So I would like to focus on two things here…even if they are random.
First is the idea of change. I hear all the time people talking about how it is coming whether you like it or not. So if that is the case, why do people spend so long fighting it? Think about it, people change. I had a wise friend once tell me that “People are fluid.” She was quite right. Try and tell me you are exactly the same today as you were a year ago and I would be hard pressed to agree. People often miss the changes in themselves because they are along for the ride, but we have no problem noticing how others have changed. We notice it behind their backs, sometimes to their faces, but we notice. This is why “absence makes the heart grow fonder” is such a difficult concept. We spend time idealizing the good (or bad) about someone rather than growing and changing with them.
Well I am a fan of change (even if it is difficult) and personally I see great wealth in it. I went to a high school 3 hours from my home for my junior and senior year, loved changing to college and all the growth and development that came with that, and ensured another change by going to grad school 1,500 miles away in the Central US. I changed my views on Greek Life which led to my joining a great brotherhood. I completely flipped my plan for my life which moved me away from Engineering and numbers to Student Affairs and people. Throughout all of these changes I met and interacted with some incredible people who all left a mark on me and changed me in their small way. It led me to my definition of college:
Because of this, I always have difficulty in Student Affairs when people talk about change. We, as professionals, are very VERY slow to it and incredibly stubborn in our ways (including myself). We have been discussing the way our Greek System is arranged and talking about how we do not like the traditional hands off approach the office has had and identifying it as a problem…yet as soon as we suggest changes, there is strong resistance. Oddly enough, that resistance is coming not from the chapters and alumni (though that is a challenge to overcome) but from the exact same professionals that have identified it as a problem.
We cannot allow our pride, comfort, or anything else become hindrances to change. We work in a field of Challenge and Support, the seamless learning environment where we are tasked with helping the “whole student” develop. If we are afraid of change, how can we expect them to do exactly that?
Ok, now for my second idea…inevitable. There are a number of things described as inevitable (like the idea of Change I just brought up). It has been worded other ways: It is what it is, that’s life, c’est la vie. Pick your cliche, but that is generally how people respond.
However there is another form of inevitability that I would like to discuss. My girlfriend has a tattoo which reads: evil is inevitable. She is quite right, or her tattoo is. Just like when we say, “Life isn’t fair.” And in regards to student affairs, there is a particular idea I would like to bring up: Student leaders.
I have had this issue with my new school. Having discussed this with a number of friends who also bear experiences from other schools, we have concluded that student leaders here are often enabled and “babied” at times. It is not uncommon for a staff member to have to walk a student through every single aspect of what to do when at a program and still have to deal with your students “running” the event being too busy playing and taking pictures together to actually run the event. I have seen this with my own students first hand as well as with others (when I as the greek life advisor had to help the advisor of another org run the event because none of the students showed up till much later, and an org I have no connection to besides being friends with the advisor, I knew this wasn’t just in my department).
The inevitable evil here is when those students get into the real world. Have we as professionals justly prepared them if we let this continue? College is supposed to be a time of learning, so therefore letting a student fail or informing them of ways to improve seems like the sensible thing to do at times, but then you face the professional fear of the failure being considered your fault. I have seen this numerous times when my co-worker has single-handedly had to plan multiple events because the group she works with is “too busy” or else simply doesn’t show up. She does an amazing job, but are we actually enabling our students to grow in those cases? the joys of the balance of challenge and support faced in the Student Affairs World is terrifying, but still important.
So therefore, are we serving as an inevitable evil, or are we actually changing our students?