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) (Post 1 of 3)


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%)

11 survey clip


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.”


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%)

12 survey clip

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%)

13 survey clip


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.”


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%)

14 survey clip

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)

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

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%)

5 survey clip

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%)

6 survey clip

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%)

7 survey clip


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.”


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%)

8 survey clip

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

9 survey clip

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%)

10 survey clip


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.”


  • 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:

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 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” 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. 


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.”


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 All contacts received at this email address are considered confidential in nature. Peace. Shane Cadden”


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%)

survey clip 2

 *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


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.”


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?



  • 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



*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


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




American Autopsy


“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

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.


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.

Donald Trump quotes: The man behind the mouth

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


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.


clinton deplorables 2.JPG


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.


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 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 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 civility, 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


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.



*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 (,@westwingweekly, #TWWW).

Guess who should be coming to dinner? Larry Wilmore

Larry Wilmore

This blog post submission was received and accepted by The Student Affairs Collective ( for posting on their own blog site located at

I recommend those interested in creating  the best peer-to-peer learning network for student affairs professionals to visit their blog site and read other posts on fascinating topics.

Below is the excerpt from that post:

A recruitment and retention roasting may be required.

“FT Can talk retention & should but SA also needs 2talk about Shame of Unemployment & Underemployment #sachat”

Since watching the last White House Correspondents’ Dinner (WHCD) (, I’ve curiously imagined comedian Larry Wilmore coming to a dinner to roast Student Affairs. All things considered, the profession would benefit greatly from a healthy roast from Wilmore. (Per “A good roast joke is undeniable; it’s comedy at its most immediate and visceral.”)

The most undeniable material for Wilmore is found in the many ironies of professional recruitment and retention. He will jab institutions overworking employees, yet silencing them for asking about overtime, or calling them burnouts as if the organization has no responsibility. He will do a bit on the absurdity of educator instigated workplace bullying. And he will throw some shade at inclusion talk from any professional dismissive of those who don’t have the “right” degree/experience, despite having knowledge, skills, and abilities in inclusively recruiting/retaining employees.

I anticipate Wilmore will lose some in the room as with the WHCD, which means he’s providing “comedy at its most immediate and visceral,” by creating discomfort skewering unwritten/unspoken truths and rules. Wilmore will equally gain credibility from those expecting barbs directed at undeniable truths. Many professionals lack safe platforms or status to question such truths, especially those who have ever experienced underemployment or unemployment (individual experiences not widely shared). Yet, a roast may illuminate with a blink of one comedic eye roll from Wilmore as he zings busy leaders keeping their most passionate people quiet, while concurrently bemoaning the struggle of finding or keeping quality employees.

Wilmore may use Dr. Ann Marie Klotz recent blog post as illustrative ( when she transparently speaks an undeniable truth by saying “we are awful at recruitment and hiring practices.” Wilmore will continue his comedic dousing by discomfort returning to Klotz’s words “too long,” “boring,” “repetitive,” and “poor at communicating with candidates,” and offer the logical punch line that if we are awful at these practices, it’s surely no better with retention. This is especially true for retaining those who are not privileged to be in the room for the jokes or for decision-making. Wilmore will cement his routine by reminding folks “too long” and “boring” are preferable to educators marginalizing, practicing cronyism, and disqualifying or shaming the underemployed or unemployed, thus denying them full capability work(,, safe professional platforms, or a desire to be retained. Wilmore will then seek a laugh by noting “I’m not the retention expert, but those who are should first talk to the elephant in the room at table eleven who knows the discomfort of professionals already lost and left behind.”

Before dropping his own mic at the WHCD, Larry Wilmore, in a moment of seriousness, reminded us how not long ago we lived in a country where people couldn’t accept a black quarterback. There are roast worthy jokes containing uncomfortable and undeniable realities in Student Affairs that professionals may not be ready to accept. If Wilmore’s job will be to deliver those jokes, then everyone else’s will be to laugh and hopefully reflect. We can’t retain what’s lost, but there is still hope for others, including new and experienced underemployed and unemployed professionals. This hope will require understanding truthful experiences that are undeniable, visceral, and yes, awful. So, whether or not Wilmore will be funny or lose the room will be far less significant than what Student Affairs will be ready to accept and advocate for immediately.


“Sometimes in life you can get kinda stuck and you feel like you should’ve changed chapters by now, but you can’t.” Wish I Was Here, Zach Braff


Transparency: recruitment, interviewing, and hiring in the #SAsearch

This blog post submission was received and accepted by the ACPA Commission for Social Justice Educators ( for posting on their own blog site located at

I highly recommend those interested in the areas of diversity and social justice education as they related to colleges and universities to visit their blog site and read other posts on fascinating topics.

CSJE snip

The Commission for Social Justice Educators’ mission is to provide a collaborative home for college student educators working in the areas of diversity and social justice education. ACPA has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to multiculturalism and social justice by actively supporting a diversity of ideas and identities within its membership and member institutions. This commission reinforces and focuses that commitment by providing a place for college student educators committed to a broad range of social justice issues to network; share knowledge, tools, and resources; collaborate across institutions and identities; and provide support. This Commission supports those working towards social justice and diversity issues across the wide spectrum of student affairs positions. The Commission also provides scholarship and other resources for college student educators working in multicultural and other diversity centers and offices on campus. The Commission for Social Justice Educators compliments the functional and identity support work being done in other Commissions and Standing Committees, while providing a unique opportunity for creating partnerships across institutions and identities.


Below is the post shared initially on that site:


In August, the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies were updated for the profession. Training camp season of summer was over and the regular academic season was upon all professionals. These competencies and their noted changes regarding Social Justice and Inclusion, as found in the section titled “Summary of Changes,” aimed to frame inclusiveness in a manner that does not norm dominant cultures but that recognizes all groups and populations are diverse as related to all other groups and populations.”This section goes on to state that “Bell’s (2013) definition of social justice further necessitates that social justice include ‘a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. This definition subsumes the construct of equity as more than a goal, but a precondition of a larger good.’”

