Self Care for Housing Professionals

by Jill Swanson

It has been a long and tiring 2 years for all professionals working on a college or university campus. As we begin to prepare for a new semester, it is crucial to support our staff in finding ways to properly care for themselves and find time of healing.

Many housing professionals have not been able to take a break since March of 2020. Not only has there been increased job responsibilities with many times live in staff members and cleaning staff being the only ones on campus, but the added pressures from all that is occurring in society and outside of the walls of a university is making an already challenging job all that much harder. And while mental health concerns are increasing across the country, college campuses aren’t immune with the first responders many times being housing professionals. Based on a student completed by the Kaiser Family Foundation in February of 2021, 56.2% of young adults from ages 18-24 shared having symptoms of anxiety and/or depression (Panchal, Kamal, Cox, & Garfield, 2021).

In order for anyone, but especially housing professionals, to continue to support others and be successful they need to work to commit to and develop a self-care plan. It seems so often that “self-care” can be a term that is thrown around to tell people they should take a vacation day or have a relaxing night in. However, individuals need to move past using it as a buzzword and actually define what self-care is to them.

Self-care is not one size fits all and isn’t something that can be figured out overnight. Each individual needs to reflect on what rejuvenates them both inside and outside of the work environment. There are different aspects of self-care including, but limited to; workplace or professional, physical, psychological, emotional, spiritual, and relationship (ReachOut Australia, 2021). Folks can think about these different aspects of self-care and see if there are things they can in each to create a well-rounded and holistic self-care plan.  Examples have been taken from ReachOut Australia and can be found below:

Workplace or Professional Self-Care

–          Speak with your supervisor about a professional development plan or receive feedback

–          Create strict boundaries with peers, fellow staff members, and students

–          Look for professional development opportunities

Physical Self-Care

–          Eat healthier and ensure you take proper lunch breaks

–          Create a sleep schedule

–          Find ways to incorporate a physical activity such as going for a walk

–          Use your sick time when you don’t feel well  

Psychological Self-Care

–          Journal

–          Find a hobby or something you enjoy outside of work

–          Don’t look at or respond to work emails when you’re not working

–          Find time for positive interactions with friends, family, and colleagues

Emotional Self-Care

–          Find supportive friendships

–          Write down good things you did each day

–          Talk to friends regularly

Spiritual Self-Care

–          Try meditation

–          Reflect on past experiences

–          Try yoga

–          Attend religious services that you find comfort in

Relationship Self-Care

–          Prioritize relationships that are close and not stressful

–          Attend events with friends and family

–          Make sure to leave work on time

As you look at how you can plan to practice self-care in many of these areas, it is also worth taking the time to see what could be a road block in being successful in your self-care (ReachOut Australia, 2021).

Going into what is hopefully a slower time should can give staff the opportunity to focus on their wellbeing and care as we prepare for a new semester and new year.

References: “Developing a Self-Care Plan.”, ReachOut Australia, 2019, Accessed 1 Dec. 2021.

Panchal, Nirmita, et al. “The Implications of COVID-19 for Mental Health and Substance Use.” The

Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation, 10 Feb. 2021,

implications-of-covid-19-for-mental-health-and-substance-use/. Accessed 1 Dec. 2021.


Moving Forward and Leaving No One Behind: Vaccines and Inclusion within Residential Life

Contributed by Jake Garner, Community Director, University of Maryland, Baltimore County

With a full and exhausting academic year of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us, it is natural to ask the question, “What’s next?”  If the past year has been any indication, it’s likely the answer to that inquiry will change more than once between today and the beginning of the Fall 2021 semester.  However, the growing availability of vaccines provides an optimistic outlook that something “more normal” may be in the near future.  A small but rapidly expanding number of colleges and universities are beginning to announce vaccination requirements for the fall semester, which makes the possibility of an in-person fall semester seem more real.

However, such requirements are not without challenges.  While it is far from unprecedented for colleges and universities to require vaccinations (think MMR and meningitis), legal challenges have been expected due to the emergency use authorization status of these vaccines.  While courts have historically been friendly to vaccination requirements, the EUA is less than 20 years old, meaning little precedent exists.  An anti-vaccination group has already begun to challenge the vaccine requirements announced at Rutgers and Princeton.  Additionally, state governments in Texas and Utah have banned vaccine requirements at public colleges via executive order and legislation respectively.  Even states having requirements may offer religious and/or philosophical exemptions, and medical exemptions will always remain a necessity, so a fully vaccinated campus anywhere is unlikely.


