Musings on Being Essential

What does it mean to be “essential personnel?”

Philosophically, it means that Student Affairs folks are indispensable. Classes can be cancelled, faculty may stay home, but students are still living their lives with us. We are necessary.

American Heritage Dictionary 
es·sen·tial (Ä­-sÄ›n'shÉ™l) adj.

1. Constituting or being part of the essence of something; inherent. 
2. Basic or indispensable; necessary: essential ingredients. 
See Synonyms at indispensable.
—Synonyms 1. fundamental, basic, inherent, intrinsic, vital. See necessary.

As long as we have students on campus, whether classes are cancelled, we are in the process of evacuating students, or some other crisis, Student Affairs staff members are essential. 

You are vital.

With 1045 students on campus, we must still provide counseling and health center, residence life, and dining services. It’s a given, the whole “Maslow” hierarchy of needs. Once a situation or crisis passes, there is always much more to do and share. That’s when the Co-curricular staff, the Athletic and Wellness staff, and the Career Development staff become equally essential. Office managers and administrative assistants’ presence often “normalizes” office operations and provides confidence.

If we have the ability to open and provide services, during stressful or difficult times, we should. Doing so provides structure, and in turn confidence and comfort. For example, when there is bad weather, the library is open, and so too is our sports-plex. Co-curricular programs and student meetings may continue. Simply having SA colleagues present, should a situation turn more difficult, is the essence of essential. The parameters of what services or hours we offer depend on any number of factors. We must be flexible.

When times are tough, people count on us to know what to do. Success in stressful situations depends on experienced leaders: the doers -- those who make a plan, deliver results, and do so with courage and compassion. People just like you. In other words, if you can make it happen, make it right . . . do it. Open the sports-plex, hold a luncheon, write thank-you notes, conduct a business meeting, visit the residence halls, and talk to a parent about the weather.

Your presence inspires confidence.

So the next time a university message reads “classes are cancelled and non-essential personnel are not to report to work,” don’t question your intrinsic worth. Students and colleagues count on the gifts and talents you bring to the good and difficult times.
There will never be a penalty if you can’t get to the campus because of weather or some other unforeseen crisis. No one wants you to be in a situation where your safety is compromised.

After all, remember you are essential.