Just over a year ago I wrote a widely read blog post called “If It’s broken and we don’t talk about it, is it still broken? The #SAsearch” ( The questions I posed then, as I continue to do today, address this very same vision of society, and profession, in which the distribution of resources is equitable and that this equity is more than a goal, but a precondition of a larger good. Therefore, what is the social justice and inclusion responsibility of this profession as it pertains to what many including myself consider to be broken recruitment, interviewing, and hire processes within many organizations and institutions of higher education, or those supporting higher education? My belief is that employment is a social justice issue and one that is infrequently framed or spoken of as such, because that causes potential discomfort and poses challenges to power and privilege within these same organizations and institutions. Instead, staffing is treated as a game by far too many with tricks, tips, and diverse human beings known in some instance as either red flags or celebrities.

Employment is not a game; it’s a real life significant matter to each of us for different reasons. Among the surface problems of not ever hearing back from employers to unprofessional/unethical behavior of interviewers, there is one example of a deeper social justice and inclusion problem corroding credibility in the profession. This injustice is what I call the “fraudulent search” process. I define a fraudulent search as when a position in student affairs is available on a university campus and that university’s human resources, ethics and compliance, equal opportunity, or other designated university officials state that for available positions an “open search” must be conducted and the individual division, department, or hiring manager has already predetermined the hire, conducts the search process, and hires that predetermined candidate as always intended.

This search process is one that intentionally deceives and breaches a confidence with all applicants seeking out a posted position. To employ the competency of Social Justice and Inclusion directly, I believe the fraudulent search is directly opposed to what CSJE members and all professionals are being directed not to do in order to be considered a competent professional. This specific competency 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” (ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies, 2015).  Improving the practice of conducting searches that removes deceit from the equation and relies upon “representing the department and institution honestly and accurately” (ACPA Ethical Principles and Standards) to me is one of those things we can disagree about the how, but most certainly one we have to talk about consistently. Creating an entire competency for Social Justice and Inclusion gives all professionals the safe space to have the conversation, as well as to hold one another accountable when professionals are not being socially just in all instances, especially in the recruitment, interview, and hiring of staff, be they students, graduates, or professionals.

I believe that other competency areas that inform this social justice matter also include Personal and Ethical Foundations and Organizational and Human Resources to name just two. With these new competencies, and these three in particular, student affairs professionals should find greater affirmation in being successful practitioners and those served by such professionals can bring the “fraudulent search” into the transparency of the light of day and be clearly in line with keeping with the “spirit and intent of equal opportunity.”

  • Organizational and Human Resources: “Assess the costs and benefits of current established political alliances, in particular, their relationships to fostering collaboration and organizational transparency.”
  • Personal and Ethical Foundations “…competency area involves the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to develop and maintain integrity in one’s life and work”

I have observed this practice from the college/university side of the search table and I’ve appropriately raised such concerns when I have. I have also experienced it as a candidate myself during my own job searches. It’s been reported to me through the experiences of numerous professionals who I have assisted in their professional job searches over a fifteen plus year career. When matters of social justice and inclusion are not spoken of on the staff level and the questions of power, privilege, and politics are not permissible to be asked as a professional educator, then how is it possible to “do better,” in the words of ACPA’s president, as advocates for equity, inclusion, and social justice for students and communities and for search processes if professionals sense danger in the doing?

“…a hiring manager will be breaking institutional policy regarding an equal opportunity for full consideration by giving some indication beforehand that a specific candidate will be selected even if the others walk on water. That hiring manager’s manager ought to discipline for such a declaration, as failure to follow policy.” – anonymous head university diversity officer

A “fraudulent search” does not include a fair and equitable outlined promotion procedure or succession plan, when done ethically and with all stakeholders and employees appropriately instructed as to how such matters happen and how every employee remains eligible for such opportunities, when permissible.  No, the “fraudulent search” is one that does the opposite by obstructing fair and equitable, while hurting professional access, opportunity, and career mobility on all professional levels in addition to hurting the veracity of the job search itself and any possibility for a professional or the organization to be an authentic champion of social justice and inclusion work. These hurts do often end up resulting in encouraging professionals to treat employment and competencies as a game. They may promote dishonesty or lack of authenticity, or lead a caring profession to commit other unethical behaviors to succeed. On a fundamental level it violates the very principle of “Do no harm.” “But it happens all the time” people will say, without ever calling it what it is – a “fraudulent search.”  Student affairs as a profession possesses strong ethical professional values and standards and competencies espoused by the field, so, that is the fertile soil to grow from and what everyone else is doing simply doesn’t matter. This profession has higher standards crafted and created in order to influence social justice, not merely imitate it for a brochure, sound bite, or a position description.


A Rey of Hope – The Force Awakens

The Real Silver Lining Significance of Star Wars’ Success

Rey banner snipRight now…

  • “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”

This is not the blog post I was expecting to write a month ago after leaving the theater following Star Wars:  The Force Awakens. In my enthusiasm leading up to the premiere, I would often say to my wife “This is the movie I’ve been waiting 32 years to see!” She’d laugh and believe I was kidding. “Didn’t the last Star Wars movie come out only ten years ago?” she asked. “Yes,” I’d say, and again repeat but “This is the one I’ve been waiting 32 years to see. Those other movies were the prequels.” The prequels simply don’t count in my Star Wars universe. My wife knows of my dislike of the prequels, but I hoped with a Force Awakens success she may better understand why and join with me on my side of The Force.

There are Star Wars fans who did like or even love those prequel movies. Many were more likely the ones not alive in the 1970s or 1980s to see the original trilogy. Regardless, this debate between the original episodes IV-VI vs. the prequel episodes I-III could be a dissertation and probably is somewhere. The debate will continue in person and online until the end of time for those speaking of Star Wars significant things only. I’m so not a fan of the prequels that on premiere night in December I would not even get a T-shirt featuring the names and release dates of all the Star Wars movies on the back of it because it recognized episodes I-III and I wouldn’t be caught anywhere wearing a shirt recognizing something like Episode I, The Phantom Menace (sorry George Lucas).

