- Continued from previous post: Staffing Experiences: Having Them and Sharing Them (Post 2 of 3) http://bit.ly/2vMFOcv (Post 1 of 3) http://bit.ly/2vgqsfS
Below are two professional competency areas that highlight the many dynamics involved in the questions and responses brought up in these survey questions.
For the purpose of the Social Justice and Inclusion competency area, social justice is defined as both a process and a goal that includes the knowledge, skills, and dispositions needed to create learning environments that foster equitable participation of all groups and seeks to address issues of oppression, privilege, and power. This competency involves student affairs educators who have a sense of their own agency and social responsibility that includes others, their community, and the larger global context. Student affairs educators may incorporate social justice and inclusion competencies into their practice through seeking to meet the needs of all groups, equitably distributing resources, raising social consciousness, and repairing past and current harms on campus communities. – Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators
The Organizational and Human Resources competency area includes knowledge, skills, and dispositions used in the management of institutional human capital, financial, and physical resources. This competency area recognizes that student affairs professionals bring personal strengths and grow as managers through challenging themselves to build new skills in the selection, supervision, motivation, and formal evaluation of staff; resolution of conflict; management of the politics of organizational discourse; and the effective application of strategies and techniques associated with financial resources, facilities management, fundraising, technology, crisis management, risk management and sustainable resources. – Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Educators
What follows in section V. are survey questions 11 through 14 with responses, which focus on current or previous employment status, considerations about leaving the professions and this profession, and if staffing is characterized and communicated as social justice and professional sustainability practices overall. The responses are broken down by bar graphs and a pie chart. Comments are presented in section VI. based on 354 respondents. Section VII. includes some brief closing comments.
V. Employment Status, Sustainability, and Social Justice (Questions 11-15)
11. Have you ever experienced a period in your full-time professional career (other than student or graduate roles) when you would have classified yourself as being unemployed, underemployed (employed at less than full-time or in jobs that do not meet economic needs and/or skill qualifications), or as not seeking employment? (multiple options allowed)
- No – I would never classify myself as fitting into any of the three categories presented. (41.2%)
- Yes – I would classify myself as being previously unemployed during my professional career. (30.1%)
- Yes – I would classify myself as being previously underemployed during my professional career. (31.8%)
- Yes – I would classify myself as being in a position of previously not seeking employment during my professional career. (6%)
- Yes – I would classify myself as being currently unemployed during my professional career. (9.7%)
- Yes – I would classify myself as being currently underemployed during my professional career. (15.1%)
- Yes – I would classify myself as being in a position of not currently seeking employment during my professional career. (3.7%)
Survey responses to question 15: If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before your response.
“After being laid off in February 2015 I searched for full time positions in student affairs most were career services positions and a few were student affairs assessment positions. I came away from my search feeling that as a 58 year old African American man, student affairs no longer wanted me. I feel career services in particular wants young, Caucasian women who corporate recruiters will be comfortable with. I am happy with my move to the non-profit sector and the growth potential here. I feel as student affairs continue to practice race and age discriminatory employment policy, eventually some college President will get fed up with this and dissolve a division and have these functions performed by other university personnel.”
“I’ve had bad fortune seeking higher ed/SA work and the upset and pain of never landing a job has been crippling at times.”
“I think there are norms in higher ed that don’t apply to other fields. In many instances the intended salary for a position is not posted. Sometimes a grade will be applied to a position (ex: Salary Grade A) but there is no information posted anywhere else to indicate what that means. The concept of being “overqualified” may be mute if that information was made more publicly available. People are more likely to opt out of a search if they know what the pay range is up front. Conversely, if you do make an offer than it shouldn’t be a shock to the candidate if it is lower than they expect because they chose to apply with all the information.”
“My experience is that it all depends on the institution. I have left professional positions twice due to culture concerning treatment of professional/student staff. I have also stayed “too long”/taken a position for which I am overqualified to be a part of a culture that honors and supports professionals and student staff.”
