Professional Development and Course Materials from the National Study on Women in Higher Education and Student Affairs

Professional Development and Course Materials from the National Study on Women in Higher Education and Student Affairs

John A. Mueller
Chair, Commission for Professional Preparation

ACPA’s Commission for Professional Preparation (CPP) is pleased to announce the availability of three sets of slideshows and annotated bibliographies (free and downloadable) for courses and/or professional development opportunities. These materials were developed through a CPP grant awarded to Dr. Penny Pasque and Brenton Wimmer, the National Study on Women in Higher Education and Student Affairs at the University of Oklahoma.

You may find these resources useful for courses on gender in higher education and student affairs, diversity in higher education, intergroup dialogue courses that focus on gender, and for qualitative research courses. In addition, the slideshows might be beneficial for a class session or workshop on women leadership, mentoring between women, intersectionality, or qualitative research methodologies.

The materials are available on the Resources page of the ACPA CPP Web site.

As assessment professionals and scholars, we hope these essays will provide readers with new ideas and starting points for conversations about assessment needs. We believe these promising practices are components of comprehensive, participatory assessment plans. Backed by professional literature, we are confident that building a culture of assessment in student affairs requires individuals to envision a system that transcends unit-specific boundaries.

The Commission for Professional Preparation thanks Penny and Brenton for these valuable resources!

Please e-mail inquiries to John A. Mueller.

The Ethics of Student Confidentiality & Student Affairs

The Ethics of Student Confidentiality & Student Affairs

Shammah Bermudez
ACPA Ethics Committee Member
Delaware County (PA) Community College
André Durham
ACPA Ethics Committee Member
University of Cincinnati

Student affairs professionals typically have access to sensitive and confidential information. Students seek out student affairs professionals when facing any number of stresses, challenges, or crises. They often share deeply personal information with the expectation that confidentiality will be maintained. In most situations on most campuses, student affairs professionals are able to uphold this expectation. However, sometimes confidential information is shared, intentionally or unintentionally. For instance, one might turn to a supervisor or colleague for advice when presented with a challenging situation. In these instances, keeping the involved student(s) anonymous would still safeguard confidentiality. Conversely, many times practitioners are compelled to break confidentiality, such as when if a student mentions an intention to harm someone. Beyond the areas prescribed, when student affairs professionals violate a student’s confidentiality without maintaining anonymity, they not only violate federal laws such as the Family Educational Records Protection Act (FERPA), the law that protects the school records of all students, from pre-school to graduate school, they also put their institution at risk. However, most do not intentionally break student confidentiality; it often occurs without the person realizing it.

One example of a confidentiality pitfall is discussing student information in open or common areas. Many offices have a common area, especially if it is an office with a high volume of students (e.g., Residence Life, Counseling Center). How many times have you been walking through the common area discussing a student with another colleague? Frequently, students, parents, or visitors to the college will be waiting in these spaces and overhear conversations. Inadvertently, you can disclose student’s names, ID numbers, grade information, or worse, personal details students shared with you. Once the information has been made public, one cannot get it back. In order to avoid the risks of open or common areas, one should resist speaking about student issues in these places. Instead, staff members should meet in private offices to have conversations about students. When sharing information with the person making appointments for your department, one should write the information down or email them. This way, if there are others around, you avoid them overhearing your conversation. It is important for one to be aware of who is in an office area, whether they students, staff members, or other visitors.

A second risk is sharing information with other colleagues who are not directly related to the student’s situation. There will always be those interesting cases that one will just want to share with colleagues; however, this can be a precarious. There is also the risk of others sharing the information. A good rule to use when deciding whether to share student information is to ask yourself, “Why am I sharing this information?” and “How will it benefit the student?” Sometimes one can run into situations where a colleague or faculty member asks about a student. However, just because they work for the institution does not mean they are entitled to all student information. Always keep FERPA in mind as much of the information we use on a daily basis stems from or becomes an educational record. FERPA regulations state that school officials must have a “legitimate educational interest” (Ramirez, 2009) when sharing information. In other words, does the individual need the information as a function of their job? This may vary from institution to institution depending on the parameters of responsibility and job function. An example may be an advisor who reaches out to a faculty member to discuss a student who is having health issues outside of the classroom and may need to miss some classes. In this case it may be beneficial for the faculty member be informed that the advisor is working with the student due to ongoing health issues. In turn, the faculty member, maybe willing to be flexible with schoolwork. However, the advisor can inform the faculty member without providing specific detail about the medical issues.

While it is important to make every effort to protect student confidentiality—particularly in situations in which student anonymity cannot be kept—there are certain exceptions where staff members can—or should—share confidential information with certain parties. One such exception may occur when staff members are working with a student and are unsure about how to proceed. For example, if a student is having difficulty with a faculty member based on his or her disability, it would be appropriate to discuss the issue with disability services. In this situation, it is appropriate to consult a colleague with relevant experience in dealing with the issue. Another example is if a student presents a situation or behaviors that are concerning his or her mental health; in this case it is appropriate to refer him or her to campus counseling services. One also can limit the amount of identifying student information, only sharing what is necessary to fully understand the situation. Again, always ask yourself, “Why am I sharing this information?” and “How will it benefit the student?”

Another exception to student privacy is in the case of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sexual violence. In a 2011 Dear Colleague Letter (DCL), the Department of Education states “The sexual harassment of students, including sexual violence, interfere[s] with students rights to receive an education free from discrimination and, in the case of sexual violence, is a crime” (Dear Colleague Letter, 2011). There are several reasons why a student may come to a student affairs professional after facing sexual assault or harassment. When a report of sexual assault or harassment is made, how student confidentiality is handled, changes. Department of Education Title IX regulations require that school administrators take immediate action when dealing with cases of sexual assault, sexual harassment, or sexual violence. One should consult with his or her supervisor on how to proceed. Student affairs practitioners should also be proficient in their institutional and state policies on sexual violence and sexual harassment.

As stated earlier, student confidentiality has been entrusted to student affairs practitioners. While there are legal guidelines that call for the protection of confidentiality, there is also the ethical obligation to ensure a student’s trust is not violated. For graduate students and new professionals, it is important to build a strong ethical foundation from the start of your career. This will allow you to develop strategies for obtaining and maintaining the trust and respect of your students and colleagues. For those who are experienced in higher education for a while, reflect upon your approach to student confidentiality. You are setting the ethical standard of what is expected for those you supervise and those who are just entering the field of student affairs. Finally, it is important to maintain current, accurate knowledge of all regulations related to privacy of student records and electronic transmission of records, and up-to-date knowledge of privacy legislation on a regular basis (ACPA, 2006).

Please note that this article in no way should be construed as legal advice. Individuals should consult their institutional legal counsel for specific legal advice


ACPA: College Student Educators International. (2006). Statement of ethical principles & standards. Washington, D.C: Ethics Committee.

Ramirez, C.A. (2008). FERPA clear and simple: The college professionals guide to compliance. San Francisco, CA: John Wiley & Sons Inc.4.

U.S. Department of Education. (2011). Dear colleague letter (OCR Publication, 4 April 2011). Washington DC: Office for Civil Rights.


ACPA: College Student Educators International. (n.d.). Ethics standards and practices. Retrieved from: (2012, June 19).

Fried, J. (2003). Ethical Standards and Principles. In S. Komives, D. Woodward & Associates (Ed.), Student Services: A handbook for the profession, 4th ed. San Francisco: Josey-Bass.

U.S. Department of Education. (2012). Family Policy Compliance Office. Retrieved from: (2012, June 19).


About the Authors

Shammah Bermudez is the Coordinator of Disability Services for Branch Campuses at Delaware County Community College. He is an active member of ACPA and is currently a member of the Ethics Committee, the Standing Committee on Disability, and the Commission for Student Development at the 2-year colleges.

Please e-mail inquiries to Shammah Bermudez.

André Durham is a recent graduate of the Student Affairs master’s program at the University of Virginia and currently is an Assistant Director & Academic Advisor in the University Honors Program at the University of Cincinnati. He is an active member of ACPA and is a member of the Ethics Committee.

Please e-mail inquiries to André Durham.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

From One Dupont Circle: Quarterly Update

From One Dupont Circle: Quarterly Update

Gregory Roberts
ACPA Executive Director

Greetings to the Readers of the Developments Fall Issue

Our great editorial staff continues to do an outstanding job with this quarterly publication. My sincere thanks and appreciation to Amanda Suniti Niskode-Dossett for her leadership as editor and John Garland’s as the associate editor. Thank you both for a job well done.

If you recall my conversation with you this summer about the political issues facing our country and the upcoming election, I trust you have engaged in the “debate” or conversation with your colleagues, family, and friends about the importance of the process to a democratic society. I hope each of your campuses have organized a voter registration program to ensure students exercise their right to vote. In many cases, this will be the first presidential election in which our traditionally aged students can fully participate. Encourage them to exercise this right!

I also shared with you many of the global initiatives toward which the association is working. I encourage each of you to join us in Las Vegas for the 89th Annual Convention, where you will have the opportunity to meet many of our international colleagues. We have extended special invitations to our international colleagues who have assisted us with our global initiatives. In addition, we invited educators from countries (i.e., China, Hong Kong, Canada, Uganda, South Africa, and our continued advancement in the Caribbean) with whom we have begun conversations that have led to some form of formal partnership. What a learning opportunity for all of us.

Below are three issues that I shared with you this summer; I share them again because of their importance to the work that we do each day.

  • U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear the Texas college admission question (affirmative action)
  • Special programs to enhance collegiate treatment of returning veterans, who are taking advantage of their GI privileges in greater numbers
  • Republican and Democratic National Conventions (GOP in Tampa and DNC in Charlotte)

I ask that you carefully read Neal Hutchens article in the Summer issue of Developmentsconcerning “Affirmative Action” and the Supreme Court’s decision to hear oral arguments this fall. What will this decision mean for college student educators?

What about our veterans? Are we aggressively assessing the needs of students who are returning from their tour of duty? How are we prepared to help the veterans of recent wars to be successful?

Have you studied the political platform positions of the two major parties (Democratic and Republican) to understand what we can expect from our elected officials for the next four years? Regardless of who wins?

The time is now to familiarize ourselves with the issues that will influence higher education in the next congressional cycle. The Higher Education Reauthorization Act renewal process will begin anew in 2013 and if the last cycle is of any indication, it will take three years to complete the process. This will not be a pleasant undertaking given the lack of a clear majority of either party in the Congress.

Well, next time I will focus on the results of the 2012 election and the impact on the future of higher education in the United States.

Until then, best wishes for a productive academic semester.


Assessment in Student Conduct Programs: Strategies, Resources, and Tools

Assessment in Student Conduct Programs: Strategies, Resources, and Tools

Kyle Tschepikow
University of Georgia
Jeremy W. Inabinet
University of Georgia

Most student affairs professionals today would agree that the principle aim of conduct administration is to educate students (Tschepikow, Cooper, & Dean, 2010; Waryold & Lancaster, 2008; Zacker, 1996). In fact, in their exposition on the professional philosophy of this functional unit, Waryold and Lancaster (2008) summarized, “the fundamental purpose of student conduct work is to promote growth and development in students while protecting the interests of the larger campus community” (p. 8). While there may be little debate about the educational purpose of student conduct, the extent to which this purpose is fulfilled on some college campuses may be less clear. A high-quality assessment program, built around clear and measureable educational outcomes, can be helpful in addressing this issue. The purpose of this article is to describe strategies, resources, and tools to support the development or enhancement of an assessment program tailored to the educational purpose of student conduct administration.

