Wow – what a few months it has been. I have been communicating with many of you around the issues of inclusion and equity, and our country has provided many opportunities to send emails out to the Association to encourage and support all of us. Other SHOs or Presidents of Organizations ask “how often do we need to send messages out to our members/employees when these national incidents occur?” I am often times perplexed by this question. The truth is, we need to be engaging our membership around anything in our environment that would create a situation in which our colleagues are struggling. We need to support those members every time we see this country sending a message to them that they do not belong, or they do not matter.
Over the past month, we discussed in our August 1st facebook live some new initiatives that you’ll see at WACE 2018. I wanted to summarize them here:
- One-Day drive in conference on the Sunday that WACE starts that will be low or no cost for folx to attend. This would also be open to individuals who may not be able to register for the annual conference. The topic will be centered around equity and inclusion. Our main goal is to have conversations that work towards dismantling white privilege. More details to come, but this is the direction we are going.
- Update: Our Equity and Diversity Awareness committee are going to take the lead on this training. We are very excited for this group to lead our efforts!
- We are committed to gender pronouns being listed on official WACE 2018 name tags. We are currently exploring ways to do this in which trans* folx won’t feel pressure to out themselves if they choose not to.
- We have ensured designated gender inclusive rest rooms within the programs area for convenience. Half our bathrooms (2 of the 4) will be gender inclusive.
- Our hope for the future will be 100%, and we recognize there is more work to do as an Association here, but we have begun the process of including this as part of our request for proposals from hotels.
- Provide blocks of ADA rooms for our members who require special needs
- Provide time at the annual conference for various networks of individuals with marginalized identities to gather, connect and discuss opportunities for future development efforts. This is something we have done in the past, and it is something we have heard has been missed.
- We are currently seriously exploring the opportunity with our corporate partners to provide transportation (via charter bus) at low or no cost from Northern California to San Diego so that new professionals could more easily attend the annual conference and exposition. The idea would be for the bus to leave on Saturday from Northern California so that Sunday, new professionals could participate in the drive in conference on Sunday.
- To help with the cost of hotels, the host committee is working on a roommate matching service that would allow professionals the opportunity to split rooms with one or three other professionals to keep costs down. For example, if the rooms cost $200 per night, splitting with three others could bring that cost down to $50. Over the course of four nights, this brings the cost from $800 for hotel down to $200.
- We are also bringing back the faculty in residence program for WACE. We are planning on having one or two faculty in residence and once those names are confirmed we will let you know.
- In addition, the WACE team has been expanded and we have created a new Marketing/Registration committee to go with Host, Programs, Exhibits and Corporate partners. Our hope is that with expanded focus on Marketing and Registration efforts, our communication will be cleaner and generate more excitement.
- Our goal is to have a call for program proposals out in October so that we can let people know what programs are being offered when they register for the conference. We hope this will make it easier for people to get the professional development funds they need to support attending the conference and at the same time might allow professionals the opportunity to know what they might be interested in investing in themselves.
In addition, I have written about the negative impact our political and cultural landscape has had on various colleagues:
- The decision to not allow transgender folx to serve in the military
- The decision for the Justice Department to submit a brief stating that Title VII does not protect people on the basis of Sexual Orientation
- The decision for white nationalists to march and declare white lives matter holding the symbols of privilege, tiki torches.
And although we can look at these incidents and say “that would never happen here!” The truth is we already know that WACUHO has struggled creating an inclusive environment at times for our colleagues in these identity groups as well. One email from the association doesn’t change the reality for many members of our association.
It is our job (especially those of us with power and privilege) to work to dismantle the systemic power that is set up and designed to keep us comfortable. We need to take risks and engage with each other and allow for conversations to happen. bell hooks (in her book Teaching to Transgress) talks about how “engaged pedagogy necessarily values student expression.” Often times, this value for expression only comes when it fits the ideals of keeping white folx comfortable (like when white men march with tiki torches). We need to truly value all forms of expression – even when it means the power is threatened. bell hooks goes on to talk about the classroom experience; “many teachers are disturbed by the political implications of a multicultural education because they fear losing control in a classroom where there is no one way to approach a subject – only multiple ways and multiple references.” I believe in higher education and student affairs, we fear losing control in our work environments and in our organizations because we are used to there being one correct way of doing things, and so we have become complacent and comfortable.
How this manifests itself is hiring people in our departments or encouraging professionals to join our organizations and saying “you are welcome!” or “we want you to be your authentic self!” But when someone’s authentic self makes those in power uncomfortable, they are silences, invalidated and marginalized over and over again. As a white professional, I have seen over my 23 years (and I am a little ashamed to admit I have done this myself) how we want people to be their “authentic self” is really to engage as their “authentic WHITE, heterosexual, cisgender, male self.” We cannot as a field continue to ask people to “show up” as their authentic selves and then turn around and criticize them for how they do this. This is what is happening in our country, and we need to do better. We cannot lament when our colleagues make intentional choices as to when they will engage and show up. That is a normal coping mechanism for responding to being dehumanized on a daily basis.
But where is my hope? I am often challenged for my dour assessment of our field and the current landscape around these issues of equity and inclusion. Where is it I see positivity and light? I see it in those new and younger professionals – who have eyes wide open, more so than at any other time in our history. I see it in our mid-level managers, who have to “dance” with those making decisions above them without regard to impacting those staff with marginalized identities and then turning around and supervising staff with empathy, compassion, and caring. And I see it in Senior Housing officers, who actively seek out alternative views and encourage dissenting viewpoints in order to make well informed decisions. I see it in those who have served in WACUHO in the past. Those who have challenged the status quo and have engaged behind the scenes to make this organization more inclusive. There is a lot to be hopeful for, and it is with that hope I leave you this month – as you prepare for opening your halls or welcoming back your para-professional staff.
We, as an executive committee have been discussing this topic at every meeting we’ve had. We see you, we hear you, and we are committed to working to overcome our own fragility and be the best Association we can be.