Faculty’s Role in Student Mental Health: Webinar and Coverage
Last week, the Mary Christie Institute held a webinar on the results of the recently released Role of Faculty in Student Mental Health report, led by a presentation of findings by study Principal Investigator Sarah K. Lipson, Ph.D., assistant professor at the Boston University School of Public Health, co-Principal Investigator of the national Healthy Minds Study and MCI Board member. Her presentation was followed by a panel discussion on the findings’ implications for programs, prevention strategies, and campus policy. The panel, moderated by GBH’s Kirk Carapezza, featured Aswani Volety, Ph.D., Provost of Elon University; Zoe Ragouzeos, Ph.D., Executive Director of Counseling and Wellness Services at New York University (and MCI 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, and expert advisor to The Steve Fund. The webinar video, survey report, presentation slides, and other important resources from our partners can be found on this event page.
Mental and Behavioral Health
The findings of the new survey report, The Role of Faculty in Student Mental Health survey, a collaborative research project between the Boston University School of Public Health, Healthy Minds Network, and Mary Christie Institute (with funding from the Hazelden Betty Ford Foundation) have been covered in Inside Higher Ed and GBH Morning Edition, Greater Boston and On Campus. The data show that college faculty are concerned about their students’ mental health amid the pandemic, and are willing to help – but need and want more guidance on how to be gatekeepers. An op-ed about the findings by Sarah Lipson, Ph.D. and Zoe Ragouzeos, Ph.D., Executive Director of Counseling and Wellness Services at New York University and Mary Christie Institute President was published in Commonwealth Magazine.<
Thee Oberlin Review published an interactive report of the results of a recent survey of 53 students about burnout, indicating schedule changes may play a role. This year, Oberlin’s academic calendar was expanded into three semesters; with two wellness days replacing a traditional spring break. The survey showed that students are starting to feel the impact of these changes on their mental health and believe it is compounding the pandemic’s stress and isolation. The study explores student’s views on their experiences with professors, life stressors, and coping mechanisms.
Amid students’ calls to improve services, Yale University announced expansions to its mental health resources. Fourteen full-time staff positions have been added, ten of which will be clinicians at Mental Health and Counseling. This constitutes a 30% increase in clinician staffing.
The New York Times reports that mental-health experts and educators are saying that to help young people bounce back from a difficult year, adults, including parents and educators, should model resilience, and stop spreading the narrative of the “lost year.”
In University Business, new survey results released from BestColleges.com shows that 95% of undergraduate students have had “negative mental health symptoms as a result of circumstances caused by COVID-19” and 97% have experienced some negative outcome at home as a result of the pandemic.
At Duke University, a new student-operated texting platform called DukeLine, provides anonymous peer support within minutes of outreach. The platform is managed by a team of 21 Duke undergraduates.
The Chronicle explores the difficulties facing the families of students struggling with drug addiction or mental health issues while they are at college – it is often unclear who to call when parents or loved ones have serious safety concerns, and strict protocols for “wellness checks” may limit the ability to intervene in a dire situation.
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
The Chronicle reports that the increase in anti-Asian racism could influence enrollment for international students, the majority of which are from Asian countries. University officials are grappling with how to best support current and prospective international students in feeling welcome in America. Yingyi Ma, director of Asian/Asian American studies at Syracuse says that “international students’ experience with discrimination may be complicated by the fact that they often do not have the same understanding of race and racial identity as Americans do.”
In a Higher Ed Dive brief, Natalie Schwartz provides advice for universities to help unauthorized immigrants get the coronavirus vaccine, including sharing information about mass vaccination sites and nearby pharmacies. The Biden administration released a vaccination plan in January that would provide “all people in America the vaccine free of charge and regardless of their immigration status.” However, vaccination sites have been reported requiring state identification and insurance, even though neither are required to receive a vaccine. Undocumented students, who make up 2% of college enrollment, are also afraid of the exposure that might come from registering for government-run vaccination sites, “especially after the Trump administration took a hardline stance on immigration and reportedly sought out private data to track locations of unauthorized immigrants.”
According to a Higher Ed Dive brief, the state of Tennessee may owe its only public historically Black university, Tennessee State University, between $150 to $544 million as a result of major underfunding, according to a state audit of matching federal land-grant funds. For decades, the state analysis shows that Tennessee “did not properly match federal land-grant funds.”
In Diverse Education, Sara Weissman examines the trajectory of social justice in academia and highlights Dr. Valerie Chepp, a social justice program director of Hamline University, one of the first social justice programs of its kind. Weissman noted that, in the midst of the Black Lives Matter protests, more people in academia are seeing a need for social justice teaching and research.
