social justice

[marginalized folks are] Always Educators in Student Affairs

The “Student Affairs Professionals” (SAP) Facebook group is a strange little beast. At 21,000+ members, it contains both the best and worst of the profession.

That’s harsh. And…not quite true.

The SAP Facebook group demonstrates the best and worst of the profession. There are incidents where folks share resources and best practices, support one another’s highs and lows…sometimes it is excellent.

Other times? Not so much.This blog post will address one of the “SAP Problematic Concepts” (a term I’ve coined for now to describe the incidents/statements we see regularly) titled “But we’re all educators!!”

But We're All Educators

Discussion of social justice concepts and navigating privileged experiences with the realities of marginalized (in regards to race, the term used often is ‘minoritized’ but I chose /marginalized/ since it is a more commonly understood term) experiences in our society is necessary to advance ourselves professionally and personally. Of course, it can be tricky to have a fruitful discussion online and often with people you’ve never interacted with before – and even likelier it was never face-to-face.

Some argue that it is pointless to have SJ discussions in the SAP group or any other online venue. I disagree, but I do agree that there’s a series of regular incidents that tend to occur with these talks. The primary one? When a person with one or more privileged identities gets frustrated and pushes on someone with one or more marginalized identities to explain that marginalized experience.

Their belief? That the person with the marginalized belief owes it to the person with the privileged identity to “educate them”. Of course the person in question should do it/should want to do it “because we’re all educators” and “we’re all learning”.

eye roll - B Apt 13

That’s not cute. It’s bullying. It’s entitlement. It’s exerting your privileged status on someone. The term “check your privilege” has become trite but for real, you should do just that. It’s a better use of your time then carrying out acts of oppression.

Just because someone works as a student affairs professional, as an educator, does not mean they owe it to all the folks in the world to do unpaid labor to teach 24/7. Not to mention, the more marginalized identities a person holds, the more likely it is that systemic oppression affects them and they are paid less than your average person with a greater number of privileged identities.

When a person spends their work day getting paid to educate, they are also likely doing it outside of work in different sectors. That’s tiring. Folks with marginalized identities – especially people of color – are forced to educate far more often than privileged – especially white – folks.

And let’s name it: I see this SAP Problematic Concept most often when fellow white professionals bully people of color to “educate them” on different social justice perspectives related to race and racism.

Franky, that is bullshit.

If you’ve graduated from a masters’ or doctoral program, go back to your assigned readings.If you didn’t, then the internet and your local library are wonderful resources. Check out some recommended books. Ask other privileged folks to educate you – for you to educate one another. And above all, please use Google (and GoogleScholar). Here, I started you off with a search for “systemic racism in higher education“.

Systemic Racism in Higher Ed-let me google that for you

And don’t forget – when you have a privilege identity it is your responsibility to call in your peers when they are saying something problematic. Race, mental health, gender identity, sexuality, first language…there are a lot of identities and experiences to learn about. We’re always going make mistakes and learn new things. Help one another out with that. Do it online and offline (as I’m sure this attitude is common in the ‘real world’ as well).

Bystander intervention is a cool thing. It’s unfair to let folks with marginalized identities fend off pushy entitled privileged folks.Let’s support each other in doing better. Which sometimes means tough love, and that’s okay.


Those are my thoughts. It’s been a while since I’ve written a critical blog post but I just can’t take seeing these patterns over and over. I took a long break (with only minimal check-ins) from student affairs’ social media spaces for the specific reason of how draining and demoralizing they can be. There’s some good stuff, for sure! But there’s also a lot of folks with advanced degrees who need to engage better with their peers and learn how to Google.





Watch out Ladies: Your Slutty Feet are Asking for It

There’s nothing more ironic than a grown ass man at Starbucks arguing that he can harass you however he pleases, as he sits with a Bible in front of him.

Author reached out to God for comment; God replied with this gif

Author reached out to God for comment; God’s reply in gif format.

The day started out simply enough.

I settled in at my new favorite Starbucks, curled on a comfy chaise lounge chair, laptop in my – well, in my lap. As usual, I was adorned with my standard long dress, sweater, and thick shawl. It’s a beautiful 50 degrees here and I was sockless in my dress shoes. Naturally, I slid them off. I put in my earbuds, began listening to Spotify’s collection of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr speeches (since I was working on volunteer assignments for the day of service I was planning), and let my feet dangle off the chair.

It was awesome. Dr. King’s words were inspiring and made me thoughtful about progress, or lack thereof (52 years later we are still speaking out against police brutality -wtf).

In the middle of listening to Dr. King’s “The American Dream” speech a man in his 50’s moved by me. I gave him a slight smile because he wore a dapper old man outfit that was adorable and I was in a great mood.  I looked back at my laptop.

He said something but I didn’t quite hear. There was a twinge of dread because there’s usually only one reason why a strange middle-aged man is trying to talk to me in public. Still, I’m an optimist and incredibly curious. I took out my earbuds. “Excuse me?”

“You have beautiful feet.” He smiled at me.

My stomach twisted. I felt incredibly creeped out and entered a state of shock. I said a soft thanks and immediately turned back to my laptop. Ironically, the speech was at the point Dr. King was talking about how we need to love our enemies…

LOTR - frodo gross face

Frodo reenacts my facial expression

If you are not a woman-identified individual that has experienced street harassment (essentially sexual harassment in a public space) then my issue with his statement might seem like an overreaction. He was just giving me a compliment, right?


Here is the issue: I am just chillin’ here, lounging on this comfy chair at Starbucks, getting my work done (and facebooking, of course), oblivious to the world. But the moment this jerk comments on my body part, I am yanked from enjoying this peaceful moment and reminded that because I am a woman, my body is open to commentary. That while I get lost in my own mind, I have to remember that I am being scrutinized. That my worth is parallel to how attractive I am. That beauty is decided by strange men and not by me. That I’m expected to say thank you for the honor of their acknowledgement.

The comment strips away my security. I feel vulnerable. Exposed. Nothing more than meat at the market, ready for inspection.

When strange men ‘compliment’ me like this, I’m not a human. I’m a walking sex toy.

You have beautiful feet.” Feet are personal kinks for some people and highly sexualized. This isn’t to say it’s bad to have a foot fetish, but my interpretation of this man’s statement is he’s definitely sexualizing me. Gross. My body does not exist for your commentary, dude.

Not to mention – my feet with peeling red toenail polish ain’t even a thing to be found attractive.

Yes, my feet needed your male acknowledgement, creep.

Yes, my feet needed your male acknowledgement, creep.

My mind was flooded with thoughts. I’m offended, disgusted, wondering if it’s that big of a deal, feeling vulnerable, feeling sexualized, frustrated, indignant this fool thought he could talk to me this way, angry at myself for going into shock and uttering “thank you”, and angry at him.

Overall, I just felt incredibly uncomfortable.

Things that no one wants to hear.

Things that no one wants to hear.

