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Check out our 2024 book!

We understand that law and ethics are not everyone’s favorite topics. We get it. We want this book to be practical and maybe even enjoyable. We are storytellers and have incorporated stories about our experiences to explain concepts and share our perspectives. Our goal is for our stories to help you understand, and we hope our stories provoke you to reflect on your stories, experiences, and expertise.

We are proud of this work. It can stand alone to guide critical thinking, strategic planning, training, and professional development. This book also works in conjunction with more traditional law texts. At a time when students are often worried about doing things the “right way” (as if there were one “right way”), we offer strategies focused on utilizing critical thinking and our Institutional Intelligence Model to understand position and context.

Law is constantly changing and is interpreted differently from campus to campus based on institutional culture and history. This text provides higher education practitioners with tools to anticipate practical and responsible action, engaging readers in anticipatory and reflective practice. In this text, Boettcher and Salinas introduce the Institutional Intelligence Model, a helpful framework that guides practitioners in examining a wide variety of campus issues. Throughout the book, readers can explore perspectives from current practitioners and utilize case studies to examine specific topics, including admissions, academics, student living, confidential resources, and graduate student experiences. By using the strategies in this book, practitioners will be equipped to successfully navigate legal and ethical issues on their campuses. This text is ideal for graduate students, student and academic affairs professionals, and those in leadership positions responsible for working with and supporting students and staff teams.


I am thankful that Michelle invited me to be part of this book. In our first conversation about this critical project, I remember Michelle describing the idea of this book and her teaching experiences. Through this initial conversation, I understood that her concept of it depends is true in student affairs and higher education. It depends can be the answer to many questions. However, its purpose is not to answer or avoid answering a question but to help us stop and inspire us to think, analyze, and strategically consider how our decisions connect to law and ethics. Law and ethics impact our decision-making within student affairs, higher education, and beyond.

The concept of it depends is centered on my thinking and doing. For example, as a Multicultural Liaison Officer at Iowa State University, I learned that when I thought about what programming I would develop, my response was, “It depends.” It depended on student and faculty needs and wants. What I was able to do also depended on budgets and discussions with my supervisor or colleagues. Even when I planned diversity presentations, the audience informed me how I approached the work. It depended on the people, topic or case, location, and situation. This book will provide critical questions and scenarios for you to think about, analyze, and strategically consider. This text will move you from just responding with “It depends” to figuring out what things affect your decision in preparation for action.

It depends is a concept that creates opportunities for us to think, do, and feel about legal and ethical issues in student affairs and higher education. Nevertheless, law and ethics inform where we start with the concept of it depends. The law and ethics around us and our experiences inform how we think about factors in future situations. Like law and ethics, who we are and how we engage depend on history, geography, identity, and culture—and

law and ethics are part of each. All of this affects how we understand the world.

For example, during my elementary and middle school years in Mexico, I learned that there are six continents in the world: Asia, Africa, America, Australia, Antarctica, and Europe. Then, in high school in the United States, I re-learned that there are seven continents: Asia, Africa, North America, South America, Australia, Antarctica, and Europe. In Mexico, America is one continent, but in the U.S., it is two. In comparison, other textbooks for people in other countries might not consider Antarctica a continent. So, how many continents are in the world? Again, it depends on where you went to school, where you learned, who taught you, who wrote the textbooks, and a variety of other points.

As an associate professor of higher education leadership at Florida Atlantic University, I find that law and ethics play a significant role in my courses. I have learned that our understanding of higher education, student affairs, and academic affairs most often comes from our own college experiences and through positions that we hold or have held at colleges or universities. Although this is a great starting point, the field of higher education—past, present, and future—is vast and complex and goes beyond our individual experiences.

As presented in Chapters 2 and 3, the law has dictated much of the history of higher education. However, the historical perspectives of higher education are told and examined in various ways that impact how we think about and analyze college and university settings. Therefore, I hope this book provides a new perspective for you as a reader, a new way to view and question the history of student affairs and higher education.

Because when you think about what you know and the actions you might take in a situation, it depends on how you learned, with whom you engaged, and where you attended school. What you bring through identity, experience, and training also affects how you will make decisions in your job. Throughout this book, we provide critical scenarios that will engage

you in different ways of strategically thinking, analyzing, and planning within higher education’s ever-changing context now and in the future.

