Creativity is a privilege

This week I was lucky to find myself sitting around a table with other Emerson College professionals in a meeting called “Conversations on Creativity.” As a college that prides itself on innovation, it’s important we create a common vocabulary about what creativity means and how it impacts us. Together with tenured faculty, adjust instructors, entry level student affairs administrators, deans and Vice Presidents, we would start a meaningful conversation.

A colleague threw down the gauntlet early in the conversation and it changed how I thought – he took a deep breath and said:
Creativity is a privilege. 

Higher Education is a conservative beast. Many of our offices, and many of our own leaders, call for us to be forces of creativity, to use our ideas to further the scope of the college, to push boundaries, to break down walls and to challenge others. But are we really allowed to do that?

Are faculty willing to try innovative teaching strategies and curriculum that may leave students feeling unsettled? Will faculty be willing to try to teach difficult material when their salaries and jobs are directly tied to assessment provided by those students?

Are students willing to create ground breaking projects and challenge academia when their grades are tied to the success of an assignment? Are they willing to challenge convention when scholarships and internships may be impacted by their grades?

Are young student affairs professionals really allowed to create new and exciting initiatives, or does campus tradition and pressure from alumni force new pros to recreate the same programs that have been occurring for decades? How many #sapros are told “But we always do it this way.”?

True creativity comes with failure. Higher education, being a conservative beast, is not okay with failure. We don’t allow ourselves to spectacularly fail. We aren’t given permission to watch a pet project sputter upon launch.

In an exit interview from a job early in my career, a Vice President once apologized to me. She said it was a shame the institution couldn’t appreciate new ideas and she sincerely hoped I would find an institution that valued progress, that valued creativity.

The words didn’t make sense at the time, but today, I understand. At my current job, I’m fortunate to sit on the privilege to create, to change, to modify and to take risks. I have been given permission to push boundaries and to fail in the most spectacular ways. I’m one of the lucky ones.

Creativity is a privilege.

The future of higher education is dependent on innovation and creativity.
Are we willing to change the system… change how we assess our faculty and staff for merit raises… change how we grade our students?

Until we are willing to do that, none of us will truly have the privilege to be creative.

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Creativity is a privilege

Rape culture isn’t a novelty

For the past 15 years, sexual assault advocacy and support has been a thread that has interwoven through my life. Because of this, I frequently have a trigger reaction when I read or see something. Case in point…

This morning, I received a piece of email from an agent wanting me to book an event. I opened it and found myself speechless. The more I read it, the more angry I became. And after a few minutes, anger turned to rage.

The headline of the email reads “Put It Where You Want It” and features a photo of a young man looking into the camera with his arm wrapped around a young woman. The young woman is wearing a t-shirt with the words “Put It Where You Want It” across her chest.

It’s not okay. Nothing about this is okay.
It isn’t funny. It isn’t a clever play on words.

There’s no way a copy writer could innocently write “Put it where you want it” and not understand the sexual connotations that goes with it. This wasn’t an innocent mistake. This was done to appeal to young men. This was done maliciously, with no respect to women. 

This is a nasty tag line that says that men have the right and ability to do what they want with whomever they want.
It’s objectifying.
It’s offensive.

It’s promoting rape culture. Cutting Edge Productions is promoting rape culture.

You can  see it for yourself on their website (which I’m very hesitant to link to but will do for empirical evidence) – click this with fury.

The worst part? On their website, “Cutting Edge Productions Inc., The Leader In Novelty Entertainment” uses the following tagline:

Top Novelty Variety Events and Health and Wellness Events Available Nationally

How can a company that promotes health and wellness even start to joke about rape culture?

I asked myself if I was overreacting to this, but I’ve come to the conclusion I’m not. We all have a responsibility to promote a culture of consent, to call out rape culture and those who promote it.

I’m asking my friends who book novelty events to not do business with a company that objectifies women, mocks survivor’s experiences and creates a culture where men are encouraged to take advantage of women. I’m asking you to publicly help me tell CEP Inc. this is not okay. Forward this blog to them. Tell them why its not okay. Tell them you have more respect for women than this.

I’m asking my friends to actively create a culture of consent, understanding we each play a role in ending sexual violence.

Rape culture isn’t a novelty

Embracing the Laughter

For those of you who don’t know, I’ve selected #Light as my #OneWord2014.

As part of living my OneWord, I’ve decided to help spread some light by profiling some of the happiest people I encounter. Students, co-workers, family and friends… their relation to me is irrelevant, only that they emit some form of light and positivity. The goal is to do one every week, maybe every other week. We’ll see how this goes. My first profile in positivity was an easy one to select.

Meet Rebecca.

Rebecca

Rebecca is a student at Emerson and a student leader in my office. While she may appear pint sized, she is a force to be reckoned with… Rebecca has the biggest laugh you’ve ever heard. It’s an unusual laugh… part dolphin, part whale and all happy. It literally rings through the halls. You may not see her coming your way, but you’ll always know she’s near. I asked Rebecca a few question about being positive and I wanted to share her insight with you.

What keeps you happy?
When I make other people happy, it brings me the most happiness. I just love making people feel good and smile. If I can make someone else’s day, it makes my day.

