Fostering Student Speech and Expression While Maintaining Campus Civility, Safety, and Functioning

Fostering Student Speech and Expression While Maintaining Campus Civility, Safety, and Functioning

Image of Neil H. Hutchens

Neal H. Hutchens
Pennsylvania State University


Kaitlin Quigley

Kaitlin Quigley
Pennsylvania State University

Periodically, students’ speech and expressive activities result in legal conflict in regard to institutional regulations designed to address when, where, and under what circumstances students may engage in speech and expression on campus. In one recent illustrative incident that attracted media attention, a community college in California faced a lawsuit after a student challenged institutional rules that restricted him from seeking signatures for petitions outside the college’s designated free speech zone (Masatani, 2014). The college settled the lawsuit, agreeing to pay the student and his attorneys $110,000 and to revise its speech policies to make most areas of campus available for speech and expressive activities. For this column, we examine legal conflicts that potentially arise over institutional rules related to the time, place, and manner of students’ speech and expressive activities on campus. Specifically, we focus on instances involving student speech or expression in seemingly ‘open’ or ‘public’ areas of campus, such as sidewalks or plazas, and when students must gain institutional approval to engage in activities that include handing out flyers or seeking signatures for petitions.

Overview of Legal Standards Impacting Student Speech

Public/Private Distinction, Contract, State Laws

Several legal factors determine the extent of student speech rights and accompanying levels of institutional authority to regulate student expression. An initial distinction often of legal significance involves a college or university’s status as public or private. Public institutions, unlike their private counterparts, must adhere to legal standards mandated under the First Amendment when exercising authority over student speech and expression.

At both public and private colleges and universities, standards derived from sources such as student handbooks are frequently legally relevant. While many courts are careful to avoid defining the student-institutional relationship as solely contractual in nature, contract standards provide a legal framework often used by courts to evaluate institutional actions. This includes in relation to student speech issues, where courts may turn to standards and rules articulated in student handbooks and codes of conduct to evaluate the permissibility of actions taken against students.

Private colleges and universities typically possess much greater discretion than public ones in exercising authority over student speech and expression. From a contract perspective, the key issue involves consistent treatment of students that aligns with established institutional policies and practices. Even while generally possessing greater discretion to regulate student speech, a private college or university must follow, in a fair manner, its own rules in the treatment of students to withstand legal scrutiny.

State laws and constitutional standards are also potentially germane in terms of the legal protections available for student speech and expression. At least one state, California, has a law that requires secular private colleges and universities to grant students the equivalent speech rights that exist for students at public institutions. State laws can also impact public colleges or universities by providing legal protections beyond those granted through federal constitutional provisions. For example, Illinois has mandated that public institutions must provide greater legal protections to student media than potentially provided under federal constitutional standards. Just as with contract standards, state law can play a meaningful role in terms of institutional authority to regulate aspects of student speech and expression.

The First Amendment

The dominant legal imperative for public colleges and universities in the realm of student speech and expression comes from the First Amendment to the United States Constitution. Tinker v. Des Moines School District (1969) stands as a foundational United States Supreme Court decision in this area. While involving secondary students, the legal rules and principles derived from the case have been extended to public higher education. In Tinker, the Supreme Court decided that high school officials could not prohibit students from wearing armbands as a means to engage in a form of silent protest to the military conflict in Vietnam. The court held that school officials could not restrict the speech unless it would substantially interfere with the educational environment or impair the rights of other students.

Campus areas often differ in relation to the First Amendment rights available for student speech and expression. Institutions are able to exert heightened authority over student speech in specific parts of campus, such as classrooms, libraries, offices, or auditoriums. That is, the nature of the campus location—or forum as it is often referred to in legal decisions—where speech occurs is often legally significant in determining the applicable speech rights available and the corresponding level of institutional control over aspects of such speech. Accordingly, some locations, or fora, on campus are subject to enhanced institutional authority because they have not been designated by the institution or traditionally recognized as some type of open forum for student speech and expression.

For example, classroom spaces—at least when class meetings are taking place—do not constitute locations that have been made generally open for student speech and expression. As such, courts have typically granted substantial authority on the part of public colleges and universities to regulate such learning environments to prohibit disruptions to the educational process. Other spaces on campus not generally open to unconstrained student speech and expression, at least at certain times or for certain purposes, include administrative offices, libraries, and locations for performances and athletic events.

In contrast, some places on campus can constitute places either traditionally recognized or designated by the institution as generally available for student speech and expression. The United States Supreme Court has recognized that students possess substantial First Amendment rights in such forums. A key legal decision establishing this principle is Healy v. James (1972). In this case, the Supreme Court—declaring that First Amendment protections apply to public college students’ speech—rejected the contention that a group of students suffered no First Amendment deprivation when they were denied access to use campus facilities in the same way as other student organizations because they could still meet off campus. The administration’s refusal to grant the organization the right to meet and distribute information on campus was based on fears that the group would engage in disruptive and violent behavior. According to the Supreme Court, while the university could require students to follow reasonable campus rules, it could not seek to silence students on the basis of expressing views disfavored by school officials.

An important point to emphasize is that campus spaces can serve multiple purposes, which means that student speech rights in a campus location can also shift. For instance, an auditorium might be made available at some times for students to reserve to engage in speech or expressive activities. At other times, this same auditorium could be used for performances or lectures and not be an open forum for student speech and expression. Similarly, a university may make classroom spaces available to students when not being used for instructional purposes. When classrooms are made available to students under such circumstances, the institution possesses less authority to regulate aspects of student speech and expression than would often be legally permitted during a class meeting. The remainder of this column will focus on student speech and expression in seemingly open or public areas of campus, including sidewalks and other walkways, courtyards, and other campus areas generally available to students.

The First Amendment and “Open” Campus Areas

Apart from spaces not considered open on a general basis for student speech activities unless by special designation—e.g., classrooms, auditoriums, libraries, and offices—what about the legal status of seemingly open or public areas of campus, such as sidewalks, courtyards, or plazas? Students may reason that, because these spaces are generally open for student use, they constitute fora for expression. This is not always the case. At times, public college and university officials have clashed with students over the legal classification of such spaces. This has led to legal disputes over the types of regulations that institutions are permitted to impose on student speech and expressive activities in such campus areas.

Some institutions have argued in litigation that the legal standards associated with limited or non-public fora should apply to these types of campus areas apart from designated free speech zones. Such a designation generally vests institutions with greater legal authority to control access to these campus spaces in relation to student speech and expressive activities. In contrast, students have contended that rules associated with the traditional or designated public forum should apply to many open areas of campus, at least in relation to students. A traditional or designated public forum is government-controlled property generally open for citizens to engage in speech activities, though still subject to content-neutral regulations based on time, place, or manner. Any type of content-based restriction on student speech or expression is typically subject to heightened legal scrutiny.

Issues related to exactly what kind of forum exists on particular areas of campus, specifically open areas, can be legally complex, at times requiring consultation with institutional legal counsel. Public colleges and universities should be aware that courts may be becoming increasingly wary of institutional efforts to characterize most campus areas as a limited or closed forum and then designate a relatively small free speech zone to serve as a designated public forum for student speech and expression.

An illustrative case involving the University of Cincinnati dealt with restrictions placed on open areas of campus that limited demonstrations, picketing, and rallies to a small portion of campus (University of Cincinnati Chapter of Young Americans for Liberty v. Williams, 2012). The university also required groups of students to provide at least five days notice before engaging in speech and expressive activities. The university argued that all of its campus area constituted a limited public forum in which requirements such as a prior notice could be imposed.

A federal district court in Ohio granted a preliminary injunction in favor of the students that halted the university’s enforcement of the standards. The court discussed in its order that more recent legal decisions, including from the Supreme Court, had treated open areas of campus at public colleges or universities as a designated public forum in relation to students. According to the court, it was unaware of any legal decisions that established that “a public university may constitutionally designate its entire campus as a limited public forum as applied to students” (p. 5). It stated in its order that permitting this level of institutional authority over student speech would be “anathema to the nature of a university,” which is supposed to serve as a marketplace for ideas (p. 5). In a later order, the court approved of a revised policy where student groups of less than 25 engaging in expressive activity such as collecting signatures did not need to gain prior approval or to obtain a permit for speech and expressive activities in the institution’s specified free speech zone as well as other open area of campus, such as plazas and sidewalks.

In another case, a federal court of appeals considered regulations at the University of Texas at Austin that prohibited anonymous leafleting (Justice for All v. Faulkner, 2004). The court held that open areas of a campus should be viewed as an open forum in terms of the student population. The university had contended that such campus spaces should be viewed as a limited public forum and subject to greater institutional control. Upholding the lower court’s decision in the case, the court of appeals determined that the university, as expressed in institutional rules and statements, had “given its students too broad a guarantee of expressive freedom now to claim it intended its campus to function as a limited public forum” (p. 769). In the case, the lower court had also discussed in its opinion that the weight of authority in previous legal decisions had determined that campus grounds (at least open spaces) constituted a type of public forum for student speech and expression. Under the standards applicable to such an open public forum, the court of appeals decided that a prohibition on anonymous leafleting was an unreasonable regulation on the part of the university.

In a case involving Oregon State University, another federal appeals court held that the institution had violated the First Amendment in restricting the placement of news bins for the distribution of a student newspaper produced by a recognized student organization (OSU Student Alliance v. Ray, 2012). Looking to the university’s own administrative rules, the court determined that public areas of campus constituted a designated public forum for students. Furthermore, the court discussed in its opinion how the rule enforced against the student organization and its newspaper was unpublished, unpublicized and applied selectively to only this one publication. Other publications available on campus, including another student newspaper, local newspapers and USA Today, were not subjected to the policy.

Even when courts provide substantial discretion to public colleges and universities to regulate what areas of campus are available for student speech and expressive activity (i.e., what spaces constitute a limited forum versus a designated public forum), institutions must enforce standards in an even-handed manner. Otherwise acceptable time, place, and manner restrictions must contain clear standards and be enforced fairly in relation to students and student organizations.


In responding to instances involving student speech and expression, colleges and universities are faced with more than parsing out specific legal standards for given situations. At its best, the higher education experience provides a unique time and place for students to stretch their intellectual boundaries and to engage in a process of discovery about themselves and the larger world. As part of this journey of intellectual examination and growth, an accompanying function of the collegiate experience is to help strengthen the ability of students to participate in and contribute to democratic society. At the same time, institutions must balance the interests and needs of other members of the campus community, including making sure that environments are safe and that other institutional activities aren’t unduly hampered. These commitments to encouraging the free exchange of ideas and fostering a civil, nurturing educational environment can at times come into conflict and create administrative difficulties for higher education institutions. Student affairs professionals are tasked with determining how best to strike a balance between these multiple interests without running afoul of applicable legal standards.

