BY Southern Illinois University Edwardsville
When it comes to finding topics of discussion concerning Blacks in higher education, the DREAM (Dismantling Racism through Education, Advocacy and Mobilization) Collective at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) thought it a good idea to ask students.
Students from the Contemporary Issues in Higher Education-Blacktivism in the Academy course, taught this past spring semester by Candace Hall, EdD, lecturer in the Department of Educational Leadership and co-director of the College Student Personnel Administration (CSPA) program, provided two topics for conversation.
The other topic selected by the DREAM Collective deals with professionalism, and how it can be cloaked in white supremacy. The broadcast date is yet to be scheduled.
“It is important to discuss ‘professionalism’ in the academy, because it’s a topic that never goes away,” said Kenisha Walton, a CSPA graduate student. “Currently, I work in corporate America, and racism and bias are at the root of professionalism. Language, hair, tone, behavior and personality are just a few of the topics that have been used to advance white males and oppress people of color in the workplace.
“If ‘professionalism’ isn’t discussed within the context of student affairs and the collegiate classroom, students may be shocked, scared and surprised of what the ‘real world’ has to offer, when it comes to what is deemed ‘professional.’”
“Professionalism is a toxic Eurocentric mentality that is rooted in not only racism but also misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and many other things that disenfranchise humans of minoritized identities and experiences,” said Ishmeal Allensworth, a CSPA graduate student.
“When someone has to shave off parts of their identity in order to fit the mold that they’re being told is ‘professional,’ it can lead to such negative effects as stress, burnout, and depression,” noted CSPA graduate student Kyle Brown. “A faculty or staff member who feels authentic in their professional identity, is one who can feel better in the work they do, and can better support their students.”
Other ideas that emerged from Hall’s class included:
- Exploitation of graduate students in assistantship roles and its disproportionate impact on Black students
- Hiring and retention practices that create an institutional climate (being the only staff, faculty or student of color in white spaces in 2021)
- Commodification of Black student-athletes
- Support (or lack thereof) for Black students
- Productivity being steeped in white supremacy, and resisting it by using such tactics as establishing boundaries and practicing self-care
The idea of the class was a student’s concept who wanted to base a graduate-level course around issues Black and brown people face in the academy, according to Hall. “The students were extremely interested and engaged in the class.”
DREAM Collective members include education faculty J.T. Snipes, PhD, Jennifer Hernandez, PhD, Jessica Krim, EdD, Nate Williams, PhD, and SEHHB Dean Robin Hughes, PhD.