Strategies to Assess Student Learning and Development

Student conduct administration provides a variety of opportunities to educate students (Waryold & Lancaster, 2008). It is important for practitioners to identify those opportunities within their conduct programs and to define and publicize, in specific terms, the learning and development expected from them. A great place to start is with the process of resolving alleged violations, a fundamental component in most student conduct programs. This process can involve students as learners in different ways. For example, students who serve as hearing officers experience the process differently from those alleged to have violated the code of conduct. In both instances, however, learning and development outcomes can be articulated and assessed to understand the extent to which the process of resolving allegations facilitates the educational mission of the office.

With alleged students, there are opportunities to promote learning and development through intentionally structured sanctions. If the conduct office has stated educational outcomes, sanctions should always be constructed with these in mind. Community service, for example, is a common sanction assigned by conduct offices (Dannells, 1997). In many instances when students found responsible for violations are required to complete a certain number of community service hours and complete a written reflection on their service experience. This activity is often designed to promote development of social responsibility and civic engagement. The site of the service, the number of hours assigned, and the guidelines concerning the reflective essay should be informed by the office’s learning and development framework.

A student’s essay about his/her service experience can provide rich qualitative data. Professionals can use these data to determine whether the outcomes for the sanction have been achieved. A rubric can provide consistency and structure to this part of the assessment process. If given to the student in advance of the service experience, the rubric can clearly communicate expectations around learning and development, resulting in a more enriching learning experience for the student (Stevens & Levi, 2005). In addition, during conduct meetings administrators can collect information regarding students’ affective development and integration into campus life. With this information in hand, the hearing officer and the student can co-construct sanctions that meet the student’s need developmentally and align with office’s learning and development framework. Tailoring sanctions in this way creates a learning environment in which students are empowered to construct knowledge for themselves and apply it to complex problems, a key principal in transformative education as defined in Learning Reconsidered (American College Personnel Association & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators, 2004).

Training for students who serve on hearing boards is another ideal place to implement assessment strategies that promote the educational mission of student conduct programs. Like the sanctioning process, this aspect of conduct administration must begin with the articulation of learning and development outcomes. Lewis and Inabinet (2011) suggested conduct administrators design outcomes centered on the following competencies: the philosophy and history of student conduct, the student conduct process, critical thinking skills, preparing for a hearing, hearing decorum, questioning skills, weighing information, standards of proof, and issues of violence against women. Conduct administrators may decide to include other competency areas that reflect their unique mission, culture, and programming structure. Student board members may play a role in this process as well. All the same, it is paramount for practitioners responsible for this area to shape training curricula, exercises, and resources around intended outcomes. It is also important for administrators to articulate these outcomes to hearing officers in advance of training opportunities. With clearly defined outcomes and competencies, administrators will be able to more easily align training opportunities for student board members with the office’s educational mission, assess the effectiveness of those opportunities in facilitating their learning and development, and elucidate areas of focus for future training sessions.

Resources and Tools

A variety of resources and tools exist to support the implementation of the assessment strategies discussed above. One of the most established resources is the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) Professional Standards (CAS, 2009). The latest version of this text, often referred to as the CAS Blue Book, contains standards and guidelines regarding the articulation and implementation of learning and development outcomes for student conduct programs. As noted earlier, learning and development outcomes play an important role in realizing the educational purpose of conduct administration.

Practitioners interested in defining or refining outcomes for student conduct programs may find benefit from the list of learning and development domains and corresponding dimensions provided in the CAS Blue Book (2009). The list of domains includes intrapersonal competence, humanitarianism, civic engagement, and practical competence—among others typically associated with student conduct programs. More specific dimensions are provided for each domain to assist practitioners in the development of outcomes aligned with the unique structure, mission, and programs of a particular conduct office. Dimensions under intrapersonal competence, for example, include self-understanding, self-respect, and commitment to ethics and integrity. These dimensions of learning and development can form the basis of clear and measurable learning and development outcomes for student training activities, campus outreach programs, sanctions for students, and other interventions designed to fulfill the educational mission of the conduct office.

Another established resource for conduct administrators that may be helpful in assessing the effectiveness of a program over time is the book Assessment Practice in Student Affairs (Schuh, Upcraft & Associates, 2001). The value of this text is in its practical orientation and concentration on student affairs programs and services. Conduct administrators looking for a starting place with assessment will find comfort in the broadly applicable step-by-step approach developed by the authors. Schuh, Upcraft, and Associates (2001) organize the assessment process into 11 applied steps that systematically lead the practitioner from defining the purpose of an assessment, to collecting and analyzing data, to reporting and using results to improve practice; these eleven steps can be viewed as a checklist of essential elements to consider in any well-designed plan. Additionally, conduct administrators with more developed assessment programs may find this resource beneficial as well. Professionals can use it to provide a framework to identify improvement opportunities in current assessment practices and processes.

Well-developed data collection tools, such as rubrics, questionnaires, and interview protocols are integral to any assessment program. After all, the information used to determine the effectiveness of any program will only be as good as the instrument used to gather it. As part of the VALUE project, the Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) enlisted teams of faculty and other academic and student affairs professionals to develop institutional level rubrics for 15 learning outcomes, many of which are germane to student conduct programs (AAC&U, n.d.). Each rubric includes a definition of the learning area, a glossary of terms used in the rubric, core dimensions of the learning area, and a scale used to measure student performance. Outcomes relevant to student conduct include civic knowledge and engagement, intercultural knowledge and competence, and ethical reasoning. Practitioners working with established assessment programs may find these rubrics to be helpful tools in designing local instruments to measure campus-specific outcomes. Professionals developing new assessment programs may find benefit from these rubrics as roadmaps toward the creation of learning and development outcomes. The rubrics might also help in the construction of data collection instruments.

In addition to AAC&U, other professional organizations can provide support for assessment to student conduct administrators. For example, each year ACPA sponsors the Student Affairs Assessment Institute. Participants at this institute can expect exposure to a diverse group of assessment experts who provide instruction on a range of skills and knowledge areas, including outcome development and measurement, focus group facilitation, questionnaire design, quantitative and qualitative data analysis, and benchmarking. The Association of Student Conduct Administrators (ASCA) also provides resources to student affairs professionals working in conduct such as the Donald D. Gehring Academy for Student Conduct Administration. The Gehring Academy is an intense week-long institute serving the educational needs of conduct administrators at different levels in the field.


A primary function of student conduct programs is to foster learning and development among students. Many conduct offices have affirmed this educational purpose but still have not determined the extent to which it is being fulfilled. A comprehensive assessment plan based on clear and measureable learning and development outcomes is one step toward addressing this issue. An outcomes-based approach to assessment can provide conduct offices with much needed evidence regarding student learning and development. Additionally, this approach can enhance the educational experiences for students who interact with the office by promoting a greater degree of intentionality in program design and administration. Finally, professionals must consider the unique mission, culture, and programming structure of the conduct office for the assessment to be successful.

Discussion Questions

  • What areas of student learning and development are most important to conduct administration on your campus? How are these areas targeted through current programs and services?
  • To what extent are students involved in the design and implementation of your office’s assessment program? What opportunities exist to increase meaningful student involvement?
  • Beyond the conduct office, who is available on campus to support the implementation of strategies to assess student learning and development? What resources and tools are already present on campus?


American College Personnel Association & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (2004). Learning reconsidered: A campus-wide focus on the student experience. Washington, DC: Authors. Retrieved from:

Association of American Colleges and Universities. (n.d.) Project description. [Web site]. Retrieved from:

Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. (2009). CAS professional standards for higher education (7th ed.). Washington, D.C.: Author.

Dannells, M. (1997). From discipline to development: Rethinking student conduct in higher education. Washington, D.C.: Association for the Study of Higher Education.

Lewis, W.S. & Inabinet, J.W. (2011, July). Training student conduct boards: Selection, marketing, and competency based training. Lecture presented at the Donald D. Gehring Academy for Student Conduct Administration, Louisville, KY.

Schuh, J. H., Upcraft, M. L., & Associates (2001). Assessment practice in student affairs: An applications manual. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Stevens, D. D., & Levi, J. L. (2005). Introduction to rubrics: An assessment tool to save grading time, convey effective feedback, and promote student learning. Sterling, VA: Stylus. .

Tschepikow, K., Cooper, D. L., & Dean, L. A. (2010). Effects of CAS standards on assessment outcomes in student conduct programs. Journal of Student Conduct Administration, 3(1), 6-24.

Waryold, D. M., & Lancaster, J. M. (2008). The professional philosophy of student conduct administration. In J. M. Lancaster, D. M. Waryold, & L. Timm (Eds.), Student conduct practice: The complete guide for student affairs professionals (pp. 6-13). Sterling, VA: Stylus.

Zacker, J. (1996). Evaluation in judicial affairs. In W. Mercer (Ed.), Critical issues in judicial affairs. New Directions for Student Services, no. 73 (pp. 99-106). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

About the Authors

Kyle Tschepikow is currently the director of student affairs assessment and staff development at the University of Georgia. He previously served as the director of residence life and chief judicial affairs officer at the University of Charleston in West Virginia. He holds a BA and MA in English literature and a PhD in Higher Education from the University of Georgia

Please e-mail inquiries to Kyle Tschepikow.

Jeremy Inabinet is currently pursuing a PhD in College Student Affairs Administration at the University of Georgia. He also serves as a doctoral intern in the department of Student Affairs Assessment at Georgia. Previously, Jeremy served as the assistant dean of students and chief student conduct administrator at Loyola University Chicago. He holds a bachelor’s in mass communications and theater and a master’s in education


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

From the Editor: A New Era for Developments: A Goodbye from the Editor, Amanda Suniti Niskode-Dossett

From the Editor: A New Era for Developments: A Goodbye from the Editor, Amanda Suniti Niskode-Dossett

Amanda Suniti Niskodé-Dossett

We are proud to present the Fall 2012 issue of Developments. The purpose of this publication is to stimulate your thinking and enhance your work.

Writing this letter is particularly bittersweet because this my last issue serving as Editor. Working on Developments has been an incredible honor and privilege. As a reviewer, Associate Editor, and Editor I have seen the publication grow and develop because of excellent editorial board members and continuing support from the leaders of ACPA. I want to take this opportunity to share my reflections about Developments and the important role it plays within the association as well as its new era and new leadership. Then, as always, I provide a snapshot of this issue.

I believe the momentum of Developments over the last few years stems from the scholar-practitioners—Editorial Board members, authors, and ACPA Commission, and Standing Committee leaders—who worked to create a product that stimulates the thinking and enhances the work of readers. Their creativity, openness to change, and commitment has helped to establish a publication of which I am extremely proud.

However, I am proud not only of our final product but also of our editorial approach. The way in which we work with authors is something that is meaningful for the Developments team and, hopefully, for the authors as well. When the board members and I talk about the “identity” of Developments, we discuss our editorial approach as something we want to be a hallmark of the publication. This approach is based on how we can balance the “voice” of the authors yet also make and suggest changes that lead to high-quality, well-written pieces.

