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social responsibility

Anemic Advocacy

Have you met that person that pours all their energy into helping the group/cause they feel deserves it? I mean 100% all the time, every time? This is not about them.

We have to challenge anemic advocacy. Those that need advocates are weak. They cannot defend themselves and often, they are trying their best to fight the good fight. Some of us have the power, privilege and opportunity to help. So we join in.

Are you a senior employee? a manager? Perhaps in academia, you are a graduate student, faculty member or administrator. Perhaps even a Tenured Professor (I always picture Dumbledore). You have more power than any undergrad and in the case of a tenured professor, much more power than graduate students and new faculty.

So look and listen. Your employees/students are suffering. Something is wrong, on every campus, in every business.

if you have not helped to shine a light on one challenge this year, you are not advocating for those who need you. If your reasoning includes:
“This place will never change”, “I do not have the power”, “that is not my responsibility”… you are wrong.

Don’t be an anemic advocate. Strengthen your advocacy by feeding it with knowledge of the groups around you and their challenges, knowledge of the pathways to change, and knowledge of historic successes and failures.

Share with me what group/cause you need advocacy for and I will share through this page (when appropriate). Make sure to tell me what you have or are willing to do for your group and share any tangible efforts you have completed already.

Leno

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Passing

There is a test. You score high enough on some scale to be given credit for the accomplishment. You are acknowledged and given the privileges afforded all those who pass.

What happens when the scoring rubric is never given to you? What if you enter this exam from an entirely different system? Perhaps, you are overqualified and pass without even trying. Perhaps, you pass but it is a struggle and a challenge. Perhaps you don’t pass.

As international scholars, much of our extracurricular work lies in passing, much like post desegregation blacks trying to figure out how light their skin had to be or DADT era officers figuring out how “straight” was straight enough to die for their country.

We live in an era where academic culture tells us that multiple viewpoints and open discourse are the cornerstones of academic progress. International students and scholars are not just welcome, but essential to the daily conduct of science, business, social justice etc.

Unfortunately, if you look closely, you may notice your students and colleagues struggle to pass. What percentage of the English language do we need to master for the exam? With the exam test our written as well as verbal abilities? Will any of the cultural competencies from our home countries/cultures be on the exam? Trick questions. All of them. Because there is no single exam. Every day and every interaction is an exam.

Personally, I speak more slowly, about 70% normal speed is passing for American English. My accent has to be at 20% for listener comprehension, slang at 0% native use. All the time.

But there is one way I pass that was unexpected. I pass for African American. Ironically, in today’s media it seems like this is the lowest rung on the USA diversity power ladder (without factoring in intersections). I pass for the citizens most likely to be shot by police, have the worst healthcare outcomes and least lifetime earnings outside of sports.

Strangely, my pass gets me invited to the table, involved in discussions on rights, liberty, equality, justice, meritocracies and privilege. Because as a Black Man, I should know the history of race in America and support those around me that are affected daily by its lasting impacts. Usually, sometime during the planning phases of whatever action the group has planned, I pipe up. Usually there is some open answer question, like every exam ever. My response includes, what abut international students?

This is where I stop passing. No longer African American. I am just black. Except, now I am a black foreigner. The mandatory blood tests can be justified, even in the same room we talk about the STD experiments on black men or birth control experiments on Latinos. Anything racist you can think of to say, becomes ok or at least legal, when you apply it to non citizens.

(Yes the blood tests are real, happening this semester. Ask an international student).

So, yeah. I guess I can no longer pass with you. Maybe a whole bunch of international students and scholars no longer will. But maybe it is better to be recognized for being 100% ourselves, than 50% passing.

If you are an international student or scholar who finds solidarity in this, please comment and share your experience. You can do so via twitter or Facebook or anonymously on the website.

International Scholars and Domestic Scholars

If you think all #internationalscholars are the same, you’re wrong. If you think we are the same as #domesticstudents, you’re DEAD wrong. – Ancilleno Davis 7/22/2017

People can be more than one thing…

Gary: I always took care of my niece, Kayla. She’s had a lot of bad breaks, but I was the one person in her life who always made sure she and her baby had food to eat, a roof over their heads.

Sheila: That’s really nice.

Joel: He assaulted you. He’s a creep.

Gary: People can be more than one thing, Joel.

This is a brief exchange from “The Santa Clarita Diet” on netflix.

unimportant clarification:Gary is a disembodied head that was reanimated after Shiela (a zombie) killed and ate him for assaulting her.

