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Moving Past the NO to Find Real Solutions

Sometimes hearing the word “NO” is awesome, as in “This hotel has NO bedbugs,” and “I see NO reason why we can’t offer you a 25% discount,” or “NO way you’re that old, you look 15 years younger!”

But more often than not, the word NO is a barrier to real solutions that real people need. And I hear the word on an almost-daily-basis and wonder to myself, “Why don’t more people want to figure out a way to improve the processes and services we offer students?”

Have college administrations gotten complacent and downright lazy? Why don’t want we want to give the students the best experience we can? Don’t we want to make a difference in their lives? Don’t we want them to achieve their goals and dreams? Don’t’ we want them to grow, stretch and develop?

Why is providing basic, limited, half-assed or no services okay these days? Why is giving students the runaround or confusing messages commonplace? Isn’t it our job to remove barriers? So why is it so many administrators and staff are building barriers instead, creating mazes that are way too hard to navigate?

I have been thinking very seriously about this idea for a while now, trying to figure out what has changed over the past 10 or so years. Are we too far from understanding what students need today? Or are we too busy working on our own careers? What is the reason behind all of the “NOs” we offer students?

What’s Within Our Control?

I think many of us have simply gotten into the habit of saying NO instead of taking the time to find a solution. The word is out of our mouths before we even recognize the question posed to us.

Since this is a brand new year, I invite you to replace the word NO with action, and that action is to exhaust all possible avenues.

When a question or issue comes up that needs addressing, consider these points:

  • What is the issue – spell it out

  • Who does it impact?

  • What happens if you do nothing?

  • If you keep doing the same thing, you get the same results. Do students need a different result? If yes, you must try something different.

  • What is the gain of the change? Who is the change for?

  • What avenues have you exhausted to make this happen?

  • Who do you need to involve – who has the capital you need to make the change?

  • Who are the champions needed to make this change?

You may think as you read this that I’m talking about big changes but I’m not. Generally speaking, the changes that will have big impacts are small changes. It’s just that so many of us can come up with myriad reasons why we can’t make changes when sometimes all that’s needed is a small tweak.

Problem Solved

Almost 9 years ago, I was in a meeting discussing food insecurity and we kept going around and around about building a food pantry. The issue was where would the pantry go and who would pay for it? Who would manage it?

Eventually someone threw out the idea that we should do a survey. I thought to myself, “Why do we need to conduct yet another survey, we know the problem and we know we needed a solution. An immediate solution.” Heck, I was happy to even find a short-term solution, if you will.

My colleague, who was the executive director of food services at the time, said “This is not that hard,” and then donated swipes into the cafeteria for students who were in need. This was a short-term solution until the food pantry was put in place. This is an example of moving past the “NO we can’t do this” to “We can do something for the time being until we completely solve the issue.”

What avenues do you need to exhaust this semester to find solutions that will help your students to receive the best services and education?

I will leave you with this quote:

“The problem is not the problem; the problem is your attitude about the problem.”

~ Captain Jack Sparrow

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