Human beings are complex, with varying experiences and intersecting identities. The immediate health, safety, and well-being of our communities amidst the realities of COVID-19 are paramount, and at the same time, the essential parts of our identities that require tending remain unchanged.
The high rate of sexual violence on college campuses and the experiences of survivors do not waiver. At the same time, there is an increasing number of college-aged students who experience anxiety and depression, whose stress may be further compounded by this crisis. For many students, leaving campus for weeks at a time is not a desirable or even viable option, as many lack the social or fiscal resources to make that possible, while many others are facing increased microaggressions and racism stemming from recent events. Social distancing may be the key to “flattening the curve,” but we, as student affairs professionals, also need to consider the ramifications of shutting down campuses and promoting self-quarantining for students, faculty, and staff. These may include social isolation, increased exposure to interpersonal or other forms of violence, lack of access to basic needs such as an uninterrupted food supply, and the inability to access services and supports, including mental health and other medical services.
Frustrating though it may be, the world around us doesn’t stop in the midst of this crisis, nor does the work of student affairs professionals stop in serving students. However, this extremely challenging time also presents an opportunity for student affairs professionals sitting at the intersection of these varied and competing demands. Where possible, student affairs professionals can look for synergies and opportunities to address how students may be feeling, and engage with colleagues to identify out-of-the-box strategies for providing the necessary support and assistance. These same professionals might recognize that, much like the starfish parable, our work can make a meaningful impact for our students and may help mitigate the many ripples and waves this crisis has prompted in their lives.
In recent days, we feel pulled in more directions than one person, or one department can feasibly manage. And we are experiencing many of the same feelings and concerns as our students for the health, safety, and well-being of ourselves and those we care about. A reminder: we are all only human. We cannot do it all. Please, take care of yourself. We will keep doing our best, recognizing that everyone is working toward the same goal of serving our students and navigating this time to the best of our ability.