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Where are the Radical Practitioners?
January 16, 2012 - 2:29pm

Another Subversive Comment


Radical Student Affairs Practitioners ... Do they exist? Does our profession allow them to exist? Do we nurture them or isolate them? Are they leading our associations or quietly leading from the periphery? Does Student Affairs deconstruct the status quo or do we sustain it?

The tenured radical faculty member is a common identity for members of the academy. Advocating for justice, participating in protests, asking provocative questions, and challenging the status quo are often seen as "radical" activities. When David Horowitz's book "The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America" came out in 2006, I remember thinking, where are the Student Affairs practitioners? Do we warrant a similar book? 

Most Student Affairs practitioners will never be tenured at their institution. I realize that tenure affords our counterparts in academic affairs a bit more leeway when it comes to having opinions that run counter to prevailing views. In Student Affairs, our jobs are generally not "safe." We could stand alongside a tenured faculty member at a controversial event on campus, but our presence is largely a political action that is not protected from overt reciprocity.

I'm a proponent of dissonance. I like to make people think about those things that they see as "normative" and ask them why they believe in certain professionally accepted truths. Student Affairs as a profession is often much better at accepting than it is at questioning. We don't rock the boat nearly enough. Collectively, we have a lot of institutional influence. However, in my experience, those who are deemed to be radical are nudged towards the margins.

Where are the radical student affairs practitioners? Who is pushing us to question...causing dissonance. Building powerfully radical communities of practice is not a friendship-building activity. Genuine friendships emerge during community creation, but it is not a popularity contest.

I want to know who the most dangerous student affairs practitioners are in America because I want to hear their thoughts. We need those voices in our community. Writers, thinkers, doers...subversive folk who are the future of our profession.


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