“I am currently searching and feeling fully defeated as a 53 yr. old 2nd career professional who is passionate about the field. I have been on 14 campus interviews in 2 years and judging from my own data, that I have collected, I am a favorite candidate to bring when there is an inside candidate favored for hiring. I meet all the qualifications, but I am just off the average age and background to justify the hiring of someone who has an “added edge because they are familiar with our campus” I seriously get no poor feedback. Every time, it is not me, it is just that the person hired has more.”
“I have had a former employer stop me from taking an on campus interview at another school. The same former employer become a negative job reference without informing me, even though my performance reviews were always excellent, solely because I left employment against her wishes. I was hired at another school for a position that was being replaced by grad students, but not informed at all during the hiring process. They literally were hiring me for one semester. I left that position early and almost gave up on Student Affairs. I am currently under employed in the field due to, I am assuming, the gap in my work history this previous situation helped cause. I also could have cause to bring a suit against the first employer, for harming my career. I interviewed with thirty schools at a placement conference, getting many second interviews, and talks of on campus offers. But, then, they got the damning but false negative reference from this individual and I was out of the running. Let’s be honest. Student Affairs is a very small field. If you get on the wrong or right side of someone it can make or break your career. I love our field. I hate our field. But, I love trying to help students more. So, here I am, under employed 15 years into my career, trying to move forward…I can only pray the field changes for the better.”
“I had a period of unemployment which lasted about 14 months until I finally landed a position in Student Affairs again. This was roughly 4 year ago. I recently left that position that pulled me out of unemployment and recently discovered that I was given an unfavorable recommendation by that supervisor when they called for a reference for my current position. Most of it was our personality conflict. Being honest, I’m more than a bit frustrated and upset by that. I know that a lot places want a “current supervisor” but sometimes that’s not terribly healthy for either party. The things the supervisor charged me with in the reference were the result of both management style and the fact we had differing views on a few things. We could mostly work well together, but really I wish she would have declined when I asked to be a reference.”
12. Have you ever considered or completed voluntary separation from any full-time professional position for reasons related to what you would characterize as staffing concerns (the selection and training of individuals for specific job functions, and charging them with the associated responsibilities)?
- No – I have never considered departing a position for reasons related to staffing concerns. (43.7%)
- Yes – I have at one time considered departing a position for reasons related to staffing concerns. (24.9%)
- Yes – I have more than once considered departing a position for reasons related to staffing concerns. (13.7%)
- Yes – I have departed a position at least once for reasons related to staffing concerns. (21.1%)
- Yes – I have departed a position on multiple occasions for reasons related to staffing concerns. (3.1%)
13. Have you ever considered or completed voluntary separation from the field of STUDENT AFFAIRS for reasons related to staffing concerns (the selection and training of individuals for specific job functions, and charging them with the associated responsibilities)?
- No – I have never considered departing the field of student affairs for reasons related to staffing concerns. (48.9%)
- Yes – I have at one time considered departing the field of student affairs for reasons related to staffing concerns. (21.6%)
- Yes – I have more than once considered departing the field of student affairs for reasons related to staffing concerns. (20.7%)
- Yes – I have departed the field of student affairs at least once for reasons related to staffing concerns. (8.9%)
- Yes – I have departed the field of student affairs on multiple occasions for reasons related to staffing concerns. (.9%)
- Other – (1.2%)
Survey responses to question 15: If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before your response.
“I am so incredibly much happier being out of student affairs. In my current field, if I question something that happens with a hiring practice, people listen and act to resolve the issue as best they can. In student affairs, speaking up against injustice in hiring cost me a promotion.”
“The field of student affairs seems to churn people in and out pretty quickly — the hours and level of training leave a lot to be desired. Moreover, there seems to be an almost ‘well, that’s the way it is’ attitude that me and my peers have experienced. It has made me question whether a career in student affairs in the long term is feasible.”