Up until now, limited availability of vaccines may have made it difficult for anyone to find an appointment, but access to vaccines is rapidly increasing.  As of April 19, all adults in the U.S. are eligible to receive the vaccine, and there are areas of the nation where the supply of vaccine doses exceeds the demand. While these milestones are certainly important, eligibility for all does not necessarily equate to equal access.  It is well known that people of color suffered disproportionately from the pandemic, and now, the Black and Latino communities are underrepresented in the group of Americans receiving the vaccine.  Many of the efforts to make vaccines accessible still assume that individuals speak English, have access to the internet to schedule appointments, and have access to transportation.  These efforts may also fail to be conscious of the needs of individuals with disabilities, as not all vaccination sites and sign-up methods are accessible.

One solution to issues of access is to offer vaccines to students on-campus, and while this is certainly helpful, it does not guarantee an equal experience.  Particularly if policy is informed by the fact that immunity comes two weeks after being completely vaccinated, students who were unable to receive the vaccine before arriving on campus may have a different experience than those who have long been vaccinated if additional health and safety restrictions are necessary until they are immune.  Additionally, students vaccinated while on-campus may also have to face vaccine side effects during the semester while they are expected to remain accountable to academic obligations and try to connect with campus.

Vaccine Hesitancy

Even if vaccines are available and accessible, not every eligible individual will be willing to be vaccinated.  This reluctance is known as vaccine hesitancy, and has been studied in polls, including a recent NPR/PBS/Marist survey.  The results suggest that vaccine hesitancy is common — but not the popular view — with two thirds of adults stating they have already been vaccinated or intend to be.  With the politicized nature of vaccines, the poll also shows that vaccine hesitancy is more common among those who supported Trump in 2020.  That said, it’s important to note that vaccine hesitancy is not a single school of thought, and any number of identities or experiences may contribute.

While the recent poll shows little difference in vaccine hesitancy among Black and white Americans, this is a change from previous polls, which showed vaccine hesitancy was more common within the Black community.  While the change may be attributed to targeted outreach and education, especially from Black leaders and medical providers, it is unsurprising these folks may approach vaccination reluctantly, particularly with the vaccine still under an EUA.  It’s been less than 40 years since the infamous Tuskegee Experiment was shut down, and institutional racism remains in health care, so reluctance around medical research is not unfounded.   

Similarly, research around vaccine hesitancy in the Latino community shows that hesitancy within that group is associated with distrust in the government and other political sources of vaccine information.  Additionally, one survey shows that the LGBTQ+ individuals may also be reluctant to receive a vaccine.  While more data may be needed, it’s possible that hesitancy within this community may be due to a mix of distrust in politicized healthcare and a lack of safety and efficacy data for HIV positive individuals since gay and bisexual men are disproporionately affected by HIV in the United States.  Similarly, vaccine hesitancy may be more common for folks with some disabilities or medical conditions that were not represented in clinical trials of the vaccines.  The CDC notes safety information is not established for all groups with pre-existing conditions.

Implications for ResLife

Between the increasing availability of vaccines and desire for normalcy, it may be easy to slip into the mentality that everyone who wants to be vaccinated has been vaccinated and normal operations can resume.  While moving toward normal is the goal and vaccines are aiding us in getting there, doing so too quickly could end up creating inequitable experiences for — or even endangering — those on the margins who haven’t been vaccinated. Hence, it’s important to be conscious of the ways in which we can begin to move forward while considering the experience of all students.  Even if you aren’t in a policy-making position, there are ways we can move forward while leaving no one behind.

Check your bias around vaccine hesitancy: Between a skew in numbers based on ideology and the loud voices of anti-vaccination groups, it may be easy to equate vaccine hesitancy with anti-vaxxers, anti-science, and anti-intellectualism.  Remember if you’re working with a student or colleague who has expressed they haven’t received a vaccine or don’t plan on receiving one, it’s important not to make assumptions.  Anyone could be carrying an invisible identity or experience contributing to their stance.  Regardless of their reasoning for avoiding vaccination, you can move forward with compassion and find ways to work with them.

Find ways to incentivize vaccinations: If a vaccination requirement is not possible, positive reinforcement around vaccines still may be.  Some institutions have already found creative ways to incentivize vaccination.  This may take the form of easing health and safety requirements for vaccinated individuals as appropriate or giveaways and raffles for students who provide proof of vaccination.  While creating positive motivation can be effective in enticing students who may just be indifferent to vaccination, exercise caution to not make the perks so essential or visible as to create an inequitable experience or shame those who cannot be vaccinated.

Continue to enforce health and safety measures: With the likelihood that many more students will be vaccinated next semester, it may be tempting to approach health and safety measures with less vigilance.  Whatever these measures turn out to be, it may be easy to brush off students who ignore requirements, assuming they are vaccinated.  However, there is no way to differentiate vaccinated and unvaccinated students during day-to-day interactions, so consistent enforcement and reminders for vaccinated students why policy remains important will be key.

