Classmates and professors of Jared Lee Loughner, the man who shot and killed six people and injured 13, including congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords in January, reported to Pima Community College officials that Loughner was mentally unstable, and that they were concerned about his behavior. He was suspended after posting a video on YouTube calling the college a “genocide school.”
At NSU, students can also talk to university officials about concerns they have about the behaviors of others on campus.
Gay Holliday, Ed.D., associate dean of student services, said there is a process for addressing faculty members’, students’ or staff members’ concerns about someone’s behavior.
“First of all, we ask them to share their concerns with the Office of Public Safety by filing an incident report,” she said. “That way, Public Safety has a record of the incident. It could be something like believing another student is harassing you, believing another student is acting strangely, or any other kind of concern.”
If the person reported is a student, Holliday receives a report of the incident. She and Public Safety follow up on each report, and each situation is taken seriously.
Holliday said if the reported behavior or incident is an alleged violation of the NSU student code of conduct, it can become a student judicial matter. If the student lives on campus, then the Office of Residential Life and Housing addresses the issue. If the student faces expulsion from NSU, then Holliday addresses the issue.
Holliday said the student is made aware of what the alleged violation is and is given an opportunity to talk about what happened. If the student is found responsible for the action, then the student is sanctioned.
“The sanctions range from a warning, probation or a final disciplinary probation to suspension or expulsion from the institution,” she said.
Holliday also said that mentally ill students who violate the code of conduct cannot defend themselves by saying they have an illness.
The judicial process focuses on the student’s behavior. Holliday said if someone is concerned about the behavior of a faculty or staff member, then the issue is referred to the Office of Human Resources.
Not all mentally ill people are dangerous. In fact, Debra Goldman, L.C.S.W., director of the Henderson Student Counseling Center, said that people with and without mental illness have the same tendency to commit an act of violence. She also said that not everyone with a mental illness is harmful and that each person has different symptoms.
“There are many, many people out there who have psychosis but will never ever develop anything that is harmful,” Goldman said.
Goldman said that it is always better to voice your concerns about others’ behaviors to someone who is able to help them. She said that it is important to pay attention to and become aware of people you see every day.
“If something should change or shift in any way in others’ behaviors, you do a little follow-up to see if there’s something that can be done,” she said. “Maybe just by opening the door to conversation with someone, you’re able to provide them with follow-up or get someone to follow up with them.”
The Student Behavioral Concern Committee handles concerns about reported students while keeping their mental health in mind, said Brad Williams, Ed.D., dean of Student Affairs. Williams chairs the committee, which consists of a Marriage and Family Therapy program faculty member, the coordinator of the Office of Suicide and Violence Prevention and the executive director of the Division of Clinical Operations.
Williams said that students who have concerns about another student’s behavior are asked to fill out a form detailing the incident and submit it to him. The committee meets within 24 hours to determine whether or not there is cause for concern.
Williams said the committee examines whether or not the student poses a threat to either himself or herself or to the NSU community. He said the committee’s actions depend upon the immediacy of the situation and can range from keeping the situation monitored to immediately calling Public Safety and 911.
Holliday said that the most important thing the NSU community should know is that it’s important to share information with Public Safety, the Office of the Dean of Student Affairs or her.
“We have students whose behaviors can be disruptive to the university environment, and we have students who are disturbed or have other issues,” she said. “We have resources to address both of those.”
Shane Lam, assistant director of field operations in the Office of Public Safety, said that faculty and staff may be the first to notice that a student is struggling with mental health issues. He said others can help by contacting Public Safety, the Henderson Student Counseling Center and Student Affairs.
“The Office of Public Safety might be a point of contact, but we never handle these things alone,” he said. “We always use other resources no matter what the case is.
If it involves a student, we always contact Student Affairs. They’re always made aware of the situation.”