Are you a student affairs junkie?
Are you just, like, SUPER PASSIONATE about student affairs and higher education?
Is it all you think of?
Is it all you dream of?
Do you leave work and immediately think of how you’ll be back in the office tomorrow?
When you’re working or studying higher education, does your heart race?
Or does your body slow down, like you’re swimming through a happy pool of warm molasses?
Does the world fade away when you get your fix?
One time your boss told you to use up vacation days, but HAHAHAHA that is so funny, and you felt a sense of violence or perhaps deep sadness at this person telling you to step away from what you love.
Were you so desperate to avoid vacation that you stole money to pay off your boss?
It’s just, you love student affairs so much.
It’s all you love.
It’s all you think of.
Let’s face it: There are some peculiar practices within student affairs, especially on Twitter. The one I’d like to draw attention to today is the large number of student affairs graduate students and professionals who label themselves a “Student Affairs Junkie” or “Higher Ed Junkie” in their Twitter profiles.
There’s two issues at hand.
One, you are equating yourself with someone who has a mental illness as defined by the DSM (“substance use disorder”) and you are using a slur to refer to a group of people that are oppressed in our society.
Two, hyperbole or not, you are telling us that you are addicted to student affairs and that might warrant a work/life balance discussion.
Regarding the former issue, HOO BOY, did my Facebook blow up when I posted the status you saw above – and I got some traction on Twitter as well.
“Words have multiple meanings.”
“You’re being sensitive.”
“It’s a slang term.”
“You’re trying to enforce censorship.”
“I just really love student affairs.”
I think I am a sociologist by nature. I consider the history of the word and context of the word. The historical and current use of the word ‘junkie‘ has a very specific connotation. It’s not a nice word. It is a slur denigrating a group of people.
“But people say words like ‘political junkie’!”
There are lots of words and phrases that people use that we do not use in student affairs. So if that is your argument…
This is a profession that works with people from all walks of life. A profession that claims to value social justice, creating equitable environments, and respecting the dignity of all people.
So in the context of the situation, using the word ‘junkie’ as hyperbole is reckless, irresponsible, and thoughtless. Claiming to love this profession so much that you are a junkie….really? You (not personal ‘you’, general ‘you’) are equating yourself with someone who is suffering a disease known as addiction – something that mental health professionals classify in the DSM as a mental illness.
So you are telling me that people in a profession like ours (one that values social justice) should be using a word however they damn well please, underneath that context?
It makes me angry. Not at anyone arguing the other side or using the word; understand that. But angry that we live in a society that takes words and uses them carelessly so that they are part of our general lexicon, and without critical thinking they remain there. It doesn’t matter who it hurts. It doesn’t matter that perhaps our colleagues and students may have once suffered from drug dependence, still do, or have a loved one that does or did at one time. It doesn’t matter that throwing a word around so casually diminishes the experiences of people who are fighting just to stay alive, one day at a time.
No, it doesn’t matter. For those who argue that I am being too sensitive on this issue, apparently all that matters is that people are allowed to express themselves without critical thought or consideration for others.
And that’s their right. The First Amendment allows for no censorship…by the government.
But while there is legally protected speech, there is no speech that is safe from being critically examined and judged within the professional community.
I guarantee you that most people who say they are a “Student Affairs junkie” have never critically examined that word or considered the true context of it. Totally understandable. We are all growing and learning. Me as much as anyone. We use so many words that have problematic meanings and we are never aware of it until someone points it out.
Well here’s me. Pointing it out.
Suggestions & Resources
- Use the phrase “higher ed enthusiast” or “passionate about student affairs”
- Substance Abuse & Mental Illness: great information from NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness
- Testimony from Drug Users: PBS’ Frontline series interviewed individuals; here are their stories
- Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration: government webpage with more information. Access information to help hotlines, programs, and information.