7/1 – 7/7

Mental Health Resources for Black Students

The Reflect Organization, a national mental wellness nonprofit with college and university chapters, has developed a guide with mental wellness resources for Black students.  Many Black college students were already disproportionately affected by the coronavirus pandemic before experiencing added trauma due to George Floyd’s death and continued racial injustice in the U.S.

The guide can be found here on Instagram. The resources are also listed on their website.

Additionally, the organization created a guide with mental wellness resources for the LGBTQ+ community, which can be found on Instagram or on their website.

Black Lives Matter

As many institutions face the moment of racial reckoning in this country by addressing long standing calls for the removal of offensive symbols, the Chronicle reports on the debate over what comes next. Scholars and activists are asking if this will be a watershed racial moment for higher education. The article asks, “Will student uprisings this fall lead to deeper changes than those achieved by the antiracism protests that shook campuses five years ago? What would it take to really address the role universities play in perpetuating racial inequality?” According to the Chronicle, there are indications that changes will come on police reform and other racial-justice goals, but these will be pushing against the financial reality that universities are facing as a result of the pandemic. Typically, diversity equity, and inclusion projects are among the first to be cut under difficult financial circumstances.

In an op-ed in the Chronicle, Kevin V. Collymore, assistant director of advisement and student services in the Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service at New York University, argues that students will be demanding meaningful change from college administrators and outlines concrete steps colleges can take to combat structural racism.

Darryll Pines, the new president of the University of Maryland at College Park, spoke with the Baltimore Sun about the dual pandemics of the coronavirus and racial injustice. He said, “Each one shows how globally connected the world is. We are living in two watershed movements in time and space. As I embark on my presidency it provides clarity: The work that we do in higher ed matters.” Pines outlined in a message to the community his immediate actions to address injustice and foster a better culture within the university, calling for the immediate naming of new residence halls for groundbreaking Black and Asian alumni, the creation of a new orientation program for students and staff, reconsidering campus police tactics and equipment, and improving diversity among students and faculty.

Student leaders at Washington and Lee University have asked for a number of institutional changes including changing the name of the school. The private college was named in honor of two of its early benefactors, George Washington and Confederate General Robert E. Lee. In a separate effort, a majority of faculty members signed on to a petition calling for changing the name. The school’s president called for a special meeting of the faculty to consider a motion to change the name, where seventy-nine percent voted in favor of a formal resolution: “The Faculty of Washington and Lee calls for the removal of Robert E. Lee from the name of the University.”

Coronavirus Impact

The Trump administration announced that international students in the United States must take in-person classes this fall or they will have to leave the country or transfer to another college. The guidelines, issued by the Student and Exchange Visitor Program of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), come as schools across the country lay out plans for the fall, some of which include all-virtual classes. The decision was swiftly criticized by schools, legislators, education groups and others. At some schools, upward of 15% of the population is international, and those students often account for a higher share of tuition revenue.

In the Washington Post, David Coleman, chief executive officer of the College Board, and Ted Mitchell, president of the American Council of Education, wrote, “ICE’s announcement is either an attempt to bully colleges into having classes in person throughout the fall no matter what public health considerations might call for or a cruel stroke to disenfranchise international students.” In an ACE statement Mitchell wrote, “On its face, the guidance released today by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is horrifying.” In the Chronicle, Brian Rosenberg, the president of Macalester College, wrote that the decision “is among the most mean-spirited policies we have seen from an administration that embraces meanness every day.”

A new survey of 22,519 undergraduate students and 7,690 graduate and professional students at five public research universities found that international students report adapting well to remote instruction at higher rates than their American peers, but have concerns about staying safe and healthy and about navigating the health-care and immigration systems during the pandemic. “International students’ biggest concerns are not with academics, not with remote instruction, but rather with the larger environment — health, safety and immigration,” said Igor Chirikov, the director of the Student Experience in the Research University Consortium that conducted the survey.

Annelle Primm, M.D., senior medical director of the Steve Fund, a national organization dedicated to promoting the mental health and well-being of students of color, wrote in the Hechinger Report that the disproportionate effect of the coronavirus on Black, Latino, Native American and low-income students means that young people of color are likely to experience an uneven share of worry, grief and loss. “Mental health is the foundation of well-being,” she writes. “This crisis is an opportunity for higher education institutions – and their partners – to respond commensurately by making student well-being an essential focus.”