Embrace hybrid events and meetings: Having traversed the steep learning curve of virtual programs and meetings, we’re all eager to return to in-person interactions, and there will be times it’s safe to do so.  That said, not all folks will be comfortable or able to attend in-person gatherings, so considering the ways that experiences can be hybridized to include equitable in-person and virtual components is vital.  While there is certainly room for creative thinking in implementing hybrid experiences, utilizing the resources and expertise of faculty who have already been instructing hybrid classes, may provide a valuable starting point.

Be an example: If you’re willing and able to get vaccinated, do so!  As a vaccinated person on campus, you can serve as an example to others.  We know that some folks utilize a “wait and see” approach with vaccines and may be more comfortable when those they know have been vaccinated rather than relying on clinical trial data.  Additionally, being vaccinated can provide the opportunity to demonstrate the individual perks of vaccination in line with safety guidelines for those who are vaccinated.  Lastly, getting vaccinated yourself can contribute to herd immunity, a state requiring 75 to 85 percent of the population being vaccinated, in which the virus can no longer spread through the population.  Herd immunity could keep everyone safe, regardless of individual vaccination status.

Statement on Anti-Asian Violence in Atlanta, GA

The ACPA Commission for Housing and Residential Life sends our heartfelt love, support, and thoughts to our Asian and Asian American,Pacific Islander and Desi American (APIDA) communities colleagues, and students. As Housing and Residence Life professionals, we are charged with providing safe and inclusive communities for all individuals, regardless of their identities or background. Acts of hate and violence, such as the recent mass shootings perpetrated against Asian and APIDA womyn and communities in Atlanta, GA are the antithesis of this vital mission.

As a commission, CHRL strives to support and educate our students, colleagues, and surrounding communities, as well as advocate for racial justice and inclusion. As student affairs practitioners, we must continue to be steadfast and unwavering in our commitment to equity, inclusion, justice, and the education of our students, colleagues, and communities around us. We must swiftly confront issues and actions of intolerance that harm our marginalized communities. And we must loudly, firmly, and unequivocally denounce white supremacy at every turn.

We encourage you to check out the following resources to learn more about how you may help our Asian and APIDA colleagues and communities. If you have additional resources that you would like us to share, please email us at (STOP AAPI HATE, to report bias and for statistics on hate and bias crimes) (Journal of Asian American Studies, for research and education) (Asian Americans Advancing Justice: AAJC, information of social action and justice and donations. There is an Atlanta chapter) (United Asian Alliance brings together AAPI music and entertainment organizations Asian American Collective & LIONS SHARE) (For even more resources and statistics)

Virtual RA Position

Submitted by:
Hunter Bowers, Residence Life Coordinator- Appalachian State University
Sarah Tokar, Graduate Hall Director- Bowling Green State University

Residence Life entered an unprecedented time in March of this year. With COVID-19, many campuses were forced to clear the residence halls in record time in order to contain the spread of the virus. This presented the field with several substantial challenges: how will students be engaged with their community, what will happen to our existing staff, and what will support for students look like in this virtual realm of education? The profession was forced to adapt, overcome, and create different intervention strategies for our residential students.

One strategy that was implemented, particularly at our campus, was the “Virtual Resident Advisor” position which kept Resident Advisors responsible for their respective halls but from a virtual setting. The training that Resident Advisors already received allowed them to be exceptionally equipped to develop community and support their residents in their physical halls. However, the Virtual Resident Advisors were quickly required to adjust to and navigate the virtual realm of resident support and interactions. It was imperative that the hall leadership and the Virtual Resident Advisor create a partnership and formulate effective ways to best meet the needs of students in this new environment. While the Fall 2020 semester is still uncertain for many residential campuses, there are several ways that Virtual Resident Advisors can be used to cultivate relationships and support for residential students.

While residential students are adapting and overcoming numerous new obstacles that they are now faced with, so are our student staff. They are tasked with balancing their academic work while simultaneously training themselves on how to best support their residents in this new and uncertain world. Having these added responsibilities, experiencing above average stress and anxiety is an understandably common occurrence for student staff. Supporting our Virtual Resident Advisors while they transition and adjust to these new “norms” is imperative for their success as students and in their roles. As professionals, we are often looked to for guidance in the midst of uncertainty, and we must be prepared to act as such for the foreseeable future. While our students remain cut off from campus and thus the physical interactions that many have become so dependent on, it is crucial that we find alternative ways of providing encouragement and support. In terms of our student staff, this means finding new and different equivalents of providing the passive support that was once so naturally achieved. Just a few short months ago, it was not uncommon to cross paths with a student staff member while walking across campus and exchange a few encouraging words, or to have staff unexpectedly drop into your office for a quick vent session. While these avenues are no longer viable, the door has been opened to find creative new solutions that will still make our student staff feel supported and appreciated. One method that we found to be particularly beneficial was to create staff superlatives that would be routinely unveiled in the staff group chat. Each staff member was given a different superlative that highlighted the hard work they were doing, while simultaneously providing the opportunity to gain explicit praise from their supervisors and peers alike. They were each recognized on a different day, allowing everyone to have their own space to digest their specific appreciation. This intentional recognition did wonders for boosting staff morale when supporting them in-person was not an option.

