Where Were You When?

Dr. Cindi Love, Ed.D.

From One Dupont Circle: Where Were You When? 

Cindi Love
ACPA Executive Director

Where were you when you heard about the recent murders of people in Minneapolis, Istanbul, Orlando, Dallas, Baton Rouge, Nice and Munich?

Do you know anyone in any of those places?  Friend, relative, co-worker, member of a community with which you identify?

How did you feel when you first heard about these killings?

What do you want to do about this situation?

How will you do it?

When will you start?

These are the six questions that crisis counselors are trained to first ask people who are processing their exposure to a human-engineered act of mass murder or terrorism.

The answers to these questions help the counselor quickly assess and react more effectively to respondent’s location within the predictable stages of grief and loss (Jennings, 2003).

Research indicates that the psychological effects of terrorism inflicted by human beings lasts longer than those from natural disasters and accidents, almost doubling the average time that people report cessation of measurable PTSD like symptoms, from 18 to 36 months. In addition, these acts of terror affect the mental health of a higher percentage of people than that recorded for natural or accidental disasters (Selzler & Grandbois, 2011).

The six question process can help you navigate the stages of grief for students, colleagues and yourself as we move forward together each day on our campuses as professionals in student learning and development.

The world feels shaky to some and as if it is imploding to others. Some people are using social media like a numbing drug and others are using the real thing. Some people are praying and others are cursing the universe. Some people are staying in bed all day and others cannot sleep. Some are compartmentalizing and will have to unpack later. Some are stuffing their grief away.  We are all coping in a new normal in which our traditional sanctuaries do not necessarily feel safe.

Servaty-Seib’s (2006) research suggests that college campuses can be difficult places to experience grief.

It’s important for faculty and staff to acknowledge the emotional and cognitive effect that experiencing a death loss has on students. With greater acknowledgement, students are likely to feel greater support, experience less isolation and, therefore, function more effectively.

What plans are we making for students who will return to campus after break?  What does support look like?  What is helpful?  What is not helpful?  We are operating in an unprecedented time of distrust and unrest and I am so grateful for the sensitive and experienced leadership of many ACPA members.

In 2015, ACPA President Kent Porterfield was at ground zero of Ferguson at Saint Louis University.  Mamta Accapadi, faculty of ACPA’s Mid-Level Management Institute and VP Student Affairs at Rollins University in Orlando was at the epicenter of student response along with Sandy Shugart, President of Valencia Community College who had to tell his community that they lost seven students in the massacre at Pulse. ACPA’s current President, Donna Lee, is Vice President of Student Affairs at Macalester in St. Paul, Minnesota and has supported that campus through multiple protests by the larger community.   We need to support them and our many colleagues who are engaging with students around the world.  We need to learn from them and with them.

No one has all the answers. However, each one of us can listen to another human being. It is very important to hear the stories of those who bear the brunt of our national failures—people of color and, particularly, young Black men who arrive on campus this fall.

Despite two years of discussions and protests, police shootings have not declined nationally.  Black Americans remain 2.5 times as likely as whites to be fatally shot by police.  Some professionals will attempt to separate this reality from campus climate as if the Ivory Tower in not, in fact, Ivory—born out of white supremacy and built on the backs of Black people.

We must be in the business of strengthening our communities and our campuses within them and insisting on the translation of research into equitable and inclusive climates for all.  We must engage rigorously in the development of culturally competent leadership at every level.  Human dignity can no longer be an assertion without realization.  Activist scholars have been researching, observing and recording campus climate, failures and successes for more than a century.  It is time to dig deeply into their work and make it real in campus life.

The convergence between frontline activism and scholarship emerged after the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. in April 1968 and remains one of the most effective means of understanding and addressing the egregious effects of educational, economic and political apartheid in America.  It is this intersection of thought and action that can lead to a radical vision and revolutionary courage necessary for reform in police control, health and welfare, cultural development and definition. (Grady-Willis, 160-161).

I am deeply grateful for the scholarship of ACPA members in these areas.  If you have not read the recent compilation from About Campus, please take time this week to do so.

In Conflict as a Catalyst for Learning, Rashné R. Jehangir challenges her students and herself to engage with tough issues like class, race, gender, disability, and homophobia. How does she help them learn from, and even embrace, the conflict that inevitably arises?

In Confessions of a Recovering Racist, Donna M. Hauer shares an experience of making a misinformed judgement, and how the student she put in a box made her realize she was make assumptions that weren’t true.

In Difficult Conversations, Debra Miretzky and Sharon Stevens share their experience launching a series of campus conversations focused on raising personal awareness and building relationships across difference.

In Multiracial in a Monoracial World, Samuel D. Museus, April L. Yee, and Susan A. Lambe interview four undergraduate students of color about their experiences on a ‘colorblind campus.’ The students tell their own stories of discrimination, frustration, and willingness to have the race conversation that their peers don’t want to engage in.

In Racism and Sexism in Cyberspace, Samuel D. Museus and Kimberly A. Truong report on the negative consequences of the ubiquitous radicalized and sexualized stereotype of Asian American college students that appear online.

In Black Within Black, Chrystal A. George Mwangi and Sharon Fries-Britt disrupt the idea of a monolithic experience among Black students by reporting on Black within-group diversity and the perceptions and experiences of Black immigrants in higher education.

Beyond Discourse to Emancipatory Action by Penny A. Pasque and Hailey Neubauer describes one undergraduate student’s transformational story of self-discovery and personal development frames this discussion of the importance of undergraduate involvement in social justice research.

Frank Shushok, Jr. in A Candid Conversation about Schools, Culture, and the Widening Opportunity Gap in America interviews Robert D. Putnam about our attention to the worsening problem of inequality of opportunity in American society.

Jennifer Meyer Schrage in A Sea of Change on the Horizon contends that adjudication-only models of conflict resolution limit opportunities for restorative justice and student learning, for both those who have caused harm and those who have suffered harm.

Sydnee Viray and Robert J. Nash in Taming the Madvocate argue that advocates must move beyond anger in order to be effective.

Reginald Wilson in Educating for Diversity explains why achieving cultural diversity on campus requires nothing less than a complete transformation of our institutions of higher learning. This means reinventing everything, from the canon to the classroom and beyond.

Forest B. Wortham in Engaging Prospective and Admitting African American and Other Minority Students Before They Arrive on Campus talks about the waning effectiveness of traditional methods of connecting with incoming Wittenberg University minority students and how to help them find their places.

Researchers, scholar practitioners and students have deep wisdom to add to this critical time in our history in higher education.  What are you thinking, reading and writing? Start with the simple questions posed at the beginning of this article and, if you are willing, share with our community.  Email a blog post to be included on our website to [email protected].


Jennings, G. S. (2003). Tarrant County Region 11 Education Service Center, Crisis Counseling

Selzler, B., & Grandbois, D. (2011). Best practices for psychological support of communities after a disaster. WIT Transactions on the Built Environment, 119, 291-302.

Servaty-Seib, H. (2006, April 4). Study: Grief has impact on college students’ academic performance. Retrieved from  HYPERLINK “http://www.purdue.edu/uns/html4ever/2006/060404.Seib.study.htmlhttp://www.purdue.edu/uns/html4ever/2006/060404.Seib.study.html

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