June 23, 2019
Addressing the “Lack of” Epidemic on American College Campuses
Marilee Bresciani Ludvik PhD
There is a growing epidemic on American college campuses. Walk onto any college campus in the United States of America and you will encounter its symptomology almost immediately. Within moments of greeting any human being and asking how they are experiencing their work, they will tell you they could do more or do better if only they had moreresources. Chat with them long enough and you will discover the shared list alludes to their experiencing a lack of sleep,money for all sorts of things including their ability to pay their own bills, a lack of time to reflect, and a lack of systemic structures to support collaborative workin order to arrive at meaningful solutions needed to resolve social injustices, environmental violence, and to stimulate economic viability. You will also hear the “lack of” conversation infiltrate any other dialogue that seeks to address the many other challenges we face as a nation and as global citizens.
The “lack of” resources dialogue on American college campuses is nothing new. The “lack of” mentality afflicts all American higher education community members. Over time, faculty, staff, administrators, and students (even the most positive among them) will turn their focus towards identifying with limitations that are steeped in the “not enough” quagmire. The “lack of” resources mentality is an epidemic that spikes alongside the tyranny of the urgent; its costs measured in the killing of human ingenuity, resilience, and vitality.
If this kind of “lack of” resources had an identifiable virus associated with it, the Center for Disease Control would register it as a plague that requires inoculation. They might quarantine the area given how quickly the infection spreads. No one would be able to step back on campus unless they were equipped with the appropriate infectious disease armored suit. If the extent of the human harm caused by the “lack of” resources was a result of Mother Nature’s actions, the government would issue a state of emergency and immediately allocate millions or perhaps billions of dollars of aid to those afflicted, send experts to design preventions for potential future reoccurrence, and commit to rebuilding the infrastructure so that well-being for all in the area could be- restored.
While the epidemic of “lack of” resources to do the job well is apparent in almost every aspect of each organization, the urgent response is not.
Is it because there is no evidence that we have a “lack of” resources? Is evidence that human lives have been harmed as a result of our “lack of” problem nonexistent? If there is evidence of a “lack of” resources, why have the metrics to improve time to degree and graduation rates within an environment of “not enough” been increased? If there is a “lack of” resources, are ALL the members of our communities who secure more money for specific efforts within the institution getting a percentage of what they brought in as payment for their success? And if so, why is the organization continuing to engage in activities that aren’t aligned with revenue flow? If we do have a “lack of” resources, why are there so many constituents so deeply invested in ensuring that change occurs slowly or not at all?
If we don’t have a “lack of” resources, why is most everyone within the Academy acting as if we do? Is the “lack of” mentality a plague with some unseen contagion influencing our way of thinking and being? And if it is, what is the treatment or the cure?
What if there is no “lack of” resources within higher education? What if we are simply not organized in a way that has caused us to avoid investing in and subsequently leveraging the most precious resources of all – the human beings themselves? What if we are ignoring investing in the internal resources of the human beings within the organization so that their skills and abilities can be identified and skillfully matched with wider community desired outcomes? What if investing in the cultivation of human flourishing was the antidote to the “lack of” resources plague that has infected every college campus?
As leaders of every hierarchical level of the Academy, we do have a choice. Do you want to continue to perpetuate the dialogue of “not enough” or do you want to have a different dialogue, which would then require correspondingly different actions? The organizational transformation process that would invest in human flourishing by cultivating internal human resources is not a mystery. What is a mystery is why we continue to celebrate and reinforce a “lack of” organizational mentality and daily choose to live within “not enough”; all the while witnessing (or contributing to) the violence to humanity that results.
Let’s cure this epidemic. There are plenty of organizational behavior theories and prescencing practices (such as the mindful compassion practices found on this site) that can guide our way into organizational transformation; the ones that seem most relevant for discovering how to combat “not enough” mentality and live social justice are within our grasp. We just have to commit to exploring them and then putting them into place one moment after another, all while embodying compassion for ourselves and each other as we fail, learn, and engage again.