Thoughts from a (new) professional
When I first considered entering the field of student affairs and pursuing a graduate education, a colleague and friend invited me to join the SAPro Facebook group with the intention of getting connected to others engaging in this work. I spent time scrolling through the page, imagining a day when I, too, could identify as a Student Affairs Professional and contribute to the group. This wasn’t so long ago. As I prepare to walk for my M.Ed this June, I find myself keeping an arm’s length from the SAPro FB group. As a professional in higher education marketing communications specializing in social media communications, I still keep tabs on the group because it blends two worlds that are central to my practice—digital media and student affairs.
My work is all about strategy development. Planning out goals and objectives are a part of any solid social media strategy or marketing campaign. If I were to evaluate a contributing factor to dissatisfaction amongst group members, it would be a lack of core goals and objectives for this massive group of 25,000 plus. With so many people in the field flocking to this single page, folks bring different expectations of the page’s purpose. It’s difficult for me to put into words the core purpose of the SAPro Facebook page—and, in the future, I hope the page’s purpose becomes more clear. As a young professional with a mix of marginalized and privileged identities, much of the content I’ve seen the last couple of years has given me pause.
Interactions on social media tend to be microcosms of offline realities. While some members on the page have expressed shock at the amount of work we have to do in the profession, particularly surrounding valuing the voices of those with marginalized identities, checking privilege and unpacking white supremacy, I have not been surprised—the climate of the group acts as a digital reflection of issues within the student affairs field at large. The way members show up and interact on the page speaks to the ways student affairs practitioners engage in real life, including ageism at conferences, questionable hiring practices, approaches to discussing intergenerational working relationships and our students, mentorship about professionalism, and varied ideas about how social justice is meant to show up in our work.
What does accountability look like for those who invalidate other’s experiences in the digital space, and does it look different from our response to these interactions offline? And how do those choosing to engage in the emotional labor of calling out colleagues online avoid centering whiteness and other forms of privileged identities in the process? Do approaches to these conversations come from a place of caring and education?
Looking at the Facebook page is like looking into a mirror of sorts. Do we like what we see in our field? If not, then what’s next? In my opinion, the page needs some solid goals and objectives centered in feedback from the online community.
This wider discussion is long overdue and I’m glad so many have now tuned into the conversation—many have been discussing and pointing out the climate of the Facebook group for quite some time. I look forward to contributing to future responses both online and offline as we look towards what’s next.
Let’s continue the conversation on Twitter: @mattmnazario