Ageism in Student Affairs Technology

by Kristen Abell

Recently I read an interesting article about ageism in the magical land of tech – Silicon Valley┬áthat highlights some of the difficulty of being an older male in technology start-ups in a field that treasures a young bro mentality (and never mind the fact that this article focused ENTIRELY on ageism in regards to men – that’s a whole other post or five). Because I work in technology within student affairs, this of course started my mind churning about how ageism plays a role (or doesn’t) when it comes to our field.

I’d love to hear perspectives from other campuses, but if your campus is anything like mine, then the assumption is that the younger you are, the more you “get” technology. And by technology, I think what I’m generally talking about here is the web and computers – at least based on what others seem to perceive it as. Have we not coined the term “digital native” in higher ed?

And yet, when I look at who holds the main technology positions on campus, it is generally middle-aged or older men (and the occasional woman, but mostly men). So maybe we don’t hold to the ageist perceptions of Silicon Valley entirely. That being said, I know that when I start talking technology at student affairs conferences, at the ripe old age of 37, I’m usually either the youngest person in the room (for the 101 sessions) or the oldest person in the room (for the more in-depth sessions – nothing like having a Ferris Bueller joke fall flat because no one in your session has seen it).

I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the classism inherent in our perception that all young people understand technology – we’re making an assumption that all of them have access to the latest and greatest gadgets, tools and toys.

I’m curious – do you feel there is ageism when it comes to technology in student affairs? Are we similar to Silicon Valley, or do we differ in our inclusivity? Please share your thoughts!

Ageism in Student Affairs Technology