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 http://wpo.st/6QlA2


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

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

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

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

*adult language


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

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


JESSUP: You want answers?

KAFFEE: I think I’m entitled to them.

JESSEP: You want answers?!

KAFFEE: I want the truth.

JESSUP: You can’t handle the truth!

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

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

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

KAFFEE: Did you order the code red?

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

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

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


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




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

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


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. Yes, the “news,” or entertainment media obsessed with sound bites over policy and nuance has surely helped that, as has our cultural obsession with Reality TV. For without how our media works now and how our viewing habits have been shaped by RealityTV, in the past a Trump candidacy never gets off the ground because he is historically unqualified and that is a fact. 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. 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 should 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 you a bad reputation, as well as demand that your 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 participant in, or recipient of, the nuance expected of a great nation and leader in the world.

May God bless the United States of America.

 “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. “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 (http://thewestwingweekly.com/,@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 (https://studentaffairscollective.org/) for posting on their own blog site located at https://studentaffairscollective.org/guess-coming-dinner-larry-wilmore-recruitment-retention-roasting-may-required/

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) (http://bit.ly/1Otnep9), 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 Vulture.com “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 (http://bit.ly/1q9uhNH) 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(http://bit.ly/1JeyIPI, http://bit.ly/1hJ7EMO), 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 (https://acpacsje.wordpress.com/) 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” (http://bit.ly/1oxAxxs). 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 Collider.com)

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 Dictionary.com

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 http://www.myacpa.org/blogs/presidents-desk/we-must-do-better 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 http://www.myacpa.org/article/updated-acpanaspa-professional-competencies-released

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” http://www.businessinsider.com/rules-of-office-politics-2015-3?utm_content=buffere29b4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer%20%E2%80%A6. 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” – http://bit.ly/1zSpmTG,“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 -http://www.myacpa.org/professional-competency-areas-student-affairs-practitioners
Betrayal: The Crisis in the Catholic Church: The findings of the investigation that inspired the major motion picture Spotlight – http://www.amazon.com/Betrayal-Catholic-findings-investigation-Spotlight/dp/0316271535/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1451831780&sr=8-1&keywords=betrayal
“The nine most frustrating facts about office politics.” – http://www.businessinsider.com/rules-of-office-politics-2015-3?utm_content=buffere29b4&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer%20%E2%80%A6

Absaroka: The Place that Netflix Wouldn’t Let Us Forget

longmire banner

“Your life impacts mine.” Deputy Vic Moretti to Walt Longmire, Season 4/Episode 10

It’s how you come back that matters

Sheriff Walt Longmire of Absaroka County, Wyoming:  the actor Robert Taylor and his fictional character have filled some large TV shoes in the last four years. This character, first found in the pages of author Craig Johnson, has impacted viewers of the show in his own way as his persona impacts those characters around him on the show itself, and thanks to season four’s streaming source many more individuals are getting to see Why the World Needs Walt Longmire (http://bit.ly/1fctB4y).

Thankfully, for a great many fans, seasoned and fresh starters, Longmire has come back from cancellation and it matters to a whole lot of viewers seeking not to lose quality shows because the tallest of pop culture trees (Game of Thrones, House of Cards, Scandal, etc.) often overshadow some of the more serene but no less significant spots in the entertainment forest. The how of Longmire’s return from the cold hands of the cancellation reaper at that other network with the duck show seems attributed to a number of sources. Rest assured, though, as the show was saved not salvaged from the side of the highway like roadkill that saw its best days behind it. No, Longmire does come back not with a hesitant whimper but with an emotional and philosophical bang to match or surpass the one literal bang from a weapon that ended season three. Season four remains as consistent and engaging as the previous three installments, if not more so by the reactions of many fans on social media. 

One contributing source of Longmire’s return has been this persistent and enthusiastic fan base including those part of the “Longmire Posse” and fans of the original mystery novels, as well as many others. Among these many fans, there definitely includes more than one demographic alone, despite popular belief. That one particular demographic was seemingly demeaned and dismissed from importance with the show’s cancellation by entertainment ageism. We read or heard named and unnamed sources exercise the audacity to just call out Longmire viewers as old and therefore insignificant. These assertions of being both older and a TV viewer were as if they were being shamed to not watch anything at all they may actually enjoy, or it was as if they were constituting an entertainment crime itself worthy of Deputy Ferg taking them into custody in Walt’s own jail cell.

When the show was cancelled, all viewers, including those presumably “old” ones did not take the situation lightly regarding a quality show they believed in while it was being put out to pasture in order for a loyal audience to get yet another helping of fast food entertainment fed to them on a regularly basis. Fans did what fans do on occasion; they organized and peacefully rebelled a little bit, and pretty consistently. I’d be curious if the creators of the show or the network that dumped it knew Longmire fans were going to be those fans not going away without a fight, but that’s exactly what they did and deservedly so earned their movement an online name of the Longmire stampede!

Dear A&E, those “old” people you took for granted empowered themselves along with other demographics of your audience who felt distanced and disengaged by closing off their road to Absaroka County for good. These fans did not just silently protest. Some like me fled your network, others wrote letters, sought out new networks, and a great many participated in that stampede in the hopes someone heard the calls for a second chance. In many instances the Longmire stampede learned to participate in a social media campaign to join others who were already practicing their dissent online. Together, fans of Longmire, the fictional Absaroka County, and those of the reservation community shared a love of people and place and sought to not just say “too bad so sad.” They sought to find somewhere to raise these characters and this show from the literal and figurative ashes from a powerful season three finale. 

