Ten Go-To Resources for Supporting Students in Distress

geri-Geri Morgan, MSW is the student care manager in the Dean of Students Office. Ms. Morgan provides case management for students in distress and works with the Student Care Team. She is also part-time faculty with Kent School of Social Work, currently as a practicum instructor for undergraduate students.


Photo courtesy of TheeErin, Creative Commons License, unrelated to current material,  https://www.flickr.com/photos/theeerin/

Photo courtesy of TheeErin, Creative Commons License, unrelated to current material, https://www.flickr.com/photos/theeerin/

I suspect that it’s happened to all of us as instructors. It’s the end of the semester, and the student whose behavior has been questionable finally breaks down. Or the student who has been engaged and on top of his assignments is suddenly distant and behind. A student, fighting back tears, approaches you after class–the session in which the assigned 20-page research paper is due–and attempts to explain why she doesn’t have her paper.

Students’ excuses these days are much more complicated than “the dog ate my homework.”  Abuse at home; you don’t see any marks. Depression that makes it nearly impossible to get out of bed on most mornings; he has missed several classes recently. Or, you can’t even come up with words to describe the pain on her face. The end of a semester can make even small stressors seem overwhelming.

When you encounter a student who is obviously experiencing distress, be it psychological, emotional, life-stage, work, home-life or other stress, that is affecting his, her, or hir academic performance, what do you do?

As a faculty member, you serve as a vital link between the students’ difficult–or even crisis–situation and expert help. Fortunately, there are campus resources and services designed to support you in providing personal and immediate support for the student.

Below are ten links to key UofL campus resources designed to support faculty and staff in responding to students in distress.

1. Helping Students in Distress Resource Folder:


The University has created a useful designated resource to help students who may find themselves in a crisis situation or experiencing some distress that is an obstacle to their efforts to be successful students. If you would like printed copies of the folder for distribution, contact the Dean of Students Office at 852-5787.

2. Dean of Students Office:  http://louisville.edu/dos

If your student’s concerns are multifaceted and you’re not even sure where to start, refer him or her to the Dean of Students Office. Staff will help your student get to where he needs to be, whether it’s the Counseling Center, Campus Health Services, PEACC, a withdrawal process, or elsewhere. You may wish to give the Dean of Students Office written notice of your referral of a student.  You can do so by giving as much detail as you can on the Report a Concern form.  Someone will get back with you to confirm that a staff member has reached out to the student.

3. Reporting a Concern:  http://louisville.edu/dos/help/studentconcern

If the student is exhibiting concerning behavior, or there is a need to coordinate campus resources that may be involved with the student’s care, Dean of Students Office staff may present the student’s situation to the Student Care Team.

4. Student Care Team: http://louisville.edu/dos/facultystaff/student-care-team

The purpose of the Student Care Team (SCT) is to provide a regular opportunity for communication between departments, ensuring that all the resources of the University of Louisville are available to students in crisis.A crisis for the purposes of this response plan is an emotionally significant event involving a student that threatens the well-being of one or more individuals or the university community as a whole.  A crisis may include personal crises and behavioral issues involving individual students or groups.  The SCT focus is to respond to student needs, attempting to avoid student injury and/or disruption to the integrity of the learning environment. The standing members of SCT are as follows: Dean of Students, Student Care Manager; Director of Housing and Residence Life, Psychological Counselor from the Counseling Center; Director of the Department of Public Safety; Faculty Representative; Medical Director of Belknap Campus; Assistant Dean of Students; Enrollment Management Representative; Academic Advising Representative.

If the student’s situation involves sexual misconduct, refer to the Title IX Mandatory Reporter Guidelines.

5. Title IX Mandatory Reporter Guidelines: https://louisville.edu/hr/itemsofinterest/Title%20IX%20Mandatory%20Reporter%20Guidelines.pdf

Any employee in a supervisory or management role and any faculty member responsible for supervising any activities or programs that include direct contact with students outside of classroom (including faculty advisors to recognized student organizations) are considered mandatory reports, requiring you to follow certain procedures. Learn about those requirements at the link above.

Additional resources to consider if the student’s situation involves sexual misconduct:

6. Student Sexual Misconduct Policy: http://louisville.edu/dos/help/studentsexualmisconductpolicy

This policy outlines options for a student who believes he/she may have been or currently is a victim of sexual misconduct by a student, University visitor, or employee within the University community. Sexual misconduct offenses include, but are not limited to: sexual harassment; sexually abusive contact sexual exploitation; or stalking. Student sexual misconduct falls under the guidelines of the Code of Student Conduct and should be referred to the Dean of Students Office at 852-5787. For complaints against employees, contact Human Resources at 852-6688.

For complaints against a University visitor, contact University Police at 852-6111.  In an emergency situation, students should contact University Police at 852-6111 or call 911.

7. PEACC:  http://louisville.edu/peacc

PEACC works to end power-based personal violence by utilizing a prevention model that decreases victimization and builds capacity for positive relationships and social interactions. PEACC advocates for anyone affected by sexual assault, dating violence, stalking, or  sexual harassment, empowers students to develop ethical non-violence skills to negotiate relationships and sexual intimacy positively, and educates on the impact of power-based personal violence among other goals.

8. Anonymous Reporting form:https://publicdocs.maxient.com/reportingform.php?UnivofLouisville&layout_id=3

Anyone can anonymously report an incident, including nearly as much or as little information as they wish.

If a student is disruptive in some way, consider these resources:

9. Classroom Disruption Policy:  http://louisville.edu/dos/facultystaff/classroom-disruption-policy

Make sure you know the policies related to classroom disruption to help protect and support both you and your students.

10. Response Guide for Dealing with Difficult Student Situations:


Although dealing with students in distress is difficult for classroom management, you are in a position to point the student in the right direction.  As students disclose more to us as instructors, we take on more.  Knowing that you have support beyond the classroom is intended to help you to focus on what you do best: cultivating a teaching and learning environment.

Have you previously used these resources? What have you found to be most helpful?

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