Another thing I love about Developments is its variety of content and style among articles. This variety enables us to offer senior, seasoned, and new writers to publish articles designed specifically for ACPA members. Our current Focus Areas include Perspectives, Innovative Ideas, Next Generation, Research & Assessment, Commentaries, Columns, Series, and Updates, News, & Announcements. Yet within each of these Focus Areas, there is great variety in writing styles—ranging from scholarly pieces to narratives. This variety enables us to share the diverse ideas that are part of our association and work to meet the needs of the ACPA’s faculty, staff, and student members.

I hope that Developments continues to be a source of professional development for both readers and writers. For any reader who is committed to being a scholar-practitioner, I believe Developments is an excellent tool to utilize in your own reflection, staff development, and instruction. For writers—new, seasoned, and senior—I invite you to examine Developments as a unique place to publish ideas that will advance the work of your colleagues.

In the past few years, we have streamlined internal structures and processes to meet the growing number of submissions. We have also worked to solidify our identity as a publication for professional development while maintaining flexibility in order to meet the needs of readers and the trends in our profession. Now that we have laid this groundwork, Developments has infinite possibilities at its doorstep; I am thrilled to see what happens next and I hope ACPA members are too.

Thus, a new era begins with Developments. We will announce the new Editor in November as well as a new changes and additional to the board. As Developments continues to be very important to me, I hope to continue to serve in a contributing editor capacity.

Given this time of transition, we will publish a special issue for the fourth and final Developments of the year. It will include a welcome letter from the new Editor as well as a readership survey. We invite you to provide feedback at that time so that we may continue to help you fully enjoy and utilize the publication.

Finally, I want to take a moment to thank the wonderful people who have made Developments successful and a particularly rewarding experience for me. Thank you to Richie Stevens, past Editor who brought me on as a reviewer and Associate Editor. Richie has been a wonderful mentor, friend, and advocate for the publication. Thank you also to Amy Hirschy, former Associate Editor, who invited me to write an article for Developments, enabling me to get involved with the publication.

The team that I worked with the past few years has also been amazing. Senior editorial board members, John Garland, Jim Love, and Heather FitzGerald have worked diligently the past three years to not only edit articles but also help to shape the direction of the publication. Their patience, care, and commitment have been outstanding. Thank you Jim, Heather, and John. In the past year, I also had the privilege to work with six new team members whose skills, insights, and work ethic was unbelievable; thus, I offer a special thank you to Teniell Trolian, Z Nicolazzo, Krista Soria, Jaci Jenkins Lindburg, Susan Barclay, and Stephanie Bondi. I am very blessed to know and work with each one of them.

Last, but not least, I want to thank the authors and readers of Developments articles. To the authors, please know that it has been a pleasure to work with you; I learned so much through the process of reviewing and editing articles—your ideas, patience, and thoughtfulness are inspiring. Thank you for the time and effort you gave to producing meaningful articles for ACPA members. To the readers, thank you for turning to Developments as a tool to stimulate your thinking and enhance your work.

A Snapshot of Fall 2012 (Volume 10: Issue 3)

As always, I am happy to present a snapshot of this issue.

I hope you appreciate the ideas posed in the articles and use them in your staff meetings, professional development sessions, graduate preparation classroom, and/or in conversations with colleagues or those you supervise. I encourage readers to utilize the discussion questions that are included in many of the articles.

The Developments editorial board always welcomes feedback and creative article ideas. Please contact the Editor to share your thoughts. To learn more about utilizing Developments or submitting an article, please visit the publication’s Web site.


In Celebrating 40 Years of Title IX, Racheal L. Stimpson writes

  • This year marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of Title IX, which bars sexual discrimination at institutions of education. In April 2011, the Office of Civil Rights (OCR) issued a Title IX policy clarification, also known as the Dear Colleague letter. With the anniversary and the OCR “Dear Colleague” letter, Title IX is once again thrust into the forefront of higher education.

To celebrate this legislation’s special anniversary, Stimpson discusses Title IX’s history as well as current and future challenges.

After reading this article, think about the perspectives of students, staff, and faculty on your campus. Is there a general sense that we have achieved gender equity and that we no longer need Title IX? What impact does your answer have on your daily work? What about the impact on your colleagues’ work?

Innovative Ideas

According to Nathan K. Lindsay and Jesse A. Riggs,

  • When student affairs professionals use an overabundance of paper and pencil surveys, survey fatigue among respondents and data entry errors can cause significant problems. To combat these challenges, a number of innovative technological options are available for collecting data from students, parents, faculty, and staff

In their article, Five Innovative Technologies for Student Affairs Assessment, the authors address how clicker technology, personal digital assistants (PDAs), digital recorders, optimal mark read (OMR) scanners, and online surveys are used at the University of North Carolina Wilmington.

They ask readers, “What are some of the pros and cons associated with the use of each of these technologies?” How might you advocate for support to utilize these in your work?

Sponsored Series

This issue features the final parts of two excellent series, Expanding the Frame—Applying Universal Design (UD) in Higher Education and Assessment in Student Affairs: A Focus on Functional Units.

First, in Expanding the Frame—Applying Universal Design in Higher Education, sponsored by the Standing Committee for Disability, the authors advocate for UD becoming a standard framework for designing learning environments within ACPA and for individual members’ use. In her article, Creating a Culture of Inclusive Leadership: The Intersection of Student Affairs and Universal Design, Jaci Jenkins Lindburg explains why UD is integral to her work:

I want students to be aware of the social injustices that exist and learn how they can play a role in creating positive change. In order to achieve these goals, I integrate the concepts of Universal Design into my leadership development work.

She also challenges readers to consider the following question:

In what ways do you role model inclusion and accessibility to the students you work with each day and how can you help these students begin to use principles of Universal Design in their own outreach as student leaders?

Then in Creating a Culture of Inclusion: Respectful, Intentional, Reflective Teaching Jeanne L. Higbee shares her story and explains how we can reduce the need for accommodations through Universal Instructional Design (UID).

A primary goal of UID is to enable students to participate fully without the provision of accommodations that can mistakenly be perceived as “making exceptions” for student with disabilities. UID is not equivalent to the elimination of sign language interpreters, note takers, or textbooks in Braille, which I refer to as “structural accommodations.”

What is your understanding of UID? Compare your understanding of this topic before and after readings Higbee’s thoughtful article.

Second, in Assessment in Student Affairs: A Focus on Functional Units, sponsored by the Commission for Assessment and Evaluation, Series coordinators, Matt Fifolt and Kimberly Kline, share highlight from the articles on careers services and student conduct.

Paradigms for Assessing Success in Career Services: In the first article of Part II of this series, Jessica Turos and Patrick Roberts juxtapose the concept of outcomes-based assessment in career services with reports that are historically requested by this unit, namely demographic, satisfaction, and needs data. The authors highlight practical strategies that demonstrate both direct and indirect student learning and promote students’ continued career success.

Assessment in Student Conduct Programs—Strategies, Resources, and Tools: In the second article, Kyle Tschepikow and Jeremy Inabinet explore opportunities related to assessing learning outcomes in student conduct programs. The authors describe competencies that promote student learning and development throughout the conduct process and identify strategies, resources, and tools that support professionals assessing conduct offices and their programs.

Consider their discussion questions as you read these two intriguing articles:

  • What types of evidence would support the finding that learning occurred through a student’s involvement with career services or student conduct?
  • In what ways might community expectations be expressed in learning outcomes for student conduct?
  • How can a shift towards outcome measures alleviate some of the pressure that career services experiences for placement data?

Feature Columns

We are proud to continue to offer feature columns in Developments that address current global, legal, and ethical issues facing our profession.

In his article, Helping International Students Connect with Peers, Jason E. Lane reflects upon a recent study indicating, “Many international students have a difficult time making meaningful friendships while studying in the United States.” He argues that, “what is more important is that the findings of this study should cause student affairs practitioners to pause and ask what they can do help foster such friendships.” Lane shares his perspective on what readers can do support international students beyond a typical programming model.

Then Jeffrey C. Sun addresses a very timely issue in his article, Voting Legislation Impacting College Students: A System of Increased Integrity or Barriers? He addresses “some of the legislation’s key components and explain how they present potentially significant burdens on college students.” Sun poses interesting questions for readers including:

What policies and processes does your institution have that present barriers to participation much like the effect of some of the state election laws? What mechanisms do you have to consider the intended and unintended consequences of these policies and processes?

Do you know the answers to these questions? Read Sun’s informative article and then apply what you learn to your own campus.

Finally, in The Ethics of Student Confidentiality & Student Affairs, Shammah Bermudez and André Durham discuss some of the nuances and challenges that arise around sharing information. They state:

Student affairs professionals typically have access to sensitive and confidential information. Students seek out student affairs professionals when facing any number of stresses, challenges, or crises. They often share deeply personal information with the expectation that confidentiality will be maintained. In most situations on most campuses, student affairs professionals are able to uphold this expectation. However, sometimes confidential information is shared, intentionally or unintentionally.

The authors also offer the following advice: “A good rule to use when deciding whether to share student information is to ask yourself, ‘Why am I sharing this information?’ and ‘How will it benefit the student?’”

Do you agree or disagree? Can you think of situations in your own career when the ethics of student confidentiality arose? How did you handle that situation? Would you handle a similar situation in the same way if it happened again?

Updates, News, & Announcements

In From the President: A Critical Question, Keith B. Humphrey shares his perspective on the voluntary system of accountability. Then in From One Dupont Circle, Executive Director, Gregory Roberts provides readers with a quarterly update, focusing the upcoming convention as well three timely issues facing our profession:

  • U.S. Supreme Court decision to hear the Texas college admission question (affirmative action)
  • Special programs to enhance collegiate treatment of returning veterans, who are taking advantage of their GI privileges in greater numbers
  • Republican and Democratic National Conventions (GOP in Tampa and DNC in Charlotte)

Finally, we share two important announcements. John A. Mueller highlights the Professional Development and Course Materials from the National Study on Women in Higher Education and Student Affairs:

ACPA’s Commission for Professional Preparation (CPP) is pleased to announce the availability of three sets of slideshows and annotated bibliographies (free and downloadable) for courses and/or professional development opportunities. These materials were developed through a CPP grant awarded to Dr. Penny Pasque and Brenton Wimmer, the National Study on Women in Higher Education and Student Affairs at the University of Oklahoma.

Then, learn more about the ACPA Annual Convention 2013 and this year’s theme Inspiring Communities of Wellbeing, which invites us to embrace grander possibilities individually and within community.

We look forward to the Commissions Corner returning in the Spring issue.

Thank you again for reading Developments.

Introduction and Discussion Questions to Part I: Student Activities and Residence Life

Introduction and Discussion Questions to Part I: Student Activities and Residence Life

Matthew Fifolt
Commission for Assessment and Evaluation
Kimberly Kline
Commission for Assessment and Evaluation

For decades, scholars and practitioners in the field of higher education have repeatedly communicated the value and importance of student learning outcomes (Bresciani, Moore Gardner, & Hickmott, 2010; Erwin, 1991; Schuh & Upcraft, 2001), yet our experiences tell us that many student affairs professionals continue to report program outcomes (e.g., student satisfaction, headcounts) as primary evidence of success. Program outcomes, while important, are not sufficient (Getty, Young, & Whitaker-Lea, 2008; Westerberg & Roberts, 2011). To remain vital in today’s tough economic times, students affairs professionals must demonstrate intentional programming that is consistent with institutional goals for undergraduate learning and development (Green, Jones, & Aloi, 2008; Pike, Kuh, McCormick, Ethington, & Smart, 2011).

