NACAC 2017: A Recap

Make no mistake: diversity and inclusion were the most-discussed topics at NACAC 2017 in Boston. The opening keynote, helmed by Dr. Shaun Harper of the University of Southern California, burned four words into my mind: “This, too, is racism.” His speech, before thousands of professionals, gave me chills as he spilled truth after truth. Inside Higher Ed wrote an excellent recap. I am unable to match his words and the passion with which he spoke them, but I’d like to highlight two concepts he touched upon:

  1. He explained how students of color are routinely underserved by the people who should be looking out for them in their high schools. Dr. Harper spoke of undermatching and how minority students are routinely discouraged by authority figures from applying to top colleges or universities.
  2. Harper challenged admission offices to become more inclusive in their hiring and to be reflective of prospective students.

If you’d like to follow Dr. Harper on Twitter, I recommend it.

Other sessions at the conference focused very much on how institutions can permanently enshrine a commitment to diversity within their campus climate. An emphasis was made on needing to build strategic plans. Senior leaders challenged their peers to take on diversity and inclusion as one of their personal burdens to bear – to use the privilege they may have in society to assist people who enjoy less privilege.

One senior leader noted that this approach has resulted in tangible results for her university’s Muslim students: hosting relevant programs during Ramadan, installing reflection rooms for prayer, and training student tour guides to be culturally fluent.

In terms that may seem stark, it was also pointed out that diversity and inclusion make good business sense. Enrollment growth and retention can follow a smart strategic plan.

David Burge, who took over as president of NACAC at the conference, immediately used his position to stand up for what’s right. Here is a short blurb from a NACAC press release:

In his first speech as NACAC’s top elected leader, Burge challenged his colleagues to promote opportunity for all individuals. He also applauded the association’s recent advocacy work, including efforts made on behalf of undocumented students.”

“We oppose ending Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals in the strongest possible terms,” Burge said, earning roaring applause from attendees at NACAC’s Annual Membership Meeting. “We will be champions for these students, supporting legislation and appropriate legal action at every turn.”

Next year’s conference will take place in Salt Lake City.

***

Ryan Collins is an admission counselor at Baldwin Wallace University.

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Department of Education Policies… Is there a bias towards underrepresented students?

Whether it be federal financial aid applications and tools, student loan reform and repayment, school choice, public higher education funding, federal TRIO programs, or Title IX, all eyes are on the Department of Education. While I cannot cover all of these topics in one short blog post, I will shed light on a few that hit close to home.

Financial Aid

When it comes to federal financial aid there have been many discussions. First a very abrupt suspension of the IRS Data Retrieval Tool which allows students to import family income data already filed with the government when completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid. To this point some may argue that this has adversely affected low-income families’ ability to successfully apply for federal financial aid. According to NASFAA (National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators) the suspending of the DRT has been proven to have an adversarial effect on low-income students.

Update: The IRS Data Retrieval Tool has been made available for loan repayment purposes but not students, parents, or borrowers.

College Access Government Funded Programs

The Federal TRIO Programs (TRIO) are Federal outreach and student services programs designed to identify and provide services for individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds. TRIO includes eight programs targeted to serve and assist low-income individuals, first-generation college students, and individuals with disabilities to progress through the academic pipeline from middle school to post- baccalaureate programs.

The importance of supporting programs like TRIO are crucial to the access and success piece within higher education.  Programs like Upward Bound which has been around since 1964, and under the new Department of Education leadership may now be subject to funding cuts. There is a rising number of cuts to public education for at risk districts which are already feeling the stress of being understaffed, any further cuts to college access program can spell disaster for underrepresented student populations.

Update: Previously, under the direction of Secretary Betsy DeVos, the U.S. Department of Education denied funding to programs on 44 campuses due to double-space or font mishaps (listed on the application). In light of recent circumstances, however, the currently imperiled Upward Bound programs across the country may be safe, at least for now. Last week, during her testimony in front of the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, Secretary DeVos committed to reconsider the ineligible applications using funds and direction provided by Congress in the 2017 omnibus spending bill. – Inside Higher Ed

Protections for LGBT Students under Federal Law

Just to recap a few key points on Title IX:

Title IX

When looking at the infographic take note that the new parameters regarding gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation are included in the updated Title IX Resource Guide published by Office for Civil Rights, thus requiring colleges to provide equal access to LGBT students. So when leadership within the Department of Education makes comments that are detrimental the protections that should be in place according to federal law when an institution is receiving federal funds. According to an article authored by Andrew Kreighbaum it was stated that:

“Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, in front of a Senate subcommittee last week, had noticeably changed her tune, telling senators repeatedly that any school receiving federal funding is required to follow federal law. That assurance came with a pretty big caveat, however. Pressed by Democrats on how she would protect the rights of LGBT students, DeVos said in areas where the law is “unsettled,” which she said included issues of bias against gay people, her department would not be “issuing decrees.”

Taking oral statements and written law into consideration makes for a contradictory view on this matter by the Department of Education.

When looking at the full scope of policy implications, we need to ask ourselves are these policies beneficial to students? Additionally are we moving towards more or less accessibility when it comes to higher education opportunities? Education professionals need to be well versed on how federal and state policies can affect the success and persistence of students K through 12 and beyond. It is our charge as professionals to remove roadblocks for students pursuing higher education.

 

By: Courtney Johnson-Benson, M.A.Ed.

Senior Assistant Director of Admissions

The University of Akron

Preferred Pronouns

Cultural competence is paramount in the admissions and recruitment process. It is even more imperative to continue this competency throughout the enrollment process and campus placement. Continual education and diversity training are key components in working with students and their families.

