A Liberal Education and Everything Everywhere All at Once
On March 13-14th, over a hundred higher education leaders, faculty members, and students gathered at Arizona State University for the annual conference of the Coalition for Life Transformative Education (CLTE). One of the highlights of the event was a keynote address by Lynn Pasquerella, President of the American Association of Colleges and Universities (AAC&U) on the risks undermining the public purpose of American higher education and the urgent need for collective action, including helping students find meaning and identity in a fractured world.
In her poignant remarks, Pasquerella makes a strikingly relevant parallel to the Oscar winning film, “Everything, Everywhere, All at Once,” where the protagonist, Evelyn, is on a quest to find purpose in a seemingly meaningless existence. Invoking humor and citing evidence on the correlation of purpose in work and life and wellbeing over time, Pasquerella makes a strong case that “the enterprise of helping students discover who they are and what their place in the world is at the very heart of a liberal education.”
Mental and Behavioral Health
Last week, the Healthy Minds Network released the results of its latest annual survey on the state of mental health among college students. According to the study, Diverse Education reports, more students than ever said they they had struggled with anxiety, depression, and suicidal thoughts during the 2021-2022 year. Consistent with recent data on youth mental health, including from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Healthy Minds Study reveals disturbingly high rates of anxiety and depression for this population: 37% and 44%, respectively. However, it also suggests these students are seeking help in record-breaking numbers, with 37% reporting having attended counseling or therapy in the last year.
For The Chronicle, Mary Gaitskill, a longtime college creative writing instructor, describes how the stories her students construct in class reflect the many and intense ways that they are struggling emotionally.
The Chronicle reviews the results of a recent study considering how colleges can promote health and wellbeing on their campuses, including by developing new initiatives and increasing awareness around existing ones.
The Atlantic questions the prevailing narrative about seasonal affective disorder (SAD), suggesting that the idea that the cold, dark winter days are psychologically harmful may be more pretense than reality.
Inside Higher Ed covers new programming at the University of California, Irvine that targets student athletes to help them develop their own self-care, as well as look out for their teammates.
According to Inside Higher Ed, schools interested in changing their approach to the increasingly high demand for mental health services may be restructuring their counseling departments and, in the process, eliminating counseling center directors.
Inside Higher Ed considers how institutions are able to construct their dining halls to support students struggling with disordered eating, including by eliminating labels broadcasting the number of calories in each dish. In October, 2022, an op-ed in the Mary Christie Quarterly by MCI Fellow Alyssa Goldberg similarly warned of the harmful impact of displaying calorie counts for students with eating disorders.
A new campus safety initiative at Western New England University partners officers with comfort dogs to provide stress relief for students and promote good relationships with police, says Inside Higher Ed.
Also in Inside Higher Ed: A professor at Salt Lake Community College is trying to address the rampant mental health issues affecting his students by checking in with them through anonymous mental health polls.
BBC features a new survey calling into question the widespread belief that the pandemic caused a spike in mental health challenges; in fact, symptom rates may have stayed largely consistent. This recent report contradicts others that have correlated the onset of the pandemic with an increase in mental health challenges.
The Athletic homes in on the recent accusations against Harvard women’s hockey coach, Katey Stone, for fostering a toxic team culture, as well as how players and leadership have responded.
Slate explores how the ‘Great Resignation’ of school faculty in recent years has exacerbated the mental health challenges among students, who find themselves without enough support.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The New York Times covers a recent referendum supported by students at Wellesley College, historically a women’s college, to allow admissions for nonbinary and transgender people, including trans men. The debate surrounding this vote may reflect wider efforts at Boston area schools, including Boston University, to support LGBTQ+ students, who GBH reports often feel unwelcome on their campuses.
