Student AffairsStudent Conduct

Crux and Core

Crux and core. They are interesting words that, according to Merriam-Webster, are synonyms of each other. When I think of crux, I think of something essential to an issue yet almost as a separate entity. Core, on the other had, I think of similarly, but is a part of something larger. Now, I know that’s very broad and, yes, in some ways I see them the same. However, when I read their definitions, I learned that in some ways my perspective fits with the definition. Take, for example, the following definitions:

Crux – a puzzling or difficult problem, an unsolved question, an essential point requiring resolution or resolving an outcome 

Core – a central and often foundational part usually distinct from the enveloping part by a difference in nature

It strikes me that these two definitions the essence of our work in student conduct. Yes, I realize essence is another synonym but I couldn’t help but use it. The crux of our work is often trying to resolve the never-ending question of “what really happened?” Yet, what really happened at the core is our students. They were directly involved in the situations we address and discuss with them. They are the centerpiece (oops, another synonym) in our work as we attempt to unscramble to he puzzle we have been given.

Yet, these definitions can be taken a step further. Within our students themselves there is a crux and a core. Our students struggle in college. They struggle with making new friendships as well as figuring out where they fit in, what classes to take, what major to be, and who they want to be as  a person. This is more than a crux! These are cruxes. Yes, that it a word but somehow that sounds strange to me. Students have more than one crux going on at the same time. Yet, those cruxes are at the core of who they are and who they want to be. That core, their core, is surrounded by a shell attempting to live a life while simultaneously trying to figure it out. Think about that for a second. Attempting to live a life while simultaneously trying to figure it out. That sounds immeasurably difficult by itself. Now, throw yourself in a new environment away from home, away from support , and it becomes even more difficult. Admittedly, for some, being away from home may actually provide greater support or minimally an escape from negative support.

Then, we layer this into the world of student conduct. We have our own crux – the alleged incident – to which we attempt to figure out. We work to find the core of the issue. However, while doing this, we must work through the “enveloping part” of our students that is distinctively different in nature than the core. We must work to break through the outer shell, in the hope that we get a glimpse of who the student is, what they are struggling with, and what they want out of the college experience and life. If we can get to this point, then the projects we ask of our students may have a real impact. To get there, we need to take time to get to know our students, to talk with them, to find out who they are.

The end goal of all our work is to see them learn from their choices, grow as individuals, graduate from college, and continue their life’s journey. If we are lucky, we played a part in that. Perhaps, just perhaps, they might realized that one day and reach out to us. In that moment, we can say, “I knew you could do it” and “I’m proud of you.” It’s those moments we need to shoot for. Every situation won’t work out that way, but each day we try again.

What do you to help reach the “core” of our students?