New Quadcast Series: College and University Presidents Respond to COVID-19
Since December, MCF Executive Director Marjorie Malpiede has interviewed college and university presidents about their experiences with the COVID-19 pandemic, how they are addressing mental health amid the ‘new normal’ and their plans for the future. This non-consecutive series will continue next week with Dr. Connie Book, President of Elon University. Catch up on previous episodes in the series here:
President Lee Pelton, Emerson College
President Julio Frenk, University of Miami
We also spoke with Hollie Chessman, Director of Research at the American Council on Education, about presidents’ growing concern for mental health, and strategies for addressing the student mental health crisis during COVID and beyond.Listen on our website or on Apple Podcasts. While you’re there, leave us a rating or review; it helps us reach a wider audience. We hope you enjoy listening.
Mental and Behavioral Health
To better support his students, Col. Mark Anarumo, the new president of Norwich University, lived in a school dormitory when the military college implemented a mandatory quarantine in the fall. The New York Times reports that the recent arrival to the college was concerned about the isolation students were feeling, especially after experiencing multiple student suicides at the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, where he was teaching, during a spring lockdown. This experience led Dr. Anarumo to believe that the benefit of quarantine must be weighed against the toll on mental health. Dr. Anarumo told the university’s board, “I am concerned enough about the mental health on campus that I believe we may have a suicide if we do not break the pressure and let people leave, and incentivize their departure.” In the dormitory, Dr. Anarumo says that he could hear students out, and would find students waiting for him in common areas. “They’d be waiting for me in the stairwell, all quiet,” he said. “I said, ‘Hey, can I help you? Are you OK? Do you need to talk?’ And they said, ‘Yeah.’ And then I would see the tears.” At moments like that, he said, “they needed to see me in person.”
The Chicago Sun Times reports that high school students in Chicago Public School still don’t know when they will return to learning in person, and it is having an effect on their mental wellbeing. Nationally, the number of pediatric mental health-related emergency department visits increased by 31% for children ages 12-17 from April to October 2020. At Ann and Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital in Chicago, from September 2020 to January 2021, the rate of emergency department visits for mental health concerns doubled compared to the year before. Dr. John Walkup, chair of the Pritzker Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Health at Lurie, said that isolation, economic challenges and other pandemic pressures are leading more young people to develop symptoms and seek care. “We’re seeing more kids who are feeling suicidal, more kids who are worried about the future,” Walkup said. “We’re seeing kids who have more eating problems. And we’re seeing kids who are coming to the emergency department who have more physical symptoms that probably have a psychiatric cause.”
In an op-ed for NBC News, Andrew Reiner, author of “Better Boys, Better Men: The New Masculinity That Creates Greater Courage and Emotional Resiliency,” writes about the second epidemic of anxiety and depression, which he sees in his courses at Towson University “in the form of missed online classes, failure to complete assignments and struggles to focus.” Reiner warns that “the residue from our children’s mental health struggles may continue even after things feel more “normal,”” citing British research that calculated based on historical evidence that children and adolescent may be more likely to experience high rates of depression and most likely anxiety for up to nine years after enforced isolation ends. Reiner offers ways that schools can be part of the solution, including experimenting with yoga, mindfulness and meditation. He also advocates for bringing together small groups of young people to process and share their emotional lives and negative emotions.
A new study published in Frontiers in Psychiatry, found smartphone addiction to be linked to poor sleep. Researchers observed smartphone use among 1,043 students between the ages of 18 and 30 at a London college. Nearly 40% of the university students qualified as “addicted” to smartphones, and students who reported high use of cellphones also reported poor sleep quality.
Recent philanthropy at Stanford University is expanding efforts to address student mental health. One new gift endowed a directorship for Counseling and Psychological Services; other gifts are funding a health communications specialist, four new well-being coaches, services for students struggling with alcohol and other drug use, and research to measure the effectiveness of interventions that focus on mental health and well-being.
In a first in a series of articles on mental health and wellbeing on-campus in the Stanford Daily, Stanford University students shared concerns about engaging with on-campus resources, expressing fear about being placed on an involuntary hold or other punitive measures.
The Baylor Loriat covers the issue of college student athlete mental health, and the added pressures and unique challenges these students face.
A new study by the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill found that first-year college students are reporting symptoms of depression and anxiety significantly more often than they were before the coronavirus pandemic,
A new series of virtual events for Boston University advisors, Pause for Wellness, offers resilience training for academic advisors. Taryn Andrea, a College of Arts & Sciences advisor said that one of the most difficult parts of being an advisor “is having really hard conversations with students about challenges we can’t fix.”
In an op-ed in the Indiana Daily Student, Indiana University Maddie Butler argues that the university “must increase funding for CAPS, which would allow the service to expand its staff and adjust its care model to consistently serve more students for longer periods of time.”
On Daily Iowan TV, reporter Destinee Cook explored how Iowa student athletes are fighting mental health issues during the pandemic.
