Archive for December 2011

Where the Right goes Wrong

December 13, 2011

I want to start this most recent post with a few general comments so people know where I’m coming from on this so they don’t jump to conclusions.

First, I’m a registered republican.  GASP.  A gay man working in student affairs who self-discloses that he is a republican?!?!  Say WHAT?  Despite being a registered republican, that does not mean that I vote blindly along party lines, especially in recent years as I’ve seen true republican ideals hijacked by an extreme right-wing focusing solely on religious issues, forcing a growing number of people in the Republican Party to vote for the Democratic Party as “the lesser of two evils.”  It seems that this concept is beginning more and more prevalent in our political system, as the two sides can’t even agree on the most minor of issues.

So, you’re probably asking why am I writing about politics.  The short answer is that after watching GOP presidential candidate Rick Perry’s “Strong” video on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0PAJNntoRgA) I had an instant desire to speak my mind on what I perceive as true Republican values, and to dispel the idiocy that is coming from candidates who appear to be working to pander to a small, but vocal, minority of people and special interests groups who have absolutely no desire to spread true religious ideas, but to impose their personal interpretations of religious texts onto others.  With that said, here are a few “basic” ideas that I feel identify me as a true Republican, lessons that I hope the Republican Party will remember in order to come to their senses and attempt to repair the years of damage they have caused.

Role of Government: True republicans believe in the power of local and state government.  Likewise, I believe that the most meaningful changes for our communities can come from these two smaller entities.  In broad strokes, the federal government should provide oversight and guidance to local governments, but shouldn’t legislate in ways that hinder the economic abilities of local communities, towns, and even large cities.  The people of these areas are best suited to be involved in making decisions that will impact their lives.  The current GOP candidates are more concerned about eliminating entire agencies in the federal government to score cheap points then they are in actually solving the problems facing our country (and plus, if we were to eliminate these federal agencies as some candidates have suggested, how is that going to help the economic recovery?  Still haven’t received an answer to that question yet….)

Economic Prosperity: I do believe in the power of the market, as most republicans do.  With that said, I do not believe we should continue to add more and more corporate tax loopholes for major corporations.  If we as consumers decide to buy a product, the company that makes the product should pay the applicable taxes.  Whether a local business or a multinational corporation, all businesses have a direct hand in providing jobs, infusing money into local economies, and providing goods and services that we as consumers have decided are necessary.  We can’t blame companies for using the systems currently in place.  Corporations did not enact laws giving tax loopholes and other incentives, we did, by allowing our congressmen and senators to approve these measures.  While I recognize lobbying money plays an influence, I would refer you again to the question, who allowed lobbying to become so pervasive…..congressmen and senators that we as voters have failed to send to retirement or other career options for not standing up for our interests.

Term Limits: Not necessarily solely a republican value, but this is something that national polls indicate is a growing issue for the majority of Americans.  While not always the most “fair and balanced” organization, in 2010, a Fox News poll indicated that 78% of Americans favored setting term limits on Congress.  This idea makes sense for a number of reasons.  First, we do it for the president, and if all three branches of government are supposed to be equal, why wouldn’t we do the same for Congress?  Second, politics is supposed to be about a call to service, NOT a career.  Politicians should serve their constituents for a specified maximum amount of time, or until a particular interest to their constituents is resolved, and then leave the political arena.  Third, term limits would ensure that new ideas, new faces, and hopefully more diverse candidates would enter politics instead of the current system where over 75% of Congress is a millionaire, and an overwhelming number of members are white, heterosexual, men.  Is this really the best representation of our country?

LGBT Military Service: I can’t believe this is still an issue, even after DADT was revoked.  Perry’s “Strong” video is a direct attack on the men and women who are LGBT and serve our country.  In fact, at a recent GOP debate (I can’t remember which one, as the GOP debates are so numerous that it appears to have turned into a new reality series I’d like to dub “True Life: The Hot Mess Express”), not one of the candidates came to the defense of a service member who asked about the repeal of DADT.  My thoughts are simple, for those of you who don’t like the idea of LGBT people serving in the military, how about you get off your ass, put on a uniform, and put your life on the line for your country?  If you’re not willing to do that, then back off, and let these brave men and women serve the country that they love, cause you apparently aren’t willing to put your money where your mouth is.

