Student Activism in the Age of Covid
As one college president said, “I think we all got a huge pass on this because of COVID,” referring to the in-your-face student protests that didn’t occur due to the shutdowns. But COVID didn’t shutter student activism; if anything, the pandemic’s unequal impact on the poorest members of our society, coupled with the racial injustices that occurred simultaneously, led to a surge in social protests, albeit less traditional.
As Nichole Bernier wrote in this Quarterly’s cover story, “They might not have been able to stand with megaphones on a quad, handing out pamphlets, or seize an administrative building. But they seized familiar tools – digital tools of social media they’d come of age with.”
It will be interesting to see how campus re-openings will affect trends in student activism. Will students return to standing side by side (literally) in protest? Or will they rely more on the digital mouthpieces with which they have become so comfortable and adept. The pandemic may have brought to light the value of both tactics, strengthening student protest voices and expanding their impact. Consider it another silver lining, depending on where you sit.
Mental and Behavioral Health
The Chronicle features expert advice from Michelle Mullen, researcher and director of Helping Youth on the Path to Employment (HYPE), which teaches “executive-functioning skills” to students with serious mental health conditions. Mullen says skills such as time and task management, prioritization, and organization can be delayed when mental illness affects the frontal lobe, “the region of the brain responsible for executive functioning.” In a similar program called NITEO, Dori Hutchinson, executive director at the Center for Psychiatric Rehabilitation at Boston University, teaches coping skills for students on leave in order to return to college. Read more on the topic from the Mary Christie Quarterly article “This Is Us: Supporting Students with Serious Mental Health Conditions in College” and our Quadcast episode with Dr. Hutchinson.
Inside Higher Ed reports on findings that show that LGBTQ+ students suffer more from substance misuse, depression, suicidal ideation and academic and extracurricular disengagement compared to non-LGBTQ+ peers. According to the survey of 907 students, which was conducted by the Proud & Thriving Project, the Jed Foundation and the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals, mental health has worsened for LGBTQ+ young adults during the pandemic. The report recommends encouraging all students to become familiar with LGBTQ+ resources on college campuses. “When students have to continuously remind people what their pronouns are and how important that is, and people are dismissive about it … I think that’s really harmful,” said Sofia Pertuz, senior adviser at the Jed Foundation.
A new teletherapy program at a rural tribal college in Wisconsin will connect its students, staff, and faculty to licensed counselors whenever needed. Serving mostly indigenous students, Lac Courte Oreilles Ojibwe College is working to provide 24/7 access to meet demand for services.
Binghamton University is launching a new student of color mentoring program to help first-year students of color adjust emotionally, socially, and academically to college life. Binghamton’s affirmative action officer, Ada Robinson-Perez, PhD, says that according to research, underrepresented minority students “tend to underutilize mental health resources.”
WSU Insider reports that many first-year college students are reporting pet separation anxiety. A study conducted by Washington State University showed that petting dogs or cats for merely 10 minutes can lower stress levels of cortisol.
In an op-ed for EdSurge, Jennifer Henry, LPC, CCATP, director of the Counseling Center at Maryville University, writes about the mental health warning signs to look out for on college students and recommends training in Mental Health First Aid.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
This week, Amherst College, a highly selective private liberal arts college in Massachusetts, announced ending its practice of legacy admissions. In recent years, legacy preference for children of alumni has been criticized for favoring privileged applicants. The college also said that it would increase its commitment in financial aid to more students from low and middle-income families.
The Chronicle showcases new report findings from the National Black Student Loan study that surveyed 1,300 student-loan debtors. According to the report, Black students are more likely to take out more loans and have more difficulty paying them off, in comparison to white students. Black borrowers struggling from student loan debt report suffering from being unable to afford basic needs such as food, rent, health care, and more. The median Black borrower will still owe 95% of their student loans twenty years after enrolling in college, whereas the median white borrower will have paid off 94% of their debt.
Inside Higher Ed covers the ways philanthropies and private companies are helping historically black colleges and universities replicate their educational offerings online. Many HBCUs report being underfunded, which can limit their ability to host digital platforms and provide engaging online coursework compared to other institutions. Additionally, since HBCUs focus on a model that fosters a sense of belonging to their students, higher education experts are configuring ways to demonstrate an inclusive community through virtual learning programs.
Sexual Assault and Title IX
Higher Ed Dive covers the newly announced set of principles on sexual harassment to eradicate sexual misconduct from the Association of American Universities. A network of sixty-six research universities have agreed to increase transparency during their hiring practices in order to ban abusers working from one institution to another. The guidelines also include directions to remove barriers from reporting sexual harassment and offering resources for groups who are more likely to be targets of violence.
The Chronicle reports on an ongoing lawsuit from over 20 women that accuses Liberty University of mishandling sexual assault and rape investigations. Liberty’s honor code, the Liberty Way, requires students to refrain from drinking alcohol or smoking and having sex before marriage. According to investigations, women who reported being victims of sexual violence have repeatedly been punished for violating the school’s policies. Other conservative faith-based institutions have been changing their code of conduct within past years.
New survey results from Inside Higher Ed, College Pulse, and Kaplan show the benefits of mentorship for college student success. Students with professors, advisors, or other mentor relationships benefit in navigating college and entry level career placement. Mentor roles were filled mostly by professors (56%), other students (53%), and academic advisers (42%). Students who attended private high schools were more likely to have had a mentor, and 57% of student mentees said they met their mentor in class. The top ways mentors helped students were giving career advice (64%), helping select classes (53%), and helping navigate student life (48%).
The Chronicle features an article on how freshmen students are fairing academically this year and whether the pandemic has affected preparation for college coursework. Professors report struggling to make up for pandemic learning losses while re-acclimating to in-person learning. COVID precautionary measures and the rise of the delta variant during the start of the semester have also been hindering the gaps college faculty are hoping to fill.
Undergraduate enrollment continues to decline, according to fall 2021 data from the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center. Released on Tuesday, data shows a 3.2% decline in undergraduate enrollment from last year, and a 6.5% drop from two years ago. Community colleges witnessed the steepest decline of 5.6% while graduate school enrollment increased by 2.1%.
The Hechinger Report covers an article on the gender imbalance occuring in college admissions as less men apply to college. Data suggests male applicants have an advantage in college selectivity at private institutions when compared to a similar profile for a female applicant. According to the National Student Clearinghouse Research Center, women now make up close to 60% of enrollment at colleges and universities, whereas men only make up a little over 40%. These percentages for gender were reversed fifty years ago. Public institutions in the states of California, Washington, Florida, Arizona, Michigan, Nebraska, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, and Idaho are not allowed to consider race or gender in admissions.
Coronavirus: Safety and Reopening
The Chronicle’s Live Coronavirus Updates includes a guide on how to support students with long lasting aftereffects from a COVID infection. Based on expert advice and faculty from disability-services offices at two dozen colleges, the report provides recommendations for accessibility offices that may not be prepared for an influx of accommodations and requests for students who are suffering from symptoms. According to the article, since research is still limited on the long haul symptoms of COVID, it is estimated that anywhere from 5 to 80 percent of people may suffer from longer-term symptoms.
Higher Ed Dive briefs survey results revealing that over half of college students at the University of Oregon felt “institutional betrayal” from failing to protect them from the coronavirus pandemic. Based on 600 student responses, students also experienced distress as a result. Most first-year students during the fall 2020 and winter 2021 semesters were required to live on campus in dorms, and students said they experienced feeling institutional betrayal from environments that were created “where transmission and/or safety violations seemed common or normal.”