“While I have encountered difficulties in my job searches before, my current job search seems to be much more difficult than in years past. I find myself being passed over for interviews for positions I am clearly qualified for, and should I receive an opportunity to interview, I typically receive little to no follow up communication, even if I am the one who initiates the dialogue. This severe lack of communication with regards to status of a search I have entered, or any updates to the search timeline has been extremely discouraging. I do not think I’m entitled to any position I apply to, even if my qualifications are ideal for the role, but I am often left wondering why I was not given notification as to why I did not receive an interview (phone and/or on-campus) or why my candidacy was not pursued. I do not necessarily attribute these frustrations to dubious hiring practices, but on several occasion I have discovered that my candidacy (as a potential external hire) was passed over in favor of someone the institution wanted to promote from within the same department or elsewhere in the same institution. These instances have caused me to feel like the process was disingenuous and I was only brought in for formality’s sake, as opposed to a serious candidate.”
14. As a current or former student affairs professional, how would you characterize your impression as it pertains to the concept of staffing as a (a.) socially just and (b.) sustainable practice of the profession and whether this practice is appropriately communicated or prioritized? (a. ethical, inclusive, embracing the attributes of economic and employment justice, etc.) (b. equitable access to opportunities and persons, ability for continued professional mobility and advancement, or overall job security, etc.)
- Excellent – I feel the concept of staffing as a socially just and sustainable professional practice receives comprehensive communication and/or top prioritization in relation to other priorities in the profession. (4.3%)
- Average – I feel the concept of staffing as a socially just and sustainable professional practice receives a basic level of communication and/or prioritization in relation to other priorities in the profession. (41.1%)
- Poor – I feel the concept of staffing as a socially just and sustainable professional practice receives minimal to no communication and/or prioritization in relation to other priorities of the profession (51%)
VI. Comments from Respondents (Question 15)
15. If you wish to provide any additional comments or experiences to any of the above questions please designate the question number before your response.
Out of 354 respondents over 50 chose to leave some form of comment. Several have been shared in the previous two posts and so far in this one. Below are a taste of many others, although not every single one may have been included for spacing purposes and some have been edited for space, spelling, and or clarity.
“How would we go about finding out if this is situation that other professions experience?”
“I wish I had data from other fields to compare my experiences to. Because we say we’re about social justice but then replicate systems of oppression in hiring, it scares me to think about how bad it might be in fields where they don’t even pretend to care about social justice.”
“Question 9 – I am currently searching since January. I have received many phone interviews, yet one institution with nearly identical job description for midlevel housing role as all others I’ve applied for did not extend the phone interview and couldn’t provide specific feedback as to why. Another institution announced the search was closed and the position had been filled less than 2 weeks after the phone interview, which left me questioning the integrity. At the 2nd institution they said they do not provide any feedback to professional candidates.”
“This isn’t really attached to just one question but I feel there has been more than one instance of me being called to an interview when someone else was clearly already in mind or to diversify the interview pool. In either case I think it is a complete waste of time. Especially when one of the interviews involved me driving 4 hours one way at my own expense.”
“I have been in SA for 14 years, I came from industry, my background is MHRM and I have since taken a few classes toward EDd. I will say I have found it easier to work with individuals who come from a diverse background versus those that come straight from achieving a higher ed degree. Understanding the theories is one thing but being able to work in an ever changing environment is key. I am thankful that I have a background in several areas and I am the one most often students seek out, not because I have a degree, because I can relate in different areas and change my thinking on a whim. I would love to see this survey taken in industry. As the same things happen for interviews. It’s not just SA, its everywhere. Looking forward to the results.”
“Relating to socially just practices, I feel that it’s not only student affairs that falls short in this area. Institutionally, we rarely turn the mirror back on ourselves and examine our practices and traditions with this lens in mind. It would be difficult for student affairs to solely address some of these issues that are rooted in practices spanning the entire university and that have been in place for a long time.”
“In some instances I shared my concerns with professional staff when serving on a search committee though I did not seek external resources. It is unclear to me if my concerns were reported up and lead to any formal investigation. As a chair of a search committee, I have been told by a supervisor who would be hired prior to reviewing candidate profiles. This happened on multiple occasions.”
