SEAHO Report - Summer 2021 - 34

FEATURE ARTICLES
(Kavaliauskas Crain & Shepard, 2019).
Fit defies characterization and structure, is voluminous at its center, and is resilient and creative in how it
materializes and recedes. Because of its pervasive resistance to characterization, it thrives within environments
and teams that do not have a clear vision for their organizational culture, and it relies upon the " personal
opinion factor " , or the incorporation of " individual lenses used to clarify criteria related to experience and
skills " (Kavaliauskas Crain & Shepard, 2019), when there is not a structure in place that requires intentional
avoidance of internal biases. Fit is connected, in that it exists in the nexus of relatability, without necessarily
being connected to any professional acumen or standard. Fit is measured in those instances based on the ability
to be relational, " where connection was with members of the community " ; on overall personality and values,
" where connection was to qualities and interests shared with candidate " ; and at the specific institution, " where
connection was determined based on connection to students and community " (Kavaliauskas Crain & Shepard,
2019). The way in which Fit is endorsed or accepted must be comprehensive. Fit serves as an overarching
endorsement that precludes any other deficiencies, limitations or undesirable qualities that exist, and cannot
be questioned in any way. It also is expansive in that Fit is also a means to assess, through formal and
informal measures, the viability of someone's career in that space, on a complete, and almost permanent, level
(Kavaliauskas Crain & Shepard, 2019).
In addition to these three distinctive characters, it is imperative that you also understand that Fit operates
on two levels as well: institutional and individual. Fit is both a collective process (interviews, socials, awards,
promotions, committee heads, special assignments) and a deeply personal understanding (professionalism,
communication, relationships, mentoring, supervising, evaluating, development) of not only an organizational
standard, but ultimately, a person's worth within it (Garrett & Turman, 2019).
On its face, Fit does not seem inherently sinister, but rather an extensive systemic culture of hierarchical
rules, made to maintain a structure, a way of being. Where Fit becomes insidious is when you consider that the
inexplicable dominance of Fit is only possible if it is grounded in Whiteness (Ashlee, 2019). It is not possible
for something as sophisticated and intricate as interpersonal exclusion to occur on both an individual and
a collective level, unless moored by Whiteness. There is no other power structure that exists at that level in
any way, organizationally or otherwise. Whiteness is the only measure. Fit is inherently the promotion and
maintenance of White Supremacy (Garrett & Palmer, 2019). Because higher education is rooted in White
Supremacy -- in its structure, its educational practices, and its organizational culture -- from that system, all
modern professional and academic culture, standards, and practices are derived (Browning & Palmer, 2019).
Fit existed before it ever had a name, because it was always there. A " habitus of Whiteness " has always existed
within high education, as a " racialized, uninterrupted socialization process that conditions and creates Whites'
racial tastes, perceptions, feelings and emotions " (Ashlee, 2019). This dominance of Whiteness is therefore
normalized, and Whiteness is never made to have a " second thought as to their lack of interactions " with nonWhites.
This remains unexplained, and over time becomes the unchallenged truth, and the eventual resultant
oppression, hierarchy, and segregation are representative of the culture itself (Garrett & Palmer, 2019).
The dissonance that exists within this paradigm is due to the fact that higher education no longer exists in the
same way its originators envisioned its future. It is a space where the unrelenting implications of Whiteness
permeate every component, but hundreds of thousands of non-White, non cisgender, non-male, non-privileged,
non-Christian faculty, staff, and students live and work every day. The utilization of Fit as a means and measure
for survival is perhaps one of the most scurrilous, ensnaring, and decimating methods that these institutions
and their interrelated systems of oppression and othering impact people of color, universally and extensively
(Parrish III, 2019). Fit has been used as a method by which to actively and passively continue to operate an
oppressive structure, to continue to uphold the supremacy of Whiteness and White Culture (Browning & Palmer,
2019).
Where the harm associated with Fit exists is within how we ingratiate and weaponize Fit as a means of creating
hierarchy, access and opportunity. Student affairs professionals operate with a skillset that lives between
counseling, education, and organizational development (Parrish III, 2019). Student affairs, as an industry,
operates with the prevailing philosophical direction that higher education is one of providence: it is deeply
humanistic, it seeks to elevate and it strives to prepare students/learners for a future filled with promise. For
students/learners, we tell them to trust us, to join our communities and give of their full selves. We tell them
to share their authentic lived experiences, perspectives and voices with the large group, because each person is
valuable, and each narrative has value. We honor their vulnerability and lack of knowledge, and we operate on a
humanity curve that promotes restorative and educational praxis in place of punitive consequences or failure.
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SEAHO Report - Summer 2021

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