Ten minutes later I realize the man is still at Starbucks, around the corner from me.


The discomfort I’m feeling increases, as does my adrenaline. I do not want to stay here. I’m sitting in a private corner right by the bathroom – what if he comes by again? I don’t want him to approach me again.

I decide I’ll leave. Panera is nearby and a who doesn’t love broccoli cheddar soup?

And yet…there’s a kernel of dissonance growing within me. I consider myself a feminist and an activist. How can I let this dude get away with his comment? Clearly he meant it as a compliment. He probably doesn’t even realize he makes women uncomfortable talking like that. Men are socialized to speak to women like this and that women love random compliments.

If he speaks like that to me, he probably does so to a lot of woman. Maybe if I said something then I could help him see a new perspective and fewer women in the future would have to deal with harassment.

buffy - willow - feminist literature

Thanks to feminism, I know that street harassment is just one part of systemic oppression against women.

On the flipside, speaking to him could be dangerous. Women who have spoken out against harassment before have been dealt severe repercussions, including physical violence.

Not that I thought he would react violently. We were in public and I am aware I had able-bodied privilege. Plus, he was dressed all dapper and stuff; looked like a nice older man. Father-like. He wouldn’t react too bad – if anything he would probably just try to diminish his action and make me feel crazy, at worst.

If only I knew.

I scrounged up the courage. At this point my hands are shaking from adrenaline after sitting down for 25 minutes. I hate confrontations and this is my first time actually confronting street harassment.

Ugh. Such a long walk.

Ugh. Such a long walk.

“Excuse me, sir.”

He takes off his headphones and looks up at me with a hint of surprise. I think how fitting it is that he interrupted me earlier while I was using my earbuds, and now he is the one to be interrupted.

I took a deep breath. “Hi. I just wanted to come over and tell you that your comment earlier made me feel uncomfortable.”

His face contorts in shock and annoyance as he sits back in his chair and throws his arms up in the air. “Oh NO,” he cries out in exasperation. “Please don’t do this to me!” he pleaded.

here comes the patriarchy

No conversation is complete without the Patriarchy! Everyone’s favorite party favor!

He says it in such a way that I can’t help but feel he’s been confronted about sexual harassment before. His defensiveness is incredible. Immediately my insides writhe with rage that this asshole is acting like HE is a helpless victim. Drama king, much?!?!

I use the force (I’m a Jedi, obviously) and center myself. As a social justice educator I know that harsh words rarely accomplish anything when trying to teach someone that they are contributing to systemic oppression.

My voice is firm, measured, and low. The perfect tone for talking to misogynists. “Sir, I’m sure you meant it as a compliment, but it made me feel uncomfortable—”

His expression darkened. “You know what makes me feel uncomfortable?! Racism makes me feel uncomfortable!”

I recoil in anger and shock. Please, old man. Are we doing this right now?

seriously dont - VP

“I’m sure it does.” After all, I am aware that it’s not easy being a black man in America, especially when one has to use a wheelchair. Ableism and racism sucks. I ‘get’ that as much as an able-bodied white woman can (which means I know that I’ll never truly ‘get it’ and I’m trying to always learn more about privilege and oppression). But old man, please. That ain’t here nor there.

“And sexism makes ME uncomfortable,” I add.

If only tying him up was an option. Maybe he would have listened better.

If only tying him up was an option. Maybe he would have listened better.

“Well, a lot of things makes me uncomfortable!” he speaks in a shout-whisper. Apparently the 2015 location of the Oppression Olympics has begun.

Our voices are hushed but increasingly rising. No one looks up from their laptops. Damn Starbucks culture.

The creep begins rambling. Something about how there’s too much negativity in the world and he just wants positivity and I shouldn’t be bringing negativity into his life.


I cut him off. “Negativity into YOUR life? Look, I’m sure you meant it as a compliment but I needed to tell you it made me uncomfortable. And I’m trying to tell you this and you are not listening to me.”

“Well I won’t talk to you again! And if you don’t like it, why are you talking to me!?” he bristles. Clearly I’m the one harassing him.

male tears

“I am talking to you”, I snap, venom seeping into my voice, “because I know most men don’t realize those comments are not compliments and make women feel uncomfortable. I was HOPING you would learn so other women don’t have to feel uncomfortable!”

How I feel at this point in the conversation.

How I feel at this point in the conversation.

“Well, you shouldn’t have had your feet out there!” he countered angrily.’t.have.had.your.feet.out.there. Wellyoushouldn’thavehadyourfeetoutthere.

…is this motherfucker kidding right now?

Did he really just slut shame…my feet?!?!?!?!?!

dont worry

Do we live in Victorian England? I’m already wearing a long dress and long sleeves, with only bare feet. ARE YOU TELLING ME THAT I NEED TO NOT BE PUTTING MY SLUTTY FEET OUT THERE?

Right, how dare I tempt the perverts of America who like to troll on any hint of womanly flesh.

*eyeroll so hard motherfuckas wanna fine me*

*eyeroll so hard motherfuckas wanna fine me*

“Are you fucking kidding me?” I hiss back.

“Oh, well now you have to swear at me!” he gasps, all offended and clutching his invisible pearls.

Yep, keep them male tears comin’, bro. Because using the ‘f’ word is totally worse than your sexual harassment. CREEP. “If that’s how you’re going to react…I didn’t do nothing illegal! If I did something illegal, call the cops on me.”

Trembling with rage, I glance down and see a Bible on the table in front of him. I chuckle softly at the sight and my eyes slide up to meet his.  I speak softly and let the disdain in my voice wash against his ears. “You’re reading the BIBLE and you are speaking to me like this?”

I spin away, because I have nothing left to say to the creep.

beyonce walk awayImmediately I go to the Starbucks counter because if some creep thinks he can sexually harass women because their ‘slutty feet’ aren’t covered with socks then the staff need to know. Not to mention, I need to know if this man is a regular because if so, my new favorite Starbucks is going to be abandoned in lieu of the nearby Panera.

The middle-aged man who regularly is working when I come in, spots me. I get his attention and he motions me to the other side of the counter, away from customers. Perhaps he saw the expression on my face, perhaps he saw the confrontation. Either way it was clear he wanted me away from others.

“What happened, miss?” he asks quietly.

I open my mouth to speak…and instead a sob squeezed its way out of my throat. The encounter had me rattled and my adrenaline had to be released somehow, since I wasn’t running away nor was I slapping the creep like he deserved.

No Cry

What I tell myself

spn - loki not crying raining on face

What I tell others.

For the record, I HATE crying. I’m down for other people crying and I don’t see weakness in them, but my own personal psychology views that when I cry I am demonstrating weakness – and I cannot allow such a thing. I have had to demonstrate strength for much of my life, even when I didn’t quite have it, because I had to deal with a lot of bullshit. Crying, to me personally, makes my enemies think they’ve won.

The Starbucks employee was kind and encouraged me to speak.

