With campus safety top of mind for higher education institutions across the country, many student affairs professionals are looking for ways to create a culture of caring support on campus. When students, faculty, and staff support and help each other, our campuses become safer for everyone.
But how can you develop an overall sense of community responsibility? The following list shares six important steps to consider when creating a culture of caring support on your campus.
1. Be proactive in making yourself visible on campus.
Help faculty, staff, and students understand that you are there to support them and be of service. This is especially important if you are a member of your school’s threat assessment team. Show students and staff they can come to you when needed to help resolve issues or problems on campus, or in some cases, personal issues in their lives.2. Help faculty and staff develop an open door policy.
Professors and school faculty are already under pressure to have a measurable positive impact on student academic achievement. It’s important for them to feel supported by their student advisors. At the same time, they are valuable members of your campus culture, and it’s equally essential for them to be accessible and willing to hear and resolve concerns. Help provide the tools they need so they are equipped to fulfill this role.
3. Ensure students are aware of support services available.
It’s crucial for students to understand there are resources available to support them. Help communicate this across campus, and keep these services top of mind for students, so they know where to go before an issue arises. Put an outreach program in place around campus to build awareness of warning signs and coping strategies.
4. Reinforce that all faculty, staff, and students are responsible for noticing the well-being of those around them.
Help everyone on campus understand what to do and where to go when they feel someone may be in distress or a threat to themselves. This is how you maintain a safe atmosphere on campus. By putting proper training in place, you can help students, faculty, and staff understand how to recognize the warning signs of issues such as sex discrimination, violence, stalking, or relationship abuse.
5. Help others recognize there is no shame in seeking assistance.
The campus as a whole must work together to normalize mental health issues. Every person on campus should feel comfortable and encouraged to ask for help when it is needed. All campuses are dealing with mental health issues in their student, staff, and faculty populations. This is why it is crucial that staff and faculty are trained in the appropriate ways to manage concerns effectively and with proper care.
6. Educate faculty, staff, and students so they know when and how to intervene.
It is true that on many campuses, most students (and even some faculty and staff) simply do not know how to define an emergency, let alone recognize when it is time to intervene. All campus community members must understand when to intervene, and how they can mitigate risk or fear. They can also assist with developing coping strategies, and sometimes help modify the environment to reduce the impact of triggering events.
Do you have any suggestions to add? What is your campus doing to create a caring and supportive culture? Share in the comments below.
Edited by Garret, Jennifer. 2012. “Building an Effective Student-of-Concern Team: Practices and Principles,” Magna Publications white paper based on a Magna Online Seminar presented by Gregory Eells, PhD, and Major Gene Deisinger, PhD.