You are the director of orientation at Berklewood College, a small private college in Michigan, and last month you hired your orientation student staff. The orientation leaders have already been on retreat and attended a few training programs/workshops with you and your other professional/grad staff. In person, the students speak about valuing the diversity on campus, and seem to understand the implications of being inclusive as orientation leaders. However, on their social media accounts you have seen statuses about “the amount of latinos on campus” with negative connotations about this cultural group’s presence on campus. You have seen orientation leaders tweet using words like “retarded” or “homo”. It seems as though this well intentioned group of leaders that understands the importance of inclusivity and values diversity, is completely different when they are online.
– How would you address this?
– What do you know about social media and inclusivity that would help you address this issue?
– Is there anything you might have done in the first month to be proactive about this?
If I was the director of orientation, and my student staff was saying such offensive things on their social media accounts, I would automatically take away their positions as orientation leaders–for a few reasons. I’m sure that the training sessions included a ton of information about how to be a good leader, and that one’s actions and words reflect who they are as a role model, and who they are as a general person. Anyone stating phrases on their Facebook account that is clearly offensive should not be given the privilege to become a role model for others, especially for incoming first-year students. These orientation leaders had the proper training and were fortunate enough to be taught the proper skills to transform into great, inspiring leaders. It is very disrespectful for such students to disregard their leadership training, and to underestimate the importance of having a “cyber filter.” They will indeed create a bad impression for our college, and that is the last thing that we want to happen.
As social media starts to play a vital role in providing information for the younger generation, it is very important that we take advantage of this, but in the same sense, we must also be extra cautious. We want to create a welcoming environment for all students here at Berklewood College. Any negativity towards any race/ethnicity is unacceptable and will not be tolerated at our college. One must realize that there is much more than what is seen at the surface–people today tend to judge others just by a quick 5-second glance. We fail to take the time to see beneath the surface, and set aside all of the stereotypes we’ve grown up to believe. To prevent this unacceptable behavior of racism on social media sites, my goal would be to educate future orientation leaders about the importance of social media, how we can use it to our advantage, and how social media can QUICKLY become our worst nightmare. I would create separate workshops dedicated to the importance of inclusivity, and how important it is to portray acceptance, not only when students are wearing their “orientation leader” caps, but also in their everyday lives. As a leader, one must have respect for oneself as well as for others–by staying positive, and by having an open mind to understand people’s stories instead of instantly judging them, Berklewood College will be able to achieve its goal of establishing a friendly environment where everyone is welcomed and appreciated for who they are.