How Do We Move Forward?

Those of us who work in student affairs will need to take some time to absorb the results of this election and then quickly get back to the work we do in supporting our students, writes Kevin Kruger.

November 9, 2016
 
Getty Images/Jason Redmond

The past 18 months leading to the election of Donald Trump last night have been incredibly challenging for us as a nation and certainly for all of us who work in higher education.

The angry and hostile dialogue has left many in our communities feeling unsafe, devalued and marginalized. For many of our students and staff members, the results of the election will magnify those feelings of outrage, despair, hopelessness and genuine fear for their future. It is important to note that after the rhetoric expressed during the election, our Muslim, Jewish, African-American, Latinx, undocumented and LGBTQ students and staff, as well as students and staff members who are sexual assault survivors, will likely have strong emotional reactions to this election outcome.

How do we move forward? First, we need to acknowledge what just happened. About 47 to 48 percent of voters, more than 59 million Americans, sent a clear message that they wanted something different and wanted someone who spoke to their concerns. We live in a fractured and divided country with two very different visions about our future path.

This division and the politics of hate that have surrounded this election make the work we do in student affairs even more important today than it was before the election.

This will not be easy, and it never is. Those of us who work in student affairs will need to take some time to absorb the results of this election, tend to the self-care necessary, support those who are hurting or angry and afraid, and then quickly get back to the work we do: providing support to our students who themselves will be struggling with a range of emotions following the election.

This election does not stop the work we must do to address racial injustice on our campuses and in our communities. It makes it more important.

This election does not stop the crucial work we are doing to increase degree progress and completion for first-generation students, low-income students and students of color. It makes it more important.

This election does not stop the need to support the hundreds of thousands of undocumented students who are on our campuses. It makes it more important.

This election does not stop the work we are doing to engage students in difficult conversations around race, gender identity, religion and sexual orientation. It makes it more important.

This election, and its results, creates an urgency for a new generation of leaders -- leaders who are on our campuses. The work we do to encourage active discourse, protest and activism is core to our democracy and to our need to engage a new generation committed to ideals of inclusion and social justice. This is more important than ever.

The next few months will be critical for our country and our colleges and universities. It is unknown how President-elect Trump will view the higher education sector. NASPA will continue to monitor, teach and provide opportunities for dialogue about these issues within the next few months.

I remain optimistic about the work we are doing in higher education and the role each student affairs professional plays in the lives of our students. Our work has never been more important.

Bio

Kevin Kruger is president of NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.

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