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Campus Mental Health Services: A Push from Administrators and Faculty

One year after the Virginia Tech shootings,
and weeks after another multiple-fatal shooting incident at Northern Illinois
University, campus administrators and faculty have become much less reluctant to
refer to counselors those students they feel are dangers to themselves or
others. According to an Associated Press story, via MSNBC, student privacy considerations are now
being balanced with concerns for physical safety. Yet questions remain whether
university counseling services can handle the crush.

"Administrators are pushing students
harder to get help, looking more aggressively for signs of trouble and urging
faculty to speakup when they have concerns," writes the AP. It isn’t just
administrators; faculty are watching student writing assignments for signs of
trouble. Universities are recruiting resident advisors and other students to
report incidents that indicate violent tendencies.

Until recently, the article says,
administrators and faculty felt constrained from reporting these incidents due
to a concern for student privacy. Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA)
is often cited as a reason to protect a student’s privacy, but that law focuses
on student records and allows exceptions "in cases of health and safety emergencies." A
new law in Virginia, signed last week, allows institutions to alert parents if
students appear dangerous. Some campuses, notably Cornell University, already
have estalished policies to notify parents if their children are deemed a threat
to themselves or others.

The Association for University and College
Counseling Center Directors (AUCCCD), the professional society of college
counselors, however, recommends involving parents with the student’s consent. In
a statement released last fall the
AUCCD says …

[S]uggestions that counseling staff routinely involve
parents in the treatment process against a student’s will are ill-considered.
This abrogation of the student’s rights should only be used when state law
allows, when it is a treatment team decision, and when it is a last resort in
cases where other options for safety have been explored and

For increased vigilance to be effective,
universities need the capacity in their counseling services to handle the
increased load.  As we reported last month in a related story, Canadian campuses are also
experiencing a sharp upward demand for mental health services, in some cases,
outstripping the capabilities to provide those services quickly. A similar
condition is occurring at American universities.

Last April, after the Virginia Tech
shootings, Russ Federman, director of University of Virginia’s counseling
service, testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland
Security and Government Affairs. He noted that from a national survey of
university counseling directors, "we see that in 1996 we had a ratio of one FTE
clinical staff per 1598 students. This past year, in 2006 we see a ratio of one
per 1697. We are not getting ahead of the curve; if anything, we are sliding


One comment on “Campus Mental Health Services: A Push from Administrators and Faculty”

  1. desmondgale

    It is a nice article about the mental health and administrators faculty.
    Virginia Alcohol Addiction Treatment

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