Why is student affairs so slow to respond? Many colleagues tell us they lack the practical tools for implementing a new assessment strategy. Others have expressed difficulty in translating assessment techniques across departments and units. The goal of this series is to provide road-tested and proven strategies for the assessment of student learning outcomes in functional areas of student affairs, specifically (a) student activities, (b) residence life, (c) career services, and (d) student conduct. Part One of this series will focus on student activities and residence life. Part Two of this series, scheduled to be published in the next issue of Developments, will feature career services and student conduct.

In the first article, Kim Yousey-Elsner and Stella Antic offer promising practices for assessing student learning in student activities. The authors provide a compelling rationale for developing an assessment plan and outline specific steps for completing an assessment cycle in student activities.

In the second article, Amanda Knerr and Jennifer Wright discuss the ways in which residence life can support and enhance the formal academic curriculum through intentional co-curricular learning activities. The authors demonstrate how the practical application of classroom assessment techniques can enhance residence life programming for students and improve real-time data collection by residence life staff members.

As assessment professionals and scholars, we hope that these essays will provide you with new ideas and starting points for conversation about assessment needs. We feel compelled to note; however, that these promising practices are components of comprehensive, participatory assessment plans. Backed by the professional literature, we strongly believe that building a culture of assessment in student affairs requires individuals to envision a system that transcends unit-specific boundaries.

Discussion Questions

As you read these two articles, we would encourage you to consider the following questions specific to these two functional areas of student affairs:

  • How might the learning outcomes of student activities and residence life reinforce one another?
  • Are there situations in which the learning outcomes of these two areas might be in conflict with one another?
  • What types of evidence would support the finding that learning occurred through student participation in programs sponsored by student activities or residence life?

Big Picture

While beyond the scope of this series, there are a number of excellent resources that can help student affairs professionals build a comprehensive assessment plan. Chief among them include:

  • Learning reconsidered: A campus-wide focus on the student experience (National Association of Student Personnel Administrators & American College Personnel Association, 2004)
  • Frameworks for assessing learning and development outcomes (Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education, 2006)
  • Demonstrating student success: A practical guide to outcomes-based assessment of learning and development in student affairs (Bresciani, Gardner & Hickmott, 2010)
  • Assessment Skills and Knowledge (ASK) content standards for student affairs practitioners and scholars (American College Personnel Association, 2007)

For individuals interested in learning more about assessment and the role that student affairs can play in ensuring institutional accountability, we would also recommend the following report:

  • The data-driven student affairs enterprise: Strategies and best practices for instilling a culture of accountability (Education Advisory Board, 2009)


A learning-centered approach to student affairs assessment of student learning and developmental outcomes requires leadership and a vision for bridging the gap between curricular and co-curricular activities. It calls us to deliberately plan and assess programs and services so that our outcomes both resonate with academia and support the educational mission of the institution. Finally, a learning-centered approach to student affairs challenges us to redefine our roles, from administrators to educators, in order to remain relevant on our campuses and competitive in an ever-expanding world of educational options.


Bresciani, M. J., Gardner, M. M., & Hickmott, J. (2009). Demonstrating student success: A practical guide to outcomes-based assessment of learning and development in student affairs. Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Education Advisory Board (2009). The data-driven student affairs enterprise: Strategies and best practices for instilling a culture of accountability. Washington, DC: The Advisory Board Company.

Erwin, T. D. (1991). Assessing student learning and development. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Getty, L. J., Young, D. Y., & Whitaker-Lea, L. D. (May/June, 2008). Casting the assessment netwide: Capturing all student learning. About Campus, 10-16. DOI: 10.1002/abc.247

Green, A. S., Jones, E., & Aloi, S. (2008). An exploration of high-quality student affairs learning outcomes assessment practices. NASPA Journal, 45(1), 133-157.

Keeling, R. P. (Ed.). (2004). Learning reconsidered: A campus-wide focus on the student experience. Washington, DC: National Association of Student Personnel Administrators & American College Personnel Association.

Pike, G. R., Kuh, G. D., McCormick, A. C., Ethington, C. A., & Smart, J. C. (2011). If and When money matters: The relationships among educational expenditures, student engagement and students’ learning outcomes. Research in Higher Education, 52(1), 81-106.

Schuh, J.H. & Upcraft, M. L. (2001). Assessment practice in Student Affairs. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Strayhorn, T., Creamer, D.G., Miller, T. &, Arminio, J. (2006). Frameworks for assessing learning and development outcomes. Washington DC: Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.

Westerberg, S., & Roberts, N. (2010-2011). Soaring or snoring: Energizing colleagues in Student affairs about learning outcomes and assessments (Parts I-III). NetResults: Critical Issues for Student Affairs Practitioners.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

Making Assessment Meaningful: Practical Assessment Techniques for Residential Environments

Making Assessment Meaningful: Practical Assessment Techniques for Residential Environments

Amanda R. Knerr
Pennsylvania State University
Jennifer Lenfant Wright
Mount St. Mary’s University

In the last decade, there has been an increased understanding that student affairs units have a shared responsibility with academic affairs units for student learning (Greater Expectations National Panel, 2002; Keeling, 2006), including developing opportunities for substantial out-of-classroom or co-curricular learning that enhances the formal academic curriculum. Residential life, as students’ home away from home, provides the optimal environment in which to engage in co-curricular learning opportunities. It is within the residential living environments that students learn skills such as resolving conflict, effectively managing time, understanding how one’s choices impact other’s in the community, identifying one’s own value and beliefs and describing how they differ from other’s within their environment, etc. (Blimling, 2010; Schroeder, Mable & Associates, 1994). Residential life also creates a unique setting in which to extend the classroom experience because it offers a variety of opportunities for faculty, staff, and students. It affords faculty the ability to offer guest presentations or workshops, students the opportunity to create informal study and discussion groups, and staff the ability to cluster students with similar academic pursuits to enhance the classroom learning experience (Inkelas & Wesman, 2003). The residential learning environment provides a rich and complex environment in which to develop intentional learning strategies through a planned residential curriculum model for students and then to assess those learning outcomes (Kerr & Tweedy, 2006). But how does a residential life program move towards creating intentional learning opportunities and how does one assess learning in this environment? This article will explain the process of assessing student learning in the residential setting, provide examples of assessment tools and plans currently utilized by universities, and present the foundation for residential student learning assessment.

Mapping the Learning Environment

The first step in assessing student learning in the residential environment is to determine what specifically is expected of students to learn during their time living on campus. Where will the program focus its attention? What will be the fundamental educational priority for the residential life program at the institution? For some, the priority may focus on issues of social justice or citizenship. For others, the decision may be to focus on issues of respect and responsibility.

The second step is then to create intentional learning outcomes that will guide the actions and activities of the environment. For example, as a result of participating in a specific event, initiative, or activity on your campus, what do you hope for students to take away? These outcomes will determine the programs that need to be put into place and provide a definitive framework for which to assess learning outcomes. One resource that can assist in the development of learning outcomes and assessment strategies include The Framework for Assessing Learning and Development Outcomes (Strayhorn, 2006).

Planning the Assessment

Once the educational priority, learning outcomes, and initiatives have been developed for a residential program, the third step is to develop assessment strategies that provide information about the degree to which students living in the residential community have met the intended outcomes. Traditionally, residential programs have used satisfaction assessments in order to gauge how satisfied students are with their living environment. However, students’ perceptions of satisfaction of actual accomplished learning may not be as accurate as directly observing whether or not students have met the desired learning outcomes. In order to directly assess student learning in the residential environment, a residential life professional can utilize traditional classroom assessment techniques which have relied on direct assessments to guide understanding of student learning and achievement. Direct assessment techniques require students to demonstrate their knowledge or skills through objective tests and/or performance opportunities. Indirect assessments ask students to reflect on what they perceive to have learned rather than demonstrate their learning (Palomba & Banta, 1999). Residential life staff should move to a more balanced approach between direct and indirect assessment techniques to have a more complete picture of what students have learned from participating in residential life programs and services.

Selecting Appropriate Assessment Tools

Angelo and Cross’ 1993 book on classroom assessment techniques may be particularly useful in creating a more balanced approach to assessment. Their classroom assessment techniques have been found to adequately assess students’ on-going learning in the classroom. This text provides specific assessment techniques to assess students’ knowledge acquisition, ways in which to synthesize information, and skills in the application of new knowledge to novel situations. Each assessment technique takes minimal time to prepare and most assessments can be completed by students in just a few minutes, providing rich assessment information on what students are learning relative to specific learning outcomes.

The one minute paper is one such classroom assessment technique that is now widely used (Angelo & Cross, 1993). In this assessment, students respond reflectively to a question posed by the educator. Questions could encompass areas where they learned something new, areas where they still have questions, information that particularly interested them, or a response to how they would respond to a situation. For example, students may participate in an environmental sustainability program held in the residence hall. After the presentation, the facilitator may ask participants to spend one minute describing on a piece of paper at least two different ways that the participant can reduce his/her carbon footprint while living in the residence halls. The participants can write a short reflection piece that outlines how they might take these steps themselves based on the information presented in the program or initiative. Within five minutes, residential staff members can have concrete examples of what students have learned related to the sustainability outcome developed for the program. and/or trivia clickers are two additional tools that can be utilized in accessing learning. These resources allow educators to ask questions throughout a presentation, floor or house meeting, or other event to gauge what students are learning in the session. In, questions can be imbedded into Microsoft Power Point or other presentations. Students can then text in “live” responses to the questions and can comment on each other’s responses. This Web site allows a certain number of participants to answer questions for free; additional responses can be purchased as necessary. Students particularly enjoy the ability to utilize current technology such as social media and texting in learning environments, and the data itself provides a real-time assessment of whether or not students are meeting the established learning goals. The downside for using is that it limits participation to those that utilize texting and cell phones. This may eliminate the voice of students who come from lower socio-economic backgrounds or who do not engage in the use of cell phones or texting services.

The trivia clickers are very similar to in that they capture real-time responses from participants. Commercial clickers are similar to the types of hand-held devices used in restaurants for trivia games. Educators create a series of questions and students can respond to them in real-time using the clickers. The downside to this approach is that there is an initial cost associated with the technology. However, feedback we have received from students thus far, indicates that they find the interaction with clicker technology very engaging and the real-time data related to understanding of programmatic content by the participants is very helpful to assess progress on students learning in the event/program/initiative.

Another way to assess student learning is through a pre-assessment and post-assessment survey for residential life professional and/or para-professional staff training. One can track the staff’s learning progress as well as the effectiveness of the trainings offered. Assessment surveys can be directly linked to learning outcomes within training sessions throughout the academic year. Areas of improvement are revealed through the comprehension of the learning outcomes assessed. It can be an eye-opening experience to discover a particular training session did not yield the acquired knowledge as intended. However, “discovering that programs are not functioning as they intended is not necessarily evidence that the program is “bad”; it merely indicates that the learning strategy present in the program is not well-suited to enhancing students’ acquisition of knowledge, values, or abilities” (Keeling, Wall, Underhile & Dungy, 2008, p. 73). This type of assessment has become extremely helpful in planning future training sessions for the para-professional residential life staff and solidifies the co-curricular learning and skills the staff engages in throughout the academic year.