Virtual engagement with residential students is uncharted territory for many residence life professionals. We have been trained to be experts at creating community in a physical space and encouraging growth and development for our students in our residential communities. The COVID-19 pandemic forced many of our roles to change and develop new outreach strategies for our students. This has shown to be hard work because the ways that Generation Z engage with virtual communities differ from the professional members of our profession. It has been of utmost importance to root our supervision with our Virtual Resident Advisors in Marcia Baxter Magolda’s Learning Partnership Model. Since our Virtual Resident Advisors are peers with the students in our halls, they understand the most effective ways of communicating and creating systems of support for their virtual residents. Creating a learning partnership gives our Virtual Resident Advisors a platform where they contribute to our field and develop more effective strategies.

In a meeting with one of our Virtual Resident Advisors, we discussed what worked and what did not in terms of outreach for their community. Our typical outreach consisted of sending emails, but our Virtual Resident Advisor told us that it was not an effective strategy. When we asked what she would suggest, she talked about what today’s students use to engage with each other and their community. She discussed how she utilized her personal Snapchat account to post passive programming, such as bulletin boards, and has experienced increased student interaction. We then gave her the platform to share her experiences, which, in turn, allowed other members of our Virtual Resident Advisor team to collaborate and implement similar programs and activities. As a team, we also developed a list of national organizations that students could utilize for mental health support so that they can be supported in their virtual community.

The coming months will be a time where we not only have the chance for innovation, but where innovation will be necessary. As we navigate the new world of higher education where our students will likely experience a combination of in-person and virtual schooling, it is imperative that we work alongside our student staff— listening, and learning— to invent new and creative ways of creating communities of support that bridge virtual and material realms. Our student staff have unique perspectives and insights, as they are experiencing the recently developed changes in higher education as both students and staff members. We would be doing our field a disservice by not including our student staff as partners in this important work, as they have routinely proven that they have creative ideas to bring to the table. We must continue to branch out into new forms of technology that we are sometimes unfamiliar with in order to best interact with the students of today, even if it is from six feet away.

The Residential Experience of International Students

Steven Tolman

With the push for the globalization of higher education, it is not surprising that the number of international students on college campuses continues to grow.  For the 2018-2019 academic year, the number of international students enrolled in the U.S. hit an all-time high with approximately 1.1 million students, which accounts for 5.5 percent of the total number of college students in the U.S. (IEE, 2019).  This continued growth in enrollment greatly benefits colleges and universities, as it further diversifies the academic community and provides a consistent and substantial financial revenue stream. However, if U.S. institutions do not ensure they are creating an environment where international students can flourish, they are at risk of losing their enrollment to other global destinations whether there is growing competition.

Rooted in the work of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, it is critical to examine the environment created for international students.  All too often, international students are admitted into institutions who make the assumption these students will simply assimilate into the college or university.  In doing so, this can overlook the personal and academic needs of international students, which can provide a barrier to their success. This mentality of expecting international students to adapt seamlessly into a foreign institution and environment is as logical as trying to squeeze a square peg into a round hole.  Instead, we should proactively look at our college campuses and identify ways to better accommodate the needs of international students. We have the privilege and responsibility to create an environment that meets the needs of all students, including international students. This presents Residence Life the opportunity to build a residential community where international students will be successful – academically and personally.

As we look to be intentional to create support structures for international students, the work of Astin (1975) reminds us that peers are central to student persistence.  To this end, peer mentoring programs have great potential to support international students and their success at the university. International students are given support from their peers, develop a social network through this peer-pairing, and are immediately given the highly-desired opportunity to interact with a domestic student.  This interaction with domestic students should not be underscored, as research has shown international students who interact with domestic students report being more satisfied, socially connected, and less homesick (Hendrickson, Rosen, & Aune, 2010). 

