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Running Head: The “No Filter Student”: A Case Study of an Ethical Dilemma at North Shore

Community College Kadell 1

Alexandra Kadell
Dr. Lee A. Brossoit
EDU 985A: Practicum in Student Affairs I
The “No Filter Student”: A Case Study an Ethical Dilemma at North
Shore Community College
August 6, 2017
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This case study will be exploring an ethical dilemma that I experienced while working as

a practicum student for the Office of Student Engagement at North Shore Community College.

In order to effectively understand the context of the case study, background information on the

campus community as well as the department will be provided. After stating the details of the

case study, the ethical concerns will be addressed. Best practices for the department to consider

and applied theories will be used to assist in resolving the ethical dilemma. Lastly, my position

of the dilemma as well as an assessment of my own professional development will be discussed.

Please note that individual’s names and some details within the case study have been altered to

maintain confidentiality.

Part I. The Organization and Dilemma

Institutional Background

The mission of North Shore Community College (NSCC) is to expose students to a

diverse, caring, and inclusive community while preparing them to be active and engaged citizens

in the local community (North Shore Community College, web, 2017). NSCC is a public

community college with three campuses located on the North Shore of Massachusetts. With a

student population of 6,961 and serving 65%-part time students and 35%-full time students

NSCC is dedicated to providing an accessible and affordable education to individuals living in

the North Shore community (North Shore Community College, web, 2017). NSCC supports a

large Pell Eligible student population. Resources such as, TRiO provides academic and social

support services to all students. Lastly, over 39% of the student population are from diverse

backgrounds and approximately 51.8% are considered adult learners (North Shore Community

College, web, 2017).


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Individuals and the Office Structure

The case study will be analyzing a student staff member as well as the professional staff

in the Office of Student Engagement. This section provides a brief background to the individuals

within this case study and the structure of the office.

Karla is a second year, heterosexual, white, female who is majoring in Business

Communications at NSCC. Karla is an intelligent, vibrant, and loud young woman who has

inspired me with her story. Classifying herself as an adult learner, Karla is fully dedicated to her

studies. Karla will walk to campus every day, show up to campus early to get assignments done,

and has disclosed that she is paying herself through college. The Office of Student Engagement

hired Karla over a year ago as a work study student and has continued her job over the summer.

Karla is a good standing employee who is dedicated to her work, shows up on time, and is

extremely knowledgeable about the resources offered by the office. However, Karla has been

classified as “the student worker with no filter.” Karla will vocalize her strong opinions and

make inappropriate comments to other students in the office.

I am a white, heterosexual, female that is pursuing a Master’s Degree in Higher

Education. One of my requirements of the program is to complete a practicum, which is

currently being done at NSCC. My main responsibility in the office is to help redevelop their

current orientation program, I was never given any supervisory role over the student staff. Troy,

is the director of Student Engagement and has been with the staff for a year now. Troy is a gay,

black, male whose leadership style is optimistic, diplomatic, and easy going. Amber and Mark

have been with the Student Engagement staff for a little over a year. Mark, a white male has also

been one of my main supervisor and throughout the year helps oversee the operations of the

office. Amber, a heterosexual, white, female is the assistant to the Dean of Students. One of
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Ambers primary responsibilities is to oversee the student workers on her designated campus.

Grant, a black male, attended NSCC as a student and has been working in the office for several

years. Lastly, Ryan, a white male, has most recently joined the NSCC team this past May.

The structure of the office is very unique. Within the past two years the office has seen an

entire turnover in their staff. During the Fall of 2015 the office received a new Dean of Students.

Just after the Fall semester concluded, Mark and Amber were hired. Soon after their hire the

director of the office suddenly passed away. The previous worker before Mark unfortunately did

not get along with the director and when they decided to leave they also destroyed records of

their work. With three new staff members in the office, little information about the daily

operations and programming, as well as a search for a director the office was struggling to

effectively support students. After hiring Troy in the summer of 2016 the office began to rebuild

its identity on campus. From rebranding to new programming and upholding campus

responsibilities the office has strengthened their foundation. It is imperative to be aware of the

situation occurring in the office since it will provide insight to the reason why Karla’s actions

have gone unresolved.

