top of page

Student Affairs Administration: Holding the Tension between College Student Support and Institutional Obligation


 "Free Hugs" protest sign symbolizing compassion among division
"Free Hugs" protest sign symbolizing compassion among division

Corporate organization disputes and protests traditionally create tension between the owners and the workers. The University's organizational structure has much more nuance and variation in how decisions are made, when, and by whom. Colleges and Universities are currently experiencing the most accurate form of its existence: the pluralism among stakeholders, primarily faculty, staff, students, administration, and beloved alums. Among these characteristics, any of these stakeholders could be in dissonance with another (or multiple), and how those resolutions are mainly solved depends upon the dispute's magnitude.


"Exploring the university responses over the past week to the current protests on the war in Gaza requires university stakeholders to think critically about how they will interact with this fragile climate personally and professionally."

These layered factors also contribute to conflicting feelings among university employees, as there is tension concerning the best course of action for mitigating a campus crisis. At the same time, the campus is politically charged, and personal thoughts and belief systems can be ignited. Exploring the university responses over the past weeks to the current protests on the war in Gaza requires university stakeholders to think critically about how they will interact with this fragile climate personally and professionally.


Some staff member positions hold legal obligations as Campus Security Authorities.

CSAs such as Student Affairs professionals, Campus Security, Campus Police, and Campus Administrators must report any crime-related information to be adjudicated and prosecuted internally and externally with public authorities when applicable. This requirement stems from the Clery Act of 1990, a consumer protection law that aims to provide transparency around campus crime policy and statistics. Any Higher Education institution that receives federal funds must comply with this law. Thus, we know that the University's mission, the University's public interest, and the University's legal obligations clash during these times.

 

Researchers Rand Quinn and Deborah Meyerson offer a theoretical lens that discusses this tension through the Tempered Radicalism framework, which argues that organizational insiders, such as student affairs administrators in higher education, have conflicted roles where they are concomitantly committed to their University and challenging marginalizing cultures and policies within the University. Those who work as tempered radicals are less likely to engage in visible forms of activism, such as protests, which could rapidly create change and also threaten their position within the University. Instead, tempered radicals use formalities such as programs to educate others, unite individuals with a shared vision, and challenge the status quo for a better overall student experience.  


"Those who work as tempered radicals are less likely to engage in visible forms of activism, such as protests, which could rapidly create change and also threaten their position within the University."

There is also the notion of college student advocacy and the role of Student Affairs leaders. Serving as an advocate for students means working from a position of power to improve the student experience. Doing so in a politically charged context can be considered an ally to students but in perceived opposition to the University. Student Affairs administrators also can experience compassion fatigue, a form of burnout specific to serving in an empathic role and helping others instead of being burned out from work hours or tedious tasks. As protests on college campuses can last days, weeks, or months, Student Affairs administrators are on the front lines, looking to reinstate stability, safety, and normality in the student experience.  


"Student Affairs administrators also can experience compassion fatigue, a form of burnout specific to serving in an empathic role and helping others instead of being burned out from work hours or tedious tasks."

As college campuses continue to work diligently to find solutions for ending their protests, I hope that external onlookers have gleaned some basic insight into the higher education ecosystem from the student affairs lens, the critical underpinnings of how they work, and why responses are layered, intentional, and tactical to preserve the University, preserve the student experience, and maintain the safety of the pluralistic environment overall. We cannot assign irrational responses to delicate issues such as these. Those who believe in the higher education system understand the nuance of shared governance, which is tangential in every crisis response.


Thank you for reading and sharing this summary article. Be sure to subscribe to felderofficial.com for weekly insights, released every Friday.


Rebuttals are always welcome,


Jade M. Felder



 

References for Tempered Radicals and Compassion Fatigue:


Quinn, R., & Meyerson, D. (2008). The positive potential of tempered radicals. In The Virtuous Organization: Insights from Some of the World's Leading Management Thinkers (pp. 247–258).

 

Preston, P. J., Sanchez, D., & Preston, K. S. J. (2022). Exploring mindful self-care as a potential mediator between compassion satisfaction and compassion fatigue among student services professionals. Trauma Care2(4), 535-549.

12 views

Comments


bottom of page