“I felt that question 14 should have been split up into two separate questions. I haven’t run into much socially unjust staffing issues, but I have seen a ton of issues regarding some of the other topics addressed. For example, many institutions seem to always seek and prefer outside candidates, while others seem to always prefer to promote from within, while both types act as if the posting is truly open to all. I am currently stuck at a place which only seems to hire from the outside, and cannot move up. My last school only seemed to promote from within.”
“As a whole, our field is TERRIBLE at hiring, but much of this is dictated by HR or the institution. I think most people in student affairs want to have just hiring practices, and are held back by red tape and legal concerns.”
“We don’t practice what we preach! It’s very difficult to access student affairs jobs unless you are able to travel on your own dime. It’s also difficult to access the profession if your career path has not been a linear one. Heck, it’s even difficult to switch functional areas if you seek to do so. For all our talk of inclusivity, if you are anything other than a reasonably attractive white woman with a straight and narrow career path, some doors will be shut to you. Just look around while attending conferences, particularly those with many young SA professionals.”
“Women are bullies in the workplace, it has happened at every single job I’ve had, including outside higher ed. I think women need to be taught collaboration skills, as well as tolerance of other women who are not defined by traditional gender roles. They exclude me and are rude. I make every few female friends at work, and they “talk.” It often feels like I never graduated high school.”
“I believe there are several areas where the field misleads candidates or requires more of a person’s time than they are being compensated for. While yes, salaried jobs do require extra hours on occasion, one should not work 60+ hours a week for 40 hours of salary or 12 out of 15 weekends a semester with no comp time. We don’t make enough to warrant that and no job is that critical.”
“I sincerely believe that higher education institutions should be more transparent during their hiring process; and move more expeditiously. The hiring process takes much longer than it needs to. The bureaucracy and red tape are major reasons why there is a high attrition rate among SA professionals. Additionally, we are a field that expects people to be okay with earning $35-40K who hold Master’s degrees, when private industry pays people $70-80K+ for the same level of education. It’s disheartening! Furthermore, for a field that preaches diversity and inclusivity, there are way too many instances of micro aggressions.”
“The University of … just went through a job family study that SEVERELY downgraded the employment status of student services professionals (actually, we’re not even considered professionals any more, just clerical workers), where admissions representatives…are considered the epitome of student services professionals with salary ranges way above those doing actual student services work. The job study was demoralizing, dehumanizing, and discounted the valuable work done by student services personnel. We only care about getting them in the door?!? What about those who work with the students to ensure that they stay and finish?”
“I have been on interviews where it became apparent that I was the extra candidate as mandated by hr where the supervisor was not even in town for the on campus interview, and have been invited on campus without reimbursement when an internal candidate seemed to be the choice all along.”
“I have experienced an institution that promoted from within individuals who did not have the experience required. In this case a person who came from a non AS department was in student involvement for 3 years and did not supervise anyone and them was promoted to director of Reslife having never been an RA or other experience in Reslife after the former director was fired. Proceeded to kick out hires of the former director standoff year with very little warning.”
“I recently left Student Affairs to work in the Ed Tech industry and it amazed me the pace at which search processes moved outside of Student Affairs and how well candidates were treated in the process. Within all of my Student Affairs job searches the institution made me feel that I was privileged to be interviewing with them for a $35,000/year position having had previous professional experience and a Master’s degree. Institutions act like they are in the driver’s seat and if you are lucky enough to get offered a job, they will have the expectation that you will be attend weekend and evening events, no questions asked, while receiving no additional compensation. “Flex time” was offered for these hours, but that diminished the availability you would have to students. My experience interviewing outside of Student Affairs has been the opposite. Employers are thrilled you are considering working for their company. Now being on the other side of Student Affairs, I feel fairly compensated, fairly treated and my employers acknowledge I have commitments outside of work and respects that. I also feel as if I am treated as a professional with a skill set rather than under intense scrutiny at all times.”
“The state of …top-tier research universities engage in discriminatory hiring practices as the norm, not the exception.”
“I feel a lot of things fall into the category of “fit.” Whether or not you find that just or sustainable, I think sometimes people just don’t mesh well and there is gravity to that.”
