The Student in Crisis Brown Bag Summary

The Student in Crisis   Thursday, February 25   —  12-1, G239 Angell Hall

Summary: No departmental volunteers being forthcoming, Chris Luebbe presented an overview of draft versions of two documents dealing with students in crisis being developed by the Advising Working Group for use as a resource for all departments. The first is a one-page document with a flowchart/decision-tree of recommended procedures for dealing with various student crises on one side and a list of resources on the other.  The intended audience is any and all staff, instructors, and advisors.  The second is a more detailed explanation of the types of contact with students, inter-office or unit communication, collaboration, referral, and protocols that may be involved in working through a student crisis.   The intended audience of this document is someone (to be designated within each individual department) who can act as the point person or key departmental resource for these issues, although it is also available to anyone who is interested.

Questions Arising: Although more questions were raised than were answered, those that came up were nonetheless productive for consideration of how specific people and roles within departments may interact with students in crisis.  They also pointed to the central underlying issue of how, in our attempt to support students as fully as possible, we strike a balance between a student’s privacy and responsibility on the one hand, and on the other, useful and effective collaboration and shared communication between or across units.

  • Are there Study Skills and related resources available to students?  There is an Academic Support website developed by the Provost’s Office, a Study Skills website linked to from the PAAO website.  There are also CAPS workshops and events, MiTalk, and CSP 100.
  • How, when, and what kind of information is shared between general advisors, Academic Standards Board members, and department advisors?
  • How, when, and what kind of information is shared between units such as the Dean of Students Office and the Office of the Asst. Dean (Student Academic Affairs) and advisors or instructors?
  • Should department advisors be informed of majors who are in academic difficulty, and if so, how?
  • Should advisors be informed of students who are potentially dangerous, e.g., who have had a history of belligerent or violent behavior in interactions with other advisors, instructors, etc.?

Considerations: In the discussion of the above questions, three primary underlying issues emerged that departments may wish to consider in developing their own protocols and plans for working with student crises.

  • Privacy: In addition to FERPA guidelines for what information about a student may be released without the student’s consent, there are obviously other considerations regarding what any specific student may or may not wish to share and with whom.  Students should be asked about their preferences directly, but within the context of making explicit the network of people and resources that might best support them, whatever configuration this takes.  As with all issues of privacy and trust — except in the case of imminent threat to self or others — if there is any doubt, it is better to err on the side of caution and non-disclosure.
  • Communication/Collaboration: Directly related to privacy issues is the question of when and how much information instructors, advisors, and other staff and units share with one another in the service of supporting students through difficulties and assisting them in achieving their academic and life goals. 
  • Resources: Given the plethora of on- and off-campus resources related to the range of student crises, three key resources that attempt to collect and organize these are the documents (linked above) developed by the Advising Working Group, the Reference Manual for Departmental/Program Advising Staff, and the online Advisor Handbook

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