Representatives from UNM’s Student Health and Counseling and the Dean of Students’ Office offered advice for handling a variety of student problems during a panel at the SUB. Nov. 10.
Nasha Torrez, the Dean of Students, Stephanie McIver, director of SHAC Counseling and Therapy Services, and Lisa Lindquist, director of LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center, gave faculty members tips on recognizing students who might be struggling and advice on how to help them.
Lindquist discussed the resources at LoboRESPECT, where students can receive emergency assistance for a variety of issues such as a death in the family or school struggles.
“We say we’re people who deal with crisis management for students,” Lindquist said.
LoboRESPECT is a confidential reporting site, in addition to the Women’s Resource Center and the LGBTQ Resource Center. This means that when a student comes and reports an incident, it is not mandatory to report it to the Office of Equal Opportunity. At this time, all faculty and staff are considered mandatory reporters, Lindquist said. Torrez suggests making a disclosure at the beginning of the semester that one is a mandatory reporter.
“Our whole goal is to give our students and survivors as much agency as possible,” Torrez said.
LoboRESPECT also manages the Grey Area Training, a 90-minute mandatory training for all students discussing consent.
McIver discussed some of the mental health resources that SHAC has available for students.
“We can address any mental health issue,” McIver said.
Any student can walk in from 10-4 Monday through Friday to be seen without an appointment and be assessed for resources and support they need.
There are three levels of concern, according to McIver. Distress is the least severe, which is relatively self-contained. The best way to handle a student in distress is to notice the signs and offer resources. A disturbed student says things that scare other people and disrupt class. A disturbed student may need a consultation at SHAC or a referral to DOS for conduct issues. Threatening is the most severe level, where a student is being aggressive towards themselves or other students.
It is important to distinguish between a disturbed student and a threatening student. Just because someone feels threatened does not necessarily mean that the student is being threatening, McIver said. One can submit confidential questions on SHAC’s website about mental health services there.
Another way to report a student of concern is through UNM’s Behavior Assessment and Response Committee, or BARC. An interdisciplinary team reviews cases once a week so if there is a student who is concerning, officials can connect the dots to see if a student is in crisis, Torrez said. However, if one is in immediate danger, there are phone numbers for UNM’s police department on the back of everyone’s Lobo IDs.
“If you’re that scared, call the police,” Torrez said.
Torrez also recommends the Lobo Guardian app. It is available on iPhones and Androids, and allows the user to call 911 immediately and report suspicious activity.
For classroom management, Torrez suggests setting up rules, especially when discussing sensitive topics.
“Lay ground rules from the beginning,” Torrez said.
Faculty cannot control the content of free speech of their students, Torrez said. It is not a code of conduct violation if, for example, a student uses vulgar language directed at nobody in particular. But if a student uses vulgar language directed at the instructor, then it would be a code of conduct violation.
When a student breaks the rules, it is important discuss with the student why their behavior was not appropriate, Torrez said. McIver added that distinguishing students who have insight and realize that their behavior is inappropriate from the students who do not care is important as well
There is no path for dropping students for behavior issues, according to Torrez. Because students have a constitutional right to an education, they must have due process.
Faculty and staff must also be reticent of students’ rights to confidentiality. To be in accordance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act, employees must scrub information when describing an incident with a student. FERPA guarantees students privacy in their educational setting. According to Torrez, it covers a collection of factors that would lead a reasonable person to identify the student. FERPA covers parents as well, so faculty cannot talk to a student’s mother about their behavior in a class.
Torrez reminds faculty that their attitude determines the stress and aggression in a situation. If the faculty member is calm, it is more likely that the student will be calmer as well.
“We are the pace cars,” Torrez said.
For online classes, Torrez said strong ground rules are the best way to go. There is more inappropriate communication in online classes than conduct issues. If aggressive behavior continues, document it and give the student a warning that they will be reported to DOS if the behavior continues.
All of the speakers want the UNM community to be aware of the plethora of resources available to them.
“You are not alone,” Lindquist said.