One afternoon, I received a call from a professor who had found something disturbing on a student's drafting table. As dean of students, I went to investigate and discovered a rash of obscene and violent messages depicted in both art and written form. So I confiscated what would be needed to document the handbook violations and assigned a member of our residence life team to track down the artist.
Close to midnight, I heard from a staff member that our missing student was seen running around campus with his shirt off in the pouring rain. They encouraged him to come in and get dry, but he refused. He bunkered down in a dumpster and was convinced he was in tremendous danger.
With my job title and my degree in counseling, guess who was called in for garbage duty?
It took a while to get this young man out of the dumpster and into the dorm, and even longer to get him to go to the hospital with me for an evaluation. Once there, thanks to a release the doctors encouraged him to sign, his history of mental illness was revealed. We learned his supply of medications was depleted, and he had stopped receiving the stabilization he needed to function appropriately.
We gave him every opportunity to return to school and to complete his degree, but it didn't work out. He eventually returned home to enroll in long-term psychiatric care.
People on campus thought we expelled him for his behavior, but that couldn't have been further from the truth. We just don't disclose mental health situations over the campus e-mail. Even when accused by others of treating the student unfairly, we kept private information private, and suffered the complaints.
The lessons I learned in my decade serving at a Christian college have served me well in my new role ...