“It’s stupid,” I sputtered. Because in that moment I felt like a stupid little girl, weeping in a public space (but thankfully folks love their laptops), and talking to a man so I assumed he probably wouldn’t get it. My voice catches. “He went by and told me I had commented on my feet, so I went and told him that was not okay and he made me uncomfortable and he FREAKED out on me.”

Starbucks Employee looked at me with pity. “Aw, he just compliments all the ladies. He’s harmless.”

sexist and absurd

I stiffen. Of course. “Maybe he’s harmless, but sexual harassment is not okay.” Even after I said this, I realized I was wrong. Because what that man is doing IS harmful. Sexual harassment is harmful. A woman not able to feel safe from harassment in a public space? Pretty fucking harmful.

He was nice, this Starbucks employee, but he just didn’t get it. Not that I can expect him to ‘get it’ too much – we live in a world where it is socially acceptable to “give women compliments”.

I sat down back in my corner spot. Took a few minutes to calm down and then I left – soothing my nerves by calling my partner and then nomming on some broccoli cheddar soup.

Overall? I’m glad I said something. I would have regretted not saying something. But…I’m not sure if the heightened aggravated harassment was worth it.

smash the patriarchy

Sigh. Living in a patriarchal and discriminatory society sucks.

>>Before I sign off, a recommendation to men who like to talk to women they don’t know:

Control yourself. Remember that it’s rude to comment on a woman’s body w/o having that kind of relationship with her. You’re wasting our time and depleting our emotional energy. There’s a whole bunch more I could teach you, but just use Google (start here) because enough of my time has been wasted today.

street harassment- jessica williams!

Jessica Williams is amazing.


Why Your “Disability Awareness” Programs Are Awful

Awful is a harsh word.

But then again, so is ableism.

Here’s what I love about student affairs & higher education (and education in general): We are always looking for ways in which to advance the education, personal growth, and cultural competency of our students. As educators, it is on us to prepare our students to work in a diverse world and, through educating students, work to eradicate discrimination.

Naturally folks desire to host educational programs on the topic of “disability”. This is wonderful! However, it is imperative that you read this blog post before you continue planning.

#1 Rule of Disability Awareness Programs: NO SIMULATIONS
Absolutely no simulations should be used in disability awareness programs.

A disability awareness simulation program looks a lot like this:

  1. Participants walk into a room. An assortment of actions are set upon them – they are placed in wheelchairs, have their eyes blindfolded, wear sound absorption headphones, have their arm tied before their back, and more.
  2. Participates are directed to carry out daily tasks in these conditions.
  3. Afterwards, participants discuss the level of difficulty in carrying out those tasks.
  4. Finally, they sing kum-by-ya, hold hands, and skip through a field of daisies as their minds are enlightened <insert chorus of angelic choir music>

Thanks to you, students are totally enlightened now

Simulations are the most common type of disability awareness programming. And they are awful.

Why are Simulations so Bad?
1. Simulations “reinforce a view of individual deficiency rather than fostering an awareness of ableism as a form of oppression that operates on individual, institutional, and societal/cultural levels” unless very carefully designed and discussed afterwards (Griffin, Peters, & Smith, 2007).

2. These programs perpetuate abelist thoughts by focusing on the negative, i.e. what people with disabilities (PWD) can’t do (Griffin, Peters, & Smith, 2007).

3. This experience reinforces participant fears about becoming disabled and condescending perceptions that PWD should be pitied or helped (Griffin, Peters, & Smith, 2007)

4. Having participants use a wheelchair may reinforce the idea that using a wheelchair is “tragic” (Griffin, Peters, & Smith, 2007).
5. Many disabilities can be managed with accommodations, trainings, and accommodations. Just because you can’t see with your eyes blindfolded does not mean that a person cannot live fully without their sight (Griffin, Peters, & Smith, 2007).

6. Do you really think that spending 30 minutes in a wheelchair can inform you about the daily life of someone in that situation? This “obscures the fact that people live with disabilities all their lives, know how to confidentially get around, and are able to live their independent lives” (Griffin, Peters, & Smith, 2007).

7. These programs only focus on visible disabilities. Ugh. No. Did you know that a majority of PWD college students have invisible disabilities? Such as a cognitive disorder (ex: autism), emotional disorder (ex: depression), or an invisible physical disability (ex: chronic health condition, like asthma). By focusing on visible physical disabilities, you are erasing the experiences of many people. It’s difficult enough to be a college student, attempting to get accommodations for a class, only to be told that “you don’t look disabled”.

8. Also, how do you think it would make students with disabilities feel if they sat in on your program?


Probably a lot like this

Essentially, these programs promote stereotypes and don’t do anything to eradicate discrimination. And that’s awful.

Shouldn’t we try to have students think about these ‘disability experiences’?
Yes, most certainly! But if your social justice program is at the expense of the people it represents so it can educate the masses, then you better just question your life choices.

Griffin, Peters, & Smith (2007) in the book “Teaching for Diversity & Social Justice” recommend that disability awareness programs focus on ableism as a ‘systemic phenomenon’. In fact, the book has a multitude of great ideas and programs already written up. Check out the free preview pages of it on Google Books or pick up the book yourself ($25 digital on Google or $55 ‘you can hold it’ edition on Amazon)

Wait, what is Ableism?
I’m glad you asked!

I like checking out the “Disabled Feminists” website because they have a whole page on the dictionary and academic defintions, as well as deliberate and unintentional examples of ableism.

Academic Definition of Ableism
Ableism is a form of discrimination or prejudice against individuals with physical, mental, or developmental disabilities that is characterized by the belief that these individuals need to be fixed or cannot function as full members of society (Castañeda & Peters, 2000). As a result of these assumptions, individuals with disabilities are commonly viewed as being abnormal rather than as members of a distinct minority community (Olkin & Pledger, 2003; Reid & Knight, 2006). Because disability status has been viewed as a defect rather than a dimension of difference, disability has not been widely recognized as a multicultural concern by the general public as well as by counselor educators and practitioners. (Smith, Foley, Chaney)


“Like other “-isms,” ableism can be insidious, and so closely woven in society that people without obvious physical or mental disabilities might not even think about their ableist attitudes and the ableist structure of their society. For example, people with use of their legs may not consider how difficult navigation can be in a wheelchair. Albeism also penetrates language and society; terms like “weak,” “lame,” and “retarded” are all ableist, and widely used, even by people who are sensitive to other forms of discrimination.” (WiseGeek)

Not *everything* you do is wrong, but unless you're something supernatural, chances are you probably have done, are doing, and will do some ablelist things.

Not *everything* you do is wrong, but unless you’re something supernatural, chances are you probably have done, are doing, and will do some ablelist things.

Okay, So I Know What Ableism Is…What if I Maybeee Don’t Quite Understand Disability Issues?
Dude. That is (unfortunately) perfectly normal, and if you told me you were an expert I’d call you a liar. In fact, it’s very cool that you admit a lack of understanding, especially as you may be planning an awareness program.