It’s from this point of view that now leads me to refrain from using the “P” word and if I mention them at all I’ll call them what I usually do, “those other three movies.” Thankfully for me, the first significant success of Star Wars:  The Force Awakens was my personal disinterest in even comparing this movie with “those other three movies.” As a fan going in, I felt that was the predetermined post I’d write upon departing the theater. I dreaded the writing exercise of a comparison piece alone. Leaving the theater, I had an entirely different perspective. Right then and there, following just over two hours of pure entertainment and an ending scene that may go down as my favorite in a Star Wars movie ever, The Force Awakens earned its uproar of applause in the theater and its immediate significance as a success by being the only movie I wanted to discuss that night or in the days to follow.

After just two minutes into the The Force Awakens, I received immediate validation and was already assured that this would be the movie I was waiting 32 years to see. The very first line of the movie told me what I needed to know – “This will begin to make things right.” This line was significant in establishing the events of The Force Awakens story, but it was also far too specific to my own hearing of those words that directly communicated that this movie will make things right again with the entire Star Wars universal story. At that moment, I felt like director J.J. Abrams shared a private wink with millions of movie goers who felt as I did that this would be that movie I was telling my wife I’d been waiting to see. During the movie, as I sought to barely blink so as to not miss a thing, I did realize at one point whatever I’d come to write of The Force Awakens was going to be on its own merits of success and significance  to me then and while I anxiously await Episode VIII. #StarWarswinning

Empire cover 082115

Right here…

Part of making things right and contributing to this significance and success of this movie is that it blasted the door wide open for possibilities and conversations for all of us who always cared about Star Wars as part of one’s upbringing (me), those who have casually cared about it as good entertainment (my wife), and for a potential new and diverse generation of fans embracing it and enjoying it for the first time. Despite treating us to character and story call backs to the original trilogy, including Harrison Ford’s iconic role of Han Solo, The Force Awakens is forward and future focused, which allows all of us receptive to it to once again discover excitement and a youthful spirit in that galaxy far, far away. The movie begins with a premise of the past but soon finds us in the right now flying through hyper-drive alongside a new set of heroes like Rey, Finn, and Poe played by Daisy Ridley, John Boyega, and Oscar Isaac.

In another time in our history, if you were to say that a Latino male (Guatemalan, Cuban actor Oscar Isaac – Poe), a black man (British, Nigerian actor John Boyega – Finn), and a white English woman (English actress Daisy Ridley – Rey) walked into a room together you would be expecting some sort of punch line to an off colored joke. Well, another silver lining of success here is that we’re living in 2016 and the joke is on everyone as these three diverse human beings not only walked into a room together at Comic-Con last year to sell this movie, but they just walked the red carpets for it and now will be household names forever.

These successes are not to say that The Force Awakens is a perfect movie without fault and should be best picture. That honor for me still goes to Spotlight if I had a vote. However, the acclaim and even the critiques surrounding The Force Awakens in its lead up and in its wake, justified or not on either end, have also contributed to its success and significance beyond box office records. It’s successful simply because we’re talking again about quality Star Wars story specifics and even socially significant ones, beyond merely comparing episodes to one another.

 Character development over CGI

Some fans and critics say the movie is much too similar to the original Star Wars (popularly known as A New Hope). This is a fair complaint, but not one I personally share because it needs to be more like the original than “those other three movies” which did not nearly resemble enough what fans of the original saga loved and knew by watching them in the theaters, on VHS, or now on Blu-ray (although the Blu-ray versions are actually not the true originals). I would remind people that this movie had to reintroduce a multigenerational fan base back into a world where there has been a 30 year storyline absence. It was impossible to provide all things to all people and I commend co writers Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan, and Michael Arndt for having the restraint to tell this tale in just over two hours, rather than inflate it to three plus hours and end up with so much heavy exposition that the awakening would put us all into a deep sleep.

This success of the script is that it allowed thirty years to pass without feeling the need to tell us everything. That bold choice was significant. This brings up the corresponding concern that each of the new characters including the three new leads, Poe, Finn, and our main protagonist Rey were all underdeveloped. Has anyone with this concern watched the original Star Wars? This seems like an Episode VIII agenda item, not an Episode VII concern to me. The viewers were brought into this galaxy’s existing story via outsiders Rey and Finn, who, like us, were missing much of the same thirty years of information, with Rey even acknowledging she thought some of it was a myth.

While some fans and critics were frustrated by unanswered questions, I see this as the movie being viewer friendly as if we’re entering the Millennium Falcon with new characters along their journey for the first time. Still, we know there is a history and future of unanswered questions we want answers for…which is why we have Episodes VIII and IX. This story also intentionally creates enough depth of character but not so much so that the next two writer/directors are boxed into maintaining them  instead of growing them. If recent rumors are to be believed, Daisy Ridley’s Rey has been so beloved that there have been some recent script rewrites on Episode VIII in order to further her development even more. And if you are a Star Wars fan isn’t the success here that once again we’re actually debating, questioning, and theorizing about the significance of both the story and its characters, and not the use or overuse of CGI?

Talking race because of a Star Wars’ trailer

Although familiar, this was not the Star Wars we grew up with as we began to learn that the three new heroes represented more of the world we actually live in with regards to gender and race. This was evidenced almost immediately with a growing social media movement to boycott The Force Awakens because, god forbid, there was a black male playing the role of a storm trooper. This eventually is easily explained in the film for those folks claiming not to be racist, but just pro Star Wars canon. Yes, I used the word canon. Star Wars in popular culture terms exists in Biblical proportions as we actually talk of it in light of what is and what is not considered canon, much like with the Bible. The social significance of Star Wars the last thirty plus years can at times be simply mind blowing.

What appeared to be a genuine success in hiring a great cast and improving its diversity for a new generation, this critique surrounding the black storm trooper came about as the first movie trailer dropped. In a recent New York Times interview, actor John Boyega, who plays the just mentioned storm trooper in question, was asked about the boycott. He replied with the following:  “I’m grounded in who I am, and I am a confident black man. A confident, Nigerian, black, chocolate man. I’m proud of my heritage, and no man can take that away from me. I wasn’t raised to fear people with a difference of opinion. They are merely victims of a disease in their mind. To get into a serious dialogue with people who judge a person based on the melanin in their skin? They’re stupid, and I’m not going to lose sleep over people. The presale tickets have gone through the roof – their agenda has failed. Miserably.”