“As a senior-level professional…the most frequent issue I have seen in searches both as a candidate and an employer/search committee member is the hiring of less-qualified candidates who do not meet the expected demography of positions. I saw this frequently in residence life the concept of “gender-balance” in hiring (or even offering interviews to) less-qualified male or female candidates in order to have a balanced team. This is most common in Hall Directors, but have seen it in all levels. Beyond housing, the most frequent area I have seen issues is in entry-level Multicultural Affairs positions. As a member of a number of search committees, I have seen strong candidates dismissed after first-round (or even paper) review because they didn’t “fit” with the area in question. Candidates with 2 years of intern or practicum experience in Multicultural Offices have been dropped from searches because their resume does not show evidence that a candidate is a member of the group served. If a candidate does not show membership in an NPHC/MGC group or other minority student group, they have been dropped in favor of candidates who the hiring officer “knew” were black when hiring for a BRC. Similarly a lack of GSA/LGBTQ+ org experience or “being LGBTQ+” research or presentation experience can get you cut from consideration. Finally, I worked at one institution that required all candidate pools to be reviewed by Affirmative Action using a form that required the hiring officer to list the race of the candidate based solely on the application materials and, if based on that list, there was insufficient racial diversity, the search would be canceled without regard for the skills and experience of the other applicants. Similarly if the group advanced to phone interviews and on-campus interviews was not sufficiently diverse, Affirmative Action had the ability to fail the search or place additional candidates on the phone or interview list, despite a comparative lack of qualifications and, if not selected, required a statement of justification as to why the minority candidate was not hired. I saw many under-qualified minority candidates hired in order to avoid the endless rounds of meetings and letters which resulted from attempting to hire a non-minority candidate. Often hiring managers looking to fill multiple vacancies would get a search approved through the on-campus phase for a single vacancy, then fill additional vacancies using the same pool, hiring an under-qualified candidate of color in order to be allowed to hire the qualified candidates who were also included in the pool. This usually resulted in VERY high rates of turnover.”
“I strongly believe that the interview process for student affairs positions is unrealistic and ridiculous. No other job do they require you to do a full day or more long interview.”
“I would consider nepotism a large issue in the field. I have both been overlooked for positions in favor of friends/family of the search committee members (I was an internal candidate and knew my search committee) and been on search committees where the group placed value on candidates who were friends/family of search committee members.”
“On boarding continues to be a struggle for many universities.”
“Student Affairs is well known for advocating for social justice but is equally guilty of non-inclusive, discriminatory, and nepotistic practices as any other corporatized field. What makes the SA field worse, is the insistence that we are ‘better’ at it and the denial that we engage in the same behaviors under different names.”
VII. What’s Next?
Social Justice (ethical, inclusive, embracing the attributes of economic and employment justice, etc.)
Sustainable (equitable access to opportunities and persons, ability for continued professional mobility and advancement, or overall job security, etc.)
In the last three posts I’ve shared a lot of information from a lot of people who I thank for giving the profession plenty more to consider in terms of the many substantive parts of the staffing practices designed, implemented, and assessed, or not, by institutions and organizations and how they may or may not be playing a role at a given institution or on the field as a whole, especially related to the practices of social justice and professional sustainability.
I do hope that these posts represent those who took time and thought to contribute to them the best manner they could in the opportunity provided. I hope they help professionals and graduate students who read them feel less isolated and more heard as there are those out there who obviously have shared similar experiences to yours, even if it’s just reflected in the words “excellent,” “average,” or “poor.” At least it’s a starting place for dialogue. I hope these posts show there will be those out there in the profession to believe you when things don’t turn out well for everyone, because they will not always no matter how many times it’s invoked that #yougotthis.
I hope that these posts inspire leadership, integrity, social justice, and considerations of professional sustainability that will demonstrate many people want the best for all professionals and the profession and more professionals will not fear getting to that “best” by talking about, listening to, and asking the hard questions that are requirements of staffing 365 days a year. I hope that those in the profession will continue to seek out where the burdens are for professionals and that more and more people may be generous and self aware enough to meet and greet others in those realities and grow forth from them into even better professional practices tomorrow and the day after that. Peace.