Angry? Offended? Sad? Or Just Plain Sorry?

No, angry isn’t quite the word to express the emotion I’m feeling.  Perhaps as I write this, the word will make itself clear to me.  We’ll see.

I am a person who is on staff at an American university.  I am not a full-time faculty member.  I am an adjunct faculty member, but my campus identity is much more staff than it is instructor.  And I’m fine with that.

What I’m not fine with is the idea, that seems pervasive to me, that, as a staff member, I do not play an integral role in the education and lives of our students.

Please don’t hear this as a diatribe about being treated unfairly on my campus, because that is not what this is.  Rather, as I exist in the ether of higher education, I’m confronted with the idea that faculty are the ones who interact with and relate to students most deeply.  I don’t discount the impact that faculty members have on students, but I find it offensive that my impact (and the impact of the countless other staff members like me), and my narrative, don’t always seem to matter.

No, offended isn’t the right word either, but perhaps I am getting closer.

I just read “An Open Letter of Love to Black Students: #BlackLivesMatter,” and it resonated with me.  The letter speaks of black professors hearing and seeing their students who feel like they are neither seen nor heard, and it affirms that the professors have experienced and continue to experience the same affronts their students face daily.  This letter resonated with me, because I have had the same experiences and the same conversations.  But I haven’t had them, at least not largely, from my role as instructor, but rather from my role as staff member.

Maybe I have a chip on my shoulder because my CV reads very similarly to one of a faculty member.  I don’t think that is what this is, but I could be wrong.

Maybe I’m just sad that too many people who look like me find themselves voiceless and I’m feeling doubly voiceless simply because my career path put me at a university but not in front of a classroom.

Hmmm.  That doesn’t sound like sad; that sounds like sorry for myself.

And since sorry for myself isn’t a place I want to be, I suppose I’ll take this opportunity to voice what I feel like has no platform.

To all of my students who feel like you are invisible and without a voice and struggling and angry and hurt; to all of my students who want to share your sorrows and your joys and your snacks (because fellowship is always sweeter over a shared meal); to all of my students who face existential crises and family crises and conundrums of conscience; to all of my students who just want someone to listen and let you know that you are loved – I hear you; I see you; I’m here for you; I’m proud of you; I hurt with you; I’m angry for you; I’m angry too; you can always come to me; I love you.

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