“It’s just been so inspiring and resilient and inventive, and the whole thing is humbling actually that there’s that many people that just really connect with the show and want to see it keep going.” Actor Robert Taylor, Walt Longmire

The sources these fans sounded off to were listening. For they too clearly saw a show that mattered not only to their fans but also mattered a great deal to its many creators and caretakers and Warner Horizon Television. This was evidenced by the support, outreach, and dedication from the author who has created this world of Absaroka County, a great cast and creative team like John Coveny, Hunt Baldwin, and so many others (far too many to name, insert IMDB here) who have been so gracious with fans online, and of course through the Longmire Days festivities held in Buffalo, Wyoming, and other outreach events. Longmire Days, in fact, is an annual summer event the American Bus Association has declared one of the top 100 events in North America. The show also matters to the greater Santa Fe community where the show films each year as a very suitable stand in for Walt’s Wyoming and the local Cheyenne Indian Reservation. I know it matters across Wyoming beyond just places like Buffalo and Ucross, home to author Craig Johnson and about twenty plus other people. I’m sure both New Mexico and Wyoming have seen an uptick in tourism as we at home see places on our televisions, laptops, or tablets that some of us may only dream to see in real life, or others may visit regularly and return as often as they can.

Last but certainly not least, the Longmire stories and characters must have mattered to the folks behind the still relatively new kid on the entertainment block in Netflix. As a fan of Longmire from the beginning, I have seen more marketing, featured articles, and more news or “buzz” created about this fine show in a couple of months than in the three years previous on that other network. I suppose I have the folks at Netflix to thank for that. 

“When Warner Horizon Television came to us with the idea for a new season of ‘Longmire,’ we were intrigued because the series is so unique, and consistently great. We are thrilled to help continue Walt Longmire’s story for his large and passionate following.” Cindy Holland, VP of original content at Netflix

My wife reminds me to be forgiving of that other network after canceling Longmire, since they they gave us this show to begin with and without this pothole in the road Netflix could not have intervened and infused life, marketing, screen time, and more room for character development than could have or would have been done previously. Netflix rode in from the horizon and obtained what seems to be a unique and consistently great storytelling score for the talented people at Netflix who have shown they know how to produce a quality product through their streaming service. On top of all of that, Netflix now claims a passionate fan base and a show that after three solid seasons may have had one of the best season finales I’ve seen (“Ashes to Ashes”) that with each return viewing literally brings tears to my eyes, from Walt finally dealing with both his grief and his profound love for his deceased wife to the profound serenity of Henry Standing Bear driving down the freedom highway, with his head out the window and wind in his face. This scene with Henry is probably one of my favorite scenes in Longmire so far in the series (not to be forgotten is the beautiful music selection of House’s, Big Light to go with it by http://www.housesmusic.com/).

I can’t comment on what did or did not transpire behind closed doors of why we almost never saw the likes of Absaroka County again, or how it is that Netflix came to save the day literally like western classics of old. I don’t know what happened and never really will despite what I can read on my own or infer from what those involved have indicated. All I know is that last August I was concerned Durant, Wyoming of Absaroka County would just be another ghost town like many places out west that time forgot. Netflix gave Longmire back to its known fans and those yet to be found as indicated by the famous “second chance” slogan touted by season four.

Lomgmire not only came back but it appears to be thriving in season four at #LongmireonNetflix, as of September 10 Netflix is now showing seasons 1-4. Viewers can follow along and connect with other fans via the @LongmirePosse on Twitter and on Facebook with pages such as the following: Longmire Possee Official Fan Site – https://www.facebook.com/LongmirePosse?fref=ts, and Longmire TV Show https://www.facebook.com/LongmireTV, and of course it still thrives through the individual stampede of those online, including cast and crew (the cast and crew are some of the best in television in interacting and responding personally online), still sharing about Longmire, re-watching and Tweeting episodes, reading the books, and encouraging friends, family, and strangers to do the same. Of course, for true Longmire fans, many of us probably polished off season four that first week as I did. Now, what matters is that I return to watch it again and see what I missed. While doing that I’ll be sure to encourage others to subscribe or watch it on Netflix, take the time to thank those who make the show possible, hope for what I imagine will be a season five, and help welcome others to Absaroka County for their first time.

Longmire lives

As for the show and this season itself, even if it can follow the mystery procedural playbook at times, which itself can provide intrigue and comfort, I still feel it’s really only a mechanism to dig at the deeper stories and character traits of these people and places. In over four seasons, and especially this one with twenty more minutes per episode (a key benefit of a new home on Netflix), Longmire delves further into the complexities of the Indian Reservation unlike any fictionalized show that I can remember watching. I know being a city born Bostonian I surely haven’t seen enough of this diverse population, their stories, their struggles, their spirituality, and their contributions to their community. I admit I possess a bias for the American West and the stories that are told there, but not only as history lessons from long ago, but stories that have both a past and a present and even showing that small town life is sometimes as vastly different or all too similar as we may not have imagined compared to our own perspectives. Longmire lives matters because we still have an opportunity to see stories of success and struggles that could be happening in today’s west that we have no idea even matter to people different from ourselves or they may resonate with those out west who may be all too familiar with what really matters.

