Andrew Harris: Chapter President of Her Campus Texas A&M, A Women’s Organization

At first glance, Andrew Harris, a senior psychology major at Texas A&M, appears to be a lot of things. Maybe you have seen him at events with his Men’s Organization, Gents. Maybe you have seen him volunteering with MSC Hospitality. Or maybe you have seen him feeding the squirrels in the Academic Plaza.  He is the type of man who can grow a beard. He is the proud owner of two adorable sugar gliders. Andrew Harris is a lot of things. But one thing you wouldn’t likely guess about Andrew Harris at first glance is that he is the chapter president of Her Campus Texas A&M University. When people find out a straight male is the chapter president of an organization geared toward college women, they have a lot of questions. So did I.

Her Campus Texas A&M: How did you get involved with Her Campus?

Andrew Harris: I first got involved in Fall of 2015 when an old high school friend of mine, Erum Salam (aka the founder of the HC TAMU chapter), jokingly invited me to the recruitment informational. Maybe it was the promise of pizza or the fact that the meeting was conveniently down the hall from where I had a different meeting later, or a combination of the two. I ended up attending the Her Campus informational. It seemed like something worth doing. Looking back, the pizza played a larger factor than I’d like to admit.

HC TAMU: Did you join Her Campus just to meet girls?

AH: Like I said- my main motivation was to get some pizza! [Laughs] I’m kidding, that is a question people ask me a lot. I knew if I joined I wasn't going to date anyone within the organization. Though honestly, if someone on staff wanted to set me up with a friend of theirs I might be open to the idea. However becoming chapter president cemented my decision that I wouldn't look at any of the women in our organization in a romantic light. I wouldn't want them to feel pressured to say yes to me just because I'm the chapter president. To use one's position in any form of leverage, whether you intend to or not, is disgusting to me.

HC TAMU: What other experience do you have in social media?

AH: Outside of Her Campus? Honestly, I'm a bit of a lurker when it comes to my personal accounts. There's a mental wall I've built that I should probably learn to get over. I'm sure there are some people out there who want to know what I've been up to and what I'm thinking, even though I've convinced myself otherwise. I'm most proud of my sugar gliders, however. I've licensed a few videos of them. One of them got a few million views last month!

HC TAMU:  What have you learned from working with Her Campus?

AH: On the business side of things- I got to work with and promote several large brands, learned a lot about a variety of analytic tools, and was required to understand the convoluted process of working with UCEN and the SOFC. Oh and of course, how to work with a team of all women. Mixed workplaces are nothing new– most businesses and student organizations are composed of both men and women. I suppose what made this case different for me was being the only male in an organization, especially one that has women's interests at its main focus, carried with it a unique dynamic that required I monitor my own behavior and come to a level of self-awareness I never would have had without joining.

Writing and pitching ideas for Her Campus has also provided me with a challenge to put my interests aside and consider what the women want to read about– not just what I feel like writing about. On a day-to-day level, I've learned a lot about women's products and clothing styles since I joined, though I'll still occasionally make a fool of myself in meetings by saying things like, "Are they trying to call this wipe 'feminine' just because it smells fruity and it's in a pink package?"

HC TAMU: If you could, would you join Her Campus again?

AH: Yes! It was an opportunity that allowed me to grow both professionally and on a personal level. It was something that I might've initially done ironically, but I have fully invested myself in since then.

HC TAMU: Were there ever any difficulties to being the only male on staff?

AH: All of the staff was very welcoming, though some were understandably skeptical at first. Of course, since this organization is geared towards women there are some little things I had to get used to, such as being referred to in feminine collective pronouns. It might surprise some people to know I actually prefer emails addressed to me and my chapter saying, “Hello Collegiettes!” or “Howdy ladies”, rather than being singled out with phrases like, “Hello ladies! And gentleman!”

There were a few times I felt I wasn't supposed to be here. For example, when Her Campus' Tour came to A&M the string bags we were handing out to attendees said, “Smashing the Patriarchy is my Cardio.” Those words stuck with me for a while. Sometimes I felt conflicted and hypocritical because being a man in a high position, I am the kind of person that slogan is meant to go against. Though I suppose if we are truly aiming to "Smash the Patriarchy," for the sake of true gender equality, Her Campus should be proud that we haven't established a matriarchy within ourselves. I am grateful that my staff has allowed me to serve as their chapter president, and hope that I've done well to empower them.

HC TAMU: Would you encourage other men to join HC?

AH: Yes, absolutely. It has helped me to grow as a person in ways I'm sure it could help other men, and women as well. I remember at our first meeting I ran as chapter president, I called a staff member “honey,” intending for it to be taken as a term of endearment since we'd known each other for quite a while, however, she received it as patronizing or condescending. Looking back on that, she was completely right to feel that way and I should have been more considerate of how I should address her in a professional environment. I feel confident enough to say there are some nuances of conversational sensitivity, patience and listening skills I've improved on since I immersed myself in Her Campus' culture, and these are things I feel anyone could appreciate the opportunity to join and practice themselves.

HC TAMU: What advice would you give to other men who decided to join Her Campus in the future?

AH: When writing articles I was too prideful and felt that using my sex as a way to frame my articles on subject was arrogant and exploitative, so I kept myself from ever writing articles on things like, "Dating Advice: from a Guy's Perspective." Instead, I feel like men who want to join Her Campus should embrace the perspective they are able to provide our readers with as long as they remember at the end of the day this is a publication that operates for women, even if the content is not always being written by women.

Andrew Harris played a unique and unexpected role on the Her Campus staff. He offered a distinct perspective and will be missed in years to come.