At the upcoming ACPA2020 CHRL Sponsored Program, “The Residential Experience of International Students”, we will explore the literature gap of support structures for international students living within residence halls.  This conversation will begin by sharing the findings of the recently published study that evaluated an international roommate-pairing program (IRP). The study’s findings suggest that environment and support structures are critical in the satisfaction and success of international students.  The conversation will continue by discussing best practices and lessons learned. Participants will have the opportunity to share successful approaches to supporting international students on their campuses.   

Presenter: Steven Tolman, Georgia Southern University


Astin, A. W. (1975). Preventing students from dropping out. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass. 

Hendrickson, B., Rosen, D., & Aune, R. (2011). An analysis of friendship networks, social 

connectedness, homesickness, and satisfaction levels of international students. 

International Journal of Intercultural Relations, 35, 281-295. 

IIE (2015). Open Doors 2015: Report on International Student Exchange. Institute of International Education.

Group Process: Is it Ethical?

Denise L. Davidson

For most of my career in student affairs—housing and residence life, in particular – the components of student staff selection have included a written application and at least one individual interview. The written application might have included a basic information form (name, class standing, contact information), a resume, and written responses to several job-related questions. The individual interview involved the candidate and one or more interviewers. Sometimes the questions were proscribed and at other institutions, the questions were constructed by the interviewers. These two elements are common regardless of position level (student, graduate student, professional, faculty member) and industry (higher ed, business, social services).

Several institutions also included a “group process” as part of their paraprofessional/student leader (e.g., RA, Orientation Leader) selection system. Not to be confused with a group interview (several candidates interviewed in the same space and time by one or more interviewers), a group process involves several candidates being observed (and evaluated) while engaging a group tasks without a specified leader. From my experience and explorations, group tasks range from collectively choosing RA candidates from written information and logic puzzles or challenges to building the tallest structure from straws and plastic cups and devising an educational program theme. The objective is often to use the observations as part of the selection decision-making process. 

For quite a while, I have pondered the role of group process, whether observations of candidates in a group setting are valid or reliable, if it is a good use of human resources, and if group process is ethical. These questions don’t mean I am opposed to group process; in fact, there are other ways of looking at group process and what it reveals about candidates. Some departments use the information when assigning hired RAs/OLs to staff or team combinations. Others structure the group tasks so they are directly tied to position responsibilities, which may aid candidates in better understanding the desired position. And yet…I question and ponder and wonder.

I believe there is great value to being challenged to think carefully about effective, ethical, and valid ways of gathering information to make informed and useful selection decisions. The five ethical principles espoused by Kitchner (1985) (i.e., respecting autonomy, doing no harm, benefiting, others, being just, and being faithful) provide a useful frame for evaluating group process. We will apply Kitchner’s five ethical principles to the group process approach, analyze the advantages and disadvantages of group process, and facilitate participants’ examination of their RA/student leader selection process for alignment with Kitchner’s principles. I hope you will join me for a dynamic—and perhaps controversial—examination of group process.

STEP INTO THEIR SHOES: Solving Diversity Challenges in Changing Times

Lauren C. Tillman, MDiv

Vanderbilt University, Office of Housing & Residential Experience

Jorge J. Wellmann, M.A. Ed

Vanderbilt University, Office of Housing & Residential Experience

Randall P. Bogard, M.A. Ed

Western Kentucky University, Office of Student Activities and Organizations

“All of our schools and units are doing scenario planning, thinking through what they can or should be doing now to prepare for a variety of economic pressures.” 

-Lindsay Ellis, 2019, The Chronicle of Higher Education

Higher Education resources oscillate with economic challenges and social movement.  Many universities experienced a substantial surge in Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) programming, hiring, and even creating offices to support diverse populations as enrollment and diversity increased globally. Initially, this was done to ensure that the needs of growing communities on various campuses were met in a culturally competent manner. Many universities have restructured and eliminated D&I offices due to rising costs and limited funding within this sector of Higher Education. This caused a reevaluation of the manner in which D&I resources meet student needs.

Higher Education professionals continue to be affected by budget cuts and reduction of staff. These professionals are responsible for identifying problems created by lack of cultural literacy and inadequate diversity exposure. Many Higher Education professionals are expected to troubleshoot situations with limited time and resources while successfully managing all other aspects of career and personal life. How is it possible to respond with eloquent compassion while maintaining the vision of your institution’s mission without appropriate training and educational resources? Not educating our staff concerning D&I topics is a non-negotiable.  Thus STEP INTO THEIR SHOES was developed.  

This presentation will provide insight into the development of an educational resource despite obstacles. Sharing both our university’s best practices in Housing & Residential Education and Student Activities will prove to be an informative resource for D&I training during a time of change and departmental uncertainties.

