Faculty Assembly discusses mental health

by Katherine Burns / Beacon Staff • January 28, 2016

Sylvia Spears, vice president for diversity and inclusion, and Robert Amelio, director of diversity and inclusive excellence, presented on Emerson’s Bias Response Program at a faculty assembly on Tuesday. Sharon Duffy also presented with Emerson’s Care, Assessment, Response and Engagement team.

Spears explained the premise of the Bias Response Program, an anonymous reporting system for incidents of bias available to students, faculty, and staff. Spears clarified that the program is not intended for disciplinary purposes.

During the presentation, Spears and Amelio also presented the faculty and staff results of the Emerson360: Community Climate Survey. Spears said at the meeting they planned to present these in April 2015 but were interrupted by the student demonstration.

The survey said faculty and staff generally had average to high satisfaction with Emerson— generally upwards of 50 percent—particularly in the areas of pride in the institution, relationship with departments chairs and job satisfaction. Affiliated faculty scored lowest overall, particularly in the areas of teaching environment, professional development, and benefits and work life balance, all of which were below 40 percent. They also rated shared governance below 30 percent satisfaction.

Led by Duffy, interim dean of students, eCARE team members also presented on the results of the American College Health Association National College Health Assessment, conducted last spring. The percentage of Emerson students reporting negative mental health was higher than the national average in almost every category. Additionally, 71 percent of students said they felt very lonely compared to 21.4 percent.

Duffy said in the meeting eCARE provides professors an opportunity to report behavioral concerns if there are any red flags. Midterm grades of a D or lower automatically trigger outreach to the student, as they act as a good early warning sign, according to Duffy. Others include not showing up to class, changes in appearance, and aggression or violence.

From there, eCARE will reach out to other faculty to determine if there is a pattern of behavior and may request an assessment by Emerson Counseling and Psychological services if necessary, according to Duffy. They will refer the student to the appropriate campus services and explore the option of leave of absence or withdrawal if necessary.

“It’s never too early,” Duffy said, “and it’s never too late [to report].”