Student Review and Consultation Committee formed to help students
Sep 5, 2008
From staff reports
A new committee representing multiple areas of expertise is taking a holistic approach to providing support for students.
The Student Review and Consultation Committee formed to assess reports of troubling behavior, determine if they have merit and, if so, develop the most helpful course of action. The concept, piloted during the last school year, takes a thoughtful approach that puts student success first.
“I’m excited about the addition of this service to the student health plan,” Dean of Students Ryan Lombardi said. “The SRCC provides a safety net for students who traditionally might have fallen through the cracks. It is a positive initiative that was developed to make sure that all of our students have an opportunity to safely pursue a quality education.”
The program was modeled after one at the University of Illinois, which for 20 years has used this approach in intervening when a student is thought to be at risk for suicide.
The committee, which Lombardi chairs, represents a comprehensive cross section of campus professionals so that a broad range of student needs can be addressed. The SRCC includes:
- Associate Dean of Students Patti McSteen
- Director of Counseling and Psychological Services Jeanne Heaton
- Interim Associate Dean of Students Greg Janson, an associate professor of human and consumer sciences
- Athens County Sheriff’s Chief Deputy Dave Malawista, a licensed clinical and forensic psychologist and head Crisis Intervention Team coordinator for Athens, Hocking and Vinton counties
- Counseling and Psychological Services psychologist Paul Castelino
- Ohio University Police Department CIT member Lt. Chris Johnson
- Assistant Dean of University College Laura Chapman
- Associate Director of Legal Affairs Barb Nalazek
- Assistant Vice President for Student Affairs and Director of Residence Life and Off-Campus Living Judy Piercy
- Director of University Judiciaries Jim Sand
Heaton said one of the most important benefits of the SRCC is that it gives people a central place to report behavior of concern.
“The SRCC process eliminates a lot of the confusion that used to exist when situations like this arose in the past,” Heaton said. “We are a resource for the campus and can provide consultation on these matters.”
The committee’s formation has resulted in an efficient process that takes far less time.
“We’re seeing the same types of cases as we did before we formed the SRCC,” Lombardi said. “We can just handle them more efficiently now and get the students the help they need faster.”
Another benefit is that the SRCC often connects students with additional resources to address unanticipated needs that might arise during the process.
This is an important service for college students, according to Lombardi, because mental health problems generally arise at a young age. A 2005 National Institutes of Health-supported study found that in 75 percent of cases, the onset age was 24 or younger.
The committee is charged with providing the dean of students with recommendations on an appropriate course of action on each report, which the dean may accept or amend. The SRCC follows a review process that consists of these steps:
- Any person who is concerned with a student’s behavior can make an informal referral by contacting the Office of the Dean of Students via telephone, e-mail or fax. The committee also is developing a formal referral form that will be posted on the office’s Web site. If immediacy is an issue, after-hours concerns should be directed to the OUPD.
- The SRCC reviews the expressions of concern at regularly scheduled meetings or, if necessary, at special meetings.
- After the initial review, the dean of students or his designee contacts the student in question to gather additional information about the situation and gain the student’s perspective. An appropriate referral for services or further evaluation might be made at this point -- or after the results are shared with the SRCC.
- At any point in the process, the dean of students might invite other professionals with specific knowledge or expertise to participate in resolving a particular case.
- The resolution of an expression of concern is always governed by a course of action that balances the best interest of the student with those of the university community.
Once expressed, a concern becomes part of the educational record and will not be disclosed outside of federal privacy law requirements.
Lombardi said many of the cases reviewed so far have resulted in either no action because there was not cause for concern or a recommendation for a mental health assessment with a university counselor. When a case does warrant intervention, the goal is to give support that will keep a behavior from escalating into harmful or disruptive actions and put the student back on track.
Although the most appropriate step may be a referral to University Judiciaries or some form of educational discipline, the SRCC process is designed to be supportive.
“We stress to the students we work with that this is not a punitive process,” Lombardi said, adding that the idea is to keep students in school and help them succeed, not turn them out.
Janson has accepted the position with the Office of the Dean of Students this year so that he can serve as the primary case manager for the SRCC. His main duty will be managing the everyday business of the committee.
McSteen, who played a vital role in the creation of the SRCC, said the concept was under consideration before the Virginia Tech incident, but those events spurred Vice President for Student Affairs Kent Smith to fully develop the committee. Ohio University has received positive feedback from other institutions for its approach.
“The creation of a group like the SRCC is not a unique idea, but the cohesiveness of our group is unusual in the way that we collaborate and work together to help the students,” Lombardi said. “This group has worked efficiently and improved communication among the involved departments. This has been a major bonus and in the end contributes to our primary goal of enhancing student success.”
If you wish to speak with a media representative regarding this story, contact Senior Director of Media Relations Sally Linder at firstname.lastname@example.org or 740-597-1793.
Dean of Students Web site: http://www.ohio.edu/deanofstudents
Counseling and Psychological Services: http://www.ohio.edu/counseling/
Published: Sep 5, 2008 8:53 AM