Monday, June 24, 2013
Reflections on the Conference for College Men
I had the opportunity to attend the 2013 Conference on College Men (CCM) hosted by Miami University. I wanted to share some reflections regarding my experiences with the CCM.
As this was my second opportunity to attend a CCM, I’m aware that many of the conference attendees arrive at this field due to one particular area of personal or professional interest—we are the scholars (whether we learned from personal experiences and/or the classroom) on sexual assault prevention, outreach and retention of multicultural males, sexual health, gender identities and performance, conduct and crisis education, fraternity life, LGBTQA advocacy and several other initiatives and projects. We have grown through these experiences to desire new dialogues in our postsecondary culture. I think attending this conference has helped me know that we are all looking for the same things: we want our male students, and quite honestly all students, to be their best authentic self each day. Before the CCM, I mentioned how difficult it is to talk at times with other conferences attendees regarding the numerous and diverse interests or job requirements within this field. I anxiously hope that those through lines show themselves as I talk to others as I may have not read about, committed time to, or lived a particular aspect of college men and masculinities. All of our concentration areas in work and personal commitments at this conference showed a desire for students to be their authentic self; I think we believe that most students are good people and good people don’t harm self or others. We hope our students push the social expectations dictated to them from a pillar of requirements to a pool of critical examination. Some of the crisis we see with our male students come from types of harm to self or others; sexual assault, poor academic performance, unhealthy wellness habits, conflicting self-images, emotional trauma, and many other documented areas. I heard of all many accounts of poor outcomes that our male students arrive at during the CCM; however, I heard many of the positive acts our male students do at the same time. That positive perspective was valued at the CCM and I hope will continue on.
I have been in thought about the possibility of transcendent cognitive, affective, or behavioral acts that elicit the outcomes that we desire to experience as postsecondary professionals. What I mean is that perhaps there are through lines of action that take place in our work with students that we would desire of any student or any form of gender performance. Common culture will tell us we want our boys and our men to be tough, strong, kept together, smart, sexually equipped, athletic, charismatic, and everything else that Superman, a CEO, or MVP would tell us to become. Perhaps we can utilize some of these ideas to shape the conversations we have with our male students. At the CCM, I think this conversation has shifted. We no longer ask male students to toughen up; we now ask them to develop resiliency. Resiliency is an “everybody” skill. When we talk about toughening up it’s about boxing up and closing off. Resiliency is about the ability to cope with, adapt to, and overcome challenges. We no longer challenge our students on their emotional disclosure; we now support emotional literacy and competence as a positive trait. We just need better words to use with others. We just need better behaviors to live with others. We just need better societal thoughts to understand others. Carlos asked us to move from celebrate people—not antagonize people. Dr. Heasley explored with us monolithic sexual ideologies from a pluralistic perspective. These are the conversations that will shape our field moving forward. These are the “betters.” They are simple and complex all at the same time and are the reason why an individual or entire organization can rebrand our work with college men and masculinities. Maybe these rebranding moments will encourage those as the only advocate at their institutions to make a high impact in a small, well defined area. Reshaping our dialogues, finding those through lines of action within our work in higher education, and finding those transcendent acts may be the key to our path moving forward.
Michael DuPont currently serves as a Hall Director at Iowa State University. His interests within men and masculinities lie within the education process of higher education professionals, practice and policy analysis with gendered lenses, recruitment and engagement of male students, and societal and culture based gender scripts. Those interested in the topic of men and masculinities in general can connect with Michael via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.