My Advisee Might Be in Trouble

From time to time, all of us encounter students who may be having course related problems: low grades, missed classes, late submission of assigned work. Most of the time, these are temporary problems with "normal" explanations. Sometimes students slack off. We have a grade for that. And there is nothing wrong with students getting the grades they deserve for poor performance or neglected responsibilities.

But there are also occasions when issues in academic performance or changes in student behavior are indicators of more serious problems that may need attention from a variety of professional resources available across campus. What should an academic adviser, or a classroom instructor, look for as the warning signs of potential problems? What should an adviser or an instructor do when those signs appear?

There is an excellent brochure published by Student Affairs titled:

Recognizing and Assisting Students in Distress: A Guide for Faculty

The brochure has a useful list of warning signs that might mean a student needs help. These include the usual markers of problematic academic performance (declining grades, excessive absences, repeated requests for extensions, missed assignments), as well as physical indicators (visible change in weight, excessive fatigue, lack of personal hygiene, bleary-eyed hung over behavior) and the rare occasions when there is reason to suspect that the safety of an individual or others may be at risk (essays or papers that focus on suicide, despair, acting out violent behaviors, or death; statements to the effect that a student is "going away for a long time").

Whenever these (or other indicators of serious problems) arise, talk to the student and listen to what they have to say. If the student appears to need help, encourage them to get in contact with the people on campus who are ready and willing to offer assistance:

  • University Counseling Center (8590)
  • Student Health Center (8401)
  • Public Safety (8999)
  • Sidney Evans (8751), Dave Leonard (8752), Tammy Futrell (8766).

Follow up and make sure your advisee or student has sought out the help you think they need. In addition, you (or anyone in our community) can alert Student Affairs by calling Sidney Evans (540) 458 - 8754 or by email.

On our campus, we have many individuals and offices that stand ready to help students with a wide variety of personal and academic problems. We have a special obligation to watch for the unusual but serious cases that could involve immediate threats to safety and health.