You are here

Responding to Students in Distress: A Guide for Faculty and Staff

If you are a faculty or staff member and know a student who is in distress, you may be able to help. The following information describes a range of potential student behaviors and suggests potential responses that can be taken in each situation. 

Contents

An Explanation of this Guide

Introduction

Research and our own experiences reveal that students are experiencing extraordinary levels of stress and distress. Some of our colleagues argue that these students lack the resiliency of former generations. Others point to the increased academic, professional, and social demands at a time when social media has transformed the way in which students relate to one another and the world. Still, others point to the fact that a record number of college-aged students have been diagnosed with mental health conditions.

As we seek to increase access to higher education, we also recognize that certain populations of students are more vulnerable than others. Data shows our LGBTQIA+ students are significantly more likely to experience mental health issues, including and up to suicidality. Students of color and racial minorities are less likely to access mental health services, potentially revealing a cultural barrier to care. We also know that our international students who experience the same stressors as our domestic ones — in addition to the added challenge of experiencing culture shock without the support of family or friends — may be equally unfamiliar with and/or reluctant to access appropriate services, such as counseling.

As we engage with a diverse group of students facing a myriad of challenging life experiences, we try to home in on the particular approach that will work in that situation. However, we provide nuanced care at the risk of being accused of treating similarly situated students differently. As the legal landscape changes, ethical obligations are accompanied by legal duties. We are continually balancing our moral inclinations against legal constructs that feel either too vague or too complicated to be able to be meaningfully applied to our work.

With this serving as the backdrop to our work in higher education, we continue to provide the educational, administrative, spiritual, athletic, and/or auxiliary services for which we were hired. However, the most challenging and time-consuming responsibilities may be our work responding to students of concern. There continues to be a need for more resources to educate faculty and staff on how to provide compassionate but appropriate, nuanced but legal, and all the while effective ways to respond to our students in distress.

The purpose of this guide, created by members of the Student CARE Team , is to provide a framework by which faculty and staff can understand the range of student distress, including and up to crisis, and then facilitate the appropriate care for the student. This guide describes a range of potential student behaviors and suggests potential responses that can be taken in each situation. An Additional Information and Resources section includes:

Focusing on Behavior Rather Than Conditions

If you search for other similar guides, you’ll notice that institutions organize these guides in a number of different ways. Some institutions, for example, organize information according to the myriad of potential conditions our students may experience, such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, etc., and then list a variety of suggestions about how faculty and staff can respond to those conditions.

As we evaluated these guides through the lens of our own experiences with students of concern, we realized this approach failed to account for the range of distress students might experience within a particular condition. For example, while we agree that anxiety is one of the most common conditions experienced by our students, students’ experiences range from well-managed concern to debilitating panic. By focusing on a condition rather than a specific experience, we may miss the mark on how best to respond.

Moreover, as most of us are not licensed clinicians, by focusing on conditions rather than behavior, we risk misdiagnosing and, in turn, incorrectly treating our students. There is a reason that our students sometimes go a long time before receiving the correct diagnosis; mental health conditions are complex and require professional evaluation, diagnosis, and often an individualized treatment plan.
Finally, the simple act of characterizing a student as having a certain condition — whether or not they have been diagnosed with this condition — may bring that student under the protection of the Americans with Disabilities Act, which may impact the College’s ability to respond to the problematic behaviors.

We realized we needed a different approach.

The CARE Team caseload varies every semester, but the CARE Team generally maintains a caseload of around 30 students. As we went back to evaluate these students, we realized that, regardless of the cause of such behavior, our students of concern generally display conduct that falls into one of three categories: (1) expected behavior; (2) concerning behavior; and (3) urgent behavior. Each of these categories reflects a different level of reaction from our students and each requires a different response from us. This guide provides an explanation and examples of each category, as well as specific actions you can take to support students in distress.

A Note on Implicit Biases

Before we move into an evaluation of our students’ behavior, we must first acknowledge the subjective lens through which such evaluation occurs. More specifically, we should acknowledge the role that our implicit bias has on our perception of and response to students of concern. Although implicit biases can be positive and negative, they can have harmful effects on the way we perceive and respond to students in distress. Therefore, we are each obligated to start not with our students, but with ourselves.

Research indicates that students of color, students with disabilities, and English language learners are disciplined at disproportionately higher rates in K-12 educational settings. (See Civil Rights Data Collection Data Snapshot: School Discipline (PDF), U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights (March 2014). Data indicates similar trends continue at the college level. (V. Strauss. Racial bias in campus discipline: When will universities look in the mirror? Washington Post. April 22, 2018.) As members of this community, we have an obligation to learn about our biases, make efforts to reduce them, and regularly ask ourselves if our assessment of a student’s behavior is possibly linked to unconscious bias. We recommend the implicit bias tests available online through Harvard’s “Project Implicit.”

