When I sat down this weekend to prepare the last page of the syllabus for a course I instruct, I never imagined it would coincide with the death of Kobe Bryant. The profound sadness I felt over the death of Kobe Bryant reminded me of how incredibly devastated I felt about the untimely passing of Tupac Shakur. I was in high school when Tupac passed away. I vividly remember crying myself to sleep and not being able to remotely concentrate on any school work or my little part-time job at the library.
I recognize the momentary crisis I felt back then about Tupac probably pales in comparison to the larger issues that some college students face today. This is why I like to make use of the last page of the syllabus. After I distribute the syllabus, like most college students, my students are eager to scan the syllabus to find out how the final grade is determined and how much work is actually expected for the class. I have no qualms with that, but I also want my students to know how to find support services that are available on campus.
While I include information about which office to visit for internships and jobs, or the location and hours for the writing center, I also list information for other support services. I’m talking about services that relate to the social determinants of academic success. Although I’m not a social worker, I need students to know exactly where at on their campus can they find the health clinic, a mental health counselor, or the social service center. There are students who are navigating college for the first time, dealing with language and cultural barriers or disability barriers, but there are also many students who need to know where and how to access a food pantry, health insurance, emergency housing, legal support, or other urgent issues like referrals for those students dealing with domestic violence or substance abuse. I remind students that these services are confidential, shame-free and free of charge.
Before I adopted this intentional use of the last page of the syllabus, I would casually mention to students that there are places to go on campus for help. In my mind, the expectation was “these are adults, they are in college” and they can figure it out on their own. This may hold true for many students, but some students could benefit from me taking a quick moment to list the email, phone and campus location for services that are available on campus. Students need to know some instructors care about their well-being outside of the classroom, too. I know it’s not the role of adjunct faculty or even the tenure-professors to be social workers to their students; they need to teach the syllabus topic. I get it. Really, I do. However, for me, intentionally using the last page of the syllabus to list support services for college students is not a heavy lift on my end. This small act may yield great impact on the student’s end, however. Even if students don’t ask about these support services, I want them to know it’s in the syllabus.