Archive for May, 2008

Why evolution?

Posted on May 13, 2008. Filed under: My Evolution |

Having just had my mid-program review and been challenged to incorporate my previous experience as a science major into my portfolio, I have decided that the theory of evolution may provide an ideal bridge between my undergraduate and graduate school experiences. Evolution in the most basic terms is change, specifically change brought about in order to foster greater success. I see my development as a professional as a constant state of evolution. I am constantly trying new modes of thinking, communicating, learning, and doing in order to have the greatest success possible. My professional evolution has taken me far away from the likes of Darwin, chemical reactions, and molecular biology, but I still find myself able to view certain aspects of student affairs from a scientific standpoint. My ways of thinking are still evolving and ultimately that is what this blog is all about… documenting my evolution as it is happening. It’s a real time science experiment and I’m the subject.

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For The Bible Tells Me So- Movie Trailer

Posted on May 12, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Please note that this film addresses a very controversial issue and may not be suitable for all audiences.

This is an updated trailer of the award-winning documentary, FOR THE BIBLE TELLS ME SO. Through the experiences of five Christian, American families – we discover how people of faith handle the realization of having a gay child or family member.

I viewed this film as part of Pride Week on the Oregon State University campus. The film follows the lives of several religious families as they confront the pain, sorrow, joys, and struggles of accepting, loving and supporting their gay children. The film features numerous religious figures from both sides of the aisle (those who see homosexuality as an abomination, those who celebrate GLBT people, and even a few who openly admit that they are still somewhere in the middle).

I think that there are several important messages that student affairs professionals (SAP) can take away from the film. Many of the gay sons and daughters in the film were in college when they began to question and explore their sexual orientation. It was also at this time when they began to question and explore their religious and spiritual life. These processes, either alone or in combination were often filled with a great deal of angst, fear, and emotional upheaval. The young people in the film do an excellent job of expressing all of the feelings that come with having to abandon ones previous identity and take on a new one. The families in the film react in very different ways when their sons and daughters come out of the closet. Some are supportive right away, some are unaware how to react, some are afraid of how it will affect their lives and some are downright harsh.

The most important lesson I’m taking away from this film is that identity development isn’t an organized process where a student confronts each identity crisis separately and completes one before starting another. Instead students are forced to deal with multiple questions about multiple identities all at once and as they begin to develop a strong identity in one area (sexual orientation) they may start to feel less connected to another identity (religion) simply because of what society is telling them. As a SAP, I think it is imperative that we create safe, illusive programs and offices that support students as they confront these different identity struggles. It is equally important that these programs and offices collaborate and share resources so that when a GLBT student goes to their university’s Pride Center to get support in the coming out process, they can also be connected to GLBT friendly religious communities around campus and visa versa. When it comes to identity development (racial, ethnic, gender, sexual orientation, religious, socioeconomic status, etc.) we must remember that each student has a complex identity, made up of countless pieces that create an even bigger whole. While certain offices on campus may cater to a particular student’s identity more than others they must all be intertwined in order for the most support to be given.

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Kohlberg and Conduct

Posted on May 6, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

Student Moral Development

It is rather easy to see how Kohlberg’s theory of moral development relates to student conduct. As a conduct officer I would say one of my highest aspirations is to help students develop more complex ways of making decisions. If I walk out of a meeting with a student with the impression that he is only willing to change his behavior to avoid further punishment (Kohlberg’s Stage 1), I can’t be satisfied with my effort. I would far prefer a student who realizes that he has entered into a contract with the university and in exchange for providing him with a safe, supportive environment for him to pursue his education, he has agreed to abide by the student conduct code (Kohlberg Stage 4). I realize that not all students are at a place to think at the level of a Kohlberg Stage 4, but Kohlberg said that moral development can only happen when a student is exposed to higher levels of thinking and it is this exposure that I am giving to students when they walk through my door.

