Hearing Students Where They Are

by Dylan Ruffra

Within the past year  a big topic in higher education has been to help students advocate for themselves in a positive manner. There are many different events that are happening in today’s society that make students want to share their perspective and advocate for themselves and their friends. Within the past month there has been a hate group flyers posted within my residence hall and there was hate group planning to come to come to our campus and downtown to start a protest. When these events were planned it was important that our campus provide a safe and supportive environment.

As a student affairs professional, it is important to me that the students are safe and supported (which is in the top five of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs).  When our department found out about the different events that could be happening on campus, we tried to put a plan into action that would help our students feel safe. Since this was happening on a weekend, our entry doors were locked and would be locking earlier than normal, just to be on the safe side. In addition to locking our doors early, each hall provided programs with food where students could hang out with each other and not have to leave the hall.  While I made sure students felt safe I also tried to be more visible in my hall and office the coming days before things were going to happen. My is located in the lobby, so on a normal day students are able to pop by and talk to me.

When students are trying to change something or advocate for themselves it is vital that they know the proper way to get their message across and that they have people listening to them. For students it is good practice that they are advocating for themselves that is non destructive format, but they can still get their ideas across.  Whenever a student thinks that change needs to happen, I feel that it is good to sit down and listen to them. When students sit down and talk with you they are able to give you a perspective that you may have not realized. From getting a student’s perspective it lets you know how others students are thinking and possibly explain the analytical reason why things have to happen.

For most students coming to college is a learning opportunity for them. Often students can come from small town and where they were only around the students who graduated with them.  Sometimes students can have a culture shock seeing all the different demographics of students on a college campus. As I have different types of students living in my hall I try to have them reflect on their difference and realize the differences that others have.  By realizing the differences and even the privileges that they have can help them learn about what makes them who they are. Students who can learn about themselves are more adapt to realize the difference that their peers have and try to find ways to support them.

Student Affairs - the First Years

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