Boyega could not have been more right in his assessment about ticket sales and how ultimately insignificant the boycott was. Not to be lost in this boycott absurdity, but it’s also significant to note that Boyega is great in the movie as Finn and another example of an actor creating another new beloved Star Wars character. Even in controversy and critique Star Wars found significance and an unplanned success by using this opportunity to dialogue about diversity in entertainment, Star Wars specifically, and by listening to this younger generation of movie leads like Boyega speak confidently about his own identity and heritage. As a fan, I’m super glad to have good characters, but as a person I’m even more grateful to have diverse ambassadors for the Star Wars universe beyond the theater.

  • “I’m not saying get used to the future, but what is already happening. People of color and women are increasingly being shown on-screen…It’s about getting people to drop a prejudiced state of mind and realize, Oh shit we’re just watching normal people.” John Boyega

The trailer was too short I guess for the public to get into a tizzy over a Latino actor, Oscar Isaac, flying an X-Wing fighter. In the movie itself we come to know his character Poe as quite the pilot and maybe even better than a white Luke Skywalker ever was? Let that outrage sink in there for a moment, right? Strange, there was not as big of a blow up over this casting choice as for Boyega’s role. Isaac’s character of the three newest leads is the smaller one so far, but J.J. Abrams when commenting on why Isaac – “Oscar is a far more sophisticated actor than one might get for a role that could be looked at as just a daring, kick-ass pilot…But I needed a great actor—not just a great-looking guy who also acts.” Boyega and Isaac, two diverse actors proud of their heritage, also seem to be two great young actors based on their own merits. Period.

I don’t want to hold your hand

daisey ridley breakthrough

(Apologies, as I misplaced the link, but I believe this was taken from

Another significant area of conversation that flared up around Star Wars was the idea of gender roles. There are those who thought Rey played either too prominent a role in the new movie (a woman as the next Jedi?), or others who thought she was not feminist enough or lacked character depth fitting her into the “Mary Sue” mold. This “Mary Sue” idea is explained in one of the attached articles below if you’re unfamiliar. The essence on both sides of contention seem to be that Rey is a strong woman, which bothers many because they are accustomed to that being a man’s role especially in Star Wars (Leia aside), and on the other side it’s that she’s a woman representing perfection and wish fulfillment as a type, therefore a “Mary Sue.” I will not spend time on the former concern as Boyega best sums up that from his previous quote “…we’re just watching normal people.” The “Mary Sue” argument I find personally humorous as a moviegoer since men have dominated the movies based on this very sense of perfection and wish fulfillment my entire life yet we’ve lacked the outrage (anyone ever see a James Bond movie?). Just in Star Wars itself, look at the perfection of Anakin “the chosen one” or the wish fulfillment of Luke blowing up an entire death star on his own after hearing about The Force an hour earlier in the movie.

Rey is obviously a woman with a complex past that we’ve not completely been told about yet (see character development above), except that she managed to survive on a planet by herself living as a scavenger. This woman demonstrates loyalty and compassion, but also shows clear signs of frustration and anger. She flew the Millennium Falcon, while admitting she’s flown before. She endeared herself to Han Solo, Chewbacca, and Finn almost immediately, despite almost getting them all killed by unleashing the monsters Han Solo was smuggling on his freighter. After an encounter with The Force at Maz Kanata’s she prevents Kylo Ren from reading her mind without her consent and escapes from Ren without the need of rescue. Yet, she still accepts help to fight off Ren and escape from Starkiller base itself. Perhaps, one of the more significant pieces of dialogue regarding Rey comes earliest in the movie when Finn, the former storm trooper seeking to protect Rey (the woman), grabs Rey’s hand at least twice to which she rebuffs him with the comment “I know how to run without you holding my hand.” Rey is her own person:  compassionate, complex, courageous, and still fearful, or what Boyega would call “normal!” In Episode VIII we may learn she has another name, but her name will not be “Mary Sue.” Again, a success because we’re talking about a Star Wars female lead at all and the intricacies of her story and the prominence of her character.

  • “(writers Lawrence Kasdan, JJ Abrams and Michael Arndt) They saw in her someone capable of carrying the most loved space opera odyssey into pop culture history – they saw in society a sophistication and readiness to embrace a bona fide, female film hero.” Monica Tan, The Guardian, writing on Rey’s character
  • “But despite my excitement that she was bored (who isn’t?) by Disney stories that ended in marriage, I felt troubled by the embarrassing lack of women in the Star Wars episodes she was now binge watching. This wasn’t just the manufactured concern of an over-enthusiastic feminist parent. My daughter raised the concerns herself.”  Patricia Karvelas, The Guardian


falcon minus rey

An extension of the last topic had to include perhaps the most unexpected disturbance in The Force and actually seems to have arisen from a marketing and merchandising failure. Daisy Ridley’s Rey was always going to be one of the lead protagonists of The Force Awakens, but you wouldn’t really know it if you were looking for toys or other merchandise with her being represented. Thanks to the movie’s success with diversity and thanks to a breakout role by Ridley’s strong performance, observant consumers of Star Wars merchandise took to social media with the hashtag #WheresRey because they witnessed the inequality first hand between what they found in the mass produced male toys, and the appearance of the lack of equitable representation of the character of Rey.

The Force Awakens was shrouded in mystery of how it all would play out and merchandise was allegedly released so as not wanting to give away specific plot points (leaving Rey out), which is in question, by even J.J. Abrams himself. Through marketing leading up to the movie the audience knew Rey flies the Milennium Falcon and she would be at least one of the two main protagonists, but she was not included with the new Monopoly game as well as a number of other merchandising fails, including her exclusion from the the Millenium Falcon toy itself (see above). Someone miscalculated on that one, or did they? The growing uproar, which has been preceded by previous merchandise fails with other recent popular female characters, has been building over how toy companies and their executives may contribute to social engineering of “boys” and “girls.” This now culminated in the perfect storm surrounding one of the most successful money making movies on this planet ever. The subtle irony of this preventable fail in execution and ensuing PR mess is that one of the genius aspects of original Star Wars creator George Lucas was his innovation in forecasting how significant the merchandise of Star Wars could be and how incredibly correct he was then and now.