Section 2: Understanding and Responding to Students in Distress

This guide suggests that students’ response to distress generally falls within three categories.

The vast majority of students in distress will exhibit expected behavior, the range of behavior that demonstrates adequate and appropriate coping mechanisms to the normal range of stress experienced by our students. Everyone at the College has the ability (and responsibility) to compassionately and appropriately respond to our students’ expected behavior, although one should not hesitate to consult with other campus resources for additional support or expertise.

A small percentage of our students may lack the coping strategies to effectively manage the normal stress of college life. Based on the nature of such behavior, faculty and staff who witness students exhibiting concerning behavior should seek the assistance and advice of campus resources, including the student’s class dean and/or the CARE Team.

Finally, each year a few students will demonstrate what we call urgent behavior, behavior that is so concerning that it warrants immediate intervention of safety-related resources, including the Counseling Center and/or the Department of Public Safety (or, if off-campus, 911). A more comprehensive description of each category of behavior follows.

Expected Behavior

For most of our students, college is the first time they have lived independently and are expected to resolve the issues and challenges that arise. It is a time of challenge and growth. We expect our students to experience some stress, and, in doing so, to learn appropriate ways to manage this stress. Indeed, the overwhelming majority of students experiencing stress (up to distress) will display what we are calling expected behaviors, those behaviors we anticipate from most students in stressful situations:
Expected Behaviors may include:

Anger, frustration

  • Occasional feelings of inadequacy, or concerns that the student isn’t good enough
  • Fatigue, occasional exhaustion
  • Occasional feelings of being overwhelmed, sadness, or crying
  • Feelings of not fitting in, loneliness
  • Feelings of culture shock, homesickness
  • Short durations of sleep difficulties, particularly during expected times of stress, such as midterms and final exams

Expected Behaviors DO NOT

  • Require specific expertise to manage
  • Disrupt the educational, athletic, or social community
  • Pose a risk to self or others
  • Persist over a long period of time or arise repeatedly
  • Seem unimproved or worse, even after several contacts

As a member of a higher-education community who interacts with students, you have likely encountered students in distress exhibiting expected behaviors. You have the tools to compassionately respond to and help guide students toward positive coping mechanisms. When you encounter a student in distress who is demonstrating expected behaviors, you can employ any of the following tools or resources in an effort to assist the student:

  • Making time for the student
  • Listening to and understanding the student
  • Helping the student strategize about potential ways to solve the problem
  • Empowering the student to help resolve their own problem by reminding them about their problem-resolution skills.
  • Referring the student to other campus resources. A full description and list of these resources is available under Additional Information and Resources, “List of Campus Resources.” 
    • Student’s Class Dean
    • Counseling Center
    • Chaplain’s Office
    • Office of Accessibility Services
    • Academic Resources and Learning Resources
    • Office of International Students
    • Office of Diversity and Inclusion

At the same, it will be important to set and maintain appropriate boundaries with the student. Although you may care deeply about your students, you are not responsible for solving their problems or for allocating a disproportionate amount of your resources to helping them solve their problem(s). If you start to feel that your student is taking resources beyond what a typical student requires, the student may be displaying what we call “concerning behavior,” which requires a different response.

Concerning Behavior

Most students in distress are able to identify the appropriate resources to resolve their issues in a healthy and effective manner. However, there are some students who either lack such coping mechanisms and/or face such extraordinary challenges that the need for greater intervention and support will be necessary. Generally, the need for intervention reveals itself through disruptive, attention-seeking, or potentially harmful conduct that falls under the category of concerning behavior.

Concerning Behaviors may include:

  • A pattern of repeated crises
  • Substantial or frequent disruptions in the academic, athletic, or social environment
  • Repeated misconduct
  • Significant changes in personal habits, including hygiene and persistent changes in sleep
  • Unexplainable academic difficulties
  • Frequent physical problems or illnesses
  • Difficulty relating to peers
  • Significant anxiety
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Repeated hospitalizations
  • Disordered eating
  • Extreme fatigue or depressed mood
  • Generalized statements about suicide
  • The need for a significant amount of your time, energy, or resources
  • A need for an extended medical or mental-health leave

  Concerning Behavior DOES NOT INCLUDE:

  • A students’ stated plans or intentions regarding suicide (See “Urgent Behavior” below)
  • Behavior that may pose an imminent risk to self or others (See “Urgent Behavior” below)

Resources:

  • The Student CARE Team. To report a concern, you may contact the associate dean of students, who serves as the chair of the CARE Team, or use the online Report Form at www.holycross.edu/reportaconcern.
  • The student’s class dean
  • The Counseling Center
  • The Office of the College Chaplains
  • The Threat Assessment Group (if you believe the student may pose a risk to others)

Concerning behavior by itself does not constitute an emergency. Concerning behavior generally includes that wide range of behavior in which students engage in conduct that may pose a threat to their health or well-being, but doesn’t represent an imminent risk. If a student engages in behavior that you reasonably believe may pose an imminent risk to the student or to others, the student is displaying what we call “urgent behavior,” which warrants a more immediate response.