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By Makayla R. Quinn

This poem was a product of the knowledge I gained from the Latin* class at the 2022 Lavender Languages Institute. During this course, we discussed the history of the letter x and how it has many different meanings depending on the context. We also asked the question – of whom is the x inclusive? – considering the goal of the term, to uplift non-binary and trans voices, and how it is used. This poem is from my own experience of how I learned what x meant. It also is a reflection on how my knowledge and actions can harm people, and that as a cisgender white person, my job is not to own the term Latinx, but to use my language to respect others.

x Pinned above a kindergarten classroom, in between whale and yo-yo waves [the unknown thing]. When I was a kid, I would stare at that laminated letter with fistfuls of glue. I became all too familiar with xylophone – a complex word, lightly percussive, and always rainbow-colored. The unknown thing is powerful. I was given access to the unknown thing at a young age. I did not think about this gift. I did not seek to appreciate its givers. I hold it now, within my tongue, and I consider how it feels. Not just for me, but for those it impacts when I release it into sound waves.

Makayla's Bio

Makayla Quinn (she/her) is a senior at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, MN working towards a BA in Psychology with an English minor. She plans to pursue a Ph.D. in Social Psychology centering around gender and sexuality and community.

Favorite Quote

“A person is a whole person when they are good sometimes but not always, and loved by someone regardless.” – Hanif Abdurraqib

What advice would you tell other students?

My advice to other undergraduate students is not to be afraid of finding your own path, whether personally or professionally. Take classes in subjects you are interested in outside of your major, practice self-care in whatever way is best for you, and gage with the causes you care about. College is a time when you grow as a person and cultivate your own growth.

Other Publication(s)

“A Scientific Quandary” and “my playlists are as follows,” Summit Avenue Review, May 2022.

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Updated: Oct 19, 2022

By Alexandria Román Irizarry

In Dr. Cristóbal Salinas' class on "Latin*: Challenging norms of language, patriarchy and gender", I learned a great deal about the history, use, and misuse of the term Latinx in higher education. As a Ph.D. student interested in studying el lenguaje inclusivo in Spanish, particularly the use of morphemes –e and –x as gender-neutral alternatives in Spanish, this class challenged my initial assumptions about the term Latinx and the use of –x in Spanish.

As someone who was born and raised in Puerto Rico for 24 years of her life, I identify as puertorriqueña and not so much with Latina because it is not a label that we use much in Puerto Rico. Therefore the term Latina feels a bit foreign to me. Nevertheless, the first time I encountered Latinx was when I was doing my undergraduate honors thesis on the –x as a gender-inclusive morpheme in Spanish. I reached out to a gender studies professor at the University of Puerto Rico, and she pointed me to Vidal Ortiz and Martinez's work (2018). It was in their paper that I first encountered the term Latinx. As someone who had been immersed in a linguistic environment, the University of Puerto Rico at Río Piedras, where students and activists would write things with –x instead of the masculine generic –o (e.g., Educación accessible para todxs lxs estudiantes), seeing the term Latinx instead of Latino was not surprising to me. And so, I thought it was cool that the neutral value of the –x was crossing not only languages but also different contexts (mainland US versus colonized Puerto Rico). However, as I presented the results of my undergraduate thesis at conferences in the United States, I noticed that people asked me about my opinion on the term Latinx. At the time (2019-2020), I thought that it was used the same way as the –x was used by Puerto Rican students and activists, as a gender-neutral alternative for people that identify outside the male/female binary. I was unaware that, unlike in my context, where –x was frequently used with different nouns, articles, and adjectives due to Spanish's grammatical gender system, the term was heavily politized in the US as it was confounded with nationality. My initial reaction was to think that the discourse on lenguaje inclusivo and the term Latinx were completely different due to the different contexts in which they were used. However, after taking Dr. Salinas' class, I have realized that the gap between lenguaje inclusivo and the term Latinx is not as comprehensive as I initially thought. I think that what we know today about the term Latinx can be used to understand lenguaje inclusivo in Spanish better. In his research, Dr. Salinas has shown us that originally Latinx was intended to (1) visibilize non-binary and gender non-conforming people in language, and (2) to decenter the use of the masculine generic in Spanish by naming the Latino community Latinx.