Efforts to eliminate diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) programming on college campuses, often viewed as spearheaded by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, now include 13 states and 21 bills across the country, The Chronicle finds. In the fallout, The Washington Post notes DEI program directors may pay the price with their jobs, including at the New College of Florida, where Governor DeSantis already has laid plans to eradicate forces of perceived liberal indoctrination. On the other hand, Inside Higher Ed writes, leaders of DEI who do not bend to traditional notions or “orthodoxy” in the space may also be at risk of losing work, as was the case for one administrator at a California community college.
The Quadrangle announces a new initiative, prompted by student advocacy, at Manhattan College that requires all student IDs to include contact information for mental health crisis hotlines.
The Dartmouth covers a recent proposal by representatives of the student government to change the university’s medical leave of absence policies to promote inclusivity and accessibility.
A column in The Daily Tar Heel likens the mental health crisis affecting North Carolina State University, where five have died from suicide this academic year, to that of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
The Editorial Board for The Michigan Daily urges the university to invest more resources in the counseling department, whose providers appear overwhelmed and underpaid, to promote the wellness of the entire community.
The Michigan Daily considers how students at the University of Michigan are responding and working through their grief and anxiety a month after a shooter killed three students at nearby Michigan State University.
The Pitt News features a recent book of poetry published by University of Pittsburgh sophomore and English major Sylas Yarad, whose work delves into mental health themes.
For The Daily Princetonian, Dean of the College Jill Dolan explores what it means to be present on campus and in the classroom as students and faculty alike confront the challenges, and joys, of readjusting to in-person college life.
This week, two high profile cases added fire to the ongoing debate around what type of speech is allowed on college campuses: At Stanford, The Chronicle reveals, students and some staff disrupted an on-campus talk by Trump-appointed judge Stuart Kyle Duncan and earned criticism from university administrators. Then, at the University of Pennsylvania, law professor Amy Wax, who has been repeatedly accused of making racist and other prejudiced comments, is facing a formal complaint that could impact her future at the institution, according to The New York Times. The conflict, The Times adds, implicates the academic freedom protections traditionally afforded to tenured faculty.
Inside Higher Ed homes in on the benefits of strong staff-student relationships to promote academic success. At the Rochester Institute of Technology, the Academic Success Center helps pair students with advisors to determine their intrinsic values and pursue coursework that aligns with them. An op-ed in The Chronicle similarly highlights the power of good mentorship and, on the flipside, the disappointment of those that fail.
Hazing and Greek Life
Eighteen-year-old Louisiana State University student Maxwell Gruver died in 2017 after chugging alcohol for a Phi Delta Theta fraternity ritual, The New York Times explains. Nearly six years later, his parents won $6.1 million from a lawsuit they brought against one of the fraternity members and his insurance company. The plan, they said, is to put the funds toward the Max Gruver Foundation, which they started to end hazing at colleges.
According to The New York Times, Lewis-Clark State College in Idaho took down several pieces of student artwork related to birth control and abortion from an exhibit due to concerns they violated a law prohibiting the use of state funds for ‘promoting’ abortion. And at Indiana University, Inside Higher Ed reports that faculty who wrote a letter decrying state abortion bans received warnings from administrators about violating university policy.
Inside Higher Ed suggests that legislative efforts to support foster youth in college are expanding, including through bills and grants aimed at ensuring dorms are open during breaks or covering attendance costs altogether.
The Washington Post offers several essential points to know about President Biden’s loan forgiveness plan, which still awaits a Supreme Court decision after the hearings last week. In the meantime, Inside Higher Ed reveals, the president released his proposed education budget to Congress for 2024, including requests to increase the Pell Grant again, this time by $820. Among Biden’s other major goals is making community college free, although Politico calls that effort “dead” and highlights the trend of high schoolers pursuing dual enrollment programs as a way to get around the political deadlock.
After the shooting that killed three students at Michigan State University last month, Inside Higher Ed discusses the challenges of balancing the time and space students need to grieve post-tragedy with a return to regular academic programming. Meanwhile, The Associated Press investigates whether athletic departments outline gun policies for their student athletes, finding “uneven efforts.”