Urgent Behavior

A very small percentage of students in distress will demonstrate the need for immediate attention. These individuals require expertise beyond what the ordinary college employee can provide.
Urgent behavior includes:

  • Actual or threats of harm to self
  • Actual or threats of harm to others
  • Suicidal plans, intentions, or attempts
  • Seeing or hearing things that are not apparent to others
  • Reports of true or imminent threat of physical safety (e.g., death threats, social media attacks encouraging the person to kill themselves, etc.)

Urgent behavior indicates a situation that warrants immediate action. Whenever faced with any of the circumstances outlined under “urgent behavior,” we recommend you contact one of the following:

  •  For clear psychological emergencies, contact the Department of Public Safety (emergency line is 508-793-2222). A public safety officer can respond to the scene, assess the student and implement support.
  • For urgent, but non-emergency psychological issues, you can access the Counseling Center, as follows:
    • Walk the student over to the Counseling Center (Hogan 207) during urgent care times, Monday through Friday at 10 a.m. or 3 p.m.
    • For psychological crises that occur after hours when the Counseling Center is closed, an on-call crisis counselor can be reached by calling the Counseling Center at 508-793-3363 and following the prompts.
  • If the student poses an imminent risk to others or presents other safety concerns:
    • If on-campus, contact the Department of Public Safety at 508- 793-2222.
    • If off-campus, contact 911.
  • If the student is acting in a way that you believe may represent a risk to others but which does not represent an imminent risk:
  • All other emergencies:
    • If on-campus, contact the Department of Public Safety at 508- 793-2222.
    • If off-campus, contact 911.

Holy Cross’ Student Suicide Protocol

Students exhibiting suicidal ideation and/or suicidal behavior can be particularly concerning for the faculty and staff who work with them. It is our hope that this guide helps to mitigate some of that fear by providing specific direction about how to respond. However, when it comes to suicidality, in addition to the ethical considerations presented herein, we must also consider our legal obligations to take specific steps around student suicide.

A recent Massachusetts court case established that colleges and universities in Massachusetts have a limited duty of care to prevent a student’s death by suicide. This case created a new law in Massachusetts that Holy Cross employees must follow. The good news is that this legal regulation is consistent with what we want faculty and staff to do when they become aware of a student who may be suicidal.
As a result of this case, college employees in Massachusetts have the following new reporting obligation:

When you learn of:

  • A student’s suicide attempt while enrolled at the College or recently (within a year) before matriculation (whether during vacation, summer, leave, study abroad, suspension, or on or off campus) or
  • A student’s stated plans or intentions to attempt suicide (as distinguished from generalized statements about suicidal thoughts)

You must notify immediately:
1. The Department of Public Safety 508-793-2222 or call 911 off campus immediately if you believe an emergency situation exists, or
2. The chair of the CARE Team, Paul Irish, associate dean of students, in a non-emergency situation.
When reporting to the CARE Team chair, you may cc the student’s class dean to expedite communication and coordination of care. However, any time a student is referred to the CARE Team, the student’s class dean will be notified and involved.

Members of the community have expressed the difficulty of distinguishing between students’ “stated plans or intentions” and generalized statements about suicide. The difficulty in trying to provide clear guidelines around this distinction is that it moves into an area reserved for mental health clinicians: assessing whether or not — or the degree to which — students may pose a threat to themselves and/or others.

Instead, we provide the following framework: If, at any point, you become aware of information that meets the criteria outlined above, you do not have an obligation to assess or probe the student for further information. Instead, you are required to notify either the Department of Public Safety or the chair of the CARE Team, accordingly. If you’re not sure, please report the situation to the chair of the CARE Team. The default should always be to report concerning behavior.

Conclusion

In our work, we continue to be inspired by the level of intellect, curiosity, and creativity demonstrated by all of our students across all academic departments and extracurricular interests. There is tremendous fulfillment in being able to mentor, support, and work alongside our students during their time at Holy Cross.

