If you have a question regarding the college's policy on student conduct in the classroom, please refer to the Classroom Student Conduct Policy.
Faculty are in a unique position to help students in distress. Students hold professors in high esteem and therefore, faculty are in the position to offer them the kind of advice and direction that they will consider carefully. During the process of teaching or advising, you may observe students showing signs of distress. An increasing number of faculty finds themselves the recipients of lengthy and often disturbing messages by email or social media. If you find yourself in the position of receiving personal information from students, they most likely view you as a compassionate and respectful listener. Faculty, for the most part, are not trained counselors, and even if they are, do not function in that role as professors due to the ethical mandates that discourage dual-role relationships. The challenge for most faculty is to define the most appropriate ways to help a distressed student. The following information is designed to assist faculty in making those choices.
Signs and Symptoms Warning of Student Distress
- Excessive procrastination and poorly prepared work, especially if inconsistent with previous work
- Infrequent class attendance with little or no work completed
- Unusual dependency: hanging around or making excessive demands for contact outside of normal periods of association
- Listlessness or frequently falling asleep in class
- Repeated requests for special consideration
- Marked changes in personal hygiene
- High levels of irritability, including unruly, aggressive, violent, or abrasive behaviors
- Inability to make decisions despite your repeated efforts to clarify or encourage
- Excessive weight gain or loss
- Normal emotions that are displayed to an extreme degree or for a prolonged period of time: for example, tearfulness or nervousness
- Impaired or garbled speech and disjointed thinking*
- Threats to others*
- Reference to suicide as a current option*
- Bizarre behavior that is obviously inappropriate, such as talking to "invisible people" *
*Refer to the Counseling Center (572-5790), Campus Police (572-5262), Carson Center Crisis Services (568-6386) immediately
"When should I consider intervening?
Students often find the college years stressful, although most handle difficult situations adequately. However, some students do find that the stress becomes unmanageable and disrupts the pursuit of their personal and academic goals. They may need to seek counseling for a variety of reasons, including stress, depression, anxiety, family and relationship issues, physical or sexual abuse, academic difficulties, substance abuse, and issues pertaining to sexual identity. Many instructors become concerned when they observe behaviors that indicate student distress, such as frequently missed classes, social withdrawal, crying in the office, or submitting disturbing material in academic assignments. In general, students who exhibit the signs or symptoms listed, especially if their problems have noticeably compromised their ability to function academically, personally, or socially, are those you may consider referring to the Counseling Center.
Verbal expressions or behaviors that indicate risk for harm to self or others should be considered cause for immediate referral. A faculty member should not attempt to assess degree of risk; only professionals trained in crisis assessment can make this judgment. If you have any suspicions about a student being at risk, you should refer.
"How do I express my concerns to the student?
- talk to the student in private
- specifically state your reasons for concern
- listen carefully
- avoid criticizing or sounding judgmental
- discuss with the student a referral to the Counseling Center (have Counseling Center brochures on hand)
*Do not assure students of confidentiality. As faculty, you may need to provide information to others who can provide assistance to the student. As well, Title 9 mandates campus reporting of incidents of sexual violence and you may need to disclose this information.
"How can I assist the student who might be reluctant to seek counseling?"
- Refer them to the Counseling Center Website and direct them to the section on Counseling Services
- Remind them that services are available to them at no cost
- If the student doesn't think his/her concerns are at the point of needing counseling, remind them that counseling can help prevent one's problems from reaching crisis proportions-the mere fact that one is seeking counseling doesn't mean one is in bad shape or "crazy"
- Acknowledge, validate, and discuss the student's real fears and concerns about seeking help
- Emphasize counseling as an empowering tool of change for those who choose to use it
"How can I help a student make an appointment at the Counseling Center?"
- Direct the student to the Counseling Center at Lammers Hall so that the student may go through the process of making an appointment. Taking the responsibility for making an appointment for a student in any other way may discourage the student from taking responsibility for making changes in his life.
- If you feel the situation is an emergency, call the Counseling Center (572-5790), identify yourself, and inform the secretary of the student's need to be seen by the On-Call Counselor. Walk the student over to the Center. The Counseling Center makes it a priority to see immediately any student in crisis. Other than for crisis/emergency situations, the Counseling Center makes every attempt to schedule appointments for students within a week's time. Students who request to be seen by a specific individual may need to wait longer.
- Once a student becomes a client at the Counseling Center, the terms of confidentiality apply fully. Unless, the student signs a Consent for Release of Information, the Counseling Center may release no further information about the student. That means you, as the referral source, will not be able to obtain any further information about the student after admission occurs.
"What if the student resists or refuses to seek counseling?"
Unless the student is at risk for harm to self or others, counseling remains a voluntary option for students. Despite every effort on your part to facilitate a referral, the student may choose not to follow through on your suggestion that they seek counseling. If you find yourself in this situation, continue to express your belief that they could benefit from counseling, and keep your offer of help available to the student. Document the whole process for your personal files should you need to verify your assistance to this student in the future.
If a student is at risk for harm to self or others, notify the Counseling Center ASAP! If the student leaves with the intent to disregard your referral or if you believe a student is at risk, but are unaware of the student's current whereabouts, call Public Safety who will then notify the appropriate personnel in order to facilitate an assessment. For after hours emergencies, contact Public Safety for assistance.
"What if I need consultation regarding a student about whom I may have concerns?"
The Counseling Center is available for consultation to faculty and staff. If you have concerns about any student, you may seek consultation by phone or in person. We will seek to assist you while asking you to keep in mind that without their written consent, we may not provide you with any specific information about students who might be clients of the Counseling Center.
- Individual counseling
- Couple counseling
- Groups (topics vary from semester to semester)
- Alcohol/drug education classes
- Relaxation and meditation instruction
- Guest speaker for classes/workshops on various counseling/clinical topics
S.T.A.T. (The Student Threat Assessment Team): Combining the knowledge of key campus units, this University resource team meets regularly to coordinate responses to students in distress and to manage intervention with student behavioral concerns.
Other WSU Offices
- Vice President for Student Affairs, Campus Center, X5400
- Public Safety, White House, X5262
- Residential Life, Scanlon Hall, X5402
- Office of Student Conduct, Campus Center, X5403
- Urban Education, Parenzo Hall, X5391
- Health Services, Scanlon Hall, X5415
- Banacos Center, Parenzo Hall, X5676
- Interfaith Center: Reverand Kim Murphey, X5567
- Reading and Writing Center, Parenzo 218, X5569