The Case Study

The situation that will be discussed occurred after two weeks into my practicum

experience. One of the major responsibilities of Karla is to greet students who enter the office,

provide them with information, and take student ID photos. Just recently in the week before the

incident happened, a student staff meeting was held. Amber had invited me along to meet and

introduce myself to the student staff. During the meeting, the news that the campus shuttle was

no longer funded was released to the students. Karla who relied on the shuttle to commute to and

from the different campuses was visibly upset about the news. This transpired throughout the day
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with aggressive comments being made by Karla towards Amber. Although, from my perspective

the hostility was Karla’s anger towards the situations, Amber was getting the blunt of it. After

trying to reason with Karla, Amber came back into our section of the office. She closed the door

and in a distressed tone stated “I don’t know what to do with Karla, she is too much of a

challenge.” On several accounts, I have witnessed Karla fight back towards Amber, with Amber

submissively allowing Karla to continue her actions.

The day was long, there was little student interaction, and the campus was very quiet. As

we all prepared to wrap up the day a student came in looking to get her ID picture taken. The

student was an older woman wearing a long black dress and her hair was wrapped in a hijab.

Outside the office you could hear her children running around with a man, I am assuming was

her husband, yelling at them to stop. As always Karla greeted the student and asked what she

needed assistance with. After requesting to get her picture taken Karla explained the policy.

Every student must provide a proof of identification, license, high school ID, or work ID in

addition to a copy of their schedule. However, the student was unable to provide the copy of her

schedule. Karla explained that she could go to the library to print out a copy, but to hurry

because the office would be closing soon. The student walked out of the office and we continued

to close up.

The office was closing in two minutes and you can sense that Karla wanted to leave. I

was in the back room when I heard Karla’s voice in an aggravating tone beginning to rise. When

I walked out to see what was happening, I saw the previous student asking Karla follow up

questions. Karla’s demeanor began to change. She slowed her voice down while also raising her

tone, “YOU. . need to . . get your schedule off of banner. . . I need to see it. . . to take your

picture.” The student responded quietly that the library was closing so she could not print it out
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and asked if there was another option. Before Karla could answer Amber was by the front desk

asking what was going on. Karla responded as she waived her hand around her head “I don’t

know! I think there is a language barrier and she doesn’t understand what I’m asking.” With a

quick and clear reply, the student said “No. I understand perfectly what you’re asking. . . ”

Amber interjected saying that she could take her to enrollment to print her schedule and that she

would take the picture so that Karla could leave for the day. Amber and the student walked out

the door with the student’s family traveling behind. Karla left for the day.

During my next supervisory meeting with Troy I decided to confront him about the

situation I witnessed. Troy was not on the campus that afternoon and had recently attended a

national diversity conference for Higher Education. I started the conversation with asking Troy

about what diversity training do the student workers go through and what protocol was included

in their student staff handbook that related to upholding diversity. With a roaring laugh Troy

joked that I had dropped loaded question. I then began to explain the situation that I witnessed

without using names. After listening to my explanation and concerns that I had, Troy asked if I

could provide the names of the individuals involved. As I uttered the K in Karla’s name, Troy

immediately stated that he knew it was her. Troy was cognizant of how Karla’s behavior could

impact students, but has not taken any steps to alleviate a potential situation.

I then proceeded to ask about what knowledge the students had about microaggressions

or hidden biases on campus. Troy responded that there is no culture of educating the students

population at NSCC on diversity concerns. As a largely diverse population it is almost

automatically assumed that students are aware of the terms and behaviors that are assumed with

creating an inclusive environment. The one-on-one conversation concluded with Tory reassuring
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me that the situation would be brought up to the professional staff during their retreat the

following day.

However, Karla’s actions have still continued. One afternoon I overheard Karla speaking

to another student about her past relationships. She than began to compare in an extremely

stereotypical way her past white boyfriends to her black boyfriends. That afternoon half of the

professional staff including myself was present, but nothing was said to Karla. Most recently,

after an orientation session Karla was taking ID pictures for a black male student. She took the

first photo and stated that she would take one more. After taking the second one she let the

student compare which picture they preferred. When the student selected a picture, Karla stated

“I agree, for people who have darker skin tones it is much better when the flash is on.” Again,

half of the professional staff was present including myself, but nothing was said to Karla.