As college athletes return to campus, some schools are requiring them to sign waivers that would prevent the students from suing the school if they catch COVID-19. Sen. Richard Blumenthal and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker proposed a bill this week to prevent this from continuing. Blumenthal said the purpose of the College Athlete Pandemic Safety Act is to make clear that the students’ health and safety is a “non-negotiable priority.” He said, “Forcing college athletes to sign away their rights or risk losing their scholarships in the middle of a pandemic is just the latest in a litany of unacceptable actions schools have taken to exploit these young people.” The act would block “blanket COVID-19 liability waivers” and allow athletes to “enforce their rights in court.” The bill would also prohibit schools from canceling the scholarships of athletes who choose not to participate out of fear of contracting COVID-19.

USA Today does a deep dive on all the measures administrators are taking to reopen and keep everyone safe this fall. From viral testing systems to altered academic format, hybrid teaching, and strict guidelines for social distancing, administrators are finding ways to resume classes amid the pandemic.

An outbreak of at least 117 covid-19 cases have been reported at 15 fraternity houses at the University of Washington. School officials said they are still collecting and verifying the status of cases – and that there may be more than what has been reported. The outbreak underscores the risk that college students could face if they return to campus and fail to follow rules about wearing masks and social distancing.

In Newsweek, Sara Simons, Ph.D., an Assistant Professor of Instruction at UT Austin and a Public Voices Fellow of The OpEd Project, wrote that college students, who have experienced a collective mass trauma since the onset of COVID-19, will be returning to classes in the fall with deteriorated mental health. She calls on universities to be proactive about offering mental health support, prioritizing accessible and culturally competent approaches to mental health throughout the summer and when students return to school. She also notes that schools must pay special attention to the mental health needs of Black students, many of whom  have not only been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, but are experiencing trauma over police brutality and racial injustice.

In a turnaround, the State of Georgia will now require face coverings to be worn at its 26 public colleges and universities. The decision reverses the Georgia university system’s weeks-long resistance to calls for a mask mandate. Health experts say that masks are among the most important tools that colleges can employ during the pandemic. The university system was following the lead of Gov. Brian Kemp, who has not required masks for the public. But faculty and students protested. At the Georgia Institute of Technology, which is scheduled to hold in-person classes, more than 800 of its 1,100 faculty members published a letter outlining their concerns and criticizing the system for mandating statewide reopenings this fall that “do not follow science-based evidence, increase the health risks to faculty, students and staff, and interfere with nimble decision-making necessary to prepare and respond to Covid-19 infection risk.”

Some colleges and universities are planning to test everybody returning to campus, but the CDC is now advising against this practice. It says, “Testing of all students, faculty and staff for covid-19 before allowing campus entry (entry testing) has not been systematically studied. It is unknown if entry testing in IHEs provides any additional reduction in person-to-person transmission of the virus beyond what would be expected with implementation of other infection preventive measures (e.g., social distancing, cloth face covering, hand washing, enhanced cleaning and disinfection). Therefore, CDC does not recommend entry testing of all returning students, faculty, and staff.”

The Chronicle is hosting a webinar on the disparities students face in the midst of social distancing and remote learning, and what resources are available that colleges can use to support them.

Mental and Behavioral Health

In a Daily Bruin op-ed, UCLA student Rachel Durose argues that CAPs must take additional steps to improve accessibility for all students at a distance, lengthening hours and streamlining services by creating an online intake and appointment generator. “If UCLA is unwilling to provide the proper support for increased hours,” she writes, “then CAPS must adopt measures that make the services they currently provide more efficient.”

As the pandemic and the racial-injustice crisis take a toll on Black students and other marginalized groups, The Chronicle highlights ways colleges can support them. The article states, “In the throes of dual national crises, students of color will need quick access to mental-health-care options that reflect their experiences, recreate their support systems remotely, and acknowledge the physical and emotional tolls the past few months have taken.”

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

The Chronicle convened a virtual event to bring together educators from K-12 and higher education for a discussion about the education system’s role in exacerbating race and class disparities, as well as promising approaches to achieving equity. The event, hosted by Michael J. Sorrell, president of Paul Quinn College, and Scott Carlson, a senior writer at The Chronicle, was transcribed here.

Dozens of Black college students and graduates are creating instagram accounts that call attention to examples of disrespect and harassment, according to the Hechinger Report. They’re also highlighting resources for such things as learning about white fragility, and which college courses could prepare you to open your mind and check your biases.