Just a Regular Student and His Soapbox | Steele Payne


This scenario focuses on the experience of Sarah, a white woman working as an un-tenured adjunct faculty member at Local Community College. Sarah teaches several public speaking courses every semester, but she has seen a recent uptick in enrollment among non-traditional students since tuition has been made free at the state level. While a diversity of viewpoints can enrich the classroom experience, Sarah also has witnessed students’ political sentiments becoming increasingly extreme. During her students’ final presentations, one student stood out in his choice of polarizing content, forcing Sarah to decide quickly how to respond.


political extremism, free speech, public speaking, non-traditional students

Primary Characters:

Sarah (she/her/hers): white woman; un-tenured adjunct faculty teaching public speaking course at Local Community College.

Rob (he/him/his): white male; non-traditional student at Local Community College enrolled in Sarah’s public speaking course; 5-10 years older than Sarah.

Context and Case:

Sarah is a white woman who has been teaching public speaking as an adjunct faculty member at Local Community College (LCC) for nearly 10 years. Her course acts as a general education requirement, and Sarah has always approached the class as a unique opportunity for students to explore ideas, interrogate information, and share their thoughts using the communication tools the curriculum provides. While she may not politically or culturally align with her students’ viewpoints or experiences, she prides herself in providing a space where all her students can apply what they have learned through classroom dialogue and structured presentations. More specifically, her course is designed so students’ learning progresses from informative/ceremonial speeches to the culminating persuasive speech at the end of the semester. With minimal guidance, students are allowed to select their own topics to research and present.

Recently, her class sizes and overall teaching load have increased due to greater demand—the state has made community college tuition-free, resulting in a broad increase in enrollment. Her class rosters include not just 20-year-old “traditional” students, but also high school dual-enrollment students, students with veteran status, and students who have been in the workforce for many years but are returning to pursue different career paths. Rob, a white male returning from the financial industry, is one of these non-traditional students.

Overall, diversity of experiences and backgrounds enriches the classroom conversations. However, as her courses expand, Sarah has grown alarmed by an observed uptick in politically polarized students. More specifically, during the final, persuasive speech of the semester, Rob chose to argue in front of 25 of his fellow students that far too much “fake” news is presented as mainstream, factual content. For evidence, Rob relied on perceived mistreatment of former president Donald Trump, arguing that more conservative social and/or cable media outlets are not given the same amount of exposure as their liberal counterparts. Rob argued that “fake” information about the 2020 presidential election was accepted as the truth, resulting in a stolen election and the wrong political candidate being elected president. Thus, Rob asserted that moving forward, conservative voices must utilize severe tactics in order to be heard, making the attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 both justified and inevitable.

As Rob’s presentation continued, Sarah’s surprise turned into concern. Until this moment, Rob had not shown signs of holding these types of views. He seemed to be using her classroom assignment as a soapbox for sharing his polarizing opinions, and his fellow students were a captive audience. Sarah must determine her next steps. How might she respond?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What are Sarah’s job responsibilities in this situation?
  2. How might Sarah draw upon cultural, situational, or institutional norms when deciding how to respond?
  3. Regardless of how Sarah chooses to respond, who needs to know about this situation?

In addition to scenario-specific questions, you may find value in exploring questions through the lens of Boettcher and Salinas’s (accepted book publication) Institutional Intelligence Model. More specifically, Sarah’s experience raises legal, ethical, and identity-related issues that can be explored through IIM-specific questions:

  • The Law: What institutional policies, procedures, or processes are applicable to this scenario?
  • Ethics: What are the relevant ethical issues in this scenario?
  • Identity: How might characters’ social identities affect how this scenario would unfold?

References and Resources: 

Boettcher, M. L. & Salinas, C. (2024). Law and ethics in academic and student affairs: Developing an institutional intelligence approach. Routledge.

Author Bio:

Kayla Steele Payne (she/her/hers) is a doctoral student in the Teaching and Learning program at Clemson University. Her research area of interest involves faculty response to student political extremism in the higher education classroom. More specifically, she is interested in how faculty choose to adjust their curriculum and/or pedagogy in relation to student behaviors or viewpoints they interpret as extreme.

