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A message from the JED Foundation during Suicide Prevention Month

September marks the beginning of a new school year, and students are returning to campus seeking experiences and challenges that allow them to grow intellectually and personally. Although college is often thought of as a time of exploration, learning and fun, many students experience a different reality. As you know, suicide remains the second leading cause of death among teens and young adults, and emotional well-being is a significant predictor of whether students will successfully navigate challenges.

September also happens to be National Suicide Prevention Month, and while there are ways to help prevent suicide every day, it’s a great occasion to share resources, ideas, programs, and have meaningful conversations about this important and urgent issue.

As a nonprofit that exists to protect emotional health and prevent suicide for our nation’s teens and young adults, JED is reaching young people where they are – in schools and online.

We want to take this opportunity to applaud the students, staff, faculty, and administrators at our nearly 170 JED Campuses who are working with JED to implement our Comprehensive Approach, developing campus-wide systems, programs, and policies that address mental health, substance use problems, and suicide on their campuses. Learn more: jedcampus.org.

We believe everyone has a role in preventing suicide and college professionals are in a unique position to engage and guide students. We urge you to take action this Suicide Prevention Month (and all year!) to continue creating healthy, caring campus communities. Visit jedfoundation.org/help for information and resources you can share with your students.

As always, JED is here to support your efforts.
— The JED Team

Mental and Behavioral Health

A group of University of Missouri students are lobbying for legislation that would require the state’s public universities to self-evaluate and self-report the mental health services they offer. About 50 percent of all UM students have experienced anxiety, according to survey data the student group provided.

The Daily Iowan, the University of Iowa‘s student paper, ran an article on the school’s ten emotional support animals currently living in residence halls: three dogs, five cats, and two hamsters. The dorms don’t normally allow pets, but according to the federal Fair Housing Act, landlords — in this case, the university — must make accommodations for both service animals and emotional support animals.

All University of Minnesota students now have access to Learn to Live, an online therapy service that provides students with support for anxiety, depression, social anxiety, and stress. Each session is only five minutes, making it easy to accommodate busy student schedules.

Calm.com, one of the world’s leading companies in the meditation space, announced that it has launched the first platform in the US geared towards improving the mental health of college students through mindfulness. Calm College kicked off in seven pilot schools this year and hopes to gradually expanding across the country, eventually internationally.

Diversity and Inclusion

Gonzaga University has combined its Unity Multicultural Education Center with its LGBTQ+ Resource Center, creating a new umbrella program called Diversity, Inclusion, and Cultural Engagement (DICE). The new center will allow for better collaboration and engagement between the two organizations.

At Penn State, the Center for Women Students has been renamed the Gender Equity Center. “When considering changing the name of the center, we worked to respect the center’s founding mission and devise a way that all our services and programs would continue to support students, yet also reflect the inclusiveness and sense of community of the center,” said Peggy Lorah, Interim Assistant Vice President of Diversity and Inclusion for Student Affairs.

This week, after lobbying by students and faculty, the name “Calhoun” was removed from a Yale University dormitory. The building was named for John C. Calhoun, a U.S. vice president and a white supremacist who supported slavery.

High school students who identified themselves as low-income, racial minorities, or first in their families to attend college, did far worse on the ACT college entrance exam than those who did not. According to new data, more than four of five test takers who had all three of these “underserved” characteristics showed college readiness on one or none of the benchmarks in English, reading, math and science. Only 9 percent met the benchmark in at least three of the four areas, compared to 54 percent for students who did not mark that they had these characteristics.

According to a report released by an internal working group, the University of Virginia could have done more to anticipate the violence at the Charlottesville white-supremacist rally on campus. The report also cited missed opportunities to rein in the demonstrations before the situation got out of control and referred to the fact that the school’s police force did not attempt to enforce bans on open flames that may have halted the torch-wielding demonstrators.

Sexual Assault and Title IX

The Chronicle of Higher Education published an opinion from Vanessa Grigoriadi who wrote that  the obvious action to stem sexual assault on campuses is to close fraternities or make them co-ed. The comments were an excerpt from Grigoriadis’ book “Blurred Lines: Rethinking Sex, Power, and Consent on Campus.”

