Understandings between students and staff

Jessica Mendoza, Managing Editor

In order to avoid conflict between students and staff, there should be some common ground as to general expected behaviors and understanding. Consciousness and inclusivity are two huge factors in the environment Augsburg strives to create.

Consider the word “microaggression”: an often (intended to be) subtle remark that discriminates against a marginalized community. The “aggression” piece to the word fits the meaning and negative impact it can have on individuals because it disrupts (even if just for a moment) their routine. A very commonly used example of a microaggression is the question, “Where are you from?” that is usually directed at people of color. While there could be discussions on other type of microaggressions, the most common ones serve to call out and make people of color feel like outsiders.

Another understading that should exist between students and staff is that while people should be able to ask questions and learn more about each other there is a fine line between being curious (the internet is a good source to answer most questions) and making assumptions about people. The relationships people have with each other usually warrant the type of questions that come up. In a classroom setting a student has the right to share as much as they would like about themselves but should not be expected to answer questions about their personal lives and identities if they do not wish to. It is important to understand that there are certain experiences many students shouldn’t be subjected to in a classroom. The main objective in a class is to learn the material not to single them out or make them feel less valued.

On the subject of names, it’s important to consider their power because they often have a story behind them and are linked closely to a person’s identity. Mispronouncing someone’s name repeatedly becomes an issue when professors breeze past the mistake or worse appear indifferent to it. By not taking the time to learn a student’s name or at least apologizing for butchering it, professors send the message that they do not care about that student. Putting in a little effort or at least just showing that you’re making one makes a big difference. When asked about the importance of names, Lay Lay Zan, sophomore, comments, “Names tell a story and are the only thing you will ever own in your life … it says where you come from … in my culture: Karen … names are a part of our identity … Coming to a private institution there shouldn’t be any trouble memorizing student names … students come here to build relationships with professors.”

It can be difficult at times to measure the impact a person’s words or actions can have on others. I try my best to assume people have good intentions and are generally trying not to offend others. However, we live in a world where the alternative could also be possible. Student and professor relationships are strengthened when names are respected and students hold control over what they share in a classroom.

This article was originally published in the Nov. 9, 2018 issue.