The truth of the matter is our understanding of social issues is limited to our personal life experiences and whatever we are socialized to believe (i.e., the media would have you believe that mental illness=crazy and/or that a ‘real’ disability means you use a wheelchair).

Even if you have a disability(ies), you are still have to work to understand the myriad of disabilities and life experiences out there.

If you don’t have a disability, your identity is probably known as “able-bodied” and you have “abled privilege”.


Some Resources on Better Understanding Disabilities

  1. GoogleDrive folder “Resources on Disability Issues” of uploaded PDFs of articles on disabilities in higher education
  2. A reference list of scholary articles (also in the GoogleDrive) “Research on Disability Issues in Higher Education
  3. At-a-glance handouts to better understanding disabilities and ableism here and here.
  4. My tumblr blog “Social Justice Resources for Student Affairs” under the tags disability
  5. College Students Speak: A Survey Report on Mental Health by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) has excellent statistics.
  6. Your university disability office (sometimes goes by different names) for resources specific to your student population

Final Thoughts
1. Woohoo for wanting to create disability awareness!
2. Just don’t contribute to systemic oppression whilst you do it
3. Focus on ableism when structuring disability awareness programming
4. There are so many resources out there for you! Books, internet, your own disability specialists, and your students. Use them as your foundation.
5. Thanks for working towards dismantling ableism.

If you’re working on cool non-ableist disability awareness programs at your school, please share them with me in the comments or at @NikiMessmore on Twitter!


Always recognize and embrace your privilege, folks.


Lalvani, P., & Broderick, A. A. (2013). Institutionalized Ableism and the Misguided “Disability Awareness Day”: Transformative Pedagogies for Teacher Education. Equity & Excellence in Education, 46(4), 468-483.

Laura Smith, Pamela F. Foley, and Michael P. Chaney, “Addressing Classism, Ableism, and Heterosexism in Counselor Education”, Journal of Counseling & Development, Summer 2008, Volume 86, pp 303-309.

Follow Up with Campus Speak

I was contacted yesterday by representatives of CAMPUSPEAK in regards to my email to their organization and blog post “Dear Campus Speak & Sara Lowery: Are We on ‘Punk’d’?“. David Stollman, Partner & President of CAMPUSPEAK responded to my email and we had an opportunity to speak in the afternoon; Interim CEO Luke Davis joined us.

I appreciated how quickly CAMPUSPEAK reacted and reached out to me. The most important aspects of the dialogue, I believe, was the opportunity to speak human-to-human and their keen interest in listening to me – quite frankly that does not always occur in customer service interactions.

Our dialogue was positive and I appreciate that CAMPUSPEAK will be moving forward on this issue in two ways. I confirmed that it would be okay to share this information and they agreed; if something is introduced in a public forum then I believe it is fair to provide folks with an update so they have a fuller story.

CAMPUSPEAK agreed to undertake the following:

1.Committing to critically engage speakers’ topics and essentially add another layer in their screening process of speakers and topics.

2. Working with local organizations in the Denver, CO area that work with people who are experiencing homelessness to oversee marketing and language to more accurately represent Sara Lowery’s full program.

We ended with the understanding that ultimately the presentation belongs to the speaker. While the marketing will change, the presentation may not and if so I will still not agree with the program or recommend it. Yet working with local organizations supporting people experiencing homelessness and engaging in dialogue is a good first step in working towards creating a more socially just product.

Personally, I do hope that the speaker considers the topic of representing the experience of homelessness and how a presentation can either dismantle or contribution to systems of oppression. At the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what I think or considering this in an individual context, but considering the full picture. For more of my thoughts on exactly why I believe the presentation contributes to systemic oppression, please read my blog post from earlier today “Am I a Jerk for Critiquing CAMPUSPEAK and Their Speaker?

I look forward to seeing how this dialogue continues to evolve.


Am I a Jerk for Critiquing CAMPUSPEAK and Their Speaker?

4 Reasons Why I Might Be a Jerk

Last night I received a comment that critiqued my approach to yesterday’s blog post “Dear Campus Speak & Sara Lowery: Are We on ‘Punk’d’?” I am sure she is not the only one. Likely there are those who think I am a jerk who doesn’t play nice on the SA playground, just like I know there are others who agree with my interpretation of the issue and blog post. And of course, there are many others who don’t care – which makes sense, as this is the Day of Our Lady of Thursday Nights, Shonda Rhimes (#TGIT) and we should save our energy for all that suspense later.

My return comment to Sheila got a bit long because I believe her questions are important to address, so I made it a blog post to share in case anyone else had similar thoughts. Your reward for reading it through includes gifs from each Shonda show + Shonda herself.

campus speak-comment to me

Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your engagement in this issue with me, especially since you are the first person to denounce my post/perspective and approach the issue in a different manner (to me personally, that is). I’d like to address your thoughts and questions, because they are certainly good ones to discuss.

1) Was I Inappropriate?
I definitely see where you can think this post is inappropriate. My post is sassy, fueled by passion and (quite frankly) anger. It’s certainly not how folks in student affairs tend to blog, but that’s okay because my discipline/background is from several different areas so my writing style is a blend.

Yet while I do see where you find it could be inappropriate, 24+ hours afterwards and multiple times re-reading it (I don’t post anything like this without discussion and much consideration and review), I do stand by it.

My personal perspective when handling issues where I believe social injustice is occurring and folks are contributing to systemic oppression, is to demonstrate the passion I feel. It’s certainly easy to write a clinical scholarly-type article with graphs and cold observations, but it does not demonstrate the seriousness of the matter. It leaves the reader feeling detached and not particularly committed; and I believe they are rarely taken seriously (we do, after all, live in a world where Very Bad Things happen all the time and we’re all detached in one way or another because it is impossible to feel deeply about everything).

By incorporating my emotions, the reader is able to view the issue through my lens. No longer is this a cold comment, but something that is burning with life. I was and am outraged. Should that be hidden? Should that be silenced? Please trust that I am not the only one who felt those emotions and had those thoughts when reading the Campus Speak email about Sara Lowery’s keynote speech. It is imperative that emotion is conveyed.

greys - i have a lot of feelings

While you may believe my “word choice and delivery could have been a little more respectful” I think you are asking me to be nicer and to silence myself so I do not hurt anyone’s feelings. I never attacked Campus Speak or Ms. Lowery on a personal level – no name calling or anything of that nature. Certainly critique is difficult to hear, but what’s also difficult to hear are the word choices and delivery of the presentation at the central of this discussion.

I never lied. I pointed out errors with commentary, provided statistics, demonstrated a cause and effect to having students listen to speeches like these, and provided a set of recommendations that anyone who works in business and deals with customer service is expected to hear.

