Thursday, October 21, 2010


Every So Often...

I’m reminded of what makes working at a college such a privilege.

This week I was able to squeeze out a little time between meetings to catch part of a student concert, and then to drop by the club that was doing a table to support the LGBT community in the wake of the recent suicides and sign their banner of support.

In administration, I usually see students only when they’re bouncing off the ceiling -- the highest achievers doing amazing things -- or when they’re in some kind of trouble. I don’t get the day-to-day interaction with most students that faculty get. My exposure to average students is remarkably small, other than passing in the hallways and hearing snippets of conversation. And since it seems that every student was issued a smartphone, many of those snippets have been replaced by inaudible typing, so even that is partly lost.

The concert was fun. Students were dressed as they are, with skill levels ranging from impressive to earnest. But they were so supportive of each other, and the joy in the room was so palpable, that I couldn’t help but get caught up in it. It felt like sitting in on a rehearsal, and I mean that as a compliment. Even watching their faculty advisors in something like their natural habitat was a refreshing change; I’m so accustomed to seeing faculty in their “I’m Talking to The Administration” mode that I’d forgotten how charming and dedicated some of them are when they’re working with their own students.

But the support group really warmed my heart.

Without undue bragging, I can honestly report that my cc is more gay-friendly than most. The LGBT community here is visible, including within the administration itself. But even within a comparatively welcoming setting, there can still be tension and real fear. The rash of hate-driven suicides nationally obviously struck a chord here.

It did this fortysomething heart good to see some students who looked like they would have been comfortable in a frat mingling comfortably with other students who looked like they stepped out of a Judith Butler seminar, and the entire group catching zero flak from passersby. I don’t recall that happening in my undergrad days. They were all happy to be there, obviously having a good time, supporting each other. The goal they shared was nothing more, or less, than making the college a safe place for everybody.

In a time of economic decline and political absurdity -- Christine O’Donnell? Really? -- there’s something restorative about seeing students being gentle and generous with each other. Between all those meetings, with their dry-as-toast discussions of “metrics” and “benchmarks” and policy quagmires, it’s worthwhile to slip out for a bit and be reminded that there’s a point to it all.

reminding me (admin as well) that we have the best gig going!
My absolute favorite student activity of the year is our graduation celebration. Being that we're a satellite campus, we don't offer a full, formal commencement ceremony but instead have a more relaxed, but still honoring and tasteful, celebration of our graduates for that year. The celebration consists of a dinner with formal speakers and a recognition of each graduate. The celebration is attended by graduating undergrads, master's students, and doctoral students. Some come alone, some with family, and some with a huge entourage of friends. In every case, the pride permeates the room. Students get to remember on the long journey they have completed, reflect on the many obstacles they overcame along the way, and they get to anticipate this next, new chapter in their life that they are about to begin. It is, without a doubt, the highlight of my year and reminds me why I entered this line of work. It's a humbling privilege to be even just a small part of my students' lives and their success.
Yes! This.
Your description of the different students coming together fit so well with my memories from being a student at a cc.
I remember going on to the flagship state uni and being so sad- yes, all the poster-diversity children in the glossies were there, but they were all sitting at tables of people like them.
This is exactly why I love working at a community college! And props to you for attending the concert. I am a music instructor and I always feel "extra proud" when administrators help celebrate our students' accomplishments and creativity.
Wow! Dean Dad - another thoughtful, wonderful post - marred by a snippy partisan political comment:

". . . political absurdity -- Christine O’Donnell? Really?"

As you just marginalized some of your politically conservative readers do you also marginalize some of your students and professors on campus?

Yes, it is a privilege to work in higher education and it is a shame that so many of those who enjoy this privilege abuse it with their "elitist" attitude.
Feh....Christine O'Donnell isn't conservative, she's reactionary (professional hairy palm fighter? really? How very late 19th century).
how sweet.
Haha, how is it working with students doing extraordinary work?
- Meranda fallen
I have no idea how conservatives who work in higher education manage the self-loathing. People, they are funny.
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