In this ACPA20 session, our goal is for participants to leave the session having:

  • Access to important documents and resources that will facilitate their university’s archaeological dig.
  • Assessment tools of the current D&I resources available at their institution.
  • A list of collaborative relationships that could be established or strengthened across the specific institution
  • The ability to critically analyze resources, assess training deficits and utilizing relationships that will accomplish successful training.
  • Encouragement to begin identifying ways in which participants can revise their departmental vision, build partnerships and services to meet the needs of ever-changing campus diversity. 

Our participants will learn how professional staff can create targeted training programs to address complex challenges during today’s difficult climate that might affect our students on campus (political, cultural, economic, etc.).  Working with other offices and departments, these trainings can be used to encourage meaningful conversations among staff and students, creating intellectual exchanges and additional learning opportunities.

Jorge J. Wellmann, M.A. Ed

Vanderbilt University, Office of Housing & Residential Experience

Area Coordinator, (615) 343-6743

Presenter one is currently a Residence Hall Coordinator at a private institution where they work with student staff, graduate staff, and live-in faculty. They have over 10 years as a higher education practitioner working in a wide range of areas including housing, academic advising, and student conduct. Over their professional career, they have worked at a variety of institutions including state and regional, for-profit and flagship, research, private, and public. They previously have presented at state and regional professional conferences within their field. 

Lauren C. Tillman, MDiv

Vanderbilt University, Office of Housing & Residential Experience

Area Coordinator, (615) 322-4693

Presenter two is a residential hall coordinator for a private university. New to the student affairs field, their previous experience includes work with educational non-profits and secondary education. Coming from a Masters of Divinity background, this presenter has studied and delved deeply into diversity and inclusion topics and student leadership training within a number of fields, including religion, human resources, popular culture, and higher education. 

Randall P. Bogard, M.A. Ed

Western Kentucky University, Office of Student Activities and Organizations

Assistant Director for Student Activities (270) 745-5809

Presenter three has over 13 years as a student affairs professional. Currently, they are the Assistant Director for Student Affairs and Greek life at a regional state school. Throughout their career, they have worked at multiple institutions and higher education departments including housing, student activities, and greek life. 

Blog Post: Federal Policy Updates

Dr. Ray Plaza, who serves as a member of the ACPA External Advisory Board. 
Emily Mee, Past Intern for ACPA
Tricia Smith, Director-Elect for External Relations for ACPA
Chris Moody, Executive Director of ACPA

Raising Smoking Age to 21

The first issue deals with potential legislation introduced in Congress that raises the national smoking age to 21 and restricting tobacco sales to anyone under 21. Currently, 18 states and the District of Columbia have passed such policies, while some have not enacted them. The 18 states that have passed policies raising the smoking age to 21 and restricting tobacco sales to anyone under 21 are Arkansas, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia and Washington along with Washington, D.C. 

While many campuses are already smoke-free and prohibit smoking within the residence halls, what are the potential implications on how campuses enforce such policies, especially, for students under the age of 21? In light of the rise of electronic cigarettes and vaping devices, how have campus policies and procedures been updated to reflect these growing trends?

Currently, there has been no formal movement on the federal legislation that has been proposed in the Senate. This might be a good opportunity to review your respective institutional policies and how you have handled potential state-level legislation. Here are some helpful resources if you have particular questions about state policies: American Lung Association, Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids, and Tobaccotwenty-one

If any institutions want to share how you have handled any state changes to raising the age to 21, please share your feedback in the comments section listed below the blog post. We would love to hear your experiences and words of advice on how you handled this situation.

Tax on Endowments for Private Colleges and Universities

The second issue pertains to the release of proposed rules by the U.S. Treasury Department on how they will handle the tax on the endowments of private colleges and universities that have more than 500 full-time equivalent students (includes full- and part-time students) and assets of at least $500,000 per student. The tax on endowments was part of the 2017 tax overhaul, and the release of the proposed rules took place in early July 2019.

One of the issues raised is the role of residence halls on a private college and university. Some are arguing that the rental income generated by residence halls could be taxable based on initial reading of the proposed rules.

As a former Residence Life professional, I can attest that a residence hall is not merely a rental property. It is a vibrant learning community that brings students together. Residence halls are invaluable educational environments on college campuses.  This is evidenced by decades of research specific to residential spaces and expanding to all functional areas in Student Affairs units. Professionals continue to deepen both research and practice through annual events such as ACPA’s Institute on the Curricular Approach.  Now is the time to ensure that colleges understand the educational role of the residence hall setting and advocate that they be exempt from being taxed as part of this endowment tax effort.

We encourage residence hall leaders at private colleges and universities to engage with your respective institutional leadership, government relations staff, legal counsel, and other applicable offices to review and study the proposed rules and how they will potentially affect the institution. 

