Time for new adventures

My last day will at Western will be Friday, August 10th, 2018. It’s been a great four years here in the PNW, but I’m ready to move on to some new adventures. I plan to travel, visit with friends and family, and embrace the new adventures and opportunities that emerge.

Working with the faculty, staff, and students at WWU has been a privilege. The experiences, challenges, and friendships will be forever a part of me as I go forward.

Child Sacrifice to the Second Amendment

In the United States, we require the registration of every child between the age of five and seventeen. Each week, we select one or more schools at random. From those schools, some number of these registered children are executed at gunpoint to preserve our freedom to own guns.

This statement seems like exaggeration, but it’s the current state of affairs in the United States. The details vary slightly with each event, but to properly understand our culture, this truth must be acknowledged. The absurdity of child sacrifice to prevent an imagined forfeiture of 2nd amendment rights will be immediately obvious to whomever excavates the USA’s future remains. To remain willfully ignorant of the dangers of gun culture is a staggering act of contempt towards every American child.

To end this madness, we must reject the central conceit of the Constitution, which is that the majority must be kept in check. The primary function of the Constitution is to establish the rule of law as an agreement. However, a secondary function of the Constitution was to enshrine the right to slavery. To protect slavery, the basic tenet of majority rule had to be rejected in favor of super-majority. In the case of slavery, we did not achieve a peaceful resolution. Only through civil war were we able to end that national nightmare. If we can first amend the constitution to eliminate the cap on the number of representatives, then follow that amendment with a second eliminating the senate, we’ll take a big step towards a more perfect union in the United States.

No matter the issue, we must directly, constitutionally end the second amendment right to personal ownership of firearms. We can honor our tradition of an armed citizenry through the creation of intentional militias. The weapons systems of today are simply too dangerous to be distributed among the general population without oversight.

We have to pursue these changes bravely. It will cause dissent in our families. It will estrange us from those who’s principal allegiance is to personal gun ownership. However, the ongoing sacrifice of children to gun violence is the stark cost of our INACTION. Each delay in restricting or eliminating access to guns is paid in lives: the lives of our friends, the lives our family members, or the lives of school children. We must find the sense of urgency to not only advocate and pursue action, but to reject those who work against that end.

Learning from Michigan State

-The first two links below contains multiple survivor accounts of sexual assault. –

http://www.detroitnews.com/story/tech/2018/01/18/msu-president-told-nassar-complaint-2014/1042071001/

This review of what MSU staff was told, when, by whom, regarding sexual abuse by former MSU physician Larry Nassar is a necessary read. The narratives shared by those Nassar abused are illustrative of the way institutional policy, organizational culture, and professional silos can create blind spots that perpetuate violence. In this case, for nearly 20 years.

My attention was drawn to the ways in which survivor narratives were quarantined and dismissed by seemingly well-meaning professionals. The language used to justify inaction is familiar to anyone who’s done advocacy work in higher education settings, and that’s what’s worth understanding. These were folks trying to do (and keep) their job, who suddenly and unexpectedly faced a significant ethical problem. Critically, this is not a pattern isolated to MSU. Crucial ethical decisions rarely always come neatly flagged as such. If minds and hearts aren’t versed in value and ethics through training, dialogue, and practice, there’s little hope for better choices than those detailed here.

Student housing professionals face ethical dilemmas regularly. As careers progress and scope and responsibility increase, we are asked to face an increasing number of intractable or difficult decisions that require resolution between desirable values. It’s why mission, values, and language matter so much. A well-defined mission, grounded in our community values, cultivates and encourages the challenge of actions that are contrary to the mission and values; Knowing who we are, what we’re doing, and how we’re prepared to achieve our goals is the foundation of any excellence we seek as a unit. For these reasons, I found the MSU article an important reminder of why it’s important for each of us, as leaders, to consistently make time to revisit and reaffirm mission and values with our staff. That dialogue will pay off in all the small decisions made every day, at every level.

Community Actions Against Anti-Semitism

Outside the Auditorium

In the winter and spring of 2017, I had the opportunity to assist Fairhaven Complex students in developing a community education session to respond to multiple acts of anti-Semitism in Fairhaven. Student leaders volunteered to create a presentation for all Fairhaven students.

The Resident Director and I provided logistical support: funding, staffing, and location. We also provided a significant “positional” support, by which I mean we used our authority to lower barriers and drive student attendance at the event. The three evening presentations were highly attended and student feedback was overwhelmingly positive. Looking forward, it’s my hope that the experience gained will aid our students and staff in directly addressing bias in our community through active, student-driven educational outreach.

I will say for any professionals considering a similar, student led approach, it did require about eight weeks of planning and preparation from the start to the first presentation. Iterative development techniques was an important part of the project’s success: draft, review, revise, repeat.

