SIGUCCS 2021 Conference Takeaway – Higher Education IT Staff are/are not ok

In October 2020, the Chronicle of Higher Education published an article called “The Staff are not OK” (see article) highlighting the health and well-being of the staff members whose work has helped move campuses through the pandemic. This session took a step beyond that and focused on issues that plagued staff pre-pandemic. Over 100 people logged in for this dual panel presentation about two different issues facing staff in higher education IT.

Unity and diversity partnership as heart hands in a group of diverse people connected together shaped as a support symbol expressing the feeling of teamwork and togetherness.

Out in Tech: an open discussion about inclusive workspaces

Four staff shared their coming out journey both as persons and as employees in technological positions and posed questions to the audience about how to make the workplace more inclusive.

Some of the discussion the followed centered on preferred pronouns, preferred/chosen name and how to use these in our various IT systems. But discussion also focused on Safe Space training and being an Ally and also about not using gender terms in communications with persons where you don’t know their pronouns. This panel brought an awareness to many about the simple gestures that can isolate others who are different from us.

Mental Health in the IT Workplace: A Continuing Conversation

R Kevin Chapman, Beth Lynn Nolen, and Max Cohen

As a continuation of a lightning talk and subsequent panel about mental health issues at past SIGUCCS conferences, three staff helped us normalize conversations about mental health in order to help ourselves and others. They shared their own personal struggles and the solutions they considered to help overcome these issues. One panelist shared how he supports his staff and their needs as they work to overcome certain mental health issues.

Following their personal stories, the group discussed how to provide a space for staff to share their struggles, identify solutions, and make the workplace better.

These two panels worked well together as we consider how we as leaders and fellow employees can make our workplaces more inclusive and make sure staff feel supported. All staff should feel that they can openly discuss issues with their managers. Managers should look for ways to allow conversations to happen and ways to educate others about differences.

ACM supports our efforts in this area – their Diversity & Inclusion website “celebrates the similarities and differences that make our community so innovative and productive.”

About SIGUCCS Editor

The Special Interest Group on University and College Computing Services (SIGUCCS) is an association of professionals who support and manage the diverse aspects of information technology services at higher education institutions. SIGUCCS is one of 36 special interest groups of ACM, the Association for Computing Machinery, the world's largest educational and scientific computing society. SIGUCCS focuses on issues surrounding the support, delivery, and management of those services, and provides professional development opportunities for its members and the other individuals in the field.