Student Protests… Student Affairs

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So a lot happened yesterday in the world of higher education and student affairs… very seriously.  However, if you were here at Michigan State you wouldn’t have seen very much happening.  That said, I thought it would be worth writing about to let the world know some of the things that happened:

A great resource for this is Student Activism, a blog by Dr. Angus Johnston on student activism.  Particular sites for student unrest included the University of California system and the California State University system.

Here’s a few other news links:

Students rally at Occupy Education demonstration; man drives car through crowd blocking entrance to UCSC campus

Occupy Wall Street spreads to colleges with protests against student debt

UC Santa Cruz, UC San Diego protests include traffic blockages, occupations

Students, faculty protest University cuts

One thing that I wonder, though, is what does this mean for me as a student affairs professional in attempting to support student learning?

Indeed, protests are not new to students attending colleges and universities.  In thinking about Vietnam, Kent State University, Cal State Fullerton, Berkeley, etc., there are a lot of places of which students have clashed with society and university administration. 

One of the lessons that I know I need to remember is that protest is good.  It is very limited that students attempt to take such control over their lives and shape it into what they want it to be. 

Second, protest is part of a student’s development.  Particularly in racial identity development, sexual orientation, gender identity development, or any categorically underrepresented identity, protest is an act of responding the dissonance that society has presented to the individual.  Students saying that they will not accept the status quo is a positive manner and natural to what the higher education literature says.

Third, I can act as a positive role model, but I need to be careful not to co-opt any student movement.  (It’s about the student, stupid).  I think this one is self-explanatory.

In my life, I’ve been an activist, an organizer, a teacher, a learner, and many other things.  But as a student affairs professional, something that is now coming to fruition after a stressful graduate school experience, I get to step back a bit and support others in their goals as much as I was supported.  And this is a positive, happy thing.

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