The Treasury department is currently taking comments on the proposed rules and all comments are due by October 1. The American Council on Education (ACE) is spearheading a group of higher education associations that is providing a formal response. To learn more about ACE’s effort,  

As always, we encourage our colleagues to be aware of potential policies and regulations and how they may potentially affect you throughout the coming year. The ACPA External Advisory Board will provide updates.

External links to information created and maintained by other public and private organizations and are provided for the convenience of ACPA-College Student Educators International (ACPA) members. While ACPA strives to make the information shared as timely and accurate as possible, we make no claims, promises, or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness, or adequacy of its contents. Any information obtained from this resource to a specific product, process, or service does not constitute or imply an endorsement by ACPA, or its producer or provider. The inclusion of external links is not intended to reflect their importance, nor is it intended as an endorsement by ACPA. 

“Boldly Transforming Higher Education” – the Role of the Strategic Imperative

Written By: Brandii Halliburton and Chris Ambrose

During the ACPA 2019 Convention, our Association was charged with how we can all boldly transform higher education. ACPA sets itself apart through its focus and attention on the Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization. No system, even those within the realm of Higher Education, escapes the realities of inequity and injustice which have unfairly continued to marginalize Indigenous and racially minoritized peoples. It is important, now more than ever, to capitalize on the unique opportunities present on college and university campuses where Student Affairs professionals can engage in this work directly. As we begin to see more possibilities in the work we can change, we begin to conceptualize that we all have a role to play in confronting racial injustice and colonization head on.

In November 2016, ACPA leaders met to strategically plan for years ahead and found themselves emboldened to be agents of change, especially as it related to issues surrounding racial justice. The Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice was introduced to the larger ACPA membership during the 2017 Convention in Columbus, Ohio. Shortly after the 2017 Convention, the Strategic Imperative was updated to include Decolonization as ACPA began to think more broadly about on-going violence toward Native, Indigenous, Aboriginal, and First Nations people around the world. At this point, the once Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice became the Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization.

It is evident that ACPA members were engaging with the Strategic Imperative in meaningful ways, but craved more structure around how to successfully accomplish the Strategic Imperative both as a professional and at their institution. Having heard the voices of their members, ACPA leadership and their affiliates gathered in Detroit in 2018 to more clearly conceptualize the Strategic Imperative in tangible ways for educators across the board. As a result of this meeting, ACPA created and published A Bold Vision Forward: A Framework for the Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization. While this framework does not serve as a checklist, it offers salient practices and steps one can take to engage with the Strategic Imperative in new, meaningful ways.

Strategies for infusing the Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization into our work as Student Affairs Professionals.

In wrapping up our time at the 2019 ACPA national conference, the Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization (SIRJD) appeared to be the main focus in most panels and the opening and closing ceremonies. We engaged in meaningful dialogue amongst colleagues near and far, which resulted in us feeling refreshed, refueled, and ready to return to our campuses and continue to do impactful work in our halls. Now that you have read the SIRJD, you may ask “where does this leave us now and how can I utilize its foundational principles in my day to day work?” In the next couple of paragraphs, we will be discussing ways to incorporate the SIRJD into your daily functions in housing and on-campus in general in order to become the leaders we have been waiting for.

Imperative Values

In reading the SIRJD, there are three key and interconnected values that are infused through each of the principles. These values are the foundation of the imperative and are important for us as professionals to process through before truly diving into the work: building self-awareness, understanding that love is foundational to justice, and recognizing history and how it is infused in the present.

Building Self-awareness

Self-awareness is one of the most important, yet difficult, parts in doing socially just work. It requires us to reflect on our own experiences that often reveal biases, privileges, oppression, and trauma that are connected to our identities. Self-awareness is a continuous journey that requires reflection during multiple stages and changes in our lives. Without having a deep understanding of ourselves, we cannot know or understand who our students are; therefore we cannot adequately advocate for them and break down the systems of oppression deeply rooted in our institutions.

The imperative also connects our self-awareness to our understanding of personal agency and cultural humility. Personal agency puts the responsibility on us instead of believing that this work is for someone else. Often times, we assume that this work is meant for someone with more knowledge, experience, and expertise than us. This is a myth. As quoted in the SIRJD “Agency allows us to engage in ordinary acts aimed at extraordinary change.” In reflection, are there strategies or methods you can use in your home institutions to facilitate self-awareness for yourself and those around you?