Balancing Personal Values With Job Responsibilities | McKinney, Davies & Hood


As higher education professionals, supporting students is at the heart of our work. But what happens when our obligation to support our students doesn’t align with our personal values and what we feel is morally right? How do we reconcile these feelings to effectively provide the right resources and support for our students, while still staying true to who we are? This case follows Ashley, a new professional in Student Affairs, as she advises a student being accused of a Title IX violation.

Keywords/Phrases: Title IX, supporting students, personal values

Primary Characters

Ashley (she/her/hers) – Coordinator, Disability Services. Ashley is a cisgender Black woman who self-identifies as a lesbian. She serves as a coordinator in the Office of Disability Services at ABC University. This is her first job after graduating from her Student Affairs master’s program, and she is entering into her second year on the job. She is serving as a Title IX advisor this semester.

Justin (he/him/his) – Undergraduate Student (he/him/his). Justin is a cisgender white man. He self-identifies as straight, although he has been questioning this identity since his ex-partner, Max, came out as gender non-binary. He is a third-year biology major and has plans to go to medical school after graduating. Justin has been accused of a Title IX violation on the basis of gender discrimination and sexual harassment by his ex-partner, Max, following a bad break-up.

Laura (she/her/hers) – Director, Office of Equity and Compliance. Laura, a cisgender Latina woman, has been in her role as Director of Equity and Compliance for seven years and is well-versed in Title IX violation cases. Due to staffing shortages within her office, and a growing number of cases among students post-Covid, Laura has had to get creative. Last year, she launched a program where other staff members on campus could be trained to serve as advisors to students going through the Title IX process. This program has been largely successful across campus, and many professionals choose to participate.

Max (they/them/theirs) – Undergraduate Student. Max is a second-year art history major at ABC University. They came out as non-binary at the end of their first year and feel like they have had a much more fulfilling college experience now that they are able to be who they truly are. However, after coming out as non-binary, Max began to feel like they were not happy in their relationship with their current partner, Justin. Max did not feel that Justin was supportive of their new identity, and over the summer, they grew apart and Max ended the relationship. In October, Max filed a Title IX complaint against Justin, stating that after the break-up, Justin proceeded to harass them in an effort to get back together.

Jarrod  – Assistant Director, Disability Services (he/him/his). Jarrod is a cisgender white man in his early 30s. He serves as Ashley’s supervisor, and up until this point, they have had a great working relationship. Jarrod generally seems to like Ashley, and she feels well supported by him.

Context and Case

Institutional Context

ABC University is a large public research institution. ABC is predominately white, and has a population that is approximately 58% men, 41% women, and less than 1% transgender or gender non-conforming students. Since resuming normal operations and having students return to campus post-Covid, the university has seen an uptick in both student conduct cases and Title IX reports. While the university is working diligently to address these concerns, they are facing staffing shortages in many areas that make this work difficult.


Ashley just started her second academic year at ABC University, working in the Office of Disability Services. So far, she has really enjoyed her job, and loves working at ABC University as a whole. She has found her position to be incredibly rewarding and feels like she is genuinely making a difference in the lives of students, which has always been her goal in pursuing this career path. The one thing Ashley has been struggling with throughout her first year in her career  is feeling disconnected from students. In her master’s program, she was a Graduate Assistant for the Center for Student Activities, where she regularly worked with various student leaders and organizations to plan programs and events. She grew accustomed to having students in and out of her office every day and enjoyed these relationships. In her new role in Disability Services, however, she is finding that she does not see students nearly as much as she used to.

