It’s the kind of day when the candidate, who was brought to us by his Reality TV persona and his birtherism agenda to delegitimize the nation’s first black president, will somehow obtain credit for not being crystal clear about what is and what is not deplorable in our country that continues to struggle with civil rights and oppression, despite Secretary Clinton making herself abundantly clear. What kind of day will it be? Hopefully each day between now and election day and well beyond will be ones where we do not surrender to nonsense. Instead, may we all actively choose to be a participants in, or recipients of, the nuance expected of a great nation and a great leader in the world.

“The bottom line is that we cannot afford suddenly to treat this like a reality show.” President Barack Obama

****Update

Not even 24 hours from posting this blog entry comes exactly what I anticipated only more spot on if you listen closely to this latest Trump 2016 advertisement. “People like you, you, and you, deplorable” which was immediately preceded by identifying those very traits/behaviors in voters who fit the mold of racism, sexism, homophobia, Islamophobia, etc. So, this new ad will continue to remind all voters who listen closely that it’s not about hard working it’s about the deplorable behaviors which candidate Trump just excused in his own campaign video.

 

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*For fans of The West Wing, or for those who have never watched,  it may be found on Netflix and you may want to check out the new podcast that weekly details each episode called The West Wing Weekly (http://thewestwingweekly.com/,@westwingweekly, #TWWW).