Vs. Moral Development as it relates to the Conduct Code itself

While an individual student’s moral development can be analyzed to no end, I think it is equally important to analyze the moral development stage being used to create the student conduct code. If we want students to think at a high level we must create our rules and regulations with the highest stages in mind. A student at a low level of moral development makes choices solely based on whether or not he will be punished. Some might argue that colleges make rules at this level. After all, if universities don’t uphold federal (drinking age), state (drug possession), and city ordinances (noise) then they face having federal aid pulled as well as loosing donor and government support. These are huge punishments and so the university acts accordingly. However, I would argue that any university that is striving towards increased moral development among its student body must also be operating at a higher moral order when it creates a student conduct code. At Kohlberg’s stage 4 an institution must make decisions based on upholding laws established by society and carrying out the duties to which it has agreed to complete. Universities are therefore not only upholding laws established by society out of fear but because if these rules are followed students will have the opportunity to study, learn and live in an environment that is safe, supportive and will yield a high quality education. Ultimately conduct officers are responsible for ensuring that the university is able to carry out the duties it has to its students.

Follow up Questions:

In a conduct hearing what kinds of questions would help expose a student to Kohlberg’s higher stages of moral development?

Would a conduct system that was built on Kohlberg’s lower stages-based in fear and individual concern for the self look intrinsically different than those built on higher stages-based on upholding laws and duties?

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A Vision of Students Today

Posted on May 6, 2008. Filed under: Uncategorized |

This is a YouTube video created by Michael Wesch in collaboration with 200 students at Kansas State University. It tries to summarize the needs, goals, and dreams of current college students while also recognizing the demands, stresses and anxieties that their education is producing.

I've had the opportunity to watch this video in a few of my classes this year and every time I view it I'm left with a profound sense that I am just beginning to understand the struggles and challenges that today's students face.

There’s only 24 hours in a day:

To me one of the most shocking things in the video is the breakdown of an average student’s day which contains 26.5 hours worth of reading, going to class, TV watching, facebooking, eating, and more. I see this fact playing out in two very different ways with the students I interact with on a regular basis. On the one hand, I’m often dealing with students who have been found responsible for academic integrity violations (cheating, plagiarism, fabrication, or assisting) and their number one reason for doing so is because they ran out of time. In order to address this issue, I recently added a new assignment to our academic integrity seminar that all first time violators go through as part of their sanctions. I have students fill out a week by week schedule for the term complete with all test dates, project due dates, etc. I also have them fill out a weekly schedule where they can plot the best times to study, eat, workout, have fun, etc. Each student meets with me one on one after attending the seminar and we review their schedules at that time.

I also advise the student spring break group and I see their busy schedules adversely affecting their ability to participate fully in our program and in other things they are committed to doing. Perhaps it is just the fact that students who are engaged in one area of student life (government, Greek life, community service, cultural centers, etc.) are usually engaged in several and are therefore unable to devote their full energy to any one thing at a time. This is frustrating from a adviser’s standpoint because we’d like to believe that we’ve got our students full attention, but it is probably better to face the reality that our students will not simply quit multitasking just to attend our programs.

Class engagement:

I think we hear the word engagement a lot. Astin, Tinto, and other student development theorists champion the concept of engagement/involvement as essential in order for students to truly get the most out of their education. However, we can see in this video that the classroom environment is often not very engaging. Whether it’s because books, readings, and assignments are deemed irrelevant, class sizes too big and impersonal, or students spending more time texting than paying attention to lecture notes, the amount of time that students spend focusing on their academics seems to be dwindling. The question becomes how can educators (both faculty and staff) revamp their classes and introduce assignments that are relevant and useful to the greatest number of students. I think this requires educators to be intentional in creating course objectives that push students to develop transferable skills. In today’s job market that means knowing how t use technology,  multicultural capacity, teamwork, communication and presentation skills, etc. While the job a student is going to apply to in three years might not exist, it is imperative that educators give them a solid backing in the skills they will need to successfully transition into jobs of the future.

The Lucky Ones:

Lastly, I think it is important that we recognize the level of perspective that these students have when they admit to being the lucky ones. They may have hectic schedules and huge debt coming out of school, but at least a few of them realize how much better they have it than the lionshare of the world’s population. Given the large problems facing the world today (wars, global warming, food and fuel shortages, downturns in the economy) there are plenty of things for these students to be worried about and as two students point out “I did not create the problems. But they are MY problems”. I think it is important for those of us who are just now going into the profession of student affairs to share with our collegues the fears, frustrations and angers that we experience as part of this group of young people charged with such a large mission.

Technology: Friend or Foe?

 Coming soon to a blog near you…

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    The challenges, successes and ideas of a budding (student affairs) professional


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