2) Did I bash Sara Lowery?
Did I bash Sara Lowery? This is the statement I took pause on. I discussed my approach and was very thoughtful in considering how I addressed my blog post. Sara Lowery is a real person. Student affairs is a small field and no doubt we have mutual friends. I could hurt her reputation. Likewise, my reputation could be hurt (because in student affairs there is an unspoken rule that we treat our colleagues with kids’ gloves, and here I am stepping over that invisible line). My goal isn’t to ruin careers. I think we’re about the same age and she’s probably a cool person to work with and spend time with.

My decision to include Ms. Lowery in my critique is because it is a critique of her as a professional speaker who has placed herself in the public forum as a businesswoman who is selling a product – it just happens that the product is herself. I could not critique CAMPUSPEAK without critiquing her. While CAMPUSPEAK delivered the insensitive marketing materials and made the decision to add Ms. Lowery and her speech to their speaker’s bureau, it is still Ms. Lowery’s quotes on homelessness and the manner in which she incorporated the topic and how she spoke about it in her keynote. Both are at fault here.

Sheila, you’re correct with You have no idea who this individual is or the life that she lives.” I don’t. And frankly, I don’t care. It is not very important to me if the individual volunteers at an organization supporting people experiencing homelessness, is the director of a homeless shelter, or has friends who identify as homeless. Intent ≠ Impact. She can have experiences talking to people experiencing homelessness and still exploit their experiences.

If you’d like to hear a similar message from someone else, there are two items I’d like to share with you on the topic of “why people with disabilities are not your inspirational message” here and here.

You see, at the end of the day, the concept of being a “good person” is irrelevant (not to mention ambiguous). We all live in a society built on systemic oppression. We are inundated with concepts and images that support the privileged groups of society in such an insidious way that we do not even notice it on a daily basis nor do we think twice about contributing to that culture of thought.

For example, I contribute to the systems of white supremacy, the patriarchy, ableism, and homophobia when I buy tickets for movies like Guardians of the Galaxy because I am financially supporting a mostly-white cast (in a movie industry that rarely casts people of color in lead roles or even supporting roles because they believe that white people cannot identify with POC) with a straight able-bodied white male in the savior role (because it benefits the status quo to uphold these identities as superior) and a woman of color still playing out the stereotype of romantic interest (because while the character is strong, her role is still reserved as serving as the interest of the white straight able-bodied man and helping to tell his story, not hers).

It’s subtle, you see – or rather you don’t – with how each of us contribute to systems of oppression. I have no doubt that Ms. Lowery is a good person. However in this case she is using her public platform to replicate problematic and stereotypical ideals of people experiencing homelessness in an effort to promote her own message; with the effect of further reinforcing those concepts in the minds of college students and professionals who listen to her. This is systemic oppression. It is subtle and often unclear, but it is when messages that do not respect a population of minoritized individuals are promoted and reinforced in a circular manner that results in the status quo always being upheld.

At the end of the day, many of us are good people who do problematic things, because we are raised and live in a society that makes problematic behavior normative behavior (this means me, too). Yet that doesn’t mean we can’t work to dismantle oppression. Calling out behavior that will ultimately contribute to misinformation about a minoritized group on a wide scale is necessary. I cannot sit idly while false stereotypes are perpetuated across college campuses. It’s not personal.

scandal - shut it down -lg

My honest thought when I first learned of this keynote speech.

3) Did I Misrepresent the Presentation? Was she actually mocking “homeless people”?
“You took the topic and the meaning behind the message and made it completely negative. You took the time to down play every POSITIVE aspect of the speakers message. Not once did she mock homeless people.”

Here’s where we’re going to have some firm disagreement, Sheila.

HTGAWM - puzzled

Puzzled, we are, by your statement.

You see, I can’t illustrate any positive aspect of the speaker’s message when it does not exist.

I read Ms. Lowery’s quotes in the marketing material and watched a video of her speech. I have…no idea where you are finding a positive message. Even if her core message of teaching college student leaders that they need to learn how to ask for what they need is a positive message, it is overridden by her means to tell that story. Describing the one experience she had watching a man experiencing homelessness ask for money and using that experience as the foundation for her speech, does not make a positive message.

That’s like saying I should be happy that white women at least get $0.77 to a man’s dollar. You know, I mean, sure, it’s not a WHOLE DOLLAR like a man, but at least I got 77 cents! Geez, Niki, hush your mouth and look at the positive aspects of getting money in the first place instead of being barefoot and in the kitchen!

Now I’m going to go back to the points addressed in #2 about systemic oppression.

Sheila, when you say that Ms. Lowery was not mocking “the homeless”, I believe your concept of mocking comes from a privileged perspective. We tend to think that people are straight up with their oppression. Like Donald Sterling saying point-blank he didn’t want his girlfriend to associate with black people. Or how domestic violence is actually a thing that happens, but only when Ray Rice is caught on video knocking out his fiancé.

The world is not evenly split between Bad People and Good People. Mocking does not only mean pointing at someone and laughing, like Nelson from the Simpsons.

nelson haha

If only interpreting mockery was as easy as Nelson makes it.

The speaker’s statement of “They have a need and are often not ashamed to tell you that need, in spite of being hungry or cold” clearly shows she is telling a single story and her privilege of not being homeless likely blinds her; because this statement is a mockery of the actual life experiences of people experiencing homelessness.

Imitation is not a form of flattery, and in the case of Ms. Lowery holding up a cardboard sign with the statement “Will Work 4 Leadership”, it is a poor imitation of someone else’s experiences that do not belong to her. It is a cruel mockery of someone else’s life. Using it to ‘teach leadership’ to students that are mostly going to be privileged enough to have a home makes me literally feel ill.

So yes, she is mocking people. Even though, I am sure, she does not mean to.

…and Sheila, as for your statement of “So it’s not about the check, Niki is it? It’s about making a difference and changing lives” I am sure you are correct about the speaker’s and CAMPUSPEAK’s intentions. But that doesn’t change the fact that the experiences of people experiencing homelessness are stereotyped and thrust into a narrative that does not financially or emotionally support their wellbeing. Instead it only supports the finances and careers of people who are privileged enough to not consider that this approach is harmful in the first place.<—this is one aspect of systemic oppression, y’all. The privileged profit (financially, intellectually, emotionally [i.e. ‘inspirational moment in my life], etc) off of the experiences of those without privilege.  Ask yourself: what are those without privilege recieving for their contribution?

4) Would this presentation properly educate myself and others?
“How about you sit in one of the seminars, you could learn a thing or two. I know plenty of young people who have heard the same message, grasped the right things from it and learned.”

I can afford to learn a lot. I love learning the perspectives and experiences of others because it makes the narrow focus of my own life experiences widen to accommodate other realities that exist outside my own. I have no doubt Ms. Lowery could teach me a lot. Unfortunately, as you can probably tell since I’m in the 2000+ word count already, I don’t believe I could with this presentation.

I’m rather appalled you believe you have the authority to state that you know plenty of young people who heard this message and grasped the right things and learned. For one, show me the assessment. And no – don’t just ask questions about the speaker’s learning outcomes. I want to see assessment that says that students have a better understanding of the issue of homelessness after this presentation. I want assessment that analyzes how the presentation contributed to their conscious and unconscious thoughts about people experiencing homelessness, both before and after the presentation.