Reconciling with the Past

Reconciling with the past and acknowledging the legacy of colonialism in society and our institutions of higher education is extremely necessary for healing ourselves and helping others heal as well. Without this acknowledgment, we will continue to fall victim of repeating the harm and violence done to indigenous peoples and people of color done in the past. Acknowledgment and recognition are key in helping us truly be able to create change in this colonialist society. Two key concepts in reconciliation discussed in the imperative that would be beneficial to us as professionals include:

  • Land Acknowledgment
  • Engaging in conversations around forced land removal and land occupation

As stated in the SIRJD, “The university system itself is a project of the settler colonial system and while Indigenous land is the literal foundation of the university, it is often the least discussed or examined element within university leadership (Yang, 2017)”. It will be impossible to move forward and dismantle these oppressive systems without acknowledging the violent principles and genocide in which our institutions and this nation were founded on. Moving forward, history must be infused in the work that we do for ourselves and our students if justice is truly what we strive for. We challenge you all to research, learn, and understand the land that your own institutions stand on and the history that comes with it. This acknowledgment will be difficult and come with discomfort but the SIRJD encourages us to sit with and engage with this discomfort.

Love is foundational to Justice

In the imperative, the authors speak about love working in congruence with anger and that both emotions are valid. Love is described as an action and there are many ways for us as professionals to demonstrate this love towards our students and colleagues, particularly those doing the work of social justice and who hold marginalized identities. Love can take shape in many forms. Not just in romantic relationships but also in friendships, extended family, and through professional networks and kinship. The authors in the imperative remind us that “We must not only resent and be angered at injustice; we must simultaneously be in love with justice, and we must love each other.” It is not enough for our fight for justice to be rooted only anger, as that will lead to complete exhaustion before reaching our goals. Love reminds us to care for one another and invest in those around us. Both love and anger play important roles in the fight for Racial Justice and Decolonization.

Implementation within Housing

After reading through and processing the meaning of these values, it is important to understand how we as housing professionals are able to implement them into our work. One benefit of working in housing is the level of access that we have to our students, especially those of us that live-on. In addition to supervising student staff, we also have the opportunity to work with student leaders such as building council(s), and also engage with residents in their halls through programming, etc. All of these opportunities for access enable us to help ourselves but also help our students understand self-awareness and critical consciousness. As housing and residential life professionals, we need to ensure that our halls are high functioning environments with spaces for open dialogue focused on the principles and values of the SIRJD.

One way to start a foundational supportive dialogue that is focused on self-awareness, acknowledges history and is love is through Restorative Practices; specifically through Circling. The SIRJD brings up a point in how many of the teaching practices in our institutions are products of colonialism, specifically centered on the concept of “Banking”. According to the SIRJD, Banking assumes our students have little knowledge or experience of the given subject when they enter the space. It frames the educators as experts and assures students are not capable of contributing knowledge. Instead, the imperative suggests that we move towards the framework of Problem-posing. Problem-posing de-centers power and authority in the space and redistribute to the students. It gives students the agency to contribute meaningful knowledge and dialogue. The SIRJD also describes Problem-posing as a method that centers liberation as a goal, views students as contributors to the space, and encourages them to question and challenge knowledge. One method of Restorative Practices Circling that would best fit here is the process of intergroup dialogue between two or more social identity groups with the goal of increasing awareness about social inequalities at the macro and micro level. Restorative Practices comes with a set of restorative questions to help guide the conversation on the path of healing and learning. Through this approach, we as housing professionals can provide spaces for students and colleagues to begin the humanization process, emphasize agency, develop authentic relationships through storytelling, and also develop our levels of self-awareness.


We hope our reflections can serve as a catalyst to you as you think critically within yourself and within your work about how you engage with the Strategic Imperative. As outlined, the Guiding Document offers strategies that we can use in our daily lives and in the work we do with students. As the Document alludes, this does not serve as a checklist or a solution, but rather an understanding that we are all “becoming the leaders we have been waiting for.” We encourage you to respond back to us letting us know how you are engaging with the Strategic Imperative in your work.

Peer, A. (2019). Restorative Practices: Words to Know [Training handout].

Towson, MD: Towson University, Restorative Practices Training.

Quaye, S. J., Aho, R. E., Jacob, M. B., Domingue, A. D., Guido, F. M., Lange, A. C., Stewart, D. (2019, February 4). A Bold Vision Forward: A Framework for the Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization [Scholarly project]. In ACPA Strategic Imperative for Racial Justice and Decolonization. Retrieved from

Yang, K.W. (2017). A third university is possible. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press. 


Toward Civic Engagement: Integrating Restorative Practices Into Residential Education Plans

5 lessons learned from embracing restorative practices in our residential curriculum

In 2016, Residential Life at UMBC began shifting focus to embrace a learning-centered curricular approach. At the same time, we had been working closely with colleagues in student conduct to introduce our campus community to restorative practices. While these two projects were similar, in some ways they moved forward on parallel tracks, it took us two years to recognize their potential as a singular approach. Continue reading