Colleagues, please find attached a letter from Anna Lathrop, Vice-Provost & Associate Vice-President, Students on student mental health
To all faculty members and part-time instructors
I am writing to you on behalf of the Campus Assessment, Response, and Education (CARE) team. This committee is a group of Brock medical and professional staff who are comprised of representatives from the Student Wellness and Accessibility Centre, Human Rights and Equity, Brock International, Residence Life, and Student Life and Success, among others. This committee identifies and responds to students who are in acute distress and who require complex care and intervention. They are students who fall into a high-risk category for their health and well-being. As a result of the pandemic, the complexity of the issues that the CARE team manages has increased significantly—and we are only at the midpoint of the Fall/Winter academic term.
As all of us well know, as the University transitioned to primarily online learning, we have seen an increase in student mental health concerns, both for students previously diagnosed and also for individuals with no previously reported mental health concerns. As our recent generative discussion at Senate affirmed, both instructors and students agree that the dramatic shift to fully online learning has presented significant stressors for everyone.
I am writing to thank those who have made significant efforts to recast their classes with attention to both student learning outcomes, high academic rigor and alternative delivery and assessment methods—noting the significant change this has meant to student workloads, student study habits, and the rhythm of time management. In response to this challenge, the Centre for Pedagogical Innovation has provided significant outreach to all faculty members and part-time instructors both in terms of technical support, pedagogical recommendations and the request to exercise compassion with students in their courses during these extraordinary times.
Although most instructors have considered the context and exercised compassion, there are instances where this has not been the case. In some cases, students who are under the support of the CARE team have reported that instructors have failed to extend assessment deadlines or who have insisted on medical notes despite the difficulties of obtaining them via Telehealth during a pandemic. We have heard cases where students’ extraordinary circumstances have not been considered when they reveal positive COVID-19 diagnoses in their homes, leaving them responsible for the care of siblings. These concerns are exacerbated by factors such as difficult living conditions, financial pressures, isolation, loneliness and/or other mental health conditions unique to living in pandemic lockdown conditions. We also know that the disability-related needs of students have increased and/or changed with the move to online learning. In such situations, mental health conditions often become more acute and complex. In short, student reports of stress and anxiety are beyond anything the CARE team has seen before. I offer these as examples of what we have seen and heard anecdotally.
Given our CARE team’s growing concern, and with the end of the Fall term quickly approaching, I write today to affirm and thank all those faculty members and part-time instructors who have exercised flexibility and compassion and ask for your continued support for our students. The implementation of a collective pedagogical teaching and learning ethic of care will help promote enhanced mental health and overall well-being for Brock students when they need it the most.
On behalf of the CARE team and our undergraduate and graduate students, I ask for your continuing support in this Winter term.
Anna Lathrop, Ed. D
Vice-Provost and Associate Vice-President, Students