Words to Live By

As we approach the anniversary of the Twin Towers falling, I am saddened by the hatred that seems to be overpowering what could be unifying remembrances. Instead of discussing the significance of our memories around Ground Zero, we are name-calling and belittling those who seek to build something new. Instead of using this opportunity to share each other’s faiths, we are burning each other’s texts.

I am reminding myself that there is more to us than the hatred and divisiveness. I am focusing on those who are trying to educate and on those who are serving others. I am reminding myself that when we lost the Towers, we lost Christians, Muslims, Jews, Hindus, atheists, and agnostics. I am reminding myself that we still have much to learn from each other.

All streams flow to the sea because it is lower than they are.
Humility gives it its power.
(Tao Te Ching)

By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another. (Bible)

When we show our respect for other living things, they respond with respect for us. (Arapaho)

None of you truly believes until they wish for their brother [or sister] what they wish for themselves.

Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves. (Confucius)

Hatred does not cease by hatred, but only by love; this is the eternal rule. (Buddha)

All of Creation is related.
And the hurt of one is the hurt of all.
And the honor of one is the honor of all
. (Lakota)

Do not get equal with one who has done you wrong, or keep hard feelings against the children of your people, but have love for your neighbor as for yourself: I am the Lord. (Torah)

If, however, a person setteth about speaking well of another, opening his lips to praise another, he will touch an answering chord in his hearers and they will be stirred up by the breathings of God. (Baha’i)

Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one getting burned. (Buddha)

Give evil nothing to oppose and it will disappear by itself. (Tao Te Ching)

I am reminded that we need to listen more, and I am thankful for the lesson. As you educate, as you share, and as you remember, may peace find you.

Us versus Them

For most of us in student affairs, we have either overheard or contributed to a conversation that expressed frustration with Them. They don’t get students. They only care about what goes on in their classroom. They don’t appreciate what we do. They never want to collaborate. You know Them. They are faculty.

While in residence life, I felt like faculty members were living on a different campus. I rarely crossed paths with them. Approaching them for programs in my building felt like climbing Mt. Everest. However, when I moved over into academic advising, housed within an academic college at my campus, I realized how misguided my assumptions were. Now, as I listen to peers discuss the need for collaboration between academic and student affairs, I am reminded about how integrated those functions are within my role now. I sit on curriculum committees to help faculty develop the most effective and logistically viable delivery of their content. I often have faculty pop their heads into my office more than the students who need me to help plans their lives. And although we may each interact at differing levels with faculty on campus, here are a few things I have learned:

1. Faculty care about students. And not just in terms of students completing homework or not complaining about grades. Most faculty are genuinely concerned that students have a valuable experience both inside and outside the classroom. They are training their future peers in their industry, but they also truly enjoy students “getting it.” You don’t have to look further than the growing body of literature on the scholarship of teaching.

2. We are not the only experts on students on campus. Although we may think we understand students better than most, faculty understand what’s important for students academic and professional development, as well as their personal development. Many have been working with students for a while, and they are pretty smart people. They may not know all the identity development theories, but then again, I don’t understand the difference between glycolysis and gluconeogenesis.

3. We can learn a lot from faculty. Yes, we can learn quite a bit from what they know about students, but we can also learn from faculty. Ask them about their research. Sit in on a class of theirs. If you have an interest in nutrition (possibly for a program in the halls?), sit in on a Food Science course. Next thing you know, you are inviting that faculty member to have dinner with your students in the caf.

4. That being said, Faculty don’t need to be put on a pedestal. I would be hard pressed to find faculty members who would be willing to return to the 1880s manner of faculty serving all roles to all students: teacher, house mother, career counselor, etc. Most faculty are content to stick with the teaching, and let us handle the resume reviews and late night duty calls.

5. Earn their respect as being experts in our own right. Rather than see the faculty/student affairs relationship as a competition for “who knows students better?” take the opportunity to demonstrate what you bring to the table. Faculty may often get consumed with their individual class or research, so know the campus incredibly well. Be there to offer resources that they may find helpful. Help them find solutions to what they would like to do in their class.

On a regular basis, I can be heard saying, “I am not an expert on [content area X], but I do know how we can make this work.” The more we do to develop an integrated approach to helping students through their experience, the more we will be seen as partners and collaborators. Faculty lead lives where their recognition and reward (read: promotion and tenure) is often dependent on their individual efforts. We live in a world where teambuilders are as regular as late night phone calls. The silos aren’t getting us anywhere, so look for the solutions that we can be a part of. Also, having a faculty member explain what gluconeogenesis is may prove helpful in a trivia game.