Kneeling in the Student Affairs

by James Luckman

I have noticed multiple changes since starting off my first semester of graduate school. There have been many challenges like transitioning into a new institution, moving across the country from New York to Arizona, as well as gaining more professional development opportunities. Although these changes have been beneficial the hardest aspect that I now recognize is having the ability to engage in activism. Instead of joining in on protesting and student activism, as an undergraduate student, I now realize that I have to empower students in the background. Although I am still actively involved in the ability to help student leaders identify systemic forms of oppression and privileges, I am now starting to define a new form of activism, and navigating that space is not as easy as I perceived it would be.
As I walk throughout campus I cannot help but notice that the campus is lacking in social activism. I proudly display my black lives matter and I stand with refugees pins, however the students on this campus are not physically expressing their sense of activism and social justice. I fully acknowledge that a pin does not truly label a person as an ally or advocate, however it is evident that there is a lacking representation and presence of student activism. Rather it is hidden and covered because the campus environment is not yet ready to opening acknowledge and support such activism. As I begin to define my professional philosophy I realize I hold my identity of being conscious of student identity development at the heart of my career endeavors. This experience allowed me to develop two goals for myself during my graduate experience: help create a meaningful change to the campus environment that embraces spaces for discourse and expression as well as being a role model of social change agent for students, faculty, and staff members.
As a new professional I am now engaging in navigating the campus culture in order to develop as a professional perspective as well as to being recognized as an ally and advocate on campus. I am exploring the ways to get involved in different functional areas that support social justice while also encouraging and empowering students to become social change agents. This is no easy task, as I often find myself being incomplete, losing my ability to be viewed as an advocate. I find myself searching for the ability to seek out subcultures that will give me the opportunity to engage in dismantling the policy, practices, and procedures of institutional racism and multiple forms of inequities. I have been searching for events that help reunite myself to my passion area. I continue to remain positive and continue to seek out mentorship in professionals. I realized early on that I was sounding pessimistic during my first couple of weeks of classes, however I became more optimistic once I became engaged in diverse campus events and realized that I was able to make a change on campus. After attending different cultural events and engaging with passionate students I feel as though I have been recharged, even more willing and determined to become a professional social activist as a graduate student.
I am constantly reminded of Colin Kaepernick kneeling within the NFL. As the NFL is undergoing protesting in solidarity, players are navigating their form of activism, I too am figuring out how to balance being an advocate while also exploring the professional field of student affairs. It is important that my ability to figure out my style of social justice activism is a privilege. I want to become more engaged, in order to create effective change within the community. Although I am not kneeling in public spaces just yet I am constructing my experience so that I can continue to make major changes within the future. Instead of standing in the background waiting for change, I choose to kneel to express my intentions to create awareness and finally find my sense of activism as a professional within student affairs.  I know I will continue to follow my passion and commitment to social justice, however I am currently using this time to comprehend how I will make this change within a new professional setting. Being a change agent within the campus culture is not automatically given to every student affairs professional. Instead it takes courage, privilege, and accountability to take the time to create effective change. Not all football athletes chose to kneel, not all student affairs chose to use their voice. I have a vision to help encourage and bring awareness to campus, which will involve taking risks like Kaepernick. During my first five weeks in my master’s program, I am already planning on how I will implement my passion of social justice within the profession, and learning what risks I am willing to kneel for. Are you willing to Kneel?

Student Affairs - the First Years

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