SOC name change not an answer to larger student concerns

On Nov. 13, Dean of Students D.B. Brown sent out a campus-wide email to inform the student body that the organization previously known as the Student of Concern team (SOC) had been changed to the Student Support Network (SSN). The SOC has been in existence for approximately six years, and consists of the Dean of Students, the Dean of Studies, the Director of Residential Life and the Director of Counseling, along with any administrators deemed necessary. According to its website, the SSN holds weekly meetings to pool resources for students whose behavior may demonstrate “concerning” qualities.

While we at The Miscellany News do support the intentions behind the SSN, we ultimately take issue with its latest iteration. Brown wrote in his email, “In order to better reflect the supportive nature of this team, the name has been changed…but the nature of the resource has remained constant.” We understand that the name change places emphasis on supporting individuals with “concerning behavior” rather than targeting them in a negative manner.

This change, however, does not adequately address students’ existing concerns over the nature of the team. The procedures remain unclear, which leaves students without knowledge and left to worry. Beyond procedure, the College does not adequately staff Metcalf House—where students who need help will be referred—to address student mental health concerns.

While we know that there is a follow-up process for students, the email does not break down the specific details or time line of that process.

The SSN should provide a document—perhaps a flowchart or infographic—that clearly outlines each step taken after a student is reported to the team. Such a document might contain information about when and how an initial meeting with administrators would take place, and delineate the role of each administrator. Additionally, while we acknowledge that every student must be addressed on a case-by-case basis, meaning that no two meetings will ever be identical, it is important for all students to have a general understanding of what these follow-up discussions look like before meeting with any  administrators.

Furthermore, it would be helpful and informative if the administration offered a type of open house, forum or town hall meeting where any student or staff member could meet with the Network to discuss the role of the administrators and the aforementioned follow-up process.

Not allowing students the access to procedures can promote silence, as they are left unsure of the process that will take place after they report someone. Silence prevents students from helping each other or themselves through the SSN. Students may fear what the SSN will do to them or their friends, immediately closing off the potential for outreach.

By allowing for a dialogue to take place between the administrators and the campus, students and staff might understand more clearly the basic workings of the SSN. Students want the administration to be honest with them. When the administration doesn’t fully volunteer information on the SSN’s procedures, it invites potentially unwarranted speculation and concern.

We at The Miscellany News further believe that students may be uncomfortable approaching or reporting to the SSN because it primarily consists of administrators. Although the Network claims that its purpose is not to discipline students, its current makeup has certain implications that may be perceived otherwise. Students do not have a representative for their voice or their perspective. In order to alleviate this problem, and to hopefully provide a stronger support system for any deeply-rooted issues that students may possibly be facing, we suggest that the SSN consider taking on non-senior administrative members, for example those with the The Sexual Assault and Violence Prevention Program.

In such a system, a reported student would automatically be in contact with a specialized individual equipped to deal with a student’s specific mental health concerns. Given the current situation, however, Metcalf, lacks such specialists. Although the Metcalf website lists that there are counselors for mental health issues, this only covers general mental health. It does not detail counselors ready to address particular mental health issues. When such a specific resource goes unmet, Metcalf must refer students to off-campus resources that cover the issue. Students without access to transportation or insurance coverage cannot reliably go off-campus for such help. It is unfair to ask that of students when the College already promises mental health resources—and they’re just understaffed. If the Network changed its name to emphasize the support it gives to students, it should provide that support—and that means making up for the support that the College currently lacks.

This frustration points to a larger issue on-campus: the Administration does not fully disclose information to the student body, which leads students to avoid the SSN for lack of understanding.

We at The Miscellany News do not believe that the College is purposefully withholding information from the student body, nor do we think there is any ill intent behind the SSN’s mission. However, the Network’s recent unclear actions have suggested otherwise and this issue must be addressed.

A name change is not enough to address  or respond to deeper, core problems. It suggests that the SSN may be avoiding larger issues. Although the SSN’s rebranding in itself is not a bad thing, failing to act completely to give students a clear picture of what the SSN does and how it operates  reflects poorly on the administrators who are a part of this team.

 

—Staff Editorial represents the opinions of at least 2/3 of the Editorial Board.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.