“This isn’t to say that the series, created by a pair of producers from “The Closer,” is a complete procedural throwback. It began with an overarching mystery — the death of the wife of Walt Longmire (Robert Taylor), sheriff of the fictional Absaroka County, Wyo. — and that mystery is still playing out at the beginning of the 10-episode fourth season, which just became available for streaming. Three episodes were given to critics, and they provide further closure, though it seems likely that the repercussions will continue throughout the season.” Mike Hale, The New York Times (yes, that New York Times!)

This season even more than previous ones furthers the stories of challenges, the conflicts, and the communications within the reservation community and beyond with Walt and the “white world,” as well as how these stories consume the small confines of the sheriff’s office itself. A large part of the season four story in a very fascinating way mirrors the television show Longmire lives idea itself with the continuation of season three events and what results in the significance of season four that “Hector Lives.” Hector has been a pivotal character, whether seen or unseen, who those living on the reservation come to in hopes of obtaining justice when they believe it will be nowhere to be found. Indirectly, Hector launches a major thrust of season four’s pivotal story involving the ever impressive Lou Diamond Phillips in his role as Henry Standing Bear and his later involvement with an integral performance by Julia Jones, playing Gab Langton, a young woman on the reservation who has suffered great violence with little hope for obtaining justice or healing.

Under Longmire’s new life at Netflix season four gives us a more morally complex Jacob Nighthorse (the excellent A. Martinez), some more collaboration and even some rare smiles from the reservation police’s own Mathias (the ever-engaging Zahn McClarnon), and a critical appearance of Tantoo Cardinal as a medicine woman as season four heads to an inspiring reflection on the opportunity for change and transformation. According to IMDB, Cardinal received The Order of Canada recognizing Cardinal for contributions to the growth and development of Aboriginal performing arts in Canada. All of these characters, including our other fan favorites, and several new faces make for a full speed ahead year in Absaroka all in the backdrop of the bright lights of the casino finally coming to town.

Of course, this season obviously confronts head on the remnants of last season’s outstanding cliffhanger and Longmire doesn’t make you wait ten episodes for the payoff. Instead, that payoff of what happens to Deputy Branch and his father Barlow and Walt’s involvement in what happens next, in addition to “Hector Lives,” drives this second chance season at Netflix into the continued exploration of many more of those deeper issues that makes Longmire stand out among the crowded televised landscape. Longmire has a subtle manner of contemplating the nature of our humanity, our ethics and morality, and the likes of spirituality like the depiction of the life of the Cheyenne people as shown in Gab’s visit to a sweat in season 4/episode 6 “The Calling Back” to seek healing and rebirth.

Moments like this with a new character like Gab, a loving and authentic interaction between Walt and Cady in a car ride, Cady’s continued protective instincts for Henry, and the absolute disgust of violence and corresponding injustice that sees Cady, Vic, and Walt drinking away their anger on something other than Rainier beer are the true heart beating moments that allows us to feel the pulse of Longmire in season four. Despite the uncertainty of a Netflix move, Longmire remains in its essence the same show grounded in its foundation of loyalty of relationships, considerations of both respect and resentment, thoughts of guilt and forgiveness, a responsibility for self and community, the consequences of income inequality, justice vs. injustice, issues of race and culture, and this season even includes a unique look into the face of evil that Walt will not soon forget as it will change the show forever (“High Noon”). Ultimately, this season persists and culminates in the philosophical questions of who and what we are, as they are most pointedly expressed in season four’s finale by the consideration of the very nature and possibility of transformation itself. These are both human questions and quests if there ever were some to wrestle with as to the meaning of things, which keeps me and probably others returning to the essence of our own humanity as seen through these characters in a little place called Absaroka.

When this season ends, undoubtedly viewers will be talking about Walt’s own continued transformation through grief, the changing and almost tense dynamic between he and Vic, as well as that season finale yet again. The other huge takeaway is the development through time and space for the portrayal of Phillips’ Henry Standing Bear, as he literally bears the emotional and ultimately physical pain of what has transpired in seasons three and now four that further articulate Henry’s character as more than a sidekick to Walt. Henry is not only his own man, but his very nature is to be a Standing Bear to those around him, including those on the reservation and as always to his lifelong friend in Walter Longmire. This was a very full ten episode season by the time viewers arrive at the season finale episode “What Happens on the Rez…” Surely fans will anticipate and believe Netflix will allow for the continuation of Longmire in season five following another jaw dropper ending in Absaroka County. I don’t think it would be at all of a surprise to also say those same fans knew they’d want more Longmire long before they ever got to the season finale, because no matter on what device they watched season four before they could ever get to the “Rez” the cast first had to begin by meeting in episode one “Down by the River” in a powerful springboard to what many are still calling the best season of Longmire yet.

“Down to the River to Pray”

O fathers let’s go down
Let’s go down, come on down
O fathers let’s go down
Down in the river to pray

P.S. “There’s no place like home”

LVNV Longmire Corner

Just the other day I happened to make a Longmire pilgrim’s stop in downtown Las Vegas, New Mexico, one of the primary shooting locations for the show. Las Vegas features the exterior to Walt’s office and the Durant town square. While walking the square, I began speaking to a woman named Dorothy. She was a friendly woman who could have easily been the Sheriff’s office manager Ruby and a resident of the fictional Durant, Wyoming. Dorothy said she had moved away from her home in Las Vegas only to return again, because she missed it, loved it, and to some people there really is such a thing as “no place like home.” Dorothy was one such person who believed this and in absolutely no way did I change her name to make it fit here into a tidy Wizard of Oz reference. This Dorothy was not wearing any ruby slippers! Sometimes life has a way of giving you the people and places you need just when you happen to need them. This Dorothy and I talked briefly of some of the other movies and TV shows filmed in Las Vegas and the greater Santa Fe area. We then obviously came back to Longmire and its significance in Las Vegas and the area and how the characters and places in that show were still needed.