Many colleges and universities are making strides in becoming even more sensitive and inclusive of diverse students. Asking for a students preferred pronoun, having unisex bathrooms on campus, and providing LGBTQQA* Living-Learning Communities are just a few of the examples of fostering a community of inclusion and diversity on college campuses. Education professionals can also embrace inclusivity in daily interactions with students, faculty, and staff by using preferred pronouns.

What exactly are preferred pronouns?

A “preferred gender pronoun” (or PGP) is the pronoun that a person chooses to use for themself.

For example: If Xena’s preferred pronouns are she, her, and hers, you could say “Xena ate her food because she was hungry.”

 There are also lots of gender-neutral pronouns in use.

Here are a few you might hear:

They, them, theirs (Xena ate their food because they were hungry.) This is a pretty common gender-neutral pronoun. It can in fact be used in the singular.

Ze, hir (Xena ate hir food because ze was hungry.)
Ze is pronounced like “zee” can also be spelled zie or xe, and replaces she/he/they.
Hir is pronounced like “here” and replaces her/hers/him/his/they/theirs.

Why is it important to respect people’s PGPs?

You can’t always know what someone’s PGP is by looking at them.

Asking and correctly using someone’s preferred pronoun is one of the most basic ways to show your respect for their gender identity* (Gender Identity-One’s innermost concept of self as male or female or both or neither—how individuals perceive themselves and what they call themselves. One’s gender identity can be the same or different than the sex assigned at birth.)

When someone is referred to with the wrong pronoun, it can make them feel disrespected, invalidated, dismissed, alienated, or dysphoric (or, often, all of the above.)

It is a privilege to not have to worry about which pronoun someone is going to use for you based on how they perceive your gender. If you have this privilege, yet fail to respect someone else’s gender identity, it is not only disrespectful and hurtful, but also oppressive.

It is imperative for higher education professionals to recognize and respect the diversity of students we are recruiting; this could mean the difference between a student feeling safe, included, and respected at your institution. We are a representation of the institution we work with and first impressions are lasting.

Useful resources:
http://forge-forward.org/
http://www.transstudent.org/graphics
http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2015/03/the-genderbread-person-v3/
https://uwm.edu/lgbtrc/support/gender-pronouns/

 References:
Understanding Gender. (n.d.). Retrieved April 01, 2016, from https://www.genderspectrum.org/quick-links/understanding-gender/

Mateo Medina. (2011). Hampshire College Orientation Training-Materials [Brochure]. Author. Retrieved April 1, 2016.

Courtney Johnson-Benson, M.A.Ed.
Assistant Director of Admissions
Coordinator of Multicultural Recruitment
The University of Akron
caj4@uakron.edu

Diversity Training in the Workplace

While universities enact policies to maintain compliant with diversity and institutional equity, in efforts to promote inclusivity and an ethical model concerning multiculturalism; offices and departments must ensure that they are doing their own part to remain committed to diversity. In a climate where university administrations are being taken to task for the lack of diversity in institutions or for poor responses to racially hostile environments and race-conscious admission policies are under particular scrutiny, offices being proactive instead of reactive can lead to benefits for the office, staff, and student body.

Diversity Training can come in many forms (e.g. workshops, conferences, one-off meetings, ongoing training programs) and can cover a variety of content (e.g. microagressions, types of diversity, sensitivity training, communication among differences). Trainings can be held internally or by external representatives, but no matter the setup, it should be a key component in the ongoing training of individuals in the workplace. Further, research indicates that an ongoing diversity training program in workplaces is one of the most effective means to promote diversity in your workplace . “It should be something that all departments within the company take part in, and that all department managers are held accountable to enforce and encourage. By making diversity a company-wide initiative, it includes all employees and helps to widen the appeal of diversity to the workforce” (Root, 2016).

But why is it important? One could easily write a book (and there are many readily available) about the essentialness of diversity training. In particular, diversity training in the workplace works to serve and support not only the office, but also individual staff, students, and clients. Implementing training can boost the morale of staff during periods when a campus is struggling with diversity issues, showing that your office not only values diversity, but is willing to take action to make sure staff embrace and support such values. But it is always better for offices to be proactive instead of reactive. Offices should not wait for a protest, a damaging article, or even an internal complaint to take steps to promote diversity and instigate training. Having diversity training shows that your office supports your diverse staff, which is particularly important when you want to retain those talented individuals. It promotes inclusivity and will help staff members recognize behaviors that could potentially create an uncomfortable or hostile environment for other staff, student workers, students, or visitors. Training can assist in making the hiring process more inclusive and finding more diverse talent to bring to your office. It is especially important for admission offices to ensure that their staff members are culturally competent and able to effectively converse with individuals of all background to ensure the appropriate level of service and ability to effectively recruit all types of students to your campus.

Root, G.N. “The best practices of diversity training.” Accessed February 19, 2016. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/practices-diversity-training-1851.html

 

Nicole Williams
Transfer Credit and Articulation Analyst
Ohio University
willian3@ohio.edu

[News Brief] The Supreme Court heard arguments in Fisher vs University of Texas – Austin

On December 9th, the Supreme Court heard arguments in Fisher vs University of Texas – Austin.  The case questions the legality of a race-conscious college admission plan.  The Court is expected to issue a decision in June 2016.  Below are two resources that may be of interest.

NACAC’s Admitted Blog post on yesterday’s hearing:  http://www.nacacnet.org/learning/communities/Admitted/Lists/Posts/Post.aspx?ID=698

NACAC’s Diversity in Admission:
http://www.nacacnet.org/issues-action/LegislativeNews/Pages/Diversity-in-Admission.aspx

Please let me know if you have any questions or would like additional information.

Michael Rose
Associate Director for Government Relations
National Association for College Admission Counseling
1050 N. Highland St., Suite 400  |  Arlington, VA 22201
mrose@nacacnet.org  |  nacacnet.org  |  @nacacwonk
703.299.6817