You can read about the project’s results in our student newspaper, the Western Front, here.

University Residences at WWU

What I’m Reading: “Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town”

"Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town" by Jon Krakauer

“Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town” by Jon Krakauer

The legal system is a common venue for dramatic story-telling. It’s where the messy details of life intersect with the need for a rigorous dispute resolution system. Centuries of practice documented in libraries of written texts strain to address rapid changes in our society. Krakauer’s review of rape and sexual assaults in the college town of Missoula puts this tension between legal custom and contemporary culture on display. The book provides context for the invigorated Title IX changes and stands as an example of why the 2011 “Dear Colleague” letter was necessary and long overdue.

Most of us who work in housing have responded to students who’ve been sexually victimized. I have personally witnessed victim’s support systems and friend groups unravel when they report their rape. This book lays bare the way in which well-meaning people victimize and scrutinize those who report sexual assault in ways that would be unthinkable in any other reported crime. This book will certainly be added to my recommended readings list for Resident Directors. I would also recommend that any parent of a teenage male read this book. It provides a window into the ways young men often fail to grasp the importance of establishing affirmative consent and misinterpret women’s responses to male sexual aggression. Empowering our culture to raise young men who proactively understand and respect their partner’s physical and sexual boundaries is among our most crucial tasks. This “Missoula”contributes to our shared understanding of how we often fail victims and what we can do to improve.

What I’m reading: “Making a Difference: Improving Residence Life Assessment Practices”

making-a-difference-cover-store

I pre-ordered this text when it was first announced on ACUHO-I’s website. I supervise Residence Hall Directors and they frequently express a desire to learn more about assessment in a professional context. As an introduction to assessment strategies and a primer for staff on structuring and collecting data, I strongly recommend this book. 

In my opinion, the most helpful chapter in this book is chapter 3, “Data Collection Systems” by Rebecca Goldstein and Sean Sukys. In this chapter they describe and illustrate the importance of data organization and ensuring data accuracy. They introduce concepts many have heard, but do not fully understand, like Primary and Foreign keys and their utility in joining data sets. The specific tools of data collection and analysis are introduced and described, with a focus on the strengths and limitations of spreadsheets and databases. Demystifying these mechanics is important to understanding the proliferation of various assessment platforms, as well as the pros & cons of data collection methods.

The information in chapter 3 can be immediately employed in creating useful and informed data collection paths. If the professional was inspired to learn nothing more than how to join tables based on a shared unique attribute, their ability to use existing data sets would be immediately expand the data available, the scope of analysis they can undertake, and the efficiency with which the analysis could take place.

I asked my resident directors to begin collecting data this fall on program attendance, requiring the inclusion of student IDs in this table. After I assign this table as required reading, I think they’ll have a much better idea WHY that was a requirement and the importance of the student ID number is linking one set of information (program attendance) to another (resident demographics). The illustrations in this chapter do a great job of showing the reader how to relational databases add value without being too technical.

The value of chapter 3 doesn’t diminish the book’s other contributions. Reminding the reader that assessment must be communicated to target audiences in a timely manner is a persistent, and important, theme. Ethics of data collection, as well as trade-offs inherent in selecting an assessment model, flush out a set of important concepts that must be addressed early in any assessment project.

Editor Kirsten Kennedy expertly arranged the chapters kept a consistent narrative in both theme and language throughout the chapters. The book weighs in at 206 pages and can easily be read in a single sitting. The price is very reasonable and it can be purchased through ACUHO-I’s bookstore.  If you’ve been putting off learning about assessment in a housing context, or have been looking for an accessible resource to help develop assessment skills in staff, don’t hesitate to add this book to your collection.

 

FLSA Rules blocked by court injunction

dol-logo

Read more here.

What a wild ride since my last post on the changes to FLSA overtime exemption rules. A Texas judge granted a national injunction at the request of 21 states and business organizations, stating that the new salary threshold specified in the law was “executive overreach” and required a change in the law from Congress.

The late announcement poses an interesting choice to employers: rescind announced salary changes or leave them in place? It seems likely that, at most institutions, salary increases will not be sustained if the FLSA rule change is nixed. Higher Ed professionals should expect some very thorough “dialogues” with “stakeholders” that will ultimately return the almost-non-exempt back to their status quo at current salary.

Terminating FLSA overtime expansion is the first shot in what’s shaping up to be four years of political warfare over the new status-quo on a host of social and workplace issues. The electoral college is giving us a president who lost the popular vote by nearly 2 million voters; slim Republican majorities in the House and Senate exacerbate the uncertainty.

The social and economic agendas of the progressive majority is on a collision course with  the politically-empowered minority coalition of corporate barons and Culture Crusaders.  Those of us in Higher Ed should be surveying our institutional landscape, identifying vulnerable students and programs, and preparing to support and defend them in hostile climate.