Discussion Questions

  1. To what extent and in what locations should colleges and universities be permitted to regulate student speech?
  2. Are there laws in your state that affect the way your institution must treat student speech? What are the implications of these laws for you as a student affairs professional?
  3. In what ways does your institution regulate student speech? Are these regulations applied in a fair and consistent manner?
  4. In what ways is it possible to cultivate a campus environment in which free speech and civility peacefully co-exist? How can student affairs professionals aid in creating this environment?


Healy v. James, 408 U.S. 169 (1972).

Justice for All v. Faulkner, 410 F.3d 760 (5th Cir. 2005).

Masatani, M. (2014, December 4). Citrus College to pay $110,000 to settle students First Amendment lawsuit. Pasadena Star-News. Retrieved from

OSU Student Alliance v. Ray, 699 F3d. 1053 (9th Cir. 2012).

Tinker v. Des Moines School District, 393 U.S. 503 (1969).

University of Cincinnati Chapter of Young Americans for Liberty v. Williams, 2012 WL 2160969, No. 1:12-CV-155 (S.D. Ohio June 12, 2012).

About the Authors

Neal H. Hutchens is an associate professor in the Higher Education Program at Pennsylvania State University.

Kaitlin Quigley is a Ph.D. student and graduate assistant in the Higher Education Program at Pennsylvania State University.

Please e-mail inquiries to Neal H. Hutchens.


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

Risk and Reward: How Financial Decisions Impact Community College Populations

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Risk and Reward: How Financial Decisions Impact Community College Populations

Marisa Vernon, Lauren Merante, Stephanie Pfeifer, Beth Stanley
Columbus State Community College


The landscape of financial management within the context of higher education is continually evolving as a result of tuition increases and changing federal regulations.  As an example, according to the College Board, the tuition and fees for in-state students at public four-year institutions increased by 2.9% for the 2013-14 school year, following a 4.5% jump the year before (Buschman Vasel, 2014).  Financial aid and student indebtedness continues to be a prominent part of conversation in the political realm as well.  Higher education issues do not often figure prominently in campaign advertisements.  But there are some indications that it may be getting some greater play during this cycle (Stratford, 2014).

It is vital that students have a good understanding of what it means to both apply for and accept financial aid as they begin their college careers.  Jason Comfort, age 23, graduated from Michigan State in 2013 with a degree in Civil Engineering and is living back at home.  He is now working a steady, full-time job, but with $160,000 in student loans. He reports, “My student-loan debt is enormous; I can’t make it happen.  I had no idea when I was applying to college how this was going to impact my future.  I feel like I am being left behind as all my friends move out on their own” (Buschman Vasel, 2014).

Accepting financial aid does not have the tangible feel of a transaction the way the acceptance of a product does when completing a purchase at a store, or even online.  Unlike some retail purchases, the financial aid consumer is making an agreement to purchase a service rather than a good.  Students are receiving an education in return for their money, which is a very valuable asset.  However, such an asset or credential differs in that it might not reap full benefits immediately.  In order to fully value this type of investment, students must understand that the education received equates to an increased skill level, and therefore, a heightened sense of employability and the quest to become more marketable.

As first-generation, low-income students enter today’s community colleges, student affairs professionals from areas such as orientation, financial aid, academic advising, and career counseling are charged with not only helping students to succeed academically, but fully understanding the financial decisions supporting their educational pursuits.

Short- and Long-Term Mindsets

Long-term versus short-term planning becomes a factor when students begin to make educational decisions, as degree completion and wise usage of funds are key.  While attaining knowledge along the way is valuable, it is important that the student completes the journey as well. All too often, we sadly see students start on their developmental education, or even general education, requirements and stop out before completion of a certificate, degree or other credential.  While students might have created a foundation for themselves, they may have very well spent funds towards classes that are not going to contribute to the original goal of becoming more marketable.

Extending beyond the completion of the FAFSA, low-income students often encounter significant hurdles in reconciling the need to further education with the intent of more secure employment and the immediate need to generate funds to address current financial needs.  It is the unfortunate reality that even with financial aid awards, the average financial gap between award and need for a low-income student is $5,277 (The Institute for College Access & Success, 2009).

With such outstanding need, there is little option for low-income students to forego work.  Despite on-campus federal work-study positions, opportunities in this category are limited on community college campuses, leaving many students seeking outside employment.  Grappling with these difficult choices, full-time enrollment is often not a viable option, leaving many students attending part-time at best, starting and stopping prior to reaching degree completion.

As student affairs professionals, we often witness students employing short-term strategies rather than focusing on the long-term return on investment education can provide.  For example, students may choose to utilize available funding for living and other non-academic related expenses, though fail to successfully complete classes.  This strategy can present both academic and financial implications that can be harmful to their forward progress, as discussed later in this article.

Often, if students focus too intently on immediate financial need, and they are not thinking long-term, student loan balances and the cost of additional semesters can balloon.  Students can be alarmed by the debt they have taken on, especially if they have not drawn a realistic picture related to their expected income and the ratio of their income to debt payments.

According to Stratford and Fain (2014), some 2.6 million federal loan borrowers across the country are in default on their loans, and another 2.87 million borrowers are behind on their payments.  Of these borrowers, community colleges and for-profits see the highest rates of default among their borrowers.  Cheng, Freeman, and Leopold (2013) suggest student-friendly approaches to net price calculators (NPCs) and financial aid award letters, which can make an enormous difference in helping students and families understand college costs and their options for meeting them at all stages of the process, and could lessen the number of students who default on their student loans.

Understanding Financial Aid Eligibility Requirements

The financial aid process, which consists of many factors, can often be confusing to students.  Of the numerous eligibility requirements to which a student must adhere in order to be awarded federal financial aid, one topic in particular may be fairly abstruse.

Students that receive federal aid funds to pay for tuition, fees and books are monitored through a process known as Standards of Academic Progress (SAP).  Every institution must have these standards set in place, and institutions normally generate reports either at the end of each semester or annually.  This process ensures federal aid receiving students are meeting certain grades and completion rates for their classes.  SAP standards are based on formulas that focus on percentages rather than exact credit hour requirements.  Materials designed to guide financial aid professionals explain as follows: “Checking a student’s pace of completion allows for variations of enrollment status since you look at the percentage of classes successfully completed rather than the number” (U.S. Department of Education, 2014).  Students who fail, withdraw, or drop their classes are particularly at risk of losing federal aid eligibility for the subsequent semester.

SAP standards include a qualitative as well as a quantitative component.  For the qualitative component, one law specifies that by the end of the second academic year, regardless of how many credits the student has accrued, the student must have a C average or its equivalent or have an academic standing consistent with the requirement for graduation from the program.  For the quantitative component, an institution must set a maximum time frame in which a student is expected to complete the program.  For an undergraduate program, the time frame cannot exceed 150% of the published length of the program measured in academic years or terms, credit hours attempted, or clock hours completed, as determined by the institution (Code of Federal Regulations 668.34 SAP).

For students that are low-income, first-generation, or of color, these standards of academic progress can be especially impactful.  Community college students often face significant financial and socioeconomic constraints. In many cases, first generation college students  may have little external support when working through the financial aid process, leading to confusion about the options available to them. In addition, students may also come from families who speak languages other than English at home or from cultures outside the United States with different education systems.

Goldrick-Rab (2013) argues that with a far greater number of students entering higher education without the support of college-educated parents, facing more significant constraints and higher costs, an effective financial aid office must do more than distribute financial aid and apply rules and regulations.  It is the shared responsibility of the college as a whole to make sure these students understand the rules and regulations of the financial aid process that could ultimately affect whether or not the student registers for class the following semester.

As college professionals, it is important to educate students facing financial restrictions of what actions to take to increase their grades.  It is of paramount importance that students recognize potential repercussions of their actions when it comes to dropping, failing and withdrawing from their classes and the disbursement of their financial aid.  Without the help of a professional, a student might make the wrong choice of taking too many or too few classes.  These decisions could academically jeopardize the student even more, or could impact the amount of grant/loan money received.  For example, a student withdraws from their classes for the semester in hopes to salvage their grade point average, but now faces an academic restriction for not meeting satisfactory academic progress for the semester.  Even though the student withdrew, the financial aid office looks at credit hours attempted versus credit hours completed.  Occasionally, unbeknownst to the student, they will need to provide evidence of mitigating circumstances to explain the withdrawal from those classes.

A concern regarding the 150% completion rate rule arises when students choose to take classes outside their major.  As practitioners, we tend to see this happen when a student is looking to receive full financial aid money, needing full-time status, but has only been advised to take certain classes.  While taking classes outside their major seemed relatively profitable initially, sooner or later students may run into the problem of exhausting their available financial aid funds because too many classes were taken outside of their major.  In order to continue receiving federal financial aid, students must complete their first associate degree or certificate program within 150% of the published length of the program, as measured by credit hours attempted.  Once a student reaches the 150% maximum time frame limit, federal financial aid eligibility will be terminated (Columbus State Community College, 2013).  It is important to note that this policy is not just limited to associate degrees.

In addition to adhering to the satisfactory academic policies of an institution, a student is responsible for the regular attendance of classes.  Federal regulations are in place stating that attendance data must be regularly collected, and faculty members are now required to take attendance on each day the class meets.  Institutions that are required to take attendance are expected to have a procedure in place for routinely monitoring attendance records to immediately identify when a student withdraws (U.S. Department of Education, 2013).  Again, for students who already face many obstacles, this is just another topic of which to be cognizant.

How Community Colleges Are Helping

Increasingly, community colleges have begun to promote responsible borrowing and timely degree completion, as well as to help students understand eligibility requirements related to federal financial aid.  However, shifting the mindset from short- to long-term thinking is often difficult to attain among first-generation, low-income populations.  Without exposure to family members, friends, and mentors for whom education has returned an investment, students may struggle to see how today’s financial sacrifice can promote future security.

In many instances, community colleges are challenged to anticipate the needs of prospective students before they even enroll.  One strategy includes partnering with local school districts and companies to forge both academic and career partnerships.  These pathway programs provide many low-income students an opportunity to earn free college credit prior to graduating from high school.  As many as seven percent of all community college students are currently under the age of 18 and earning college credit in dual-enrollment programs while still enrolled in high school (Mullin, 2012).  Through community college partnerships with major corporations, such as the Honda Corporation, high achieving students are introduced to co-op educational opportunities prior to high school graduation.  These programs offer low-income students the opportunity to attend college via scholarship, but offer highly sought after job security upon graduation.  These tangible results help reinforce the idea that an investment in education can lead to tangible long-term goal attainment.