I have been thinking about it alot lately. I watched the episode a few months ago. Since we continue to be surrounded by the crap storm of a) violence against people of color; b) immigration rhetoric and action that describes and or treats human beings and children as animals/ nonentities/ criminals alternatively, and c) global climate change, I need a way to compartmentalize or rationalize the different people I am seeing around me. Especially when two of those people share the same body.

I am studying at a Predominantly White “Public Ivy”. The professors and surrounding community profess mostly liberal views and you can see the “you are welcome here” signs in the front yards and activism is at an all time high. At the same time, laws at the local, state and national level and policies throughout the university are specific to International students in ways that target, isolate and ostracize them or reduce their potential for success.

In one on one conversations, we can see their passion, their commitment to the students and hear the heartbreak in their voices. But in their work, they tell you, “My hands are tied”. They have to choose the hills to die on. And I think I get it. Why push against the system to fight for international students, when you are more likely to be successful fighting for black citizens, latino citizens, LGBTQ+ citizens etc.?

People can be more than one thing.

While the faculty and staff dedicate their on campus lives to the delivery of content equally to all students, which is mandated by law, they have no responsibility to you outside the classroom. Outside the classroom, they do not have to speak to you, break bread with you, etc. At the same time, the most staunch supporters of equal rights and protectors of justice, must also consider the safety of their family, job security etc. so sometimes, they have to be more than one thing.

I can be more than one thing.

I am often one of the oldest students in my classrooms. I have visited more countries than most of my colleagues (and professors). As a matter of fact, even our dog Sokka has visited more countries than many of my students and coworkers. I am always “The Bahamian”. I have worked with Prime Ministers and Princes. I have worked under the sea and on land with endemic, endangered and invasive species. But, noone necessarily sees any of these accomplishments. Perhaps, they just see a student, a foreigner, “a F*$king African American”. 

The problem comes when people are more than one thing and those things do not agree.

Most recently my understanding of this came to a head. I had known a former professor since we came here. We have had meals together on multiple occasions and we met their family, even their dog. We have had enough conversations for me to hear the sound of their voice, clearly in my mind. And, we shared views on global climate change, local and regional policy and its effect on various social classes. This professor was a friend and as with friends in small communities, they were friends with others whom I am still friends with. Others that also shared food and conversation, advice, opinions.

This past week, the news broke that he was arrested while traveling. He had solicited sex with an underage girl via an undercover FBI agent.

He was a completely different thing. That thing consumed all the other things he was. No longer a professor, he has lost his family (and his dog), his future, his colleagues, to that other thing.

As I talk to others affected by this, I also see how much all the memories have been tainted. Words spoken now have different meanings, handshakes, hugs, a look, a joke.

People can be more than one thing.

I am trying to deal with this and part of my dealing is writing. Part of my dealing is helping others. So I want to tell you, just as one person you consider a friend may be another sinister thing on the inside, so too can your worst adversary or the most challenging person carry hope for humanity in them.

That unintentionally racist coworker may be the first to offer you a ride in the rain. That foreign student may hold the most american values at heart. The professor that gave you your first F may be sitting in their office waiting for you to come for help. The guy that thinks babies born in america to foreigners are Anchor Babies, may be have the best difficult import conversation with you if you just take the time to sit down with them.

Yes. You can feel betrayed. Mourn this loss. But I feel we owe it to ourselves to go out and make a new friend today, speak to someone who can fill this gap. reach across the void and open a channel.

Take care of one another.

Leno

 

The biggest minority in academia

Critically thinking about minority status.

We hear minority all the time. It has become one of those words that people say but do not really understand at the core. Like “Liberal”, “Communist”, etc. these words often have a standardized meaning you find in the dictionary, but can be used in various contexts with different connotation and meaning depending on who is speaking, to whom and most importantly, about whom.

So, let us begin with defining minority (As I use it)

  • A minority is a group within a larger group. (I think we can agree on that).
  • The minority group can be a numerical minority, meaning there are fewer of them than others in the group.
  • The minority can be a power minority, meaning that as individuals or as a group, they have less power. Less power can mean less autonomy, democratic representation, ability to make decisions for themselves or the group, and less ability to move into the privileged group.

So what happens if we apply this standard definition to all of our groups within academia?

A Thought Experiment

I cannot do this part for you.

Think of your favorite minority (M).

In your mind you might choose “Asian-American”, “Black”, “Gender non-conforming”, “Latinx”, “Mentally Challenged”, “Native American”, “Puerto Ricans”, etc.