Who do you surround yourself with?
I want to surround myself with people who I want to be like. People who inspire me. Maybe I can be like them and that makes me happy.

Tell me about your laugh. Why does it draw people to you?
My laugh is very unique. I have a low registered voice, but laugh at such a high range/pitch. It throws people off, they don’t expect it. It’s an unusual, joyful sound. You can tell that my laugh is genuine. You can’t fake it. People feel good when they hear it. That’s what draws people in to my laugh.

What’s your goal for the year?
I live on a day-by-day basis. If I make one person smile today, it’s worth it. If I can make 365 people smile this year, then I’ve made it.

 

 

Many thanks to Rebecca for being not only fierce, but being a fabulous first interview as I begin these profiles! Keep doing beautiful things, my friend!

Embracing the Laughter

Post-It Project 2014

Friends know my office window has had a certain amount of character for the last two years.

In 2012, I found myself at a loss on the last day before the holiday break. With little ability to work (no one, and I mean no one, was working that day), I found myself in a creative space. This was the result.

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In the event you aren’t a child of the 80s (or a big geek), you may not recognize him or his distinctive art style.

His name is Link and he’s the hero from The Legend of Zelda games. For those of you still not following along, he’s from a Nintendo game that came out in the 80s.  You may also not recognize it, but he is completely made out of Post-It Notes.

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In 2013, I made the decision to replace Link with a new creation. And again, on the last day before the holiday break, this was born.

In the event you don’t recognize this guy, his name is Cheep-Cheep and he’s the fish from Super Mario Bros. Sometimes he was flying out of the water and sometimes he was swimming happily in the underwater levels. No matter, he was always out to get Mario. And still, he was made out of Post-It Notes.

So this year, there was a certain level of pressure to top by past two Post-It Note creations. I’m happy to unveil the Post-It Project for 2014.

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Yeah, to the average eye it’s a blank window of Post-It Notes. But there’s a catch… It’s not just a blank window overlooking an alley. It’s an interactive project that I officially invite you to take part in helping me create.

After a day and a few meeting with students, this is what it looked like: 

IMG_20140109_160820

What’s different? Notes.

I’m inviting students, faculty and staff to write notes to each other… notes of inspiration and positivity. Notes of self-worth and value. Notes written by your peers because they believe in you.

If at any time, someone needs a pick-me-up or a moment of inspiration, they’re welcome to stop by and take a note. No questions asked.

If they take a note, I’m asking they replace their note with a new Post-It in a different color. As the year progresses, the wall will grow and change, flowing with positivity and light. I consider it my first foray into an art instillation.

If you’re ever in the area, I hope you swing by, say hello and leave a note for someone. Or, if you need it, you stop by and take a note. It’s time to spread some light.

Post-It Project 2014

On the topic of privilege

I’ve spent a lot of time lately thinking about issues of privilege, feminism and social justice. 

Here’s some backstory – Over the last six months, my twitter feed has slowly transformed. I’ve unfollowed a lot of people and followed new interests… as I’ve done that, my feed has become less higher education/student affairs focused and more focused on issues surrounding feminism and social justice.

You see, I was that guy. As a white male, I sit on a lot of privilege. I recognize this. I’m a progressive minded person. I’ve been to “diversity” retreats and workshops (I can always sneak in undetected by using the gay card). I’m well-read. I would have used the word “ally” in the past.

But after spending the last few months, I’ve changed my perspective a bit. Here are some new takeaways –

On issues of being an ally –
Announcing to the world you’re an ally is exceedingly self-serving. Stop patting yourself on the back. I’m glad you think you’re a male feminist. Stop bragging about how great you are and do something meaningful. Actions take a lot more effort than a Facebook comment or by simply stating “I have a black friend!” What are you doing?

On issues of space – 
I see white people inserting themselves into hash-tagged conversations started by people of color concerning race/social justice. STOP IT. Tweeters are trying to carve out a space for themselves. As a white person, we have a giant space available for us. Make some room for others to talk without your interruptions and watch from afar. Your input isn’t as relevant as you think it is. Who knows. You might learn something.

On issues of anger –
Yes, a lot of social justice/feminist bloggers & tweeters can come off as angry. Why wouldn’t they be? Doesn’t everyone have the right to be angry? No one questions your anger or frustration. When you come from a marginalized community (as many people of color do), you are frequently told to be submissive and go with the flow. Anger is a manifestation of years of being told to be submissive. Give everyone space to be angry and frustrated. And again, listen to the anger. You might learn some context.

On issues of education –
You know what to do to become better educated surrounding people of color. Stop asking. Read a book written by a Zora Neale Hurston or Banana Yoshimoto. Familiarize yourself with the filmography of Pedro Almodovar or dabble in your first Bollywood film. Stop listening to Taylor Swift or Katy Perry and give some Afro-Cuban music a try.

On issues of gender –
Being gay doesn’t make you an expert on feminism. Liking Ani DiFranco does not make you qualified to give perspective on feminism. Are you a woman? That’s a qualifying factor. Otherwise, you are pro-feminism.

I have more. But I’ll spare them for now. Because damn it, I’m white and I have opinions.

On the topic of privilege