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This is perspective

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academia

Silence…

If you know me, you know I am vocal about things I believe are wrong. Especially if they affect me and those I care about. Unfortunately, (for me) I seem to care about more and more people as I learn how connected we all are in the world. I also recognize how important my/our voices have become.

Check your feeds and followings. check your list serves and the professional communications from your organizations, your industries, your leaders. The world is a big place and we cannot respond to everything, but when something happens in your community, to your community, who speaks? What do they say?

More importantly, who is silent? Over the break or during the semester when women, men, members of the LGBTQ community, people of any religion, people from any country or culture are targeted by hate, is there a response?

Are they waiting for a response from someone higher up that they can model their behaviour after? Do undergraduates wait to see how upperclassmen respond? are the grad students waiting for the tenured faculty? Is your department chair waiting for the president of the University? Is the university president waiting for the Governor? Is the Governor waiting for the President of the country?

And you? who are you waiting on?

Tell someone, tell everyone.

I denounce racial supremacists. I denounce international hate. I denounce gender, race and ethnicity based violence and bigotry.

Now, at least I know you will not be waiting on me.

Leno

-This is in partial response to the Charlotteville, VA white supremacy gathering (August 11 2017) and violence that followed (August 12, 2017).

 

Featured post

The six P’s of leadership decisions: Perspective, price, purpose, prejudice, potential, prerogative.

Hello everyone,

This text is going to be shared in video format as well on my youtube channel so check there as well.

As leaders in any field, there seems to be issues related to understanding the needs of your constituents; the costs of your decisions; the reason for making your decision; things that affect our decision making process; the possible collateral damage; and whether we, as leaders actually have the right to make some of the decisions we are making.

I have distilled these issues into the 6 P’s of leadership decision making: Perspective, price, purpose, prejudice, potential, prerogative. Some of these overlap and some may have a greater or lesser impact depending on the situation. this is just a guideline and your community may have other considerations. What would you add to the list? leave a note in the comments.

here goes.

Perspective:

Many leaders feel they have the big picture view. They have worked in the industry, read all the books, and maybe they used to be the employee or the student they are now representing. unfortunately, it does not work that way. You cannot have had the lifetime of experience you earned and that of even one other person, much less everyone you represent as a leader. Therefore, you need perspective. A leader should consult a financial expert when something impacts an employee’s take home pay, a legal conultant when there is any issue related to the rights of an individual or group, especially government mandated rules and regulations, a health care expert on issues related to human health, well-being, insurance coverage etc. But most importantly, they should consult with the people that they think will shoulder the burden (who pays) and whom they expect will reap the rewards. Remember the perspectives of other groups outside of yours (the other company pays this, the other country did this, the other schools have this) will never be as valuable as the input form your constituents.

So first, recognize your perspective, then get some more perspectives. Consult with as many people as possible. If you cannot talk to any of “those” people before making a decision for/about them, then ethically, that decision is not yours to make yet.

Price:

If there is a decision to be made there is some judgment call. One plan of action must necessarily cost more than the other or have different rewards or there would be no decision to make. Now, you may think it would be easy to make a simple choice of do I buy this or that when the difference is price. If you are a leader though, it is not so simple. the solution you choose may seem a reasonable price to you. Imagine a 1500 price increase to an administrative professional who makes $109,000 per year. This price (approximately 5 days work) seems reasonable for some benefit to that single decision maker. However if you are making a decision that affects several hundred people who all make $19000 per year, that 1500 dollars to them costs alot more. About a month’s work actually. It is also likely that the person with $19000 now has to decide between that $1500 benefit and something else. What if you could use $1500 to get your entire family back to your home country in the event of a disaster, death in the family, medical issues etc. Or you could use that $1500 to have medical insurance for one person in the household of three or four? what would you choose?…Hypothetically. So consider price, but speak to your constituents about what the cost truly is.

Purpose:

Why are you making this decision? Is your purpose to make the experience better for your employees, clients, students, administration, sponsors? Each of these groups will be affected differently by the same decision.
If you do not know why you are making the decision, you are not ready to make the decision yet. If you cannot communicate the reason for making that decision without violating your core principles, you are making the decision for the wrong reasons or without enough information.

example: You have to choose between underwater cement and two part epoxy. Which do you choose? Not enough information? Of course not. You need to know the application. Fresh water, saltwater? If you are attaching corals, is it toxic to corals? Can your employees use it? Does it meet their needs, are they qualified to use it, can it work inside the logistic constraints of their day?

Example 2: Your employees need health coverage. What insurance coverage is appropriate for all of them? Trick question. There is no “one size fits all” coverage best for every age, marital status, pre-existing condition, family size etc.

if you get a fixative that kills the corals you are planting? have you achieved the purpose of your decision? If your employees cannot afford the insurance you are making them purchase and therefore cannot afford vehicle maintenance, food, medicine etc. Are you achieving your purpose?

Prejudice:

Hey, news flash: You are prejudiced. Everyone is. You may have thought about the situation and tried to make an objective decision, but if you made that decision by yourself, it is flawed.
*You remember how that Bahamian student broke their arm breakdancing and they did not have insurance and your office covered their bills? That was one student. Tragic? Yes. Costly? Perhaps. Representative of all Bahamian students? No. All International Students? No. All students of color? No. Representative of all students? No.