Part II. Ethical Concerns

There are several ethical concerns that are associated with Karla’s behavior in the Office

of Student Engagement. The American College Personnel Association (ACPA) and the National

Association of Student Personnel Administrators (NAPSA) developed a series of competencies

that student affairs practitioners should strive to accomplish in order to become versatile when

aiding in the development and experience of students throughout their college career (American

College Personnel Association & National Association of Student Personnel Administrators,

2015). Additionally, ACPA has also created a Statement of Ethical Principles and Standard

which provides an in-depth outline of ethical standards that should be upheld to impact the

student’s development, professional development, institutions culture, and greater society

(American College Personnel Association, 2006). The document provides multiple standards that

student affairs practitioners should meet in order to fulfill the ethical principle. It is unrealistic to
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suggest that individuals at institutions can achieve all the standards outlined by ACPA. However,

there are fundamental standards that the Office of Student Engagement can achieve to resolve the

current situation and reduce the likelihood of similar occurrences. Several ethical Standard from

both documents will be dissected to provide an opportunity to assess and implement new

initiatives to help achieve the ethical standards.

Responsibility to Society

The initial ethical concern occurring in the office is directly associated with the ACPA’s

principle of responsibility to society. This principle conveys that student affairs practitioners and

the institution of higher learning are a catalase for exposing, educating, and advocating for social

justice issues. Institutions have a responsibility to ensure the protection of human rights and

foster diversity. As students will become products and members of our greater society,

institutions and practitioners should seek to create students that are well rounded, ethical, and

productive individuals (American College Personnel Association, 2006). More specifically, there

are two standards within the that are fundamentally not being met by the office. First is 4.3

which explains that individuals should not discriminate against individual’s identities, including

race. The second is 4.1, stating that practitioner should “assist students in becoming productive,

ethical, and responsible citizens” (American College Personnel Association, 2006, p.5)

Karla’s behavior is clearly identifiable as being ignorant and overall racist. Karla’s

comments have been offensive, stereotypical, and harmful to the individuals they are being

addressed to. Karla’s comments are racially discriminatory, but the office allowing for the

behavior to continue creates an office that is discriminatory against students of color. As a work

study position the experiential learning that could be benefited from this opportunity is

monumental. However, the office is not providing Karla the guidance needed to make this a
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transformational experience. By not addressing the inappropriate nature of her actions or

constructively getting Karla to think about the social harm that is associated with her comments

the office is not preparing her to be a mindful and socially engaged member of our society.

Student Learning and Development

Student affairs practitioners should be discussing any ethical issues, attitudes, and

behaviors with students according to Standard 2.11 in the student learning and development

principle outline by ACPA (American College Personnel Association, 2006). This principle

specifically explains that student affairs practitioners can have an intricate role in developing

students cognitively, physically, morally, socially, emotionally, spiritually, personally, and

intellectually. It is critical that student affairs use theoretical frameworks, have a knowledge

about the institutions population, and have multicultural competencies to aid in the learning

outcomes that will assist in student’s development (American College Personnel Association,

2006). Regarding the situation with Karla, the professional staff is lacking to cognitively,

socially, and morally assist in her development.

As seen through the case study, there are a few indicators that suggests Karla was never

approached by the staff about her behavior. First, Karla continued to make comments towards

individuals. As well, the professional staff did not take action when other comments were made

in the office. Lastly, Troy reassured that he would address this concern with the professional

staff, not Karla directly. By not holding Karla accountable for her actions goes against the ethical

responsibility to help her learn and develop. Karla will never be able to grow from the

experience if it is never presented to her. As a bright young woman Karla has many opportunities

to excel, one day she will get a job, and one day she may state a similar comment that has been

witnessed in the office. Instead of nothing happening to her she gets fired instead, unsure of how
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her comments lead her to this situation. A rather drastic situation, but still a possible reality. The

office is not setting Karla up for a lifetime of success by ignore the situation.