Despite the murders and the mysteries and now all the tourists and oil rig workers frequenting Jacob Nighthorse’s casino, Longmire’s Absaroka County continues to change from a quiet place in the early days of season one when Walt is left to initially ask himself “What the hell is happening to my county?” I would say there are many of us that probably find ourselves asking a similar question of where we live each day. Yet, the Longmire universe inclusive of Absaroka County, Wyoming doesn’t seem like such a bad place to at least call a good fictional home to pass the time at the Red Pony with the likes of Walt and Henry, Ruby and the Ferg, and yet still enough wide open spaces and diversity and complexity of its people to always have an opportunity to discover second chances and even a possible transformation of our own.

Thank you Netflix and all involved in bringing this show and fictional world back to life on the screen. Thank you for not letting us forget Absaroka and allowing so many more people to be welcomed to this place for the very first time. May they too may find a fictional place to call home with some great storytellers and even greater characters with much more left to do still in season five.


For more Walt Longmire mysteries, check out the stories that started it all by Craig Johnson. http://www.craigallenjohnson.com/

“I’m of the belief that everybody has a writer in them, but they also have an editor that strangles the writer to death before the writer gets anything down on paper. I think you’ve got to fight that to a standstill and say ‘OK, I’ve trained my whole life for this. I’ve worked for this, and it’s time to sit down and do this.” Craig Johnson, as quoted in the Buffalo Bulletin

****You may also want to check out Longmire’s first season 4 teaser trailer featuring “Bones” by musical artist @jaidadreyer. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eJLzVEAPE3M&feature=youtu.be

****Because LDP is a talented and gracious man.

LDP longmire Tweet Oct 21

Life’s too short to not be yourself

emerson being yourself

Usually, I spend my time writing consistently here in this blog with content of much greater length than this. Today I simply felt like sharing this in the hopes that for me and for others if you wish to be yourself you may be able to do so, or will at least have people kindly in your corner to create opportunities to be yourself rather than something else entirely. Life is too short for us not to at least have the opportunity to become our best selves. Thanks R.W. E.

Careers in the Air: Name the Shame of Unemployed and Underemployed in Student Affairs & Higher Education, Part 2 of 2

*This blog post, like the previous one, remains focused as a direct-reflect piece with real people sharing their professional voices and experiences, presently or previously unemployed or underemployed (or both), who responded to participate in this project during May/June 2015 through interviews and or questionnaire responses. I thank each one of them for sharing their knowledge, their professional experiences, and sometimes personal ones. I’m still listening, still caring, and I hope others will continue doing so, or begin to do so, for all professionals in every state of being, but especially for those who have or are experiencing this as part of their professional journey. This post and the previous one were written by compiling direct quotes or indirectly crafting from the words, thoughts, ideas, and expressions of emotion derived from those participants’ responses who reached out to share their experiences. I consider myself humbled to have had the opportunity to listen and read about their experiences and I hope these two posts may honor their intentions to remain as educators and bring awareness.

Long form – in three sections

Regaining control of your professional narrative

  • “The minute you orphan that story, it owns you. It defines you the minute you do that, and then you consciously or unconsciously work your life around it. When you do differently, you become the author of it.” Brene Brown, Salon, Aug 25, 2015

B Brown Rising Strong back

1. Foundation, foundation, foundation

We’ve all heard the real estate refrain “location, location, location” as being paramount to finding success in property value.  The professionals who provided the flesh and bone of these last two blog entries range in diversity from within six months of graduate school to seasoned professionals with fifteen or more years experience, and even included those possessing terminal degrees. What they share in common, aside from their experiences with varying degrees of unemployment and underemployment, is their desire to own and author their personal and professional narratives rather than have them be orphaned by the side of the professional road or have their narrative be shamed, silenced, or abducted by another person who has zero knowledge of that individual’s reality because nobody has yet sought to understand, or doesn’t want to understand. Perhaps, these professionals, and any true believers in the field, could reclaim voice in their own refrain of professional value – “foundation, foundation, foundation.”

  • “I learned that the support and unconditional love from a significant other was critical. I learned who valued a relationship with me because of who I am rather than what position I hold.” Anonymous unemployed professional when asked about what you learned about yourself

Whether new or seasoned, one clear message received from my interviews is that these professionals have witnessed serious foundation concerns. They have all observed cracks or craters in the foundation of the profession they value, or are still fighting to maintain the integrity of that value. These cracks and craters are seen in the foundation of the employment systems and practices themselves (recruitment, hiring, promoting-when allowed). They can also be seen in the clear lack of dialogue pertaining to the reality of underemployment and unemployment – resulting in, or contributing to, a lack of understanding and recognition of either. These holes, large or small, are also seen in their very own personal foundations of learning to be a professional in varied instances. In others, cracks appear as failed foundations demonstrated in disconnected graduate programs to practice (regardless of the degree itself), cultures of fear, bad policy, unethical behaviors and habits, and even ineffective leadership on campus and across professional organizations, which Brene Brown herself may refer to as “…a lot of BS from people who have grabbed the attention…where I don’t see the discourse.” In this instance, the discourse would be about the importance of employment, unemployment, and underemployment, and the significance of advocating trusting and transparent conversations about each. Some in the field would openly or anonymously call Brown’s attention grabbers the leadership celebrities, or the talkers vs. the walkers, as opposed to those leaders who do actually eat last. (Simon Sinek)

