FOREWORD (1/2) – The Ethics of Cultural Competence in Higher Education

My mind was racing while reading The Ethics of Cultural Competence in
Higher Education (ECCHE). I appreciated the often, though necessary, re-
peated assertion that an overriding concern in higher education is to what
extent faculty and professional staff demonstrate, and students would be
able to acquire, a sophistication—cultural knowledge and cultural sensi-
tivity—to more than adequately understand the plight of underrepresented
individuals and groups. Due to the projected changing demography, “fore-
warned is forearmed” may be an appropriate adage. Though the future
demographic should have never been the motivating factor for such self-
development, instead, the motivating factor should always be “doing the
right thing,” and in the case of educators the right thing is being prepared
to not just step into leadership moments when they arise, but to also know
that you have done your best to be prepared for those moments should
they arise.
However, just as importantly, the thought of whether or not any edu-
cator could actually become a “social justice” teacher without becoming
an ally is a curious thought indeed. It was quite informative as well as
validating to see the various authors in ECCHE relentlessly assert exactly
that point. Yes, like so many other social justice advocates I’m in the camp
that it is not possible to be an outstanding teacher of social justice without
being an ally.
The scope of any collective discussion on the ethics of cultural
competency in higher education should be broad, and this edited book
doesn’t disappoint. Beginning with a snapshot of various aspects of
leadership, coeditor Heidi L. Schnackenberg’s contribution ventures to
many provocative places. Schnackenberg isn’t shy about an expecta-
tion of academic leaders being transformative, equipped with “skill,
experience, and an intuitive sense of people.” She further asserts that
far too often these qualities are not necessarily present and that unfor-
tunately the “leadership nesse” to handle major initiatives is lack-
ing. To enhance the possibility of success, an agreed upon vision of
the collective journey must be arrived at by both the key stakehold-
ers and their chosen leader. Schnackenberg expresses concern about
inadequate processes and political machinations on college campuses
(instead of student centeredness or the well-being of the academic in-
stitution itself) as motivating factors which ultimately contribute to
inadequate leadership. Gender bias within the academy as a result of
“otherness” is another aspect of leadership that Schnackenberg under-
takes within her chapter. Ultimately, she makes the point that round-
ing up the usual suspects to adequately accomplish a task will only
culminate in the possible adequate completion of the project, but not
anything that could be considered noteworthy.
Rocci Luppicini’s contribution to the book is an exploration of the rela-
tionship between educational technology the roles of instructors/students
and university administration in creating a university culture. He articu-
lates the very important reality of how different constituent groups come
together to build meaning. Luppicini challenges the notion of “student-as-
customer” as a possible threat to university culture.
Maureen E. Squires’ chapter situates the reader to consider a reality in
academia that is far too often marginalized in discourse about standards,
procedures, or ethical practices in higher education. She asks how the rights
of teacher candidates with disabilities are reconciled with professional ex-
pectations aligned with quality teaching, especially when those disabilities
aren’t limited to mobility limitations or orthopedic impairments. Squires
does not hesitate to suggest that faculty understand their role in supporting
students with special needs, and advocates that faculty proactively design
academic supports while maintaining the integrity of the overall program.
Furthermore, Squires consistently asserts throughout her chapter that “as
a human service,” education requires positively engaging other humans.
She further takes time to frame outdated negative notions of disability that
remain deeply ingrained in U.S. culture which serve as impediments that
prevent faculty from becoming natural allies.
xviii Foreword
Foreword xix
Lauren Gonyea uses anecdotes, references to lm excerpts, and perti-
nent research to assert in her chapter that the concept of “cool,” as a result
of being an indicator of social inclusion/exclusion, reects an invaluable
dimension of social justice work. Gonyea, after dening “cool,” diligently
frames her point by articulating the phenomenon of cool across ve dif-
ferent diversity themes, “socio-economic class,” “race,” “ability,” “sexual
orientation,” and “gender.” Essentially, Gonyea challenges educators to
transcend their societal indoctrination and/or perspective on “cool.” She
asks that they confront problematic privilege and proactively engage it,
thereby becoming “unequivocally cool.”