Responsibility to the Institution

To reference the institutions mission, a high priority is to ensure that the community is

welcoming, diverse, and inclusive. Every office and employee of the institution should strive to

uphold the NSCC mission. According to ACPA’s (2006) responsibility to the institution

principle student affairs practitioners have an obligation to promote and develop the institutions

policies, goals, structures, and standards in order to strengthened overall mission. Specifically,

within the standard ACPA has identified that job responsibilities, accountability procedures, and

evaluations are established to ensure student affairs practitioners can achieve ethical justice

(American College Personnel Association, 2006).

When the concern was brought to Troy about Karla’s behavior it was intentional to seek

more information regarding diversity training and protocol associated to upholding diversity

standards in the office. However, nothing is currently emplaced for students to be held

accountable or reprimanded for their actions. Karla is able to continue her behaviors due to the

lack of regulations. Since the office allows for the hostile environment to continue it is not

supporting the institutions mission of creating an inclusive environment. Ultimately this does not

allow for the office to meet foundational standards of the principle.

Professional Responsibility

The last ethical concern that is associated to this situation is in regards to professional

responsibility. One of the major competencies is the Personal and Ethical Foundations (PPF)

which indicates that practitioners should have the personal desire to uphold a strong ethical

foundation to identify ethical issues in their work, how their ethical behaviors impacts their
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work, critically analyze the institutions ethical standards, and what legal implications are

associated with a code of ethics (American College Personnel Association & National

Association of Student Personnel Administrators, 2015). Examples of achieving this competency

would include student affairs practitioners ability to actively engage in conversations related to

ethical issues or support ethical organizations and cultures within the work environment

(American College Personnel Association & National Association of Student Personnel

Administrators, 2015). Additionally, according to the ACPA ethical principles and standards

(2006) student affairs practitioners should have the knowledge, skill, and competence of

multicultural issues when working with students.

Troy’s remark that the institution does not stress a culture of educating the student population

on multicultural related content, a similar connotation can be assumed about the staff. If there is

little priority for the staff to engage in constructive conversations surrounding multiculturalism

on the campus, on campuses locally and nationally, as well as the national and global community

then they are unable to build or improve upon their skills and knowledge. There are members of

the office who did not achieve a master’s degree or been exposed to the identity development of

students of color. It cannot be assumed that because individuals who attend or work at a diverse

institution are going to be knowledgeable of the competencies needed to aid in student’s

development or recognize situations that create a harmful environment. It is critical that the

professional staff be well educated on the multicultural competences to effectively advocate and

assist in the elimination of in ethical dilemmas that are present on campus.

Part III. Implications

Through analyzing these two documents it is evident that the Office of Student

Engagement and professionals within the office are not sufficiently obtaining the ethical standard
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when relating to multiculturalism. However, there are several significant initiatives that the

office of student engagement and the institution can implement to improve and reduce

multicultural dilemmas from occurring.

It must first begin with the professional staff. The student engagement staff needs to

become more mindful and knowledgeable of the situations occurring in the office. Although, the

student workers fall under Ambers job responsibilities, it is the professional responsibility of all

individuals in the office to address any ethical concern that may arise. The staff also needs to

become more engaged in the literature and theory that surround student identities. Attending

national or regional conferences would allow for the professional staff to be exposed to the

current issues, research, and initiatives relating to racial inequalities. Additionally, incorporating

theories, such as critical race theory, into the daily practices can provide insight on how to

manage racial conflicts and effectively serve students of color. Hiraldo (2010), states that

professionals who are conscious of critical race theory are more aware of the rooted educational

racism, the systematic oppression, the complexities that students of color endure, and the overall

inequalities that individuals encounter due to their race. Overall, the office can be a more

inclusive, mindful, and intentional about their programing, conversations with students, and

policy setting. Making diversity concerns a priority will begin to have a trickledown effect on the

entire structure of the office.

