Student Affairs professionals are proponents of educating the student outside the classroom; they look at education in a holistic way that creates a bridge between the world of academia and their individual, personal lives. For those Student Affairs professionals who are involved in programming efforts for their campuses, personal awareness and well-being is one important area in which information (preferably scholarly researched information) is presented in a way that encourages students to focus on their own needs and of those in the greater community.
They’re asked to “Save Second Base” in October as they’re handed information about Self Breast Examinations and the startling facts and statistics about breast cancer. In November, students are challenged to give up their tobacco products for the Great American Smoke Out. In February, we remind students to look out for STIs in one breath and reminding them that it’s Black History Month in the next. It’s April and it’s a toss-up between talking to students about Stress Awareness (a useful topic for college students quickly approaching finals week) or Sexual Assault Awareness Month (an issue that can never seem to get enough publicity). But with all of these important real-world issues, when do you run the risk of flooding students with too much information? Do they get desensitized by the rainbow of colored ribbons sold for fifty cents each month with proceeds benefiting one of the non-profit organizations tied to the aforementioned causes?
This thought hit me as I participated in a small conference called “Know Bull,” which focused on the topic of cyberbullying. I learned a good deal in participating in the breakout sessions at that conference and was reminded of the harmful consequences associated with bullying. It’s not an area that gets much attention at the Higher Education level, but it certainly still exists. And while I’ve not researched the topic—yet—I’m wondering if cyberbullying might be becoming the preferred method for this age group. After all, there’s no lunch money to steal or playground to dominate at college. But I digress. Suffice it to say that the conference convinced me of the need for preventative measures—proactive programming—in regards to this topic. I left the conference feeling charged up and ready to shift my energies into developing something new.
And then, I got to work and started catching up on the things I’d missed by attending that conference. I became wrapped up in job responsibilities and sucked into assisting with more immediate and pressing scheduled programs. And as I was sitting there visualizing my calendar of responsibilities, quite filled with programming efforts—many of which fall into that personal awareness category, I began to wonder if I wasn’t overwhelming my students. If I’m feeling the pressure of providing them with the information, could they be feeling crushed by the constant reminders about safety, security, and personal well-being?
If one goes so far as to answer that question affirmatively and realizes a need to begin cutting the programming schedule—and in doing so, takes those concerns out of the spotlight around campus—which causes don’t make the cut? How do you make that decision?
Devon Purington is a Residence Life Coordinator at Penn State University-Hazleton.