Studies have also shown that a lack of financial understanding represents a significant problem among low-income, first-generation students’ completion of the Federal Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).  Additionally, a 2005 Advisory Committee on Student Financial Assistance study indicated that invasive questions often confuse families, leading to a general aversion to completing the form.  With these statistics in mind, FAFSA workshops offered by community colleges provide a guided environment in which students can complete the form with the assistance of a college employee.  These sessions not only provide reassurance to the student, but also allow an opportunity for students to learn and understand eligibility requirements and deadlines at an earlier juncture.

Recognizing the need to fill the gap between financial aid and the cost of attendance, Columbus State Community College has partnered with Ohio Benefit Bank to provide training to staff and student advocates.  Once trained and certified by Ohio Benefit Bank, student advocates are able to begin the process of enrolling qualified students in public aid programs, assist in obtaining free tax completion waivers, utilities assistance, and other types of assistance to ease the gap. These services external to the college help to ease the burden while students endure a short-term financial sacrifice to obtain an education.

Even in combination with public assistance, the general need to work while enrolled in courses leaves many low-income students enrolled on a part-time basis, able to dedicate less time to studying. Mortenson’s (2011) study analyzing the American Time Use Survey found that students aged 18 to 24 in the lowest income bracket dedicated only twenty-four to thirty-six minutes each day to homework or scholarly activity.  These figures represent a drastic difference from the study time of students in much higher income brackets.  Such little time spent towards studying could potentially lead to slower completion rates, which conflict with current legislation focused on timely completion of two-year degree programs, now calculated in the Standards of Satisfactory Academic Progress.

Achieving a balance between satisfactory and timely completion of a degree and the financial needs of the student presents yet another challenge.  Various objectives are utilized at Columbus State Community College in an effort to present well-rounded assistance beginning with flexible scheduling options.  By offering classes in more accessible mediums (hybrid and web) combined with evening, weekend and term in-class options, working students have the availability to schedule courses around work schedules instead of choosing between furthering their education and earning an income.  Furthermore, anticipating student difficulty in a variety of content areas can be addressed through no-cost Blueprint Student Success Workshops, offering practical advice on topics pertinent to student needs.

Despite the fact that as many as 62 percent of these students will not attend courses in consecutive semesters, often needing to “stop-out,” 55 percent of students earn a career and technical credential or degree, while eight percent return to complete a bachelor’s degree at a later date (American Association of Community Colleges, 2011).  Through the utilization of transfer agreements with partner institutions known as the Preferred Pathway, students are presented with a clearly organized roadmap, leading from the associate degree through completion of the bachelor’s degree.  Combined with state agreements, such as the Ohio Transfer Module, students can more easily map the best pathway to complete both an associate and bachelor’s degree in a personalized and concise manner.

Through the use of personalized approaches, community colleges can not only achieve the standard of satisfactory academic completion, but also provide a comprehensive approach that is truly reflective of the community and the needs of the student population.

Discussion Questions

1. What do you see as the financial advantages of beginning at a community college? Are there any disadvantages? Why or why not?

2. In your experience working with students, have you noticed variations in attitudes towards student loan debt among diverse socioeconomic groups?

3. What is a college’s obligation, role, and scope related to educating students on financial literacy?


Buschman Vasel, K. (2014, February 5). Why students have no idea how much college costs. Fox Business. Retrieved from…

Cheng ,D., Freeman, H., & Leopold, D. (2013, November 23). Helping students make cents of college cost, financial aid and net price. National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators. Retrieved from…

Columbus State Community College. (2013). High finance: A guide to financing your education at Columbus State Community College. Retrieved from

Goldrick-Rab, S. (2013, September 21). Rethinking financial aid’s role in student retention. The education optimists. Retrieved from…

The Institute for College Access & Success. (2009). Quick facts about financial aid and community colleges, 2007-08. Retrieved from

Mortenson, T. (2011) Time use of full-time college students ages 18 to 24 years 2003 to 2009. Postsecondary Education Opportunity. Retrieved from

Mullin, C. M. (2012). It’s a matter of time: Low-income students and community colleges. American Association of Community Colleges. Retrieved from

Stratford, M. (2014, October 21). Student loans and political ads. Inside Higher Ed. Retrieved from…

Stratford, M., & Fain, P. (2014, September 25). Default rates dip (slightly). Inside Higher Ed, Retrieved from…

U.S. Department of Education. (2013). Federal student aid handbook, 2013–2014. Washington, DC: Information for Financial Aid Professionals. Retrieved from…

About the Authors

Lauren Merante joined Columbus State Community College in 2011 after relocating from New York.  She has nine years of higher education experience including admissions, institutional research, and academic advising.  Her most recent position is as an Advisor in the Financial Aid department at Columbus State Community College.

Beth Stanley serves as an Academic Advisor at Columbus State Community College, where she has the opportunity to connect with a diverse student population and utilize her skills to assist students in achieving their goals. Beth has been working in higher education for nine years and one of her main areas of passion is around financial literacy and money management for students. Before coming to Columbus State, Beth worked in Housing and Residence Life at Ohio Dominican University.

Stephanie Pfeifer serves as an Academic Advisor in the Center for Advising, Support and Exploration at Columbus State Community College in Columbus Ohio. Stephanie has four years of higher education experience at open enrollment institutions specializing in new student enrollment and transfer programming. Before joining Columbus State Community College, she worked with the University of Toledo in the Department of History and Athletics.

Marisa Vernon serves as the Assistant Director in the Center for Advising, Support and Exploration at Columbus State Community College in Columbus, Ohio, where she leads a large team of professional Academic Advisors and serves as the project co-manager for the College’s intergrated student services initiative. Marisa has seven years of higher education administrative experience at open enrollment institutions specializing in two- and four-year degree programs and transfer preparation. Before joining Columbus State Community College, she was the Assistant Director for First Year Experience at Kent State University’s Stark Campus in North Canton, Ohio, and has also worked at the Northeast Ohio Council on Higher Education.

Please e-mail inquiries to Marisa Vernon.


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.

Moral Reasoning: Exploring the Complexities of Crisis

Anne M. Hornak

Moral Reasoning: Exploring the Complexities of Crisis

As ethical student affairs practitioners, we face competing interests as we navigate the complex terrain of our college campuses each day.   We are surrounded by ethical and moral dilemmas on a daily basis. As institutional leaders and educators we have a moral imperative to discuss and explore these issues as they arise around us. In this article I will examine the complex nature of moral reasoning and duties related to decision-making, leadership, and campus safety.

As a backdrop, I will utilize Title IX citations related to the handling of sexual assault on college campuses.  The May 2014 Office of Civil Rights (OCR) release of the 55 institutions under investigation for possible violations of federal law over the handling of sexual violence and harassment complaints on campuses across the United States has sparked conversation and debate about the role and responsibility of campus leaders.  Embedded within the Title IX investigations are myriad legal issues as well. This article will not explore those issues, but one should be mindful that ethical issues are often wrought with legal implications.

Using sexual violence and harassment as the emphasis of this column, it is important to focus on moral decisions. I would like to take some time to explore the competing entities and offer some considerations for practitioners in student affairs and higher education.

Ethic of Care

College students who have been victims of sexual violence and harassment require a heightened focus on the ethic of care (Vaughn, 2008). The ethic of care is an approach that emphasizes close personal relationships, with a focus on compassion, love, and sympathy. Operating from an ethic of care focuses on making decisions from a relational perspective. What student affairs professionals need to carefully balance is the legal process that may ensue with the mental and psychological needs of the victim. First and foremost professionals should acknowledge their professional limitations related to working with victims of sexual violence and harassment. Making referrals to trained mental health and psychology professionals and helping mobilize the response team early is critical. Most campuses offer care response teams that can quickly mobilize to offer support and make referrals. It is critical that all campus personnel work together to facilitate seamless responses across campus.

Trustworthy Information

Articulating and defining appropriate and timely responses to situations of sexual violence and harassment is the moral, ethical, and legal responsibility of the campus at large. Most campuses across this country have defined and continually review their policies and practices related to reporting and next steps. The more vexing ethical dilemma campuses find themselves in often relates to what occurs next. How to begin to handle the media, legal and campus based judicial process, and the other stakeholders involved, either directly or indirectly.

During a recent Title IX training that I attended, the facilitator stated, “Title IX investigations are so critical and we cannot get them wrong. There cannot be missteps anywhere in the process” (personal communication, November 2014). I was so struck by this statement and realized the comment was about so much more than the victim. While I am not focusing this column on the recent Rolling Stone article about the University of Virginia, it is a rich controversy to use in analyzing an ethical, moral, and legal dilemma. As practitioners the moving target often seems to be trustworthy information. As ethical decision makers, it is important that decisions are made based on the best information we have at the time of the decision (Vaughn, 2008).

Information can be a powerful tool in helping make decisions that are in the best interest for all involved. It is also important to be conscious of the notion that not all stakeholders are directly involved in the incident. While not an exhaustive list, stakeholders often include all students – current and prospective – faculty, staff, alumni, community members, and friends of the institution. The safety and welfare of students should be the primary focus of all supporting officials. When making decisions that impact the campus environment and safety of students, the duty to warn and protect precedence is critical.


Communication is fundamental during a crisis situation. If we define sexual violence and harassment as a crisis, ethical communication principles must be used. When considering ethical communication, practitioners should consider the Credo for Ethical Communication that was prepared by the National Communication Association (2000). The principles include:

  • Truthfulness, accuracy, honesty, and reason are essential to the integrity of communication.
  • Endorse freedom of expression, diversity of perspective, and tolerance of dissent to achieve the informed and responsible decision-making fundamental to a civil society.
  • Strive to understand and respect other communicators before evaluating and responding to their messages.
  • Access to communication resources and opportunities are necessary to fulfill human potential and contribute to the well being of families, communities, and society.
  • Promote communication climates of caring and mutual understanding that respect the unique needs and characteristics of individual communicators.
  • Condemn communication that degrades individuals and humanity through distortion, intolerance, intimidation, coercion, hatred, and violence.
  • Commit to the courageous expression of personal convictions in pursuit of fairness and justice.
  • Advocate sharing information, opinions, and feelings when facing significant choices while also respecting privacy and confidentiality.
  • Unethical communication threatens the quality of all communication and consequently the well being of individuals and the society in which we live.
  • Accept responsibility for the short- and long-term consequences for our own communication and expect the same of others.