Next in order to prevent situations from arising again the office needs to begin

introducing new procedures and policies that are directly correlated to diversity. Students like

Karla may not be aware that their actions are offensive or racist because they are on the micro

level. Furthermore, it is critical that students are trained and educated on multicultural issues and

terminology that surround our communities. Institutions like Boise State University provide
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students with the opportunity to take online modules and quizzes that exposes individuals to the

definitions and the ethnic identity development of students. It also tests individuals on racial

inventory and race literature while also providing resources on how to be an inclusive

organization or department (Boise State University, web, 2017). Lida Larsen in Building a

Community of Student Employees (2005), states that bringing in outside precentors to discuss

specific topics such as diversity utilizes campus resources and provides expertise to the subject.

Providing a diversity training then allows for the office to have an expectation that the

student staff will uphold a diversity standard. Intern the office can implement a policy that holds

students accountable for their actions while also providing an educational opportunity. A formal

policy should be written out and presented within student staffs manuals. The protocol should

begin with a verbal conversation allowing students to reflect on their actions and providing

guidance. If a similar behavior continues then a written with a verbal conversation is given with

similar outcomes. Lastly, if the behavior exceeds three times the student can be dismissed for

failure to maintain a diversity standard in the office. By providing structure for the student staff,

the office fosters student learning and development, a more inclusive environment is presented,

and the expectation for social equality at NSCC can be achieved.

On a larger level, the institutions current culture related to diversity needs to shift. As a

community college, the institution has little time to impact the development and experiences of

their students. It is critical to be aware that this shift will come over time, but NSCC needs to

begin creating a culture that is open to a dialogue that surrounds racial inequalities. It is

problematic that there is currently little emphasis by the administrators on actively engaging

students in conversations related to student’s identities. Richard Milner’s research suggests that

students who are engaged in productive conversations about their race are more likely to
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academically succeed (E. Nadworny, 2015). Although, conversations around race can be

daunting if it is correctly navigated it can have a significant impact on the students attending and

the greater culture of the campus community. Community colleges fundamentally operate

differently than four-year institutions so it is imperative that initiatives that are implemented

effectively serve the student population. For example, a first-year reading book may not make

sense for the population, but providing opportunities for speaker series can be instrumental to

creating these necessary conversations. Lastly, with the understanding that community colleges

have a complex lack of financial resources the institution should advocate for funding to create a

diversity center on campus. This would include a space, financial assistance, and full time

experienced professionals. With a population that is heavily diverse, it should be a goal to create

a brave space for students to feel like they belong. This would also promote programming, on

campus resources, and advocacy on behalf of underrepresented students.

The institution and the Office of Student Engagement is currently unable to achieve basic

ethical standards. However, that should not prevent them from improving upon their office, their

students, and themselves. Short and long term there is much work to be done to engage students

in a meaningful and equal education.

IV: My Position

From experiencing the situation to bringing it towards my supervisor, my position on this

dilemma is complicated. One thing that could have been easily avoidable was similar situations

occurring multiple times. If Karla was engaged in a productive conversation about her

comments, what effect it may have had on the student, as well as a professionalism in the office,

I think she would have been more conscientious of her actions afterwards. Due to the lack of

training done for the student staff, I do not think that this situation could have been avoided.
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Unfortunately, Karla has some strong hidden biases and those were going to be projected.

However, I do firmly believe that if Karla and other students are to be trained in the future

situations like this would be less common. Responsibility certainly fall onto the institutions lack

of educating the students on social concerns, however I am confident that the Office of Student

Engagement is willing to change their direction. The staff within the last two years has gone

through major leadership transitions causing their focus to stray away from the student staff.

However, they are now beginning to get back on track. Amber has redeveloped their manual and

included specific training guidelines. Before she finalized the document, she had me look it over

and provide feedback. My number one comment was creating a section designated to diversity

and what that would look like for the student staff working in the office.

If I had a different role in the office, and I encountered the situation I truly believe I

would have reacted differently. Rather than watching the situation escalate I would have

intervened right away. I would then have personally assisted the student so that Karla could leave

on time. During Karla’s next shift I would have asked to speak with her. I would explain the

situation I saw and how it was perceived from my point of view. Allowing Karla to state what

was going on in the situation for herself would be key to understanding what her intentions were.