Now that she has been in her job for over a year, Ashley feels that she has a good handle on her job and is ready for some added responsibility. She has heard from colleagues that there are positions she can volunteer with in other offices on campus to gain more professional development experience and have more interaction with students in different ways. After looking into these opportunities, she decides to try out a position as a Title IX advisor with the Office of Equity and Compliance. Through this role, Ashley will go through training regarding the specifics of the Title IX process and how to support students who are going through this process. While not officially part of any hearing, the advisor’s role is to meet with the student who they are assigned to, provide context and answer questions regarding the process of a Title IX resolution, and provide general support and guidance to the student they are advising, whether that be through attending resolution meetings with them, helping revise statements or responses, providing them with appropriate resources, or helping them through the process of deciding how to move forward.

During training for the Title IX advisor position, Ashley really feels that the role will be a good fit. Although this position is certainly out of her comfort zone, she is excited for the opportunity to get to interact with students in a more direct, one-on-one way. She feels passionate about helping students navigate through difficult experiences and feels that this role will allow her to do that in a meaningful way. Additionally, she is excited to get more involved on campus and thinks this will be great professional development experience outside of her current role.

Ashley did not receive an advisor request for a few months, so hadn’t thought much about the role. In late October, however, Ashley got an email from Laura, the Director of Equity and Compliance on campus, letting her know that she had been assigned to her first case as an advisor. After reading the case, she learns that she will be advising Justin, a student who has been accused by their ex-partner of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in violation of Title IX. This originally surprises Ashley – she vaguely remembered that the advisor role could include advising both the accused and the accuser, but in her mind, she had hoped that she would be helping support students who were on the reporting end, not the other way around. She feels an initial sense of moral conflict about this but decides that she will do her best to fulfill her role.

The case states that after Max broke up with Justin, he repeatedly called, texted, and messaged them on social media trying to convince them to get back together. When Max refused, the communication became more hostile and threatening, with Justin saying things like “I’ll make sure you regret this”. Once Max and Justin returned to campus in the Fall, the situation intensified. As Max and Justin had several mutual friends and were involved in some of the same extracurricular activities, Max stated that Justin began to intentionally seek out ways to interact with them face-to-face, despite Max’s repeated requests to be left alone. Additionally, after feeling snubbed by Max, Justin started to refer to them by the incorrect pronouns and encouraged others in their environment to do the same, stating that Max was only “going through a rebellious phase to justify breaking up with him”.

As her advisor role requires, Ashley sets up an initial meeting with Justin to go over the accusation, discuss his thoughts on the matter, and consider next steps. In the meeting, it is clear that Justin is angry at Max for putting him through this process and does not feel like the accusation against him is justified. He makes comments such as “She should have never broken up with me and none of this would have happened” or “She’s just being too emotional and can’t take a joke”. He states that he does not want to comply with the terms of the informal resolution process that would require him to write a letter of apology to Max, as he feels they are blowing this whole thing out of proportion. Toward the end of the meeting, he states that he is not interested in talking about his feelings – he just wants to know what Ashley is going to do to help him make sure this doesn’t affect his chances of getting into a good medical school.

After the meeting, Ashley feels a great deal of conflict. She is troubled by Justin’s responses – she feels that the lack of responsibility and remorse on Justin’s part for his actions in this case are inappropriate, and it seems that his only concern in resolving the case is making sure that it will not affect his future. Although she has not met them, she feels a very strong sense of empathy towards Max, the accuser. As a member of the LGBTQ community and a previous victim of sexual harassment herself, she knows how these incidents can affect a person. Morally, her first reaction to the situation is feeling like Justin should be punished for his actions, and she has no interest in advising him. However, she knows that she has signed up for this role and must do what it takes to fulfill it properly, as every student has a right to support. She wants to discuss this situation with Laura to get her advice, but fears that she will look like a new professional who is in over her head and can’t handle the role, so she decides against it.

Instead, in an effort to help navigate this situation, Ashley goes to her supervisor, Jarrod, for help. She has always had a good relationship with Jarrod and feels that she can talk to him. She explains the situation she is in and looks for guidance to navigate her personal feelings and her professional role. To her surprise, Jarrod’s response is neither supportive nor helpful. He tells her that this is why she should focus on her own work and that if she can’t manage her emotions, she has no business serving in the role. Ashley is left feeling defeated, unsupported, and unsure how to fulfill her responsibility in supporting students while also balancing her own personal sense of right and wrong.