These principles should not only be understood, but also discussed frequently.  By analyzing the headlines of complex campus situations through the lens of the Credo for Ethical Communication, practitioners will become comfortable with the courageous conversations that generally follow sensitive situations.  Preparation is paramount.

Ethical decision-making in student affairs is challenged by the complexities of actual situations and the various ways we respond to these situations. In cases of sexual violence and harassment, where multiple stakeholders are involved, the details can become complicated to navigate and difficult to traverse.  It is critical that campus officials and community constituents have a clear plan for communication and consultation.

University crisis teams can get caught up in working diligently to maintain institutional integrity and image in the face of sexual violence and harassment claims. As moral leaders, student affairs professionals need to be making sure the narrative coming out of the institution is accurate and does not further exploit victims of traumatic crimes.


In making ethical decisions, leaders must explore the consequences of each decision. Moral reasoning involves acting and making decisions in the best interest of others, promoting justice, and respecting autonomy. As ethical leaders who aspire to a higher standard for our students, we have a professional responsibility to promote fundamental fairness for all. The complex nature of ethical issues in academia merits honest consideration for the pursuit of care and justice.

As highly trained, ethical practitioners, one must remember that caring is a critical and inescapable part of the moral life. Caring must be a central tenet as we navigate these complex and ill-structured problems (King & Kitchener, 1994). We need to aspire to transparency of knowledge, while also controlling the narrative to be accurate and honest to our students and campuses.

Discussion Questions

  1. Think about the moral and professional principles at stake during crisis situations on campuses. How do you balance the needs of the various stakeholders that may be in conflict with one another?
  2. Using the Credo for Ethical Communication as your frame of reference, how do your values shape the potential responses to sexual violence and harassment? How do you balance the needs of the institution in framing the narrative with your own values?
  3. Explore the various stakeholders involved with a crisis situation, like sexual violence and harassment. How do you work with various campus offices and units to create an environment where those involved and affected feel supported and heard?


King, P.M. & Kitchener, K.S. (1994). Developing reflective judgment: Understanding and promoting intellectual growth and critical thinking in adolescents and adults. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

National Communication Association (2000). Credo on ethical communication. Available at:…

Vaughn, L. (2007) Doing ethics: Moral reasoning and contemporary issues. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Co.

About the Author

Anne M. Hornak is an Associate Professor and Chairperson of Educational Leadership at Central Michigan University. She teaches courses in student affairs and higher education administration, ethics, and social justice. Her research interests include ethical decision-making, transformational learning and international education, and community college students. She has been involved with ACPA as a Directorate member of the Professional Preparation Commission, where she coordinated with the ethics committee. Her most recent book is entitled, “A Day in the Life of a Student Affairs Educator: Competencies and Case Studies for Early Career Professionals” [Stylus, 2014] co-authored with Sarah Marshall.

Please e-mail inquiries to Anne M. Hornak.


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

Establishing an Inclusive Environment for Students with Autism


Students entering college today have diverse abilities and learning styles.  Through implementing universal design within higher education settings, professionals can enhance educational opportunities for all students.  In this paper, we show how to implement Higbee’s (2008) universal design principles into student development programs in order to support college students who have autism.

Students with Autism in Higher Education

Autism is the fastest growing developmental disorder in the nation.  In 2012, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that one in every 88 individuals had autism or a related disorder.  There is also an increase of students with autism entering higher education (Adreon & Durocher, 2007).  Government legislation has supported access to higher education for students with autism, as well as with other disabilities.  For example, the 1973 Rehabilitation Act (Section 504) banned discrimination of individuals with disabilities in programs and activities that received federal assistance (Evans, 2008).

Section 504 mandated that colleges that receive federal funding provide equal access for individuals with disabilities (Hall & Belch, 2000).  Higher education institutions have removed some barriers to education for students with disabilities.  College admission processes can no longer inquire whether an individual has a disability.  Section 504 also mandated that buildings must address architectural barriers that prohibit mobility for individuals with disabilities.  Therefore, many colleges removed physical barriers that impede mobility on campuses for those with disabilities.  For example, campuses have added ramps and automatically opening doors.  Though colleges have removed some challenges involved in gaining admission to college as well as navigating campuses, students with disabilities are still less likely to engage in the college experience and gain a diploma (Hall & Belch, 2000).  Focus is needed on how institutions can create inclusive learning environments for all students, including students with disabilities.

Understanding Neurodiversity and Autism


People with autism have differences in cognitive processes; these neurological varieties are often referred to as neurodiversity (Blume, 1998).  In the 1990s, people with autism developed the term neurodiversity, in order to assert that those with atypical brain wiring deserve respect.  Advocates stressed that anyone can be placed on a variety of spectrums (Pollak, 2009).  Neurodiversity notes learning differences, rather than difficulties.  It is intended to be a positive statement of differentiation; though individuals have differences, they are not dysfunctional (Grant, 2009).  People with difference do not need to be cured; rather, they need help and accommodations (Robison, 2013).

People with neurodiversity conditions may experience challenges completing everyday tasks, which are dependent on neurocognitive processing of information.  These include social interaction, attention span, and time management (Grant, 2009).  In addition to autism, neurodiversity conditions include Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), dyslexia, and Tourette syndrome (National Symposium on Neurodiversity at Syracuse University, n.d.).


Autism is a neurodevelopment disorder that affects growth in areas of social interaction and behavior (Adreon & Durocher, 2007).  Autism Speaks (2014) defines autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism as, “characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors… ASD can be associated with intellectual disability, difficulties in motor coordination and attention and physical health issues” (para. 1-3).

What Challenges Do College Students with Autism Typically Encounter?

Social Challenges

Students with autism may have difficulty forming relationships due to misinterpretations of social cues or conventions (Adreon & Durocher, 2007).  They may interpret information in an overly literal way, causing them to misunderstand others’ attempts at humor (Adreon & Durocher, 2007).  Consequently, they may become isolated or exploited because of their perceived naiveté (Welkowitz & Baker, 2005).  Students with autism may experience difficulty establishing trusting relationships in a new environment, such as the college campus.

Adaptation Challenges

One of the challenges that students with autism encounter when entering college is that they transition from a centralized support system into an environment where they must advocate for themselves (Higbee & Kalivoda, 2008).  Their centralized support system includes their families, which understand and embrace their differences.  Students with autism may struggle with advocating for themselves and clearly communicating their challenges.  Acclimating to college life is a process that often involves navigating a range of college offices and personnel.

Learning Differences

Students with autism may have differences in how they learn.  When information is provided too quickly, they may not fully grasp all of the information dictated.  This experience may lead to them feeling overwhelmed and anxious.  In addition, individuals with autism may use unusual mannerisms, such as rocking, as a means of self-soothing.

How Universal Design Can Support Students with Autism

The theory of universal design is inclusive for all populations, in all environments.  According to the Center for Universal Design (1997), the principle of universal design promotes the design of products to be usable for all people, without the need to be adapted.  Universal design stemmed from Accessible Design, which was supportive design to be used by individuals with disabilities (Universal Design, n.d.).  Universal design is usable by the widest range of people to the greatest extent possible.  It considers humans to have diverse abilities, making spaces and products easier to use for all people.

It is no longer the sole responsibility of disability services to create inclusive environments on college campuses.  All professionals must foster a community where everyone has an equal opportunity to learn.  Using universal design throughout all parts of college campuses, as well as during instruction, enables higher education professionals to support students with diverse abilities.  The universal design framework is influential in helping professionals create environments where all students can thrive.

It has been the foundation of the student affairs profession to support and embrace diversity (Nuss, 1996).  Just as professionals have led in promoting diversity of religion, race, and sexuality in higher education, it is also vital that student development professionals promote acceptance of neurodiversity.  By implementing universal design principles, student affairs professionals can nurture students’ intellectual and social development.

Universal Design Principles for Student Development Programs and Services

It is vital for student development professionals to implement universal design principles into their daily practices in order to support the success of students with autism.  Higbee (2008) presented nine principles for universal instruction design in student development programs:

  • Create welcoming spaces;
  • Develop, implement, and evaluate pathways for communication among students, staff, and faculty;
  • Promote interaction among students and between staff and students;
  • Ensure that each student and staff member has an equal opportunity to learn and grow;
  • Communicate clear expectations to students, supervisees, and other professional colleagues utilizing multiple formats and taking into consideration diverse learning communication styles;
  • Use methods and strategies that consider diverse learning styles, abilities, ways of knowing and previous experience and background knowledge, while recognizing each student’s and staff member’s unique identity and contributions;
  • Provide natural supports for learning and working to enhance opportunities for all students and staff;
  • Ensure confidentiality; and
  • Define service quality, establish benchmarks for best practices, and collaborate to evaluate services regularly (pp. 196-200).

Here we share examples of how professionals can incorporate universal design into campus programs and services to better support students with autism.

Create Welcoming Spaces

Higbee’s (2008) first principle is to create welcoming spaces (p. 196).  Students with autism may experience difficulty understanding others’ perspectives, and this challenge can lead to feelings of isolation.  When student development professionals create warm atmospheres in their offices and student meeting places, they help students feel valued.  Welcoming environments include staff and student workers greeting guests, offering genuine support, and fostering a sense of community.

Professionals must also use inclusive language that is welcoming to all.  They can train student workers and student leaders to use supportive, first-person language.  First-person language shows that workers appreciate diversity and honor individual identity. For example, professionals should use the term, “students with autism,” instead of “autistic students.”  According to Hall and Belch (2000), first-person language emphasizes the person over the disability.

Support Pathways for Communication

The next principle is to develop, implement, and evaluate pathways for communication among students, staff, and faculty (Higbee, 2008, p. 196).  Student development professionals must be cognizant of their communication practices and share directions in a clear and straightforward manner.  Sometimes, students with autism struggle to follow directions with multiple steps (Adreon & Durocher, 2007).  When introducing activities with several steps, such as during icebreakers, campus activities professionals should clearly state the rules and repeat them.  At large-scale events, such as orientations, professionals should also provide information in multiple methods, such as oral and written forms of communication.  In addition, professionals can communicate both in large group and small group formats.  Providing communication in multiple methods supports diverse learning styles and enhances educational experiences for all individuals involved.

