Supporting Our Students (SOS) exists to identify and intervene in situations involving students who may exhibit behaviors of concerns. SOS has been around since 2007, and was created by the UNF Counseling Center. Tom Van Schoor took over as Chair in 2011. One significant change that has been made over the years is that Tom in his role is considered the case manager, instead of primary service provider.
SOS meets every Thursday morning at 10am, and includes team members Dr. Andy King, Director of UNF Counseling Center; Mr. Marc Snow, General Counsel; Mr. Frank Mackesy, Chief of Police; and Ms. Dei Allard, Associate Director of Residence Life. Whenever a faculty member is aware of a student in academic distress, they should call Tom directly. Phone calls are preferred over emails because of confidentiality and timeliness of questions/responses. Tom will then reach out to and speak to the student’s advisor, professors, Housing and Residence Life, the Counseling Center, the Disability Resource Center, and other groups on campus to try and triangulate what is wrong with the student. If Tom reaches out to faculty for comment, it will be a general call asking about how the student is doing in class: he won't identify it as an SOS issue.
This semester Student Conduct has an average of 1 panel a week and 7 conduct hearings a day. Numbers have increased dramatically this year. The main need is to identify what is happening in that student’s life to cause distress. The SOS Team will confer to decide if they should intervene. The timeframe from first report made to action taken can be maybe a week, or immediate. It depends on a case-by-case basis, and can be long term or an accelerated basis.
SOS can monitor and observe students long-term after the initial report to check on their progress. If a faculty member thinks the issue is of immediate concern (i.e. student is harmful to themselves or others), they should call UPD not SOS. In these immediate cases, the students will go on the SOS agenda after UPD is alerted. Faculty members should call SOS if there's not an immediate concern, but there's a problem to be addressed. In some cases, the student may be disruptive in one class but not others, and that's where the issue ends. In other cases, the disruption may extend widely.
In most SOS-reported cases, there is an extenuating mental health issue concerning the student. Project THRIVE on campus includes 130 students on the autism spectrum. The student would be registered with the DRC, but faculty may not know about the student’s background. If the faculty member reaches out to SOS about one of those students, SOS will give suggestions for how to better deal with the students. Suggestion was made to hold training for how to deal with students on the spectrum.
SOS isn't an office per se, nor a staff: it's a committee. They try to address student needs in the most discrete way possible. They have worked with parents and students. Most students are low-level concerns, especially concerning anxiety and depression. For example, students who take medications, and stop taking them once at college are sometimes referred to SOS. SOS will then monitor them to make sure they're taking their medications.
We don’t want faculty to be an armchair psychiatrist, or make a diagnosis. If faculty members are unsure of whom to contact, contact Tom directly. They should also alert their program or department chair so no one is blindsided. SOS came about after the Virginia Tech shooting, and how multiple people on campus had concerns about the perpetrator but no one was on the same page. Even if a student does not need SOS, the SOS team can help point students to the help they need: Counseling Center, Academic Center for Excellence, Disability Resource Center, and others.
Where does the Clery Act overlap with SOS? Don't need to report Clery violations to SOS. SOS monitors students who are the alleged victim or perpetrator of sexual assault. Tom meets with Chief twice a week, so he is aware of similar reports. How do they let faculty know about SOS? They meet with new staff members (not faculty) who are required to attend training. New faculty members are exposed to the information in orientation, but it isn’t mandatory. Tom wants meet with each academic department, hopefully by fall 2017.
Most referrals come from faculty not students. The Team recently hired a Work Study student to expand the social media presence to hopefully reach more students. Tom hopes the University will soon purchase software that will allow faculty to create and file reports online, which will also track Clery reports.