(Note from Editor: Last week, AsAmNews reported on the resignation of Krystie Nguyen as director of APIA Student Affairs at the University of Florida. Today we are publishing Nguyen’s side of the story)
There are several articles in the Alligator highlighting the Multicultural and Diversity Affairs (MCDA) office at the University of Florida lately, none of which have been positive.
Unfortunately, my resignation added to the collection of articles on how MCDA is a “toxic environment,” according to the latest Alligator article posted on Friday, March 3rd.
Those from the outside can only imagine what is really going on within MCDA, especially if one were to look at the allegations from UF students and from other directors on why people are resigning from MCDA. I have gone on record about my resignation and stated, “As I focus on how to move forward in this position, the reality is: I need to take some time for myself to heal in order to be the scholar practitioner I was meant to be in higher education.”
I spent fall semester doing everything I can to overcompensate for the unexpected hurt and changes that occurred in the space, documenting my working hours to be somewhere between 80-100 hours a week. A lot of these hours were spent making sure the students had a home away from home in our APIA suite. As a team, we created and replicated initiatives that bridged the complexities of MCDA’s communities, because for those who continued to live their lives at the intersection of being marginalized and disadvantaged, they still needed us to function for their own safety and well-being.
However, this came at a cost to my personal life as I was going through a separation with my partner, failed to be there for my family’s illnesses, and my own deteriorating mental and physical health. There were definitely signs, even at the beginning of my time at UF, as I suffered from severe chronic hives because of the stress and anxiety. Within the first month, I was hospitalized and had a near death experience because there was no emergency protocol from the leadership team. I was experiencing microaggression from staff that called me “stealthy,” “ninja-like,” and even had to participate in planning an ice-breaker called, “dirty ninja” that a staff member had learned from their time in theater, to highlight how Asian American identities have been included in the discourse of schooling, yet coming from the same individual, they claimed I discriminated against them based on their identity.
By mid-October, I felt like I was in Arthur Miller’s The Crucible participating in the “witch” hunt of MCDA. Allegations were rampant: staff sleeping with student, leadership sexually harassing employees, favoritism, workplace bullying, and discrimination, to name a few. Throughout all of this, the students were my saving grace. They were extremely supportive, and together, we created the APIA family. They referred to me as “mama Krystie,” but things began to change in the spring semester.
There were pressures from outside of APIA which I did not foresee that ultimately, changed our office culture. It was once a caring and compassionate place, and it turned into a production and self-interest space overnight. What ultimately made me decide to resign was when I was preparing to defend my dissertation on February 24th, and my topic is on student suffering in higher education, that I realized, I was not okay with what was going on in MCDA and APIA.
The weekend before I defended, I chose self-care, and resigned on Monday. The false and libelous allegations from students, and their intentions, hurt me deeply, but if we look at the history of MCDA and the rampant allegations of its past, no one should be surprised by the students’ actions. I have worked with underserved and underrepresented students and staff for over a decade, this is the first time I witnessed the detrimental effect of how empowerment can turn into entitlement. But how can we ask a community to resist the hurt and suffering, and to care and heal, if they were never taught to unlearn what they have been socialized to perform?
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