Promote Interaction

Higbee’s (2008) third principle is to promote interaction among students and between staff and students (p. 197).  Student development professionals can serve as point persons for students with autism.  For some students with autism, it can be helpful to identify a point person to visit when they feel anxious (Myles & Adreon, 2001).  This person can be key in assisting the student in problem solving (Jekel & Loo, 2002).  For example, at Keene State College, a program exists where peer mentors are trained to offer support to students with autism (Welkowitz & Baker, 2005).

Offer Equal Opportunities for Learning and Growth

The next universal design principle for student development professionals is to ensure that each student and staff member has an equal opportunity to learn and grow (Higbee, 2008, p. 197).  Student affairs departments must develop services that improve opportunities for all students, but specifically reflect on the accessibility of resources to marginalized groups.  Student activities offices can offer leadership retreats that consider the diverse needs and abilities of all student attendees.  They can develop activities that are supportive to an array of unique learners.

Communicate Clear Expectations and Consider Diverse Communication Styles

Higbee’s (2008) fifth principle is to communicate clear expectations to students, supervisees, and other professional colleagues utilizing multiple formats and taking into consideration diverse learning communication styles (p. 198).  Students with autism tend to desire predictability and clear expectations; however, at times, this inclination may result in inflexible behavior (Adreon & Durocher, 2007).

Students with autism may become anxious when others do not adhere to rules, such as violating quiet hour rules in a residence hall.  It is important that student development professionals clearly explain living options so that students may make the optimal choice.  If students decides to live with a roommate, they must make efforts to understand the in’s and out’s of communal spaces.  If conflicts occur, professionals should help students negotiate through them, while maintaining appropriate boundaries and preventing dependency.

Consider Diverse Backgrounds and Recognize Students’ Strengths

The next principle is to use methods and strategies that consider diverse learning styles, abilities, ways of knowing and previous experience and background knowledge, while recognizing each student’s and staff member’s unique identity and contributions (Higbee, 2008, p. 198).  Professionals must take into consideration each student’s multiple intelligences.  Students with autism have various strengths, including their tendency to be reliable, as well as their tendency to pay great attention to detail (Adreon & Durocher, 2007).  Professionals can assist students by guiding them in further developing these strengths.  For example, professionals can help the student determine how their interests align with organizations, learning communities, or employment opportunities.

Provide Natural Learning Supports

Another universal design principle is to provide natural supports for learning and working to enhance opportunities for all students and staff (Higbee, 2008, p. 198).  Typically, students with autism have difficulty with academic content and organizational skills.  Student development professionals can aid students in managing their challenges by providing natural learning supports.  For example, written supports include meeting minutes and handouts.  Professionals can also scaffold concepts during instruction.  Most importantly, professionals must reinforce that mistakes are opportunities for learning.

Ensure Confidentiality

A very important principle in universal design within student development programs it to ensure confidentiality (Higbee, 2008, p. 199).  Students with autism have a right to confidentiality.  However, when services are not universally designed, confidentiality can be breached.  This is because such environments may distinguish the student as different (Higbee, 2008).  Professionals must honor students’ trust by allowing the student to decide whether to disclose and how to disclose.  Professionals must recognize that students with autism may encounter negative attitudes from others concerning their abilities (Kroeger & Schuck, 1993).  This may lead students to be reluctant to disclose their disability with staff and their peers.

Identify Service Quality and Evaluate Services

Higbee’s (2008) final principle is to define service quality, establish benchmarks for best practices, and collaborate to evaluate services regularly (p. 200)It is essential that student development professionals seek out ongoing professional development on how to be a resource for students with autism.  By providing training, supervisors can hold staff accountable in promoting an inclusive environment.  If properly implemented, these trainings will result in a culture that values differences.  Furthermore, training should not be restricted to employees, but be provided to students as well.  For example, offices can educate student leaders, such as club presidents, on how to incorporate universal design into their activities.  Not only is training essential, but evaluation is also important.  Evaluation allows professionals to learn how they can improve and better serve all students.


Fostering the feeling of community continues to be a challenge as colleges diversify (Hall & Belch, 2000).  Through implementing universal design principles, student affairs professionals can create a sense of community for all.  Use of universal design principles can enable colleges and universities to create inclusive environments that are able to appropriately support students with autism.

Discussion Questions

  1. How do student affairs professionals at your institution promote acceptance in regards to students with neurodiversity, and specifically students with autism?
  2. How can your campus better incorporate universal design throughout the various functional areas of student affairs (campus involvement, residence life, orientation, etc…)?
  3. How can you help your students learn the importance of creating an inclusive environment and acceptance of neurodiversity?


Adreon, D., & Durocher, J. S. (2007). Evaluating the college transition needs of individuals with high-functioning autism spectrum disorders. Intervention in School & Clinic, 42(5), 271-279.

Autism Speaks, (2014). What is autism? Retrieved from

Blume, H. (1998, Sept. 30). Neurodiversity. The Atlantic. Retrieved from

Center for Universal Design. (1997). What is Universal Design? Retrieved from…

Evans, N. (2008). Theoretical foundations of universal instructional design. In J.L. Higbee & E. Goff (Eds.). Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation: Implementing Universal Design in Higher Education (pp. 11-24). Minneapolis, MN: Regents of the University of Minnesota.

Grant, D. (2009). The psychological assessment of neurodiversity. In D. Pollak (Ed.), Neurodiversity in higher education: Positive responses to specific learning differences (pp. 33-61). West Sussex, UK: Wiley & Sons.

Hall, L.M., & Belch, H.A. (2000). Setting the context: Reconsidering the principles of full participation and meaningful access for students with disabilities. New Direction for Student Services, 91, Fall 2000, 5-17.

Higbee, J. L. (2008). Universal design principles for student development programs and services. In J. L. Higbee & E. Goff (Eds.), Pedagogy and Student Services for Institutional Transformation: Implementing universal design in higher education (pp. 195-203). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy.

Higbee, J. L., & Kalivoda, K. S. (2008). The first-year experience. In J. L. Higbee & E. Goff (Eds.), Pedagogy and student services for institutional transformation: Implementing universal design in higher education (pp. 245-253). Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota, Center for Research on Developmental Education and Urban Literacy.

Kroeger, S., & Schuck, J. (1993). Moving ahead: Issues, recommendations, and conclusions. New Directions for Student Services, 64, Winter 1993, 103-110.

Jekel, D., & Loo, S. (2002). So you want to go to college: Recommendations, helpful tips, and suggestions for success at college. Watertown, MA: Asperger’s Association of New England.

Myles, B. S., & Adreon, D. (2001). Asperger syndrome and adolescence: Practical solutions for school success. Shawnee Mission, KS: Autism Asperger Publishing.

National Symposium on Neurodiversity at Syracuse University (n.d.). What is neurodiversity? Retrieved from

Nuss, E. (1996). The development of student affairs. In S. R. Komives & D. B. Woodard, (Eds.), Student services: A handbook for the profession (pp. 22-42). West Sussex, UK: Wiley & Sons.

Pollak, D. (2009). Introduction. In D. Pollak (Ed.), Neurodiversity in higher education: Positive responses to specific learning differences (pp. 9-11). West Sussex, UK: Wiley & Sons.

Robison, J. (2013). My life with Asperger’s: How to live a high functioning life with Asperger’s. Psychology today. Retrieved from…

Universal Design: The Resource for Universal Design News (n.d.). What is universal design? Retrieved from  &view=article&id=327:what-is-universal-design&catid=2196:universal-design&Itemid=113

U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2012). Prevalence of Autism Spectrum Disorders — Autism and Developmental Disabilities Monitoring Network, 14 Sites, United States, 2008. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Retrieved from:

Prevalence of autism spectrum disorders. Autism and developmental disabilities monitoring network, 14 sites, United States, 2008. Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report Surveillance Summaries, 61(3), 1-19. Atlanta, GA: Author

Welkowitz, L., & Baker, L. (2005). Supporting college students with Asperger Syndrome. In J. L. Baker, & L. A. Welkowitz (Eds.), Asperger Syndrome: Intervening in schools, clinics, and communities. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.

About the Authors

Dale O’Neill, M.A., serves as the Coordinator of Leadership and Community Service Programs and the Interim Greek Life Advisor at the University of New Orleans.  She is currently pursuing a doctorate in Education Administration from the University of New Orleans (LA).  She is an active member in ACPA – College Student Educators International, having served as the Newsletter Editor for two years for the Standing Committee for Graduate Students & New Professionals as well as the Convention Program Chair and Newsletter Chair for the Standing Committee on Disability. 

Rory O’Neill Schmitt, Ph.D., is an educational researcher and has earned her doctorate in Curriculum and Instruction Studies.  Currently, she serves as a Faculty Associate in the University College of Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ.  She is a peer reviewer for the Current Issues in Education journal.  In addition, she volunteers on the board of the Arizona Art Therapy Association as its president.

Please email inquiries to Dale O’Neill.


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.

What the Articles About Administrative Bloat did not Mention

It made for great copy between the stories about the record snowfalls and the bitter cold of the winter of 2014. Articles written for the Chronicle of Higher Education, Inside Higher Education, and USA Today included headlines such as “Administrator Hiring Drove 28% Boom in Higher-Ed Work Force” (Carlson, 2014); “College Work Forces Grew, But Not as Fast as Enrollment” (Rivard, 2014); and “College Hiring: Helping Students or Padding Payrolls?”  (Marklein, 2014). So began another spate of articles on the high cost of higher education.

According to Carlson (2014), college is expensive because new administrative staff positions drove a 28% expansion of the higher-education workforce from 2000 to 2012.  Several authors seem to accept this statement at face value, advancing the notion that administrative staff positions are superfluous, do not add value to institutions, and do not support student learning and development (Ginsberg, 2011).  Very little has been included or written to indicate that there may be valid reasons for the increase in administrative staff positions—causes that mostly emanate from outside of the academy.

Administrative Bloat?

‘Administrative bloat’ is a term often used to describe the reported phenomenon—a term both catchy enough to draw attention and convincing enough to limit a more complex, nuanced analysis of this issue.  The same week several articles were published about administrative staff bloat in higher education, other articles were published that shed evidence into the reasons behind increases in administrative staff positions. For example, DeSantis (2014) reported that the University of Connecticut’s response to sexual assaults and other campus crimes included hiring staff specifically designated to work with victims of sexual assault as part of their duties.

Campus Safety

The federal government’s interest in preventing sexual assault on college and university campuses has been in the news for the better part of three years since the release of the now infamous ‘Dear Colleague’ letter in April 2011 (Ali, 2011).  The impact of this letter, played out at the University of Connecticut and elsewhere, has included the creation of new administrative staff positions related to student safety. However, this type of growth in student services positions was not concurrently published alongside the articles regarding administrative bloat.