Discussion Questions:

  1. How are Ashley’s personal biases and beliefs impacting her ability to advise Justin?
  2. As Student Affairs professionals, how do we balance our personal views with the responsibilities in our roles?
  3. How should Ashley approach supporting Justin through this process? Does she hold any responsibility in holding Justin accountable for his words or actions? Why or why not?
  4. What resources might be available on campus- both for Ashley personally as well as for her to recommend to Justin?
  5. How could Ashley’s supervisor have responded better or supported her through this role?

Author Bios

Audrey McKinney (she/her/her) – Audrey currently works at the Georgia Institute of Technology as a program coordinator in New Student and Transition Programs. She received her Master of Education in Counselor Education from Clemson University in 2022.

Amber Davies (she/her/hers) – Amber is currently serving as a Residence Director at Johns Hopkins University where she oversees a second year community and serves in capacities including student recruitment and first year experience. Amber has obtained her Bachelor’s Degree from Stockton University and a Master’s Degree from Clemson University.

Kayla Hood (she/her/hers) – Kayla is a recent graduate with a Master of Education in Counselor Education, Student Affairs with interests in social justice theories/practices, intersectionality, and holistic wellbeing. Kayla currently works at Davidson College as the Assistant Director for the Center for Student Diversity and Inclusion.

Supporting Students with Differing Beliefs | King


 In a world of differing views and beliefs, it can be challenging to support all students in the way they need while balancing personal beliefs. In this case study, a graduate student will be faced with a challenging event proposal from a student organization that conflicts with her personal views. Will she be able to balance her personal beliefs with her responsibility to support all students?

Keywords/Phrases: Campus Activities, Student Support, Challenging Beliefs


Bennett Alexander – (he/him) He is a senior at Oceanwest University and the President of the Advocates for All organization. He identifies as White, heterosexual, and religious.

Alaina North – (she/her) She is a sophomore at Oceanwest University and the President of the Proud to be Me organization. She identifies as White, bisexual, and non-religious.

Morgan Tile – (she/her) She is a graduate student in the Higher Education program at Oceanwest University and serves as the Graduate Assistant for Campus Activities in the Office of Student Engagement. She has only been in the role for about a month. She identifies as biracial, pansexual, and religious but non-practicing.

Terrence Green, M.Ed. – (he/him) He is the Director of Student Engagement at Oceanwest University and has been in the role for eight years. He did not follow the traditional Student Affairs route and instead has experience working as an Assistant Principal of a Middle School for five years prior to switching fields. He identifies as Black, heterosexual, and religious.

Elizabeth Fort, Ph.D. – (she/her) She is the Vice President of Student Affairs at Oceanwest University and has been in the role for two years. She has a long history of working in Student Affairs, and recently finished her Ph.D. program studying the effects of practitioner bias in student support. She identifies as White, heterosexual, and non-religious.


Oceanwest University is a private, four-year University with about 10,000 undergraduate students and 5,000 graduate students. Oceanwest is not religiously affiliated and has a strong mission statement that includes a commitment to a diverse and inclusive campus with the goal of creating a sense of belonging for every student. Oceanwest prides itself on supporting all students and allowing space for challenging conversations about differing views to prepare students for life after graduation. 

Case Study

The door slams shut, and the room suddenly goes cold. Terrence takes a seat behind his desk and lets out a sigh. Morgan feels uncomfortable with the tension in the room. She is nervous at the thought of being in trouble because she is someone who always does things by the book and avoids getting in trouble at all costs. Some may say she is a bit of a people pleaser. Terrence begins to tell Morgan why he has called her into his office today, “So, I am guessing you know why you are here. I received a phone call this morning from Vice President Fort who had a lengthy conversation with the parents of Bennett Alexander, a student you worked with last week? Dr. Fort explained that Bennett feels that his freedom of speech is being violated and that he was told his beliefs were wrong. Would you please care to explain what happened here?” Morgan takes a deep breath before starting the story.

