I recently read this piece in Inside Higher Ed.
It is an article written about Dr. Jonathan Higgins, a well known Queer Person of Color educator and colleague I greatly respect. I had the chance to hear him present at NASPA nationals on the QTPOC (Queer Trans Person of Color) experience. The article explains that the Claremont Colleges’ fired Dr. Higgins after becoming aware of tweets he had written expressing his thoughts on LGBTQ whiteness and white feminism. As a person of color I read his tweets and can confirm he said nothing that not one queer person of color has not said/thought before. I can only imagine his personal experience as a Black Queer man. While we could debate how social media is used, I rather focus on how freedom of speech is being misrepresented. This is the third time in a month someone at a college has been threatened/fired for sharing their personal experiences as a person of color.
President Kruger, this field was not meant for student affairs professionals like Dr. Higgins or myself. I know that as I have been on enough search committees to hear about who is a right “fit” and who is not. To the people of color, none of this is a surprise. We are told that diversity is valued. Yet, when it comes to having queer and/or people of color work at educational institutions we cannot thrive professionally because when we dare to speak our truth, our jobs are threatened. When we offer various perspectives, we are silenced and we are left wondering how can we begin our job if we cannot begin a challenging conversation with our students, staff and faculty.
I could write to you about all the personal efforts I have been making and the hours I give to volunteering on behalf of the Gender and Sexuality Knowledge Community or as the Diversity and Inclusion coordinator for NASPA Region I, but my work will not matter unless the organization and folks at the top of NASPA support student affairs professionals of color. Until we are told that our colleagues will join us in dismantling the oppressive foundation that education has been set on, we cannot move forward.
I cannot continue to hear that black men and women are leaving this field because of racism. I am asking for the following:
- Let members of NASPA know that using freedom of speech to silence student affairs professionals is unethical.
- Highlight and greatly market webinars where we focus on diversity topics such as hiring diverse candidates, how institutions can survey campus climates, or think about how they welcome people of color to their institution.
- Create space for those who work in Multicultural affairs or representing marginalized identities.
- Highlight the work of the Equity, Inclusion and Social Justice committee.
President Kruger, I’ll be honest. I stayed silent too long. Over the years, I have watched many of my colleagues of color leave this field after being humiliated, undervalued and underpaid. Dr. Higgins was not the first to be fired for sharing his point of view and he will not be the last. My question is, which one of my colleagues is next?
Julia R. Golden-Battle
Director of NASPA Region I Ubuntu Institute
NASPA Region I Diversity Initiatives Coordinator
National Co-chair of the Gender and Sexuality Knowledge Community