Frankly, I believe that you think these young people got the right message, but since you do not even believe there is an issue with how the topic of homelessness is incorporated into the message, I doubt you were looking to observe how student perception may/may not have changed.

5) America?
“Not trying to bash you, and freedom of speech is the American way.

Thank you.

parks and rec - ron swanson AMERICA


And your reward for reading this far:

Shonda - ruins lives lol

Happy Thursday, y’all. Hope you’re ready for Shonda to ruin us tonight, as is her weekly tradition.

Dear Campus Speak & Sara Lowery: Are We on ‘Punk’d’?

[UPDATE: “Am I a Jerk for Critiquing CAMPUSPEAK and Their Speaker?“]

[UPDATE 2: “Follow Up with Campus Speak“]

I think Ashton Kutcher works for Campus Speak, the business that brokers speakers for college campuses and is often a major sponsor for most student affairs conferences.

I mean, what else could I think when I opened up my email to see the following advertisement for a speaker?

campus speak333-comments

All problematic things have been noted upon in red. Oh look, that’s everything.

Are you…are you kidding me?

I mean, we have to be on Punk’d, right? This is obviously a joke. Or someone from Reddit hacked Campus Speak and proceeded to troll us all?

Please don’t tell me that a business affiliated closely with student affairs & higher education and a woman who, according to her LinkedIn Profile, has 5 years of student affairs professional experience, honestly believe this is okay to promote?

Do you realize that you are using the experiences of people experiencing homelessness in order to educate college students on leadership skills?

…I’m sorry. That’s a lot of question marks. It’s because I literally can’t even at the moment and my brain is broke.

cant envet

Let’s step back a moment.

Before I jump to any conclusions, I should check the website for more information!

campus speak22220000000000000000000000000000

Which brings us to the second segment of this blog post:

Dear Campus Speak & Sara Lowery: Top 8 Reasons Why This Idea is the Worst

1. It’s people experiencing homelessness. Not “the homeless”. Their current housing status does not define them. Homelessness is often a temporary status. People first language, please.

2. People who are experiencing homelessness are not animals at a zoo.  If you think that  “…lessons about leadership can be gained from watching the homeless“, then you are gravely mistaken. How dare you try to exploit their life situation in order to teach college students how to be leaders? Laughable, truly, the degree of privilege there.

3. There are college students in America right now who are experiencing homelessness. For example, almost 60,000 students indicated they were experiencing homelessness on the 2012-2013 FAFSA. Barbara Duffield, policy director of the National Association for the Education of Homeless Children and Youth, said ‘that number is likely understated, however, since some people may be staying in a car or motel and don’t realize they are technically homeless, or don’t want to admit to it’.

4. One in forty-five children experience homelessness; or  1.6 million children in America each year. In the 2013 Annual Homeless Assessment Report to Congress, on one night shelters across America counted guests and found 610,042 people staying in shelters. We know that homelessness is temporary so that number is not static. Additionally, that count does not count the “hidden” population – people living with friends, family, motels, domestic violence shelters, etc. So even if the college students you’re speaking to may not be currently homeless, that does not mean the issue has not personally affected them.

5. People experiencing homelessness are NOT YOUR INSPIRATIONAL STORY. This isn’t a Lifetime movie, it’s real life. The audacity to say things like “…even in the worst of times, their spirits often remain bright and they carry on with great humility and determination“. Do you even know anyone experiencing homelessness? Real life isn’t about hugs and puppies and giving you an “inspiring message” that you can make $3,000-$6,000 on and go about your merry way.

alan rickman angry gif

Snape gets it

6. Related to the latter point, have you spoken to many people experiencing homelessness? Ms. Lowery, you said “They have a need and are often not ashamed to tell you that need, in spite of being hungry or cold.” Umm…the issue is much more complicated than this. First, hungry and cold? This isn’t a Dickens novel. Not everyone experiences that. Not everyone does ask for help. And when they do, it is a survival thing and not really applicable to student leaders trying to put on a programming night. For that matter, not everyone can get help. Those who experience chronic homelessness often have a disability (such as physical and/or mental illness) which makes housing options difficult, according the US Dept of Housing & Urban Development (HUD). Short term reasons can range. For example, in my home city of Indianapolis, factors contributing to homelessness include abuse/domestic violence and felony convictions.

And…your website quote of “Or will you be the one who will be hungry and cold because you refuse to ask or work for what you need?” in regards to training students to ask for help…do you believe that people experience homelessness because they refuse to ask for help or work for what they need?

7. Following on that, this marketing is incredibly infantilizing. Campus Speak’s website is double trouble for its trite description of daily life ‘insight’ into the lives of “homeless people”.  Do you think it is appropriate to describe any group facing oppression and reduced resources in America by saying they “can be seen standing on street corners, watching the traffic pass, and the world spin around them”  ??!!

kanye are you serious right now

8. Campus Speak core values: “We Will be Advocates for Students and the Professionals Who Work with Them”. Just wanted to check, are you just trying to advocate for just the privileged identities of students and professionals, or marginalized identities too?

Recommendations to the Higher Education Community

I know there are some folks out there who saw that email and thought “Ooh, that sounds like a good idea. Very inspirational. I bet our students would enjoy it!” And then they would throw down several thousand bucks and their students would hear a presentation about how awesome “homeless people” are and how they ask for what they need, which helps them be successful (??) and golly gee, that’s what they should all do within their student organizations! The students exit the presentation with the idea reaffirmed (planted there originally by society and the media, cuz systematic issues and all that) that “homeless people” are other and they exist to make us feel better about ourselves.

I do not want that to happen.

This blog post isn’t about burning Campus Speak or Sara Lowery. Quite honestly, I want more women speaking on the circuit (the current CS speakers are mostly men; 26 men to 16 women). But I do not want this presentation performed for any human out there (aliens are fine, I guess).

1. Do not hire Sara Lowery to give the “Will Work For Leadership Presentation” as long as it is based on the crude observations of people experiencing homelessness.

2. Really, truly critically analyze Campus Speak speakers and reconsider if contracting with them is your best choice. Clearly several someones in management had to think “Yeah! Homeless People! Leadership! Good message!” to green-light this presentation and thereafter market in such a vile and offensive manner. I am not that familiar with Campus Speak or their speakers, but I will critically assess any proposals to partner at my campus. There are many other speaking agencies out there and many messages can be modified for the college audience.

3. Sara Lowery: Please stop delivering a presentation that exploits the lives of people experiencing homelessness. If you want to speak on how student leaders need to improve their communication skills, please modify your approach. It’s a great topic, but it’s your approach that is problematic In addition, I think this is a great opportunity to become better educated on the topic of homelessness. In Salisbury, MA there are some local shelters and several organizations accepting volunteers that work with homelessness and affordable housing.