About a week ago, Morgan was working in her office after finishing her one on ones with her student staff for the day. She heard a knock at the door and looked up to see a student standing in the doorway. “Good morning, my name is Bennett. I was told you were the person to talk to if I need help coordinating an event for my organization?” Morgan invited Bennett in to take a seat and tell her more about his organization and event proposal. Bennett explained that his organization is called Advocates for All and works to provide a space for religiously conservative students on campus to gather and discuss current issues. They believe that equality means all people were created equal and should be treated as such. Morgan shifted uncomfortably in her seat and with a sterner tone asked what his event proposal was.

Bennett shared that his organization would like to host a panel with guest speakers. The topic of the event would be “The Negative Impacts of Promoting LGBTQ+ Rights in the Classroom”. Morgan was taken aback by this proposal. As a pansexual woman, she fought the outrage that was boiling up inside her and tried not to have an outburst at this student sitting in front of her. She asked, “So what exactly is the goal of this panel?” Bennett explained that his organization believes that teaching about LGBTQ+ rights is convincing students to believe things that they do not actually believe, and that bringing professionals to campus to discuss this topic more would help students better understand why LGBTQ+ issues were being taught and what the potential negative impacts could be. Morgan told Bennett that Oceanwest’s mission is to promote a safe environment for all students of all backgrounds and identities. Bennett said he gets that, but that every belief has two sides and both sides deserve space and time to be discussed. Morgan acknowledged that but told Bennett that this event would be too harmful for the LGBTQ+ population and he would need to think of a different event. Bennett told Morgan that she was silencing the voices of the students in his organization and that she “would regret this decision”.

Terrence asks Morgan to explain the reasoning behind her decision, and she was confused that Terrence was not supporting her on this issue. Morgan explained that she was following the university’s mission and she thought this event would be more harmful to the student body than informative. Terrence asked if attendance to this event would have been mandatory for all students, or if it would have been voluntary. Morgan tells him he is not sure, but that she assumes attendance would be voluntary. Terrence explains that while it may be harmful to have this event take place, Advocates for All is well within their right to hold this panel and students could choose whether or not to attend which minimizes the harm. Terrence instructs Morgan to call Bennett in for a meeting where she will apologize for the confusion, explain that she is new to her role and made an honest mistake, and help him coordinate the event. Morgan tells Terrence that she cannot in good conscience support this event, and Terrence explains that he understands that and how hard this can be, but that their roles are to support all students no matter their own personal beliefs. Morgan is frustrated but tells Terrence that she understands and will do as he asks.

Morgan holds the meeting, and Bennett accepts her apology and is excited that the event will be happening. They discuss the details and Morgan helps him reserve the spaces, think of marketing ideas, and talk through event logistics.

That night, Morgan is restless as she tries to go to bed. She cannot believe that she is being forced to give up her own beliefs and not only support an event like this, but to assist in the planning. She decides to do something a little drastic. The next morning, Morgan reaches out to a student who she has been able to grow a strong relationship with during her short time at Oceanwest. Alaina is the President of the Proud to be Me organization which promotes LGBTQ+ advocacy and support on campus. Morgan tells Alaina about the upcoming event and asks if she would be willing to organize a protest to show the Advocates for All the harm they are doing. Alaina tells Morgan absolutely and gets to work.

Morgan feels relieved, but that relief immediately vanishes when she gets called into Vice President Fort’s office the next day. Apparently, Alaina did not organize a peaceful protest, but she instead organized a rally of students who threw all sorts of objects and profanities at anyone attending the event causing multiple hospitalizations. Vice President Fort explains that the campus police are investigating and Alaina told them that Morgan was the one who asked her to protest. Vice President Fort says the university is exploring its options related to addressing the incident, the students involved, and Morgan’s role in the situation.

 Discussion Questions

  1. What are the ethical issues for each character in this case?
  2. How do you balance personal beliefs and your duty to support all students?
  3. How should the university respond to Morgan’s actions?
  4. Would you have done anything differently if you were Terrence? If you were Morgan? If so, what? If not, why not?


