BY JESSICA BLACKBURN | February 11, 2017 PHOTO BY JUSTIN BLACKBURN
Edgewood College is offering counseling for students in the wake of President Donald Trump’s election.
Though critics say it’s biased against Trump, college officials say that it caters to all of the students.
“The American Psychological Association (APA) released data showing that this particular election has been more stressful than previous ones, regardless of political affiliation,” said Dr. Megan Cobb-Sheehan, director of personal counseling services at Edgewood College.
Edgewood is not the only college offering counseling to their students. Natasha Mascarenhas of Boston University wrote in November. “Following a tragedy, universities often pacify student fears by hosting forums, self-care events and support groups. Following the election of Donald J. Trump as president of the United States, many universities have followed that same formula.”
Edgewood faculty perceived there was a need for counseling based on responses in the classroom and nasty notes posted on whiteboards that were attacking those on both sides of the political spectrum.
“When students walk into a room and see something like that, they can feel vulnerable and uneasy,” said Professor of Music and Edgewood College Faculty Development Coordinator, Dr. Julie Dunbar. “It seemed like everyone was experiencing feelings of alienation, including students who didn’t vote.”
Personal Counseling Services posted a self-care list to EC Today and Wingra Weekly to acknowledge a range of reactions. (See sidebar). The list was adjusted for Edgewood based on content Cobb-Sheehan received from listserv, a college counseling mailing service.
Ed Taylor, director of strategic communications, said, “It’s sometimes not measurable by number, but to succeed in helping one student, that’s a big deal and important.”
In addition to counseling and hanging a giant coloring book page in the hallway near Health Services to provide a creative outlet for stress relief, faculty is formally trying to determine how to handle post-election angst in the classroom. Edgewood faculty say they need to make pro-active plans instead of just responding. Plans include positively reinforcing values, connecting current affairs to activities in the classroom, and teaching and talking without preaching.
Some students have felt that the efforts the campus has been making only target a certain group of students, and classroom discussions might be alienating for those supporting the president. Faculty advise students who feel that presumptions are being made to speak up during class.
Dunbar said, “The strategies promoted by faculty development are to help professors develop respectful dialogue in the classroom when students disagree, not to push a political agenda. I cannot imagine any professor who would have a problem with that.”
Taylor said members of the Edgewood College community are not always going to agree. “At the end of the day, we want all students to feel like they belong regardless of political affiliation,” said Taylor.