Gay Marriage: I’ve never understood the argument against gay marriage.  Those people who say it goes against their religion MAY have a validate opinion in the context of their religious beliefs.  However, the key factor here is: LGBT people don’t want to get married in your church, we want to get married as a civil right in which we receive the same benefits (economic, social, medical, etc) as every other American.  There seems to be an inability by some to separate the religious and the civil constructs of marriage.  I respect the religious arguments surrounding homosexuality (I don’t agree with them, but I respect a person’s right to faith and to believe what they want), but that doesn’t mean that one particular religious groups beliefs should be enforced on our entire country, a country that I might add was founded on the right of each person to practice their own religion, and to the “rights” of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Tell you what, you don’t infringe on my right to pursue happiness, and I won’t infringe on yours (I’m talking to you Newt Gingrich….tell me, what’s more dangerous to marriage, allowing two men or two women who love each other to get married as an expression of that love, or someone like you who has proven multiple times that he cannot remain faithful and respectful to his wives and the institution of marriage?)

In closing, I’d like to leave everyone with a reminder by someone the Right still considers to be one of our best leaders, Ronald Reagan.  While the quote below focuses mainly on church and state, if you focus on the word “belief” in the broadest sense of the word, it demonstrates that true republicans believe in personal freedom and choice, something I am proud to say I believe in.

“We establish no religion in this country, we command no worship, we mandate no belief. Nor will we ever. Church and state are, and must remain, separate. All are free to believe or not believe, all are free to practice a faith or not, and those who believe are free and should be free, to speak of and act on their belief. At the same time as our constitution prohibits state religion, establishment of it protects the free exercise of all religions. And walking this fine line requires government to be strictly neutral.”


Assessing Skill Development in Student Affairs

December 2, 2011

This morning, I read a quick news bullet on Inside Higher Ed noting that President Obama has invited the presidents of several colleges and universities to the White House for a discussion on “affordability and productivity in higher education.”  While I wholeheartedly agree that the affordability of higher education is an issue that needs to be addressed as quickly as possible (but won’t be covered in my blog today), the addition of the word productivity caused me to pause.  There has been a push in recent years to make higher education “more accountable” to the public, and one of those means has been to increase assessment and demonstrate that the work we do in higher education has value and contributes to the holistic development of our students.

In student affairs, we have, in the past, been slow to jump on this bandwagon.  However, in an era of shrinking budgets, political maneuvering for scarce resources and the need to maintain and grow programs that we know are having impacts, assessment has become a core value of many student affairs divisions and departments.  The larger problem with assessment is that our current efforts to assess student learning, co-curricular programs and other initiatives are failing to assess what businesses and employers are looking for in their perspective employee base.

Forbes annually publishes a list of skills/traits that employers have rated as the most important skills for new employees.  The most recent list includes the following seven skills:

1.)    Communication Skills – the ability to listen, empathize, and respond to others.

2.)    Creativity – The ability to easily adapt and adjust to multiple roles and projects in the workplace

3.)    Curiosity and Engagement – Employees who will ask “Why?” and “How?” questions and will look at processes, operations, and systems critically and offer suggestions for improvement

4.)    Writing Ability – Regardless of whether sending e-mails, memos, proposals, reports, or even texts, you are still engaged in professional correspondence which should reflect clear thinking.

5.)    Teamwork – Being able to build a team, establish common goals and responsibilities, and most importantly, address conflicts fairly, quickly, and directly.

6.)    Re-engineering Skills – Being willing to learn new skills on the job and take on new tasks and projects not normally under your area of responsibility.

7.)    Computer Skills – The ability to utilize hardware and software to augment your productivity.

As a graduate of a small, private, liberal arts college, I am proud to say that most of these skills were taught not only by my faculty members and academic program where I was required to take a variety of courses outside of my major (history), but also by my mentors and advisors in the division of student life.  Student affairs professionals are vital players in ensuring that we are equipping our students with many of these “soft” and “hard” skills so they can be successful in ANY career field, as all of the above mentioned skills/traits are the type of transferable skills that every employer wants their employees to possess in one way, shape, or form.

I know that at my current institution, we have had trouble articulating and measuring ways in which we help students learn these skills, so I am curious how colleagues at other institutions have incorporated assessing these variables into their overall assessment plans.  Any help or advice is, as always, greatly appreciated!