Employee guide for helping distressed students launches online

Sarah King
News Editor

VCU launched an online platform intended to help faculty and staff better recognize signs of, and support, students in distress last week.

“The ‘Faculty and Staff Guide to Assisting Students in Distress’ is a website designed to help you quickly recognize the signs of distress in a student, to express your concerns and to reach out for support,” Gail Hackett, Provost and Vice President for Academic Affairs, wrote in an email to faculty and staff on April 21.

The guide is available online and includes a variety of easily-accessible resources and FAQs regarding confidentiality rights, student conduct, the VCU threat assessment team, emotional and behavioral changes and sexual assault and harassment concerns.

“It’s comprehensive, we tried to make it somewhat brief so that faculty and staff could get the info they need quickly and categorized depending on the situation,” said VCU safety case manager Kendall Plageman. “It’s really meant to be a guide to help faculty and staff to recognize the signs of distress and to help properly refer students to the correct resources.”

Plageman helped develop the website after Charles Klink, Ph.D., the interim vice provost for student affairs, came up with the idea for the online platform.

In previous years, faculty and staff were given a “red folder” at the beginning of the fall semester containing information about campus resources and ways to support students. Plageman explained that the division of student affairs wanted to extend this access by creating a comprehensive and easily-navigable website.

“Having this information available electronically was important so that it’s easily accessible,” Plageman said. “The idea was to have an electronic version of the red folder.”

Plageman said the website is currently geared toward faculty and staff, but the idea is to build it into a larger portal of information that’s applicable to everyone within the VCU community.

“Students, even more than faculty and staff, are often in a better position to notice changes in their peers,” Plageman said. “So one of our goals is definitely to expand the website to better reach students and encourage them to reach out for support for themselves and their peers.”

Plageman clarified that anyone can, and is encouraged to, file incident reports which can be filled out anonymously and are filtered directly to the appropriate university officials in the Division of Student Affairs. Plageman emphasized that these incident reports are not monitored 24/7, and emergency situations should be immediately reported to VCU Police at 828-1234.

Student Affairs also developed a black and gold “lifebuoy” icon shortcut. The icon will be installed on all university-owned computer desktops over the course of this summer.

“The icon will increase awareness and make the information conveniently accessible so that facult and staff can have the information right in front of them if they find themselves in a situation where they really need it,” Plageman said.

For more information, or to report an incident visit www.students.vcu.edu/safety. Emergencies should be immediately reported to VCU PD at 828-1234.

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