There are plenty of pictures (including the one I inserted above), tweets, and news stories that further this merchandise fail. This #WheresRey phenomenon has led to significant dialogue about how we still segregate toys for “boys” and “girls” in 2016 rather than have a section for children, or young adults. Star Wars is diverse in its fan base around the world. To executives who sell toys, apparel, and other items it seems unthinkable that a little “boy” would want to play with a Rey action figure or that a little girl would not want to play with a Kylo Ren action figure. Another frequent response was that the toy company did not realize how popular Rey would become? Really? So instead of mass producing Rey toys for the latest movie in case she pops, let’s keep flooding the toy stores with Jar Jar Binks as if that won’t make finding Rey toys all the more maddening to true fans (see Phantom Menace re: Binks). Heck, I’m over forty and I finally found a Rey bobble head for my wife for Christmas and it wasn’t for lack of trying to find other merchandise. I could not even find a Rey T-shirt for myself to proudly wear to the premiere. Executives should remember toys come in boxes, but people surely don’t. 

  • “…one or more individuals raised concerns about the presence of female characters in the ‘Star Wars’ products…Eventually, the product vendors were specifically directed to exclude the Rey character from all ‘Star Wars’-related merchandise, says the insider. ‘We know what sells,’ the industry insider was told. ‘No boy wants to be given a product with a female character on it.’” From reporting by Salon’s Matthew Rozsa

I especially wanted to include these three tweets below shared by a good friend and even better parent who weighed in on the #WheresRey controversy:

  • “Maybe we can also resolve that Daisy Ridley should get a big cut of the profits on sale of Rey merchandise, since her labor made it popular”
  • “I hope that manufacturing moreRey figures w/Star Wars merchandise supports girls, but I’m resigned that it will simply make an elite richer”
  • “As father of 2daughters, I support merchandise portraying strong women, but I know that beneficiaries of merchandising are a few white men”

This is #WheresRey as seen through the eyes of a long time Star Wars fan, professionally educated ethicist, and a father of two daughters. I so appreciated his tweets and the thousands of others for the significant societal issues challenged because the success of Star Wars and its characters like Rey. The Force woke up in December with the release of the movie and to my pleasant surprise I not only got the movie I had always wanted, but I got some pretty socially significant considerations to take away as well.

 “The Ways of the Force”

The original Star Wars has had various forms of success and significance ever since it was first released, so much so that 38 years removed from its original release in theaters you can walk into a theater, as I did again yesterday, and see an audience of seven and under and seventy and older all enjoying this story from “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away…” I’ve thought often since seeing the early premiere that J.J. Abrams returned to me the Star Wars of my youth while also delivering to me The Force Awakens needed by my adulthood. Clearly, Abrams and composer John Williams didn’t forget Rey (see Rey’s theme below), but instead the entire creative team has given me hope that all generations of Star Wars fans, already so diverse themselves, can be highly encouraged by a woman not only chosen to be the franchise’s new movie star, but indirectly chosen to represent so much more in the story itself and in our society. My hope for my friend’s daughters and others is that this movie can be socially significant enough to further us down the path of comfort in accepting and embracing equity and diversity in general and that another generation may comfortably accept the portrayal of strong women like Rey as both exciting and normal.

“The women in it definitely are as important as the men. We’re living in a time where, more than ever, everyone has a voice. And the people that don’t are beginning to grow one. There are so many people who are underrepresented everywhere. But to be part of a film that is both diverse and equal among the sexes is as it should be.” Daisy Ridley, The Force Awakens – Rey

I’ve shared several significant successes I’ve observed from The Force Awakens, but I’d like to end on a personal one. My wife, who I mentioned earlier, never grew up with the original movies. She did not play with all the toys, read the comics, or watch the VHS tapes till they barely worked in the VCR. Instead, she was introduced to Star Wars via the Special Editions in 1997. She did not have a lifetime of knowing the significance of “I am your father” or The Force itself, although she’s been a fan of the universe. In the last month alone I can honestly say her level of being a fan has dramatically increased. In short, here’s the moment when it happened. When we departed that night from our first viewing (yes, there have been more since), we immediately stopped outside to talk, process, and so she could ask questions. Here’s the personally significant part. My wife who rarely tears up or cries in movies looked at me and said almost immediately, “I started to tear up at the end.” I was pleasantly surprised. I asked which part, assuming the obvious for anyone who has seen the movie. Instead, she said no it wasn’t that, “I teared up when that lightsaber goes flying through the air into Rey’s hands.” I looked at her with enthusiasm and pride as any husband and Star Wars fan would and said to her, “me too.”

In that one moment not only did my wife begin a deeper connection with something I had discovered 38 years earlier, but if the packed theater we were in was any indication, the Star Wars universe and its new generation of fans also had a revelation in that moment as well. The audience applauded enthusiastically as if they had been following Rey’s story for years, or were as excited if it were Luke Skywalker himself appearing from the shadows. At that moment, the medium of film contributed to our daily conversation where generations from child to senior citizen were shown the visual of this new normal, only this time it was through the massive IMAX viewing of the phenomenon of Star Wars. Rey appears to be not only the main protagonist of this trilogy, but the next female Jedi at that. More important than even her lineage itself is that she’s a woman we can all cheer for, respect, admire, and accept as a legitimate movie star and Jedi to be. Because of the sheer size of something like Star Wars, Rey can be a force and symbol for equality, like her peers Boyega and Isaac, that can maybe move boys and girls, men and women, young and old, to a place of tears of joy of what’s possible on screen and in our world. One can hope; and this one certainly will.

“Rey is a game changer for the little girls around the world who have been disgracefully ignored by the Star Wars empire for decades. She is the real deal – smart, formidable and loyal.” Patricia Karvelas, The Guardian

The Edge of Student Affairs: Professional Spotlight on Shadow

Professional Competency Response to House of Cards Politics

(long read)

Pete:  “…you care about this place; it’s why you do what you do; it’s who you are. The people need the Church more than ever right now…you know, you can feel it. And the Cardinal, eh, the Cardinal he might not be perfect, but we can’t throw out all the good he’s doing over a few bad apples. Now, you know I’m bringing this up to you because it’s Baron’s idea, his agenda…”

Robby:  “This is how it happens, isn’t it Pete? A guy leans on a guy and suddenly the whole town looks the other way.”