The federal government’s interest in sexual assault prevention is but one example of increased government involvement in how colleges and universities are expected to manage the student experience.  The phrase ‘unfunded mandate’ has come to define the spate of government regulations that have in part fueled the need for new administrative staff.  Mettler (2014) described in-depth the impact of changes in public policy on the higher education landscape—changes that have reshaped how 21st century colleges and universities are perceived, funded, and run.

Federal Laws

Examples of federal government initiatives that have resulted in additions to college and university administrative staffs include the Americans with Disabilities Act and the new G.I. Bill.  Educational theorists have written extensively that increased access to higher education requires expanded support services and a level of student assistance that goes beyond that which faculty members have traditionally been able to provide.  New federal government programs lead to increases in administrative staff not because colleges and universities can add to their administrative ranks, but because it is a prerequisite to meeting the spirit and letter of new laws and directives intended to promote student access, persistence, and achievement.

Rise of Adjunct Faculty

Even faculty members can no longer be expected to provide the direct level of student support they traditionally provided.  Among the differences between the colleges and universities of the last generation and today is the transformation of what used to be a full-time professoriate to the part-time, adjunct, and contingent faculty of the current era.  The connection between the consequences of this trend and so-called administrative bloat seem to have eluded both the journalists who report on higher education and the self-appointed crusaders who yearn for a return to earlier visions of higher education.

Authors in both the higher education and mainstream media outlets have failed to connect the dots that, when institutions hire part-time faculty members instead of full-time faculty members, they also have to hire administrative staff members to do the things that full-time faculty do besides teach, such as advise students.  It is not a criticism of the adjunct teaching professional to state that they do not provide the same level of student support that full-time faculty do—it is just not humanly possible, as they scurry from course to course or campus to campus, piecing together a barely livable wage.  In fact, adjunct staffing has grown from 20% of all higher education faculty in 1970 to almost 50% today (The Democratic Staff of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, 2014).  How could it be that the connection between the replacement of full-time teachers with part-time teachers and the subsequent growth in the number of administrators did not enter into the news accounts of the trend of increased numbers of administrators?

Mental Health Concerns

The increased prevalence of mental health concerns on college and university campuses, and high profile incidents of campus violence are further evidence of the connection between campus trends and the legitimate need for colleges and universities to hire more student support and campus safety personnel.  Journalists have been quick to write about the campus amenities race that has led to the sprouting of recreational climbing walls and other perquisites and have linked this phenomenon to increased college costs (Rubin, 2014).  Neglected for the most part by the media is the fact that colleges and universities have been compelled to add staff members to help manage campus mental health challenges, and that, even with these additions, campuses have for the most part failed to meet this increasing demand.

Increasing Campus Diversity

Even the most casual observer of higher education is aware of the increasing diversity of our college and university campuses, and in the United States overall.  On most campuses, increasing student diversity has resulted in the addition of staff to support a multicultural student body.  There is ample research that shows the contributions that the persons in these positions provide in terms of student retention and success.  It is likely, however, that the addition of these administrative staff positions has also contributed to the growth of the number of administrative staff hires in recent years.

Decreased Financial Support

And then there are the dramatic cuts in state support for higher education that have played havoc with college and university budgets in the 21st century.  With reduced state support (Lederman, 2014), colleges and universities have increasingly looked elsewhere for revenue, by sponsoring conferences, camps, institutes, and other income generators intended to offset declines in state funding.  These programs require coordination and oversight from administrative staff, and I would venture that there is a connection between this trend and increases in administrative staffing in higher education.


All of this adds up to what seems to be at least six valid reasons for the expansion of administrative staff positions in higher education:  increasing federal involvement in higher education; the proliferation of the part-time professoriate; the heightened concern about campus violence, sexual and otherwise; the demand for mental health services on campuses; increasing diversity of college and university students; and declining state support for higher education.  The term bloat conveys excessiveness.  Are institutional responses to the demand for student mental health services, support services for veterans, campus safety, and increasing federal intervention alongside decreasing state support for higher education truly excessive?  Or are they in line with societal expectations for safeguarding the student welfare?

Perhaps it is expectations for support that have grown, rather than our penchant for administrating, counseling, and mentoring.  It is unlikely that those who are sounding the alarm about administrative bloat are longing for campuses that do not support students in need, or veterans, or do not want campuses that are actively combatting sexual violence.  Colleges and universities need full-time faculty to fulfill their basic mission, and college and university students and their parents need and expect the support services overseen by administrators to promote students’ academic and personal development and their success in college and beyond.  Students of today do not expect fewer student support personnel than the students of yesteryear:  they expect more.

It should be noted that the student voice was noticeably missing from all of the news reports on the increasing number of administrators.  I suspect that students and their parents have many stories about their encounters with student services administrative staff, and could earnestly speak to why they exist, why they think they have grown in number, and the value they add on college and university campuses, especially in times of personal crisis or when students are in need.  These stories would portray a more complete picture of the college and university of today, which includes administrators providing critical support services to students in need on a daily basis, and a diminished number of full-time faculty to assist in that process.

Discussion Questions

  1. Are there other reasons for the expansion of administrative staff positions in higher education that were not mentioned in the article?
  2. How can those of us in the field of student development better convey greater understanding of our role in the educational enterprise to policy makers, the mass media and the general public?


Ali, R.  (2011, April 4).  Dear colleague letter.  Washington, D.C.  United States Department of Education Office for Civil Rights.  Retrieved from

Carlson, S.  (2014, February 5).  Administrator hiring drove 28% boom in higher-ed work force. The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Retrieved from

DeSantis, N.  (2014, February 7).  UConn bolsters efforts against sex assaults and other campus crimes.  The Chronicle of Higher Education.  Retrieved from

Ginsberg, B. (2011). The fall of the faculty:  The rise of the all-administrative university and why it matters.  New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

House Committee on Education and the Workforce Democratic Staff (January, 2014).  The just-in-time professor:  A staff report summarizing e-forum responses on the working conditions of contingent faculty in higher education.  Retrieved from

Lederman, D.  (October 27, 2014).  The states’ “great retreat.” Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from

Marklein, M.  (2014, February 5).  College hiring:  Helping students or padding payrolls?  USA Today.  Retrieved from

Mettler, S. (2014). Degrees of inequality:  How the politics of higher education sabotaged the American dream.  New York, NY: Basic Books.

Rivard, R.  (2014, February 5).  College work forces grew, but not as fast as enrollment. Inside Higher Education. Retrieved from

Rubin, C.  (2014, September 19).  Making a splash on campus:  College recreation now includes pool parties and river rides. The New York Times.  Retrieved from -pool-parties-and-river-rides.html?_r=0

About the Author

Robert A. Bonfiglio is Vice President for Student and Campus Life at SUNY Geneseo and has been recognized by ACPA – College Student Educators International with its 2013 Excellence in Practice award.  

Please e-mail inquiries to Robert A. Bonfiglio.


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.

ACPA & NASPA Annual Conferences: A 30-Year Retrospective on LGBTQ Presentations

ACPA’s Standing Committee for LGBT Awareness began from a collaborative idea at the 1983 convention. More than 30 years later, SCLGBTA is thriving in its commitment to mobilize members of ACPA – College Student Educators International to build community, empower advocacy, and advance knowledge with people of all genders and sexualities. This Developments series celebrates 30 years of LGBTQ issues and identities in student affairs from three perspectives: administration, research, and association. Each essay explores the history and current status of LGBTQ individuals in higher education, providing insights into current and future advocacy.

The inclusion of LGBTQ persons in higher education practices, policies, and support is arguably at its strongest in the history of student affairs.  The influence is undoubtedly indebted to the work of practitioners and scholars who provide an oftentimes-unpopular voice for historically marginalized communities on our college campuses (Marine, 2011).  ACPA – College Student Educators International and NASPA – Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education are the leading associations that advance the student affairs profession. ACPA’s (2013) mission states that the association supports student learning and development through the generation and dissemination of new knowledge. As described in the 2011-2014 NASPA Strategic Plan (2013), the aim of the association is to support excellence in practice and change the landscape of higher education.

As the two leading associations for student affairs professionals, ACPA and NASPA are in great positions to set standards of practice for LGBTQ scholars and leaders in higher education.  ACPA’s Standing Committee for LGBT Awareness (SCLGBTA) has been officially recognized since 2002. Similarly, NASPA’s GLBT Issues Knowledge Community (GLBTKC) has officially supported LGBTQ scholarship and practitioners since 2006 (Marine, 2011).  The inclusion of LGBTQ identities and research has been a part of these organizations since the 1980s, but as a community of student affairs practitioners and scholars we have not yet identified the growth of these trends over the last 30 years.


The purpose of this study is to examine the trends over the past 30 years for LGBTQ presentations at ACPA and NASPA annual international conferences. The following questions guide our study:

  1. What is the total number of LGBTQ programs that ACPA and NASPA have included in their annual international conferences? What is the percentage of LGBTQ programs for the total program?
  2. Within LGBTQ programs, what percentage are presentations, social, or other types?
  3. Within LGBTQ presentations, what percentages did structural units sponsor? To what extent do structural units within ACPA and NASPA promote or inhibit LGBTQ presentations?

As our conception of LGBTQ identities are becoming more complex we must ensure we are responding with inclusive programs and research to support the LGBTQ communities on our campuses and in the field.  Our findings provide a direction for practitioners and scholars to continue to advance LGBTQ scholarship and programs at future ACPA and NASPA conferences.


Data for this study come from annual international conference program books for ACPA and NASPA from 1984-2013. NASPA and ACPA hosted joint conferences in 1987, 1997, and 2007, of which program books were shared. Program books were mailed from the National Student Affairs Archives at Bowling Green State University.

Upon receiving all program books, we selected programs of all types (presentation, social, other) related to LGBTQ identities and issues. We determined a program involved LGBTQ themes if the abstract and/or title included any of the following words: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, sexuality, sexual orientation, sexual identity, gender identity, gender expression, trans*, sexual minority, gender minority, and LGBTQ (in any order). All LGBTQ programs were entered into a shared database where we recorded the association, year, program type, program number, sponsorship, title, abstract, author(s), and author(s) institution(s). We also tracked the total number of programs for each conference.

Our ability to identify LGBTQ-related programs was limited to examining only the program titles and abstracts. It is possible that other programs may have included LGBTQ themes but were not identifiable from the program books.


