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Faculty, staff learn how to help students cope with tragedies
By Adam Fenwick
A dozen members of UNCP’s faculty and staff attended an online seminar April 20 designed to teach them more about helping students cope with national tragedies in the wake of the April 16 Virginia Tech shootings.
“When students first learned of the events at Virginia Tech they were truly shocked,” Dr. Eugene Zdziarski, dean of students at the University of Florida, said.
“That’s when the questions began, how would our university respond? How are our students being affected?”
Dr. Kathy Hollingsworth, executive director of Counseling and Psychological Services at Duke University, said that faculty and staff members can expect to see students express a lot of acute stress following the events at Virginia Tech.
“Our students are more likely to relate to this event, even more so than Columbine, because these students were just like them,” Dr. Hollingsworth said. “It shatters the assumption that bad things don’t happen to good people.”
The discussion also included how faculty and staff members were feeling about the events and how universities could help them cope with tragic events.
“You may not be a counselor or a psychologist, but you have some of the same feelings students are feeling,” Dr. Zdziarski said. He added that talking about the events with other people, including students, helps with the grieving process.
Margaret Barr, professor emeritus at the School of Education and Social Policy at Northwestern University, brought up the idea of a “Lucy Booth,” a booth set up on campus were students and faculty could go for advice, much like the booth that the cartoon character Lucy uses in the comic strip “Peanuts.”
Such a booth would help students grieve and express their opinions about tragic events.
“Getting back to normal as close as we can on the campuses is important,” Barr said. “We need to help them [the students] normalize as much as we can.”
At the conclusion of the discussion Dr. Diane Jones, vice chancellor for student affairs, said that UNCP was in the process of purchasing a sympathy book for students to sign and send to Virginia Tech.
She also noted that several members of the UNCP faculty and staff have requested training to better handle events such as the one at Virginia Tech and UNCP is in the process of preparing such training.
“This type of situation raises our awareness,” Dr. Jones said. “I think we are responding appropriately and just taking heed of an event at Virginia Tech that could have happened at UNCP.” Also included in the panel discussion was Ralph Hatley, owner of Security Operational Solutions, Inc.