3/31 – 4/6

New Quadcast: A Conversation on our new survey “Faculty’s Response to Student Mental Health.”

On the Quadcast today, we discuss the results and implications of the just-released Role of Faculty in Student Mental Health survey. The survey, out today, explores faculty members’ perspectives on the state of student mental and behavioral health and their role as gatekeepers. Our guests are Sarah K. Lipson, PhD, Principal Investigator of the study and Assistant Professor of Health Law Policy and Management at the Boston University School of Public Health; and Zoe Ragouzeos, PhD, Executive Director of Counseling and Wellness Services at New York University and Mary Christie Foundation President. Drs. Lipson and Ragouzeos walk through the survey findings and explain what steps faculty and college administrators can take to improve how faculty can better support student wellbeing. You can find the episode on Apple Podcasts or on our website.

Tomorrow (4/8) at 1:00pm, a webinar presentation by Dr. Lipson will dive further into the findings with a panel discussion afterward on the important implications for programs, prevention strategies, and campus policy. The panel, moderated by GBH’s Kirk Carapezza, will feature Aswani Volety, Ph.D., Provost of Elon University; Zoe Ragouzeos, Ph.D., Executive Director of Counseling and Wellness Services at New York University (and MCF President); Lisa J. Schnell, Ph.D., Associate Professor in the Department of English at the University of Vermont; and Michael Gerard Mason, Ph.D., LPC, NCC, NCSC, Associate Dean of African American Affairs and Director of the Luther Porter Jackson Black Cultural Center at the University of Virginia. Panelists will discuss their reactions to the survey data, and the development and enhancement of approaches to optimize the role that faculty play in student mental and behavioral health. We hope you will join us. Register here.

This will be our last MCFeed as the Mary Christie Foundation. Next week, we’ll be emailing you as Mary Christie Institute (our new name) – and we’ll have a new website to go with it. Thanks for reading.

Dana Humphrey
MCFeed Editor
Associate Director

Mental and Behavioral Health

Main Stories
The Washington Post interviews four college students who reflect on their experiences from this past year which include facing challenges with race, social media, anxiety, and isolation. Despite promising news of vaccinations and the hope to reopen schools this fall, students are still uncertain and overwhelmed as to whether their lives will return to normal.

Jesse Amankwaah, a first-generation Ghanaian-American student at the University of Richmond, writes about the pandemic’s impact on his mental health. Amankwaah calls for greater institutional support for Black students during COVID-19 as the pandemic stresses racial ethnic disparities: “More needs to be done to help students – especially Black students – cope with the mental health effects of the pandemic.”

In an Op-Ed for Inside Higher Ed, Gary D. Glass, director of counseling and career services at Oxford College of Emory University writes about the role of mental education alongside mental health services, and argues for “broadening the narrative from a mental health frame to a mental education frame that attends to student struggles from a variety of perspectives in the campus community.

Citing capacity issues at most college counseling centers, Glass raises the notion that some portion of students’ mental health concerns can be addressed through pedagogy and curriculum and argues for better integration between these domains.
In an op-ed in Inside Higher Ed, Laura Post Horne, chief program officer at Active Minds, and Kelly A. Davis, associate vice president of peer and youth advocacy at Mental Health America, explore the nationwide decline in students’ use of campus-based mental health resources. In a recent Active Minds focus group, students expressed a preference for off-campus services during this time, a lack of privacy when doing virtual therapy from home, and complex interstate teletherapy licensure issues as factors driving the change. Horne and Davis offer recommendations for university leaders including: Involve students; Use assessments to inform decision making; Engage faculty and other campus first responders; and build on the optimism and resilience that students demonstrate.

Other News

In the Princeton Alumni Weekend, students express frustration with the isolation on campus and the strict campus restrictions, and say their mental health has been affected.

According to the CU Independent, University of Colorado Boulder students are experiencing a deterioration in their mental health following the mass shooting at a grocery store near campus. In the wake of the shooting, the school’s counseling and psychological services office has received an overwhelming number of crisis calls.

EdWeek recaps recent data showing the mental health effects of the pandemic. The article cites JED Foundation data showing that fears about the pandemic cause more anxiety for teenagers than keeping up with academics or getting ready for college. They also cite their research showing that a wide majority of students in grades 9 – 12 reported experiencing more problems now than they did before the pandemic. Black, Latinx, low-income and LGBTQ students were significantly more likely to report problems in the wake of the pandemic.

The Diamondback Offbeat, a podcast at the University of Maryland, convened a round table of the student newspaper staff to talk about mental health during the pandemic and the ways they’ve been coping.

In the Daily Emerald, the University of Oregon’s student newspaper, Bella Zurowski, argues that, “first-year and transfer students should be given a mandatory mental health talk as part of their orientation.”

The Tufts Daily reports that Tufts University Police Department is creating a multidisciplinary working group to advise TUPD on mental health issues. Tufts’ Working Group on Public Safety and Policing presented recommendations to create the group, suggesting TUPD increase on-call or in-person mental health professionals for service calls.