National Assessments such as the Association of College and University Housing Officers-International(ACUHO-I)/Electronic Benchmarking Incorporated (EBI) Resident Assessment, ACUHO-I/EBI Student Staff Assessment and the ACUHO-I/EBI Apartment Assessment obtain student satisfaction and benchmarking data. The Resident Assessment is based on ACUHO-I and Council for the Advancement of Standards (CAS) Professional Standards. These assessments can be utilized to show what areas in which a residential life program is excelling and areas for improvement when comparing with other institutions. Another national assessment is the NASPA Consortium Benchmarking Assessment which has both a Residence Life Assessment and a Profile of the College Student Assessment that provide data covering student perceptions and satisfaction among national benchmarks of peer institutions and various other classification categories. This data highlights the overall indication of where the individual institution falls among these benchmarks. While both of these national assessments provide resident satisfaction information, they also provide information on student attainment of co-curricular learning outcomes. By comparing this institutional data with similar institutions, nationally and longitudinally, the results may inform the Residential Life programs’ practices and provide stakeholders, such as Senior Student Affairs Officers(SSAOs), Board of Trustees and Presidents, with valuable information to allocate resources to the program in the future.


Overall, residential life programs must engage in an “archeological dig” in which the unit digs deep into their institution’s mission, values, goals, and beliefs to determine how the residential program can support and enhance the institutional mission (Keeling, 2006; Keeling, Wall, Underhile, & Dungy, 2008). Many types of assessment methods exist and can provide various data sets to inform future goals, practices and learning outcomes of a residential program. Quantitative methods described above, such as national assessments or, are a common practice in higher education which provides four different categories of data: institutional indicators, test and grading data, large survey data and local survey data (Assessment Reconsidered, 2008). Qualitative methods, such as the one minute paper or residence life staff training assessments provide rich and deep information that can inform the development of programs and services. Mixed methods can be used to bring a residential program’s survey data to life by allowing student stories behind the quantitative data to be discovered. Though the best set of data-gathering approaches will take time, a mixed methodological approach utilizing direct and indirect methods and at times novel approaches is best when advising and supporting co-curricular learning outcomes in residential programs.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is assessment important to a residential life program? What opportunities or challenges exist and how can assessment help us with these opportunities and challenges?
  2. What areas of student learning are important in the residential setting? How do we know that these learning outcomes are being met?
  3. What assessment tools will assist us in assessing student learning and why?
  4. What is one small assessment project that could assess student learning in our residential environment? What do we need to do to plan this assessment? When do we want to see it completed?


Angelo, T. A., & Cross, K. P. (1993). Classroom assessment techniques: A handbook for college teachers. (2nd ed). San Fransisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Blimling, G. (2010). The Resident Assistant: Applications and strategies for working with college students in residence halls. Dubuque, Iowa; Kenall/Hunt Publishing Company.

Greater Expectations: A new vision for learning as a nation goes to college. (2002). National Panel Report. Association of American Colleges and Universities (

Inkelas, K. K. & Weisman, J. L. (2003). Different by design: An examination of student outcomes among participants in three types of living-learning programs. Journal of College Student Developoment, 44(3): 335-368. doi: 10.1353/csd.2003.0027

Keeling, R. P. (ed.). (2006). Learning reconsidered 2: A practice guide to implementing a campus-wide focus on the student experience. ACPA, ACUHO-I, ACUI, NACA, NACADA, NASPA, NIRSA.

Keeling, R. P., Wall, A. F., Underhile, R., & Dungy, G. J. (2008). Assessment reconsidered: Institutional effectiveness for student success. ICSSIA, NASPA, Keeling and Associates LLC.

Kerr, K. G., & Tweedy, J. (2006), Beyond seat time and student satisfaction: A curricular approach to residential education. About Campus, 11: 9–15. doi: 10.1002/abc.181

Knerr, A. R. (2011). Practical approaches to residence life assessment. Webinar, Academic Impressions, Colorado Springs, CO.

Palomba, C. A. & Banta, T. W. (1999). Assessment essentials: Planning, implementing, and improving assessment in higher education. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Schroeder, C. C., Mable, P. & Associates. (1994). Realizing the educational potential of residence halls. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Strayhorn, T. L. (2006). Frameworks for assessing learning and development outcomes. Washington, DC: Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education.

Upcraft, M. L, & Schuh, J. H. (2001). Assessment in student affairs: An applications manual. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

Other Resources

Free Assessment Webinars provided by CampusLabs:

Commission for Assessment and Evaluation’s (CAE) Wiki site:

ACPA’s ASK Standards booklet:

Author Information

Amanda R. Knerr is the senior associate director of residence life at The Pennsylvania State University, where she oversees the unit’s assessment program. Amanda has been involved in ACPA in a number of ways including serving on planning committees for the Assessment Institute, Residential Curriculum Institute, and the Institute on Sustainability and has been a member of the ACPA Commission for Assessment and Evaluation Directorate for the last five years.

Please e-mail inquiries to Amanda R. Kerr.

Jennifer Lenfant Wright is the associate director for housing operations and student affairs assessment at Mount St. Mary’s University, where she oversees the housing operations for the campus and the student affairs assessment program. Jennifer is completing her three year term on the ACPA Standing Committee for Women Directorate, continuing her first year on the ACPA Commission for Assessment and Evaluation Directorate and is excited to be part of the 2013 ACPA Convention Team.

Please e-mail inquiries to Jennifer Lenfant Wright.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

Promising Practices in Assessing Learning in Student Activities

Promising Practices in Assessing Learning in Student Activities

Kim Yousey-Elsener
Campus Labs
Stella Mulberry Antic
University of North Texas

While publications such as Learning Reconsidered 2 (Keeling, 2006) and the CAS Learning Domains (Council for the Advancement of Standards, 2011) have set the standards for assessing student learning in campus activities, actually assessing student learning in co-curricular experiences is still a time consuming and elusive effort for many campus activities professionals. Bresciani (2011) and Schuh and Upcraft (2001) assert that purposeful, ongoing assessment of learning and administrative outcomes is critical to program improvement and success. However, assessing student learning can be a challenge for many reasons, since learning is “messy” and not linear for our students; therefore, finding an appropriate way to capture that learning for assessment purposes can be a challenge. In addition, student activities programs and services are often created for purposes beyond student learning, such as community building, connecting students to the institution, and educating students regarding campus traditions and ethos. While these are all important purposes, they are not solely for the objective of student learning. This notion leaves professionals asking: how and why do I need to assess learning?

While new technologies help us track exposure to events and programs, such as through the use of ID card swiping, it is important for us to go beyond these perfunctory ways of understanding our students outside of the classroom. Assessing student learning in campus activities tell us what students are “taking away” from interactions with specific programs and services. Perhaps the most important reason for assessing learning is for our own learning as practitioners. Assessing learning ensures that all of our planning, facilitating, and advising contribute to our students taking away tangible skills, knowledge, and behaviors. It also provides us the opportunity to improve our programs to better meet our intended goals. In addition, assessing student learning helps us engage in a larger conversation on campus, where well-articulated student learning outcomes and assessment results help to bridge the conversation of student learning with faculty at our institutions. These cross-institution conversations also serve the institution in articulating and proving what students are learning overall, an effort being encouraged across the nation by an increased focus on student learning in the accreditation process.

For all of these reasons, it is important for professionals in campus activities to gather information about every aspect of their programs, including budget and operations, student needs, student learning outcomes, and overall program effectiveness. While this can be a challenge, one suggestion is to not try to do everything at once; rather, pick a few programs or goals or assessment needs each year. Rotating through programs and services each year allows professionals the time and resources to gather useful information, while utilizing a pre-established framework may help as well. Below are examples of two institutions implementing promising practices using the CAS Standards and NACA Student Learning Frameworks.

The University of North Texas and CAS Standards

In 1979, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) was founded as an organization dedicated to advocating for the implementation of standards and guidelines in student affairs practice (CAS, 2011; Nuss, 2000). CAS has 41 member organizations that represent many of the major professional organizations in the field of student affairs, including those related to general practice, graduate preparation, counseling, health, housing and residence life, judicial affairs, facilities, Greek life, and campus activities, among others (CAS, 2011). CAS Standards and Guidelines are used frequently in student affairs in order to help departments assess their programs and services (McNeil, 2009).

At the University of North Texas (UNT), the Division of Student Affairs recommends departments undergo a full CAS review every five years. This process is facilitated by staff in the office of Research, Assessment, and Planning (RAP), which assists with at least two departmental CAS reviews each year. UNT’s Student Activities Center is currently engaged in this review using the CAS Standards and Guidelines for Campus Activities Programs within the following framework.

Norming. The first component to UNT’s CAS review process is the self-study, in which departmental staff work independently to score themselves across the various dimensions of the CAS Self-Assessment Guide (for Campus Activities Programs, there are 14 separate sections). Before the self-study, the staff participates in an initial norming session, facilitated by RAP staff, to learn about the rating system and to discuss the criteria needed to evaluate the standards and guidelines. Staff members then receives copies of the instrument and rating sheets, and are given ample time to complete the self-study and submitting their scores to both the RAP office and to a staff member in the department tasked with monitoring progress. Staff members are also asked to provide narratives for open-ended questions. This process takes between three and four weeks to complete.

Consensus Meeting. Once all self-studies are complete, the staff reconvenes for a consensus-building meeting, facilitated by RAP staff. The norming information is reiterated, and each element of the CAS Self-Assessment Guide is reviewed. Staff members are asked to give their ratings by holding up scorecards for all to see, and to give their rationale for the rating. If there is unanimous agreement, that score is assigned; if not, the range of scores is recorded and the discrepancies are discussed until the group reaches consensus. The consensus score is then recorded. This process can take up to one full day, but can occur over the course of several days for ease of scheduling if needed.

Dashboard. The RAP office developed a spreadsheet-based template that, when completed, automatically graphs a department’s scores across the various components of the CAS instrument. UNT developed this template with the collaboration of Eastern Washington University to ensure the most up-to-date congruence with CAS Standards and Guidelines. It was designed to provide senior leadership with a quick snapshot of the entire self-study process in one spreadsheet to save time and make the process more meaningful from an administrative enhancement perspective. The dashboard templates developed by RAP are available within a limited number of CAS areas, corresponding to those functional areas present at the campus. After the consensus meeting, RAP staff inputs the final scores and narrative into the template. A report is then generated and sent to the department’s director, who will then determine the next steps for gathering evidence.

Evidence Gathering. The next step in the process is to gather evidence to support the scores that were determined in the consensus meeting. Each rating should be accompanied by appropriate evidence, such as policy documents, organizational charts, departmental meeting minutes, and assessment results. Department staff work together to gather copies of the evidence needed, either electronically or in hard copy. The evidence is then put into a compendium along with the dashboard report. This process takes between four to six weeks to complete.

Internal-External Review. After the evidence has been gathered at a central location, RAP staff review the compendium through the lens of an external reviewer from another institution. In this “devil’s advocate” role, RAP ensures that enough evidence has been compiled to support the ratings and asks staff to gather more if needed. This is done in order to prepare the department for the official external review to endure it goes as smoothly as possible. This review takes roughly two to three weeks to complete.