Whatever Karla’s intention were I would try to provide her with how that may have influenced

the student and give her some resources about microaggressions. After that initial encounter, I

would make sure to follow up with Karla about our conversation, if there was any lingering

information she needed to tell me or if she had any questions. If similar behavior continued I

would ask for Karla to take an online training that is specific to racial and ethnic equality on

college campuses.
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It would not be fair to be overly critical of the situation at NSCC without critiquing my

own role in the situation. There are two specifics standards under the responsibility of the

institution principles outlined by ACPA that I believe I did not achieve in this situation. First is

3.11 which states that student affairs practitioners will “define job responsibilities, decision-

making procedures, mutual expectations, accountability procedures, and evaluation criteria with

subordinates and supervisors” (American College Personnel Association, 2006, p. 4). When I

started my practicum position I did not actively define the role I had with the student staff. I was

never given authority over the staff to request work to be done or intervene in situations.

Therefore, when the situation occurred I did not feel comfortable intervening as the “authority

figure”. After speaking with Troy, I should have followed up with defining my role if situations

occurred again. If Tory provided me with that responsibility I would have been more inclined to

intervene when I heard it happening again. My second critique is associated with standard 3.5

which conveys that in the case that a situation is disruptive or damaging to the institution, the

student affairs practitioner should report to the appropriate resource. Although, I initiated the

conversation with my supervisor the first time, I did not continue that communication when the

comments proceeded. One hand I was selfish, afraid that if I brought it up again I would be

pestering the issue with Karla. On the other hand, I have done a great disservice to Karla and the

office by not expressing my concerns.

Overall, I think there are many lessons to be learned for all who were involved in the

situation with Karla. As seen through the documents it is our responsibility to ensure that we are

educating and providing a space that fosters social and academic excellence. Although, Karla has

other areas for improvement you cannot blame her for the continuation of her actions. It is our

ethical responsibility to correct her actions while also getting her to actively shift her thought
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process. The office needs to be more intentional with their student staff, professional

development, and creating a culture that discusses racial inequalities. I need to become more

confident in self advocating and intervening directly/indirectly especially when moral injustices

are a primary factor.

All in all, race and the inequality opportunities for underrepresented students has been a

major concern for institutions for decades. However, we have witnessed in our current society

that these injustices are continuing every day at institutions nationally. The ethical dilemma that

occurred and is continuing to occur at NSCC can be prevented. The Office of Student

Engagement and the institution collectively have to evaluate their ethical standards.

Implementing best practices can reduce the ethical dilemmas such as Karla’s from recurring.

Experiencing the ethical dilemma myself, and now reflecting upon the situation, I have gained a

greater understanding of the ethical responsibility that is associated with being a student affairs

practitioner. I hope to grow upon this experience to ensure that I become a genuine resource and

advocate within my professional and personal life.


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Reference List

American College Personnel Association (ACPA): College Student Educators International.

(2006). Statement of ethical principles & standards. Retrieved from:

https://salemstate.instructure.com/courses/1163565/files?preview=61267359

American College Personnel Association (ACPA) & National Association of Student Personnel

Administrators. (2015). Professional competency area for Student affairs educators.

Retrieved from:

https://www.naspa.org/images/uploads/main/ACPA_NASPA_Professional_Competencie

s_FINAL.pdf

Boise State University. (2017). Retrieved from: https://sdi.boisestate.edu/training-materials/

Hiraldo, P. (2010). The role of critical race theory in higher education. The Vermont Connection,

31. The University of Vermont. Retrieved from:

https://www.uvm.edu/~vtconn/v31/Hiraldo.pdf

Larsen, L. (2005). Building a community of student employees. Why IT Matters to higher

Education: Educause Review. Retrieved from:

https://er.educause.edu/articles/2005/1/building-a-community-of-student-employees

Nadworny, E. (2015). Uncomfortable conversations: Talking about race in the classroom.

nprED. Retrieved from:

http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/04/24/401214280/uncomfortable-conversations-

talking-about-race-in-the-classroom