The Brown Daily Herald covers a new resolution from the Undergraduate Council of Students that proposes implementing increased support for student mental health. After canceling spring break due to COVID-19 travel concerns, the proposal calls for specific steps to alleviate student stress such as encouraging faculty to not teach material during Reading Period and extending the Satisfactory/No Credit grade option deadline.

In an op-ed for the Daily Princetonian, student Allen Liu proposes solutions to increased mental health stressors such as “giving more breaks, adjusting academic expectations and [reducing] pressure.” Liu states, “the University can make it easier to take a leave of absence… and should leverage innovations from the past year” such as “remote learning, the summer term, and approval of outside courses.”

A recent survey of about 1,000 University of Kentucky students showed that 74 percent said they had felt an increase in mental or emotional exhaustion during the pandemic. Additionally, 46 percent reported an increase in loneliness, and 17 percent reported increases in suicidal thoughts.

Colleges and universities across the country are offering peer to peer health advising. SUNY announced a new Student Mental Health Peer Advocates Training Program that allows students to provide mental health resources to their fellow students. The Student Health Ambassadors at the College of the Holy Cross, started this year, engages and educates students around COVID guidelines. And Lehigh University’s Peer Health Advisors offer guidance to students about healthy behavior, especially on issues like alcohol safety, STD awareness and mental health.

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Washington Post reports an update on the outcry over University of Richmond’s decision to retain two campus building names. After recent debate over University of Richmond’s trustee Paul B. Queally’s controversial desire to keep the names tied to slavery and segregation, seven faculty leaders criticized and approved a motion to censure Queally. On Monday, the Richmond board announced: “Accordingly, the board has decided to suspend the recent naming decision. The board is reviewing options for a broader, more inclusive process to determine how decisions are made about questions of renaming, and we expect to communicate our plans shortly.”

Higher Ed Dive reports on President Biden’s $45 billion proposal to invest in research for minority-serving institutions. The initiative seeks to close institutional equity gaps between minority-serving institutions and predominately white institutions. The proposed funding is part of Biden’s $180 billion investment towards the nation’s research and infrastructure development, in hopes of increasing student aid, enrollment, retention, and post-graduate employment.

Student Success

On WBUR, Paul Quinn College President Michael Sorrell reflects on the pandemic year. He says the existing hybrid model at Paul Quinn, a historically Black college where students typically spend about 16 hours per week working in corporate internships, made the adjustment to in-person and remote learning easier.

According to the Hechinger Report, a decrease in dual enrollment courses for high school students may contribute to long-term effects that would increase college costs and delay graduation. “The increasingly popular practice of taking college courses while in high school — an umbrella that includes dual credit, concurrent enrollment and early college programs — is often a free or low-cost way of accruing college credits, sometimes shaving two years off the time it takes to get an undergraduate degree.”

College Affordability

Higher Ed Dive briefs Virginia’s new legislation to establish tuition-free community college for high-demand fields such as healthcare, computer science, and early childhood education. Education experts say amidst the health crisis, community colleges will play a key factor in helping restore the economy. Signed on Monday by Governor Ralph Northam, the program “Get Skilled, Get a Job, Give Back,” also known as G3, will allocate $36 million to approximately 36,000 state residents. The benefits will assist low- and middle-income students, and would also provide covering expenses towards food, transportation, and childcare.

The Washington Post tells the stories of Americans who hold student debt, noting public misconceptions about who has student loans and why. Federal data show that the fastest growing categories of student loan borrowers over the last two decades are Black students and people over 50 years of age. “There are parents who have traded in their financial security for their children’s dreams. Husbands who have dropped out of college to care for family. Professionals whose bid for parity at work has pushed retirement farther out of reach. And young graduates who forgo health insurance to pay down their loans,” the article states.

Policy

President Joe Biden’s $2 trillion proposal for upgrading infrastructure includes a $12 billion allocation to states to invest in existing community college physical and technology infrastructure and to improve access to community college in areas with few postsecondary options.

Coronavirus: Safety and Reopening

Bates College ordered students to shelter in place after a sudden increase in positive Covid-19 tests. Last week, there were at least 34 active cases in isolation housing and 50 more students in quarantine.

NPR reporter Elissa Nadworny spoke with two current college freshmen, Ayiana Davis Polen at Spelman College in Atlanta and Adam Ahmad at the University of California, Berkeley, about what their first year was like, how they built community amid restrictions, and how faculty have reacted to the changes.

The Chronicle of Higher Education reports Cornell University’s announcement on Friday that it will be following Rutgers University’s lead in requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for the fall 2021 semester. Starting April 15, the campus students, faculty, and staff will be mandated to inform Cornell of their vaccination status on a regular basis. Officials say that if Cornell is able to reach herd immunity, classes will be in person for the fall.

CBS Pittsburgh reports that the University of Pittsburgh is experiencing another big jump in COVID-19 cases, as a shelter-in-place period continues. Students expressed a lack of surprise at the outbreak. “I feel like after St. Patrick’s day, everyone was expecting it,” said Anna Jacobs, a freshman. Pitt officials have stressed that it is critical it is for students to follow the mitigation measures.