Aline Bobys’s chapter speaks specically to the core theme of this
edited book, the morality of the teaching enterprise. Beginning with her
awe-inspiring receptiveness to relinquishing the traditional role as sole
architect of her curriculum, continuing with her invitation that student and
teacher act as equal participants in their daily interactions, Bobys mod-
els the method that she promotes, in essence walking her talk, creating a
democratic classroom where the educational process transitions from “me
to we.” Bobys challenges her students and the reader to interpret literacy,
due to globalization, as inseparable from a social, political, and cultural
process. Furthermore, she shares with the reader how her students, in the
process of becoming “literacy coaches,” also come to understand that lit-
eracy education inclusively approached leads to them becoming consider-
ate and proactive citizens.
Caroline Knight and Jamia Thomas Richmond’s chapter uses inter-
views of ten college students to engage the merits of practical experience
beyond the traditional diversity course often deemed adequate for social
justice development of future educators. Along the way they debunk the
myth of a culture of poverty and its inherent assumptions. David Iasevoli,
in his chapter, challenges future teachers to reect on their way of seeing,
proactively engaging a society that far too often isn’t egalitarian. Through
strategic exercises designed to create conversations about oppressive lan-
guage amongst other things, Iasevoli frames the pitfalls of social justice
teaching within a monolithic educational environment.
xx Foreword
Through the use of a “social constructionist conceptualization of
masculinity,” Claude Aldous and coeditor Beverly Burnell provocatively
frame the necessity of higher education professionals to engage college
men as men, and particularly men in transition, with various external
stimuli continuously affecting their growth in every facet of their reali-
ties as members of a college community. Aldous and Burnell assert that
college men aware of their gendered socialization and its accompanying
privilege are better situated for proactive contributions to their academic
George Still and Maureen Squires provide results of an open-ended
survey to engage the possibility of developing multicultural competen-
cies by considering oneself and one’s environment within the context of
power and marginalization. In their chapter, Still and Squires speak at
length about the reality of decit-based perceptions of racially under-
represented children. They caution against a dominant group’s cursory
usage of multiculturalism as akin to “cultural tourism,” and challenge
pre-service teachers to become cross-culturally competent, essentially
unpacking their own baggage while simultaneously learning about their
students’ realities.
Jelane A. Kennedy, Wendy Neifeld, and Stephanie Bennett’s collab-
orative effort to assess cultural competency development for new student
affairs professionals within the context of a social and cultural foundations
course is somewhat of a forerunner to research that suggests one course
isn’t enough for future professionals. The authors of the chapter recognize
the limitations of one course as well, but nonetheless proffer the merits of
taking such a course for entry level practitioners as opposed to not tak-
ing it at all. More so, they frame the growth experienced by their student
affairs graduate students as worthwhile. They articulate that, contrary to
national challenges to do so, research revealed over a dozen years ago that
there was a deciency in cultural competency education for student affairs
programs to the extent that only about 43% had a diversity course as part
of the core curriculum.
All of the conversations within this book are invaluable to anyone se-
riously committed to a high quality and profound social justice effort. I
have had the pleasure of directing two diversity and social justice cen-
ters for two well-respected universities, as well as having done signicant
Foreword xxi
work with highly touted and well-respected academic and business clients.
Nonetheless, I read this book like a kid in a candy store hungry for a spe-
cic type of tasty treat while discovering other delicacies I had never pre-
viously considered. I highly encourage you, the reader, to take the time to
read, consider, and ultimately act upon the lessons learned from The Ethics
of Cultural Competency in Higher Education.
— J. W. Wiley, PhD,
Director, Center for Diversity,
Pluralism, and Inclusion, SUNY Plattsburgh, New York