Resources for College Practitioners

Blocking Student Success & Equity Work

(A. Solano)

Many institutions of higher education have a serious misrepresentation problem that stalls student success and equity work. It's often perpetrated by one person or a handful of people who have become experts on how to use participatory governance as a stalling, blocking and sabotaging vehicle. 

Too often when one or a handful of faculty say something at a meeting, then everyone leaves the meeting and spreads the word campus-wide that, "The faculty says...," as if their opposition or support of an idea or priority is representative of the majority of faculty. This also happens with administrators. 

Even at meetings where someone is supposed to officially represent a constituency group, be more precise in describing who said what, and why.

For example, instead of saying "faculty oppose guided pathways," be more exact. "Jonathan Miles, math faculty opposes guided pathways." 

Instead of saying, "Administration wants us to return to campus 100% in-person without a mask requirement and vaccine mandate," be more precise. "Rose Glover, Dean of Student Services wants us to return to campus 100% in-person without a mask requirement and vaccine mandate."

Understand and communicate who said what and when, then follow-up to see if what they said is truly representative of the constituency group. Also, it's important to understand WHY certain people oppose or support specific ideas or priorities. If the "why" is not student-centered, then the campus just allowed the loudest person or people in the room to set the agenda for the institution.

I've witnessed too many times one or a handful of loud-mouths ruin equity work for an entire year or more because the campus at-large kept representing their views as the collective will of the faculty and/or administration. This is often how equity work is blocked by institutional conservatives who know how to play participatory governance to maintain the status quo. Don't allow these people to play you. When it comes to equity, push back hard. 

Remember this image when a person (or a handful of people) consistently conveys "concerns" at meetings.

Consistently conveying "concerns" that can't be placated is a highly effective tactic designed to delay or block priorities critical to student success and equity. One of the reasons it's such an effective approach is that the typical campus only has three months to plan and implement priorities. Obstructionists know the months to especially block progress are October, March, and April. 

And for those who say, "That's not a problem at our campus! We're all about equity and improving student success," but the campus is not implementing Guided Pathways (which includes developmental education reform)--sorry, but chances are you've been played. 

***

Also visit: Guided Pathways Checklist (Yes, During CV-19) | Implementation Challenge: The Three-Month Reality Check 

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