Faculty/Staff Outline for Supporting Students

Tips for opening a conversation with students about recent distressing events

As faculty and staff, one of our fundamental goals is to support students during their time at UIC, both with their academic career and emotional wellbeing. Recent violent events, and on-going civil unrest, has highlighted our country's devastating White Supremacist ideologies and pervasive social injustices, impacting the wellbeing and mental health of our UIC students and surrounding communities. The outline below provides some suggestions for how you can support your students by opening up a dialogue in your classrooms, with the goal of your students feeling heard and understood. It can be most helpful to facilitate discussions in a timely manner following painful, traumatic, or violent events.

  • Invite students to share their thoughts and reactions, while informing them that they are not required to participate. Should students choose not to speak, perhaps remind them of your office hours, e-mail, or other supportive spaces on campus.
  • Remind students that their unique perspectives are valuable and that the focus of the conversation will be on support, not judgment. Depending on the nature of event that prompted this discussion, it may be helpful to explicitly affirm that we value our diverse student body at UIC and that our students belong and are valued in our community.
  • Sharing some of your own thoughts/feelings may invite others to speak (“I’m carrying great sadness related to these events and the potential impact on you all”).
  • Remember, the focus of these discussions is for students to feel heard and validated. Providing empathetic statements and reflections can help convey your support.
    • "It sounds like you are very concerned with how your family may be impacted”
    • “I’m hearing how angry and frustrating you feel due to these events."
  • If having these conversations remotely, invite students to share their reactions on a chat box.
  • It may be helpful to return to this conversation in the future to check in on how students are coping.
    • “It’s been a few weeks since we last check-in. How are all of you doing?”
  • Consider flexibility: if a student approaches you and asks for an extension on account of being negatively impacted by events in the community, aim to have a conversation about accommodations that still hold the student accountable for learning while honoring their unique reaction and process to the events at hand.
  • Take time to check-in and assess what feelings are most present for you prior to engaging with your students
    • For our faculty/staff of color: you may notice feelings of tension, unease or anxiety when witnessing or hearing about violence committed towards communities of color. Your feelings are valid. It may be helpful to find space with your colleagues, family, or professional caregivers or mentors to process your reactions.
    • For our faculty/staff that are White or hold multiple privileged identities – consider the possible discomfort that may arise when hearing about students’ reactions towards White supremacy and racism, and observe any instinct to avoid or shut down during these important discussions. Consider using spaces available to you to process those feelings, so that you can hold space for your students in a more equanimous manner.

Please know the Counseling Center remains steadfast in our support and availability to you. Students can contact the Counseling Center by calling us at 312.996.3490; press “2” if calling after-hours to be connected to a crisis counselor.  Please direct students to our website to learn about the vast amount of services available to them, including talking to a counselor one-on-one, group therapy, workshops on topics such as coping with anxiety and managing painful emotions, a self-care app, and more. Faculty and staff may also contact the Counseling Center to consult about a student of concern or discuss further how to facilitate these discussions.