1. “This is how it happens…”

There have been several profound movies over the last year with Spotlight high on that list. Spotlight not only appeals to me on a personal level as a born, raised, and educated Irish Catholic from Boston, but it also rings true to my professional values of ethics, social justice, and intellectual curiosity, or as I also like to think of it – diversity of thought.

Spotlight is a captivating portrayal of the work of the real life Boston Globe Spotlight investigative journalist team that led to shedding the light of day on an overwhelmingly dark shadow cast by the decades-long sexual abuse of minors by Catholic Church clergy in the Archdiocese of Boston and the cover up and lack of accountability by an institution of great power and privilege (both the abuse and cover up ultimately were shown to be far more systemic). The movie chronicles these newspaper men and women whose own professional competencies, ethics, and sound work practices were desperately needed to question, challenge, and at times think completely outside of the box, or even go so far as to ignore the political box of living and working in a city and metro area where the politics and influence of the Catholic Church were extensive and deeply entrenched.

Through each meaningful moment that contributed to their investigation, these journalists not only had to manage the politics of the Church, the paper, and the legal system, but they also had to transcend a corrupt and corrosive kind of politics we’ve grown accustomed to in America 2015. These professionals had to practice an advanced level of ethical competence and care to establish an impeccable level of credibility in order to create the influence required to report this difficult story and shine a light on the darkness.

This is not a post about this movie, religion, or child abuse. It’s only a post inspired by the truth telling essence of the movie and specifically by the single scene above as example of a corrupt and corrosive form of politics that acts as the very agency for shadow itself. I found this scene to be monumental in its simplicity in both message and meaning. It speaks to the message delivered regarding abuse of power and privilege by utilizing a socially normalized practice of the way politics works, but here I’ve referred to it as a corrosive or toxic form of politics. It also leaves one to question the meaning or worth of an individual life when such political methods are taken to their worst degree as in the example of “a guy leans on a guy and suddenly the whole town looks the other way.”

  • Politics:  “the science or art of political government…the practice or profession of conducting political affairs…political affairs…political methods or maneuvers…Political principles or opinions…use of intrigue or strategy in obtaining any position of power or control, as in business, university, etc.” As defined by

Politics may be everywhere, but that does not mean everywhere they are corrosive or corrupting influences. In student affairs (or higher education), I believe political methods used knowingly, and accompanied by intentional deception and damaging means, in order to protect power and privilege at the direct expense or equity of others or to maintain practices of oppression or marginalization are corrosive politics contrary to the profession. When equality, opportunity, and freedom are threats to an individual’s or an institution’s agenda, success, or appearance of social or professional credibility, regardless of a desired change in policy, belief, or position, this becomes what I will call from here onward House of Cards politics (or Scandal politics if you prefer). Politics can also be a constructive and still competitive practice when political methods used knowingly employ appropriate, ethical, and lawful means intended to influence a person or persons by developing and implementing the most compelling and transparent argument or agenda, fully absent of intentional deception or damage, that legitimately changes policy, belief, or one’s position. I’ll simply refer to this positive kind of political influence as position politics.

Unfortunately, House of Cards politics seems too often to be the only accepted kind as its focus is on palace intrigue, privilege, and power, and aimed to get others to look the other way (#ShinyObjectSyndrome) or even unknowingly go against or harm others’ beliefs, interests, or positions. Despite seeming to run contrary to the profession itself, these politics do exist in student affairs. A secondary problem to be wary of in this culture of politics is the fear and shame, as seen in Spotlight, when unprofessional, unethical, or illegal acts often go unreported in a timely way if at all in great part due to the particular influence of people or institutions. This fear or shame as political methods may indirectly or directly influence individuals or sometimes groups of people who don’t want to damage their career  by rocking the boat or risk throwing out all the good from institutions or a profession when so many professionals are doing good things, the competent things, because of a “few bad apples.” This is especially true when the “few bad apples” are actually those in positions of power and privilege in institutions and are the influencers themselves.

The scene above depicts two professionals gathering for drinks at a bar. One of whom uses House of Cards political methods and maneuvers to praise, guilt, pressure/intimidate, influence and ultimately blame a few for the abuses of the many by characterizing the situation as a “few bad apples.” This person willingly excuses abuses of systemic power, privilege, and oppression all while the same institution in place to protect minors from harm looked away to protect the greater good of the abusers, the institution, and the reputation of leadership. Try watching the scene again and remove the fact it’s about child abuse by clergy, but is instead something relatable to you that you deal with in your workplace. Change the words in the dialogue above from city to campus, church to university, and Cardinal to Assistant Vice President of Student Affairs, for example. Now what? Consider how you’ve felt in the past if ever in a similar situation, or reflect on what you would do today if someone approached you directly or indirectly about looking the other way. What do your professional values and competencies tell you? Hopefully they inform you that these politics do in fact run contrary to what this profession is and you will be the educator to someone else by saying “this is how it happens.”

  • “If it takes a village to raise a child, it takes a village to abuse one.” @SpotlightMovie

The reality of “this is how it happens” may play itself out when facing external or internal forces practicing House of Cards politics on issues such as sexual assaults, room assignments, alumni donations, discrimination and harassment, inappropriate use of funds, not reporting an athlete’s conduct, taking credit for others work or research, workplace bullying, defunding or overfunding offices or initiatives based on favoritism, practicing exclusionary hiring, or providing special access in decision making processes to friends over other colleagues. This also is happening in furthering the visibility and credibility of those with power and privilege, or creating it or “celebrity” status for those who are favored for reasons that have more to do with the influencer accustomed to privilege rather than with the professional’s qualifications, experience, or other relevant factors, thus depriving a wide range of professionals from the values of equity, inclusion, equal opportunity, and the diversity of their thoughts.