External Review. Department directors are asked to identify colleagues outside the institution who are authorities in the specific functional area to come to campus as external reviewers. Once the compendium of evidence is complete, these external reviewers are invited to review the documentation and to hold interviews and focus groups with key stakeholders, such as department staff, senior leadership, and students. The feedback gathered from these meetings, combined with the reviewers’ expertise, inform the reviewers’ interpretation of the ratings and final recommendations. While the actual review takes between one to three days on campus, the invitations to reviewers should be extended at least eight to10 weeks in advance to allow for scheduling considerations.

Closing the Loop. Once the external review is complete, it is up to the department leadership to develop a summative evaluation of the entire process. This evaluation includes an executive summary to be shared with senior division leadership as well as action steps that will evolve from the external reviewers’ recommendations. If the action steps have any bearing on the department’s strategic plan or assessment plan, those documents should be updated during the annual review period and tracked accordingly.

The Student Activities Center has completed the above process through the internal-external review. The department is working through the external review phase as of Fall 2011, and a final copy of the summative evaluation will be posted on the UNT Division of Student Affairs Web site once completed.

Linfield College and NACA Framework

Created in 2007, the NACA Competency Guide for Student Leaders is available in several publications including guides for students and campus administrators. The Facilitators Guide provides practitioners with a description, learning outcomes, suggested initiatives, key questions, additional resources, and assessment questions related to 10 core competencies: (leadership development, assessment and evaluation, event management, meaningful interpersonal relationships, collaboration, social responsibility, effective communication, multicultural competency, intellectual growth, clarified values); and seven additional competencies: (enhanced self-esteem, realistic self-appraisal, healthy behavior and satisfying lifestyles, interdependence, spiritual awareness, personal and educational goals, career choices). More information about the Frameworks is available at

In an effort to enhance student learning outside the classroom, the Student Affairs Division of Linfield College examined how they define and assess learning. To start this process, the entire staff within the division of Student Affairs read Learning Reconsidered 2 and participated in a day-long training on student learning outcomes and assessment. Following the training, the staff grappled with how to put the theory of the learning and assessment into practice. Staff members were introduced to the new NACA Student Leader Competency Guide at the NACA National Conference and a NASAP regional conference. It provided student learning outcomes and included an assessment tool and facilitator’s guide. This guide provided a good starting point for the development of learning outcomes and assessment.

A meeting of Residence Life and the Student Activities Staff occurred to narrow the 17 NACA competencies down to five core competencies that fit the student culture and desired outcomes. They included: leadership development, meaningful interpersonal relationships, collaboration, social responsibility and effective communication. The staff used the assessment tool in a pre and a post self-evaluation to determine the impact that programs were having on the five competencies. The first year of data revealed that students self-scored lower on the post-evaluation, even after extensive leadership training and a yearlong leadership experience. This scoring drop was credited to a greater self-awareness and understanding of their own leadership competencies. After much consideration it was decided to drop the pre-evaluation as part of the assessment process. The second year, at a full division retreat, the student affairs staff developed four core competencies for all student leaders, including leadership development, social responsibility, effective communication, multicultural competency. Also, a partnership was formed with CampusLabs to develop a post-evaluation for the student leaders with an expanded scale. Finally, multiple assessment methods were developed and incorporated utilizing reflection through journaling and one-to-one meetings

For Linfield, this was an intensive and rewarding project where valuable lessons were learned. First, a pre and post-evaluation is not always the ideal methodology. Second, for small divisions with limited budgets it is important to seek out existing resources. These may include guiding documents from other institutions, templates and tools through NACA, and consultations with CampusLabs. Finally, it is important to be upfront and direct about learning outcomes with students. Showing students that their leadership positions are learning laboratories was an important part of the assessment process. To that end, learning outcomes were incorporated into each part of a student’s leadership experience from the marketing of the position, to the hiring process, training, program goals and one-on-one meetings. Linfield found that once the language of learning and assessment was used, their students followed suit and incorporated it into their experience.


Whether staff are searching for a way to complete a full program review or a small campus looking for a place to start, assessing student learning in campus activities begins with determining what framework or process works best. There are myriad ways to assess student learning in the co-curricular realm. A focus on intentionally gathering relevant data to help improve the student experience is paramount, regardless of which method one chooses. Assessing student learning is a challenging and rewarding experience, one that can benefit students and staff alike.

Discussion Questions

  • What are the benefits of assessing student life programs? How can assessment help maximize opportunities or mitigate challenges in a student life context?
  • What do students learn through participation in student life programs? Are there differences in learning depending on breadth of experience vs. depth of experience?
  • How can student learning outcomes truly be measured in the context of student life?
  • What steps can one take today to plan an assessment of a student life program? What steps can be planned for this month? This semester?


Bresciani, M. J. (2011, August). Making assessment meaningful: What new student affairs professionals and those new to assessment need to know. (NILOA Assessment Brief: Student Affairs). Urbana, IL: University for Illinois and Indiana University, National Institute for Learning Outcomes Assessment.

Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education. (2011). CAS handout. Retrieved from the CAS Web site

Keeling, R. P., American College Personnel Association, & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators (U.S.). (2006). Learning reconsidered 2: Implementing a campus-wide focus on the student experience. Washington, D.C.: ACPA.

McNeil, M. (2009). Using standards to support peer education. Retrieved from the Alice! Health Promotion Program, Columbia UniversityMcNeil, M. (2009). Using standards to support peer education. Retrieved from…

Nuss, E. M. (2000). The role of professional associations. In M. J. Barr, M. K. Desler, & Associates (Eds.),The handbook of student affairs administration (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Schuh, J. H., & Upcraft, M. L. (2001). Assessment practice in student affairs: An applications manual. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass Publishers.

White, E. R. (2006).Using CAS standards for self-assessment and improvement. Retrieved from the NACADA Clearinghouse of Academic Advising Resources Web site

About the Authors

Kim Yousey-Elsener, Ph.D. is an Associate Director of Assessment Programs at Campus Labs as well as serving as the Chair for ACPA’s Commission for Assessment and Evaluation. In addition to her assessment work with over 100 campuses nation-wide she serves as adjunct faculty at West Virginia University.

Please e-mail inquiries to Kim Yousey-Elsener.

Stella Mulberry Antic, Ph.D., is the Assistant Director of Research, Assessment, and Planning for Student Affairs at the University of North Texas, and serves on the directorate for the ACPA Commission for Assessment and Evaluation. At UNT, Dr. Antic conducts research related to student populations and works on developing a statistical model of student retention using direct evidence of program and service usage patterns.

Please e-mail inquiries to Stella Mulberry Antic.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

Creating a Culture of Inclusion: Listening to the Voices of People with Disabilities

Creating a Culture of Inclusion: Listening to the Voices of People with Disabilities

Karen A. Myers
Saint Louis University

The use of Universal Design (UD) within higher education has primarily been directed towards students with disabilities. In recent years, research has proposed that UD is beneficial to a wide range of students, including, but not limited to, students with disabilities. Students not speaking English as their first language, students who are non-traditional in age, and students with varied learning styles may all benefit from the infusion of UD within higher education. In light of the far reaching potential for access and inclusion that is associated with UD, the ACPA Standing Committee on Disability (SCD) has proposed that UD become a standard framework for designing learning environments within ACPA and for individual member use. Over the course of the next several months, the SCD will be spotlighting the use of UD from various perspectives within higher education including: (a) a disability resource provider, (b) an individual with a disability, (c) a faculty member, and (d) a student affairs professional. This second article is from the perspective of a person with a disability.


The Inclusion Judge


Who should be the judge of inclusion? Who should determine if inclusion has been attempted and carried out successfully? This question has been on my mind lately. In higher education, departments of disability resources, multicultural education, LGBTA, women, men, spirituality, and community engagement (among others), strive to include all members of the campus community, continually bringing to life Schlossberg’s (1989) theory of marginality and mattering. Some recent examples of such intentional educational programs and events include campus celebrations of the 20th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990, such as Allies for Inclusion: The Ability Exhibit , the 2011 Developments Spirituality article series, “Working on Our Inner Lives: Meaning-Making in Colleges and Universities,” and the current Everyone Matters, six-month global social media campaign led by Archbishop Emeritus Desmund Tutu to foster inclusiveness and reduce intolerance. These and other inclusion initiatives are admirable and will potentially increase awareness and fair-treatment and decrease intolerance and exclusion.

However, going back to my original question about the success of these programs: who will be the judge of inclusion? Will marginalized populations feel included as a result of these efforts? Have their teachers, employers, and co-workers been kinder, more understanding, accommodating, and more inclusive after attending a disability awareness session or reading a disability awareness article? How will we know? My answer is simple: ask them.

Asking people with disabilities, for example, how they feel about their treatment, their perceptions, their accommodations, their access, and the laws pertaining to their equity seems logical, however, it is common for people with disabilities to report they themselves never have been asked. In three separate studies I conducted involving students with disabilities (Myers, 2009; Myers, Jenkins, & Pousson, 2009), many reported it was the first time anyone ever asked them how they felt or what they preferred. And although there are some excellent first-person accounts of higher education professionals in recent literature, such as Job One (see chapter by Deborah McCarthy) and Making Good on the Promise and in Building Pedagogical Curb Cuts (see entries by Nancy Badger, Barbara Palombi, Christopher McDonnell Dennis, Terri Masse-Burrell, Shelly Neal and others), such first-person accounts are limited.

My Personal Story

I am honored to write an article in this series from the perspective of a person with a disability. I seem to have a lifetime of inclusion and exclusion stories, being one of over 20 people in my family with a congenital visual disability resulting in extreme light sensitivity, low visual acuity, and legal blindness. It is liberating for me to be able to write from the perspective of a woman who has been a student, a teacher, an academic administrator, and a student affairs professional—and who is legally blind. I learned from my older siblings that, as a high school student, I needed to ask my teachers for accommodations in order to see the math problem on the board or the conjugation in the Spanish textbook. In an all-female Catholic high school in the late 1960s, there were very few of us who required (or acknowledged we required) academic accommodations, or as they called it at that time, “special treatment.” As my career in higher education progressed, I realized that I needed to be my own advocate for accommodations. Without realizing it, I became an expert at self-advocacy and encouraged my fellow students and co-workers to do the same. From large-print exams and meeting agendas to oversized computer monitors and low-lit office spaces, many items allowed me to do my job efficiently, effectively, and be on a level playing field with my colleagues.

Self-Advocacy, Accommodations, and Universal Design

Truth be told, being a self-advocate for disability-related accommodations can be exhausting. Although it can be extremely rewarding and worth every second of those “educable moments” of reminding teachers to repeat aloud what they have written on a board and reminding supervisors to use a bold high-contrast font in their print materials, it does take time and effort on the part of the person with a disability. For years I thought, “Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all of these accommodations became a natural part of how we (as educators) communicated, interacted, and did business?” Then, about 15 years ago, my answer arrived in the form of Universal Design (UD)—the concept of making goods, environments, and services accessible to all people “to the greatest extent possible, without the need for adaptable or specialized design” (Center for Universal Design, 1997, p. 1). I had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Jeanne Higbee from the University of Minnesota, hearing her speak about Universal Instructional Design (UID), and reading her book, Curriculum Transformation and Disability: Implementing Universal Design in Higher Education. Since then, we have been good friends and colleagues who work together in spreading the “UID message,” moving universal design principles for architecture to curriculum to student services and beyond.

In Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation: Implementing Universal Design in Higher Education, Higbee and Goff (2010) address UD and UID principles based on Chickering and Gamson’s (1991) best practices for undergraduate education. These adaptations include the following seven principles: a) creating respectful welcoming environments; b) determining the essential components of a course or program; c) communicating class/program expectations; d) providing constructive feedback; e) exploring the use of natural supports for learning, including technology, to enhance opportunities for all learners; f) designing teaching/instructional methods that consider diverse learning styles, abilities, ways of knowing, and previous experience and background knowledge; g) creating multiple ways for students/employees to demonstrate their knowledge; and h) promoting interaction among and between faculty and students, employers and employees. All of these principles are essential for UD of instruction and student development, and I have used each in my various positions in higher education (i.e., student, faculty, staff, and administrator). For example, as Director of New Student Programs and Director of Disability Services at four distinctly different institutions, I used these principles to promote cohesiveness among my staff and enhance their professional development. Bringing bagels to an early morning meeting, offering chocolates during a one-on-one, providing clear expectations of job responsibilities, and offering timely constructive feedback via multiple modes of communication were just a few ways UID was utilized to attain successful outcomes.

As a person with a disability, I would like to emphasize two principles in particular that, to me, are vital in my own growth and development: 1) creating respectful welcoming environments, and 2) promoting interaction among and between faculty and students/employers and employees. Personally, these go hand-in-hand and allow me to feel valued as a person. A warm welcoming environment that promotes interaction, whether it is a department or faculty office, a classroom, a campus dining facility, a Web site, a department chair/director, or a receptionist on the other end of a telephone, all will determine how I feel about the host and about myself. Does that person/environment respect and value me? Do they sincerely believe that I matter? Examples of creating respectful welcoming environments that promote interaction include: sending welcome e-mails to students, staff, and faculty, learning people’s names, greeting people when passing them in the hall or on campus, being open to meeting with people, encouraging students/faculty/staff to develop peer learning communities, being available to encourage conversation and assistance via email, phone, discussion board, chat rooms, and in person, and encouraging participation and input when developing materials, curriculum, programs, and events. A warm welcoming environment that encourages interaction will open doors for conversations about the additional UID principles, such as natural supports for learning and possible ways to demonstrate knowledge.


I usually begin my disability awareness training sessions with the question, “Have you excluded anyone today?” It is fairly easy for us to say we have included people, but when asked to stop and think if we excluded anyone through our words, our behaviors, or our environments, most of us recall barriers we unintentionally construct that prevent others from entering our world. These barriers might include: small print signage, low-contrast serif fonts on Web sites, e-mails and handouts, curbs with inaccessible walkways, classrooms and meeting rooms with stationary seating and narrow aisles, and videos with no captions. So, what does it mean to you to be included? How do you feel when you are marginalized or excluded? Asking people with disabilities to be the judge of inclusion may be the answer to our questions regarding the success of our inclusion programs, services, and communication techniques. Are our inclusion efforts a success? Is UID working? Let’s ask the people who know.


The Center for Universal Design. (1997). The principles of universal design (Version 2.0). Raleigh, NC: North Carolina State University. Retrieved October 2, 2009, from

Higbee, J. L. (Ed.). (2003). Curriculum transformation and disability: Implementing Universal Design in higher education. Minneapolis, MN: Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy, General College, University of Minnesota.

Higbee, J. L., & Goff, E. (2008). Pedagogy and student services for institutional transformation: Implementing Universal Design in higher education. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy.

Higbee, J. L., & Mitchell, Alice A. (2009). Making good on the promise: Student affairs professionals with disabilities. Washington, DC: American College Personnel Association and University Press of America.

Magolda, P. & Carnaghi, J. (2004 ). Job One: Experiences of new professionals in student affairs. Washington, D.C: University Press Of America.

Myers, K. (2009). College students with visual disabilities: Preferences for effective interaction. Germany: VDM Verlag Publications. ISBN# 3639166000

Myers, K., Jenkins, J., Pousson, M. (2009). Social Norms and Disability. ACPA Developments.

Schlossberg, N. K. (1989). Marginality and mattering: Key issues in building community. In D.C. Roberts (ed.), Designing campus activities to foster a sense of community. New Directions for Student Services, 48. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.

About the Author

Karen Myers is an Associate Professor of Higher Education at Saint Louis University. She is the Co-founder, former Chair, and current Directorate Member and Faculty Liaison of ACPA’s Standing Committee on Disability. Myers is also the 2005 Disability Leadership Award recipient (presented by ACPA’s Standing Committee on Disability).

Please e-mail inquiries to Karen Myers.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

A Rejoinder to On the Ethical Implications of Being The Man

A Rejoinder to On the Ethical Implications of Being The Man

Z Nicolazzo
Developments Editorial Board Member
Miami University (OH)

To recognize that we touch each other in language seems particularly difficult in a society that would have us believe that there is no dignity in the experience of passion, that to feel deeply is to be inferior, for within the dualism of Western metaphysical thought, ideas are always more important than language. To heal the splitting of mind and body, we marginalized and oppressed people attempt to recover ourselves and our experiences in language. (bell hooks, 1994, pp. 174-175)

What happens when one proclaims to use language in a neutral way? Is the neutral use of language even possible? What is lost or gained when one uses terms that, while neutral to some, are far from neutral to others? These are the questions I seek to address in my brief rejoinder to the ethics column titled “On the Ethical Implications of Being ‘The Man’” by Dr. Paul Shang. Far from being a mere conversation over semantics, I suggest language, often shrouded in a cloak of neutrality, has the potential to do immense (albeit oftentimes unintended) harm to others. Consequently, I implore us as educators to be prudent, intentional, and humble in our use of language. As a way of beginning, I start with a personal example of the damaging use of language.

A little over a year ago, I came out as a member of the transgender community, specifically as a gender non-conforming individual. Part of my coming out process was helping others realize the pronouns he/his no longer reflected my identity and experience, and that I preferred people use the pronouns ze (pronounced zee and used in place of she/he) and hir (pronounced here and used in place of his/her) when talking to or about me. This has been tricky for some folks, and there were times over the last year I would become upset when I was misgendered in public spaces. Although it was clear this misgendering was rarely, if ever, malicious, it still stung and continued to perpetuate a system in which my identity as a gender non-conforming student, staff member, and community member was rendered invisible. The invisibility I experienced as a transgender person was fueled by cisgender privilege—benefits of identifying, expressing, and embodying a gender that matches the sex one was assigned at birth—known simply as genderism. Similarly, it is my belief that Dr. Shang’s article reinforces systems of privilege for dominant identities and ideologies, specifically sexism and patriarchy, classism, and the privileging of normalcy.

Before I go further, I must admit that I do not believe Dr. Shang set out to harm the readership of Developments intentionally. However, it is my belief that stating this does not absolve Dr. Shang—or others who use triggering language—from the impact of their words. Furthermore, because I do not believe Dr. Shang to have tried to cause undue harm, my intent is not to vilify Dr. Shang as an author. Instead, my intent is to raise questions and provide a different perspective for Developments readers. I believe it is through the respectful exchange of ideas and dialogue that forward progress can and will be made. Finally, I think it is important to mention the opinions and perspective I share in this rejoinder are my own, and not necessarily that of other members of the Developments editorial board.

The first area of concern comes within the first two sentences of Dr. Shang’s article, in which the author writes, “Somehow, everyone engaged in student affairs work has become ‘the man’ at one time or another. The term the man has nothing to do with gender” [emphasis added] (Shang, 2012). I disagree with this statement, believing the term the man has everything to do with gender and more than that, sexism and patriarchy. The term the man represents someone in a position of power or authority. The conflation of masculinity with power, authority, and control reinforces patriarchy, or the systems that confer privilege to men at the cost of those who are not men (e.g., women and transgender individuals). If this term was not about gender, then the term “the woman” or “the individual” would bring to mind similar sentiments about power and authority, but they do not. The truth is that men are privileged while women and transgender individuals are deemed less important. Ergo, Dr. Shang’s insistence the term the man is not about gender ignores the systems of sexism and patriarchy that privilege men.

The second area of concern I have with Dr. Shang’s (2012) article is when the author uses the word normal in the following passage:

For the purposes of this discussion, it is useful to consider whether or not an event is considered to be disruptive. As an example, many student affairs staff became “the administration” this fall when they sought to preserve the normal functioning of their institutions in the face of a national Occupy Movement, protests over the cost of higher education, or the treatment of undocumented students, etc. [emphasis added] (para 3)

In Michael Warner’s 1999 book titled The Trouble with Normal: Sex, Politics, and the Ethics of Queer Life, Warner articulates, “to be fully normal is, strictly speaking, impossible” (p. 54). Warner goes further by stating:

Even if one belongs to the statistical majority in age group, race, height, weight, frequency of orgasm, gender of sexual partners, and annual income, then simply by virtue of this unlikely combination of normalcies one’s profile would already depart from the norm (pp. 54-55).

Given Warner’s commentary on the concept of being normal, it becomes clear why the preservation of “the normal functioning” of institutions of higher education may be misguided at best and impossible at worst. Furthermore, the hegemony of that which is deemed normal comes at the cost of other individuals or groups who are deemed abnormal, deviant, or criminal. For example, Dr. Shang suggested those who protested in the Occupy movement or on issues regarding the inhumane treatment of undocumented students are abnormal, thus reinforcing a system that privileges those who do not stray from “the straight and narrow” (Ahmed, 2006). Not only is normalcy a fallacy, but the invocation of normalcy privileges some (e.g., upper level administrators trying to keep order) at the cost of less powerful others (e.g., student, faculty, staff, and community protestors).

The last concern I have with Dr. Shang’s article comes when the author stated:

[The administration] worked hard to keep their campuses safe, which sometimes meant being involved in discussions or making decisions about limiting the right of entry of homeless people or political activists or others who were not the customary students, faculty, or staff. (para 3)

In this passage, the author conflates being homeless and/or from a lower socioeconomic status background with being dangerous. Concurrently, the author suggested those who are members of the campus community (i.e., students, faculty, and staff) are unequivocally safe. These equations are founded on the false logic of outsiders as dangerous and insiders as safe. Within higher education, we have plenty of examples that tell us this thinking is false. We see students, faculty, and staff doing harm to others regularly, just as we see examples of those who are homeless or from lower socioeconomic status background not causing harm. These scenarios that contradict Dr. Shang’s statement are not surprising, and yet the author wrote the above statement without irony or hyperbole.

These three examples from Dr. Shang’s article bring me back to the questions I presented at the outset of this article:

  • What happens when one proclaims to use language in a neutral way?
  • Is the neutral use of language even possible?
  • What is lost or gained when one uses terms that, while neutral to some, are far from neutral to others?