Author Bio

 Chris King, (he/him) is a current second-year graduate student in the M.Ed. Counselor Education – Student Affairs program at Clemson University and serves as a Graduate Community Director. He received a B.S. in Educational Studies, Social Welfare & Justice, and a minor in Human Resource Management from Marquette University.

Working in the Crosshairs: Complex Decision-Making in Anti-DEI Political Times | Evatt


Student affairs practitioners are faced with myriad decisions each day, some of which conflict with their personal beliefs and institutional values. This case highlights the complexity of decision-making in the era of anti-DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion) legislation. As with many public universities in the South, the institution finds itself in the political crosshairs of anti-DEI legislation, thus having a ripple effect on campus life. Cam, the Assistant Director for Student Activities and Leadership, experiences internal conflict while supporting a student organization’s Anti-DEI Celebration Rally. This scenario provides an opportunity for exploration and reflection on the tensions between policy enforcement and equity-minded decision-making.


  • Cam (he/him) serves as the Assistant Director for Student Activities and Leadership in the Office of Student Engagement. Cam, a white, queer, cis-gender man, joined the institution two years ago after graduating with his master’s degree in Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA). He has developed strong relationships with students and colleagues over the last two years and prides himself on being a social justice advocate for minoritized students on campus. Cam advises the 400+ registered student organizations on how to effectively lead their student organizations while at the same time upholding the University’s policy expectations.
  • Erin (she/her) is an undergraduate student majoring in political science and serves as the newly elected president of the Smoky Mountain Freedom Allegiance Club. She is a prominent student leader on campus and is known for mobilizing students toward action.
  • Edwards (she/her) is the Vice President for Student Affairs at Smoky Mountain University and has served in this role for the past 22 years. Although committed to student development and engagement, Dr. Edwards is perceived by students and colleagues as being “out of touch” with current student needs and DEI practices.


This case is set at Smoky Mountain University (SMU), a regional, public four-year institution located in the Southeast region of the United States. SMU is a predominantly white institution and enrolls around 15,000 students (12,000 undergraduates, 3,000 graduates). As a public institution, SMU is part of a state system of higher education and is governed by a Board of Governors composed mostly of conservative-leaning business leaders and politicians. According to the institution’s mission statement, the university seeks to “prepare students to meet the great challenges facing our state, nation, and our world.” Furthermore, SMU shares the following DEI statement on their website: “We affirm the importance of a diverse and inclusive campus community, one that is enriched by persons of different backgrounds, perspectives, cultures, socioeconomic status, and other diverse characteristics.” Similar to most public universities in the Southeast, SMU finds itself in the political crosshairs of anti-DEI legislation. The majority of student affairs practitioners at SMU embrace the values of equity and inclusion and pride themselves in creating welcoming and inclusive spaces where all students can take part in campus life. However, they often find themselves having to tip-toe around DEI topics because they are not sure what they can and cannot say. This unspoken institutional norm between talking about equity and putting words into action (McNair et al., 2020) plagues staff, faculty, and administrators at the institution.

Case Study

It is around 12:30pm on a Wednesday, and Cam is finishing lunch in his office before his next one-on-one student meeting. It has been a fairly calm week, and he is looking forward to some downtime this weekend after a hectic start to the semester. As he looks at his calendar, he remembers that his 1:00pm meeting is with Erin, the newly elected president of the Freedom Allegiance Club. The club has an active membership roster of 125 students, and according to their constitution, the mission of the Freedom Allegiance Club is to “protect and defend conservative values and mobilize others toward action.” The club is known around campus as a group who is not afraid to push hot button issues, especially through a politicized agenda that will garner attention. While in the food court the other day, Cam overheard a group of students exclaim that, “Freedom Allegiance Club is fueled by racists and homophobes… All they do is create an unsafe place.”