During their experience, there may be times when a few students become momentarily stuck, and in becoming stuck become disruptive or potentially destructive to themselves or others. Students in distress can be overwhelming to deal with. But it is in these times that we may be provided the opportunity to make the greatest impact on students’ lives. It is our hope that when faced with such an opportunity, this Guide will help identify and provide direction on how best to respond to students of concern. If you have any questions or would like to discuss further, please contact any of the individuals identified in List of Campus Resources.

Additional Information and Resources

Chart for Responding to Students in Distress

This chart shows which campus resources should be used for each level of distress.

 

Expected Behavior: Range of behavior exhibited by most students experiencing stress.

Concerning Behavior: Substantially disruptive behavior and/or behavior that may pose a threat to self.

Urgent Behavior: Behavior that may pose an imminent threat to self or potential threat to others.

You and your colleagues

X

 

 

The Class Deans

X

X

 

The CARE Team

 

X

 

The Counseling Center

X

X

X

The Office of the College Chaplains

X

X

 

Academic Services and Learning Resources

X

 

 

Health Services

X

X

 

Office of Disability Resources

X

 

 

Office of International Students

X

 

 

Department of Public Safety (or 911 if off campus)

 

X

X

Threat Assessment Group

 

X

X

List of Campus Resources

The CARE Team

The Student CARE Team is comprised of employees throughout the campus who regularly meet to identify and discuss students of concern. The team is chaired by the associate dean of students and includes representatives from Student Affairs, Academic Affairs, the Chaplains’ Office, Athletics, Public Safety, and Risk Management. Together, the CARE Team and the Class Deans are a critical resource for responding to Concerning Behavior. For more information, “The CARE Team. 

How to Contact

The Class Deans

Each class dean is assigned an incoming class, and follows that class from acceptance through graduation. As class deans work with students throughout their Holy Cross experience, they have the opportunity to observe, understand, and build relationships with individual students throughout their time at Holy Cross. Given their familiarity with students, they are often the first one to notice that something is wrong. The class deans work closely with campus departments and the CARE Team to connect students with the resources they need.

CARE Liaison: Francisco Gago-Jover, class dean for 2021
Office: Fenwick 204
Phone: 508-793-2532
Email: fgagojov@holycross.edu

For information on the other class deans, please see “The Class Deans.” 

The Counseling Center

CARE Liaison - Paul Galvinhill, director of the Counseling Center
Office Location: Hogan 207
Phone: 508-793-3363
Counseling Center Website 
How to Contact:

  • For routine care: Monday through Friday 9 a.m. – Noon and 1 – 5 p.m.
  • For urgent care during business hours: The Counseling Center is open for “urgent care times” on Monday through Friday at 10 a.m and 3 p.m.
  • For urgent care after hours: For psychological crises that occur after hours when the Counseling Center is closed, an on-call crisis counselor can be reached by calling the Counseling Center at 508-793-3363 and following the prompts.
  • For psychological emergencies: Contact Public Safety at 508-793-2222. 

The Office of the College Chaplains

CARE Liaison: Rev. Jim Hayes, S.J., associate chaplain for mission
Office Location: Campion House
Phone: 508-793-2448
Meet the Chaplains Website
Hours of Operation (academic year):
Sunday: Noon – 11 p.m.
Monday-Thursday: 8:30 a.m. – 11:00 p.m.
Friday: 8:30 a.m. – 10 p.m.    

Academic Services and Learning Resources

CARE liaison: Kelly Saintelus, director of Academic Services and Learning Resources
Office location: Dinand Library 204
Phone: 508-793-2713
Hours of Operation (academic year): Monday-Friday, 8:30 a.m. - Noon and 1 - 4:30 p.m.
Academic Services and Learning Resources Website

Health Services

CARE liaison: Martha Sullivan, director of Health Services
Office location: Loyola Hall
Phone: 508-793-2275
Hours of operation (academic year): Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-noon and 1 to 5 p.m.
Health Services Website

Office of Accessibility Services

CARE Liaison: Neal Lipsitz, Director
Health Center’s Location: Hogan 215
Phone: (508) 793-3693
Accessibility Services Website

Office of International Students

Contact: Christina Chen, Director
CARE Liaison: Student’s Class Dean
Office Location: Fenwick 204
Phone: (508) 793-2532
Website: https://www.holycross.edu/office-international-students

Office of Multicultural Education

CARE Liaison: Mable L. Millner, Director
Office Location: Hogan 109
Phone: (508) 793-2669
Hours of Operation: Monday - Friday, 9 a.m. - 5 p.m.
Website:
https://www.holycross.edu/diversity-and-inclusion/office-multicultural-education