Potential:

Chances are, you are focusing on the single, target result of your decision. However, many decisions have significant positive and negative collateral impacts. These are often difficult to predict.
I suggest listing all the positive benefits you can think of and all the costs. Now think of who gets each benefit and who pays each cost. Now think of everyone else in your organization. Who is not getting those benefits. Why not? Look at who is paying. How much are they paying? Are the people not getting those benefits paying less? Is the group with the rewards paying more? How much more? Is this an appropriate amount?
Could your target group potentially get a higher benefit if they pay more? less if they pay less? what will they potentially lose (from their perspective)?

Prerogative.

One of the most important questions to ask: Is this decision your prerogative?
Do you have the right/authority to make this decision? Are you a Health care expert making an accounting decision?
Are you a domestic administrator making decisions regarding international scholars?
An affluent caucasian cis gender male making decisions about the reproductive rights of black and latin(x) individuals from low income homes across the gender spectrum?
Are you (or were you ever) a member of the group? If not, you may need to delegate this decision to a committee that can properly determine and serve their needs.

 

*Any similarity to actual circumstances, real or fictional is purely coincidental, but intriguing. please message me if you see some.

Think about ants. They cannot see the soaring birds, why would they need to? Their lives consist of the path in front of them, following the scent trail of their fellow ants. Yes, occasionally one of them will get distracted and venture off on a solo adventure. Mostly though, their perception limits their world.

Look around you. Think about the people who go through their lives following the paths of their parents, older brothers and sisters, this graduating class just like last year’s graduating class. Think about the people who are trapped in the same organization or the same job for years and decades. Think about the way they told you there was no success outside of their realm of perception. Think about the ants and soar.

The screaming silence

I am an international student and scholar. Thus far I have visited 9 countries (11 when I count Puerto Rico and the USVI separately). Guess what? People are all the same. We are born, struggle to survive, find love within and outside ourselves, we get sick, age and die seeking freedom, peace and happiness. Everyone.

In today’s world, there are those that point fingers at one group or another, to call them lazy, untrustworthy, evil and the list goes on and on. The fact is, most of these groups have no reliably identifiable phenotype. The Donald lambastes immigrants and Muslims though he needs them to wear shirts and headdresses or carry signs to recognize them. Faculty and staff at our university regularly point out Chinese students’ (lack of) ability, but many cannot tell that some are Japanese, Korean, etc. Some are United States of American. Myself, I walk in and out of situations where I am called African American…someone on the outside creates and applies these labels to the diverse and beautiful people in our campuses and communities. No matter what you think, all stereotypes hurt people in some way or the other.

And guess what? If you don’t use the stereotype, but do not stand against it, you still support it. It’s social economics. People spend energy to express their beliefs and opinions, their revenue is the support of people like them cheering them on and laughing at their jokes. Their costs include ostracism from groups they respect or want to be a part of. If the stereotype user claims to be part of the dominant culture, using stereotypes to victimize subordinate cultures or groups then they and their words already have the social capital and revenue. The victims do not. Now, here we have to realize, because they claim to be part of the dominant culture or represent the dominant culture does not make it true. Most people are somewhere in the middle. Some person at one end of the spectrum spews hate at people at the other end. The people near the oppressor end may align themselves with the oppressor. Those near the victim may align themselves with the victim. Those in the middle say “meh” and either side may claim them based on some superficial characteristic. In the end though, the oppressor has the power and without the support of the middle, the victims will continue to be victimized.

So let us use an analog (strictly hypothetical of course). Suppose a powerful person like a presidential candidate in the USA claims to be the ideal American. Suppose then, said candidate incites his supporters to racism and violent racism. He categorizes a group of people (perhaps an entire religion) as being evil or denigrates people of a particular gender. He is the oppressor. He stereotypes all the people that fit one label (religion, skin color, national origin, etc.) as something bad (terrorist, rapist, infidel, traitor etc.) and makes them a target.

Suppose then a person like an international student fits one of the labels the oppressor uses. This can be religion as mentioned before, some style of dress or even a way of speaking. To be clear, this student is NOT a terrorist, rapist, infidel or traitor. However, this is what he hears people like himself called in American mainstream media regularly.

It’s scary to speak out against someone who wrongs you, when they lead millions of people who look like the people that surround you everyday. If the oppressor labels all those who look like him as allies and none of them deny it, what does that mean? So, finally, suppose the schools that recruit students from countries around the world, all hear the media coverage, but never issue a direct statement publicly denouncing racism, stereotypes, violence towards their students and their students’ families? Can these students feel safe? Are these schools meeting their social responsibilities to their students? How long can they wait before the aura of permissiveness crosses from hate toward non Americans, to those who look like non Americans, to poor Americans, to Black, Latino, Asian or White Americans…and so on and so forth?

Of course I’m just being hypothetical, but really, how long should American Academia, Science, Industry, non profit organizations etc wait before they say out loud and without any ambiguity, that this type of public rhetoric is wrong?

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