Of Fred Phelps, death and the grey

Fred Phelps is dead and countless people on Facebook and Twitter are celebrating the death of a man that has caused infinite pain to other human beings.
I get it. I do.

Phelps and the Westboro Baptist Church harassed and disrupted the minds of many members of the LGBT community, not to mention allies, friends, families, veterans, etc. How many impressionable teenagers were forced to doubt who they are because of this man and the message he brought? How many young people attempted suicide because of his words? How many young people succeeded?

But I don’t celebrate his death.
I understand the anger among our community, but there is no joy in death. This is that grey area, that non-black and white moment where you feel conflicted and it’s okay to feel that way.

A friend of mine is living his last weeks in hospice care, battling a long fight with colon cancer. His sister has been blogging his fight with cancer. This week, she posted the most amazing thing –

As your time together draws to a close, remember that even though there is great sadness and difficulty in loss, you’re giving your loved one a great gift by accompanying him or her on such an important journey. 
Matt isn’t alone as he closes this chapter.
His loved ones are with him. We may be separated by miles, but there are many with him.

I can only imagine how alone Phelps was in his last moments. Intense loneliness. Confusion. Anger. Doubt.
This is a man who was not surrounded by love.

For the LGBT community and our allies, there is nothing here to celebrate. This is a time of mourning for the additional lives that were lost. This is a time of remembrance for all of us who have been impacted by Phelp’s legacy. This is a time of love and compassion for each other and the struggles we all endure.

When my time comes, I want to be surrounded by love.
Phelps, not experiencing love, is reaping his rewards.
Of Fred Phelps, death and the grey

My final word on burnout

Have you ever had one of those blog posts that has been simmering in you months and months? This is one.

On August 30, I tweeted this:

Am I the only one who isn’t worried about #studentaffairs burnout? Aren’t we all replaceable? Aren’t there new grads every year? #SAchat

Truth be told, I hadn’t thought about it much. I had observed an unusual amount of people tweeting about their burnout concerns (seemingly for others, but never for themselves) and how we as a profession can help those who feel burned out. Not being the most empathic individual, I was unsure why I was supposed to be concerned about burnout.

The more I think about it, the less of a problem I have with burnout. In fact, it’s a good thing. We need it.

1. There is a thought that many new #SAPros aren’t joining the profession for the right reasons… new pros are joining the ranks because they think Student Activities is “fun” or they don’t know what else they want to do or they never want to stop being Greek or  they can extend their college career FOREVER! When these pros finally get into the field and see the work that goes into it, many of them experience instant burnout. It’s not what they thought it would be and they go from an energetic person to someone instantly defeated. We don’t necessarily want them to stay if they’re unhappy with their new career field. Shouldn’t we be helping them make a graceful exit and re-entry to a different profession?

2. For our new #SAGrads, its hard to get a first job. There are too many of them and not enough jobs. They’re counting on one of two things:  a new pro to be burned out and quit so they can take that job. OR, they’re counting on a middle manager to be burned out and quit so someone in an entry level position can move up, freeing that entry level job for them. This is a twisted circle of life… Mufasa probably doesn’t approve.

3. When you’re burned out, not only are you unable to give 100% any longer, but your student interaction suffers. Maybe instead of “helping” them, we need to be calling out those professionals and letting them know the impact their attitude is having on their respective institution. Students know when a staff member is suffering from burn out. They can smell it.

4. Maybe burn out is nature’s way of telling us we’ve overstayed our welcome at a particular institution. When you notice you are suffering from burnout, its time for a change of venue… or a change in position. As long as you recognize it, I don’t think burnout is something to be feared.

So yeah, I’m not worried about burnout. It’s natural. It happens in other fields. It happens in every office across the country. Instead of being worried about burnout, I want to be able to recognize when it happens to me. That’s infinitely more important.

My final word on burnout

Why #icebreakers will be the end of Student Affairs

It’s Spring Break… a time of the year where Student Affairs professionals finally get around to doing the things we say we’re going to do all year. For me, that’s cleaning.

In cleaning the office yesterday, I stumbled upon a gem – a box labeled “ABRIS – Adventure Based Resource Index System” full of 3×5 laminated index cards. As best as I can tell, this is from 1991 and proof for me that Student Affairs is doomed.

These dainty, colorful index cards contain ice breakers and team builders “designed to save valuable planning time, offer refreshing new material and provide you with hundreds of programming hours.” Yes, that’s a direct quote from their website.

So what does this refreshing new material include? Well, frankly, it includes things that will get you fired today.

Love Handle Tag

That’s right. Love Handle Tag. Because holding someone’s hips from behind them has been appropriate behavior since 1991.

Albanian Dwarfs

Albanian Dwarfs. While I’d like to give them credit for the grammatically correct use of dwarfs vs dwarves, it’s still just wrong. Just wrong.

Butt Bounce

The Butt Bounce. Nothing beats a good “double-barreled Butt Bounce” with a bunch of strangers.

Tingling Touch

Ahhhhh… Tingling Touch. No better way to kick off a workshop with whispering soothing words with every exhale.

So there you have. Adventure Based Resource Index System – a surefire way to discredit what we do as student affairs practitioners and an even quicker way to ensure a trip to HR to talk about those awkward “games” you play at meetings.

Why #icebreakers will be the end of Student Affairs

Why #Divergent is bad for Student Affairs

On Friday I was lucky to catch a sneak preview of the movie Divergent.
This isn’t a review and there aren’t any spoilers here (besides, it was an unfinished print with unfinished effects) but watching the film scared me.

It scared me because I see where this is headed. Student Affairs latches on to new hip thing and runs it into the ground. Some of you have the uncanny ability to take something that brings us joy and then you beat us over the head with it’s applications to student affairs. You did it with Harry Potter. You did it with The Hunger Games. And you’re about to do it with Divergent.

Remember all of the horrible leadership workshops you created where you would explain leadership styles based on the different Hogwarts Houses? They’re on their way back… but this time, it’s what Divergent Faction you’re in.

Start prepping all of your inspirational talks about how it’s important to carry multiple positive traits instead of just one. It’s best to be Divergent.  How can your students be Divergent in your leadership?

Think about all of the greek life conversations we can have about hazing rituals and how characters in Divergent used bystander intervention skills to make things better.

Imagine all of the times we’re going to see a new student with three black birds tattooed on their clavicle.

No. Divergent is bad for us because it’s going to inspire someone to try to turn it into an educational moment.

You’re doing what you think will make you seem cool and hip… you think this will make you appear to be approachable to new students when instead you should be looking for what will be cool and hip in six months.

Instead of forcing everything to be educational, let this one just be fun. Steer away from the Faction-themed door decks. Steer away from the personality assessment. Please.
It’s okay to just let something be fun.

Why #Divergent is bad for Student Affairs