Department of Public Safety

The Department of Public Safety is comprised of sworn police officers who derive their authority from the Massachusetts State Police. They are graduates of an approved police academy and have the same obligations and powers as municipal police officers. DPS provides a comprehensive program of police services, emergency medical first response, crime prevention programming, and related public safety services. We strive for a partnership with students, staff, and faculty that is the foundation of mutual respect, caring, and safety for the campus community.
CARE liaison: Deputy Chief Shawn Bavieri
Office location: 3 Cityview St.
Phone: 508-793-2224
Emergencies: 508-793-2222
Public Safety Website

Threat Assessment Group

Threat Assessment Website
How to Contact:

            For more information, see “The Threat Assessment Group 

The Class Deans

Each class year is assigned a class dean who works with that class from orientation through graduation. Class deans come from the ranks of tenured faculty, and continue to maintain a reduced teaching load while serving as class dean. In general, class deans oversee the academic advising system and are responsible for monitoring the academic progress, and facilitating the academic success, of all students in that class. They report directly to the dean of experiential learning and student success, and work closely with offices from all parts of the College.

Class deans also play an important role in working with students who are experiencing all levels of distress, whether such distress emerges initially from specific academic difficulties, from physical or mental health issues, or from stressful personal experiences. This part of their position entails not only providing direct support for students in a myriad of ways, but also serving as a resource and liaison for faculty, staff, administrators, and parents in their interactions with students in distress. Also important is the class dean’s role in referring students to the people or offices best able to provide information and/or support, and in facilitating, when necessary and appropriate, those referrals.

The information below is divided in two sections. The first explains the class dean’s overall role in monitoring students’ academic progress and supporting students who are experiencing academic challenges. The second describes the class dean’s role in working with students in distress, in particular by providing academic accommodations. There is also a FAQ section.

The Class Dean Role 

To monitor students’ academic progress, class deans:

  • Assign and train academic advisors
  • Oversee the declaration of majors, minors, concentrations
  • Facilitate students’ engagement with other academic programs, including Study Abroad and Study Away
  • Work with advisors, department chairs, and program directors to ensure that students are meeting academic requirements for graduation
  • Approve courses taken for credit at other institutions (in consultation with department chairs and program directors)

 
To address students’ academic challenges and support student success, class deans:

  • Work closely with students who have been placed on academic probation (GPA below 2.0 after first semester, between 1.75 and 2.0 after second semester, and between 1.85 and 2.0 after third semester) or who are experiencing significant academic difficulties
  • Oversee charges of academic integrity violations; provide necessary follow up training and/or referral
  • Approve course withdrawals and create plans for making up deficiencies
  • Approve incompletes and work with faculty and students to create plans for timely completion of work
  • Approve voluntary leaves of absence (whether for health-related, personal, or financial reasons)

 
Class Deans’ Work with Students in Distress  

Student Absences: For most Holy Cross students, absence from class can be a source of distress, particularly if that absence results from illness or from personal issues such as loss. In keeping with the College’s Excused Absence Policy, class deans can provide faculty with notification of confirmed absences related to extended illness as well as to deaths or medical emergencies in the student’s family. In these cases, the absences would be considered excused and faculty would be asked by the class dean to work with the student to make up missed work without penalty.

Moreover, significant class absence can also, in and of itself, be a sign of distress. In these cases, it is important that faculty alert the class dean, particularly in situations where the absence is unexplained and the student is not responding to faculty emails.

Academic Accommodations: Students may receive ADA-mandated academic accommodations (e.g., extra time on tests) through the Office of Accessibility Services. These requests are generally provided at the start of each semester, and usually will continue through a student’s time at Holy Cross.

However, students may also receive academic accommodations on a short-term basis, which are generally facilitated by the class dean. These accommodations may relate to specific physical health, mental health, or personal needs, and are often determined through consultation with campus offices and health providers, including Health Services, the Athletic Department, the Counseling Center, the Title IX Office, and the Office of Accessibility Services. In these cases, class deans will contact the student’s faculty with the appropriate requests. These may be specific (e.g., a one-week extension on a paper) or general (e.g., a request for flexibility in the coming days). In certain situations, class deans may be able to provide specific information on the reason behind the request in order to facilitate the faculty member’s work with the student. (This would be the case with a concussion, where cognitive recovery does not follow a clear trajectory and student needs are not always apparent.) In other situations, class deans may say only “confirmed personal reasons” to protect the privacy of the student. Faculty should know that class deans are providing as much information as they are able.

Outside of ADA accommodations, requests for academic accommodations are always made in consultation with the faculty member. It is part of the job of the class dean to facilitate the provision of academic accommodations in such a way that balances the needs of student, professor, and other students in the course.