The Columbia Spectator examines the prevalence of public safety alerts on campus in the aftermath of a reported sexual assault. The student paper found that over the past two years,  33 alleged sexual assaults were reported to Public Safety yet only two resulted in an alert sent to the Columbia community, in some cases leaving students unaware of repeated assaults within the same geographical area in a short span of time.

DeVos Title IX Announcement

In a speech at George Mason University‘s Antonin Scalia Law School last week, Education Secretary Betsy DeVos said that the Obama administration’s approach to policing campus sexual assault had “failed too many students,” and that her administration would rewrite the rules to protect both the victims of sexual assault and the accused. DeVos’ comments have sparked action and commentary throughout the higher ed community.

Some have argued that the move is bringing due process to the adjudication of campus sexual assault, while others believe that it sends a signal to sexual assault survivors that the Trump administration will “make way for what is nothing less than an all-out attack on survivors.”

In an op-ed in the Washington Post, Laura L. Dunn, the founder and executive director of SurvJustice, a national nonprofit organization that represents sexual assault victims on campuses across the country, expressed deep concerns about DeVos’ comments. Dunn writes that the move represents a rollback of civil rights for victims previously guaranteed by Title IX, and that it makes the system less equitable and more confusing for schools.

In a threepart series in the Atlantic, Emily Yoffe explores how students accused of assault lose their due-process rights when universities handle cases in accordance with Obama-era federal rules.  The author references  the “bad science” of the physiology of trauma and its role in sexual assault cases, and whether campus sexual assault cases are biased against men of color.

Accessibility

Emerson College‘s “Disability Services Office” has been renamed the “Student Accessibility Services,” part of a broader shift away from the word “disability” and toward more inclusive language. “People think of disability as a deficiency in our ableist society, but in the social model we think of disability as any other kind of difference,” said Director of Student Accessibility Services Diane Paxton. “It is neutral.”

Guns on Campus

At the University of Kansas, where campus carry laws went into effect this July, a stolen, loaded gun was left unattended in a men’s restroom. According to reports, the campus police quietly removed the gun, sent no safety alerts, and were less than forthcoming about providing information about the incident. The editorial board of The Kansan, the school’s student paper, wrote a scathing editorial stating, “There is no reasonable explanation for the University not being completely transparent with the community about this particular incident – and about concealed carry in general. This incident ultimately begs the question: Is the University of Kansas more concerned with catering to a conservative state legislature and governor out of fear of losing more education funding rather than ensuring its campus is safe?”

DACA Repeal Response

Across the country, campuses responded to President Trump’s decision to repeal the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy, commonly known as DACA. Students held rallies and marches from UC Berkeley to the University of Virginia.

Administrators also spoke out. Among them: MIT‘s leaders announced the school will fight for its undocumented students to remain in the country. In Utah, where nearly all the state’s legislators supported Trump’s decision, Utah State UniversityPresident Noelle Cockett urged lawmakers to act quickly to provide educational opportunities to students “no matter their background or circumstance.”

On Tuesday evening, hundreds of Harvard students gathered to hear from classmates affected by the Trump administration’s decision to end the DACA program. Students took turns at a megaphone expressing pain and anxiety, some tearing up as they spoke about their uncertain futures.

Colleges are exploring the options available to fight the Trump administration’s decision. Many issued statements condemning the move and imploring President Trump to reconsider; some have reaffirmed their pledge to defend and support undocumented students. In an interview with the Chronicle, Martin Meehan, president of the University of Massachusetts system, said he plans to fight the rollback, believing universities have a good case to take the administration to court before the six-month deadline.

The University of California filed suit against the Trump administration in federal court last week, asserting that the decision to end DACA harmed the school and its students and violated the rights of the UC System.

Greek Life and Hazing

Tufts University continues to crack down on Greek life, issuing sanctions to some houses that violated the school’s hazing, alcohol, sexual harassment, and academic integrity policies. Last fall, the school suspended all new recruitment. This school year, some houses will be allowed to recruit new members, but they must be sophomores or older. All new pledges will be required to attend a hazing prevention and safety workshop.

Hunger and Homelessness

Tuesday, a bipartisan group of lawmakers in both houses of Congress introduced legislation that aims to remove barriers to access to higher education for homeless students and those in foster care.

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