Loss in College; University Support; Grief
When my father passed away in March 2020, I felt discord and inconsistency in how the faculty responded to my grief. This project is designed to understand how the University of Rhode Island currently supports students after they have experienced a death loss and determine ways we can improve student support moving forward. This project’s praxes include a faculty survey on current supports; study of other universities’ student bereavement policies; and facilitation of a forum with faculty, staff, and administrators. Students who experience a loss in their college years “are at risk for decreased academic performance and dropout” (DeSpelder and Strickland).
Resources are often provided to students; however, the overwhelming nature of a death loss can make identification of available supports challenging. After conducting a survey to faculty members to grasp how faculty members support students who have experienced a loss, I believe the 134 responses show a clear understanding that there is an inconsistency in how students report their loss to faculty and how faculty provide guidance for students. Finally, and importantly, survey results implicate a need for change, whether it be through a transparent policy or standardized guidelines.
This project’s survey; study of other universities’ bereavement policies; and forum discussion with university faculty, administrators, and staff, all implicate the need for transparent resources for students to navigate bereavement at the University of Rhodes Island and for adequate training for faculty and administrators in grief support. In order to support students from a holistic perspective, an alignment of student support services and academic advising is strongly suggested from this project. It is my hope that one long-term outcome of this project will be the creation of a committee made up of students, faculty, and staff to develop policies and programming that can be implemented on a university-wide level.