Few faculty aware of CARE Network

About a year after the University launched a program for faculty and staff to identify struggling students, dozens of professors surveyed by The Hatchet said they had little or no knowledge of the CARE Network.

More than 81 percent of the 80 professors surveyed from departments across every college said they had not heard of or did not know much about the CARE Network. Seven out of 80 professors said they felt comfortable explaining the program to others.

The online system, coordinated by the Dean of Students office, allows community members to anonymously submit the names of students who show warning signs of personal, medical, academic or financial issues, like missing a substantial number of classes. If the office receives multiple reports about the same individual, it reaches out to the student and connects them with support services like the University Counseling Center or Student Health Service.

When the University launched the system last fall, after an eight-month pilot, it sent out emails and had representatives visit some faculty and staff meetings.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said they were not comfortable with the system for reporting students.

One professor who completed a survey said there is “serious concern that the administration would handle the information completely.”

Associate Dean of Students for Student Administrative Services Danielle Lico said last semester that 276 students were reported to the CARE Network, about 50 students more than during last year’s pilot.

More than 50 percent of the reported students were freshmen and sophomores, Lico said. She said the network does not track which types of individuals – faculty, staff or other students – reported those cases.

The top three reasons for reporting a student were social and adjustment issues, academic concerns and anxiety, depression and general stress, Lico said.

“We are working to increase awareness of the CARE Network to faculty and continue to push information out through faculty orientation programs and email listservs,” Lico, who has steered the program over the last two years, said.

The University has been searching for a case manager to oversee the CARE Network for the last year.

The program demonstrates GW’s increasing focus on mental health. In fall 2011, GW cut fees to offer students six free sessions at the University Counseling Center. But appointments are still hard to come by, with some students reporting a five-week long wait this month.

Senior Associate Provost and Dean of Student Affairs Peter Konwerski said the office does not reach out to a student unless it receives multiple reports, or one report of a crisis.

“It’s interesting to know that information, but not necessarily something to act on,” Konwerski said. “That’s where the really good communication is important. Then we can go to multiple places on campus and ask if they have any reports on the student. Often, we’ll call an academic adviser.”

Center for Student Engagement director Tim Miller, who has worked with the program, called it a “net to catch students.” He said that while the program had a slow build, he thinks “it’s gotten out there pretty well.”

He added that before the CARE Network started, “there was a hole we didn’t think existed” but said that the new system works.

“If you see smoke in multiple different places, there may be a fire there,” Miller said.

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