Despite a foundation that may provide the illusion it’s really on quicksand itself, these professionals seek hope and strength from the foundation of the field. Regardless of bad seeds, poor growth, or prolonged full-capability employment droughts in the field, most will endure because they believe in the work. They find hope in the founding elements that inform a meaningful career. They aspire to make meaning in their own contributions to educational value. They see hope in leaders who act with integrity and authenticity. They hear sounds of hope in a growing call for accountability in the practice and professionalism of how the field recruits, hires, and employs by the shining examples and word of mouth spoken (or through social media) of those who do these things well professionally, and with justice and equal opportunity in mind for everyone, not just someone’s favored or known one.

Maybe, there is even a little new found encouragement because the contributors to these posts, the many readers and generous respondents to the first entry, in addition to contributing to the last post’s success in getting it shared and read, more importantly will create the originally desired awareness for those facing or who will face unemployment and underemployment and speak up and show up for the social justice issue that is employment. Now, there may be professionals with hope that system failures within employment processes (previously written post specific to higher education/student affairs http://bit.ly/1oxAxxs) may find a place in the room for discourse and direction moving toward sustainable staffing systems because more professionals know they are no longer alone in their experiences even if everyone has yet to own all of their experiences.

  • “Why did I get a master’s in this – I can’t pay back with what I’m being paid.” Anonymous underemployed professional, when asked about that has been learned about the profession during underemployment
  • “We need to talk about ageism and the residence life funnel/bottleneck for young professionals. I joke with a friend that ‘friends don’t let friends get stuck in res life’ but there is a grain of truth to that statement.” Anonymous underemployed professional, when asked about that has been learned about the profession during underemployment

Stephanie Stradley (Houston Chronicle writer for the Texans, lawyer, and legal analyst on the NFL’s recent football deflation lawsuit) recently wrote something which was not only interesting, but seemed directly applicable to the consideration of professional foundations with regard to employment status in the field:  “Once a course of action is started by powerful people in organizations (the NFL), it is hard to walk it back. Many organizations do not reward people for speaking up against the course of action of what has been chosen by their superiors.”

This applicable course of action in this instance is the field or even institutional employment practices as they currently exist, which seem hard to walk back, because at the very least there are people who don’t want to do so, because they are secure in their own power by not doing so. There are also many organizations/institutions in this field that are known to not reward people for speaking up against the chosen course of action even if it’s for the betterment of the profession and despite doing so respectfully and having ethics, standards, education, and social justice on their side to support their informed contributions. Speaking up would likely mean time spent revisiting of processes or traditions at institutions or throughout the profession in the macro sense. In the micro sense, it certainly would force institutions and the profession to consider what if anything is done to prevent or respond to unemployed or underemployed professionals. Both would require questioning effectiveness and ego, and that is difficult to digest for many in education as it is in the NFL. If a week or a month of unemployment or underemployment is a burden for just one professional, what does nine months to two years or longer look like for one or more of them? What does leaving the field entirely due to unemployment or underemployment do for individual careers and the legitimacy of the field as a whole? What can or should be done to walk back, or course correct, and are leaders of organizations open to considering such innovations?

There is actual human evidence of fractures by not talking about the unemployed and the underemployed because it clearly makes those persons accept a positive, happy, or comfortable personal narrative that simply may not exist, because to speak of anything more could be seen as disruptive. I’m not sure when, but somewhere along the way anything other than the perception of positive became all “negative,” “whining,” or “corrosive.” Rather than discerning and addressing the behaviors of those individuals being maliciously negative without a desire to contribute to solutions, those speaking up for a lived reality, asking critical questions, and considering and contributing ideas for sustainable staffing have been suffocated in the same blanket, which goes back to feeling silenced or shamed as a professional. Institutional or organizational brand management is as important as ever, but PRing another professional’s truth, feelings, values, identity, or well-being to get them to be a non-diverse human being, seems by the observations of many to be a bridge too far and is in itself its own negative and intellectually corrupt act.

  • “While it saddens me that this happens period – I learned that others were having the very same and in some instances worse experiences than I was having.” Anonymous unemployed professional, when asked about what has been learned about others during unemployment

In the 2009 Academy Award nominated film Up in the Air, George Clooney plays the somewhat unlikeable character of Ryan Bingham. Bingham travels the country as a contracted termination specialist for employers who don’t have the courage to fire their own employees. The movie is a social and economic commentary about where we’ve been and where we are with the “American Dream,” a foundation value for many, especially as it relates to how we find our identities and dreams defined by our jobs rather than the diverse souls who perform in those jobs.  Dispersed throughout the movie non actors share their experiences of what it was like being without work, including the song at the end of the movie. Those moments of reality stand out and are jarring, but consider these voices are out there in this profession and they’re too frequently not being heard or helped, which is in essence what these two posts have all been about.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=92dkdlnDalQ Up In The Air, by Kevin Renick