4. Campus Speak: I would strongly advise you to work on educating all staff members on the topic of homelessness in order to abide by your Core Values. A company that was founded in 1999 and works closely within higher education, likely is aware that social justice is a core component of student affairs. Since you are based in Aurora, CO, here is a list of “Homelessness Assistance Programs“; they even have a pdf “Aurora Homeless Resource Guide”. There are a good number of organizations, which likely indicates that homelessness is a issue in your city. Better yet, I encourage you to spend some time volunteering! There are 106 opportunities to volunteer for organizations supporting homelessness in Aurora.

Overall, I’m offended. Those I’ve shared the initial email with have been offended. Presentations and marketing like this only contribute to the ills of society and reinforce systemic oppression.

Do better.

Dear Dr. Doti: On Policies that Perpetuate Racism at Chapman University

Dear James Doti, President of Chapman University,

Hello. We don’t know each other, but we do look a little bit alike. Well, I mean our gender, socioeconomic status, and age are different, as is our keen fashion sense (me in flowy dresses, you in some pretty sweet suits – kudos, btw), but we’re both white.

Eek. I know. You don’t see race.

I probably appear rude for pointing it out – that I’m white and you’re white. I know you mentioned your prescribed world view and policy mindset of colorblindness on several occasions; quoted in The Panther on 9/8/14, your editorial regarding The Panther’s comments on 9/15/14, and your editorial on Affirmative Action on 4/27/03.

You want to see a world where racial discrimination does not occur. That is so awesome. It’s important that someone in your position believes this.

I must inform you, however, that your views and actions perpetuate racism – not erase it.

Further, while your beliefs and policies may be well intentioned, they actually go against what has been presented in higher education research. Sir, you are not operating along best practices guidelines. Quite frankly, your ideology is harmful to students (both white students and students of color) and that is why I, some random higher education professional in the Midwest, saw it imperative to write this post in order to address, point by point, your September 15th editorial to The Panther.

[Disclaimer: Let me clarify before I continue: I see this as an open letter but also as a blog post intended to generate conversation on the topic. Dr. Doti is not the only higher education professional or decision maker in the world with this seemingly innocuous yet irrefutably harmful worldview. My communicative style will be casual and could be interpreted at times as disrespectful in either tone, word, or image. I assure you none is intended. I just believe that a humorous tone is sometimes the best in blog posts.]

[Note: In the time since I wrote this, Chapman students have responded in the student newspaper to Dr. Doti’s editorial.  Seniors K.B. Jenny Kim and James David Ruby both wrote responses, as well as former student Sonja Lund.]


1. The Value of Multicultural Centers


I would like to know where you have found this research because I am quite unsure if it exists. In fact, it is the opposite. There is so much research on the value of cultural centers – whether they are cultural centers for specific ethnic groups (African American/Black, Latin@, Asian, Native American), a multicultural center (meant to support all students of color/underrepresented identities), or culture centers for other marginalized identities (Hillel, LGBTQ+, International, Women).

Focusing on multicultural centers (or any center supporting students of color), these are a vehicle for providing social, emotional, and academic support. They are effective as recruitment and retention tools. Additionally, they promote ethnic solidarity.

I know. The words ethnic solidarity probably make you squeamish. But I promise that it’s not about ‘kill whitey’. See, students of color at predominantly white institutions (PWIs) face ‘straight-up racism’ (you know – the kind we tend to identify easily, like what’s been happening in Ferguson – as you took note of in your editorial) as well as microaggressions (Buzzfeed, NYT, Microaggressions Project) and other incidents related to systemic racism.

From a historical perspective regarding Black Culture Centers, African American students saw these centers as “’an island in a sea of whiteness’ that offered them a sense of identity and protection in an environment which they saw as hostile or indifferent” (Young, p. 13). These centers “were designed to help African American students on predominantly white campuses cope with the alienation, loneliness, and isolation, which so many often felt and still tend to feel” (Princes, p. 18).  “Today, particularly during this time of demographic change, cultural centers have been pivotal in providing safe havens for ethnic minority student groups who have traditionally been denied full access and, in most instances, any access to PWIs” (Jones, Castellanos, & Cole, 2002, p. 21).

While I am sure that your goal is to have all Chapman students feel fully integrated (and not just your 58% white students), I am making an educated guess that not all students of color (SOC) feel that way; my guess is educated, mind you, because it draws on numerous articles examining the experiences of SOC at public and private universities. Clearly, according to Chapman’s newspaper, there are a good number of Chapman students who do feel there is a need for a multicultural center.

2. “The Fundamental Flaw”

You believe there is a fundamental flaw in designating a specific location for discussing multicultural issues. I get that. Perhaps you believe that if you designate one area as the “Multicultural Center” then you will be saying, in essence that there is only one space to discuss multicultural issues. That you are limiting the conversation by creating the center.

Truthfully, that is one flaw at most universities. Cultural Centers are funded and then everyone considers diversity to be ‘their job’. Instead of undertaking the work to integrate diversity and multiculturalism into all areas of an institution, folks rely on the ‘diversity people’ to get the job done.

And yet.

At the end of the day, at least students have one place to discuss cultural issues. One place that feels like it is their own. One place where the space is safe(r).

Does your university have at least one space?

You see, by not designating any space as a ‘multicultural center’, you are not necessarily opening and maintaining other opportunities for dialogue on race, culture, ethnicity, and racism on your campus.

~~Racism is scary~~

It’s not something we want to talk about, as humans. Especially white humans.

So it makes sense that we don’t go out of our way to discuss it.

Ultimately: You are not neglecting dialogue on multiculturalism by creating one space in a multicultural center. You are creating a ground zero for discussion that can have ripple effects on the rest of the university. With no intentionally created ‘one space’ there is no space at all.

3. “Ghetto”

doti 4

Dr. Doti, I understand that the word ‘ghetto’ is defined as “to restrict to an isolated area or group”. I am sure it was not your intention to use a racial and classist slur.

However, intent does not equal impact.

For example, if I’m doing the dishes and I break my grandmother’s prized crystal wine glass, I did something wrong. I did not intend to break her prized glass, but I did. And while I can try to superglue those fragments back together, the glass will never look the same. Ultimately, I just have to admit I was wrong, learn enhanced washing techniques (maybe research some best practices scrubbing skills), and do better in the future.

“Ghetto” has never had a positive connotation. NPR’s Code Switch explores the etymology of the word in the article ‘Segregated From Its History, How ‘Ghetto’ Lost Its Meaning’. “In the 16th and 17th centuries, cities like Venice, Frankfurt, Prague and Rome forcibly segregated their Jewish populations, often walling them off and submitting them to onerous restrictions” (Domonoske, 2014, para 3).

Post-World War II and ‘white flight’ or large urban areas, “ghettos” referred to areas of black and brown bodies living in low-income households. Ghetto has been a slang word for decades. Please don’t tell me that you are unaware of how loaded this word is in American society.

doti-8 ghetto

really capt america

Dr. Doti. Stop. Please.