Referrals: An important part of the class dean’s job is to connect students with resources across campus, and to facilitate, wherever possible, students’ experiences with those resources. Thus, while class deans assist students in distress in accessing the confidential resources on campus, including Health Services, the Counseling Center, and the Chaplains’ Office, they also make students aware of other sources of support. Thus, a first-year student who is experiencing stress due to lack of sleep may benefit from a one-on-one time management session in the Office of Academic Services and Learning Resources, a session the class dean can help to arrange. A senior, anxious about the future, might find most beneficial a meeting with someone in the Center for Career Development.

Frequently Asked Questions


Q: In what kinds of situations should I notify a student’s class dean? 

A: Academically, you should notify the class dean in any situation in which a student is not fulfilling course obligations and is not responding to email. In most circumstances, of course, the first line of approach is between a student and faculty member. However, when a student has missed more than one class, has failed to submit assignments, has provided no communication, and is not responding to your attempts at outreach, then you should let the class dean know.
In addition, you should contact the class dean when a student is exhibiting concerning behavior of any kind, regardless of the academic implications. However, if the behavior entails threat to self or others, or triggers the Suicide Protocol, you should first notify Public Safety if the threat is imminent at 508-793-2222, or the chair of the Student CARE Team (Paul Irish: 508-793-2669 or pirish@holycross.edu).
Sharing your own concern will allow the class dean to follow up on the situation as necessary, and also to gather more information, as appropriate, from the student’s other faculty.

Q: What’s the best way to contact a Class Dean?

A: Most faculty members communicate by email, particularly if they want to forward or include written communication from and/or with the student. However, class deans are also available to speak by phone, whether as part of an initial outreach or as a follow up. Class deans are here for you!

Q: If a student shares difficult or confidential information, do I need to disclose it to the class dean?

A: In the case of sexual assault and sexual misconduct, faculty are mandated reporters, and therefore information relating to these issues must be disclosed to the Title IX Office. However, it may be helpful both to understand and to frame that disclosure as a way to connect students with faculty and staff n campus who can provide them with necessary resources. Class deans can also play an advisory and/or support role in this process, whether for the faculty member or the student.

In addition, if the behavior entails threat to self or others, or triggers the Suicide Protocol, you should first notify Public Safety if the threat is imminent at 508-793-2222, or the chair of the Student CARE Team (Paul Irish: 508-793-2669 or pirish@holycross.edu).

In other cases, you should do what you believe is in the student’s best interest, in consultation (where possible) with the student. Being transparent, both about your own concern for what the student has disclosed, and about your desire to notify further resources on the student’s behalf, is important. Unless you believe there is a compelling reason not to disclose, it is possible to say to a student as follows: “Thank you for sharing this information with me. I’m concerned about the impact of what you’ve shared on your classes, and think your class dean would be in the best position to contact your professors on your behalf. Would it be okay if I let your class dean know about our conversation, so that s/he could reach out to you?”

Q: Is it ever too early to contact a student’s class dean?

A: No. The earlier class deans are made aware of a situation, the more options they have to intervene before the situation reaches a crisis level. In addition, you don’t need to have a specific issue to reach out to a student’s class dean. Class deans are always available to consult, in any way that is helpful for you, about any situation.

Q. If I have reported to the CARE Team, will this information make it back to the student’s class dean?

A. Yes. A representative from the class deans sits on the CARE Team to receive information about students of concern and to refer back to the appropriate class dean. In addition, all class deans have access to and are able to review and update records maintained by the CARE Team.

To contact a Class Dean:
Class of 2019: Shawn Maurer
Office: Fenwick 229
Phone: 508-793-2532
classdean2019@holycross.edu

Class of 2020: John Anderson
Office: Fenwick 204
Phone: 508-793-2532
classdean2020@holycross.edu

Class of 2021: Francisco Gago-Jover
Office: Fenwick 204
Phone: 508-793-2532
fgagojov@holycross.edu

Class of 2022: Patricia Kramer
Office: Fenwick 204
Phone: 508-793-2532
classdean2022@holycross.edu

Student CARE Team

The College of the Holy Cross Student CARE Team provides coordinated support for students in distress, addressing concerns about a student’s behavior, academic progress, and personal issues, including physical and mental health.

The CARE Team gathers information from personal contact with students and referrals from members of the Holy Cross community, to include faculty, staff, students, or concerned parties, as well as family members. A goal of the team is to provide a structured, collaborative and supportive approach to address concerns that may adversely impact a student’s academic and personal success.

The CARE Team is not a substitute for other campus systems of support and does not bypass established protocols or procedures, such as academic policies, leave policies, student disciplinary procedures, threat assessment, and/or Public Safety responses to incidents.

