Friday, February 15, 2008

Colleges can help students

Yesterday, I was deeply saddened to learn about the campus shooting at Northern Illinois University, which comes just ten months after the shooting at Virginia Tech.

What struck me most about this campus shooting was when I read that the shooter had been on medication and had recently stopped taking his medication, causing him to act erratically. Similarly at Virginia Tech, the shooter had had some psychiatric issues just prior to shooting his classmates and himself. While their issues may have not been the same, both students were clearly suicidal, as both ended their rampages by turning their guns on themselves.

I am left to wonder, should universities take more initiative to help students who seem to need it? Currently, most universities have on-site counseling center which students can take advantage of (usually free of charge and always completely confidential). But should universities go farther? Should universities require that students take care of themselves mentally?

Student staff at most universities are the front lines in seeing crises before they occur. RAs, or CAs, or PAs, or any other student staff, are normally instructed and educated about how to spot the signs of major issues such as depression, addiction, and suicide. But RAs can only go so far as to suggest a student in crisis get help. Should RAs and other Staff and Faculty be able to do more when they see a student in trouble?

Overall, I think universities can and do more to help the young people in the university community. A large university like GWU could be a pioneering university in this endeavor. Even one campus shooting is one too many. Universities need to step up and do more to help students in crisis.

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