Rather than providing definitive answers to these questions, I suggest they remain open so that you, as readers, can build off the dialogue created by Dr. Shang’s article and my rejoinder. Therefore, in closing out this rejoinder, I would like to offer two additional thoughts. The first comes from Jabari Asim’s 2007 book titled, The N Word: Who Can Say It, Who Shouldn’t, and Why. In writing on Dave Chappelle’s reaction to being told he should not use the “N word” in his comedy, Asim quotes Chappelle as saying,

I’m not so concerned when black intellectuals say the N word is awful … If people stop saying the N word, is everything going to be equal? Is the rainbow going to come out of the sky, and all of a sudden things will be better for black people? (p. 211)

Asim goes further by stating, “Chappelle’s response is more than a little disingenuous … Yet, I think he is right. Suggesting that Chappelle refrain from using racial language (to parody racist attitudes, after all) is to profoundly miss the point” (p. 211). While Dr. Shang was not trying to parody sexist attitudes, I agree with Asim’s point that striking language from use is unlikely to solve the systemic inequities (e.g., sexism, racism, genderism) subaltern populations face. Instead, we need to interrogate such use of language rather than pretend this language is not loaded with sexist, racist, or gendered meanings. After all, Gloria Anzaldúa (2007) prophetically wrote, “The answer to the problem between the white race and the colored [sic], between males and females, lies in healing the split that originates in the very foundation of our lives, our culture, our language, our thoughts” [emphasis added] (p. 102). The split referenced by Anzaldúa calls to the fore the mind and body split that hooks (1994) discussed in the quote cited at the outset of this rejoinder. If we are going to participate in healing our lives, our communities, and ourselves then we must begin talking about the ways in which language reinforces and/or deconstructs systems of privilege and oppression. In this way, we can revel in being what Sara Ahmed (2010) referred to as the feminist killjoy and (re)claim our rightful spot at the table where dialogue and discussion move us beyond the myth of neutrality, the hegemony of normalcy, and the limitations of oppression.


Ahmed, S. (2006). Queer phenomenology: Orientations, objects, others. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Ahmed, S. (2010). Feminist killjoys (and other willful subjects). The Scholar and Feminist Online, 8.3. Retrieved from:

Anzaldúa, G. (2007). Borderlands/La frontera: The new mestiza. (3rd Ed.). San Francisco, CA: Aunt Lute Books.

Asim, J. (2007). The n word: Who can say it, who shouldn’t, and why. Boston, MA: Houghtom Mifflin Company.

hooks, b. (1994). Teaching to transgress: Education as the practice of freedom. New York, NY: Routledge.

Shang, P. (2012). On the ethical implications of being “the man.” Developments, 10(2).

Warner, M. (1999). The trouble with normal: Sex, politics, and the ethics of queer life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

About the Author

Z Nicolazzo is a doctoral student in the Student Affairs in Higher Education (SAHE) Program at Miami University. Ze is a past Chair of the ACPA Standing Committee on Men and Masculinities and is a current member of ACPA’s Developments Editorial Board. Hir research interests include transgender and gender non-conforming students, activism in higher education, and alternative epistemologies, methodologies, and representations of knowledge.

Please e-mail inquiries to Z Nicolazzo.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.

On the Ethical Implications of Being The Man

On the Ethical Implications of Being The Man

Z Nicolazzo
Developments Editorial Board Member
Miami University (OH)

Somehow, everyone engaged in student affairs work has become “the man” at one time or another. The term the man has nothing to do with gender. The man is an authority figure, an adversary, someone not normally considered by those in opposition to be an ally or to be trusted. The man is someone who will likely impose seemingly irrelevant and arbitrary regulations to hinder efforts to achieve some perceived good and possibly someone who has to decide whether to be professionally responsible or sometimes instead, to act in ways more representative of their own personal beliefs. Being the man, the administration or the Establishment is not an enviable position for most people in student affairs. For some, it is so unpleasant a term that the phrase the administration will be substituted from now on. It is also discomforting how quickly the transformation occurs from having a positive and comfortable relationship with students as an educator and practitioner under normal circumstances to being transformed into the administration when a cause of one sort or another emerges. Perhaps this transformative experience happened to you this past fall with the Occupy movements or other protest concerns such as the increasing costs of education or changes in institutional policy, programs, or procedures.

There are different aspects of becoming the administration that are cause for introspection. For many, there is an unpleasant emotional impact, as becoming the administration is not something that is desired or possibly even anticipated. The transformation can be personally hurtful, as students with whom you have a positive professional relationship might levy the accusations of having become the administration in ways that are potentially disrespectful and confrontational. It can be annoying. After all, being accused of being the administration usually coincides with having done something such as imposing a conduct sanction, supporting a controversial decision, or describing possible unpopular consequences, which seem in one’s own mind professionally, reasonably, and ethically justifiable. Finally, becoming the administration can be personally confusing, and sometimes the accusation engenders for the need for guidance and assurance that the right decision was made.

For the purposes of this discussion, it is useful to consider whether or not an event is considered to be disruptive. As an example, many student affairs staff became the administration this fall when they sought to preserve the normal functioning of their institutions in the face of a national Occupy movement, protests over the cost of higher education, or the treatment of undocumented students, etc. They worked hard to keep their campuses safe, which sometimes meant being involved in discussions or making decisions about limiting the right of entry of homeless people, political activists, or others who were not the customary students, faculty, or staff. Sometimes student affairs staff had to grapple with freedom of speech issues when access to classroom buildings or activities spaces were impeded by protestors or the volume of chants and speeches interfered with lectures and other curricular and co-curricular activities.

These difficult decisions and topics are intensified if the administration is personally sympathetic to the overarching protest goals such as world peace, social justice, animal rights, or economic equality to name a few. But decisions like these, if they are implemented in humane and respectful ways, seem justifiable and are even addressed in the ACPA Statement of Ethical Standards and Principles (2006)(the statement). The statement offers four standards by which to make ethical decisions regarding numerous types of ethical matters. The extensive variety of ethical matters is not specifically identified within the statement. The third standard “Responsibility to the Institution” (p. 4) describes elements of professional decision making:

Institutions of higher education provide the context for student affairs practice. Institutional mission, goals, policies, organizational structure, and culture, combined with individual judgment and professional standards, define and delimit the nature and extent of practice. Student affairs professionals share responsibility with other members of the academic community for fulfilling the institutional mission. Responsibility to promote the development of students and to support the institution’s policies and interests require that professionals balance competing demands.

In standards 3.1, 3.2, and 3.3 of the statement student affairs staff are reminded to support the mission, goals, and policies and to follow the procedures of their institutions; to seek resolution when conflicts occur between professional and personal values, recognizing that these might necessitate protracted and respectful effort; and when resolution is not possible, to voluntarily leave the institution.

If guidance along these lines does not seem complete, then perhaps more utilitarian types of perspectives that strive to achieve the greatest good for the greatest number might be helpful. In the conflicts which cause student affairs staff to be accused of having become the administration, rarely is there a sense the confrontational students represent the opinions of the majority. It seems most students have no opinion on a topic or event, have an opinion but do not wish to get involved, or consider the issue to be somewhat irrelevant to their desire to complete their educational goals as quickly and inexpensively as possible. For instance, in their report, Student Debt and the Class of 2010 (Reed, 2011), The Project on Student Debt (n.d.) states grimly, “Two-thirds of college seniors graduated with loans in 2010, and they carried an average of $25,250 in debt. They also faced the highest unemployment rate for young college graduates in recent history at 9.1%” (para. 4. ). This is a sobering reminder of the responsibility of student affairs staff to provide not only the best and most complete developmental experience for students but also the most efficient and relevant.

On the other hand, to realize a perspective might not be representative of the majority should never be confused with the Nixon era “silent majority” argument used to attempt to diminish the efforts of protestors against the Vietnam War; student affairs staff must always attempt to assess and appreciate the perspectives of students regardless of how widespread. Student affairs staff, the administration, must provide the leadership to identify ways to limit disruption while still providing opportunities for the expression of conflicting perspectives.

Another source for discomfort for student affairs staff might be the intuited contradiction between being advocates for social justice while upholding the policies and procedures of their institutions. The fourth standard, “Responsibility to Society,” advocates that student affairs professionals take active stance towards social justice:

Student affairs professionals, both as citizens and practitioners, have a responsibility to contribute to the improvement of the communities in which they live and work and to act as advocates for social justice for members of those communities. They respect individuality and individual differences. They recognize that our communities are enhanced by social and individual diversity manifested by characteristics such as age, culture, class, ethnicity, gender, ability, gender identity, race, religion, and sexual orientation. Student affairs professionals work to protect human rights and promote respect for human diversity in higher education (p. 5).

Standard 4.1 encourages student affairs staff to assist students to become “ethical and responsible citizens” (p. 5). It is not surprising that some student affairs staff may feel conflicted in performing their ethical duties to serve their institutions on the one hand, and to assist students in exploring their social responsibilities on the other.


So what does this mean in the days ahead for student affairs practitioners? Is there a contradiction between our obligations to our institutions and to be advocates for social justice? If the current economic crisis continues, will questions about class and our responsibilities to acknowledge class contradictions on our campuses and to address the needs of less economically privileged students cause us to be uncomfortable with how exactly we are serving in our role as social justice advocates? Can we educate enough beforehand so our decisions will not always seem to be unnecessarily limiting and arbitrary? Can we protect free speech, individual rights, and personal safety simultaneously? Are we individually forever destined to be the administration?

The following suggestions might be helpful:

  1. Be visible and be accessible. If students get to know you at least a little as a person, it will be more difficult for them to arbitrarily assign a label to you. Also, having a sense for who the students are, whether student leaders or not, helps you to have more appreciation for them as individuals and enhances opportunities for communication.
  2. Know your students. Review the information from the admissions or institutional research office about where your students come from, their average age, how many are transfers, how many are nontraditional, their ethnicity, their gender, and their economic status. This knowledge is very important and will help you to address stereotypes that might affect decision-making.
  3. Become a predictable colleague. If you have not already, spend some time with people you are likely to work with in those circumstances when you are accused of being the administration. Although this might be repeating something obvious, it is very important to be someone whose opinion your chief of police or director of public safety respects, not to mention legal counsel.
  4. Plan ahead. In division-wide meetings, talk about potential controversial situations, who will take the lead, and what the expectations are. These are confusing times and, as has been described in this essay, our ethical obligations might be confusing too. These are better discussed under calmer circumstances.

In previous essays, I have asked the question of whether the current the statement still reflects the perspectives of ACPA members and the student affairs profession. The feedback by some Developments editorial members to first drafts of this essay further underscores the question. In response to concerns by them and in order to encourage dialogue among readers, I changed phrases like “the man” which are now considered to be so objectionable by some. I also changed other points to be more inclusive and more respectful so no one felt relegated to the subaltern. Still, the editorial feedback made me wonder again whether the contrasts between serving our institutions as well as being agents for social justice are depicted accurately. Also, does the ACPA Statement of Ethical Principles still accurately describe, for as many of us as possible, the conflict between individual values, characteristics, and perspectives and those of a community such as an institution of higher education?

I look forward to hearing from you about your perspectives and experiences.


ACPA Statement of Ethical Principles and Standards. (2006). Washington, DC: American College Personnel Association. Retrieved from:

Reed, M. (2011, November). Student Debt and the Class of 2010. Retrieved from

“The Project on Student Debt: An Initiative of the Institute for College Access and Success.” (n.d.). Retrieved from

About the Author

Paul Shang is the current chair of the ACPA Ethics Committee and a past president of ACPA. He also serves as the Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students at the University of Oregon. Please e-mail inquiries to Paul Shang.


The ideas expressed in this article are not necessarily those of the Developments editorial board or those of ACPA members or the ACPA Governing Board, Leadership, or International Office Staff.