“This is how it happens” in every profession I am told so often as if I hear it enough I will ultimately embrace House of Cards politics as the only way student affairs can function. The difference in the student affairs (and higher education) profession is the higher expectations and the requirements to maintain certain values, standards, and competencies in place to practice so the profession is not corrupted by these very same House of Cards politics. In fact, the student affairs profession has one entire “top ten” competency dedicated to social justice and inclusion (SJI) alone, as many colleges and universities have also embraced these values and continue to do so. Earlier this year in the ACPA president’s blog the phrase “We must do better” was invoked concerning equity and inclusion. These words must be applied as a socially just and inclusive response to House of Cards politics so professional dialogue is not cut off due to fear, but rather free to examine the shortcomings of blaming a “few bad apples.” This is an opportunity to advocate and explore and even tear down structural barriers for full inclusion prevented by this form of politics so professionals can be character driven and truly collaborative in using their accompanying competencies and respond confidently with…this is why it will not happen here.


equality and oppression

2. Equity as a precondition of a larger good

“…we aimed to frame inclusiveness in a manner that does not norm dominant cultures but that recognizes all groups and populations are diverse as related to all other groups and populations. Bell’s (2013) definition of social justice further necessitates that social justice include “a vision of society in which the distribution of resources is equitable and all members are physically and psychologically safe and secure. This definition subsumes the construct of equity as more than a goal, but a precondition of a larger good.” From “Summary of Changes” in the updated ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies Released; Monday, August 24, 2015

This leads me to a Forbes article that’s bothered me from its hiding place on my desk since spring when a colleague sent it to me, “The 9 most frustrating facts about office politics” I didn’t do anything at the time but saved it for later. The version I had of it included a House of Cards picture, which reminded me to name these undermining practices and methods of politics as such. Coincidentally, on the rear of this copy of the article I had written something another friend said who I spoke to around the same time. This particular friend has worked with congress for many years and told me “Shane, the only thing more political than my job in this city (D.C.) is higher education in our country.”  I’m sure she could have come up with other examples had I asked for more, but it was a telling enough statement from one of the most ethical, socially just, and intellectually curious people I’ve ever known.

I didn’t write about office politics at the time not due to any fear of speaking of that which shall not be named or because of the article’s scare of “politics can make or break your career.” The time finally felt right now and the inspiration of Spotlight sure helped. Following all the incidents being continuously pulled into the spotlight by digital media and other means on college and university campuses and just about anywhere in our society, it seemed the appropriate time heading into an American political year 2016. Advocating for position politics, while seeking to shed a spotlight on the shadow of House of Cards (HOC) politics, matters in my opinion as this brand of  HOC politics knowingly deceives and does damage to people, professionals, and the profession. When this type of politics may be making or breaking careers in student affairs, then this requires an accountability check on the professional competencies and institutional power controls as this would be a failure to the very competencies of the profession, starting with social justice and inclusion for one.

My depth of concern with this office politics article is its very relevance to a profession that should be challenging the notion of growing accustomed to, or being introduced to, practicing privilege rather than social justice and inclusion. The article depicts from outset to end the reality that office politics are “not fair” and people should accept and even “embrace the politics whatever they are,” without any acknowledgment or serious discernment as to their professional ethics. The article even goes so far as to admit that “people pay more attention to the politics than they do their jobs.” This form of work ethic would seem to be an obvious concern for the value of personal and ethical foundations in student affairs. Yet, many know all too well the truth of that observation.

The article does provide clear examples of what these frustrations in the workplace are (which also contributes to why many professionals leave their employer), although the writer just presumes the House of Cards version of politics as the only way. That’s why this article matters for student affairs professionals to consider how to respond, report, challenge, or transcend House of Cards politics, as they are corrosive and contrary to the narrative the profession wishes to believe about itself. When student affairs professionals can knowingly identify them as contrary, they will become more than simply frustrating. They will be seen as debilitating professionally for a care based profession that holds and demands other values, standards, and competencies that specifically require professionals to protect “equity as more than a goal, but a precondition of a larger good.” (ACPA/NASPA Competencies 2015)


education darkness to light

Each of the ACPA/NASPA Competency areas, newly provided in August 2015, could have an entire chapter or volume written detailing their components, case studies, and consequences of inaction and action. Consider these office politics frustrations and how professionals can rise above what’s become acceptable but not equitable and advocate for a position politics for the good of all rather than a House of Cards politics for the good of the few by relying on and being informed by the competency areas:  Personal and Ethical Foundations; Values, Philosophy, and History, Assessment, Evaluation, and Research; Law, Policy, and Governance; Organizational and Human Resources; Leadership; Social Justice and Inclusion; Student Learning and Development; Technology; and Advising and Supporting. Below are just three I considered in revisiting this article.

  • Social Justice and Inclusion (SJI) (as found in the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies):  “…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.” (ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies, 2015)
  • Organizational and Human Resources (OHR) (as found in the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies): “Assess the costs and benefits of current established political alliances, in particular, their relationships to fostering collaboration and organizational transparency.” (ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies, 2015)
  • Personal and Ethical Foundations (PEF) “…competency area involves the knowledge, skills, and dispositions to develop and maintain integrity in one’s life and work; this includes thoughtful development, critique, and adherence to a holistic and comprehensive standard of ethics and commitment to one’s own wellness and growth.” (ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies, 2015)

The nine frustrations of office politics conveyed by Bonnie Marcus in her article are listed below with a relevant highlighted quotes I pulled out from her piece. For ease, I separated them into three groups so as to respond thematically. Overall, the student affairs profession and its competencies calls upon its professionals to not live with the frustrations, or “embrace the politics” just because, especially if those professionals in the field know these politics directly undermine things like social justice and inclusion, ethical foundations, and organizational and human resources.

You can’t escape it. It’s everywhere – Have you visited your children’s classroom and observed the dynamics? Aren’t there politics at play there as well? Children seeking favor with the teacher or other students is a common behavior. They learn at an early age what it takes to have power and influence and what it takes to succeed.” Politics can make or break your career – “Many of us believe that we will be rewarded for our hard work and talent. After all, we succeeded in school because of our diligence. But the rules in the workplace are different. It’s not a true meritocracy. It’s not a level playing field…In order to be successful, you need to not only do the hard work, perhaps even extra work, but also create visibility and credibility for yourself. Otherwise, you run the risk of remaining invisible in a crowded and competitive environment.”