We first determined the total number of LGBTQ programs that ACPA and NASPA have included in their annual conferences. From these numbers, we calculated the percentage of LGBTQ programs for the total program offering. Figure 1 represents the total number of LGBTQ programs at ACPA and NASPA since 1984. Figure 2 offers the percentage of LGBTQ programs from the total program offerings at both ACPA and NASPA. Throughout 1984-2013, there were a total of 200 LGBTQ-related programs at NASPA. This total represents 2.38% of the total 8,420 programs. Within ACPA, there have been 567 LGBTQ-related programs since 1984. Of the 16,994 total programs, this represents 3.34% of the offerings. Combining both conferences, the total number of LGBTQ-related programs from 1984-2013 was 818, representing 2.98% of all 27,410 programs (including ACPA/NASPA joint conferences in 1987, 1997, and 2007).

Figure 1

Figure 1. Total Number of LGBTQ Programs

Figure 2

Figure 2. Percentage of LGBTQ Programs

We classified all LGBTQ offerings in three broad groupings: presentations, social, or other. Presentations included traditional presentations and workshops, papers, roundtables, posters, extended length programs, pre-conference presentations and workshops, idea breaks, suite programs, symposia, institutes, and panels. Social programs included events, meal outings, cabaret, choir, and receptions. We placed all other programs into a third category (e.g., meetings, facilities, drop-in center, and registration). Figure 3 presents the total percentage of LGBTQ programs by type. Across all LGBTQ programs, there were 590 presentations (72.13%), 60 social (7.33%), and 168 other types (20.54%).

Figure 3

Figure 3. Total Percentage of LGBTQ Programs by Type

To examine the extent with which structural units within ACPA and NASPA promote or inhibit LGBTQ presentations, we determined the percentage of LGBTQ presentations that were sponsored by LGBTQ structural units (e.g., ACPA’s Standing Committee for LGBT Awareness, NASPA’s GLBT Issues Knowledge Community), other structural units (e.g., ACPA’s Standing Committees and Commissions, NASPA’s Knowledge Communities), and those not sponsored. From 1984-2013, 236 LGBTQ presentations (40%) were sponsored by LGBTQ structural units. For the remaining LGBTQ presentations, 52 (8.81%) were sponsored by other structural units, and 302 (51.19%) were not sponsored.

Figure 4

Figure 4. Total Percentage of LGBQT Presentations by Sponsorship


Results from the analyses help to examine the national landscape of ACPA and NASPA in regards to LGBTQ-focused programs. Findings are organized by our research questions and discussed below.

Figure 1 displays the total number of LGBTQ programs from 1984 – 2013. When compared to the independent ACPA and NASPA conferences, there were substantially fewer LGBTQ programs during the joint conferences, particularly during 2007. In recent years, ACPA has increasingly supported a greater number of programs about LGBTQ people. As ACPA serves a large volume of higher education practitioners, the increase in LGBTQ programming may be attributed to a recent focus on LGBTQ people by higher education administrators (Marine, 2011). Findings must be taken with caution because it is not known how many LGBTQ program proposals were submitted in recent years compared to all conference proposals.

ACPA and NASPA programs reflected societal trends of some LGBTQ inclusion in the 1990s (Renn, 2010; Tierney & Dilley, 1998), witnessing a slight decrease in the beginning of the 21st century. This increase in programming in the 1990s may also be attributed to queer theory (Jagose, 1997) as a new theoretical lens to examine LGBTQ student experiences. More attention to services for LGBTQ students may have also created an increase in LGBTQ programs. In the mid- and late-1990s, Ronni Sanlo created the first Lavender Graduation, the Council for the Advancement of Standards in Higher Education (CAS) developed its first LGBT program standards, and the Consortium of LGBT Resource Professionals in Higher Education was founded in 1997. Figure 2 demonstrates that despite ACPA having more total programs than NASPA, both conferences have similar proportions of LGBTQ programs.

Figure 3 outlines the breakdown of LGBTQ programs by type. Given the total number of programs, the amount of presentations overwhelmingly outnumbered social and other program types. These findings illustrate both ACPA and NASPA’s commitment to educational and research-driven support for the LGBTQ community. Social events for the LGBTQ community were not included in early ACPA and NASPA conferences. Inclusion of these events in later years demonstrates the importance of building community among members who identify as LGBTQ.

ACPA’s SCLGBTA and NASPA’s GLBTKC both provide avenues for supporting LGBTQ scholarship-based practice and community among student affairs professionals. Identity- and function-based entities (e.g., Standing Committees, Knowledge Communities, Commissions) have the opportunity to sponsor presentations during the annual conferences. Figure 4 outlines the proportion of LGBTQ presentations sponsored by either SCLGBTA or GLBTKC. Sponsorship by other entities within the last decade is virtually none.

As evidence by Figure 4, LGBTQ presentation sponsorship has decreased dramatically over the last six years. We suggest two possibilities for this trend: (1) the LGBTQ community established a foundation where formal sponsorship and support is no longer needed, or (2) the focus of the LGBTQ sponsorship is narrow and many presentations do not fall under these categories. In the first possibility, it indicates the LGBTQ community is becoming more accepted and there is no longer need to specifically sponsor or support these presentations. Possibility two presents concerns; if sponsored LGBTQ presentations are declining because topics are too narrowly focused, then scholarship and advocacy for LGBTQ students is at risk of becoming isolated and detached from other topics in higher education. Although program sponsorship implies support and promotion for LGBTQ individuals, lack of sponsorship does not necessarily mean inhibiting or lack of support. As such, these findings should be taken with that consideration.


Findings from this study point to important implications for conference proceedings and student affairs practice. Most centrally is the importance of recognizing the substantial increase of LGBTQ programs at both ACPA and NASPA from 1984 to 2013. Such a large growth demonstrates a central priority for LGBTQ people in student services research and practitioner reflection. Given the focus on intersecting identities in the past decade (Abes, Jones, & McEwen, 2007), student affairs presenters must push themselves to embrace a more complex examination of LGBTQ people in higher education. This complexity should acknowledge not only myriad social identities with which people identify, but also the breadth of functional areas in higher education and student affairs.

Findings from our study demonstrate the need to closely examine the role, functioning, and purpose of LGBTQ-related entity groups within ACPA and NASPA. To what extent do they isolate LGBTQ practice reflections and excuse other entities from not promoting similar work? Should these LGBTQ-related entity groups advocate for more program sponsorship? Moving forward, future publications should more closely examine these LGBTQ programs to determine salient and common themes across student affairs practitioner competencies and functional areas.


Both ACPA and NASPA are the leading associations in advancing scholarship and practice within student affairs. Both associations have a central mission for supporting a changing landscape of higher education that facilitates greater understanding of student development and learning. Findings from this study demonstrated the evolution of LGBTQ identities and experiences over the past 30 years for both ACPA and NASPA. Given these findings, it is evident that the profession of student affairs is embracing LGBTQ people in higher education as an integral facet of college and university contexts.  From here, scholars and practitioners can continue to advance LGBTQ inclusion by assessing policies on their campus and continue to advance discussions at ACPA and NASPA that advance our awareness of LGBTQ campus climate, student development, intersecting identities, and important trends among our LGBTQ communities in higher education.

Discussion Questions

  1. Trends indicate greater acceptance of LGBTQ identities at ACPA and NASPA.  How do these trends compare to LGBTQ inclusion on your campus? What areas need support and what resources are needed to implement LGBTQ inclusive change?
  2. How can you promote continued involvement with LGBTQ practices at ACPA and NASPA among colleagues at your institution?  How can you and your campus administrators foster LGBTQ inclusion on your campus to encourage involvement with LGBTQ education and practice?
  3. How might you utilize ACPA and NASPA to support your endeavors to create inclusive spaces on campus? What resources on your campus would you identify to help create more inclusive LGBTQ spaces?


Abes, E. S., Jones, S. R., & McEwen, M. K. (2007). Reconceptualizing the model of multiple dimensions of identity: The role of meaning-making capacity in the construction of multiple identities. Journal of College Student Development, 48(1), 1-22.

ACPA: College Student Educators International (2013). Mission. Retrieved from

Jagose, A.R. (1997). Queer theory: An introduction. New York, NY: New York University Press.

Marine, S. B. (2011). Stonewall’s Legacy: Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, and Transgender students in higher education: AEHE (Vol. 152). Hoboken, NJ: John Wiley & Sons.

NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education (2013). Strategic plan. Retrieved from

Renn, K. A. (2010). LGBT and queer research in higher education: The state and status of the field. Educational Researcher, 8(2), 132-141.  doi: 10.3102/0013189X10362579

Tierney, W. G., & Dilley, P. (1998). Constructing knowledge: Educational research and Gay and Lesbian studies. In W. Pinar (Ed.), Queer theory in education (pp. 49-71). Princeton, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Publishing.

About the Authors

Jason C. Garvey is an Assistant Professor of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Technology Studies at The University of Alabama and a Research Associate with Campus Pride’s Q Research Institute for Higher Education. He is the recipient of the 2014 AERA Queer Studies SIG Scholar-Activist Dissertation of the Year Award. Dr. Garvey’s research explores issues related to campus and classroom climate, philanthropy and fundraising for higher education alumni, and LGBTQ individuals.  Prior to his faculty appointment, he worked in student services across a variety of functional areas, including academic advising, LGBTQ student advocacy, undergraduate research, residence life, and assessment. Dr. Garvey currently serves as Director of Education for the Standing Committee for LGBT Awareness and is on the Commission for Professional Preparation Directorate, both within ACPA.

Please e-mail inquiries to Jason C. Garvey.

Jonathan T. Pryor is a doctoral candidate of Higher Education in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at the University of Missouri.  He also serves as the Coordinator for LGBTQIA Programs & Services at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, where his work focuses on LGBTQ education, outreach, resources, and student development.  Jonathan’s research explores LGBTQ campus climate and student leadership and experiences of LGBTQ students.   

Please e-mail inquiries to Jonathan T. Pryor.

Shonteria Johnson is a doctoral student in the Higher Education program in the Department of Educational Leadership, Policy, and Technology Studies at The University of Alabama. She currently serves as a Doctoral Research Assistant for the Higher Education program.

Please e-mail inquiries to Shonteria Johnson.


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: Amplify

Cindi LoveFrom One Dupont Circle: Amplify

In the last edition of Developments, I talked about a new way to thinking about ACPA – College Student Educators International in the world—L.A.M.P. or Lead. Amplify. Mobilize. Partner.