A letter to the University of Notre Dame’s administration requesting a reevaluation of restrictive on-campus COVID-19 policies in order to protect students’ mental health garnered 1,576 signatures by last week.
Mental health programs at the University of Oregon have remained busy throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, The amount of students using services has remained steady amid changes like a switch to remote counseling.
The Dartmouth Student Assembly and the Dartmouth Student Union penned proposals for an optional pass/fail grading system or an expanded non-recording option in the hopes of easing student anxiety. However, the college announced that there would be no official change in grading policies for this term.
Students across the country continue to express frustration with the spring break alternatives offered by their schools, including wellness days, and Wellness Weeks. Students at American University, Cornell University, University of Colorado Boulder, Saint Joseph’s University, and Penn State pushed back against their administrations’ policies.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Higher Ed Dive reports that Students for Fair Admissions is suing Yale University in a federal court, alleging the institution uses race unfairly in its undergraduate admissions decisions. The anti-affirmative action group, which has brought similar charges against other universities, is also asking the Supreme Court to review a lower court’s 2019 decision to uphold Harvard University’s race-conscious admissions practices.
The federal government lifted a 26-year-old ban that blocked people who are incarcerated from receiving Pell Grants, which goes into effect by mid-2023. However, implementation presents a variety of challenges, like avoiding the abuse of federal money, and addressing barriers to increasing access for incarcerated students such as the physical setup of prisons, the distinct rules in individual correctional facilities, and the reality that only about two-thirds of incarcerated people have a high school diploma or its equivalent.
In an op-ed in Higher Ed Dive, Becky Klein-Collins, vice president for impact at the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, argues that as undergraduate enrollment trends downward, higher education should direct efforts towards supporting adults with no college credentials. According to Klein-Collins, for adult learners to succeed, they need to feel like they belong in college, programs that meet them where they are, and to know that college will be worth the time, effort and financial commitment.
Sexual Assault and Title IX
In a letter signed by more than 100 Democratic U.S. House representatives, lawmakers led by Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif. implored Miguel Cardona, the newly appointed U.S. Secretary of Education, to prioritize replacing the Trump administrations Title IX rules, which dictate how colleges investigate and punish campus sexual violence. The letter asked Cardona to work with the Department of Justice to render the rule unenforceable.
The New York Times reports that early this week, President Biden directed the Education Department to conduct a review of all policies on sex and gender discrimination and violence in schools by executive order. This action begins his effort to dismantle the Trump administration’s rules that afforded greater protections to students accused of assault, but it is unclear whether the review will lead to a return to Obama-era rules, or find some middle ground.
In an op-ed in the Hechinger Report, Justin Ortagus, assistant professor of Higher Education Administration & Policy at the University of Florida, and Rodney Hughes, assistant professor of Higher Education at West Virginia University, summarize their new report which proposes a new classification system to understand how well colleges and universities serve their students, based on net tuition prices and students’ ability to repay their loans. The report found that high-price, low-quality institutions charge above-average prices for below-average outcomes; 80% of for-profit four-year colleges qualified as high-price, low-quality institutions. “Simply put, this is an equity issue,” they write. “For-profit colleges — which are overrepresented among high-price, low-quality institutions — are significantly more likely to recruit and enroll students of color and low-income students, raising the stakes for how well they serve those populations.” They call on federal policymakers to act to protect low-income students and students of color from high-price, low-quality schools.
Coronavirus: Safety and Reopening
The Chronicle reports that as Texas loosens restrictions for businesses and social gatherings statewide, many colleges are staying with their prevention protocols.
A large, maskless outdoor gathering at the University of Colorado Boulder turned violent and left students and police officers injured, and at least two vehicles damaged. The students were tear-gassed as officers tried to disperse the crowd. The officers were hit with bricks and rocks. The Boulder County district attorney, Michael T. Dougherty, said the incident was a “tremendous setback” in the city’s efforts to fight the pandemic and Jeff Zayach, the county’s public health director, called the lack of mask-wearing and social distancing at the gathering “shocking and disturbing.”
Higher Ed Dive reports that several university systems, flagship institutions and top-ranked colleges have started announcing that they’re planning for mostly in-person instruction in the fall. The University of Oregon, the University of South Florida and the University of Alabama System announced plans to have more students return to campus.
According to a survey conducted by The Daily Pennsylvanian, undergraduate students are overwhelmingly satisfied with Penn’s COVID-19 testing program but are concerned with peer behavior and enforcement of COVID-19 guidelines. About 70% of respondents said they believe their peers are not acting responsibly; over 71% said they know someone who has attended a gathering of over 10 people this semester.
The Bowling Green Police Department is investigating the death of a sophomore at Bowling Green State University, which occurred three days after attending an off-campus fraternity event that included “hazing activity involving alcohol consumption.” Officials at the university said they were moving to suspend the fraternity, Pi Kappa Alpha, and planned to bring in consultants to conduct “a broader review of student organizations and activities.”