  • I don’t dispute that activities related to power and influence are learned at a young age, but if what it takes to succeed in student affairs, or throughout any form of education really, is determined by only one type of politics, the kind I call House of Cards politics, then the response by student affairs professionals must be that other forms of politics and influence not only exist but are in fact what professionals are called upon to practice. Professionals should not throw in the towel on the entire case for positive influence from the get go by saying that only one type of politics works and it’s the corrosive, toxic, and corrupt kind that we know uses deceptive and damaging means. Student affairs and higher education is about creating the changing influence needed for the world to become more ethical, more inclusive, and more socially just. This profession should not be taking cues from a dysfunctional politics or shadow cast that perpetuates the belief and practice that “It’s not a level playing field,” therefore depriving oxygen from opportunity and aspiration. If professionals in the field are prohibiting access to visibility or credibility, therefore creating invisibles, then the very nature of social justice and inclusion is being corrupted.

The unwritten rules often rule – “In fact, some unwritten rules are sacred and you need to know what they are or you can step on a landmine that will sabotage your career.”  The rules are constantly changing – “It’s a full-time job staying abreast of people’s rules and the importance they attach to their rules at different points in time.” There are constant shifts in power and influence – “Senior leaders come and go and the culture changes, the rules change, and as a result, the power and influence shifts.”

  • Workplace environments change all the time. This is especially true in education on every level. That is acceptable and expected. What is not is the notion that because there is constant change this excuses organizational and human resources failures to provide consistent, clear, and comprehensive communication strategies. Through sound change management an organization can provide the opportunity for everyone in the workplace to have access to known information as appropriate, rather than allow for unwritten rules to be divisive among professionals and disruptive to the service being provided to staff, students, and community. As I brought up in a previous post, “Widening Inequality:  Educating for Fair and Equitable by Doing Away with Unwritten Rules” –,“If we have to provide unwritten rules, this implies there are parts of the profession that need to be cleared up for everyone in order to benefit. If this is the case already and we further the need for unwritten rules in this profession we’re moving farther from fairness and equity rather than toward it, creating a widening of inequality.” 

People who get promoted aren’t the most qualified – “It seems that these people pay more attention to the politics than they do their jobs…For they have mastered how to work the system, and they have aligned themselves with people in the organization who have power and influence.” All decisions are influenced by politics – “Some people get special attention because they happen to be in favor with decision makers and influencers. These people are plugged into the power sources and benefit from it… You will soon see that decision makers have a network of influencers that they consult. These informal networks of influencers have tremendous power.” There are informal networks within the company that have power and influence over all decisions – “There are informal networks, sometimes referred to as the Old Boys Club, that have the ear of senior management.” The informal power networks are extremely difficult to penetrate (especially for women) – “This is certainly frustrating if you’re an outsider to these networks, because it means you can only react to decisions and not be proactive in the process.”

  • When frustrations are seen through the student affairs lens it clearly shows a reinforced politics of exclusion. This leads to creating everyone’s favorite word “silos” rather than a collaborative community where it’s possible to celebrate the successes of all employees, not just those provided “special attention,” “tremendous power,” or part of the “Old Boys Club.” According to the professional competencies, to be an advanced professional in student affairs is to “exercise mutuality within relationships and interconnectedness in work/life presence.” (ACPA/NASPA 2015) A professional’s personal and ethical foundations in student affairs must encourage developing and supporting ethical organizational culture while also role modeling for integrity. To do this with expected integrity means transferring “thoughtful reflection into positive future action.” (ACPA/NASPA 2015)  Positive future action does not exclude women or anyone fully qualified and participating in the profession or seeking professional status and it does not mean working the system to create a new “Old Boys Club” by aligning oneself with those who have power and influence and actively dismissing those who don’t have it, either in perception or reality.

“Identify ethical issues in the course of one’s job…Appropriately question institutional actions which are not consistent with ethical standards.” As found in the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competencies, Personal and Ethical Foundations, 2015

sat with broken

3. The force awakens

“Decisions are made by those who show up.” The West Wing

This blog post ultimately is a corresponding plea that “We must do better” in work and in life when it comes to equity, inclusion, social justice and the politics practiced to achieve these ends. It took the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team considerable time and energy to unearth something insidious that was sitting directly in front of so many people for decades protected by a certain kind of politics that allowed for this shadow to continue. We’ve seen very clearly this week alone how House of Cards politics, when employed, can turn rational, good, caring people into the very worst representations of themselves. That should be challenged in life and in the workplace.

If you’re concerned because an office is being questioned by human resources or equal opportunity, or an institution is under federal investigation for a Title IX violation, or you have to confront a peer or even a supervisor about an ethical violation or a social justice matter, then revisit your competencies. If you’re feeling the pressure to lean, deceive, or damage because of politics, remind yourself in a reflective moment and remind others too of the difference proclaimed early and often in this profession of student affairs that you’re supposed to be on the side of the spotlight not in the shadow, whether the matter is great or small. That is what’s expected of the students too after all.

The old saying goes that politics is all about relationships. This is true. What almost always gets left out of that statement is what kind of relationships are they and just how are they practiced?  Accompanying relationships with competence will inform the inception, integration, and influence of legitimately using position politics to influence for social justice and inclusion, organizational integrity, and professional ethics. Doing this will change the narrative for the better for so many people. A message inclusive of accountability, transparency, and active protest that professional and social goodness can happen here, wherever your here happens to be, matters greatly. If the professionals can use provided competencies to respond to House of Cards politics that individual lives hold meaning at all times in student affairs, then consider what that will do for workplace culture and what that role modeling will do for students and the world they will be entering. That is truly a force to be awakened.

courage grace under pressure

“There’s fair & there’s unfair, and I’m always gonna vote for the fair. I’m always gonna vote for the good guys” @MichaelKeaton Screen Actors Guild Awards 2016

Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Practitioners -
Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church: The findings of the investigation that inspired the major motion picture Spotlight –
“The nine most frustrating facts about office politics.” –