Now choose your favorite privileged group (P).

In your mind this may be “Males”, “Active Military”, “Rich folk”, “Mainlanders” etc.

Cool.

These are all common examples of minorities and privileged groups in English-speaking, North American.

Now, substitute your favorite minority into the following statements and phrases. Replace the (M) with a minority and the (P) with a Privileged group. Extra points for publishing it to your social media feed.

  1. Even after paying for their tuition (M)___________________ have no legal right to be on campus.
  1. (P)___________________ should be allowed to work 22 hours a week. (M)__________________ should only be allowed to work 20 hours a week.
  1. Before (M)_________________ come to University, they should provide a bank statement to prove they can afford three years of tuition.
  1. (P)_________________ should pay less than (M)_________________ for education at our University.
  1. After arriving at our University, (M) _____________________ should submit to a blood test to ensure they do not have a communicable disease. If they do not submit to the test, they should be dropped from their classes.
  2. Our University should not hire (M)_________________ this year.

How did you do? Did your minority win? Did it feel good to say any of these things?

How angry would you be if that statement about your minority was an active policy on your campus?

Should you be upset if it is a different minority? No, seriously, go back and put all the other minorities you can think of on those lines.

Did you find the sweet spot? That minority you are okay with doing those things to? Ask your friends, find out where their line is.

The reality
Each of these is a redacted version of an active written policy that affects one group on campuses across the United States of America and much of the western world. Some of them were edited for length and content.

International students are members of your academic community. There are no laws that protect them as a minority group. No laws to protect them from policies that specifically target them. (I do love to be corrected though, so please do.)

I hope this allowed you to think about your policies and how they affect those around you. Say “hello” to an international scholar today. Ask how they are doing.

Go to your policy and information manual and search for international students. Check the disparities.

Good luck.

Love, Honor, Justice.

Leno

My digital house

How do you describe social media to your students?

I use the house analogy.

My digital world is a house I build with social media. Each platform is a room within that house. Though they each have doors and windows that open to the outside world, I choose what people can see through those windows and doorways, whether or not I allow them inside and once inside, how far I allow them to go. Even if I let them in, I may still have my most precious possessions locked away like certain family photos. Or only allow certain people further in.

Each room has its purpose.
My art rooms include video on my Youtube channel, or my Youpic feed.

My workshops include my LinkedIn, Academia, and ResearchGate profiles.

Some of my rooms are connected so guests can move between those spaces as my facebook, twitter, and instagram profiles may post to one another and people can follow links from one to the others.

Most importantly, I remind students, if they want to be found for graduate study, internship or career opportunities, they need to have an address, where they can be found. Skype, Facebook messenger, Whatsapp, Groupme, and others also provide a kind of home phone for your digital home so colleagues, friends and family can reach you.

But just as importantly, if there is something you do not want your boss, teacher, or parents to see, don’t put it in these public rooms.

follow the links to connect with me let’s collaborate.

Leno

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).

 

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.

Leadership

Leaders are special people.
During a recent interview I was asked what I thought made someone a good leader and to think of the best boss I have had and what made that person a great boss.

The first to come to mind was Eleanor Garraway-Phillips, of course. In my short time (4 years?) at The Nature Conservancy, I got to see her take the tough stance on several issues and stand up for her employees in the face of government and political will. Not only is Eleanor well able to keep her cool under pressure, but she is one of the most sincerely passionate earth warriors I know. Most importantly, she would get to know her employees and support our personal as well as career goals. Throughout my time with TNC she also helped to encourage me to see balance and take time with family when I could. Though I feel she was sad to see me go, “E” was especially supportive of my decision to return to school for my PhD. Thank you E.

Earth Day planting at the Hub Art Gallery on New Providence 2011
Earth Day planting at the Hub Art Gallery on New Providence 2011

Now I am at Miami University and while the University has its issues with diversity, there are pockets where anyone can feel included, like the Center for American and World Cultures. Here, I get to work with Dr. Mary Jane Berman and Jacqueline Rioja Velarde, two amazing women with an unbelievable amount of energy. The center does an incredible amount of work, but these two ladies are especially great at recognizing the work of everyone involved. From undergraduate and graduate student workers to community members who publicize their events, they always give credit where credit is due. I think this is especially important.
Thank you Jacque and Mary Jane!
Mary Jane and Jacque

You ladies are all super awesome and one day I hope to be able to follow your example!

 

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