  • “Anybody who ever built an empire or changed the world sat where you are right now and because they sat there they were able to do it; that’s the truth.” Ryan Bingham, Up in the Air

With each professional I communicated with, I couldn’t help but hear Clooney’s Ryan Bingham saying the above packaged quote as part of his positive spin to the newly terminated. In the interviews I’d hear the frustration with the positive-only campaign by the use of messaging intended to be uplifting such as, “Trust the process,” (previously written post specific to higher education/student affairs http://bit.ly/1u4emP2), “Hang in there,” “It will all work out,” “You will get a job,” “It will all come together in good time,” “It all happens for a reason,” and “With every closed door is one more closer to an open one.” Even if these sentiments come from the right place originally, they come across as privileged or simply detached statements from someone else’s present reality. It obviously bothered people more when this wisdom was provided from another professional who actually had to live through unemployment or underemployment and now has seemingly developed both amnesia that they once went through it and lack of empathy that others were going through it now.

  • “Half of the on-campus interviews I went on didn’t end up filling the position, which is incredibly frustrating…and the transparency/feedback was minimal and I really didn’t know what I was doing wrong and why I wasn’t getting hired…When you have someone spend 8+ hours with you for an interview, the decent thing would be to call and tell them they were not selected…” Anonymous underemployed professional

In the words of one interviewee, “These are things we would instruct our staff members not to say to those in difficult times; haven’t these people ever heard of silence or presence?” Empathy and communicating effectively with those who are unemployed or underemployed can be tough work, but not so tough that a profession such as this one shouldn’t be talking about it, including every professional and in every graduate program on campus. One series of connections was definitely not considered tough work to comprehend- it’s that professional employment concerns are an always priority and are not something solved by a once a year focus on a recruitment season, TPE (The Placement Exchange) is an event not a silver bullet, and far “too many people are placed on search committees for their own professional development without any training at all by their department, division, HR, or equal opportunity on how to do it ethically, effectively, or legally.” To many, employment priorities are perceived as a “I’ll get to it after the important stuff” rather than one or more leader’s persistent  #1 priority to develop a sound organizational staffing structure of service to all constituents who are served by the organization. For such an important aspect of effective organizational operations there appears to be an undervaluing of the professional’s contribution to the business of education, but also the practice of prioritizing the foundation and future of employees.


TOD value and worth

2. Employment gaps to well-being ones

Whether it was a conscience or subconscience choice to wait until now to release the second part of this blog I really don’t know for sure, but the fact that Brene Brown’s new book came out on Tuesday, Rising Strong, leads me to believe that it is more probable than not that it was a premeditated choice. In an article published by Salon on Tuesday, August 25, Brene Brown shared the following relevant observations:

  • “I do think that we have somehow, in our pursuit of comfort and happiness, shifted a lot of value to fun, fast and easy. But it’s counterfeit value. The amount of energy it takes to live a life where you never fall down is so much. We’re enamored of grit, tenacity, courage, and perseverance, I think because they’re so rare. They’re truth. We have a sign in our house that says, “We do hard things.” We’re going to be called upon to do hard things. We can weather disappointment. I think people are desperate for that. I think they want to believe they’re brave and they want to be brave, but what they don’t understand is how difficult it is. There’s this cultural obsession with happy and comfortable. But what we really respect are people who can have tough conversations and get things done. In order to do that, we have to be very awake to our emotional lives.”

Unemployment and underemployment are not fun, fast, or easy in reality or in conversations at all whether it’s dealing in employment gaps or well-being ones. They are tough conversations, when they’re even had at all. And if they’re not being talked about, then they certainly can’t be addressed with any sense of organizational health in mind and then all involved run the risk of damage to their wholehearted self, which may as well be emotional death rather than awakening to emotional life. Higher education and student affairs should be willing to have difficult conversations at any time concerning issues confronting employees. I’m sure one of those conversations or priorities for employees, and hopefully for organizations, would be well-being. However, I would contend the profession should be especially supportive of well-being as it pertains to those in unemployment or underemployment, or those transitioning into or out of those professional places.

  • “To appreciate how much our careers shape our identity and well-being, consider what happens when someone loses a job and remains unemployed for a full year. A landmark study published in The Economic Journal revealed that unemployment might be the only major life event from which people do not fully recover within five years…our well-being actually recovers more rapidly from the death of a spouse than it does from a sustained period of unemployment.” Wellbeing – The Five Essential Elements, Tom Rath and Jim Harter

There is a legitimate case to be made for re-framing the well-being conversation not around happiness and comfort, but instead as living emotionally congruent lives as best as possible with or without employment or full capability employment. If any part of the professional foundation has failed its professionals, then everyone should have an interest in working to solve it for the sake of the advancement of the field, even if that means ultimately supporting professionals in the field to obtain or craft the needed skills and abilities to move on from this profession because there is no room to sustain their own personal or professional success and ultimately their well-being.

