SEAHO Report - Summer 2021 - 35

FEATURE ARTICLES
We also expect that those who are engaged in the college community as a measure of support are able to provide
that support universally to all students, in a way that is personal and specific. We expect those who are not
the student/learner to understand the role of the supporter as part of the educational process, and respect and
honor that role as a commitment to a higher cause. We expect the supporter to not only know their role, but
to perform it with excellence, without exception. However, we do not offer the same space, access, or safety
for the professional staff that are in those support roles. The fiction of Fit allows organizations to suspend
that prevailing providence philosophy, and provides cover for centuries of conscious and unconscious bias to
maintain the status quo. This happens through convoluted and serpentine talent management processes, and
constantly reinforcing the ambiguous and unchecked power that Fit provides to eliminate candidates, isolate
employees, and undermine change on a communal level. The use of concepts such as " relatability " ; the lack of
standard/universal or quantifiable measures for Fit; the insistence of prioritizing qualities that are not inherent
to the role, work, or field as a means to evaluate a person's performance; those are all examples of unavoidable,
immutable threats of harm that exist only for those in those support roles (Reece, et al, 2019). Because Fit
addresses and encompasses both the known and the unknown, the written and the unwritten, the defined and
the undefined, it can never truly be made equitable, inclusive or representative of the populations that enter the
student affairs field as professionals (Garrett & Turman, 2019). The Plant Theory exists as a means to provide
clarity, equity and reflection into the discussion.
The Plant Theory's Theoretical Foundation
The Plant Theory is a measure by which to evaluate and understand your own organization's relationship with
Fit, culture, and the staff experience. It is a tool that can be implemented by individuals and departments to
create equitable, just, inclusive, and representative structures in place of outdated and discriminatory Fit-based
talent management practices. It is an opportunity to understand how to walk the talk of diverse organizations
where difference is a fertile ground for growth, and individuals are held to appropriate, attainable, and
acknowledged/communicated/accessible expectations for performance.
Astin's (1991) IEO Model essentially posits that a person's experience (the output of their experience, O) is
directly connected to two things: the input (I) -- who and how the person comes to the situation, what comes
with them (their beliefs, experiences, practices and identities); and the environment itself (E) -- what the
space/place provides, how they are engaged, supported, or experienced there, what they encounter while they
are there, and how they learn in that space. Distinct from development theories, which look at the context and
location of changes, impact models examine the changes themselves, and how they happen (Strayhorn, 2008).
When considering the reality that both culture and fit are living, changing concepts, understanding how those
changes occur is highly relevant to being able to decipher both culture and Fit in the flesh. Astin allows for
no uniform base level, each environment is independently judged and each person is considered outside of a
deficit model. There is no ideal environment, and there is no perfect person: there is only the relationship and
experience they have with each other (Astin, 1991). And it is from those relationships and those experiences -between
people and the environment, and people with each other -- that we understand and define the output
(O). The IEO Model exists with an understanding that outcomes may change based on the factors presented, and
therefore, each person's experience is inherently different.
If it were a math equation, it would be: I + E = O.
AND more specifically, it would be: I (& all their past experiences) + E (& all its past individuals & their collective
experiences) = O (& each output may be different).
I was never good at math. It looks like this:
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