The CARE Team is committed to the following:

  • Identifying students of concern who are in need of coordinated support;
  • Collecting and analyzing information to determine appropriate support for students;
  • Recommending interventions as appropriate to assist with students’ success;
  • Connecting students with support resources both on and off campus;
  • Coordinating care between and among varied College constituencies;
  • Providing follow-up care to assist with students’ well-being and academic success;
  • Engaging students’ families when appropriate; and
  • Maintaining student privacy as required by law and handling all matters with discretion.

 
Reasons to refer a student to the CARE Team include, but are not limited to:

  • Concerns about a student persist despite attempts to engage the student with campus resources (e.g., class dean, Counseling Center, Chaplains’ Office, Health Services, Accessibility Services, Academic Services and Learning Resources);
  • Student displays a pattern of concerning behavior, including, but not limited to, missing classes / assignments, chronic health issues, psychological distress, alcohol and/or other drug abuse, or displays forms of inappropriate behavior;
  • Student shows significant and marked changes in behavior, mood or affect;
  • Student's academic or social performance deteriorates;
  • Statements or actions of self-harm; and/or
  • Student's behavior reflects increased hopelessness or helplessness.

CARE Team Members

Chaired by the associate dean of students, the CARE team is comprised of representatives from different areas of the campus community. Additional individuals may be invited to meetings as warranted. Representatives (i.e., the director or a designee with relevant authority and expertise) from each of the following offices are standing members of the CARE Team:

  • Associate dean of students (chair)
  • Academic Services and Learning Resources
  • Athletics / Sports Medicine
  • Chaplains’ Office*
  • Class Dean
  • Director Counseling Center*
  • Accessibility Services
  • Health Services*
  • Office of Multicultural Education
  • Public Safety
  • Residence Life & Housing
  • Student Integrity & Community Standards
  • Risk Management

Note: The College’s General Counsel is available as consultant to the CARE Team

*Members of the Care Team who are required by law to maintain confidentiality of information do not disclose confidential information concerning students except as permitted by applicable law. Students may choose to sign a waiver to allow staff from these offices to provide information to the CARE team.
 
Privacy
All reports to the CARE Team will be handled in as private a manner as possible, consistent with the College’s obligations under applicable laws and College policies. Any CARE records that relate to a student are “education records” and are governed by the Family Education and Right to Privacy Act (FERPA) of 1974. CARE records are maintained in a central secure database managed by the chair of CARE.

Referring Student Matters to the CARE Team
Campus members are encouraged to report concerns about students who may be in distress or whose behavior is disruptive to others in the community. In cases of emergency, individuals are instructed to the Department of Public Safety (508-793-2222) or 911 off campus, first. The CARE Team plays a secondary role to all urgent circumstances and should be contacted only after initial emergency notifications are made.

In non-emergency situations, faculty, staff, students or external constituents can provide information to the team through a number of channels. They include, but are not limited to, personal interaction, telephone call, or email to the chair of the CARE Team, Paul Irish, or through anonline form. Faculty members are encouraged to also shared concerns with the student’s class dean. Each report should include as much detail as possible about the behavior and/or incident of concern. If a concern is submitted online, the reporter will also receive an acknowledgement of receipt if the reporter provides contact information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I report a student to the CARE Team?

A. The two quickest ways to report a student the CARE Team include:
Submitting a report at: www.holycross.edu/reportaconcern
Contacting Paul Irish, chair of CARE Team at 508-793-2669 or pirish@holycross.edu

 Q: What happens if I report a student to the CARE Team?

A: Once the chair of the CARE Team receives a report about a student of concern, the chair will quickly evaluate the report to determine the appropriate response. There are times that the chair can connect the student with needed resources, obviating the need to refer to CARE. If necessary (e.g., if the student is showing up in other areas), the chair will obtain more immediate care. If this does not represent an urgent situation, but still demonstrates the need for attention, the chair will bring the matter to the next scheduled CARE Team meeting, in which the members of CARE will discuss the student and identify the best ways to support the student.

Q. Can I report a student and remain anonymous?

A. Yes, by submitting an anonymous report atwww.holycross.edu/reportaconcern. However, we strongly recommend that you provide identifying information so that we can follow up with you with further questions and/or information about how best to support that student. We can’t promise confidentiality, but if you wish to remain private, we recommend you call the chair of the CARE Team and ask that they take your information and maintain your privacy to the greatest extent possible. In any information related to the case, CARE can use your initials or simply provide general information, like, “a professor.”

[Please note that the anonymous report will capture your IP address, but we will not investigate this unless you submit information that someone poses an imminent risk of danger to others (e.g., a bomb threat).]