train people well enough so they can leave

In their book Wellbeing, Tom Rath and Jim Harter write of well-being “the combination of our love for what we do each day, the quality of our relationships, the security of our finances, the vibrancy of our physical health, and the pride we take in what we have contributed to our communities. Most importantly, it’s about whether these five elements interact (career, social, financial, physical, community).” I mention this book and include the image below as a simple reference point for any status of employment really. I know everyone I spoke to about underemployment or unemployment clearly communicated their well-being was not thriving during these times, without even providing this framework specifically. Interviewees had a diverse range as to how well they communicated thriving, but clearly their employment status was impacting one or several areas. In thinking about this, I was left with one of the more simple questions:  If professionals in the field who are underemployed or unemployed are likely not thriving in one or several areas of well-being, what is the role of higher education/student affairs to intervene in collaboration with or on behalf of these professionals? Higher education and student affairs professionals would not think twice about intervening on behalf of students struggling with well-being, no matter the reason. So what should professionals expect from the profession they aim to serve?

wellbeing gap

First generation students:  Interventions for them. Underrepresented students: Interventions for them. Students who are high performing, athletes, students requiring pet therapy animals, transfers, veterans? They all require some form of intentional, well considered, policy, plan, or practices of care to ensure that their needs as student, or customer, are being met or at least recognized in order to find pathways to succeed. Whether professionals in the field of higher education/student affairs are employed, unemployed, or underemployed, shouldn’t their well-being be a priority also by someone or more than one someone other than just the often isolated professional? And if by someone other than them means hiring managers or search teams using perceived well-being issues against those unemployed or underemployed professionals in recruitment and hiring, then consider that vicious circle of irony for a moment for the caring profession that this is intended to be. Then take a look at The White House’s Best Practices for Recruiting and Hiring the Long Term Unemployed as just one example that may provide assistance to those in employment need that this profession could use as a framework for seeking to support professionals whether unemployed or underemployed. https://www.whitehouse.gov/sites/default/files/docs/best_practices_recruiting_longterm_unemployed.pdf . Below are just some responses related to well-being from those interviewed:

  • “I’ve learned that my spiritual faith was critical to my sanity during the time of strain/struggle. I also learned who my true friends were in the business as they regularly checked in with me to provide encouragement.”
  • “My self esteem has definitely taken a nose dive since my first full-time position, but I’ve tried to improve my attitude. It’s definitely been hard as I remain unemployed, but I try to be optimistic.” 
  • “I was working for an abusive boss who engaged in disparaging and berating behavior…clearly a workplace bully. It became such an uncomfortable and hostile work environment that I opted to leave. It was affecting my health, family life, and academics.”
  • “I may die $100,000 in debt, but I have been independent and taken care of myself.” 
  • “I was disappointed that I hadn’t secured a new job before the old one ended, so my confidence and self esteem took a big hit there. That also affected my attitude toward working hard for a new opportunity.” 
  • “I have a wonderful family and friends that know I am struggling and are trying their best to take some of the financial burden off of me until I can secure a real job. But because of my weird hours in retail, I often cannot go out to see them or socialize so I am isolated and feel alone, even though I know they are there for me.” 
  • “I started to see a counselor to help me navigate some of the attitude, confidence, and self-esteem challenges in addition to parent/child relations issues.”
  • This was one of the most challenging years of my life and the fact that I made it through and am still happy and standing is a miracle.” 

What well-being issues are heard here in these responses? What could be others? How can professional peers and leaders of the profession better seek to recognize, understand, and authentically support professional colleagues while they are unemployed or underemployed?

3.The Bully Pulpit

In the beginning of the previous post I wrote about shame-free professional narratives and anonymous educators. Shame and living in the shadow of anonymity are evidence of many things including organizational cultures navigating from a place of fear rather than courage, transparency, and transformational leadership. Indeed, there are challenges to leadership to display courage, transparency, and transformation, but when leaders of campuses or professional organizational have such roles of privilege and power, it’s not enough to have them, but it’s what is done with them. When we speak of the U.S. presidency, the coined term is having the “Bully Pulpit,” or the authority and opportunity to speak out on many and hopefully important issues. I believe this applies in this field as well and in fact should be the only time we hear of effective bullying at all as our leaders use their pulpit to advocate for adhering to and growing the foundational values of the profession and the institutions and organizations such as higher learning, ideals that will influence the students and global citizenship so we all do better than expected, not simply resign ourselves to lower expectations. This “Bully Pulpit” is not only for advancing the tough and truthful conversations about student issues. It should be used to advocate for inspiring and influencing staff too as well as taking on employee concerns such as unemployment or underemployment. Although it’s not often in the same conversational breath, employment is a social justice issue. The courage to talk about employment practices as moral practices as educators talk about budgets as moral documents does not mean everyone will ever wholeheartedly agree, but for the sake of a sustainable profession and a successful employment culture there must be enough voices invited to the dialogue from the bottom up, and leadership on these matters from the top down.

In the immortal words of TV’s famous The West Wing President Josiah Bartlet, “What’s next?” leaders of any profession are called upon to answer the “What’s next?” questions. They are expected to seek diversity of thought and conduct formal and informal research on the “What’s next?” questions. They must care to understand the varied issues involved within and beyond their own scope of interest and their own professional field. Without this, leaders will likely continue to be part of the problems and will never be part of creating solutions or inspiring others to create them. Especially important from a dual employment and education lens, if educational leaders help professionals and the profession accept their own wholeness through the integration of all our experiences, which may include journeys in unemployment and underemployment, then this same profession and its professionals will ultimately better support students, if or when they are faced with the same challenges. Professionals in this field would never in good faith communicate to a diverse student body to just be silent, not be authentic, or not speak up regarding their whole story, even if it involves unearthing deep personal scars that may be both truthful and not positive, so why on earth would we expect differently from diverse professionals.Professionals need leaders to let their professional truths be heard as well.

