More than 100 Eastern college deans will convene at Harvard today for a conference designed to help administration become more responsive and effective in dealing with student stress.
The all-day conference will feature experts discussing drug use, drinking, depression and suicide. Participants will also receive results from a massive stress survey of more than 3000 Massachusetts college students.
Harvard's Dean of students Archie C. Epps III, who heads the II-college committee which organized the conference, said yesterday that discussion of the survey was an important First step in helping administrators better understand current student concerns.
I don't think that college administrators or faculty understand about the hidden and informal life that students live and the extent to which the institution creates dissonance," Epps said.
The College Task Force, working through The Medical foundation, a local research and health education facility, plans to make specific recommendations to colleges based on the survey's findings, and will publish the survey results, Epps said.
"If you look at the current literature on college students, it is very dated," Epps said." "We feel the issues have changed."
Epps and other deans interviewed yesterday said they hoped that the two years of work which have gone into the conference will developed a newer, more relevant picture of student needs and how deans can serve them.
Rev. Edward J. Hanrahan, dean of students at boston College, agreed that the survey data would help deans grasp student issues. "The problem is that administrators are probably a couple of steps behind in recognizing changes in student life." he said.
Other deans said that official responses and reactions to students concerns were often-impractical because they were suited for different, more turbulent times. "We tend to react to students in a defensive or confrontational manner when the environment has completely changed, "Epps said, "We've got to stop relying on anecdotal information passed on through the old-boy stories."