You cannot just keep throwing this word around.


4. White Privilege
doti-10 - naive

Yes, yes, and yes. I do believe that after reading your editorial (unfair, I know, but what would you have me do?) and I do agree that racism does exist.

Your ‘truth’ is your lived experience. You believe what you believe due to how you were raised by family/household, in schools, what you saw in media, and your overall life events.

I need you to understand that you may be operating from a singular perspective. As you read above, there are multiple reasons why multicultural centers are needed on campus. As you continue reading below, please pay particular attention to my remarks on colorblindness.


5. Enrollment Management Best Practices?

doti-14 0 bad plan

First, thank you.

I do commend you on wanting to direct more money towards scholarships for low-income students of color.

However (you knew that was coming, didn’t you), you are overlooking something. Your plan will bring more students of color to campus….but will they stay?

Currently Chapman University’s retention rates for first-time freshmen from fall to fall are 91% and the six-year graduation rate is 72%. These are healthy rates – par for the course for most private institutions. Yet as we know, persistence rates for students of color do increase with programs that support their identity – such as a multicultural center.

It may be worth it to examine the 28% of students who leave the institution, what their backgrounds are, and their experiences at Chapman in order to understand why they left and what factors were at play.


doti-99 - sounds pretty
I don’t understand how this helps students who are asking for a multicultural center on campus because they desire more support for students of color.

I recognize that Chapman University has students from over 60 countries so in that regard (and because yay global society), courses on global studies and world cultures would be great. But what about some increased courses in ethnic studies so students can examine race & culture from a domestic lens? While I see some within the sociology department, it looks like there could be an increased focus (I am an outsider, I recognize this, and only know what your website tells me).

As for study abroad – this may help students build empathy towards cultural and racial differences, but I do feel these additions within your editorial distract from the overall message that underrepresented students are requesting further support on your campus.

6. MLK is More Than “I Have a Dream”

doti-100000 - mlk

Sir, if you would allow me to be your socially-aware public relations manager for a moment, I urge you to refrain from ending any editorial regarding race and culture with a quote from MLK. It speaks of an eagerness to pander to those that care about racial justice and represent yourself as a ‘white man that gets it’.

MLK is more than his ‘Dream’ speech. He was a radical that has been sanctified since his death as someone who just wanted us all to get along. And above all, I do not believe it right when my fellow white folk use his words to plead for colorblindness.


7. Now for the Heart of the Matter: On Colorblindness.

Dr. Doti, when you embrace ‘colorblindness’, you are embracing racism.

This realization is growing as writers at places like Psychology Today and Policy Mic are discovering this; however it is rooted in academia, under interdisciplinary areas of Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT grew out of critical legal studies and has been innovated within education, women’s studies, sociology, and other fields.

“Furthermore, the notion of colorblindness fails to take into consideration the persistence and permanence of racism and the construction of people of color as Other… Furthermore, CRT scholars argue that colorblindness has been adopted as a way to justify ignoring and dismantling race-based policies that were designed to address societal inequity (Gotanda, 1991).

In other words, arguing that society should be colorblind ignores the fact that inequity, inopportunity, and oppression are historical artifacts that will not easily be remedied by ignoring race in the contemporary society. Moreover, adopting a colorblind ideology does not eliminate the possibility that racism and racist acts will persist” (DeCuir & Dixson, 2004, p. 29)

Or, if you want to ignore CRT scholars, consider what one of Chapman’s students told to a The Panther reporter in regards to your statement on colorblindness: “That triggers me so much. As humans, we see color, that is what it is,” said George. “Oh, so you don’t see me? They’re choosing to be ignorant that I am black.”

You may not want to notice race, Dr. Doti, because perhaps it is the ‘professional’ thing to do or maybe because you took MLK’s words to heart. But no matter what you want to believe, there are many different (socially-constructed) races and in America us white folk have a lot of privilege – such as the privilege to ignore race.

(a fantastic entry into understanding white privilege, btw, is ‘Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack‘. Also, try attending some events and locations where you are the only white person. See if you notice race then).

8. Conclusion.
Dr. Doti, please accept this message with an open heart and open mind. I do appreciate other areas of your leadership – in particular I appreciated your The Panther editorial on 11/6/11 on equality marriage. However, I was very disturbed to read your comments and thought some discussion was in order – and not just for you, but hopefully the many folks out there in education who believe the way you do and believe the way I do.

Also, since Chapman is a Disciples of Christ affiliated church, I felt more obligation to write for that denomination has been a key part of my life at one moment in time (upon moving to a new city, it looks like I may be Methodist..ah, church shopping! But that is another tale…)


DeCuir, J. T., & Dixson, A. D. (2004). ” So When It Comes Out, They Aren’t That Surprised That It Is There”: Using Critical Race Theory as a Tool of Analysis of Race and Racism in Education. Educational researcher, 26-31.

Jones, L., Castellanos, J., & Cole, D. (2002). Examining the ethnic minority student experience at predominantly White institutions: A case study. Journal of Hispanic Higher Education, 1(1), 19-39.

Princes, C.D.W. (1994). The Precarious Question of Black Cultural Centers versus Multicultural Centers. Annual Conference of the Pennsylvania Black Conference on Higher Education (Harrisburg, PA, March 2-5, 1994).

Resource Guide to Better Understanding Race in Higher Education
(adapted from my Critical Race Theory class syllabi, summer semester 2013, by Dr. Lori Patton Davis

Yosso,  T.  (2002).  Toward  a  critical  race  curriculum.  Equity &  Excellence  in  Education,  35(2),  93-¬‐107.

Teranishi,  R.  T.  (2010).  Asian  Pacific  Americans  and  critical  race  theory:  An  examination  of  school racial  climate.  Equity  &  Excellence  in  Education,  35(2),  144-¬‐154.

Gildersleeve,  R.  E.,  Croom  ,N.N.,  &  Vasquez,  P.  (2011).  “Am  I  going  crazy?!”:  A  critical  race  analysis  of  doctoral  education.  Equity  &  Excellence  in  Education,  44(1),  93-¬‐114.

Harper,  S.  R.  (2009).  Niggers  no  more:  A  critical  race  counternarrative  on  black  male  student  achievement  at  predominantly  white  colleges  and  universities.  International Journal  of  Qualitative  Studies  in  Education,  22 (6),  697-¬‐712.

Yosso,  T.  J.,  Smith,  W.  A.,  Ceja,  M.,  &  Solorzano,  D.  G.  (2009).  Critical  race  theory,  racial
microaggressions,  and  campus  racial  climate  for  Latina/o  undergraduates.  Harvard Educational  Review,  79(4),  659-¬‐690

Ladson-­Billings,  G.,  &  Tate,  W.  G.  (1995).  Toward  a  critical  race  theory  of  education.  Teachers College  Record,  97(1),  47-­‐68