Interviewees shared ideas about the “What’s next?” questions. Not all of them were certain. Not all of them even knew if they could figure it out because they were so worried about staying afloat as an individual or as a family. In some conversations, the talk of creating an undergraduate degree in higher education/student affairs did come up on the list as one of the things not to do next. This idea recently seems to be a whack-a-mole that may be entertaining to play on a Twitter chat, but when the profession regularly has people who are underemployed or unemployed, entertaining that game seems tone deaf to larger past and present problems that don’t seem to be going away.The moral of the story, regarding what comes next, is that these professionals want to contribute something that would be helpful to the profession, whether the participants in this project even remain in it.

Each of the following pieces of advice for peers and leaders could easily lead to their own blog posts. In the end, what these professionals wanted all along is awareness, more people to have the courage to ask questions of the profession itself and how these professionals are doing as people, and even the empathy to consider underemployment and unemployment not as a professional character flaw, but instead something that exists within this profession and in the world at large. the same would be true for educational leaders, but also with the added burden of hearing and advocating for the “What’s next?” as it concerns issues of professionals serving or seeking to serve students and staff. There are professionals waiting for answers to questions already asked and to those that are probably not being asked due to organizations not valuing them speaking up. Either way, so long as unemployment and underemployment is an issue there will always need to be both questions and answers and the opportunities created by leadership to speak freely about both.

When these professionals were asked about advice to those underemployed or unemployed in the profession, these are some of the responses:

  • “Stay professionally engaged and keep networking…”
  • “I will say that I took a temporary position at a university thinking that it would be easier to find a job from a job and I don’t think that’s the case.”
  • “Work to understand why it happened, if possible. If you have character flaws to correct, get to work on that.”
  • “Obtain certificates or get another degree.”
  • “Success comes outside of your comfort zones…you’ll never know who or what you’re looking for- if you don’t put yourself out there and make yourself vulnerable.”
  • “Don’t take things personally! The process is EXTREMELY subjective. All you have to do is try your hardest to succeed as that’s all you can control.”
  • “Feel comfortable disclosing information (professionally of course) what could explain a short gig on your resume.”
  • “When you’re unemployed you have to let ego go, getting caught up in titles and responsibilities; unemployment benefits only last so long…”
  • “When you’re underemployed you have to have an honest conversation with your boss what to do to survive.”
  • “Don’t sell your authenticity for a job. It’s ok not to feel ok. You trusted the process like you were supposed to and it failed you. You do not need to package up those feelings into a pretty little box labeled ‘learning experience.’ It sucked and it happened. That is a legitimate feeling.”

When these professionals were asked about advice to those in leadership roles in professional organizations regarding staffing the profession, especially pertaining to those unemployed or underemployed, these are just some of the responses:

  • “In SA I feel like it’s not what you know, it’s who you know, what you know, and how you package it, and how you’re packaged. Getting a job seems just as much chance as it is skill.”
  • “Just because a referral is from a friend doesn’t make it right as friends are not always right. You have to take chances on someone. You have to take a chance on yourself.”
  • “Be more creative in staffing to reward people with good work ethic as creative as they (leaders) are when moving around problems, making up titles and positions or retirement planning for those not doing the work.”
  • “The issues facing the recruitment and selection process of professional full-time staff has hit a level of embarrassment for the profession. The mere fact that people are leaving or consider leaving the profession because of it should be an alarm. It is very hard to preach social justice, diversity, professionalism, and ethical standards when our very own institutions across the country are not engaging in such behavior…maybe some of these leaders…should establish an anonymous blog site where individuals in search processes can express their challenges, concerns, and experiences.”
  • “If networks already formed (as a leader) then be open to new professionals (unknowns) who want to be part of this field.”
  • “Encourage institutions who are interviewing at (conferences/placements) to inform candidates when they are not selected following an interview. I found most of the places I was not selected were institutions where I submitted my resume and cover letter through (conference/placement), and was thus not in the official HR system.”
  • “Every application you get are people, not spam in your inbox…people apply for all different reasons and take considerable time to apply so acknowledge the person; you never know when that person will come back around.”
  • “Be considerate of others! Don’t list something you’ve already chosen someone for. Also, make sure you communicate with candidates (reasonably).”
  • “You have to be willing to fight for the people who work for you. Go to the mat…use capital to help people and not be afraid to fight for it.”
  • “…Great candidates might have “gaps” in their resumes and employment…I imagine I would advocate for changing any official/unofficial ‘policies’ that deemed currently-unemployed candidates as less viable…”

Again, employment and labor concerns are social justice issues that impact the lives of real people we may know, or that we may know and not ever even realize it. Sometimes these people are us. Unemployed and underemployed professionals want the opportunity to live lives of thriving well-being. They want to be dedicated to their jobs serving others, but not fighting survival to do so. They want to reclaim ownership of their professional narrative, and they simply want their very own opportunity to each day ask themselves “What’s next?” and to answer the call with heartfelt effort and enthusiasm.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=D7IMmsRGRpA Sufjan Stevens: Flint (For the Unemployed and Underpaid)


Dear Nobody – 2012

After hearing about my project on Twitter, a fellow professional shared the following resource with me and I thought it was a perfect end note to this post. So, all credit and thanks to the creative talents of Kayla Cady for the artistic representation that I believe compliments this post well. http://kaylacady.com/installation.html