I shared my thoughts about ACPA’s leadership and particularly about our capacity and strength as an organization for thought leadership in higher education–most visibly when issues are complex and seemingly intractable.   These are the places where ACPA – College Student Educators International works best.

Firmly rooted in social justice education and the cultivation of advocacy culture (Berquist & Pawlak, 2008), ACPA – College Student Educators International has a well-recognized legacy of helping higher education professionals find balance in opposition and meaning by creating more equitable campus environments (Manning & Munoz, 2011).

We believe students become fully engaged as they address critical community problems and communities gain valuable support
from committed individuals (Manning & Munoz, 2011).  This is what we teach and this is what we have been doing for more than 90 years.

Evidence of this legacy appears in many venues.  I am particularly proud that the Journal of College Student Development (JCSD) has been identified as the top tier journal in higher education publishing the highest percentage (20.95%) of articles on race (Mitchell, Hardley, Jordan, & Couch, 2014).  That’s leadership!

I also want to talk about the “A” in L.A.M.P.—amplify.  Part of our work in the world is to amplify the voices of students, scholars, practitioners, faculty and administrators—as thought leaders and as advocates.  In order to be most effective in this goal, we have launched ACPA Video On Demand, a 24/7 online digital platform for professional and career development provided by ACPA senior and emerging scholars, partners throughout higher education and our members.

Our inaugural series on ACPA Video on Demand is “Confronting the Reality of Racism in the Academy,” a journey into the community of Ferguson and Saint Louis University (SLU) in the post-non-indictment climate of the academy.

Dr. Kent Porterfield is the Vice-President of Student Development at SLU and the President of ACPA – College Student Educators International.  He and I joined campus professionals and community organizers for two days of filming their perspectives about the reality of racism in the academy.  I am grateful to the SLU and Ferguson community of social justice educators, advocates and activists and their willingness to witness to the struggle, to speak truth to power, and to share their experiences with all of us.

We speak of our role as social justice educators and it is important to talk about our role in advocacy as well.  It is an embedded part of ACPA – College Student Educators International and our members.  It is seen as a/the valid way to address shared problems and a tool to which we turn when confronting challenges.

Advocacy is one of the ways that we amplify the voices of people who are excluded or silenced.   I look forward to use of ACPA Video On Demand to lead—and to amplify the voices of our scholars and practitioners—to expand our reach around the world about the best practices for student learning and development, advocacy and activism.


Berquist, W. H. & Pawlak, K. (2008). Engaging the six cultures of the academy. San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

Manning, K. & Munoz, F. M. (2011). Conclusion: Re-visioning the future of multicultural student services. In D. L. Stewart (Ed.), Multicultural student services on campus: Re-visioning community (pp. 282-300). Sterling, VA: Stylus Publishing.

Mitchell, D., Jr., Hardley, J., Jordan, D., & Couch, M. (2014). Journals in the field of higher education: A racial analysis. Journal of Research Initiatives, 1(2), 1-10.

From the President – Spring 2015

Kent PorterfieldFrom the President

Kent Porterfield, President
Saint Louis University

In my presidential address in Indianapolis on April 1, 2014, I spoke about the importance of a strategic plan for ACPA – College Student Educators International rooted in the Association’s core values.  I stated that this plan should enable flexibility, innovation and responsiveness to the changes that are happening in higher education and our field today. Through a rigorous process led by our new Executive Director Cindi Love, the ACPA Governing Board approved an updated and streamlined plan in September, and I am pleased to report we are making excellent progress on our strategic goals and objectives.

During my term as president, I have focused much of my energy on efforts to support research and scholarship, advance leadership on critical higher education issues, expand access to professional development and volunteer leadership opportunities, and address, in a serious way, greater equity and inclusion within the association and on our campuses. Thanks to the efforts of many, many people, advancements have been made in all of these areas. As I have done in previous columns for Developments, I am pleased to share a few of these advancements with you.

  • Establishment of the inaugural Marylu McEwen Dissertation of the Year Award.
  • Redesign of About Campus for the 20th anniversary, expansion to eight editions and creation of an online e-version of the publication.
  • Plans to host an About Campus Writers Retreat at Virginia Tech in June 2015.
  • Creation of a Senior Scholar Blog for the ACPA website.
  • Through ACPA Books and Stylus Publishing, a new book, Working with Students in Community Colleges: Contemporary Strategies for Bridging Theory, Research and Practice was released.
  • Launch of ACPA’s new digital platform, ACPA Video On Demand, which will enable 50 percent of our professional development offerings to be placed on-line with the capacity for live stream, translation in 55 languages, and closed captioning.
  • Establishment of a new multifaceted digital platform for the ACPAGrow mentoring program.
  • Establishment of a virtual career fair that opens up year round access for recruiters and candidates.
  • Development of a plan for publishing ACPA Convention proceedings with Patrick Love serving as editor.
  • Development of an initiative focused on institutionalized racism that has, to date, produce five Community Conversations on racism, Confronting Reality & Doing What Matters to Get Things Right, through WebEx teleconference technology; six presentations at states on “Constructing Inclusion;” and a sponsored series on racism being delivered through ACPA’s new digital platform.

The Task Force on Digital Technology in Higher Education is producing a report about proven practices, knowledge and skills, research and scholarship, and informed and responsible engagement to address the unique needs of digital educators, students, and leaders. The Task Force has conducted research and interviews to identify best practice and progressive solutions, and with the help of external partners, is now designing and testing high-quality content and learning experiences to help educators, students, and leaders form habits and build competencies necessary to be effective in a digital age. The task force website serves as a repository for findings and a platform for dialogue. At the Tampa Convention, Task Force members will present information and receive feedback from ACPA members, as well as contribute programs, genius lab workshops, and research papers.

The Task Force on Sexual Violence is also developing a report to present to the ACPA Governing Board and is receiving feedback from ACPA members leading up to and through the Tampa convention. The Task Force report will leverage the current campus, media, and governmental attention on compliance to bring greater attention to prevention, and it will focus specifically on educating students and college student educators, as well as to provide recommendations about ACPA’s role in advancing efforts to address sexual violence on college campuses. The Task Force intends for the report to lead to the development of a monograph that will provide content for professional development opportunities provided by ACPA.

Last fall, ACPA and NASPA agreed to jointly appoint a Professional Competencies Task Force to review the ACPA/NASPA Professional Competency Areas for Student Affairs Practitioners document which is now five years old and has served as a guide for student affairs educators to frame their work. The joint Task Force is charged with scanning the landscape of higher education and student affairs to ensure that the competencies are up-to-date with current scholarship and practice. Task Force members will share progress and receive feedback at the upcoming ACPA Tampa Convention and NASPA Annual Conference in New Orleans.

I hope to see many of you in Tampa March 5-8 for what will be an incredible convention. The lineup of speakers, Eboo Patel, Steph Hammerman, Jose Antonio Vargas, and Laverne Cox is amazing, and you can check out the online scheduler in advance to search to plan your convention. Be sure to check out #ACPA15 on Facebook and Twitter for convention updates.  Meet me in Tampa to Consider. Collaborate. Create. Commit! I promise it will be a truly great experience.

This is my final column for Developments as ACPA President. It has been a humbling and inspiring year for me. I never imagined I would have the opportunity to serve this great association and our profession in this way, and I owe a debt of gratitude to many people. In particular, I am grateful for the support of Dr. Fred Pestello, Saint Louis University President, and my student affairs colleagues at Saint Louis University who are so dedicated and do such incredible work day in and day out for our students.

During my term, I have had the opportunity to be part of an exciting time of change for ACPA, and I cannot say enough good things about the work Cindi Love is doing in her first year as ACPA’s Executive Director. Moreover, I have greatly appreciated the efforts of the entire ACPA staff, as they have adapted well to the many changes that have taken place in the International Office over the last several months. In his book, Managing Transitions, William Bridges (2009) wrote about a phase of organizational transition that he refers to as the “New Beginning.” It is a time in an organization when new identities and ideas are fully formed, new energy is converted into real action, and the impact or evidence of organizational changes is more apparent. In many ways, it seems to me that ACPA is experiencing a “New Beginning.” With Gavin Henning and Donna Lee as ACPA’s next two presidents, our future looks very bright indeed.

What an exciting and challenging time to be in higher education. I am proud to be part of an association that espouses the right values, has a progressive vision, and is comprised of such talented and dedicated professionals. My time as ACPA president has been a truly inspiring, rewarding and growing experience, and I hope I have contributed a little bit of something along the way.  Thanks to all of you for your encouragement and support.  Meet me in Tampa!


Bridges, W. (2009). Managing transitions: Making the most of change (3rd. Ed.). Philadelphia, PA: Perseus Books Group.

From the Editor – Spring 2015

From the Editor

Welcome to the Spring Issue of Developments! We hope that the many exciting articles appearing in this pre-convention edition will prepare you for the excitement of convening next week in Tampa, Florida for our Annual Convention.

There are many opportunities to connect with members of our team at this year’s Annual Convention.  Here are a few:

Lifting the Cloud on the Publication Process

March 6, 2015

1:00 – 2:00 PM

Marriott Tampa Waterside – Meeting Room 1


ACPA’s Developments: Preparing your Manuscript for Publication

March 6, 2015

4:00 – 5:00 PM

Marriott Tampa Waterside – Meeting Room 1

Thank You

Two members of our team have recently moved on to new endeavors, so I want to publicly thank them for their years of dedicated service to Developments.  Jim Love has served as Associate Editor for Columns for several years. Z Nicolazzo has served on our board for many years as a reviewer, copy editor, and most recently as Associate Editor for Administrative Projects.  I thank both of you for your dedication to Developments and ACPA – College Student Educators International.

Issue Overview

There are many opportunities to engage in thought-provoking professional development in this spring issue.  Our feature columns once again examine a series of important issues: protecting freedom of speech on campus (Legal Issues), the impact of financial aid on community college student decision making (Student Development in the Two Year College) and Ethical Decision Making during Campus Crises (Ethical Issues).

Part II of the Series GLBTQ Retrospective examines the history of GLBTQ programming at both the ACPA and NASPA conferences over the past 30 years.  This important research reminds us about the importance of advocating for issues of inclusion at our annual gatherings.

Finally, we feature two important general submissions.  Robert Bonfiglio examines what is left out of national discussions regarding the rise of administrative structures on college campuses, while Dale O’Neill and Rory O’Neill Schmitt discuss how to create inclusive campus environments for students with autism.

If you will be traveling to convention, I wish all you safe travels.  If we will miss you, I hope this issue of Developments will serve to keep in passionate about professional development and the work on your campus.