According to the Hechinger Report, despite the pledge in higher education to increase education equality, numbers of Black student enrollment in science, technology, engineering, and math fields are still declining. Only about 7% of Black people hold jobs needing bachelor’s degrees in STEM. According to research from the University of Michigan, “bans in some states on the use by public universities and colleges of race-based affirmative action” has since reduced up to 12 percent of degrees earned by Black, Hispanic and Native American students.
In Diverse Education, Jenny Rickard addresses changing the admissions processes to diminish equity gaps and promote a more anti-racist process. Based on recent data from the Common App, college applications may have risen, however, applications from first-generation and low-income students have declined. Such numbers can be influential in perpetuating the nation’s inequities given that “college graduates earn more money, live longer, healthier lives, and are more engaged citizens.” The Common App has begun taking initial steps to combat a history of unequal college admissions by changing application questioning about school discipline and reshaping sections on citizen status and family history.
In an Inside Higher Ed op-ed, Suzanne Rivera, President of Malcalester College, and G. Gabrielle Starr, President of Pomona College, urge universities to advance the work of antiracism and equity across the nation in light of the Derik Chauvin trial. They state, “Higher education plays a vital role in shaping the society we want for ourselves. Helping people on our campuses and in our communities understand the Chauvin trial and its implications – no matter the verdict – is an important function we can and should serve. … We cannot bring Mr. Floyd and Mr. Wright back, but we can honor their memories by working together to create a more just and peaceful world.”
The National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Board of Governors said the NCAA “firmly and unequivocally supports the opportunity for transgender student-athletes to compete in college sports” on Monday. With almost 30 states considering banning transgender student athletes from competing on the sports teams that align with their gender identities, the NCAA has decided it will also refrain from holding championship events in locations that are not “free of discrimination.”
Sexual Assault and Title IX
Former Ohio State University student Stephen Snyder-Hill reports being inappropriately examined and touched by the former university team and health center doctor Richard Strauss, MD. His complaints at the time were ignored. Now, the state medical board is reopening 91 cases of sexual misconduct that had been closed and another 42 that failed to be reported. The story comes in light of other student allegations of sexual misconduct from university coaches and doctors, such as USC.
As part of Sexual Assault Awareness Month, Ohio State University features photographer Honey Lazar’s “Seen + Heard” image and audio exhibit for the month of April. Ohio State University has experienced an uptick in reports in 2019. The portraits capture the survivors’ emotions as they tell their stories. The portfolio can be found here.
The Washington Post reports that admittance rates for the Ivy League plummeted to a record low this year. Test-optional policies in the pandemic drove an overwhelming surge of applicants to apply to highly competitive schools. Cornell reported an increased volume of applications of up to a third this year. Many colleges may remain test-optional considering the significant academic disruptions, “including uneven access to the SAT and ACT.”
Inside Higher Ed reports on community college recruitment efforts after a steep 9.5% decline in enrollment since the spring of 2020. Community college leaders are strategizing ways to output incentives and attract high school graduates, including providing free laptops, free summer tuition for classes, and money to cover living expenses.
Coronavirus: Safety and Reopening
In a new effort to share information across campuses on containing the coronavirus, the Centers for Disease Control has funded the American College Health Association $450,000 to launch a new Community of Practice initiative. The grant will provide an online database of resources for campuses to further reach herd immunity.
NPR covers colleges’ decisions to require vaccinations amongst its students. As debate has spurred on the new mandate, Antonio Calcado who leads the COVID-19 task force at Rutgers University, the first to have announced mandatory vaccinations for the fall, says “this is not new.” Considering many colleges have required vaccinations in the past, Dorit Reiss, a law professor at UC Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco, states “Most universities have the power to require vaccines.” Calcado says that for international students who may not have as easy access to vaccines, U.S. schools can provide the vaccine.
As colleges reopen for the fall semester, The Chronicle live reports a growing list of institutions that will require students to be vaccinated in order to enroll.
In The Chronicle, colleges respond to the recent news of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine pause. The CDC and FDA issued a statement that they “are reviewing a rare and severe blood clot in six people who received the vaccine, out of more than 6.8 million doses administered.” As a result, college health officials are navigating around the announcement to pause appointments for the Johnson & Johnson vaccine. As students began cancelling their appointments due to vaccine hesitancy, universities urged for students not to cancel. The University at Albany tweeted, “Do NOT cancel your appointment!” as they would be administering the Pfizer or Moderna vaccine instead. Several campus officials say that “the biggest damage” could be “the psychological effect this could have on students who were already vaccine hesitant.”