Q. Will you provide information to the original reporter?

A. It will depend upon the situation. The CARE Team recognizes that it takes concern for a student to make a report. However, we receive many reports regarding students of concern that require a range of responses, not all of which warrant further communication with the original reporter. If is it important to you that you hear back, please notify the chair of the CARE Team or include this information in your report.

Q. If I have reported to the student’s class dean, will this information make it to the CARE Team?

A. The class deans often serve to manage many of the issues that would otherwise warrant referral to the CARE Team. While the CARE Team and the class deans work closely together, this does not necessarily mean that all students referred to the class deans are referred to CARE. If you want to make a referral to the CARE Team, we recommend you make a direct referral.  

Learn more about the Student CARE Team. 

Threat Assessment Group

The College has a number of resources to identify and address individuals engaging in concerning behavior at the College, one of which is the Threat Assessment Group. The group investigates, evaluates, and manages individuals whose behavior is perceived as threatening to others. The group receives reports of individuals whose behavior is perceived as threatening to others, conducts an investigation into that report, facilitates a threat assessment into the level of risk the individual may present, implements a management plan, and conducts follow up to promote continued safety throughout the community.

The Threat Assessment Process

The Threat Assessment Group uses a threat assessment process that is evidence-based and derived from U.S. Secret Service protective intelligence research, the Safe School Initiative, and FBI research. The process originates from that described in “The Handbook for Campus Threat Assessment & Management Teams” (Deisinger, Randazzo, O’Neill and Savage) and other best practices, as interpreted and implemented by this College, in consideration of its mission as a Catholic, Jesuit liberal arts institution of higher education.

Significantly disruptive and/or potentially threatening behavior is evaluated under this process, as well as any applicable policy, including but not limited to, the Student Code of Conduct, the Employee Handbook, discrimination and harassment policies, and others. At the same time, we recognize that environments in which community members pay attention to others’ social and emotional needs can reduce incidents of violence, and so we also seek opportunities to provide care and support when doing is appropriate and will mitigate a risk.

Membership

The group is comprised of members of the campus community who work with specific populations of our community and/or provide subject matter expertise, including the chief risk management and compliance officer; the chief of police, or designee; and the director of the Counseling Center or designee. The team will consult with individuals with first-hand knowledge of the events giving rise to the original concern and, when appropriate, will include representatives from the following areas:

  • For student issues: vice president for Student Affairs and/or class dean (or designees)
  • For faculty issues: provost, or designee, and speaker of the faculty
  • For staff issues: director of Human Resources, or designee
  • For external parties: local law enforcement agencies or other local agencies

All members of the threat assessment group, including new members, must undergo threat assessment training. Each member of the group is expected to regularly review, be familiar with and utilize best practices regarding threat assessment in higher education.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I report a student to the Threat Assessment Group?

A: You can contact the Threat Assessment Group as follows:
Submitting a report at: www.holycross.edu/reportaconcern
Contacting Denielle Burl at dburl@holycross.edu or 508-793-2339
Contacting Paul Galvinhill at pgalvinhill@holycross.edu or 508-793-3363

Q: How does the Threat Assessment Group determine if someone poses a threat?

A: The group uses the threat assessment process created by SIGMA Threat Management Associates. It includes (1) an investigation; (2) the threat assessment process; (3) implementation of a behavior management plan.

Q: What happens if someone is determined to pose a threat?

A: Decisions are made on a case-by-case basis, based upon the nature of the risk and the potential target(s). That said, if someone is truly deemed to pose a threat to someone on campus, this individual will likely be removed from campus. In recognition that removal from campus does not always mitigate a threat, the group will continue to work with the individuals/departments who are at risk through the facilitation of security assessments and consultation with local law enforcement.
The Threat Assessment Group cannot guarantee your safety. We can, however, use the currently best available resources to create internal protocols to help mitigate the risk of violence.
Meanwhile, the Threat Assessment Group continues to review and updates its policies to take into consideration the latest information regarding targeted violence on campus and in workplaces.

Q. Will the Threat Assessment Group report back to the person who originally reported the concern?

A: Yes. TAG procedures explicitly call for communication with the original reporter whenever possible to do so.

Q. Will the Threat Assessment Group inform others who may be impacted?

A: This is a case-by-case determination. We know that reintegrating at-risk individuals back into the community can reduce incidents of targeted violence and so we will endeavor to do this whenever it is safe and feasible to do so. Informing members of the community regarding a potential threat — when that threat does not directly impact them — may limits our efforts at reintegration. Therefore, in making this determination, we weigh the benefit of informing others against the potential negative impact on the Threat Assessment Group’s ultimate goal of reducing incidents of targeted violence.