Despite this well-intentioned, using Latinx to refer to a whole community of people of Latin American descent brought unexpected challenges. Cis-gender and trans people were referred to as Latinx, which led to the neutralization of gender and the erasure of the struggles that come with identifying with a gender minority. This, in turn, led some trans and gender-nonconforming folks to stop using the term Latinx because it was stolen from them. These speakers have moved to other innovative forms such as Latine, Latini, and Latinu. To correct the misunderstandings caused by Latinx, Dr. Salinas proposes the term Latin*, where the star invites readers to "fill in" the space with their gender marker of choice. This serves as a way in which the reader can choose how to identify themselves instead of having to be misgendered by the researcher. And so, the star represents the potential that Latinx had, without the political connotations associated with the pan-ethnic term.

When I think about the queer community in Puerto Rico that uses non-binary Spanish, I wonder how they would react to the use of the star instead of –x and –e, which are the predominant non-binary forms in language. Even though my experiences with the queer community in Puerto Rico have shown me that these two morphemes are used both in written and oral discourse, there is still much we need to understand and learn. Would they be willing to adopt the star in place of –x and –e? Or would they reject the star because it would exclude people that rely on text-to-speech programs? In regards to the x, how is the –x in lenguaje inclusivo different from the –x and Latinx? How are speakers using the different meanings of –x? In other words, is –x being used as the new epicene instead of –o? If so, will this lead to the same neutralization of gender that the term Latinx caused? Will speakers eventually move to the morpheme –e because it is already present in gender-neutral nouns? What happens to the visibility of cis and trans women when the new generic plural neutralizes them in language? How do gender-conscious Spanish speakers navigate these tensions? All of these questions require further research, which I hope to be able to explore in my work further. I thank the Lavender Languages Institute for challenging me to revise my original assumptions by moving from what I think I know to what I don't know.

Alexandra's Bio 

Alexandra “Alex” Román Irizarry was born and raised in Bayamón, Puerto Rico. She grew up in a bilingual household where she spoke Spanish and English with her parents and older brother, often mixing the two languages. Her early life experience as a Spanish-English bilingual led her to discover her passion for studying languages. Alex has a BA in Modern Languages (i.e., French, Mandarin, and Japanese) and Hispanic Linguistics from the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras Campus (UPRRP). At UPRRP, Alex experienced firsthand what it was like to be in a community of students that used lenguaje inclusivo “Non-Binary Spanish.” As a linguistics, and someone who recently discovered her cuir [queer] identity, Alex decided to study lenguaje inclusivo by combining psycholinguistic and sociolinguistic methods. Alex is a second-year Ph.D. student at the University of California Irvine’s School of Education. She works with Dr. Judith Kroll at the Bilingualism, Mind, and Brain Lab, and with Dr. Julio Torres at El Areyto Lab. As a graduate student, Alex is studying the cognitive and social factors involved in the linguistic processing of lenguaje inclusivo. Alex is also a Mellon Mays Undergraduate Fellowship (MMUF) Alumni and a National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship Program (NSF GRFP) Fellow.

Bilingualism, Mind, and Brain Lab: Alexandra Roman Irizarry

Favorite Quote

“Be a Fruit Loop in a world full of Cheerios”

What advice would you tell other graduate students?

The best advice I can give to graduate students or aspiring graduate students is to find your voice and never let it go. It is crucial for you to believe in yourself and the potential that your ideas have, even if a renowned scholar tells you they are not worth pursuing. I once had someone I looked up to in academia tell me researching lenguaje inclusivo was not worth it because it was such a small thing in the cosmos it wasn’t even worth doing. That message almost made me not apply to graduate school and give up on my dream of becoming an academic, but I was lucky enough to have the support of my partner and my undergraduate advisors at UPRRP. The bottom-line message here is to find a place where your ideas will be respected and validated, even if that means turning to Faculty that are outside your field of study. I found my place at UCI with Dr. Kroll and Dr. Torres, I hope many of you can find your own place as well! And remember “Be a Fruit Loop in a world full of Cheerios”!

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