Valerie Heruska

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After watching the backchannel from many of the student affairs conferences currently taking place, I notice that there are an influx of new people from the field joining. THAT IS AWESOME. I’m always excited to see a new face among the #sachat’ers because that means someone new to connect with and a brand new perspective.

Most of these people learn about Twitter from their friends or sessions that they attend, but don’t really have a great understanding or where to go for help. Also, I think that many twitter noobs are often intimidated or don’t really know what to tweet about. But that’s okay, because there are so many wonderful resources available out there to assist them (you).

I’ve gone ahead and found some of my favorite resources for Twitter beginners. There have been a great help to me and in teaching it to people:

User Guides

One of the…

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March 15th Notice … This is Not a Drill

I started out the year inspired by the book A Simple Act of Gratitude by John Kralick. The book’s message reminded me of the importance of sending good energy out into the universe by acknowledging those things for which we are grateful. As I visualized this, I saw myself opening my arms and just sending out good energy while simultaneously being open to the good energy the universe might send my way.

The amazing part of this is that the energy we’re sent can manifest in such unexpected ways. In early February we learned that in the face of unrelenting budget reductions three management positions at the college where my husband works will be eliminated. In opening myself up to what the universe might have to offer, I kind of feel like we got whacked on the head: my husband is one of the three managers whose position will be eliminated. Fortunately, he has a safety net that allows him to move to a faculty position. So, he won’t be be left unemployed, just differently employed … and for that we are grateful. This is an opportunity to reevaluate our priorities and reconsider what’s important in life.  All in all, not a bad scenario compared to those who have lost their jobs.

As a previous student services manager, I can’t help but think about the message these cuts send to students – and the entire college community – about the perceived value of student services in the organization. While teaching is the focus of a college, support services provide essential safety nets that allow students to stay in college. Orientation, academic counseling, crisis counseling, college success workshops – these are some of the obvious tools that support students. Helping students re-enter the college after an academic dismissal, teaching students how to better manage difficult situations, supporting faculty in working with disruptive students – these may be less obvious. All of these services are designed to create a positive learning community truly dedicated to student success. And even though one new Dean will ultimately replace the two departing Deans, this decision seems to convey a low regard for the services they provide to students, staff, faculty, parents, and community members.

Dramatic budget cuts throughout the state, however, are forcing these kinds of difficult decisions. Even so, how can we begin to believe that these types of cuts are sustainable? On the macro-level statewide economics impact campus-based decisions that, in turn, impact students, the lives of those whose positions are cut, and the lives of their families.

Speaking only for myself, one very simple thing would have made this situation better at the micro-level: communication. So, as I seem to like to do, I’ve created a list for other managers who may be faced with the possibility of laying off/reassigning people. When someone is being told their job, their livelihood, their role at the college will dramatically change come July 1, over-communicating seems like a good option.

Be clear about the reason for the change. Let the impacted employees know that this is about budget reductions. Explain how the current and anticipated cuts are driving myriad decisions in the organization. Explain how the person’s position was identified for elimination.

Remind the employee that you appreciate their service to the college for the past (number of) years. Whether it has been 3 years or 30, the person has served the organization often by working on weekends, late in the evenings, offering workshops, coaching athletic teams, writing letters of recommendation for students, and helping faculty with classroom-based issues. Let them know this work has mattered.

Assure the employee that the organization will take care of her/him. Describe any rights they may have in relation to reassignment to another position and explain how they can exercise those rights.

Describe what the employee can expect over the next few months.

For example: “On February 22 the board will vote on this issue. It’s item 55-B on the agenda. We included a generic job title rather than the names of those involved because (explain). After the board meeting, we’ll issue a formal layoff notice on or about (date) but no later than March 15. Once you receive that letter (here’s what happens). Here are your rights during this time (provide details). Here’s how we’ll support your transition to the new position (describe). After we agree on the position you’ll be moving to, we’ll discuss salary placement, starting date, and related issues. In the meantime, we’ll schedule a time for you to meet with someone from HR to address any questions you might have, identify forms you might need to complete, and other common issues that might come up.”

Prepare a handbook with information, FAQs, links to resources to help the affected employee navigate the next few months.  (And by the way, professional organizations, like ACCCA, could also do a better job providing this kind of guidance and advice.)

Check in frequently to see how the employees are doing and see what questions they might have.

Let the college community know what is going on. Rather than leave it to rumor and conjecture, just tell everyone at the college what to expect, how services will be impacted, how you’re taking care of those employees directly impacted, and how services they’ve come to rely on will be provided.

Expect backlash and confusion. Recognize that there will be even more confusion and consternation if people aren’t told what’s going on.

Don’t leave it to the employees to explain the decision. It’s not their decision and it’s unfair to ask them to justify it.

Help smooth the transition from their current positions to their new assignment.

Let everyone in the organization know you care, that you understand how difficult this is on the organization, on those affected, on the families of those affected.