Cam had a good working relationship with the previous club president, but this is the first time Cam and Erin have officially met. During the meeting, Erin shares that the Freedom Allegiance Club is planning to host a Celebration Rally on campus in favor of the anti-DEI legislation that has passed in states across the country over the last several months. The event is scheduled for this coming Friday afternoon (two days from now) with nearly 500 people having already RSVP’d on social media. According to Erin, the club is expecting a “huge turnout” on the main University Quad, and they have contacted local news stations for coverage of their event. When Cam asks Erin the purpose of the event, she says that the club wants to generate excitement on campus in support of anti-DEI legislation. During their meeting a few weeks ago, many members felt that the university administration does not support conservative students on campus. Erin shares that the goal of the event is to “rally the troops around our ideals and to call out radical left beliefs that are harming our country and local community.”

Much to Cam’s surprise, the club has already completed all the required space reservation agreements and coordinated the appropriate event setup needs through the Events and Reservations Office. As he reviews the approved forms, he thinks to himself, “How did this event slip through the cracks without follow-up?” As they wrap-up their meeting, Erin shares that Cam is the only staff member that explicitly knows about the rally. Although Cam wants to maintain trust with the student, he realizes he has a responsibility to share this information with others. Cam tells Erin that he plans to review their event needs in greater detail and will be in touch with additional information. The meeting concludes around 1:35pm. About 20 minutes later, you receive the email below from Dr. Edwards, Vice President for Student Affairs:

Hi Cam,

I have received several messages of concern from the Chancellor’s Office and faculty members about a rally that is allegedly taking place this Friday on the Main Quad in favor of recent Anti-DEI Legislation. Looking at the Freedom Allegiance Club’s social media pages, it appears that over 500 people have already confirmed their attendance at the event. Of greater concern, it appears that many of the attendees are not current students or campus affiliates, and the event has been promoted widely to public audiences. In fact, I received a phone call just a few minutes ago from a local news station asking if I would like to make a public comment on the event and the university’s stance on DEI-related issues. Please share with me your recommendations on how to ensure that all students on both sides of this issue are being fully supported and that we are maintaining equitable practices. As you know, this is a tedious topic on our campus, so please give it your fullest attention to detail. Thanks for all that you do for our students.

After meeting with Erin and reading Dr. Edwards’ email, Cam feels deep internal conflict and a sense of responsibility. This event runs counter to Cam’s core values and ideals of equity and inclusion. Importantly, he is aware of the harmful impact this event could have on minoritized students, faculty, and staff on campus. At the same time, he is responsible for upholding university policies so that all students, regardless of ideology and beliefs, have access to campus space and resources. He finds himself struggling to navigate the situation.

Discussion Questions

  1. What are the tensions that Cam needs to consider in preparing the campus community for this potentially controversial event?
  2. How can Cam use university, state, or federal policies or guidelines to inform his decision?
  3. How might Cam mobilize others to support him in this endeavor? Which individuals or groups need to be at the table in this process?
  4. How can Cam ensure minoritized community members feel safe and supported in the coming days and beyond?
  5. Looking internally, how might Cam reflect upon his own positionality and values to make deeper meaning of this experience to enhance his leadership capacity in the future.


McNair, T. B., Bensimon, E. M., Malcolm-Piqueux, L. (2020). From equity talk to equity walk: Expanding practitioner knowledge for racial justice in higher education. Jossey-Bass.

Author Bio

Dr. Dustin Evatt (he/him) serves as an Assistant Professor of Practice in Higher Education at Western Carolina University where he teaches courses in the Higher Education Student Affairs (HESA) program, Educational Leadership doctoral program, and the undergraduate Leadership Minor. Before joining faculty, Dustin worked as a scholar-practitioner in higher education for over 13 years in the areas of student engagement and leadership, career development, equity and inclusion, and young alumni engagement. Dustin’s research explores critical leadership and equity-mindedness in college administrators and students using critical whiteness and queer theories. Originally from South Carolina, Dustin received his Ed.D. from Appalachian State University, M.Ed. from the University of Vermont, and a B.S. degree from Winthrop University.